<p>Daniel Craig appeared with director Sam Mendes and much of the cast of the new James Bond film 'Skyfall' at a recent press conference</p>

Daniel Craig appeared with director Sam Mendes and much of the cast of the new James Bond film 'Skyfall' at a recent press conference

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

Ben Whishaw will equip James Bond for 'Skyfall' as the new Q

The return of a favorite character is a good sign for the new movie

As the new James Bond 007 film, "Skyfall," starts to come into focus, we're getting some idea about what to expect just based on the casting in the film.  And by far, one of the most exciting details to emerge for old-school Bond fans is the idea that we're finally going to see the return of Q branch in this new film in the form of Ben Whishaw.

I really dug Whishaw in "Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer," and he's been interesting in things like the TV series "Nathan Barley" and the film "Stoned," where he played Keith Richards.  I'm curious to see what role or roles he has in "Cloud Atlas" next year, which sounds ambitious and bizarre, but in the meantime, just knowing that he's playing Q means we're going to see the return of what used to be one of the highlights of the entire series.

I love that they shook up the formula when Daniel Craig was hired to play the character, and I think it's important that the series took a break from having every single film with an identical structure.  They'd gotten to a point where it was sort of deadly dull to sit through the films, no matter who was playing the part of Bond, and I felt bad as a fan of the character to start actually dreading the new movies.

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<p>Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) goes for a swim as a way of drawing young Colin Clarke into her world in the new film 'My Week With Marilyn'</p>

Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) goes for a swim as a way of drawing young Colin Clarke into her world in the new film 'My Week With Marilyn'

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: Michelle Williams finds the bruised soul of 'My Week With Marilyn'

HitFix
B+
Readers
A-
A smart look at one of Hollywood's biggest icons digs deep and strikes gold

At this point, I'm amazed by Michelle Williams so regularly that I'm used to it. 

After all, she's been crushing it in film after film.  "Blue Valentine."  "Wendy and Lucy."  "Meek's Cutoff."  "Take This Waltz."  She has slowly but surely asserted herself as one of the most impressive young actors working, able to tap into a wellspring of pain that makes her work almost impossible to take at times while being hard to turn off.  I love it when an actor starts to really play these raw nerve types of roles, and if it is her real-life personal pain that drives her, then I am truly sorry on her behalf, but I am thankful we at least have the work to enjoy.

Playing Marilyn Monroe seems like the sort of thing that is almost too big a challenge, and one of the reasons I've never been a huge fan of biopics in general.  I think they often try to distill an entire life into two hours and often fail miserably at the task.  Human lives are complicated, and any person over the course of a life lived richly will probably be several different distinct people over the course of many decades.  We change.  We evolve.  We are rarely just one thing, but biopics are by their very nature reductive, designed to sum someone up with a few signature moments or ideas.  I hope I'm not defined that easily, and I don't believe most people are.

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<p>Amy Adams may have finally met her match in the adorable department with her felt-based co-stars in this week's joyous new release 'The Muppets'</p>

Amy Adams may have finally met her match in the adorable department with her felt-based co-stars in this week's joyous new release 'The Muppets'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Amy Adams effuses about working with 'The Muppets' and Superman

Amelia Earhart, Lois Lane, and a musical wth the Muppets? What can't she do?

Everybody loves Amy Adams.

That's a universal truth, right?  She's one of those performers I can't imagine disliking.  Even if you don't love the movies she makes, I can't fathom how anyone would have a problem with her.  There's a reason her performance in "Junebug" got her that Oscar nomination, and it was more a case of "Oh my gosh, who is this person?" than the film itself.  She just popped off the screen in that film, and I felt the same was true of her work in Steven Spielberg's "Catch Me If You Can."

On the day we did this interview, I had both of my sons with me, and it was a big day of meeting people for them.  They got to meet Spider-Man's girlfriend, they met Walter, and Toshi interviewed Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog.  But maybe the biggest event for them, based on how much they talked about it afterwards, was meeting The Princess from "The Princess Movie."

At least, that's the title it's known by in our house.  Both of the boys are big fans of "Enchanted," and they knew Adams as Giselle from that film before they knew her as anything else.  And while they also love her in "A Night At The Museum 2," even in that film, they just refer to her as "The Princess."

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<p>Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo are the appealing stars of the silent-cinema tribute 'The Artist'</p>

Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo are the appealing stars of the silent-cinema tribute 'The Artist'

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: 'The Artist' offers simple pleasures in a look back at Hollywood's origins

HitFix
B-
Readers
B+
Why didn't our reviewer fall in love with this homage to cinema's early days?

"The Artist" is, as you may have heard by now, a black-and-white movie that is, for the most part, silent.  It is set during the era when the silent films were replaced by talking pictures.  It is a crowd-pleaser, and since its premiere at Cannes this summer, it's been getting warm and enthusiastic reviews.

I was onboard since before the film started screening based purely on the creative team involved.  Michel Hazanavicius and Jean Dujardin collaborated on both "OSS 117: Cairo, Nest Of Spies" and "OSS 117 - Lost In Rio," which are these lovely silly French riffs on spy movies from the '60s, with Dujardin looking like someone put Bond-era Connery and Patrick Warburton in the Brundlechamber.  Those films both delight me, start to finish, and the idea of those two guys paying tribute to silent cinema sounded like pure win as far as I was concerned.

Now, a day later, I'm trying to figure out why I don't love the movie the way so many others seem to.  People are ecstatic over it, swoony in love with it, and I thought it was, at best, a nice diversion, a sweet but overly simple piece that won't have nearly the rematch value for me as their earlier films together.  I think Dujardin is very charming in it, I think Berenice Bejo is a pleasure to watch in the film, and I like the work Hazanavicius does as a director.  It's very skilled in a lot of ways.  But the storyline here is threadbare, a few sketched ideas instead of a finished work, and I can't help but feel that they never really figured out why to make this movie aside from the obvious exercise in homage.

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<p>James Bobin is the director behind this week's charming 'The Muppets'</p>

James Bobin is the director behind this week's charming 'The Muppets'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: James Bobin lights the lights as director of 'The Muppets'

The director of one of year's most Muppetational movies opens up

There was a time when I believed I would never meet a bigger Muppet fan than Jason Segel.

Then I met James Bobin.

I really liked his work on "Flight Of The Conchords," and I was just excited to have him working in features in general.  I didn't realize how big an influence the Muppets were on him until talking to Jason Segel about it on the set of "Five Year Engagement" this summer.  He told me that meeting Bobin was sort of like looking in a mirror that turned you British, and that he felt like "The Muppets" was in the perfect hands.

Having seen the finished film, I concur.  Bobin was programmed to make this film from a very early age, and all you have to do is look at the way he stages his version of the iconic opening sequence to the original "Muppet Show" to see how OCD can, indeed, prepare you for a life in the arts.  It is perfect, down to the smallest detail.  That seems to be something that can elude filmmakers, no matter how much they try to reproduce things.  Look at the "Halloween" series, for example, where they never seem to be able to get the Michael Myers mask to look the same way twice.  Bobin does such a good job making his film fit into a visual world that has already been established that he makes it look easy, and people may not realize just how deft his sleight of hand really is.

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<p>Asa Butterfield takes Chloe Grace Moretz to see her very first movie in a magical moment from the magical new Martin Scorsese film 'Hugo'</p>

Asa Butterfield takes Chloe Grace Moretz to see her very first movie in a magical moment from the magical new Martin Scorsese film 'Hugo'

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Review: Martin Scorsese's 'Hugo' is a rapturous lesson in the value of art

HitFix
A+
Readers
A-
The year's smartest kid's film may be the best 3D movie ever

As always, Martin Scorsese says it better than I ever could.

Little by little, I've started to feel like Film Nerd 2.0 is one of the most significant things I've done since I've started writing about film online in 1995, and it's part of a bigger plan I have.  I eventually plan to get involved in creating and implementing some very real educational reform involving media education that runs K-12, so that kids are given a media literacy on par with any print literacy that is taught.  I think we have a responsibility, given the omnipresence of media in the lives of modern children, to not only encourage them with choices about what to watch, but also to teach them how to watch.  Without context, how do you expect them to navigate the ocean of choice available to them at all times these days?

Martin Scorsese has spoken at length in the press about wanting to make a movie that his 12-year-old daughter could see, and how much he loved 3D in the '50s, and how this movie serves as, in some ways, autobiography because of his own childhood spent trapped by asthma in a private world, cut off from other kids.  All of that is true, but the moment you start putting labels like "kid's film" on a movie like "Hugo," you are being reductive in your thinking, and that's missing the point entirely.  In its own way, this is "Film Nerd 2.0: The Movie," and perhaps the most head-over-heels-in-love movie about movies since "Cinema Paradiso."

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<p>Jason Segel and new Muppet Walter took some time to try and explain how much it means to them to co-star in the new film 'The Muppets'</p>

Jason Segel and new Muppet Walter took some time to try and explain how much it means to them to co-star in the new film 'The Muppets'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Jason Segel and Walter talk about joining 'The Muppets'

A lifelong dream comes true for two people... or one person and a puppet

On Toshi's third birthday, I took him to a very unusual puppet show, unusual because it wasn't being staged for a real audience.  It was on one of the soundstages at Paramount in Hollywood, and it was a musical called "A Taste Of Love," with all the puppets by the Henson Studios.  The only people witnessing take after take of the big finale of this show were extras, hired for the day, and the crew of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."  If you've seen the film, you remember the moment, the big wrap-up for the character played by Jason Segel.  This is his life's ambition realized, and watching Segel and his co-star Bill Hader actually operate their custom-created Muppets for a full day of shooting was one of those great random glad-I-was-there moments.

Toshi had no idea what was going on, but he enjoyed the noise and the energy and the puppets, and at one point, I had a conversation with Segel about his training with the Henson performers, and how that was the fulfillment of his own life-long dream.  He confessed his Muppet love to me at that point, and talked a bit about how he'd very much like to one day figure out a way to make a movie with the Muppets.  It was the first time he'd mentioned anything like that, but seeing him work with his Dracula puppet all day, I could see how firmly the idea had hold of him.

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<p>Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) and Arthur (James McAvoy) prepare to head out on a big adventure as Christmas Eve slips away in the new Aardman comedy 'Arthur Christmas'</p>

Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) and Arthur (James McAvoy) prepare to head out on a big adventure as Christmas Eve slips away in the new Aardman comedy 'Arthur Christmas'

Credit: Sony Pictures

Review: 'Arthur Christmas' offers up slight but silly family fun

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
Aardman's latest effort is big on comedy and star voices

One thing that makes the long tradition of movies about Santa Claus so interesting is that there is no one accepted story that defines Claus around the world.  Different countries can't even agree on what the tradition is, so there's certainly no consensus on who Santa is or what he means.  This means that anyone who wants to can play mix-and-match with various Santa stories from different cultures, or they can just ignore them all and create their own, which makes Santa a particularly fertile icon in terms of storytelling.

”Arthur Christmas” is the newest film from the Aardman studios, and as such it comes with lofty expectations attached.  After all, these are the people who created Wallace and Gromit, two of the most durable characters in modern UK cinema, animated or live-action.  To me, this is a group of artists that I respect as much as Pixar, and when I see something new from them, I hope it's going to be something that adds to their reputation.  They've had a rougher time in features than they did in shorts, but overall, they've still got a great track record.

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<p>Tom Hardy and Christian Bale each get their own EMPIRE&nbsp;cover this month as the 'Dark Knight Rises' hype train gets rolling</p>

Tom Hardy and Christian Bale each get their own EMPIRE cover this month as the 'Dark Knight Rises' hype train gets rolling

Credit: Empire/Warner Bros

Empire reveals official 'Dark Knight Rises' covers for Batman and Bane

Christian Bale and Tom Hardy get their close-ups for the magazine's new issue

I'm working reeeeeeeeeeeeal hard to pace myself.

If you're a "Dark Knight" addict, you've probably been mainlining paparazzi photos for months, to the point where you feel somewhat bloated and over it at this point.  I've been so careful not to do that to myself.  I am not the most ardent fan in the world of "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight," but I do like them both quite a bit, and I'm absolutely ready to see how Nolan wraps up his time as the architect of Batman's fate.

As a comic fan, I am aware of the various battle lines that exist in fandom, and one of them is how you felt about Bane when he appeared in Batman comics.  If you don't know his storyline, I won't lay it out here, but I'll say that it was a fairly iconic move by DC, one that had some long-range impact on the entire DC world.  Like Venom is for Spider-Man, Bane represents a challenge that genuinely tested the hero in question, one that became a major player in the rogue's gallery rotation.  Bane appeared in Joel Schumacher's detestable "Batman In Rubber," and he was portrayed as a large grunting latex suit in a Mexican wrestler's mask who stood around in the background of scenes where Uma Thurman and Arnold Schwarzenegger overacted.

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<p>Amy Adams, Walter and Jason Segel join Kermit the Frog to try to convince Rowlf the Dog to rejoin the group in the joyous new movie 'The Muppets'</p>

Amy Adams, Walter and Jason Segel join Kermit the Frog to try to convince Rowlf the Dog to rejoin the group in the joyous new movie 'The Muppets'

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Review: 'The Muppets' is a big-hearted star-packed slice of awesome

HitFix
A+
Readers
A
Jim Henson would be proud to see how deeply his creations marked these filmmakers

Nostalgia is a funny thing, and I've certainly written here at length about the way I think it can often blind people to quality, or the lack thereof.  And when you're talking about nostalgia, The Muppets loom large for at least one generation, and it would be easy to assume that any praise you hear for the new film is based on a long-instilled affection for the characters.

The thing is, if that were true, then everything the Muppets have ever appeared in would be praised highly, and that is absolutely not the case.  I don't care for many of the feature films that the characters have starred in over the years, and their last theatrical outing, "Muppets From Space," was fairly wretched, as was their "Wizard Of Oz" riff for television.  I spent many years convinced that the spirit of the Muppets had died along with Jim Henson.

I was wrong.

You know where it turns out the spirit was hiding?  Inside the kids who grew up with "Sesame Street" and "The Muppet Show," who were still soaking up culture when the Muppets were at the height of their cultural currency.  One of those kids was Jason Segel.  Another was James Bobin.  Yet another was Nicholas Stoller.  And Bret McKenzie, he was one.  And I'd wager that Amy Adams, Rashida Jones, Emily Blunt, Jim Parsons, Kristen Schaal, Sarah Silverman, and more were Muppet kids, too.  And while it might be enough to make a few jokes, have some celebrities interact with the Muppets, and make a few nods to the past, that's not what Segel and his collaborators have done here.

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