<p>Billy Crystal was one of the many familiar faces who showed up in Anaheim today to promote the new animated films from Walt Disney as part of the D23 Expo</p>

Billy Crystal was one of the many familiar faces who showed up in Anaheim today to promote the new animated films from Walt Disney as part of the D23 Expo

Credit: Walt Disney Company

D23 Expo kicks off Saturday with a look at 'Monsters University,' 'Brave' and more

John Lasseter hosted a look at where Disney animation is right now

D23 Expo made for a very early Saturday morning.  I needed to be in Anaheim by 9:30 AM to check in, and that meant leaving my house in Northridge by about 7:45 in the morning.  Hats off to the Disney folks for the way this morning's event was handled.  It was incredibly easy to park, walk inside, and get seated in the main arena.  All told, I made it from my car to my seat in about fifteen minutes with no hassle at all.

That left me with about an hour to sit and wait for the presentation to start, and the first thing I noticed was the way the big giant screens above the stage were constantly showing Disney "facts" that seemed to be designed to reinforce several different ideas.  First, did you know that four out of the eight films that have earned a billion dollars worldwide were released by Disney?  Because they made sure to emphasize that at least three different times in three different questions.  And do you know the story of why "A113" shows up in various Pixar movies?  Because they made sure to include at least five different slides to reinforce that idea.  There was a big emphasis on Walt Disney as an icon, and a real effort to push the characters Mike Wazowski and Sully back to center stage.  It was very canny, very hardcore mythmaking and marketing, and I could almost hear the meetings that went into picking each and every slide that played.

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<p>Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley are free men today, but their story remains irresistible, with Atom Egoyan set to make a film about the 'West Memphis Three' early next year</p>

Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley are free men today, but their story remains irresistible, with Atom Egoyan set to make a film about the 'West Memphis Three' early next year

Credit: West Memphis Journal

Atom Egoyan set to make West Memphis Three film in the spring

No word yet on casting, but it sounds like a strong take on the story

It's been a long time coming, but this week feels like a sort of a miracle to anyone who's been following the story of the West Memphis Three.  Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr. are free men today, albeit with some rather large caveats attached.  Still, considering Echols woke up on Death Row, I'd say it's been a massive improvement for all of them, and they had some big help to get there.

The full story of the involvement of Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh will, I'm sure, be published at some point, but it's not because they want a film out of it.  They've been doing this quietly behind-the-scenes for a while now, and they've been a big part of today's decision.  I love that Berlinger and Sinofksy were there for it, and I can't wait to see "Paradise Lost 3" at Toronto next month.

I'm not sure any one film can tell the whole infuriating, insane story of what these guys have been through, or what the families of the victims are still going through, but if anyone's going to take a shot at pulling it off, I must admit Atom Egoyan is a better than average choice.

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Colin Farrell does his best "Home Alone" for Craig Gillespie
Colin Farrell does his best "Home Alone" for Craig Gillespie

Watch: Colin Farrell and director Craig Gillespie talk 'Fright Night'

Vampires were always a box that the actor "wanted to tick"

Director Craig Gillespie and star Colin Farrell were kind enough to sit down with me and discuss their new film "Fright Night." It was a treat for me, as doing these interviews is a lot more fun when you've enjoyed the film you have to talk about.

Colin Farrell chews up the scenery in his darker, more aggressive version of Jerry the Vampire. The original incarnation, played by Chris Sarandon, played the piano and had a penchant for sweaters. Farrell's version is a more dangerous and brooding type more befitting of a predator. The new Jerry trades in the sweaters for a dirty wife-beater tank top and keeps a super creepy secret rooms in his house to jail his victims and drink their blood over time, like a walk in fridge.

It is apparent that the actor is a vampire fan. When I asked him about his influences he rattled off a string of movies including "Near Dark" and Coppola's "Dracula." He had definitely been looking to play a bloodsucker at some point in his career, saying "I'm just a big kid, it was definitely one of those boxes I wanted to tick."

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<p>Nicolas Cage will saddle up again for 'Ghost Rider:&nbsp;Spirit Of&nbsp;Vengeance,' which rides into theaters in February of 2012</p>

Nicolas Cage will saddle up again for 'Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance,' which rides into theaters in February of 2012

Credit: Sony Pictures

Watch: Nic Cage is back for another ride in 'Ghost Rider' reboot teaser

You will believe a supernatural demon biker with a flaming skull can pee fire

One of the things I'm interested in seeing in "Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance" is how the shooting style of Neveldine/Taylor, the directors of the film, adapts to something involving a character that is largely CGI-assisted.

After all, these are the guys who famously shoot their action sequences on roller skates, whose films have actually been diagnosed with ADD by a physician, and who love to throw as much random nasty nonsense as possible at the audience.  When you've got a character that depends on a visual effect as much as Ghost Rider does, you need to shoot a certain way… or do you?  You add 3D into the mix, and it sounds to me like a recipe for a class action lawsuit concerning motion sickness.

I'll say this about the film.  It looks like they're serious about taking this in a very different direction than the first one, and knowing that Cage actually got to play the freaky flaming skeleton head version of the character this time is important.  He really is Ghost Rider now, and not just Johnny Cage.  In the first film, the Ghost Rider didn't really have a strong sense of character.  He felt like an effect.  But in this one, Cage is the character the whole time.  That helps.

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<p>'Tony?&nbsp; William Holden's in the parking lot, and he wants a word with you.'</p>

'Tony?  William Holden's in the parking lot, and he wants a word with you.'

Credit: Warner Home Video

Tony Scott's planning a massacre of Sam Peckinpah's 'The Wild Bunch'

His 'Hell's Angels' project sounds much more promising

Ah.  I see Tony Scott wasn't content to let his brother ruin my day.

The notion of remaking "The Wild Bunch" is not a new one.  There's been an ongoing conversation about it for a while now.  In January, Borys Kit did a nice rundown of the internal remake conversations going on at Warner Bros., and I lost my damn fool mind about the notion of this particular title going in front of the camera again.  It's asinine for all the reasons I explained before.  Even with Brian Helgeland, a very smart guy, writing the remake, I just can't see it.

I'm having a hard enough time making peace with the notion of a "Straw Dogs" remake, but at least that's based on a book.  With "The Wild Bunch," I just can't imagine someone else doing it in a way that improves upon what Peckinpah had to say with that movie.  That was as personal a statement as any artist slipped by a major studio in that era.  It's like "remaking" a Picasso.  You can paint the same thing he painted.  You can even paint it in his style.  You might even make aesthetic choices that I like more.  But the truth remains… he painted it first, and it was his statement.  Yours is just an echo.

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Watch: Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots on playing Charley and Amy in 'Fright Night'

Watch: Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots on playing Charley and Amy in 'Fright Night'

The romantic leads of the new horror comedy

Folks who love the original "Fright Night" should probably approach this new film with caution. It is not a shot for shot remake and re-casts some of the characters in a completely new light.

It stays close enough to the original not to be considered a "re-imagining,"  but it definitely plays with the story structure of the original in such a way as to leave you guessing.

The relationship  between Charley Brewster and Amy Peterson is much more mature in this updated version. Part of this has to do with the maturity levels of teenagers in our  brave new century, but the other is up the ante for Charley, to raise the stakes as far as what is threatened in his life when a vampire moves in next door.

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<p>Since every science fiction movie made since 1982 has ripped off 'Blade Runner,' I'll be curious to see how Ridley Scott redefines his world visually.</p>

Since every science fiction movie made since 1982 has ripped off 'Blade Runner,' I'll be curious to see how Ridley Scott redefines his world visually.

Credit: Warner Bros. Home Video

Why Ridley Scott returning to 'Blade Runner' really is the beginning of the end

As the snake eats its tail and Rome burns, we weigh in on the state of Hollywood

It is easy to get worked up over remakes and prequels and sequels these days, but it's also not terribly productive.  This is the modern Hollywood film industry in the year 2011, and you can either accept that or you can rail against it, but either way, they're going to keep on doing business this way until there is a compelling reason for them to not do business this way.

I wrote about my experience at Comic-Con this summer with the "Prometheus" panel, and certainly I hope that film delivers something special when it is released next year.  I am willing to walk into it open-minded, especially since it's not like the "Alien" franchise is this untouched, pristine thing.  Any time your iconic creation has already been roughed up behind the bleachers by Paul "Show me on the teddy bear where he touched your favorite movie" W.S. Anderson, it's fair game for anyone.  Besides, having Ridley Scott back in the world that he helped create in the original 1979 film is interesting, no doubt about it.

But that "helped create" is important, and something to consider today as the news breaks that once again, Ridley Scott is planning to revisit one of the SF worlds he was part of with a "follow-up" to "Blade Runner" being announced this morning.  And while I'm a big fan of the 1982 film, I think the notion of any sequel or prequel in that world is a terrible one.  Awful.  Catastrophically bad.

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<p>Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots play Charly and Amy in the remake of 'Fright Night' that arrives in theaters this weekend</p>

Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots play Charly and Amy in the remake of 'Fright Night' that arrives in theaters this weekend

Credit: DreamWorks

Review: 'Fright Night' gets some things right, some things wrong in remake formula

HitFix
C+
Readers
B
David Tennant and Colin Farrell liven up an uneven screenplay

There are horror titles that are universally considered part of the canon of the genre, pun fully intended.  The Whale films, Chaney and Lugosi and Karloff, the Hammer films, Val Lewton's work, and many more.  It's a lengthy canon, running from the early nightmarish fever-dream imagery of "The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari" to the freaky body-fearing obsessions of David Cronenberg, and every era is represented on the list in some way.  The '80s had their high points, and I'd immediately name films like "An American Werewolf In London" and "The Thing" and "The Fly" and "Evil Dead 2" as classics from the decade. 

I know plenty of horror fans who would call the original "Fright Night" one of those movies, and while I think it's solid and accomplished in places, I don't think it's one of the greats.  It has personality.  It has its charms.  It is just fine.  It has some clever ideas, and that goes a long way, especially in explaining the urge to add it to the lengthy lists of remakes no one was asking for.

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<p>Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess co-star in the film version of the best-selling book 'One Day'</p>

Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess co-star in the film version of the best-selling book 'One Day'

Credit: Focus Features

Review: 'One Day' offers phony romance, strands Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess

HitFix
C-
Readers
B-
Follow-up from director of 'An Education' shows none of that film's promise

In the parlance of today's pop culture, Team Hathaway.  Totally.

Anne Hathaway is what the studio system used to produce routinely.  She's got good comedy chops, she's absolutely got dramatic chops, she's physically substantial enough to pull off action, and she's been unafraid of nudity since day one.  She has a strong female appeal, and she's anchored some big hits like "The Princess Diaries" and "The Devil Wears Prada," movies that play right down the middle to the romantic comedy market.  She's also made a lot of unpredictable choices, and she's taken risks, and she's pushed herself onscreen.  She gets to go further than a lot of the classic-era movie stars did.  I have no doubt she would have been doing big studio musicals and comedies and dramatic Oscar bait routinely in the '40s or the '50s, but she's got a brittle thing about her, something that she likes to play, that makes her interesting, unafraid to be disliked.  

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Watch: 'Fright Night' star Christopher Mintz-Plasse on playing 'Evil' Ed

Watch: 'Fright Night' star Christopher Mintz-Plasse on playing 'Evil' Ed

The man admits "It was ready for a re-make"

Amongst the chaos that was the San Diego Comic Con this year, I got the opportunity to sit down with a few of the cast members of "Fright Night," including Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

Best known for his role in "Superbad," It's fair to say that Mintz-plasse has a promising career ahead of him as he is a talented character actor. He is the no-brainer choice to play Ed, ("Evil Ed" in the original) Charley Brewster's extremely geeky best friend.

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