New 'SPECTRE' trailer finally connects the dots for James Bond
Credit: Sony Pictures/EON

New 'SPECTRE' trailer finally connects the dots for James Bond

Oh, look, there's Christoph Waltz

Yep. That's almost exactly what I expected from the new "SPECTRE" trailer, and that's very much what you should expect from the film itself.

This is going to be a companion piece to "Skyfall" in every way. Ralph Fiennes is in place as the new "M," Moneypenny is voluntarily on a desk job (sometimes), Q has his gadget division up and running, and James Bond has his license to kill.

Only he doesn't, because as with every single Daniel Craig film so far, Bond finds himself at odds with MI6 and basically working to his own ends. What this trailer makes clear, though, is that James Bond is the center of the universe, and instead of just being a spy who is sent on missions, it appears that every single mission we've seen since Craig took the role has been anything but random.

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Why aren't more comedians cast for their full terrifying potential in films?
Credit: Warner Bros

Why aren't more comedians cast for their full terrifying potential in films?

Can you imagine Will Ferrell as Pennywise? We can.

One of the great things about having friends who are film nerds is that you end up having a lot of phone calls about nothing urgent. You end up talking about alternate theories and dream casting and things that might have been. I've got some other things I'll be posting tonight that speak to that, but first up, let's just play a little bit.

The conversation I was having with Scott Weinberg today was about the way I find casting shortsighted in movies sometimes. In particular, I love comedians who push themselves, and Scott's article about Robin Williams (it would have been his birthday today, something that makes me unspeakably sad this year) focused on some of his left-of-center choices as an actor. Scott's fond of "Insomnia," where Williams gives some really good creepy, something that doesn't surprise me at all. Of course Williams was effective at playing dark and dangerous. Great comedians seem to dance with serious darkness all the time. Hell, Jim Carrey seems to adore walking that line and making people squirm.

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Eisenberg and Stewart are stoned and deadly in new 'American Ultra' trailer
Credit: Lionsgate

Eisenberg and Stewart are stoned and deadly in new 'American Ultra' trailer

There's a familiar gag at the heart of this, but executed well

"Total Recall" is one of those movies that is beloved by a pretty wide swath of fandom, but it's never been a favorite of mine. Part of the problem is that while I love "Robocop," I don't think every single piece of material works with that tone. Paul Verhoeven loves to subvert the material he works with, and while "Robocop" was clearly written with tongue in cheek, the early drafts of "Recall" were all played pretty straight.

There was a scene in one of those drafts that I loved dearly, right as Quaid is forced to confront an alley full of men. He's got no idea what to do, and then his body snaps in and he kills everyone, bare-handed, only to end up shaken and freaked out by what he just did. I loved the idea of Richard Dreyfuss playing that scene because we'd be just as surprised by that as the character would be. When Arnold Schwarzenegger plays that scene, we can't possibly be surprised. Of course he can kill a bunch of people with his bare hands. That's his thing.

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Pixar's 'Good Dinosaur' happily gallops out of the Uncanny Valley
Credit: Pixar

Pixar's 'Good Dinosaur' happily gallops out of the Uncanny Valley

This one's making some big stylistic choices

One of the reasons Pixar is so committed to short films is because they can use them to experiment with things technically. One of the reasons they made "The Blue Umbrella" was to play with the notion of photo-realism mixed with the hyper-cartoonish. The rain and the cityscapes in that short look like they're real, and then the faces we see on the umbrellas are so simple, so cartoon expressive.

Now it looks like we're seeing the payoff from that experiment with their next feature, "The Good Dinosaur." The opening moments of the trailer almost appear to be live-action with the rain and the plants and that tiny lizard thing. And then we see Arlo's foot enter the frame, and immediately, we're looking at something that is even more cartoonish than Pixar's typical design work. To some degree, it feels like a big stylistic jump for them, but one that has evolved out of the work they've done in the past.

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Why Sam Mendes will make a third James Bond movie (even if he doesn't know it)
Credit: Sony/EON

Why Sam Mendes will make a third James Bond movie (even if he doesn't know it)

No matter what the director says now, there are reasons he's likely to return

Sam Mendes has declared now that he will not direct a third James Bond movie.

I would like to declare that I don't believe a word of it.

It was absolutely a career transition for Mendes when he took the job making "Skyfall," and he was a surprising choice in many ways. Before he ever broke through as the filmmaker behind "American Beauty," he was already acclaimed for his stage work, and he has continued to return to the theater between film jobs as often as possible. Normally, I'd say, "film is where the money is," but Mendes has been behind some genuinely massive stage successes, including the recent theatrical production of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," which is one of those shows that will play for the next 50 years in various touring productions, lining the pockets of Mendes as well as the Roald Dahl estate.

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'Battlefield Earth' is no longer the funniest thing to result from Scientology
Credit: 826 Project

'Battlefield Earth' is no longer the funniest thing to result from Scientology

Right now, these guys are doing some of the most insane comedy work anywhere

Living in LA is enormous fun. Or at least, the potential for enormous fun is always there, provided you actually pay attention and go to things and get out of the house and actually take advantage of the various amazing opportunities that are around.

The UCB Theater is a place I should spend more time. No two ways about it. There are all sorts of things that happen there that I would love to see. Some of those, I hear later or see later, and thank god they make the effort to record so much of it, because I just listened to two of the funniest hours I've heard this year, and it is well worth your time to seek it out.

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'Ant-Man' post credit stingers might be Marvel's most important yet
Credit: Marvel Studios

'Ant-Man' post credit stingers might be Marvel's most important yet

We've got the explanation for what exactly that was you just saw

By now, audiences have been conditioned to stay seated at a Marvel movie until the very last seconds, just in case, and in this weekend's "Ant-Man," there are not one but two different extra scenes.

And, yes, we'll be discussing spoilers here, so if you read past this point, please don't cry about it later.

The first of the scenes is tremendously meta, a moment where Marvel is essentially making a promise to audiences. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) takes his estranged daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) into his private workshop. Much of the tension between the two of them in the film has to do with her confusion about why Hank wants to bring someone else in to wear the Ant-Man suit. When Hank finally tells her the truth about how her mother Janet, aka The Wasp, died in action, it helps heal the hurt between them, but it's the final scene that really seals the deal. Hank reveals a brand new suit, designed specifically for Hope, allowing her to finally fulfill what she sees as her birthright by becoming the new Wasp.

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Michael Cera suits up as Robin for the 'Batman Lego' animated spin-off
Credit: Warner Bros

Michael Cera suits up as Robin for the 'Batman Lego' animated spin-off

Chris O'Donnell's been feeling lonely, but finally, after all this time, he will be joined in the Robin club by none other than Michael Cera.

Sure, it's for the "Batman Lego" movie, but still.

Chris McKay, who was the animation supervisor of "The Lego Movie," is directing this one, from a script by Seth Grahame-Smith, and I would suspect this is one of the Lego movies worth keeping an eye on. Warner obviously has plans to turn the overall property into a massive ongoing property, and one of the things that was most fun about "The Lego Movie" was the way they properly punctured the inherent silliness of Batman.

Don't get me wrong. I love Batman. But, man, did Arnett find the big goofy heart of that character, and Michael Cera as Robin sounds like the exact right energy to bounce off of him. Beside, anything that gets any combination of the Bluths back together is okay by me.

"The Lego Batman Movie" (or whatever they officially call it) is due in theaters February 10, 2017.

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Michael Douglas on the dark sorcery that de-aged him for Marvel's 'Ant-Man'
Credit: Marvel Studios

Michael Douglas on the dark sorcery that de-aged him for Marvel's 'Ant-Man'

Seriously... it's next-level amazing, and even he seems surprised

The first time I interviewed Michael Douglas may have been the single worst interview moment of my life.

After all, Douglas is a legend, a guy who has been part of this business his whole life, as accomplished as a producer as he is an actor. I could spend an entire day just talking to him about "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" or what it was like to do a TV series with Karl Malden in the '70s.

The interview was supposed to be for "Last Vegas," the film he did with Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, and Kevin Kline. They put all four of them together for the interview, which would be a daunting room under the best of circumstances. Since the movie wasn't screened for me the night before the interviews, I walked into that room not having seen a single frame of the film. And as soon as they smelled it on me, they just got awful. All four of them. They checked out, and I don't blame them. It was a doomed conversation.

I saw Douglas again this past year at Toronto, and he was great. We talked about "Beyond The Reach," and while it wasn't a long conversation, it was definitely a huge step up from that first one. I missed him on the set of "Ant-Man" because of some unfortunate timing, but finally caught up with him at the press day for the movie, where we talked about how the process went versus his original expectations for it.

One of the craziest things about the film is the opening scene, where they have the Michael Douglas of 30 years ago play a scene thanks to the magic of visual effects. It's an amazing moment, made more amazing because we know what that Douglas looked like, and if they'd gotten it wrong, there would be no margin for error. Here's hoping we haven't seen the last of Hank Pym in the Marvel universe.

"Ant-Man" opens Friday.

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We wrap up our Comic-Con coverage with 2015's State Of The Union for fandom
Credit: Warner Bros/20th Century Fox/Walt Disney Pictures/Lucasfilm

We wrap up our Comic-Con coverage with 2015's State Of The Union for fandom

Are we better or worse than we were a year ago? It's worth asking.

When people use the word "fandom," I often wonder just what exactly it is that they think they're describing.

After all, fandom is a big amorphous concept, and there is no one face of it. However, if you really want to take the temperature of where we are right now, there's really no better place to do it than the San Diego Comic-Con, and this year, I decided that I want to start a new tradition when we come back from Comic-Con each year.

Here, then, is 2015's State Of The Union for fandom in all its weird and wonderful glory.

GROWING BUT FRACTURED

The first thing that is evident is that whatever fandom was, it not longer is that thing. It has become more inclusive, more aware, and far more vocal than ever before. It is also deeply fractured, and it has become increasingly difficult for any single property to unite people. And that's a good thing in the close-up, because it means that there are real voices breaking through. Right now, there are more ways to reach an audience than there have ever been before, and the people who thrive in this new era are going to be people who know how to cultivate a relationship with their readers or viewers or fans… whatever you want to call them.

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