'Chappie' trailer introduces a feeling robot from the director of 'District 9'
Credit: Columbia Pictures

'Chappie' trailer introduces a feeling robot from the director of 'District 9'

Sharlto Copley tries something new in a performance capture role

Neill Blomkamp made a big noise with his first narrative feature, and one of the things that made "District 9" so electrifying was that it seemed to come out of nowhere. It was a surprise, and it was a fresh take on science-fiction during a period when it felt like there wasn't much being done in the genre.

The hard part about coming out of nowhere and surprising everyone is that you can only do it once. His second film, "Elysium," had the crushing weight of expectation on it, and Blomkamp stumbled in the execution. It's certainly an ambitious film, and he's just as technically adept as he was in "District 9," but he wasn't really able to pull all of the narrative threads together. One of the common elements between the two films was Sharlto Copley, the hero of one film and the villain of the other.

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C-3PO star Anthony Daniels says 'Star Wars: Episode 7' is better than 'Empire Strikes Back'
Credit: Walt Disney/Lucasfilm

C-3PO star Anthony Daniels says 'Star Wars: Episode 7' is better than 'Empire Strikes Back'

Bold words from one of the franchise's most stalwart stars

Bold words, Threepio. Bold words.

I didn't see it until someone retreated it late Monday night, but Anthony Daniels, probably fresh from the "Episode VII" wrap party over the weekend, made a pretty big claim on Twitter this weekend.

There is a reason "The Empire Strikes Back" is constantly referred to as the gold standard of genre sequels. It's a film that took everything the first movie did and fine-tuned it, and it such breathless storytelling that it feels like every frame of the film is urgently important. Watching people imitate the film in all the wrong ways over the years, it's become clear that it is harder than it looks to make a sequel that really delivers for an audience.

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Tom Cruise cheats death in crazy 'Mission: impossible 5' plane stunt
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Tom Cruise cheats death in crazy 'Mission: impossible 5' plane stunt

This is why he's been a movie star for 30 straight years now

One of the 8,000 things my kids are currently obsessed with is the Tom Cruise "Mission: Impossible" franchise. They've seen the franchise completely out of order, because I used "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" to win them over. By far, it's the best of the entire series, and they're already Brad Bird fans because of "The Iron Giant," "The Incredibles," and "Ratatouille," so when I showed it to them, all I had to do was tell them who made it.

Actually, that's not true. The other thing I told them was about the stunt that Tom Cruise did, the highly-publicized climb up the outside of Burj Khalifa in Dubai. They're Jackie Chan fans already, and we discussed how Jackie did his own stunts and why that's special. It's something that we've talked about in terms of Buster Keaton as well. I hate to say it, but it's true… there's something special about the thrill you get as an audience member when you know that you're watching someone really do something where they could have been killed.

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Film Nerd 2.0: An important line is crossed with James Cameron's 'The Terminator'
Credit: MGM/UA Home Video

Film Nerd 2.0: An important line is crossed with James Cameron's 'The Terminator'

Things got crazy on Saturday night

When I was 14, "The Terminator" quietly arrived in theaters, a low-budget SF/action film starring a guy many people had dismissed already as an onscreen presence, released without much hype or much of a media presence.

One of my friends had an older brother who was an usher at a local movie theater, and he would let us walk into anything we wanted to see, pretty much as many times as we wanted. It's where we spent most Friday and Saturday nights for most of '84 and '85, and I tried to see everything that played there.

With "The Terminator," though, it was special. Every weekend, no matter what else was out, we'd also see "The Terminator" at least once. The entire time it played, we kept going back. It was so obviously something special, something better than it had to be, and I found the whole thing so thrillingly made. I lost count of how many times we ended up seeing it, but without exaggeration, I know it was over 30. No matter what else Cameron does for the rest of his career, I don't think I will ever feel that same sheer overwhelming adoration that I did for "The Terminator," but that's mainly because it came out of nowhere and seemed like such a perfect example of how to take no money and make it work for you. That film works because, before anything, that script works, and that script is a perfect example of what you can do with very limited resources if you're smart. It is emotional, it is clever, and it is a beautiful example of how to structure an action film.

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TJ Miller and Damon Wayans Jr. talk about celebrating intelligence with 'Big Hero 6'
Credit: HitFix

TJ Miller and Damon Wayans Jr. talk about celebrating intelligence with 'Big Hero 6'

Disney's newest heroes are more brains than brawn and like it that way

While Baymax, the big soft robot, is the scene-stealing star of "Big Hero 6," there's another character who very nearly beat him for my kids when we saw it. Fred, played by TJ Miller, isn't actually a student at the high tech college where Hiro Hamada, the film's main character, meets the people who eventually become the crime-fighting team with him.

Instead, Fred is a fanboy for science, unabashed in his enthusiasm about the work being done by the other characters, including Hiro, Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), GoGo Tomago (Jamie Chung), and Wasabi Ginger (Damon Wayans Jr.), a tireless cheerleader to the others as they work. Miller's the perfect guy for the part, and if you follow him on Twitter, you no doubt saw his non-stop bombardment of images from Disneyland this weekend, where he seemed to be having an amazing time.

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Paul Walker and Vin Diesel take one last ride in the gigantic new 'Furious 7' trailer
Credit: Universal Pictures

Paul Walker and Vin Diesel take one last ride in the gigantic new 'Furious 7' trailer

Oh, yeah, Kurt Russell's in this one, too!

Universal has not had the best luck with franchises over the last decade or so, but the one series that they can take full credit for nurturing and developing from an unlikely first film into what is now a globally-hyped event as part seven prepares to hit theaters.

I would have never pegged "The Fast And The Furious" as the beginning of a massive franchise, and I'm sure no one working on the film would have guessed how big this would eventually become. It's been a one of a kind happy accident, and Universal deserves credit for understanding what was happening and managing it properly.

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Channing Tatum's set for solo spin-off 'Gambit' movie, and now they've got a writer
Credit: Marvel Comics

Channing Tatum's set for solo spin-off 'Gambit' movie, and now they've got a writer

Will we see him first in 'X-Men: Apocalypse'?

These days, it seems hard for me to believe that there was a point where I did not like the work of Channing Tatum.

For several of his early movies, I felt like he was a good looking guy with no chops at all, and it didn't seem to me like he was ever going to loosen up. He had some buzz around him when he was in "A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints," and he was certainly busy as the next few years unfolded, starring in films like "G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra," "Dear John," "The Eagle," and "Step Up 2: The Streets," but it wasn't until 2011 that I started to come around to what he was doing. "The Dilemma" is a fairly awful film, but Tatum shows up late in the movie and suddenly things start to come to life. Also that spring, "Haywire" came out, and I thought Tatum was great in his few scenes, taking a beating from Gina Carano like a champ. Then in 2012, the back-to-back punch of "21 Jump Street" and "Magic Mike" made it clear that we had all under-estimated this guy.

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'ABCs of Death' director Vincenzo Natali picks his favorite movie death of all time
Credit: MGM/UA Home Video

'ABCs of Death' director Vincenzo Natali picks his favorite movie death of all time

I think his pick might be the same as a lot of other people's pick. It's that good.

Vincenzo Natali is one of those guys who made a genre classic with his first feature, something that can be both a curse and a blessing to a filmmaker. Think of how many directors come out of the gate with something that defines them, only to end up trapped by it later in their careers. Natali certainly didn't disappear after "Cube," but he did deal with the sort of independent financing nightmares and development paralysis that has sidelined so many talented guys. I am a big fan of "Splice," a movie he made more recently, and I also think his segment in "The ABCs Of Death 2" is a lot of fun.

To help spotlight that anthology film, we asked Vincenzo to share with us his favorite movie death of all time. I think it's a great way to get to know a filmmaker. If you really want a bead on who they are, don't talk to them about their own movies. Talk to them about the movies that they love. When you do that, you learn so much about their sensibilities.

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Disney's 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' brings on the writer of 'Orphan'
Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Disney's 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' brings on the writer of 'Orphan'

This is the studio's second at-bat with the classic Bradbury tale

Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes" is not just one of his finest works, it's one of the best books I've ever read, and at this point in my life, that includes thousands of titles. What makes "Wicked" so great isn't just the story, although it's got a great plot, and it's not just the language, although Bradbury ladles it on like a master. It is the way "Wicked" captures not only the feeling in the air as Halloween approaches, but the way he observes and dissects human behavior so carefully and completely.

Here's a paragraph from the book that just makes me swoon.

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More 'Terminator: Genisys' images and details pile on the awkward for Paramount
Credit: Paramount Pictures

More 'Terminator: Genisys' images and details pile on the awkward for Paramount

It's like they're trying to sabotage the film

Working as a studio publicist is not an easy gig. There are plenty of times when you are asked to be an advocate for a product that you know just doesn't work, and when there are hundreds of millions of dollars on the line, the pressure to keep your smile fixed firmly in place is overwhelming.

Right now, it must look like Gotham City the day after the Joker dropped Smilex on everyone, because I can't imagine anyone at Paramount or at Skydance, the David Ellison-led production partner on the film, is feeling good about the reaction to this first big blast of publicity. They managed to set it up so that "Entertainment Weekly" would spend a few days rolling out images, probably imagining a wave of goodwill that would carry them right into Halloween weekend.

Nope.

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