<p>&quot;Puss in Boots&quot;</p>
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"Puss in Boots"

Credit: Dreamworks

Review: 'Puss In Boots' offers genuine thrills and laughs for young and old alike

A strong standalone film that works despite its 'Shrek' connections

By now, you are probably pretty sure of how you feel regarding the "Shrek" franchise.  I think it has been a lovely example of the law of diminishing returns as they've milked it way past the point of dry.  I forget the name of the last movie, and I'm so uninterested in it that I don't even feel the urge to look it up.  It struck me as a lazy cash-grab, and as a result, when I walked in to see "Puss In Boots," it was with dread more than anything.

Thankfully, "Puss In Boots" is not a "Shrek" film.  At all.

It's so disconnected from the series that I have no idea where it takes place in the timeline of the "Shrek" series.  Before? After?  Doesn't matter.  "Puss In Boots" stands on its own, and it's better for doing so.  It is a very silly film, a big adventure movie, and surprisingly effective.  It's not easy to spin off a popular supporting character into his own movie, and yet this feels completely natural.  It helps that Antonio Banderas seems to fully understand the ludicrous nature of the film, and his performance is nuanced and hilarious, a charming riff on his own bigscreen image.

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<p>The boys were desperate to see what led good friends Anakin and Obi-Wan to fight, but once they got there, it may have broken their hearts</p>

The boys were desperate to see what led good friends Anakin and Obi-Wan to fight, but once they got there, it may have broken their hearts

Credit: 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm Ltd.

Film Nerd 2.0: 'Revenge Of The Sith' devastates the kids as Anakin falls from grace

In which a silly space opera brings my whole family to genuine tears

Late Saturday night, a few hours after we finished watching "Revenge Of The Sith," about an hour after both of the boys had fallen asleep, I was sitting in my office when the door opened and a sleepy-eyed Allen walked in.

"Dad, I think it's sad that Anakin's a bad guy."

"Did you just wake up to tell me that?"

"Yeah.  I hope he gets better."

I picked him up, carried him back down the hallway to his bedroom, and he was asleep again by the time I tucked him in surrounded by his stuffed animals.  That one thought was weighing on him enough that he needed to get up and come tell me.  And as I sat back down, I realized what showing the films in this particular has done narratively that is underlined in a  very different way now.  More than ever, the notion of having to stand against one's father to punish him and, maybe, to redeem him is written in GIANT GLOWING LETTERS now.  The last thing they saw was the birth of Luke and Leia.

Which blew their minds, by the way.

Like, off the charts, oh my god, running in circles.  Blew.  Their.  Minds.

And that wasn't the biggest moment of the night.

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<p>Ben Affleck took the stand earlier this year to speak out about problems in the Congo, and now he may take on 'The Stand' as a writer/director</p>

Ben Affleck took the stand earlier this year to speak out about problems in the Congo, and now he may take on 'The Stand' as a writer/director

Credit: AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Will Ben Affleck end up writing and directing 'The Stand'?

What happened to the 'Harry Potter' creative team?

There's nothing I love more than coming home from a night out with the kids to find angry half-literate e-mails from people calling me names over something they don't understand.  So you can imagine this has been a gorgeous Friday night.

After all, we were the ones who told you that David Yates and Steve Kloves were going to be the creative team in charge of Warner's big-screen treatment of the Stephen King epic novel.  And when we reported it, offers had been made and deals were in motion.  It was accurate at that moment.

Then things went radio silent.  And while I'm not in a position to tell you what went on behind the scenes, I can tell you that following the success of the last four "Harry Potter" films, both Yates and Kloves are expensive, particularly when working together, and one of the keys to getting any giant tentpole film off the ground right now is finding creative ways to bring costs down.  When your writer and director together are worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 - $20 million before you make any other deals on the film, that is not an inexpensive place to begin.

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<p>The Wachowskis are gearing up for a new SF&nbsp;film with the same studio that brought you 'The Matrix'</p>

The Wachowskis are gearing up for a new SF film with the same studio that brought you 'The Matrix'

Credit: Warner Bros.

The Wachowskis head back to original SF with 'Jupiter Ascending'

The top-secret project marks their first original movie since 'The Matrix'

There are certain filmmakers who have earned a permanent spot on the list of people whose work I will always approach with an open mind and a sense of optimism, and the Wachowskis are absolutely on that list.

Sure, there's "The Matrix," that bolt-out-of-the-blue hit that made them into A-list names, but as much as I admire that movie, I'm equally fond of both "Bound," the indie thriller that was their directorial debut, and "Speed Racer," the much-maligned but genuinely inspired kaleidoscopic adaptation of the Japanese cartoon.  I think they have great energy as filmmakers and I also think they have contributed to a serious expansion of the vocabulary of science-fiction and action on film.

I'm very curious about "Cloud Atlas," the film they're shooting now, and I think it sounds bold and experimental and unusual.  After that, though, it looks like they're going to be making a big-ticket science-fiction film for Warner Bros, not based on anything else, and thanks to Deadline's story today, we know now that "Jupiter Ascending" is the title.  Beyond that, we know nothing else right now.  The film is out to actors, which is how the story broke.

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<p>At least we know Garrett Hedlund could pull off the whole 'riding a cool motorcycle' thing</p>

At least we know Garrett Hedlund could pull off the whole 'riding a cool motorcycle' thing

Credit: Image

Warner Bros gives 'Akira' the greenlight with Garrett Hedlund eyed to star

So they're really going ahead with it, eh?

Looks like Akira and Tetsuo are set to battle it out again after all.

It also looks like the time Garrett Hedlund spent learning how to ride those lightcycles for "TRON Legacy" is going to pay off as he signs a deal to star in the film.

I can think of few films that make less sense for a Westernized live-action remake than the original animated "Akira."  It is, like "Godzilla," literally born from the ashes of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, an anxious SF parable about living with the unexpected consequences of the nuclear age.  There is a strange surreal paranoia to the original, which is a massive compression of the manga series, and the youth of the main characters is important because the story deals with young people inheriting the horror that resulted from the generation before them.  The storytelling in that film is oblique, and the iconography is very Japanese.

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<p>This would definitely ruin an evening.</p>

This would definitely ruin an evening.

Credit: Screen Gems

Joe Cornish discusses 'Attack The Block' sequels and spin-offs

Plus some quick thoughts on 'Tintin' and 'Ant-Man' and Edgar Wright

It seems like 2011 has been a pretty good year to be Joe Cornish.

After all, he released his first film as a writer/director this year, the instant cult classic "Attack The Block," and he's also got a co-writing credit on the new Steven Spielberg animated film "The Adventures Of Tintin."  Add to that the work he's been doing with Edgar Wright on the still in-development Marvel movie "Ant-Man," and this is pretty much as good a year as you can have as a filmmaker.

When I introduced the film at its first screening this year and then held the Q&A with Cornish afterwards, it was the kickoff to what has apparently been a non-stop media parade for him, and when he called last week, I told him how much I've enjoyed seeing everything unfold for the film in the meantime.  "I appreciate that.  Thank you.  The support from the, as you'd call it, blogosphere has been the absolute lifeblood of this film, and I'm very appreciative of all the support."

That's the point, though.  When I love a movie, the only thing I can do to help is to keep talking about it as much as possible.  I told him it was strange seeing the movie at home for the first time because I missed hearing all the reactions that were part of each public screening I went to for it.  "Well, hopefully, if people haven't seen it, they can have friends over and make an event of it and turn the lights out."

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<p>Dane DeHaan has a very bad temper and powers that make that a problem in the creepy new superhero film 'Chronicle'</p>

Dane DeHaan has a very bad temper and powers that make that a problem in the creepy new superhero film 'Chronicle'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Max Landis dreams up dark new superheroes in first 'Chronicle' trailer

Found footage superhero film with an 'Akira' vibe looks interesting

Yes, Max Landis is related to that Landis.  Now get over it.

It really is a double-edged sword growing up with a famous last name, because it may well open doors for you, but it also means people constantly assume that you don't have to do any real work, and that's ridiculous.  Max Landis may have grown up with John Landis as a father, and he may have been around film sets since he was a baby, and he may have met many of the people who can hire him socially because of that, but in the end, if the films he writes are going to work, they're going to have to work because of talent, not because of his name.

I wasn't a huge fan of "Deer Woman," the "Masters Of Horror" episode he wrote for his dad, but I liked the ambition and the attitude of it.  I thought it had a really strange and novel sensibility, and I'm curious to see what his voice is over the next few movies, starting with "Chronicle," which looks like a sort of found-footage superhero riff.  But dark.  Maybe real dark.

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<p>Tom Hanks may star as Robert Langdon again, but with Mark Romanek directing instead of Ron Howard</p>

Tom Hanks may star as Robert Langdon again, but with Mark Romanek directing instead of Ron Howard

Credit: Sony Pictures

Will director Mark Romanek class up Dan Brown's 'Lost Symbol' with Tom Hanks?

This could be an important moment for the director of 'Never Let You Go'

Mark Romanek and Tom Hanks almost worked together before.

"Almost" is a big word in Romanek's filmography, unfortunately.  He almost made "The Wolfman" before famously falling out of the film which went on to be troubled all the way through production. 

And in 2005, he almost made "A Cold Case," which was written by no less than John Sayles and Eric Roth.  Based on a novel, it was the story of Andy Rosenzweig, an investigator for the Manhattan DA's office, who became obsessed with two murders from 1970 that he is convinced were pinned on the wrong person.

Now it looks like there's a chance they'll finally collaborate, and this could be an important film for Romanek, commercially speaking.  He needs it, too.  As gifted as he is, and I believe he's enormously gifted, he has not been a successful filmmaker in terms of box-office so far.  While he's arguably one of the most talented guys to ever work for Propaganda Films, his career since 2002's "One Hour Photo," featuring one of the best performances in Robin Williams's career, has been a slow-motion attempt to make smart films that just didn't quite come together.  His third film was 2010's "Never Let Me Go," and it's a gorgeous, crushingly sad movie that was a hard sell for general audiences.

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<p>River Phoenix, seen here in 'My Own Private Idaho,' was almost finished shooting 'Dark Blood' when he died</p>

River Phoenix, seen here in 'My Own Private Idaho,' was almost finished shooting 'Dark Blood' when he died

Credit: New Line Cinema

Final River Phoenix film, 'Dark Blood,' will be finished and released

Joaquin Phoenix may help in the form of voice-over

I hardly ever think about River Phoenix's untimely death these days.

I'm still acutely aware of the giant hole his passing left, though.  If you were still young when he dropped dead on Halloween night, 1993, you may not have understood just how much pressure there was on Phoenix as one of Hollywood's biggest young stars.

He was, after all, brilliant.  Not just a good young actor, but a remarkable presence on a set, someone who had very quickly made themselves an indispensable part of the industry.  He made a strong impression early, and then kept delivering on that promise with performance after performance.  Whatever it was that drove him, Phoenix seemed miles ahead of his peers.  When you watch his work in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," for example, pay attention to the way he gets every detail of Harrison Ford's iconic work as Indy into his performance, and then remember that he spent time with Ford playing father and son in "The Mosquito Coast" a few years earlier.  He was a sponge, soaking up the people around him and then perfectly playing back what he observed.  He was movie star pretty, but he also seemed to chafe at the notion of being a movie star.  He was bold in the projects and the collaborators he sought out, and he was trying to find his own voice as an artist in the people he chose to work with.

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<p>Sometimes people are just sea captains, they can't help it</p>

Sometimes people are just sea captains, they can't help it

Exclusive: New 'Tintin' featurette with Haddock test from Comic-Con

Spielberg and Jackson and all sorts of new footage

Are you excited for "Tintin"?

If your first reaction is to start grumbling about technology, then I don't know how to get past that.  To my mind, the last thing that's interesting about this movie is the software and hardware used to produce it.  We live in an age of miracles we take for granted and even complain about, and it tires me.

What excites me about "Tintin" is specifically the collision of talent that it represents.  If you read my piece about the San Diego Comic-Con presentation this summer by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, I laid out my thoughts upon seeing the first real footage from the movie.

I've seen more at this point, and I've seen enough to see the characters at play.  For example, I'm intrigued by the interplay between Thompson (Simon Pegg) and Thomson (Nick Frost), and I'm trying to imagine the sessions where they recorded that, alone in a room with Steven Spielberg.  You look at "Spaced," and you take into account how genuine their love of genre is, and it's hard not to take pleasure in the idea of those two guys just playing, slapstick and banter brought to painted life.

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