<p>Wait... they're making 'Mass Effect' into a movie?&nbsp; Now I&nbsp;don't have any reason to go buy that XBOX&nbsp;360 after all.</p>

Wait... they're making 'Mass Effect' into a movie?  Now I don't have any reason to go buy that XBOX 360 after all.

Credit: Bioware

Legendary Pictures wants to play 'Mass Effect' on the bigscreen

Can this one break the video-game-to-movie curse?

Avi and Ari Arad will join forces with Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni of Legendary Pictures to bring the popular "Mass Effect" series of videogames to life as a bigscreen franchise, according to an exclusive report from Borys Kit at the Heat Vision blog.

So far, the video game movie has proven to be nearly impossible to crack for some reason.  It seems like any number of games have provided rich and interesting source material so far, but none of the films adapted from these games have worked.

Is it inherently impossible to adapt a game into a successful film?  And I don't mean monetarily... I mean creatively.  I don't think anything is impossible creatively, but it's amazing how much it's vexed producers, writers, and directors so far.

Right now, Avi and Ari Arad are betting big on the video-game-to-movie model, and they're attaching themselves to a number of different properties like "Uncharted" and this one, big marquee titles in the video game world.  Legendary is building their brand by betting big and betting geek, and they're a major part of what looks like this summer's film to beat, "Inception."  I have a PS3, not an XBOX 360, so I haven't played the "Mass Effect" games.  I've seen friends lose weeks to them, though, and they've preached the gospel of "Mass Effect" to me afterwards.  Here's the description of the game from the official website for the first one:

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<p>Dominic Cooper, seen here in last year's 'An Education,' may be stepping in as Howard Stark in Marvel's 'Captain America:&nbsp;The First Avenger' for next summer.</p>

Dominic Cooper, seen here in last year's 'An Education,' may be stepping in as Howard Stark in Marvel's 'Captain America: The First Avenger' for next summer.

Credit: Kerry Brown/Sony Pictures Classics

Dominic Cooper set to play young Howard Stark in 'Captain America'

Just how big a role will Iron Man's father have in the film?

If this pans out, it answers some questions for me about the timeline for "Captain America: The First Avenger."

After all, the footage we see of Howard Stark in "Iron Man 2," where John "Mad Men" Slattery appears in the role, was supposedly filmed in the '70s.  And Slattery appears to be in his 50s at that point.  That would mean he was in his 20s back in the time period of the majority of the action in "Captain America," back when he was one of the founding partners in S.H.I.E.L.D. 

We already know from the "Iron Man" films that Howard Stark helped design at least a prototype for the Captain America shield, because we've seen it in Tony Stark's workshop twice now as part of the junk left behind by his dad.  It seems sort of like a throwaway joke in "Iron Man 2," in particular, but after we see the role that Howard Stark plays in "Captain America," we may think of that scene very differently.

Since Marvel needs a much younger Howard Stark, they're looking at Dominic Cooper to play the part.  He's the guy who played Amanda Seyfried's boyfriend in "Mamma Mia," and last year, he was Peter Sarsgaard's slimy partner in crime in "An Education."  His breakthrough role was both onstage and on film in "The History Boys," and he's proven himself to be an interesting young actor who hasn't really had a mainstream success of his own.

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<p>Michael Cera and Jason Schwartzman do batle for the love of Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 'Scott Pilgrim&nbsp;Vs. The World.&quot;</p>

Michael Cera and Jason Schwartzman do batle for the love of Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 'Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World."

Credit: Universal Pictures

On set with 'Scott Pilgrim': Kim Pine and Young Neil talk Sex Bob-Omb

Alison Pill and Johnny Simmons chat about their characters, the music, and more
It's easy to forget that the entire world is not currently rabid about the upcoming film, "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World," adapted by Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright from the six-volume comic series by Bryan Lee O'Malley.  Mainly, I forget they're not all worked up because they should be.  If there was any justice in the world, people would be camping out right now waiting for the film to open in August.
Maybe it's just me.  I mean, I have enormous affection for the work of Edgar Wright so far as a filmmaker.  And I think the comic series is downright amazing.  And, of course, I spent a day on-set, taking a look at just how they planned to pull off this incredibly sweet and silly series as a movie, and in the process, I got a distinct feeling that they're up to something special.
For one thing, how often do you see people shoot films in Toronto and actually use it as Toronto?
O'Malley's series is set in Toronto, and his artwork makes exceptional use of photo reference to bring the city to life.  Instead of trying to make it look like someplace else, Wright's movie goes out of its way to adapt the book and celebrate this oft-disguised city.  A group of us flew up to spend an afternoon on several different soundstages, taking time to speak to the cast as well. 
Today, we're going to feature quotes from various interviews, with more of those tomorrow, and then later in the week, we'll take a look at the sets themselves, and then we'll wrap up with some time spent with Edgar Wright and Scott Pilgrim himself, Michael Cera, along with the film's main villain, the most evil of the Seven Evil Ex-Boyfriends.
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<p>In the original film, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) and Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) were played by European stars, but David Fincher's new version should replace them with more familiar faces.</p>

In the original film, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) and Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) were played by European stars, but David Fincher's new version should replace them with more familiar faces.

Credit: Music Box Films

More news on 'Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' remake release date, script drafts

Will Brad Pitt star in the remake, and where will they find their Lisbeth?

While I initially thought that the decision to do English-language adaptations of these books even as the original Swedish-language films are being released seemed like an unnecessary decision, I'm starting to think David Fincher is sitting on a potential blockbuster franchise, and some of the announcements that are starting to come out about the series makes me think we're going to be talking about these films a lot in the next few years.

The books have become a genuine phenomenon, and I get it.  They scratch the same itch as something like the Thomas Harris Hannibal novels, and getting that sort of material just right is harder than it looks.  The Millennium Trilogy, written by Stieg Larsson, concludes its English-language publication this week with The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, and it's interesting to watch this mania catch on here after spending time in Europe, where it's been a big deal for some time now.  I haven't seen the first of the Swedish films, although a DVD should arrive here this week sometime, and I'm hoping to see and review "The Girl Who Played With Fire" as it starts to roll out a limited arthouse release very soon.

Fincher is a little on-the-nose as a choice to direct, but I don't blame him or Scott Rudin for making that obvious choice.  When you're given something that fits this perfectly, sometimes you do it because it buys you the right to do other more esoteric material.  The nice thing is that the books are sort of rough and wild and filthy, but mainstream at the same time, and that makes people feel like they're watching or reading something extreme.  Fincher's great at that.  "Se7en" is one of those films that makes you think you've seen far more than you actually have, that masterfully paints pictures in your imagination by showing you almost nothing. 

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<p>MacGruber (Will Forte) may be an expert at defusing bombs, but that didn't help him this weekend as his film opened to general indifference from the ticket-buying public.</p>

MacGruber (Will Forte) may be an expert at defusing bombs, but that didn't help him this weekend as his film opened to general indifference from the ticket-buying public.

Credit: Universal Pictures

Saturday Night At The Movies: 'MacGruber,' 'Wayne's World,' and the legacy of 'Shrek'

A new ongoing series in which the films that 'SNL' spawned are revisited

You know what I need more of?

Ongoing columns here at HitFix.

Even so, there's a project I've been working on for a while now, and it seems like this weekend might be the perfect time to kick it off.  I'm a film geek first and foremost.  I’ve had the bug my whole life. Well, since I was seven, anyway.  Like many people who are in their mid-30s now, it was "Star Wars" that first spurred me to pursue my interest in film.  For a while, I was only into certain types of movies.  Sci-fi, monster flicks, fantasy films, cartoons... these were the shared dreams that first infected me.  As I grew older, my tastes grew broader as I realized that it was the medium itself with which I was in love.  It’s the potential for all types of storytelling that excites me. 

I have a particular fondness for great comedy.  My list of favorite comic influences is long and diverse, and I find different things funny at different times.  The slapstick of the Three Stooges, the anarchy of the Marx Brothers, the wry wit of "The Thin Man" movies, the elegant precision of Buster Keaton, and the willing surreality of Monty Python all appeal to me equally depending on my mood.  When discussing film comedy, though, there’s one television show that is literally impossible to ignore.

NBC’s "Saturday Night Live" has long since ceased to be “just” a television show.  It’s an institution that’s celebrating its 237th season, a cornerstone of show business, one of those gigs everyone has to try at least once.  The show has launched dozens of careers, maybe even hundreds by now.  If you make a list of every film involving alumni from the show -- as actor, director, writer, or producer -- one is faced with a cross-section of American film that involves titles as disparate as "The Last Picture Show" and "Doctor Detroit," as different as "JFK" and "Modern Problems".  For better and for worse, the show is inescapable.
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<p>Tobey Maguire and James Franco at the Tokyo premiere of 'Spider-Man 3.'</p>

Tobey Maguire and James Franco at the Tokyo premiere of 'Spider-Man 3.'

How Spider-Man lost the lead role in 'Rise Of The Apes' to the Green Goblin

Casting race leads to the question: is Maguire a movie star?

It's an interesting moment for Tobey Maguire.

When he was playing Spider-Man on a regular basis, Maguire was a movie star by default.  If you star in a film that makes $800 million or so worldwide, you're potentially bankable.  If you star in two, you're a potential star.  You star in three?  That's a rare club.  Maguire's done it.  Three giant giant movies.

But aside from those three films, has he ever really opened a movie?  I like a lot of his work.  I just wrote about "Ride With The Devil" the other day, and a big part of that film's sucess is Maguire's work.  He's very real, very sincere and sweet as a guy who does some brutal things during the Civil War.  I'm hoping there's a Criterion Blu-ray version of "The Ice Storm" coming soon, because I love that movie.  That's my favorite film of 1997, and the work of the young cast like Maguire and Christina Ricci and Elijah Wood is a big part of why I think the film is amazing.  "Pleasantville" and "Wonder Boys" are both rich and interesting films I'll happily discuss with anyone at length.  Films that reward return visits.  So Maguire's got taste.  He's capable of doing really strong and challenging work.  I root for him.  I like enough of what he's done to feel invested.  You know how it is for some actors... you just plain like them on film.

But I do wonder... is Tobey Maguire a movie star by any conventional definition at this point?

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<p>Shrek (Mike Myers) and Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) make a deal that changes the entire world in what is allegedly the final film in the series, 'Shrek Forever After'</p>

Shrek (Mike Myers) and Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) make a deal that changes the entire world in what is allegedly the final film in the series, 'Shrek Forever After'

Credit: Dreamworks Animation

The M/C Review: 'Shrek Forever After' ends the series hopefully

And by 'hopefully,' we mean 'we're holding you to that,' not 'on an up note.'

The "Shrek" series has been the flagship for Dreamworks Animation since the first one was released in 2001, and I still remember what a breath of fresh air that first film felt like when it was released.  The second film is a textbook example of a bigger sequel that tries even harder than the first film did, to mixed results.  The drop-off in quality to the third film was breathtaking, and after checking, I'm pretty sure I never even wrote about that one.  I think I just figured the less said, the better.

Oddly, though, the "Shrek" films didn't sit well with me over time.  I stand behind the reactions I had when I saw the first two films, but the template they established for Dreamworks has not been a good one, creatively-speaking.  That legacy, as much as the films themselves, define my feelings towards "Shrek" as a franchise, and as a result, walking into the fourth film, my expectations were fairly low.  I say that not as a way of saying "Told you so" now, but more as a way for you to set your own barometer.  If you're a huge fan of the series and you are already revved up about this new film, then just go see it.  It's a "Shrek" film.  No doubt about it.

But if you're on the fence at all, let me share my impressions with you, and the reaction of the four year old who went with me.

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<p>Megan Fox, seen here at last year's Toronto Film Festival, is the subject of much conversation today over her leaving the &quot;Transformers&quot; franchise.</p>

Megan Fox, seen here at last year's Toronto Film Festival, is the subject of much conversation today over her leaving the "Transformers" franchise.

Credit: AP Photo/Evan Agostini

Confirmed: Megan Fox wasn't released from 'Transformers 3'... she quit

The real question at this point is why?

It's been interesting this afternoon watching the way people jumped on the story about Megan Fox no longer appearing in "Transformers 3."  One thing's clear:  there are a lot of people who hate her and want to believe the absolute worst about her.  No... more than that.  They want to celebrate it.  The schadenfreude is sort of amazing to observe.

It also appears to be misplaced.

Sources close to the production tell HitFix Megan Fox was not written out of "Transformers 3," nor was it Michael Bay's decision to drop her from the film.  She left the picture.  Late this afternoon, her publicist released a statement exclusively to People.com stating that it was Fox's choice, but people haven't run that part of the story.  They just keep writing that she was canned.

Stories like this are always tough to parse from the outside.  Everyone wants to be the party in control, the one who made the choice.  And in this case, it makes a great story to blame Fox's brash outspoken manner in interviews on her suddenly not appearing in this franchise.  But I think it's important to at least try to figure out what happened, since we're talking about people's professional lives here.  Futures are made and broken based on the way people allegedly behave on film sets.

What we don't know at this point is why Fox walked away.  I hear it's not a money issue, but no alternative was offered up instead.  She and Michael Bay have always had a contentious relationship in public, and the rush for Bay to claim responsibility for her leaving the film makes it seem like things must have blown up between them again.  Still, that's not confirmed, and I'd like to give Bay the same benefit of the doubt that I'm giving Fox.

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<p>Yes, the name-change for the podcast makes logical sense, but more than that, it gives me an excuse to run a picture of one of Disney's weirdest bad guys.</p>

Yes, the name-change for the podcast makes logical sense, but more than that, it gives me an excuse to run a picture of one of Disney's weirdest bad guys.

Credit: The Walt Disney Company

Listen: The Motion/Captured Podcast #6

Special guest Scott Swan discusses 'Shrek Forever After,' Costner's 'New Daughter,' Film Nerd 2.0 and more

I think I manage to come across as fairly articulate on the podcast, which is a miracle since I frequently feel like I'm a marble-mouthed goofball.  For example, you'd think I would be able to say the name of my own podcast and blog fairly easily.  But no.  No, I have some sort of head trauma that makes me say "The Motion Picture Podcast" almost every single time I try to say the title.

So for the sake of my sanity, and also so that I can run the snazzy graphic you see attached to this article, we're going to make the transition to calling it The MCP.  It's technically the same title it's always been, only now there's a lot less chance I'll mangle it when I open my mouth.

Besides... this makes it sound like a new energy drink for 14 year olds.  Marketing nirvana.  "You gotta get The MCP in you!"  Errrrr... wait.  Maybe not.  When I say it like that, it sounds like it's gonna end in an arrest.

I think it's a pretty good one this week.  My special guest is Scott Swan again, and we talk about summer movies and his aversion to pretty much everything coming out this year.  We also play a round of Movie God, then run down this week's new releases on DVD and in theaters.  A very special added feature this week involves my son Toshi, who has been the subject of the ongoing column "Film Nerd 2.0" here at the site.  Today, we've got the first audio version of that as he stops by for a minute to explain his love of Godzilla to me.

It's a whole lot of cute.

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<p>Wes Anderson's hyper-charming 'The Fantastic Mr. Fox' is dazzling on Blu-ray.</p>

Wes Anderson's hyper-charming 'The Fantastic Mr. Fox' is dazzling on Blu-ray.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

A big batch of kids films on Blu-ray: Ponyo, Clooney's 'Fox,' the Squeakuel and more

What do you get when you buy an IMAX movie on Blu-ray?

As my home-programmed film festival continues, I'd like to look at a fistful of Blu-ray titles that could ostensibly be called "kid's films" that have all arrived here at the house recently.

Have I mentioned yet how much I love anyone who includes both a Blu-ray and a regular DVD in the same package?  I think it's vital in most households.  For example, I've got the Blu-ray set-up in my office, while the other rooms in the house only have regular DVD players still.  We had a second Blu-ray player, but it just gave up the ghost.  That's what you get for buying a cheapo Best Buy in-house brand.  Next time I buy a player for the living room, I'll probably just get a second PS3.  I've had great luck with the machine so far, and I love the way it handles firmware updates.

In the meantime, I like having a copy that the kids can play and having a gorgeous Blu-ray copy for my own use.  In the case of "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," the format really allows you to analyze and admire the exquisite work that was done by all of the animators as they put the film together.  I reviewed the film theatrically, and if anything, my love for it has grown with a few repeat viewings.  The Blu-ray is technically amazing, as rich a transfer as you'll find on anything today.  It's also got a fair sampling of extra features, the most ridiculous of which is "A beginner's guide to whack-bat."

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