Neytiri and Jake
Credit: Fox

It's official: 'Avatar 2' & '3' are next for James Cameron

He leaves 'Cleopatra' to dance with who brung him

James Cameron made good on his repeated promises of sequels to the immensely popular and box-office busting 3D epic "Avatar" with a press release from Fox this morning stating that he has agreed to make "Avatar 2" and "3" his next films.

The news definitely disrupts plans for Sony Pictures who had been courting Cameron to head up a 3D "Cleopatra" with Angelina  Jolie. But it's hardly surprising news that he would pick Fox over Sony, as James Cameron's relationship with the studio dates back to "Aliens" in 1985, and includes "Titanic," winner of eleven academy awards.

New 3D cameras and motion capture technology were developed for "Avatar," and its huge success ushered in our current era of 3D films. His script was based on a story that he had been mulling over for more than ten years. In a recent interview with Drew McWeeny he related that he had enough material involving Pandora and its nearby planets for ten sequels.

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<p>Driver (Dwayne Johnson) does his best to escape Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) in the new action film 'Faster'</p>
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Driver (Dwayne Johnson) does his best to escape Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) in the new action film 'Faster'

Credit: CBS Films

Set Visit: The Rock goes head to head with Billy Bob Thornton in 'Faster'

A short afternoon in Studio City leads to an examination of what a 'set visit' really is

The entire notion of the "set visit" has changed since I've started doing this, and that's never been clearer to me than it was in March, when I joined a handful of other writers on the set of the upcoming action movie "Faster," starring Dwayne Johnson, Maggie Grace, Billy Bob Thorton, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.

When I started writing for Ain't It Cool back in 1996 and 1997, there was no such thing as a formal set visit.  When I started actually writing about my time spent on various film sets, they weren't visits organized with the studio, but with the filmmakers, and they weren't big group activities with formal itineraries.  The best set visit pieces I've ever done are the ones where I spent enough time on a film for the filmmakers to forget I was there, where I got to become a fly on the wall and actually watch the process at work.  When I write one of these pieces, what I really hope to do is be your eyes and ears and allow you to experience what it's like when you're trying to pull off the logistical, monetary, technical, and artistic challenge that is filmmaking.

Instead, set visits these days have become stage managed to such an extent that what your'e getting as a reader is a junket experience, a completely manufactured theme park version of what really happens when you're making a movie.  It's the same as if you visited the MGM/Disney Tour in Florida or the Universal tour, and you drove by a soundstage and you caught a glimpse of something and a few of the stars came out and waved at you and did a little rehearsed patter.  You can't really say you saw them making the film, but that's what they want you to think.

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The cast of Megamind
Credit: Dreamworks Animation

Watch: Brad Pitt and Will Ferrell face off in 'Megamind'

Six clips give a good glimpse of the animation and the humor

It's hard to picture Will Ferrell's voice coming out of anything else than Will Ferrell. I'll admit I wasn't completely on board for the concept when I first heard of it. These five clips released this week from Paramount give a better taste of his voice talents than the snippets heard in the commercials. I'm warming up to the idea.

We're treated to extended scenes with Jonah Hill, who plays someone named 'Tighten,' who is trying to woo Roxanne in a hilarious send-up of the classic scene from "Superman." Hill is another offbeat choice for a superhero/villain voice, but one that just might work as well. Brad Pitt's Metro Man appears in two scenes, and his timing with Ferrell appears pretty on target.

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<p>John Carpenter, seen here on the set of his latest film 'The Ward,' is the subject of this week's special edition of the Motion/Captured Podcast.</p>

John Carpenter, seen here on the set of his latest film 'The Ward,' is the subject of this week's special edition of the Motion/Captured Podcast.

Credit: Echo Lake Productions/A Bigger Boat

Listen: A special podcast tribute to John Carpenter with guest Scott Weinberg

We're joined by the FEARNet Film Critic to discuss the career of one of horror's greats

One of the highlights for me of a very busy and emotionally demanding September was spending time at the Toronto International Film Festival and at Fantastic Fest with Scott Weinberg, Cinematical editor and FEARNet film critic.  Festivals are great because you end up seeing the same faces, people you don't see the rest of the year.  

Sundance, SXSW, Comic-Con, Toronto, Fantastic Fest… it's a circuit that takes me to Austin twice a year, to one of the biggest pop culture press events on the planet, and to two of the most important festivals that happen internationally, and it helps keep me connected to what's going on during the year in film.  It's also just plain nice to see those faces and have those conversations and spend that time with film-loving friends.

This year, Weinberg joined me for all of the Midnight Madness programming at the Ryerson Theater, and it was a blast.  Colin Geddes put together a really impressive series, and each night was a totally different energy depending on which film was playing.  For me, the evening that I anticipated the most was the premiere of John Carpenter's new film, "The Ward."  Since I first worked with John in 2005, I've been hoping to see him working on the bigscreen again, and it was a thrill to be in that audience, to be one of the first to see the film.

The night before, as Weinberg and I were writing reviews, we were talking about that anticipation, that weight that comes from having a career like his, and we realized that we should get that anticipation down on tape.  I set up the mic quickly, and what resulted is a loose, informal, hour-long trip through Carpenter's full career, from "Dark Star" to "Ghosts Of Mars."  We rank each of this theatrical features, each of us picking our favorite films along the way.

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<p>Dustin Hoffman, Warren Beatty, Isabelle Adjani, and a blind camel all star in the long-unavailable '80s comedy 'Ishtar,' finally coming to Blu-ray in January</p>

Dustin Hoffman, Warren Beatty, Isabelle Adjani, and a blind camel all star in the long-unavailable '80s comedy 'Ishtar,' finally coming to Blu-ray in January

Credit: SPHE

One Thing I Love Today: 'Ishtar' is coming to Blu-ray

Would would a simple press release get today's spotlight?

This is just plain odd, and it makes me very happy.

I got a press release this morning from SPHE, and I had to read it twice because I didn't believe it the first time.  I've been hearing for the past decade how "Ishtar" was never going to come out on DVD because of all the delicate negotiating it would require between the various principal players like Dustin Hoffman, Warren Beatty, and Elaine May.

Anyone who's been reading this blog since it launched, or who was reading my work on Ain't It Cool, probably knows by now that I'm a fan of "Ishtar," and not in some winky ironic way, either.  I think it's a genuinely funny film that got unjustly slammed when it was released in 1987, and it's deserved a major rediscovery for some time now.  Last year, Mr. Beaks and I hosted an evening at the New Beverly where we double-featured this film with "Joe Vs. The Volcano," and seeing it with a crowd was great.

It's been hard to defend the film when it's been largely unavailable to the viewing public, and it's been hard to explain to people that there are reasons other than the quality of the film that have kept it off of DVD entirely.  How many high-profile film can you honestly say have never had a DVD release in the American market?  How many Warren Beatty films or Dustin Hoffman films have been completely shelved and sat out this format entirely?

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<p>Will Ferrell stars as Megamind in the new animated superhero comedy 'Megamind'</p>

Will Ferrell stars as Megamind in the new animated superhero comedy 'Megamind'

Credit: Paramount/Dreamworks Animation

Interview: Will Ferrell gets animated about 'Megamind'

Plus we play a round of Movie God with the comedy icon

The October skies were still grey and swollen with potential rain as I sped across town to make it to my early morning interview on Saturday with Will Ferrell.  Perfect weather to interview a supervillain.

Sitting down with Ferrell, 43, has become something of a habit for me over the last decade or so.  I've stood on-set chatting with Ron Burgundy, sat in a crazy forced perspective classroom beside Buddy The Elf, and there have been any number of interviews as he's released his films.  This summer, I moderated the "Megamind" panel at the San Diego Comic-Con… or more accurately, I stood onstage and asked a few questions while Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, and a cardboard Brad Pitt expertly worked the audience.

I like that when I sit down with him at this point, there's no obligation for him to be "on."  He's always sharp and funny, but he doesn't exhibit some manic urge to score points or play some character.  He's a thoughtful, soft-spoken guy when we sit down.  Especially when it's 10:00 AM and I'm the first interview of what will no doubt be a very long Saturday for the star.  I feel good about the fact that my decision to recently shave everything off my face for the first time in about a decade makes Will laugh the moment he walks into the room, and for the first few minutes of the interview, as we settle in to talk, every time he looks at me, he cracks up anew.

We begin by talking about the basic premise of the film and the way it riffs off of the traditional idea of the arch enemy.  "There's always that one guy, and when they catch him, they lock him up forever.  Only… it doesn't really work out for some reason.  Somehow, that guy always makes it off the prison island."

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<p>If Jack Black and his dignity can survive this, a robot uprising should be a piece of cake.</p>

If Jack Black and his dignity can survive this, a robot uprising should be a piece of cake.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

The Morning Read: Spielberg's 'Robopocalypse' will be joined by Jack Black's 'Robot Uprising'

Plus the creepiest celebrity soundalike of all time

Welcome to The Morning Read.

This may be a quick one.  It may not.  It'll just depend on how much I can get done before I get out the door this morning.  I've got interviews with Danny Boyle and James Franco and director Todd Phillips set for the first half of the day, and I wanted to be sure to have something ready for you guys before I take off.

So this is more like the very very very late night Sunday read, to be fair, but over the weekend, there's been plenty to discuss.  When I ran into our own Greg Ellwood at the Grove after a screening of "Due Date" on Sunday afternoon, we talked a bit about his encounter with Jennifer Lawrence.  He sounded really impressed by her in general, and I've gotten that impression from several people who have interviewed her so far this year.  She's young, too, so it's interesting to see her in this first flush of success and how she's holding it all together.  Can't wait to see her as Mystique.

I was really excited on Friday about the possibility of Steven Spielberg directing "Robopocalypse," and it makes me laugh to see people who feel so diametrically opposed.  I'm not going to say I'm "glad" that Spielberg didn't make "Lincoln," because i'm sure he and Tony Kushner could well make a great movie about Abraham Lincoln.  But I am glad that he didn't make it if he didn't think it was ready or right, and that's evidently what happened.  It just plain never made it out of development.  It happens.  It's a shame, but it happens.  I'm curious, though, to see what effect the production of "Robopocalypse" has on the Jack Black/Steve Pink project, "How To Survive A Robot Uprising."

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<p>Dave Englund and Steve-O prepare for some fresh horror during the filming of 'Jackass 3D'</p>

Dave Englund and Steve-O prepare for some fresh horror during the filming of 'Jackass 3D'

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Listen: The MCP returns with Steve-O interview and 'The Hobbit,' this week's DVDs, and more

Special guest Scott Swan stops by for a round of Movie God

Because a couple of people vaguely asked for it... the Motion/Captured Podcast is back.

I kid, but I genuinely appreciate all the kind e-mail and messages you've sent me asking about this podcast, and I also appreciate your patience as I figured out the tech end of things.

This week, Scott Swan joined me as we tried to sweep out the cobwebs.  When I was Fantastic Fest at the end of September, I sat down with Steve-O for an interview that we've included in today's podcast, and we also brought back Movie God, the game that made Matthew Robinson curse at me when he was a guest on the show.

Since it's been a while, please go easy on us.  We'll start doing more of these, including special themed podcasts for certain releases or certain times of the year or if there are things that demand further conversation.  I'm also working on adding more and more guests, and since I'm mobile now, it should be easier since I don't have to make them drive out to the ass end of the San Fernando Valley to be on the podcast.

I like the differences between a written article and a conversational piece, and the reason Scott is my most frequent guest is because after 24 years of friendship, there's no one I'm more comfortable talking to about anything.  We can just yak about whatever, and hopefully that comfort level makes this worth a listen.

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<p>An image from Richard Fleischer's 'Fantastic Voyage'</p>

An image from Richard Fleischer's 'Fantastic Voyage'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

The Morning Read: Laeta Kalogridis joins James Cameron on a 'Fantastic Voyage'

Plus Malick gets a release date, Nicotero does monsters, and Badass Digest goes live

Welcome to The Morning Read.

I'm not personally acquainted with Terrence Malick, but it looks like he got me a birthday present.  My birthday?  May 26.  The official release date of "Tree Of Life"?  May 27, 2011.  Thank you, Mr. Malick.  Now if I can just get my ass on a plane to Cannes to see the film premiere there…

More news that makes me happy this morning?  Laeta Kalogridis has been hired to help get "Fantastic Voyage" ready to shoot.  She's one of James Cameron's favorite writers, and one of mine as well.  She's been in the game for a while now, but it's only in the last few years that the films she's been working on have even remotely resembled the scripts she writes.  With "Shutter Island" and "Avatar," she seems to have finally turned a corner professionally, working on films that actually live up to her work.  She's an amazing action writer, and she's great with character, a killer combination that keeps her busy.  She's also working on "Ghost In The Shell" right now, but I'm guessing if she's onboard "Fantastic Voyage," they'll sign another director soon to replace Paul Greengrass.  Can't wait.

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<p>True, this is what we got the last time Spielberg made a movie about robots, but that doesn't prevent me from an almost Pavlovian anticipation for the just-announced 'Robopocalypse'</p>

True, this is what we got the last time Spielberg made a movie about robots, but that doesn't prevent me from an almost Pavlovian anticipation for the just-announced 'Robopocalypse'

Credit: Warner Bros.

The 'Robopocalypse' is coming, and Steven Spielberg is directing

Will this be the pure popcorn we crave from the director of 'Raiders' and 'Jurassic Park'?

The robots are coming!

I like to pretend that I'm okay with the evolution of Steven Spielberg into a very solid, respectable, smart and heartfelt grown-up filmmaking.  I can appreciate the nuance and the craft of films like "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan" and "Catch Me If You Can."  But in those quiet moments, when I'm honest with myself, I confess that I would trade every "grown-up" movie he's ever made including my beloved "Empire Of The Sun" if it meant I got another piece of pure popcorn as perfect as "Raiders Of The Lost Ark."

And now, damn it, I have reason to hope.

I haven't read the Daniel H. Wilson novel Robopocalypse, but I can say with confidence that if Drew Goddard is scripting the adaptation, it's going to rock.  Goddard is one of those guys who made his bones crafting some of the best TV of the last 15 years, and in his best moments, I hear the same influences in his work that inform my own tastes.  That includes a big helping heaping of early Spielberg.  Goddard working with Spielberg is an exciting combination.

Reading the article at Deadline, I'm also encouraged by the description of the process on this one.  The novel wasn't even finished when Spielberg and Goddard got involved, so for a time, Spielberg would be working on storyboards while Wilson was turning in book pages and Goddard was adapting them into script form. 

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