<p>The making of Disney's Oscar-nominated 'Beauty and the Beast' is one of the highlights of the remarkable new documentary 'Waking Sleeping Beauty.'</p>

The making of Disney's Oscar-nominated 'Beauty and the Beast' is one of the highlights of the remarkable new documentary 'Waking Sleeping Beauty.'

Credit: Walt Disney Company

The M/C Interview: Don Hahn and Peter Schneider discuss 'Waking Sleeping Beauty'

A free-wheeling conversation on the state of the animation industry then and now

It makes sense that there's an announcement in my e-mail inbox about a new edition of "The Great Mouse Detective" on DVD, because I have a feeling anyone who sees "Waking Sleeping Beauty" is going to want to go back and take a look at that film, along with "The Black Cauldron," "The Rescuers Down Under," and all the megahits that Disney released in the wake of "The Little Mermaid."  It's just a natural side-effect of watching this absorbing look at the way the company reinvented itself in the Michael Eisner/Jeffrey Katzenberg era.

I sat down with Don Hahn and Peter Schneider at the old Animation building on the Disney lot in Burbank, which seems like the perfect place to have a conversation about their film, the studio's history, and where animation is right now.

Drew McWeeny:  So I moved out here in the summer of ’90 and was a theatre manager in Sherman Oaks.

Don Hahn:  Oh, really?
Peter Schneider:  Yes, you were.
DM:  We hosted tons of test screenings.  Every week, we had Michael [Eisner] and Jeffrey [Katzenberg] with whatever, either live-action or animation... everything.  So it was interesting seeing it from this perspective and getting this perspective, because I think it’s one of the most honest behind-the-scenes films I’ve ever seen about anything.
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<p>Tom Cruise is set to return to &quot;Mission:&nbsp;Impossible 4,&quot; but who will sit in the director's chair when he does?</p>

Tom Cruise is set to return to "Mission: Impossible 4," but who will sit in the director's chair when he does?

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Brad Bird's 'Mission,' should he choose to accept it...

With '1906' stalled out, will Bird jump to Paramount's spy franchise?

"Mission: Impossible" is one of the most interesting franchises at any studio right now, and not necessarily for the films that already exist in the series, but for the potential inherent to the material.

Most franchises are built around a central character, and because stars so frequently get intimately identified with those characters, it's hard to extend a series once your star leaves.  Sure, there are options.  The "reboot" has become fairly commonplace these days, and before that, there was always the James Bond option of recasting and hoping for the best.  But for the most part, the appeal of a series is about a specific character or a specific star.

The exceptions are the franchises that studios should value most, and that's one of the reasons I've been so vocal in calling Fox out on their epic, stunning, near-criminal mismanagement of the "X-Men" franchise.  When you're dealing with a series that has a huge sprawling cast of characters and a built-in excuse to rotate them in and out of the series depending on the availability of actors, it's like having the world's biggest toychest for a studio.  You can tell story after story after story, and change is part of the franchise, not the enemy of it.

So far, "Mission: Impossible" has been the Tom Cruise show, which is a bit of a mistake.  I get that he's the producer and the star, but if Tom was thinking more as a producer and less as an actor, he would have build up a strong ensemble around himself.  That's what made the series in the '60s so great.  It wasn't just a James Bond knockoff.  Instead, it was about a team, and the make-up of that team depended largely on which mission they were asked to accomplish each week.  Just like with "X-Men," a well-built "Mission: Impossible" franchise on film could run forever, gradually shuffling the line-up over the years so there's continuity from film to film, but no reliance on just one actor to keep things going.

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<p>Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Rob Corddry, and John Cusack star in the comedy 'Hot Tub Time Machine.'</p>

Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Rob Corddry, and John Cusack star in the comedy 'Hot Tub Time Machine.'

Credit: MGM/UA

The M/C Review: 'Hot Tub Time Machine' is tepid at best

Easy jokes and lazy filmmaking derail what could have been hilarious

We have reached a tipping point with high concept films, and I'm not happy about it.

There was a time when a high concept was only half the battle.  You still had to execute it competently.  You still had to deliver on that concept.  You still needed a script that worked, and you needed to give a cast something to do.  Based on the evidence of this film, that is no longer true.  In today's winky-winky post-modern world, once you've got a title, you don't have to do anything else.  Just slap a poster together, throw in some funny people, and it's Miller time... right?

In a way, "Hot Tub Time Machine" is critic-proof.  Anything anyone says as a complaint can be dismissed by simply responding, "Yeah, but the movie is called 'Hot Tub Time Machine.'"  If you complain about the script, you'll be met with a shrug and the same response.  If you complain that the film is technically inept, same thing.  No matter what your complaint, the movie is called "Hot Tub Time Machine," so it doesn't really matter, right?  You get what you pay for.  It is what it is.

Only I don't buy that.

It's the same problem I have with Kevin Smith these days.  I'm not even going to get into the way he hopped a bus to crazy-town this week with his anti-critic rants in public because people (gasp!) didn't like the anemic "Cop Out."  Why is he surprised?  All he seems to do in the build-up to release of his films is repeat variations on "I'm not really a director.  I'm not a very good filmmaker.  I don't know how to use my camera.  Don't be mad, because I'm telling you in advance it's not very good."  It's like he feels that it excuses him.  Here's an idea... get better at your job.  Learn your camera.  Study great movies and learn the vocabulary of cinema.  Then you don't have to make excuses beforehand or cry about criticism afterwards.  Revolutionary, eh?

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<p>Scott Pilgrim, played by Michael Cera, prepares to face just one of the threats that stands between him and true love in Edgar Wright's 'Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World'</p>

Scott Pilgrim, played by Michael Cera, prepares to face just one of the threats that stands between him and true love in Edgar Wright's 'Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World'

Credit: Universal Pictures

Watch: 'Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World' trailer thwacks, baps, booms its way online

The stylized action-comedy features a huge cast and wild comic-book action

It was sooooooooooo worth the wait.

There have been several opportunities in the last few months for me to get a peek at "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World," and as much as I am chomping at the bit to see the film, I also know that I'm only going to get one shot at seeing the film for the first time, and when that happens, I want it to be finished.  I want every effect in place.  I want every song to be fully mixed and laid in.  I want the complete "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" experience.  In the meantime, Edgar Wright's been Rick-rolling his Twitter followers for months with fake "announcements" that the trailer was online, making the anticipation even worse and making me wonder if I should just give in and take an early peek.

Looking at this trailer, just released this morning, I am more confident than ever I made the right choice.

I was not aware of the Bryan Lee O'Malley books until Edgar started talking about making this film several years ago.  I went out and bought everything that was available at that point and fell in love with the books completely.  They are witty and charming and loaded with heart, and the artwork is a gorgeous hybrid of 8-bit obssession and manga influence, personal and quirky and hard to categorize.  The final book in the series is coming out soon, and because O'Malley is just now finishing, there are going to be some major digressions between Edgar Wright's movie and the books that come later in the series.  The movie is very much its own thing.

So what exactly is it?

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<p>Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Astrid (America Farrera) take Toothless for a ride in a magical moment from the new animated fantasy adventure, 'How To Train Your Dragon,' in theaters Friday.</p>

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Astrid (America Farrera) take Toothless for a ride in a magical moment from the new animated fantasy adventure, 'How To Train Your Dragon,' in theaters Friday.

Credit: DreamWorks Animation

The M/C Review: 'How To Train Your Dragon' dazzles and delivers

DreamWorks Animation comes out swinging with this fantasy adventure

"How To Train Your Dragon" is, like "Kung-Fu Panda," an exemplary, confident, streamlined piece of entertainment that suggests that when they get it right, Dreamworks Animation can stand toe to toe with Pixar in the realm of computer animation for family audiences.  In some ways, seeing a film this good from this company is frustrating because they've made so many lazy and annoying pop-culture jukeboxes that they've devalued the brand name considerably.  I am automatically wary now when I approach a new film from DreamWorks Animation, so when one works as well as this, it makes me wonder why they can't be this good every time out.

It shouldn't be a surprise that this one works so well, though, since it's directed and written by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, the team who made "Lilo & Stitch" such a surprise from Walt Disney Feature Animation during one of their creative ebbs.  This film shares many of the same virtues that made "Lilo & Stitch" such a breath of fresh air, not the least of which is a welcome sincerity that seems to stand apart from the typical snark that has been a trademark of the studio's work so far.  When you see a cast list that includes Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Craig Ferguson, you would be well within your rights to expect the film to be non-stop jokes and wise-ass attitude.  But that's not this film at all.  Instead, Cressida Cowell's book has been adapted by DeBlois, Sanders, Adam Goldberg and Peter Tolan into something very heartfelt and gentle, which might sound odd when you realize it's a movie about Vikings killing dragons and vice-versa.

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<p>Chris Evans, seen here as Johnny Storm, is onboard now to play &quot;Captain America&quot;&nbsp;for Marvel Studios.</p>

Chris Evans, seen here as Johnny Storm, is onboard now to play "Captain America" for Marvel Studios.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Chris Evans is Captain America... so now what?

Marvel has a giant game plan, and this casting choice is a major piece of that puzzle

It's been fascinating to watch the process that Marvel's been going through as they've been trying to cast Captain America, and now that they've officially made the deal with Chris Evans, they finally have all of the major pieces in place for "The Avengers," which is an unprecedented film event if they pull it off.

What else is in store for the company moving forward, though?  Especially with Warner Bros. announcing at ShoWest last week that they're planning to use the DC superhero properties as their new tentpole franchise to replace "Harry Potter" now that it's wrapping up.  What Marvel's been doing for the last few years is something brand-new in movies, and now that they've proven it works, they're in danger of watching someone else try to beat them at that game.  Warner/DC could well use "Green Lantern" and "The Flash" and Nolan's "Batman 3" and whatever Superman film finally happens to build towards "Justice League," the closest equivalent they have to "The Avengers," and it's obvious that Warner would like to make that film.  They came close once before, then stepped back to try and lay the groundwork a different way.

If you grew up as a comic fan, you got used to the notion of crossovers and team-ups and storytelling that was spread over several different issues or even several different series.  But in the film world, there's almost nothing like this.  Much has been made of the nine-picture deal that Marvel now asks for actors to sign, but I think something like that makes sense if you're trying to build a world that spans several franchises and several sequels.  If I were an actor, I'd want to be part of something like this for the challenge of it and the fun of playing opposite all these different characters.

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<p>Neve Campbell, seen here in 'Scream 3,' will return to the franchise along with Wes Craven, Kevin Williamson, and much of the original cast.</p>

Neve Campbell, seen here in 'Scream 3,' will return to the franchise along with Wes Craven, Kevin Williamson, and much of the original cast.

Credit: Dimension Films

Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson officially return to 'Scream 4'

But at this late date, does anyone really care?

There are many, many fans of "Scream," and for them, the news that Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson are officially reuniting as the director and writer of "Scream 4" must be exciting.  Craven confirmed it last night on his Twitter feed, and then The Weinstein Company followed up with an official press release today.

In the current pop culture landscape, though, haven't fans been burnt enough by late-in-the-game sequels to grow wary?  People wait 20 years for a new Indiana Jones film, then detest the final product.  It increasingly seems that the only good thing about returning to the well is the guarantee of an opening weekend, but that there are few if any creative reasons to extend these franchises beyond what already exists.

Whenever I make this point, people love to bring up James Bond, but the difference there is that the Bond films have never traded on any serious sense of continuity.  Bond is a constant.  He's a spy.  He chases bad guys.  That's it.  Something like "Scream 4" is going to have to contend not only with the original film, but with two weak sequels that considerably complicated the story and the characters, and so no matter what, a certain degree of familiarity is going to be required on the part of the audience if they're going to connect to this new film, and I'm not sure there are that many people out there who are that invested in the events of "Scream 3."  Certainly not enough to be able to count on this movie being a major cultural event when it's released, and that's exactly what Dimension needs at this point.

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<p>Scoot McNairy considers the road home in a scene from 'Monsters,' a micro-budget film from first-time director Gareth Edwards.</p>

Scoot McNairy considers the road home in a scene from 'Monsters,' a micro-budget film from first-time director Gareth Edwards.

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

SXSW: 'Monsters' offers up a new view on classic giant monster movies

Magnolia picks up the SXSW midnight movie, and could have a hit on their hands

Gareth Edwards is a very smart guy with a keen eye for composition, and I'm guessing when we look back at 2010 in film, his name will be one of the names that helps define the year.

"Monsters" played SXSW this year as part of the Fantastic Fest at midnight line-up, and with a title like that, it was easy for the festival to fill the theater every time they played the movie.  Going into the film, though, I knew nothing about it aside from the title.  Someone in line told me that they'd heard it was "the first mumblecore horror film," which sent a chill down my spine and not in a good way.  I'm not a fan of mumblecore as a genre or even as a descriptive word.  I think it's an excuse for people to make films that are damn close to anti-audience, like a dare.  I love small-scale character drama, but there's a fine line between effective and personal and deadly dull whining.  Having seen "Monsters," I can see why someone would describe the film that way, but I disagree.  I think it sells short of what Edwards has accomplished, and I worry that it would scare off people who would end up really liking the movie.

Right now, there are a number of companies chasing the success of last year's "Paranormal Activity" and "District 9," realizing that the idea of what you can do on film and how much you can make certain films for has changed.  Paramount's got a new division that wants to make ten movies for a total of a million dollars.  I hope they take a look at "Monsters" and reach out to more people like Gareth Edwards, who has been working for a while in the FX community.  Makes sense, because while there are some inventive and ambitious special effects in the film, there's a handmade feel to it all that is a big part of its charm.  Edwards pretty much ran this all as a one-man show.  He wrote and directed, he shot the film himself, and he did all of his own FX work, on a budget of $7000.  This is what independent filmmaking in the 21st century is going to look like.  The most impressive thing about that is how you can sit in the theater and never once question how much the film cost.  It's a "real" movie.  And thankfully, Edwards chose not to make a "found footage" movie, something which I'm personally very tired of, and a cheap solution to a budget issue.  His film has a documentary feel to it that comes from how it was shot, but the camera isn't an actual character in the film.

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<p>&nbsp;Bryan Singer</p>

 Bryan Singer

Credit: Matt Sayles/AP

EXCLUSIVE: Bryan Singer directing 'X-Men: First Class'? Not so fast...

Fox has reasons to play hardball with Warner Bros, but can they pull it off?

HitFix has exclusively learned, from multiple sources, that Bryan Singer may not be directing "X-Men: First Class" despite recent press reports to the contrary, and that 20th Century Fox is actively searching for directors to step in and helm the film, with discussions with at least two other filmmakers as recently as last week.

The filmmakers that they're approaching now about directing "X-Men: First Class" are good names, guys who either have real experience in the comic book movie medium or who have heavy credibility with fan audiences.  Names that would make fanboys happy from the first moment they're announced.  I'm curious to see who else they meet with in the next few weeks now that their first few choices have passed.  Those meetings, exclusively reported by HitFix, make it seem like no matter what public face they're putting on things, Fox is making plans as if Singer will not be free.

This is particularly interesting if you consider the timing of the interview with Geoff Boucher of The Los Angeles Times, who sat down with Lauren Shuler Donner and Bryan Singer for a story that's running in this weekend's Calendar section.  Much has been made of the "confirmation" in the story that Singer's directing "X-Men: First Class."  Here's the section of the story that is the most interesting:

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<p>Forest Whitaker, Jude Law, and Liev Schreiber star in the SF/thriller 'Repo Men,' opening in theaters everywhere this weekend.</p>

Forest Whitaker, Jude Law, and Liev Schreiber star in the SF/thriller 'Repo Men,' opening in theaters everywhere this weekend.

Credit: Universal Pictures

The M/C Review: 'Repo Men' comes close to its lofty goals

Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, and Liev Schreiber have great chemistry in offbeat effort

The best science-fiction, like the best horror, manages to be about more than one thing, using the outrageous to illustrate the universal.  "Repo Men" doesn't quite hit all of its targets, but it hits enough of them to count as a welcome and even exciting new SF vision.  Jude Law and Forest Whitaker have surprisingly rich chemistry in the film, and despite one major storytelling stumble, it's soulful enough to linger.

Law stars as Remy, a repo man working for The Union, the company that makes the artificial organs that have revolutionized health care in the future.  The organs are obscenely overpriced, and patients are cornered into buying, sometimes going black market.  It's a genuinely interesting industry to imagine and explore, and Miguel Sapotchnik's taken as many cues from the reality of modern New York and Tokyo as from the futurescapes of "Brazil" or "Blade Runner" in bringing his vision to the screen.  Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner, working from Garcia's novel, have played fast and free with structure on the film, and as a result, it feels like you end up watching two or three different movies.

The first movie's probably the most fun, with Remy and Jake (Forest Whitaker) working the job.  It's matter-of-fact, observational, all character and chemistry.  Law etches Remy as a charismatic cad, a guy who can't admit to himself how much he enjoys the hunt.  He's good at it, and a part of him enjoys the pain he causes someone else.  He's a thug, born and raised, and his job is his excuse to keep that up, to indulge it with approval.  That's the bond he shares with Jake, since he's the exact same way.  And as long as that's the movie, it's just plain dark bloody fun.  Liev Schreiber plays Frank, their boss at The Union, and he's an absolutely ruthless salesman, well-oiled and unburdened by any vestige of humanity.  He's sensational in the part.  It's one of those roles that exists like a gift to an actor, a supporting role that gets a high percentage of the good lines in the movie.

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