<p>Leonardo Di Caprio may play Travis McGee for Oliver Stone in an adaptation of 'The Deep Blue Good-by'</p>

Leonardo Di Caprio may play Travis McGee for Oliver Stone in an adaptation of 'The Deep Blue Good-by'

Credit: AP Photo

Will Oliver Stone direct Leonardo Di Caprio as Travis McGee?

John D. McDonald series still in development at 20th Century Fox

John D. McDonald was one of the finest popular novelists of the English language.  Period.  The man should be taught to anyone who wants to write, and his work should still be sold in grocery stores and airports.  Compulsively readable, entertaining yet profound, his Travis McGee series was 21 books without a single weak entry, a rarity in publishing, and enormously successful in their day.  If the books were relaunched with a major publicity push (they're completely out of print at the moment), they could be just as successful now, especially in a pop culture primed by Carl Hiaasen and Stephen King, just to name two of the many authors who owe McDonald major stylistic debts.

Evidently one of the reasons that the book series is out of print right now is because 20th Century Fox wants to reintroduce Travis McGee on their timetable, focused on a Travis McGee movie that they're developing for Leonardo Di Caprio to star in, produced by DiCaprio's Appian Way Productions and Jennifer Davisson-Killoran and Peter Chernin.  Now rumor has Oliver Stone in early talks to direct the film, scripted by Dana Stevens and Kario Salem, and based on the first book in the series, The Deep Blue Good-by.  The film would star Leonardo Di Caprio as McGee, and if things went well, would hopefully kick off a franchise for the actor, one of the few working movie stars today without a franchise in his hip pocket.

In July of last year, there was a big story in the Los Angeles Times about how Amy Robinson ("After Hours" and "Baby, It's You") was the primary producer still pushing the rock up the hill, but her name doesn't appear at all in the scoop that broke today at Deadline Hollywood.  Makes me wonder if the studio muscled her off, or if it's just an oversight in the story.  Keep in mind that Deadline is also reporting that Di Caprio is discussing the idea of starring in Clint Eastwood's J. Edger Hoover movie for Warner Bros., and that seems like something that would shoot sooner rather than later.  Stone's wrapping up work right now on "Wall Street:  Money Never Sleeps" for Fox, and the film may debut at this summer's Cannes film festival.  That would be the first time at the festival for Stone, and it would mark a major return to pop culture center stage for the filmmaker, who's been a bit adrift lately.

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<p>Perseus (Sam Worthington)&nbsp;faces Medusa on his quest to find a way to stop the Kraken in the new remake of 'Clash Of The Titans,' in theaters Friday.</p>

Perseus (Sam Worthington) faces Medusa on his quest to find a way to stop the Kraken in the new remake of 'Clash Of The Titans,' in theaters Friday.

Credit: Warner Bros.

The M/C Review: 'Clash Of The Titans' feels oddly earthbound

Lots of star power and special effects cannot disguise an empty story

The original "Clash Of The Titans" was released in 1981, and even in that era, it was already a curio, a throwback to an earlier age of special effects and storytelling.  Released at the moment where motion-controlled cameras and optical printing were the state of the art, "Clash" was an unabashed stop-motion showcase for the talents of Ray Harryhausen.  Even so, it certainly took some cues from the reigning box-office champ at the time, "Star Wars," in the form of the distinctly R2-D2-esque mechanical owl Bubo.  One of the reasons the film felt dated the moment it was released was because of that uneasy mix of current cultural touchstones and defiantly old-fashioned style.

The new remake of "Clash Of The Titans" has an equally split sense of identity, and suffers from not having a clear sense of what it's trying to do, or how it wants to do it.  Much of the advertising for the film focuses on one thing and one thing only:  see the film in 3D.  Considering what a key part of the campaign that is, the 3D post-production conversion process used on "Clash" is an unwatchable mess, ugly and strange and difficult to sit through.  Nothing in the film feels organic, and there's no part of the film that feels like it makes proper use of the format.  This is the polar opposite of "Avatar," which was designed in 3D, shot in 3D, and which did all of its FX work with 3D in mind.  If that film, carefully developed and produced over a half-decade, was the game-changer, as James Cameron claimed, then "Clash Of The Titans," rushed through post in four months to exploit the craze, has the potential to be the game-ender.

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<p>If you want to see the entire Wondercon exclusive 'Kick&nbsp;Ass' poster and learn details on Saturday's panel about the film, HitFix has that for you.</p>

If you want to see the entire Wondercon exclusive 'Kick Ass' poster and learn details on Saturday's panel about the film, HitFix has that for you.

Credit: Lionsgate

EXCLUSIVE: A sneak peak at the Wondercon 'Kick Ass' poster

And you could get it signed by Nic Cage this weekend

This weekend is going to be a good one for San Francisco area geeks as Wondercon is rolling into town, and each year, it seems like it's becoming a more and more important event for studios looking to promote their spring events.

For example, Lionsgate has "Kick Ass" coming out in just a few weeks now, and to promote the film, there's going to be a panel with the cast and several key creative members of the crew.  Here's the description of the panel that Wondercon has posted:

4:30-5:30 The Kick-Ass Cast Can't See Through Walls But They Can Kick Your Ass!— Join the cast and creators of the new superhero action flick Kick-Ass to learn what it takes to be a superhero!  You don't need special powers to seriously kick ass! This highly anticipated film's panel will talk about the making of the film, which opens on April 15.  Learn how to pick a superhero name and what your costume should look like with screenwriter Jane Goldman, comic book creators Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. and the stars! Esplanade Ballroom

What they don't mention there is that I'll be moderating the panel, and that you'll also have an opportunity to get an exclusive Big Daddy poster signed by Nic Cage if you attend the convention.  It's a very cool, very stylized poster, and we've got the exclusive premiere of the image here for you today.  This is not a one-sheet for the film, but is instead almost a propaganda-styled image that is tied directly to the character that Nic Cage is playing in the film:

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<p>Jodelle Ferland, seen here in 'Silent Hill,' plays a key role in the upcoming 'The Twilight Saga:&nbsp;Eclipse,' and a new book is devoted entirely to her character's backstory.</p>

Jodelle Ferland, seen here in 'Silent Hill,' plays a key role in the upcoming 'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,' and a new book is devoted entirely to her character's backstory.

Credit: Screen Gems

Stephenie Meyer announces a new 'Twilight' novel and possible film spin-off

Fans can look forward to learning more about Bree Turner

Oh, you Twi-hards have got to be happy about this one.

On her official website today, Stephenie Meyer announced that she's about to publish a new Twilight novel.  Or a novella, rather, and it's not a sequel so much as it is a digression following a character who evidently plays a key role in Eclipse, the next of the books to be adapted to film.

In the upcoming film, directed by David Slade, Jodelle Ferland, best known for her work in "Silent Hill" and "Tideland," appears as a character named Bree Tanner, who is a newborn vampire.  Having not read the book, I'm not sure how big a role she has, but evidently Meyer couldn't shake the character.  As a result, she started working on a piece that was meant to be published as part of an upcoming book called The Twilight Saga: The Official Guide, a way to fill out some more information on who she was.  The material kept growing, though, and eventually ended up as a 200-page story.

So the decision's been made to publish The Short Second Life Of Bree Tanner as a stand-alone novella, which will be available on June 5, 2010.

But even before that, it played a particular role in the upcoming film version of "Eclipse," which I'll let Meyer describe in her own words:

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<p>Will Smith is rumored to be returning to 'Independence Day' in not one but two sequels.</p>

Will Smith is rumored to be returning to 'Independence Day' in not one but two sequels.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Are 'Independence Day' sequels just around the corner?

Rumor has Will Smith signed for two back-to-back alien battles

The first "Independence Day" was a major box-office sensation when it was released in 1996.  In some ways, it was a revolutionary film in terms of marketing.  These days, more and more films seems to be reverse engineered from their marketing campaigns into movies, with little regard for whether or not the film is any good.  It's all about how easily it can be sold.  You hate today's climate of remakes and sequels and prequels and pre-existing properties above all else?  Well, "Independence Day" was a major step along that path, and the only thing that surprises me about the notion of Fox revisiting the property is that it's taken so long.

IESB reports that Will Smith, who has been a major sticking point in terms of getting a sequel off the ground, has arranged now to star in not one but two sequels, shooting back to back, with filming beginning as early as next year.  Considering the sort of deals that Will Smith typically demands, and with this being a pair of sequels to one of the biggest films in the company's history, expect Fox to pay out the nose for Smith on these films.  I'd wager he won't make a penny less than $50 million on the films before his back-end profit participation even kicks in. 

IESB has a particularly strong track record when it comes to rumors regarding 20th Century Fox properties, so it's probably a good idea to treat this like a strong probability.

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<p>Yorick and Ampersand are the main characters in the long-running comic series 'Y - The Last Man,' which may finally be headed to the bigscreen with Louis Leterrier directing.</p>

Yorick and Ampersand are the main characters in the long-running comic series 'Y - The Last Man,' which may finally be headed to the bigscreen with Louis Leterrier directing.

Credit: DC Comics/Vertigo

Louis Leterrier moves from ancient Greece to the end of the world for 'Y The Last Man'

Will Bryan K. Vaughan's comic epic finally make it to screens?

If I have any complaint about the upcoming "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World," which has one of the most rewatchable trailers I've seen in years, it's that I'm sad the realities of this industry mandated that Edgar Wright and screenwriter Michael Bacall had to find a way to compress a six-book series into one film.

I'm sure they did it with grace and wit and style to spare, but it still makes me sad, because part of the fun of reading any serialized story is that basic question at the end of each installment:  "And then what happened?"

I love a good serialized story, and Vaughan's isn't just good... it's great.  I didn't read it as it ran in monthly installments, but instead read it as trade paperbacks, pretty much all at once.   What really blew my mind was when my parents were here on vacation a little over a year ago, and my 68-year-old mother, who isn't a comic fan by any definition, read the entire series in one fell swoop.  It's such a strong storyline, packed with great characters, and all stemming from one of the most ingenious concepts for a series I can remember.  A worldwide event leaves every single person with a Y chromosome dead, except for a young man named Yorick and his helper monkey, Ampersand.  His quest to figure out why he's the only man left on Earth takes him from coast to coast and gives him opportunity to interact with one of the great female cast of characters in modern pop culture.  It's a great piece of "what if?" fiction, looking at what a world without men would really mean, and it's also surprisingly emotional as Yorick has to grow up emotionally, something that it seems like our culture doesn't demand of its young men anymore.

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<p>Godzilla, one of the most iconic of all the movie monsters, is set to return in a new American film from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures.</p>

Godzilla, one of the most iconic of all the movie monsters, is set to return in a new American film from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures.

Credit: Toho Studios

Look out, Tokyo... Godzilla lives again!

In 2012, the King Of The Monsters is set to return from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures

This one's been in the works for a while, but today, it's official:  Godzilla lives again.

Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures are set to resurrect the giant lizard for another rampage in 2012, and they're expected to announce a director shortly.  Thomas Tull, chairman and CEO of Legendary, is a not-so-secret fanboy, and "Godzilla" was one of the properties he coveted from the moment he became involved in the film business.  Today's announcement is the culmination of well over a year's worth of intense negotiations, and in Variety's announcement today, Tull had this to say:

"Godzilla is one of the world's most powerful pop culture icons, and we at Legendary are thrilled to be able to create a modern epic based on this long-loved Toho franchise.  Our plans are to produce the Godzilla that we, as fans, would want to see. We intend to do justice to those essential elements that have allowed this character to remain as pop-culturally relevant for as long as it has."

Tull understands the appeal of the iconic monster, and Legendary has every intention of making Godzilla one of the primary properties that they build their business around in years to come.  This isn't an announcement of one movie... it's an announcement of a new brand. 

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<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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