<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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<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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