<p>Venom, the Spider-Man villain who appeared in the third film, is set to star in his own Sony Pictures spin-off from the director of 'Dave' and 'Seabiscuit'</p>

Venom, the Spider-Man villain who appeared in the third film, is set to star in his own Sony Pictures spin-off from the director of 'Dave' and 'Seabiscuit'

Credit: Sony Pictures/Marvel Comics

Gary Ross set to rewrite and direct 'Venom'

'Spider-Man' spin-off still moving forward

I'm not sure I buy Venom as a character who can serve as the star of his own film, but I'll give Sony Pictures credit for giving it the college try.

Most recently, the writers of "Zombieland" were the guys charged with cracking the code that would get this spin-off franchise off the ground, and while they were working on their script, Gary Ross was brought in to polish "Spider-Man 4."  Sony must like what they see in Ross's work so far, because now they've hired him to rewrite "Venom" and possibly to direct it as well.

Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like a strange fit to me.  Ross has always created movies that have a strong humanist bent to them, movies like "Big" and "Pleasantville" and "Seabiscuit" and "Dave."  These are warm movies, with an innate sweetness.  Before he got stuck in Spidey's web, he was working to develop a Lance Armstrong biopic for Sony, which sounds like the sort of thing I'd expect him to be making.  But "Venom"?  Really?!

I think the part I'm having trouble with is that Venom is, best-case scenario, an anti-hero.  He's a monster.  In Marvel's early incarnation of the character, there was nothing good about him, but now, somehow, he's being turned into a character who defends the innocent, according to Variety's report on Ross's hiring.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Junction Point and Disney Interactive Studios are collaborating on a major revinvention of some of their icons as part of the new Wii exclusive game 'Epic Mickey'</p>

Junction Point and Disney Interactive Studios are collaborating on a major revinvention of some of their icons as part of the new Wii exclusive game 'Epic Mickey'

Credit: Junction Point/Disney Interactive Studios

'Epic Mickey' looks amazing... but what is it?

A new game breathes fresh life into Disney's biggest icon

I've been seeing design work for the new game "Epic Mickey" online for the last few months, but I had no idea what it was.  Evidently, neither did anyone else until news broke this week over at Game Informer.

I'm fascinated by this project and by the mere potential of it becoming a film, which isn't totally unlikely considering Pixar is one of the partners on it.  One of the things I find most interesting here is that suddenly Mickey Mouse is in play again, something which hasn't been true for quite a while.  As the face of the Disney empire, Mickey has long been relegated to a position of inertia out of the fear that the wrong project featuring the character might damage his overall branding.

Now, thanks to Warren Spector and his Junction Point game company, there's a chance that Mickey Mouse might be involved in one of the most inventive uses of the company's overall iconography ever, and one that serves in some ways as a wry commentary on the way we devour and then discard pop culture as a whole.

[more after the jump]

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<p>One of the greatest monster movies of all time, 'An American Werewolf In London,' finally makes its BluRay debut</p>

One of the greatest monster movies of all time, 'An American Werewolf In London,' finally makes its BluRay debut

Credit: Universal Home Video

HorrorFest 2009: 'An American Werewolf In London'

One of the genre's greats makes its BluRay debut

Welcome to HorrorFest 2009.

You can blame Belfast, Danny McBride, and Universal Studios for the fact that I've gotten off schedule on this one.  I was doing just fine at Fantastic Fest, but this week's travel has well and truly screwed with my system, and I am barely able to tell up from down at this particular point in time.

When I am back in LA, I will be working to catch up and make sure that at the end of this month, there are 31 entries in this year's HorrorFest for you to enjoy.  I've got at least the first 14 planned out already, and notes are made, and reviews are in progress.  Some of them are films I saw at Fantastic Fest.  Some are new BluRays or DVDs that have been sent for review.  And towards the end of the month, I'll bust out a few classics that I don't feel get their fair due, and we'll discuss those, too.

Today, though, I am inspired both by the recent BluRay release and by yesterday's tourist drive through the lovely green hills of Northern Ireland to write about one of my all-time favorite horror films, a movie that I have somehow avoided writing about for the last 14 years I've been online.  Crazy.

Maybe it's because I've been a fan of the film for so long that it feels like a given to me, something so fundamental that explaining it is pointless.  But that's lazy thinking on my part.  The movie is 28 years old at this point, older than some of you reading this.  So why not take advantage of the moment and this particular series of articles to finally put down some of my thoughts about the film?

[more after the jump]

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<p>'Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs,' the first legendary animated feature from Walt Disney, makes its BluRay debut today</p>

'Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs,' the first legendary animated feature from Walt Disney, makes its BluRay debut today

Credit: Walt Disney Home Video

DVD & Games Forecast: 'Snow White' dances onto BluRay

Also 'Trick'r Treat' finally released and 'Anvil' rocks home video

Welcome to the DVD & Games Forecast for October 6, 2009.

Last week's column was a little rushed because of Fantastic Fest, and this week's column is going to be the same because I'm in Belfast, Ireland, for a set visit.  But there's too many good things coming out for me not to at least point out a few of them.

THIS WEEK'S FEATURED TITLES

"Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs: Diamond Edition" (BluRay)

I love Disney animation on BluRay because they've figured out just the right line between preservation and restoration, and what you end up with are releases of these films that positively glow, but which preserve all the remarkable craftsmanship that went into bringing these classics to life.  "Sleeping Beauty" and "Pinocchio" are already two of the greatest high-def releases, and I'm sure "Snow White" continues that tradition.

Because I've been on the road for the last few weeks, I haven't seen this new transfer yet, but while I was in Austin, Harry was ranting and raving about it.  He's one of the biggest animation nerds I know, so I can imagine why he reacted that way.  One of the things I love most about animation is the magic trick of a drawing somehow coming to life and, in the best examples, seeming to have a soul.  When Walt Disney proposed an animated feature film, people thought he was nuts, and now animation is one of the cornerstones of our industry.  It all started here, and in addition to the film, you'll get more extras than any sane person can watch in one sitting.  Over at the film's Amazon page (and no, I don't get a kickback if you go over there and buy it from them), you'll find clips that not only show off the restored image, but that also show you just how far Disney's pushing the capability of BluRay extra features.

This is an absolute must-add to any serious collection.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Bob Burns has some Thing he would like to share with you in a new documentary about his legendary Halloween shows</p>

Bob Burns has some Thing he would like to share with you in a new documentary about his legendary Halloween shows

Credit: Bob Burns

Who is Bob Burns, who are his friends, and where can you see them?

Excellent documentary made available free today on the Internet

Bob Burns is one of my very favorite people.

I remember when I first read about him in Starlog magazine.  Issue #18.  The entire cover was dedicated to a story about his Halloween shows in Burbank, and although I'd never heard of him or the shows, the photos immediately captivated me.  And as soon as I finished reading and re-reading that cover story, I added a goal to my personal bucket list:  see a Bob Burns Halloween show live at least once.

A few years ago, that dream finally came true, and now, thanks to the efforts of some of the many people Bob has inspired over the years, you can share that experience.

Last week, Greg Nicotero of KNB FX Group called me while I was in Austin to tell me that the documentary about Bob that has been in the works for a while now is finally done and ready.  Because of the nature of Bob's Halloween show and the iconography used in it, they can't sell this documentary.  For you, though, that's a good thing, because it means you can see this film online starting today, and it is absolutely worth your time.

Bob's career in film started as far back as the '50s, when he was a very young man and head over heels in love with sci-fi, horror, and fantasy.  He always worked with and around the greats of the genre, and little by little, he started putting together a collection of props and toys that is absolutely staggering when you see it today.  I've spent hours in Bob's basement, wandering through, holding pieces of Hollywood history, and he is one of the most gracious, generous people in the way he shares his museum with people from around the world.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Yamada Takayuki tries to make sense of a magical world in the charming 'Battle League Kyoto,' one of several crazy Asian films from Fantastic Fest</p>

Yamada Takayuki tries to make sense of a magical world in the charming 'Battle League Kyoto,' one of several crazy Asian films from Fantastic Fest

Credit: Viz Pictures

Fantastic Fest Minis: 'Battle League Kyoto,' 'Robo Geisha,' and karoke pole dancing

In which the first of the festival's many themed days takes shape

Look at that near-random collection of words in that headline.  Delicious, isn't it?

I love the way it works at film festivals when you get these accidentally thematic days, where every title collides to sort of create this overall theatrical experience.  It's one of the particular highs I chase at festivals that is unique to that atmosphere.  And on the second day of Fantastic Fest this year, I had one of those days, and it was just plain bliss.

The day began with a morning screening of "Kamogawa Horumo," which is evidently retitled as "Battle League Kyoto" for Western markets.  I didn't know what kind of film it was as I walked in and sat down, but based on the title, I expected underground fight leagues and blood and violence and general badassery.

Nope.

Instead, it's a charming comedy about a young man named Abe (Yamada Takayuki) who meets and falls for a girl named Kyoko (Sei Ashina).  Determined to win her over, he joins a club that she's joining just to be close to her.  He has no idea what the club is at first, and for a good twenty minutes of the film, neither do we.  It all seems a bit wacky until the new members participate in a ceremony that finally allows them to see the Oni, the tiny invisible creatures that the club uses to face off against other university clubs in battles-by-proxy.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Hard to believe these little creatures gave a generation nightmares, but thanks to Warner Archives, 'Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark' is loose to terrify once more</p>

Hard to believe these little creatures gave a generation nightmares, but thanks to Warner Archives, 'Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark' is loose to terrify once more

Credit: Warner Archives Collection

HorrorFest 2009: 'Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark'

TV movie from the '70s still delives scares

Welcome to HorrorFest 2009.

Wanna know who I'd bet on as next year's Neill Blomkamp?

Troy Nixey.

Wanna know why?

"Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark."

Guillermo Del Toro's become a brand name in horror just like Peter Jackson's become a brand name.  And like Peter Jackson, Guillermo's in a position now where he can loan his cachet to other younger directors to give them a sort of buffer.  Jackson found Blomkamp and really pushed for him to get a film made, and it sounds like Guillermo picked Troy Nixey in much the same way.  Jackson was looking for someone to direct "Halo" when he found Blomkamp, and when Guillermo Del Toro co-wrote a new version of "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark," inspired by the original 1973 TV movie, he went looking for a new young director to bring it to life, and he found Nixey.

I didn't know Nixey's work when the announcement was made, and until tonight, I didn't bother looking him up.  I figured I'd eventually hear who he was or what he did to catch Guillermo's attention.  Turns out, he made a short film called "Latchkey's Lament" that mixes live-action and animation, and once I finished watching the 1973 version, I put on the full 17-minute short film, thanks to YouTube.

They toooootally got the right guy.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Michael Stuhlbarg plays a modern-day Job in the new Coen Bros. comedy 'A Serious Man'</p>

Michael Stuhlbarg plays a modern-day Job in the new Coen Bros. comedy 'A Serious Man'

Credit: Focus Features

The M/C Review: 'A Serious Man' offers bleak pleasures for Coen fans

A difficult movie with real rewards for the audience

I'm not sure I can fully expess all the ways I love "A Serious Man," but I'm willing to give it a try.

Every now and then, I see a film that I surrender myself to and yet, when it comes time to write a review, I just stare at the cursor on the blank screen, confounded and unable to find my way into writing about it.  "A Serious Man" is a perfect example of one of those movies.  It defies any easy attempt to lump it into a genre, it's neither drama nor comedy, and as a narrative, it's damn near a practical joke.  It is a film that absolutely fits into their filmography, but it's also a film that feels unlike anything they've made before.  I'm tempted to call it a personal film for them, but since I don't know the Coens personally, that would be at best a guess.  It feels authentic, though, and despite the low-key deadpan humor that is one of their trademarks, it feels sincere to the point of desperation.

Michael Stuhlbarg stars here as Larry Gopnik, a professor at a small Minnesota university in the late '60s.  He lives in a suburban neighborhood with his wife Judith (Sari Lennick), his teenage son Danny (Aaron Wolff), and his daughter Sarah (Jessica McManus).  His brother Arthur (Richard Kind) is living with them temporarily, but he doesn't seem particularly motivated to move out.  Larry's life is filled with small indignities and frustrations, but when Judith tells him that she thinks it is time for them to divorce, Larry feels blindsided, and it sets off a chain of events that test Larry's ability to withstand sorrows and frustations.  The Coen Bros. spin a comic riff on the Job story out of Larry's mounting troubles, and in doing so, they illustrate one of the bleakest world views in any film this year.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Shareefa Daanish appears in 'Macabre' and, apparently, all my nightmares in the immediate future</p>

Shareefa Daanish appears in 'Macabre' and, apparently, all my nightmares in the immediate future

Credit: Gorylah Pictures

HorrorFest 2009: 'Macabre' offers up a Jakartan chainsaw massacre

Indonesian horror features the freakiest film mother in recent memory

Welcome to HorrorFest 2009.

Did you see "Audition"?

Don't think about it.  Either you did, or you didn't.  Either you remember it vividly at the slightest provocation, or you didn't see it.  It's one of those movies, and a big part of why it was one of those movies is the performance by one of those actors, a woman named Eihi Shiina.

I find her genuinely loathsome.  Detestable.  Unnerving.  She is a special effect of the same sort as Tony Jaa.  It's like she was created in a workshop to specifically freak me out.  I thought I'd shaken my overpowering fear of her in the decade since "Audition" was made, but it all came rushing back when I watched "Macabre" at a midnight screening here at Fantastic Fest in Austin, where I was reminded just how powerful the art of minimalism can be.

In terms of narrative, "Macabre" offers nothing new.  Written and directed by Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto, this is a relentless horror movie about a group of friends leaving for a trip to Jakarta.  They encounter a dazed young woman wandering in the rain and offer to drive her home.  That offer leads to the systematic torture and murder of most of their group.  A final survivor fights back.  The end.  As I said to a friend at the end of the screening, "Oh, okay, it's 'The Jakarta Chainsaw Massacre.'  Got it."  That's not a dismissive comparison, either, since I consider the original Tobe Hooper film to be one of the strongest, smartest independent horror films of all time.  There is a hopelessness to that film that makes it truly effective.  "Macabre" manages to tap that same sense of bleak despair, and there are sequences in this film that are genuinely scary.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Just one of the many moments in "REC 2" successfully designed to make you scream like a ten-year-old girl</p>

Just one of the many moments in "REC 2" successfully designed to make you scream like a ten-year-old girl

Credit: Filmax

HorrorFest 2009: 'REC 2' expands the world, ups the creepy

Excellent genre sequel plays rough but rewarding games with audience

The first "[REC]" was a profoundly unsettling horror experience, remade a year later by the Dowdle Brothers as "Quarantine."  It's part of the recent trend of movies that are ersatz documentaries, with a cameraman playing an actual character, and it's one of the best of the bunch. Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza were smart about suggesting things without spelling them out.  The possibilities in the film were just as scary as the things that actually occurred.

Now, "[REC] 2" has arrived, playing at both Toronto's Midnight Madness and here at Fantastic Fest, and it is absolutely a worthwhile and ambitious sequel that expands the ideas of the first film.  I don't know if I'd go so far as to say it's "Aliens" to the first film's "Alien," but this is an interesting change in direction that genuinely surprised me.  In order to explain, I'll have to get into spoilers a bit, but I'll wait till after the jump, so you can just read the short version of the review if you want.

I'll just say that the conceit this time is that we follow three different cameramen through three situations that entertwine, so there's more room for them to show us different things going on at the same time.  It's a great creative choice, and the production design this time is even stronger, as is the cinematography.  Everything's been turned up a bit, but the result is, oddly, that the film is less scary than the first one.  This time, it's more like a movie, and as a result, it's a little safe.  It's not bad, it's just muted in some ways.  Once the film reaches the third act, it starts to really hit on all cylinders again, and there are some really amazing images and ideas in that stretch of the film.  If you liked the first one, you'll absolutely like the second one, and hopefully there will be an opportunity for American audiences to see this one theatrically soon.

[spoilers after the jump]

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