You're invited to James Franco's house for Halloween Horror Nights this year
Credit: Sony Pictures

You're invited to James Franco's house for Halloween Horror Nights this year

'This Is The End' is the latest addition to the park's annual celebration

Now we're talking.

I admire the team at Universal Studios Hollywood and their dedication to making each year's Halloween Horror Nights experience brand-new for the audiences that sell out something like two solid weeks every single year.

In general, I like Halloween. I will enjoy it more when my boys are old enough for me to actively scare the living shit out of them. Right now, I have to be very careful not to traumatize them. I'm a fan of scary Halloween more than slutty Halloween, and I accept that there are several different versions of the holiday being celebrated in different ways on that same night. Right now, we celebrate little-kid Halloween, with the door-to-door walk and the parties with friends and the handing out candy. That's it.

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One of the funniest films this year is a documentary called 'Hurricane Of Fun'
Credit: Netflix
A

One of the funniest films this year is a documentary called 'Hurricane Of Fun'

This behind-the-scenes peek at a cult comedy classic is surprisingly strong as a stand-alone

As I was talking to a friend last night about the Netflix miniseries "Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp," I found myself laughing all over again at my favorite lines or performances. Like the film back in 2001, there are some big highs and some total bomb-outs, but there is so much happening that you're bound to laugh at something.

One of the unexpected benefits of the release of the new "Wet Hot American Summer" is the release of Amy Rice's "Hurricane Of Fun," a documentary built entirely from footage shot during the filming of the original film in the summer of 2000. For fans of that film, it's going to feel like a brand new sequel since it is so fast and funny and filled with the cast playing all sorts of games, and it follows such a clean narrative arc that it ends up feeling like a companion film, not a mere behind-the-scenes peek.

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A first screening of 'Jaws' becomes an all-day event for Film Nerd 2.0
Credit: Universal

A first screening of 'Jaws' becomes an all-day event for Film Nerd 2.0

We make an event out of the movie that ushered in the age of event films

"What's WRONG with you?!"

As the angry tears erupted and Toshi jumped up from the edge of the pool, suddenly red-faced and livid at me, I realized I had made a serious miscalculation, and perhaps ruined a day that I've spent much of this summer planning and anticipating in the process.

Let's back up, though.

The seeds of this amazing day began when I was looking for an apartment last year in the wake of my separation from my wife of over a decade. I remember the entire process as sort of a blur. I looked at about 20 buildings in different parts of town, and when I visited the building I live in now, something about it resonated immediately. It's a nice building, it's a good area, and it felt like the kind of California apartment building I remembered from movies like "The Karate Kid" when I was younger.

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Tom Hardy's taking a chance on Agent Graves and his '100 Bullets'
Credit: Vertigo Comics

Tom Hardy's taking a chance on Agent Graves and his '100 Bullets'

New Line's Vertigo adaptations keep getting more interesting

Hands down, this is the best comic-book-movie news of the year.

Tom Hardy has got to be thinking about how the rest of his career looks. There's no question that he'll have one. He's a remarkable actor. He's had an uneasy relationship with the press, but he's not the first nor the last talented performer to feel that way. I honestly don't care if he gives interviews or doesn't as long as he continues picking strong filmmakers to collaborate with and keeps giving smart, challenging performances.

Just looking at his two recent "spends most of the film in a car" movies, "Locke" and "Mad Max: Fury Road," it's obvious that Hardy's not going to get easily pigeonholed. He's too interesting, too willing to bend or break his own public image for the sake of his own entertainment. The idea of him producing as well as acting now makes me doubly curious about his taste and what it is he's going to fight to get made.

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Toronto unleashes 3D porn and Turkish nightmares with Vanguard and Midnights
Credit: TIFF

Toronto unleashes 3D porn and Turkish nightmares with Vanguard and Midnights

Patrick Stewart and POV action are just some of the kicks to expect in September

This year's Toronto Film Festival is already overwhelming when I look at the line-up, just in terms of trying to schedule everything I'd like to see. There are so many interesting and promising films that I'm not sure how I'm going to see even half of the titles. And of course, they hold the announcement of my two favorite sections of the festival until after they've announced all the big stuff, and now that they have, I'm about to throw my hands up in delicious exasperation because oh my god does it look like September should just be renamed Movie Christmas for me this year.

First up, let's look at the Vanguard section. When I didn't get to go to Cannes this year, there was one title that made that unbearable. I think Gaspar Noe is a beautiful terrorist, a filmmaker who takes a nearly-giddy delight in grabbing his audience by the face and shaking them. His 3D film "Love," full of graphic sex, got mixed reviews from the festival, but I remain manic about getting a chance to see it. And now, thankfully, I will. I am equally excited about seeing new films from Alex de la Iglesia and Anders Thomas Jensen, whose last film as a director was in 2005.

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Review: Alicia Vikander and Armie Hammer have major chemistry in winning 'UNCLE'
Credit: Warner Bros
B+

Review: Alicia Vikander and Armie Hammer have major chemistry in winning 'UNCLE'

Three beautiful leads throwing major attitude certainly helps

Light on its feet, utterly inconsequential, and quite often a pleasure to look at and listen to, "The Man From UNCLE" is Guy Ritchie's big-screen reboot of the classic '60s spy show. Showcasing the charms of Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, and Alicia Vikander, it is a piffle, a fetish piece for anyone who loves the pop side of the '60s, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It is not a non-stop action movie, though, and I suspect that on the heels of "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation," it's going to be treated more roughly than it deserves.

Ritchie has been working with writer/producer Lionel Wigram since "Sherlock Holmes," and they seem to have settled into a pretty happy system of doing things. They share screenplay credit on this one, with the story attributed to Jeff Kleeman & David C. Wilson as well as Wigram and Ritchie, and it's a pretty simple, straightforward thing. After extracting Gaby (Vikander) from East Germany, Napoleon Solo (Cavill) finds himself pressed into escorting Gaby to find her long lost father and, more importantly, the nuclear secrets he possesses. In order to do this, though, Napoleon is teamed up with a huge, borderline psycho Russian secret agent named Illya Kuryakin (Hammer) since both superpowers have an interest in keeping these nuclear secrets out of the hands of terrorists.

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How are the new 'Fantastic Four' and 2013's 'Arrested Development' related?
Credit: Netflix

How are the new 'Fantastic Four' and 2013's 'Arrested Development' related?

As the reporting around this weekend's mega-flop points fingers, we try to sort out what actually happened

By this point, "Fantastic Four" has had more virtual ink spilled about it than would seem to be justified considering how brutally mediocre the film is, and much of it has been focused on trying to sort out who did what on the film, and how much of it is or isn't the film that Josh Trank set out to make.

This kind of post-mortem moment can be really frustrating to watch, though, because of how everyone assumes certain things as fact. There is no one who has written more pointed and cutting criticisms of Fox, particularly under the leadership of Tom Rothman, than I have, but this time, I think people are siding against the studio without knowing what really went on in the process. Fox knew what their reputation was when Tom Rothman was running things, and they've been working hard to shift that perception by changing the way they approached collaboration.

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Bobcat Goldthwait on why he knew he had to tell the Barry Crimmins story
Credit: HitFix

Bobcat Goldthwait on why he knew he had to tell the Barry Crimmins story

We sit down with the director and subject of one of the year's best films

Without any exaggeration, I would call Bobcat Goldthwait one of the most consistently interesting and original filmmakers working today. When he first started turning out films like "Sleeping Dogs Lie" and "World's Greatest Dad," there was a quick moment where it seemed surprising to me that the guy from the "Police Academy" films could make those movies. That passed, though, and now the surprising part is that someone as thoughtful and articulate and big-hearted could have ever vanished into the character from those movies. I can't connect the guy I've been speaking with on and off for the last five or six years to the guy I saw perform live several times in the '80s, and I find him fascinating as a result.

I wasn't nervous about having Bobcat in to the HitFix studios on Tuesday, but I was very nervous about meeting Barry Crimmins, the subject of "Call Me Lucky," the remarkable new documentary by Goldthwait which begins its theatrical release today in select markets. And why not? Crimmins emerges over the course of the film as a ferociously smart man with a proud and undimmed spirit, this incredibly strong presence who basically helped create the modern stand-up comedy market while still wrestling with some profoundly difficult personal issues.

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Zachary Quinto reveals his own superpowers in final 'Agent 47' trailer
Credit: 20th Century Fox

Zachary Quinto reveals his own superpowers in final 'Agent 47' trailer

Can this one shake the game-to-movie curse?

There's one last big action film coming this summer, and I hope it is non-stop absurdity and mayhem, because that's what the trailers for "Agent 47" have been promising for the entire campaign so far, including the just-released final red band trailer.

Game movies are still hard to get right, and I've been thinking a lot about the difference between the forms lately. Games are all about giving you agency and making you feel like you're the character, controlling that character's fate or world in some way. Movies are passive, something you sit and watch, with other people having already made all those choices for you. Finding some middle ground between those experiences would seem to be the best way to translate the experience of a game to the bigscreen, and it looks to me like they've gone out of their way to preserve the sort of holy shit destruction and mayhem that game fans love when they're in the middle of some giant mission.

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Review: Powerfully mediocre 'Fantastic Four' is neither disaster nor success
Credit: 20th Century Fox
C

Review: Powerfully mediocre 'Fantastic Four' is neither disaster nor success

As superhero films go, this one seems scared of its own shadow

Neither the disaster the fanboy nation seems to be itching to attack nor a significant improvement over the Tim Story movies, "Fantastic Four" seems doomed to please no one. If this were simply a science-fiction film about original characters, it would be a moderate pleasure that can't quite connect all the dots or pay off the various ideas it introduces. As an adaptation of the comic, it seems to miss nearly everything that seems exciting about "Fantastic Four" as a filmmaking opportunity, and it will only serve to reinforce the idea that these characters don't work in a movie.

Balderdash and nonsense, though. The real problem is that 20th Century Fox has learned nothing from their own successes or failures. If you'd told me that this film was made in 1994, I would absolutely believe you. They might as well have titled the movie "Fantastic Four: Hedging Our Bet," because they have imagined as small a version as possible of this first film, and in doing so, they have pretty much guaranteed that no one will walk away satisfied. Already, we're seeing early reviews that grumble about the lack of action in the film, and while it's a reasonable assumption that superhero films should have action, I think starting with that complaint misses the entire point of what it feels like Josh Trank and writers Simon Kinberg and Jeremy Slater have all tried to do here.

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