<p>James McAvoy will no doubt be an important puzzle piece for Simon Kinberg as he tries to build a larger 'X-Men' movie universe</p>

James McAvoy will no doubt be an important puzzle piece for Simon Kinberg as he tries to build a larger 'X-Men' movie universe

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Some thoughts on Simon Kinberg, 'X-Men,' 'Fantastic Four,' and world-building

As every studio rushes to build a mega-franchise, we examine the urge

Simon Kinberg has quickly become one of Fox's greatest assets, and it looks like they're about to double-down on him for the foreseeable future.

Earlier today, I recorded a short video piece about Kinberg's new deal to help expand both the "X-Men" and "Fantastic Four" worlds on film, and I'm sure he's got some big ideas about what to do with both of those properties. He's also hard at work on his "Star Wars" spin-off film, whichever one it is, as well as the TV show "Star Wars: Rebels." He's joined that club where he is pretty much booked every day of the year, and on giant movies that are absolutely going to be made. It's pretty rarefied air, and he seems to be handling it well. When I spoke to him last, at an event for "Elysium," he talked a little bit about how great it had been participating in the "Star Wars" process and spending time with Lawrence Kasdan, who has to be considered one of the old school masters of this sort of thing.

This raises a larger question, though, about the sudden move everyone's making to this model that's worked so well for one company. I feel like I may not have made the point I was trying to the other day, or at least I didn't make it clear with what I wrote. When I wrote about the way Warner is approaching their DC comic movies right now, I wasn't trying to say that I know the way they HAVE to fix things. Far from it. Ultimately, all that matters is that each studio look at what they have and find the best way to make it. That's all any of them can hope to do. There are hundreds of ways to screw up any potential adaptation, and only a very few ways it really works.

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<p>It's a darker, more dangerous Bilbo this time around.</p>

It's a darker, more dangerous Bilbo this time around.

Credit: Warner Bros/New Line

Review: 'The Hobbit' improves in every way with the thrilling 'Desolation Of Smaug'

HitFix
B+
Readers
A-
Oh, yeah, these are adventure movies!

It's safe to say that there are very few positive reviews that have ever earned me the degree of truly furious e-mail that last year's review of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" did. Fans were furious at me for daring to give a Peter Jackson Middle Earth movie a B, and unwilling to entertain even the possibility that any of my issues with the movie were genuine. Once the film was released, though, general public opinion seemed to swing the other way and suddenly I started getting e-mail from people saying I'd been too kind, that I was in the tank for it, that I was somehow bending over backwards to give the film a good but not great review.

The truth is there are certain projects, certain series, there is no criticism that the fanbase wants to read, and there's no winning over an audience that is disinterested to begin with. These films are juggernauts, and they're going to be seen no matter what. Some might see that as an invitation to just phone it in and coast on former glories, but it doesn't feel to me like that's what happened here. I think Peter Jackson is putting himself and his amazing crew through just as rigorous and demanding an experience as he did on "Lord Of The Rings," if not more so. He is not resting on his laurels in any way. He couldn't, though. This is a much harder project to adapt, and looking at the differences between "Unexpected Journey" and this second film, "The Desolation Of Smaug," it's a pretty great practical lesson in how these kinds of films work.

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<p>Indiana Jones</p>

Indiana Jones

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Disney whips up a deal to purchase Indiana Jones from Paramount

So does this make Harrison Ford the new Mickey Mouse?

In a move that should be a surprise to absolutely no one, Walt Disney Studios have acquired the rights to any future Indiana Jones movies, while Paramount Pictures will still own the first four movies. This has been pending since Lucasfilm was first purchased by Disney, but the rights to Indiana Jones have been separate and a complicated negotiation. Much like the Marvel deal, Paramount will continue to have a financial stake in any future Indiana Jones films, but as a silent partner.

Right now, Disney's full attention is obviously focused on "Star Wars Episode VII." After the amount of money they spent getting hold of the rights in the first place, it could be argued that there is no more important film for the studio to get right in the immediate future. The pressure on JJ Abrams must be enormous, and for Kathleen Kennedy, her future as the president of Lucasfilm Ltd. depends on her ability to manage the assets of the studio in a way that makes Disney feel like they're squeezing everything out of it that they can.

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<p>Right now, all over LA, agents are trying to convince their clients that they really wouldn't mind wearing this get-up for six months in mid-2014.</p>

Right now, all over LA, agents are trying to convince their clients that they really wouldn't mind wearing this get-up for six months in mid-2014.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Bryan Singer announces 'X-Men: Apocalypse' will hit theaters in 2016

What does this mean for the series as a whole?

Fox wasn't kidding when they announced their plans to ramp up production on the various "X-Men" films.

Right now, Bryan Singer is hard at work finishing "X-Men: Days Of Future Past," and even so, he took a moment to Tweet this morning that we can also look forward to "X-Men: Apocalypse" in 2016.

Several sites are reporting a May 27, 2016 date for the film, although that wasn't part of Singer's Tweet. If that's true, then I'm curious what it means for James Mangold's "Wolverine" sequel. Would they try to get that done between the two "X-Men" movies, or will they now try to get Jeff Wadlow's "X-Force" up and running for 2015 instead and give Mangold time to aim for a 2017 release?

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<p>AAAAAHHH!&nbsp;WHAT&nbsp;DID&nbsp;YOU&nbsp;DO&nbsp;WITH&nbsp;MARTIN'S&nbsp;BEARD, YOU&nbsp;MONSTERS?!?!</p>

AAAAAHHH! WHAT DID YOU DO WITH MARTIN'S BEARD, YOU MONSTERS?!?!

Credit: Tappeluft Pictures

The Sundance 2014 Midnights line-up includes Nazi zombies, cooties, and New Zealand vampires

It looks like a particularly fun 30th anniversary program

The 30th anniversary of the Sundance Film Festival will once again see Team HitFix descending on the slopes of Park City to cover everything and anything about the event that we can.

As usual, I call dibs on the Midnight line-up. While I don't always love the programming in practice, I love it in theory, and I've had some amazing viewing experiences over the last few years thanks to the Midnights. I'd say there's a pretty strong chance something from the 2012 Midnights line-up might make an appearance on my best of the year list this year, and it wouldn't be the first time.

So what we expect this year? Well, Tommy Wirkola is back with a sequel to "Dead Snow," which seems fitting. After all, I saw and reviewed the first "Dead Snow" at the festival. Wirkola, who went on to direct "Hansel & Gretel: Vampire Hunters," has a chance here to join that club of horror directors who make sequels that are more fun than the originals, and I hope he pulls it off. After all… Nazi zombies in the snow… that should be fun, right? All I know is "Dead Snow: Red Vs Dead" sounds like it could be a blast, especially with the wildly random addition of the always great Martin Starr to the cast.

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<p>It's a good time to be Benedict Cumberbatch.</p>

It's a good time to be Benedict Cumberbatch.

Credit: HitFix

Benedict Cumberbatch on bringing Smaug to life for the latest installment of 'The Hobbit'

The way he learned he got the part is pretty great

Benedict Cumberbatch is having one of those moments that actors dream of, where they are suddenly not only acclaimed for their work, but given opportunity to play a wide range of roles in material that they genuinely love. "Sherlock" may have been the thing that finally made him wildly in-demand, but he's been building towards this moment for a little while now, and he seems to be cherishing it now that it's arrived.

I don't remember him from "Fortysomething" or "Nathan Barley," but I must have seen him in them. Same with "Starter For 10" or "Amazing Grace." It was "Atonement" when I finally remember seeing him and taking note of his work. Then came "Sherlock," and he was suddenly launched into the awareness of filmmakers and audiences alike. I remember reading how Stephen Moffat was casting both "Doctor Who" and "Sherlock" at the same time, and he really debated what to do with Matt Smith and Cumberbatch and the two roles because he could see merit in both versions of the casting.

Can you imagine what would have happened if he'd just had them switch when it was time to regenerate the Doctor? Smith takes over as Sherlock, Cumberbatch takes over as the Doctor, and the Internet breaks. Right?

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<p>Spider-Man's feeling the heat in the first trailer for 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'</p>

Spider-Man's feeling the heat in the first trailer for 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'

Credit: Sony Pictures

First trailer for 'Amazing Spider-Man 2' is shockingly full of bad guys

And it looks like they're sticking with the mystery of why his parents died

Peter Parker's back, and it appears that positively everyone would like him dead.

The first trailer for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" covers a fair amount of ground, and it looks like the way they're making a story work with a multitude of bad guys running around is somehow tying all of them together. When Marc Webb cut back the stuff about some mystery behind the death of Peter's mother and father, I was hoping that was the end of that story thread. Instead, it looks like it is a major part of this film as well.

There's a lot to take in during this 2:41. I love the opening shot of him falling towards the city from above. One of the kicks of the best of the Spider-Man games is that feeling of falling as far as possible before snapping out a web to swing on. It looks like Peter and Gwen Stacy have picked up despite her father's dying wish. It also looks like Harry Osborne is absolutely the Green Goblin, with Norman stuck upstairs in bed.

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<p>If Baloo doesn't sing, then I'm not interested.</p>

If Baloo doesn't sing, then I'm not interested.

Credit: Walt Disney Feature Animation

Why are Disney and Warner gearing up to go to war over 'The Jungle Book'?

Is this really the best way for anyone to be making movies?

So now we're down to watching studios fight over public domain properties that have been filmed repeatedly already?

Really?

I'm not sure I see the appeal of one new film version of "The Jungle Book," much less two, but at least I understand why Disney is making theirs. It's part of their new "You Already Love This, But Now It Has Real People!" franchise along with "Maleficent" and the still-shooting "Cinderella," and it keeps Jon Favreau in the Disney family, which is something that seems to be important to them. I'm happy for Justin Marks, who has been writing some big projects for the last few years and now seems to finally be seeing one of them come to fruition. I'm sure it'll be a big slick Disney movie, and I certainly hope it's good. They've already got a release date selected, with the film set to hit theaters October 9, 2015.

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<p>Why is it starting to feel like this is what we can expect from Warner's 'Man Of Steel' sequel?</p>

Why is it starting to feel like this is what we can expect from Warner's 'Man Of Steel' sequel?

Credit: DC Comics

We take a closer look at Warner's ongoing DC 'problem' and offer one possible solution

Of course you want a 'Justice League' movie, but this isn't how you get there

On one level, everything seems to be moving along well right now with development on "Man Of Steel 2." After all, they just announced today that Gal Gadot will play Wonder Woman in the film, and in the new issue of Playboy, there's an interview with Ben Affleck conducted by Mike Fleming. The approach that they're taking to the new Batman in Zack Snyder's "Man Of Steel" sequel comes up.

Say what you will about Affleck, but one of the biggest reasons he's been able to rebuild his career the way he has is because he seems genuinely self-aware. Watch him again in "Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back" and you see a guy who has already identified exactly what's wrong with his career and what he doesn't want to do or be moving forward.

People seem positively delighted to pull out his 2006 quote about never playing a superhero again when they mention his casting in the "Man Of Steel" sequel, but that seems like it means people don't know there is an evolution in the way human beings feel or think over time. And that's ridiculous. Of course people change. Of course their attitudes evolve. And with actors, it frequently just boils down to the material that they're presented, which, surprise surprise, appears to be the case this time as well.

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<p>Christian Bale and Amy Adams totally own the screen in 'American Hustle'</p>

Christian Bale and Amy Adams totally own the screen in 'American Hustle'

Credit: Sony Pictures

Review: Amy Adams and Christian Bale play the long con in 'American Hustle'

HitFix
B+
Readers
A+
David O. Russell makes a potent case for him being one of the funniest filmmakers alive

David O. Russell is a very funny man.

That's been easy to forget lately. The last time it feels like he made a full-on comedy was "I Heart Huckabees," and I still remember walking out of the first screening of the film, big smile on my face, only to run smack dab into a cluster of journalists all angrily venting about the film. They didn't just dislike it, they were furious at having seen it. One in particular was red-faced about it, and when I tried to walk by, they tried to rope me into agreeing with them about how terrible it was.

"I really liked it," I said, and it was as if I told them that their mothers never really loved them. They recoiled from me. It only made me love the film more, and it certainly wasn't the first time liking a David O. Russell film made people seem irritated or creeped out. "Spanking The Monkey" did exactly what it set out to do at a time when people hadn't been conditioned by an entire culture of squirm-based comedy, and "Flirting With Disaster" felt like he just found a slightly less overt way to push buttons. "Three Kings" was a near-perfect distillation of his voice in a mainstream package, a movie that managed to be political and wicked funny and tense and moving all at the same time.

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