<p>Yep. That's the face I'd make, too. That thing is freeeeeeeeeeeaky.</p>

Yep. That's the face I'd make, too. That thing is freeeeeeeeeeeaky.

Credit: Sony Animation Studios

Review: 'Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2' is funny but confused about what it's saying

HitFix
B+
Readers
C-
Does a message matter in a crazy comedy for kids?

Thematically confused, but possessed of a manic comic energy that is hard to deny, "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2" is a case of a sequel that will likely please many, but that falls short of the original nonetheless.

The original "Cloudy" was a bit of a miracle, a very loose adaptation of a sweet children's book that cranked up the funny and ended up working as a totally different thing than the book. The father-son story grounded the film with a nice sense of heart, but it was packed with almost non-stop jokes by Chris Miller and Phil Lord and their excellent story team. While Miller and Lord are busy finishing "The LEGO Movie" right now, Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn have stepped up to direct the sequel, and it maintains much of the energy that made the first film fun.

Still, it raises the question of how important it is that a film present a singular message, because it feels to me like "Cloudy 2" is deeply confused in many ways. The script by John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein and Erica Rivinoja certainly seems unfettered in terms of invention, but they set up some things that it feels like they don't fully explore. In particular, the questions it raises about scientific curiosity versus scientific responsibility are never answered, or if they are, the answers are far from considered.

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<p>Meryl Streep ventures 'Into the Woods' as the Witch who wishes to  reverse a curse so that her beauty may be restored.</p>

Meryl Streep ventures 'Into the Woods' as the Witch who wishes to reverse a curse so that her beauty may be restored.

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

First 'Into The Woods' image reveals Meryl Streep as The Witch

Production is underway in London for a December 2014 release

Right now, construction is underway at Shepperton Studios outside London for the film adaptation of "Into The Woods," the long-running musical hit by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, and with the film due in theaters for the holiday season in 2014, they're already starting the promotional push.

Meryl Streep is set to play The Witch in the film, one of the central roles in the piece, and Disney sent over the first photo of her in costume today. If you're not familiar with the musical, The Witch lives next door to The Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt), who are desperate to have a child. The Witch has cursed them, though, so they will never have a child unless they help her find the ingredients that she requires for a spell that will restore her former beauty. She sends them on a quest to find "the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, and the slipper as pure as gold."

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<p>Olivia Wilde's been having a very good year on film, and seemed excited to discuss her work in Ron Howard's new film 'Rush'</p>

Olivia Wilde's been having a very good year on film, and seemed excited to discuss her work in Ron Howard's new film 'Rush'

Credit: HitFix

Olivia Wilde on why her character is attracted to danger in 'Rush'

Plus she discusses the difficulty of researching her role

One of the things that defines the men of "Rush" is the way they relate to the women in their lives.

Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) is reluctant to open his life to Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara), but once he does, it's obvious that she is important to him, and she changes the way he thinks about life and death for the first time. James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), on the other hand, may love the idea of being married to Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde), a famous model who looks great on his arm, but he isn't wired to put anyone else's wants or needs before his own.

When I sat down with Wilde in Toronto to talk about the film, she was excited to discuss how she researched Miller, who wasn't really much of a public figure. It was a different time, and people were actually able to have private lives even if they worked in a field like modeling. It made it hard for her to track down much material about Miller, but she was able to at least tap into the way it would feel to be married to someone who risked their life every time they went out the door.

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With 'Gravity' on the horizon what are the greatest space movies of all-time?
Credit: Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, MGM

With 'Gravity' on the horizon what are the greatest space movies of all-time?

'Star Wars'? 'Alien'? '2001'? Which film tops our list?

With "Gravity" set to hit theaters next week, we decided to look back at some of our favorite space movies. When discussing it, we set the game up like this: in order to be on the list, the film needed to feature important and pivotal sequences set in space. Not on another planet, mind you, but in space.

There's always been something mysterious and beautiful about the notion of outer space, and it's easy to understand what drove us to look up into that vast expanse overhead and decide we had to go there. Even today, as we continue to learn more and more about what's out there, we still seem to have only taken baby steps into what I believe is our eventual destiny. We make so many movies set in space because it continues to gnaw at us. I feel like there is a race between us ruining this planet and us leaving it, and I pray we make the right choice.

We sifted through dozens of films that fit the basic description here, and then the HitFix staff voted on what they felt the ten best were. The results were, as always, surprising in some ways, totally expected in others. It seems like we have a lot of love for "2010" here at HitFix, for example, something I wouldn't have predicted, and the films that almost made the list are tons of fun, like "Galaxy Quest."

One common thread that runs through most of these films, aside from setting, is that they seem to celebrate the potential of space. Sure, it can be terrifying at times, but beyond that, space seems to speak to the best in us, and these ten films are all worth your time and attention, and are sure to set the stage for when you get to see the remarkable "Gravity" starting next Friday.

Check out our picks here:

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<p>Andy Samberg and Terry Crews have plenty to smile about right now.</p>

Andy Samberg and Terry Crews have plenty to smile about right now.

Credit: HitFix

Andy Samberg and Terry Crews talk about the 'Cloudy' sequel and their 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' series

We chat with two very funny men about two very different projects

Right now, Andy Samberg and Terry Crews seem to be joined at the hip, and honestly? It suits them.

"Brooklyn Nine-Nine" is one of the few shows this year that I was willing to add to my rotation based on the pilot, and I like the extended ensemble they put together for the show. Samberg is one of those guys who is at his best when he's not straining, and the best way to make him comfortable is to surround him with equally funny co-stars. Crews has long been an asset to any comedy that hires him, but when you look at him, the first impression is that this is a guy who should be making giant action films.

Sitting down with the two of them to discuss "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2," in which Crews steps in for Mr. T to voice security-guard-and-overprotective-dad Earl Devereaux, it was obvious that they have a very real and relaxed chemistry. Samberg worked on the first one and is returning to the role of Brent McHale here, a strange man-baby who was the mascot of Baby Brent Sardines for most of his life. They are both outrageous roles, but Samberg and Crews still have to find something identifiable and human about them to play, and we discussed that process.

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<p>It's safe to say that this particular cluster of 'Walking Dead' zombies browned more than their fair share of pants at Friday night's opening of this year's Halloween Horror Nights.</p>

It's safe to say that this particular cluster of 'Walking Dead' zombies browned more than their fair share of pants at Friday night's opening of this year's Halloween Horror Nights.

Credit: Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal's annual Halloween Horror Nights unleashes 'Walking Dead' and more this year

We take a sneak peek at Hollywood's biggest annual haunted house event

Halloween has become big business for Universal Studios.

Seems fitting. After all, Universal is one of the only studios that has traditionally not only embraced horror films, but that continues to emphasize their long history of monsters as a major part of their legacy. It is a natural fit for them. Even so, when I was part of the Halloween Horror Nights back in 1992, it was still a fairly new idea, and it was charmingly hand-made. It felt like the sort of show you would put together in your own neighborhood with a bunch of friends. It was low-tech and fun, and it was small enough that at the end of the run, everyone who had appeared in it could gather in one of the CityWalk restaurants for a small awards ceremony and some great free food and drink.

Today, Halloween Horror Nights runs in both Orlando and Los Angeles, and it is a carefully orchestrated and beautifully designed take-over of the entire park, one which features new attractions every year, and it's gotten not only more technically impressive, but just plain gigantic. The ambition of what they try to pull off live every single night of the event is staggering, and what really impresses me is how well they pull it off considering all the moving parts, all the people required to make it work, and all the members of the public who walk through who are scared out of their damn fool minds.

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<p>It's going to be hard for Timur Bekmembatov to top the classic chariot race, but if there's anyone in Hollywood who has no sense of what 'over-the-top' means, it's him.</p>

It's going to be hard for Timur Bekmembatov to top the classic chariot race, but if there's anyone in Hollywood who has no sense of what 'over-the-top' means, it's him.

Credit: MGM

'Wanted' director Timur Bekmembatov is set to crack the whip on a new version of 'Ben-Hur'

So now every studio also needs their Bible story?

There is no weirder trend right now than the sudden resurgence of the Biblical epic.

Darren Aronofsky's "Noah" sounds like one of the weirdest movies of all time. The script was fascinating, a hybrid of a moral tale and a monster movie,and Ridley Scott is evidently gearing up to make a Moses movie with Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, and Aaron Paul called "Exodus."

I'm not sure I understand the sudden urge. If the idea is to try to reach out to traditional conservative Christian groups, I'm not sure hiring the directors of "Wanted," "Requiem For A Dream," and "Black Hawk Down" is the way to do that. At least with Aronofsky and Scott, they've demonstrated some range as filmmakers in the past. Bekmembatov, on the other hand, is a sensation junkie ADD lunatic. That's not necessarily a negative judgment, just an observation. There are very few people who would have ever approached something like "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" with the straight-faced utter lack of humor that he did, and the idea of him shooting something like a new souped-up version of the chariot race from "Ben-Hur" is so decadent that I almost can't contain my glee.

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<p>Now why does this look familiar to me?</p>

Now why does this look familiar to me?

Credit: Phase 4 Films

Review: 'The Dirties' uses found footage to take an ugly look at school violence

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
Smart but deeply sad film punches hard

There's no way I can be objective or dispassionate about a film like "The Dirties." As I was watching it, the part of me that is a film critic, constantly analyzing and contextualizing, simply shut down. My experiences, my influences, my history… it makes it impossible for me for me to try to explain this in any terms except personal ones. That happens with films all the time for people, and it is an occupational hazard. I've had moments like that so many times over the years, and each and every time, I feel like this is why I am as fascinated today by the strange emotional magic trick of a movie as I was in 1977 when I first fell in love.

My teenage years were the John Hughes years, the '80s, full-flush, and I went from a chubby nerdy ten year old kid in 1980 to a chubby nerdy twenty year old who couldn't wait another day and moved to Los Angeles. The mid-point of that decade was the moment that made all the difference in the world, the moment where my family moved to Florida and I ended up enrolled in the same high school as Scott Swan, a kid who had just moved to the area from Pittsburgh, a kid who was exactly as movie crazy as I was.

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<p>Um, there's something in the road. You might want to watch out for that.</p>

Um, there's something in the road. You might want to watch out for that.

Credit: Magnet Releasing

'Doomsday' director Neil Marshall set to remake 'Trollhunter'

Good news for fans of the filmmaker, but frustrating nonetheless

Any announcement that involves Neil Marshall getting more work is a good thing.

It's exciting to hear that he's back on "Game Of Thrones" for next season. His work on "Blackwater" was epic, even by the amazing weekly standards of that show. I think he's been completely undervalued as a feature director, and a big part of it is simply because not enough people have seen his movies. "Centurion" happened at the exact wrong moment in the career arc of Michael Fassbender, and it would have been a much easier sell a year later. It's worth catching up with if you haven't seen it, and it's just one more example of how good Marshall is at staging large action sequences.

Marshall has a classic sense of action geography. He's smart about how he lays out his big set pieces, and he is excellent at conveying what's important in a scene and how everything connects. These days, that seems to be a more and more precious skill, especially when the aesthetic pushes more and more towards total incoherence and visual chaos. When you look at "Doomsday" or "The Descent" or "Dog Soldiers," you clearly see a guy who has action chops to spare, and yet it seems like he doesn't work nearly enough.

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<p>Sharni Vinson's only going to further cement her place in the horror firmament with her role in Mark Hartley's remake of 'Patrick'</p>

Sharni Vinson's only going to further cement her place in the horror firmament with her role in Mark Hartley's remake of 'Patrick'

Credit: Bankside Films

Review: Fantastic Fest 2013 opens with Mark Hartley's remake of the Aussie shocker 'Patrick'

HitFix
B-
Readers
n/a
Can the genre-loving documentarian make the jump to narrative features?

Mark Hartley has made two exceptional documentaries about the history of exploitation films, one called "Not Quite Hollywood" and the other called "Machete Maidens Unleashed!" The first examined the evolution of Australia's homegrown genre movies, and it was more than just a scholarly look at a list of movies. Hartley understood exactly why those films were so exciting, and he made a documentary that had the same sort of breathless energy that the films did, and he made a hell of a case for the significance of those films and those directors.

While I'm excited to see his next documentary, which will deal with the history of Canon Films, I'm equally excited about the notion that he took one of the films that he covered in "Not Quite Hollywood" and remade it. "Patrick" is one of those films that I knew by reputation more than anything, and after "Not Quite Hollywood" came out, it was one of the movies that got a US release to capitalize on its new notoriety. The original was directed by one of my favorite of the Aussies, Richard Franklin, and it's an effective movie with some smart script choices, solid performances across the board, and Franklin really knows how to screw with an audience. Released in 1978, it feels like a reaction to films like "Carrie" and "The Fury" with a comatose patient who wages a telekinetic battle against a nurse. Like "Road Games," the film seems to lean on Hitchcock at times, and that's just Franklin. There's a reason he was hired for "Psycho II," and he obviously has an enormous respect for the kind of classically built scares from a different age.

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