<p>'Squeal like a Penguin for me!'</p>

'Squeal like a Penguin for me!'

Credit: WB Games Montreal/Eidos

Launch trailer for 'Batman: Arkham Origins' lands every punch it throws

It may be a prequel, but it looks like it's building off the earlier games

One of the highlights of my day was getting an e-mail from GameFly telling me that they've just shipped "Batman: Arkham Origins," which means it should be in my mailbox tomorrow, just in time for the weekend. This makes me positively giddy.

After all, both "Arkham Asylum" and "Arkham City" turned out to be fairly great Batman games, and what made them so great was the way they used the various game mechanics to genuinely make you feel like you're Batman. It may be one of my favorite hand to hand combat systems in any game ever, and there was a special satisfaction that came from mastering all the various moves and combos and little by little learning how to beat holy hell out of a room full of bad guys.

Likewise, I'm not always the biggest fan of stealth games, but that's a huge part of being Batman, and the games made it very satisfying and challenging to incorporate stealth into everything. The environments for the two games were well-designed, and the villains you face in the games were great, really outrageous versions of many of the best-known members of his massive rogue's gallery. The Joker has been a major player in both of the first two games, and with "Batman: Arkham Origins" serving as a prequel of sorts, it's a safe bet we'll get more Joker this time as well.

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<p>Michael Fassbender proves to be one of the worst lawyers in movie history in Ridley Scott's new film 'The Counselor,' from an original screenplay by Cormac McCarthy.</p>

Michael Fassbender proves to be one of the worst lawyers in movie history in Ridley Scott's new film 'The Counselor,' from an original screenplay by Cormac McCarthy.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: Ridley Scott's 'Counselor' makes slick but miserable use of Fassbender

HitFix
C+
Readers
C
Cormac McCarthy's prose doesn't make the jump to the screen

There are many writers, great writers, who excel in one form but not in another. Vince Gilligan will not be remembered ultimately as the writer of "Wilder Napalm" and "Home Fries," but rather as the brain behind "Breaking Bad." David Chase probably doesn't have to worry about "Not Fade Away" eclipsing "The Sopranos" as his crowning accomplishment. Those guys have television in their DNA. They understand how to use that form, that storytelling rhythm, to maximum effect, and with their voices turned to something as fundamentally different in style as a 100-minute movie, they seem constricted.

Cormac McCarthy is a hell of a writer. Anything I say about him comes with the obvious caveat that he is freakin' Cormac McCarthy. His books almost feel like fights you've been in when you think back on them. They are tussles, these dense collections of horrible and ugly that illustrate a fairly dark world view, daring the reader to go full-on into McCarthy's various hellscapes. At Toronto, I saw James Franco's film adaptation of "Child Of God," and I'll say this for him: he is unflinching in trying to wrestle McCarthy's exact prose up onto the screen, and that includes a lot of things that audiences really might not expect to end up confronting, or want to. And while he hasn't always gone dark, "Blood Meridian" and "No County For Old Men" are both about as grim as you can get, unless you consider "The Road," which makes jet-black look white.

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<p>'Arbitrate for credit, you will'</p>

'Arbitrate for credit, you will'

Credit: 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm Ltd.

JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kadan take control of 'Star Wars' script

Today's news just makes official something we've been saying for months

Honestly, this may be the least surprising story we'll run all month.

I have no doubt Michael Arndt's work will be the spine of "Star Wars Episode VII" when we finally see the film, but from day one, it sounds like there's been a larger brain trust involved, a group of writers who have all had some sort of active hand in the process. At this point, Arndt's been on the film for a while, and they've got to be getting close to putting everything in front of the camera. I would be shocked, frankly, if JJ Abrams didn't do at least one pass at the script just so he's comfortable that the final version is something that represents his voice.

Of course, there's a larger master to serve here, and that's where Lawrence Kasdan comes in. Abrams has spoken in print about trying to recapture the intangible essence of "Star Wars," and if there's anybody whose name is not "George Lucas" who is qualified to decide what is or isn't "Star Wars," it's Kasdan. His voice helped define "The Empire Strikes Back" in a fairly significant way, and having him in the mix has been the thing that has had me most excited about these new films so far.

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<p>This is his 'I'm about to open up a giant-sized can of whoop-ass' face.</p>

This is his 'I'm about to open up a giant-sized can of whoop-ass' face.

Credit: Marvel Studios

First 'Captain America 2' trailer promises bigger and more brutal sequel

Is Marvel slowly making S.H.I.E.L.D. a bad guy?

"This isn't freedom. It's fear."

"Thor: The Dark World" is just around the corner, and I've heard there is a pretty big tag on the film that connects to another Marvel property. I'm going to assume that if you see "Thor: The Dark World" in the theater, one of the things you'll see before the film will be the new "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" trailer. That's the genius of Marvel. They're going to be teasing other movies to you at the start and the end of the film, and even more remarkably, people will be looking forward to it.

While it seems like there's not more than a day or two that goes by without some mention of some Marvel project, there are a few times a year where they sort of go into overdrive, and that's what we're about to head into for "Thor." Our own Greg Ellwood just went to London to talk to the cast of the film, and I'll be seeing it soon for review. Today, things kick off with the online premiere of the trailer for "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," and while I've seen footage for the film at both the San Diego Comic-Con and Disney's D23 Expo, this is the first real look that they're giving the general public.

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<p>Johnny Knoxville was, of course, injured when we got together to talk about his new film 'Bad Grandpa'</p>

Johnny Knoxville was, of course, injured when we got together to talk about his new film 'Bad Grandpa'

Credit: HitFix

Johnny Knoxville and Jackson Nicoll share 'Bad Grandpa' road trip memories

Knoxville talks about one actor's near-death experience

"We're trying to cut off his supply of Mountain Dew," I was warned before I walked into the room to talk to Johnny Knoxville and Jackson Nicoll. For once, Knoxville was not the primary threat I would be facing.

As we discuss in the interview, Knoxville and Nicoll worked together in last year's "Fun-Size," a charming kid's comedy, and they spend pretty much the full running time of "Bad Grandpa" onscreen together. I've been chatting with Knoxville on and off for the last decade, both in formal interviews and just running into him around Los Angeles. By this point, I have a pretty solid understanding of the way these guys work together, and we're not starting from scratch when we discuss whatever the latest mutation is.

That's the way I'd describe whatever "Jackass" is. There's no single person who defines what it is. Instead, you've got Knoxville, Spike Jonze, and Jeff Tremaine, all of them equal owners of it, and when they've done the shows or the movies in the past, there has definitely been a voice to it.

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<p>There are so many things that go through my mind looking at this that I hardly know where to start.</p>

There are so many things that go through my mind looking at this that I hardly know where to start.

Credit: New Line Home Video

Benedict Cumberbatch throws himself into the role of Smaug for 'The Hobbit'

Check out some truly outrageous motion-capture images

One of the things I find most exciting about performance-capture technology is watching the way it frees actors to try things that would never have been possible even ten years ago.

Benedict Cumberbatch is the actor of the moment, in demand with filmmakers for drama, genre films, television, stage… basically, everyone wants to work with this guy, and he's being offered a huge range of roles to play. He has appeared in no less than 10,000 movies this year, and in "The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug," he is playing 300 different roles.

Those numbers may be slightly off, but Cumberbatch is playing two key roles in the film, and instead of that being a matter of different make-up for each one, he is able to vanish completely into the role of Smaug thanks to performance capture. There is a time when he would have simply provided a voice, but now he can throw himself into the role, both body and soul.

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<p>Johnny Knoxville and Jackson Nicoll raise hell on a deranged road trip in 'Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa'</p>

Johnny Knoxville and Jackson Nicoll raise hell on a deranged road trip in 'Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa'

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Review: Knoxville and Nicoll give 'Jackass' spinoff 'Bad Grandpa' real heart

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
The first narrative film in the series pulls off a tricky balancing act

It is easy to dismiss the "Jackass" franchise as chaos and stupidity, but it is also wrong to do so. As much as anything else released in the last 13 years, "Jackass" captures a mood that is part of our time, an aggressive comic voice that seems thrilled by the violence and uncertainty of a post-"Columbine"/post-9/11 society. "Jackass" matters precisely because it is totally silly in a world where it is not easy to be silly.

As if to underline that point, "Bad Grandpa" is the first "Jackass"-related project to be made after the death of Ryan Dunn, who the film is dedicated to during the closing credits. While it would seem bodily harm is part of the job description for these guys, up until that moment, they were live-action Looney Tunes, always able to stand up and move on and shake off any amount of grievous injury. Dunn's real-world demise was shocking because of how pointless it was. If you told me that one of the guys from "Jackass" was eaten by a bear when he tried to ride it while dressed as a beaver, I would raise a beer to that. Dealing with the grief after a drunk driving death can be difficult under the best of circumstances, but it must have been brutal to deal with under a media microscope. It would not have surprised me at all if they had decided to call it a day and retire the brand completely. After all, I can't imagine Johnny Knoxville, Spike Jonze, and Jeff Tremaine had any idea how successful this would all be in the first place.

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<p>Because when you're Ron Burgundy, OF&nbsp;COURSE&nbsp;you bottle-feed milk to a shark.</p>

Because when you're Ron Burgundy, OF COURSE you bottle-feed milk to a shark.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Racial discomfort and flipping Winnebegos feature in new 'Anchorman 2' trailer

It looks like the Action News team has some trouble with the '80s

Anytime it's taken the better part of a decade to make a sequel to a film, it is at lastly somewhat likely that the sequel is going to suck. It's no one's fault, per se, but it's just one of those things. Maybe it's hard to go back to something after that long. Maybe it's hard to recapture whatever made the thing special in the first place.

That will not be the case with "Anchorman 2."

At this point, I've seen enough of the film to be very confident that they have recaptured the exact voice that made the first "Anchorman" so much fun. I find myself frequently amazed at how much of an institution the first film is at this point considering the response when it was released. People seemed to enjoy it, but there was no immediate sense that it was going to turn into a phenomenon that people quote constantly, or that it was going to eventually become part of the pop culture lexicon. I love that the film finally found its audience, and that there is so much passion for it now.

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<p>At this point, it's safe to say Fitz is not the only one harboring a preposterous crush on Skye.'</p>

At this point, it's safe to say Fitz is not the only one harboring a preposterous crush on Skye.'

Credit: ABC/Marvel Studios

Review: 'Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.' face the threat of 'Girl In A Flower Dress'

Skye's big secret is finally revealed in episode five of the new Marvel series

One of the things I always find interesting is when a show that is bound by budget and time to one geographic location is written as a globetrotting adventure, requiring them to convince us that they've gone around the world despite the evidence of our eyes. "Alias" is a great recent example of this, a show that turned Burbank into every corner of the world.

This week opens in Hong Kong, where Renshu Tseng, a street magician (played by Louis Ozawa Changchien from "Predators") is doing very basic tricks for a crowd. Only when he sees a particularly striking woman does he create real fire in the palm of his hand, freaking out the crowd. It seems to work, though. She is turned on enough by the trick to go home with him, and he talks to her about the difference between real magic and tricks. He seems nervous to show off the real thing up close, but he ends up giving in.

He tells her about how his gift started to manifest a few years ago, and her response seems like a rational one: she calls in backup to abduct him.

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<p>Stephen Lang seemed to relish his role in 'Avatar,' so it should be exciting to see what happens when he returns for all three of the upcoming sequels.</p>

Stephen Lang seemed to relish his role in 'Avatar,' so it should be exciting to see what happens when he returns for all three of the upcoming sequels.

Credit: 20th Century Fox/Lightstorm

Stephen Lang's Quaritch will return for all three of Cameron's 'Avatar' sequels

What does this say about the stakes on Pandora?

One of the things that seems to be coming into focus about the three sequels James Cameron is currently preparing to shoot for "Avatar" is that death does not seem to be a permanent condition on Pandora.

For at least a year now, Sigourney Weaver has been talking about how she plans to return for the films as well, hinting that once you are part of Pandora, you are not conventionally "dead," and there's plenty of groundwork for that in the first movie. One of the major ideas that Cameron emphasized in the first film is that all energy is only borrowed, and one day you have to give it back. All of Pandora is one giant network, storing memories and energy, and all of the Na'vi who have ever lived before are stored in that network, accessible by their descendants.

Today, word broke that Stephen Lang will be returning for a major role in all three of the sequels. Deadline quotes Cameron saying, "I'm not going to say exactly how we're bringing him back, but it's a science-fiction story, after all. His character will evolve into really unexpected places across the arc of our new three-film saga."

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