Review: 'Big Hero 6' is a safe but solid Marvel superhero movie in a Disney world
Credit: Walt Disney Feature Animation

Review: 'Big Hero 6' is a safe but solid Marvel superhero movie in a Disney world

We'll see these characters again, but it feels like this one's almost too easy

One of the things that fanboys asked the moment Marvel was sold to Disney was, "Does this mean we'll see Pixar superhero movies?"

With Brad Bird currently working on a screenplay for "The Incredibles 2," Pixar has no need to get into the Marvel business, and Marvel's live-action movies are so successful that I can't really imagine them handling over a viable franchise to an animated division. Walt Disney Feature Animation was given permission to go through Marvel's vast catalog of characters to see if there was anything in there that they might spark to, anything they could make their own, and when they found "Big Hero 6," an obscure team book created by Man Of Action's Duncan Rouleau and Steven T. Seagle, they found their way in.

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Todd Solondz returns to Dawn Weiner, but a new actor will step in to play the part
Credit: IFC Films

Todd Solondz returns to Dawn Weiner, but a new actor will step in to play the part

Greta Gerwig's a strong choice, but to what effect?

Todd Solondz has always built his characters into an interconnected world. "Welcome To The Dollhouse" was the film that served as our introduction to his misanthropic take on the world, and it also introduced us to the character who remains my favorite out of all of his, Dawn Weiner.

Played by Heather Matarazzo, Dawn Weiner was a beautiful outsider, a blissfully dorky little girl whose struggle to figure out how to fit in the 7th grade was both funny and painful, and Solondz wrote her with a remarkable amount of empathy. I would argue that Solondz has not been able to always strike that same balance and many of his films feel more mean, like he's an angry god raining on his own personal Jobs just for the hell of it.

In both "Palindromes" and "Life During Wartime," characters from "Dollhouse" made a reappearance, but the character we would most want to see again is the one who has remained offstage this entire time, and so today's news is genuinely exciting. It sounds like Solondz has finally decided to revisit Dawn, and not just as a side character in someone else's movie. After all, his next project is called "Weiner-Dog."

The title has a double-meaning, since anyone who remembers "Welcome To The Dollhouse" knows that was Dawn's nickname from the bullies who teased her. This new movie is going to feature several stories all connected by a dachshund. In one of those stories, we'll see that Dawn Weiner is now played by Greta Gerwig. That's a pretty major transformation, and I'm curious to see what Solondz has in mind by taking an indie sweetheart like Gerwig and casting her as the grown-up Dawn. After all, Matarazzo is still acting, and I'd love to see her take on the character now. For her to have transformed into Gerwig, I'm hoping Solondz has a thematic point.

We'll see. The film's still casting right now, and it sounds like they're not locked down completely in terms of financing. With Megan Ellison involved, though, I'm going to bet we'll see this one happen, and I'm really curious now to find out if it's going to be worth the wait.

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Review: 'Ouija' is by the numbers, full of mechanical scares and nothing else
Credit: Universal Pictures

Review: 'Ouija' is by the numbers, full of mechanical scares and nothing else

It's like an entire film of a weird old man at a gas station warning the kids 'you're going to die'

"Ouija" is professionally made, a classically-styled ghost story/mystery, and perhaps the single strangest piece of product placement ever made. It is also, unfortunately, so by-the-numbers that it feels like it was made by a computer program designed to simulate horror films.

Juliet Snowden and Stiles White have been co-writers on films like "The Possession" and "Knowing," but this time out, White is also directing. He knows what he's doing, and the way the film is made, it looks and feels exactly like it's supposed to feel. It is the very model of what Blumhouse wants to make. It's slick. It's simple and self-contained. It has a very immediate and understandable hook. It should work.

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Hulk and Iron Man go head to head in apocalyptic 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' trailer

Hulk and Iron Man go head to head in apocalyptic 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' trailer

The Scarlet Witch and her powers play a big role in this first peek at next summer's mega-sequel

My first impression of the new "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" trailer is that Joss Whedon appears to have taken some of the criticisms of his shooting style on the first film to heart. Even as the film became one of the biggest hits of all time, I read plenty of comments about how Whedon's eye still seemed more suited to the small screen than to movie theaters.

That does not appear to be a problem on "Age Of Ultron."

"I'm going to show you something beautiful…"

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<p>This is how I imagine Eddie would look if he actually ever read this article.</p>

This is how I imagine Eddie would look if he actually ever read this article.

Credit: Paramount

'Cook' sounds like just another round of pretending Eddie Murphy cares

Does it count as 'tough love' if we don't really love him anymore?

Who is Eddie Murphy acting for?

That sentence may be a little bit strangled in terms of grammar, but it communicates clearly the central question that I think has to be asked of Eddie Murphy at this point in his career. Yesterday, there was an announcement that Murphy would be stepping in to replace Samuel L. Jackson in the new movie "Cook," based on the life story of Susan McMartin.

If you want to read the piece that inspired the film, you can do so here. It's very sweet, very simple, and suggests a relationship that easily could carry a smart, character-driven film. McMartin also wrote the screenplay, and Mark Canton is producing with Bruce Beresford directing. That's interesting because Beresford's biggest cultural moment came with "Driving Miss Daisy," another movie that hinged on the emotional connection between a white woman and her black servant. That's some tricky ground for any film to mine, and it can work beautifully or it can feel really pandering, depending entirely on execution.

In the article on Empire where the story broke, Canton talked about how this is going to be a change of pace for Murphy, and compared it to a Jennifer Aniston film called "Cake" that premiered at this year's Toronto Film Festival. In that film, Aniston is intentionally stripped of glamor, a tact that many actors follow when doing "serious" work. Canton said, "'Cake' startled people because Jen gained a lot of weight and cut her hair and has a lot of scars and it's a serious drama. 'Cook' is another one. Everyone now wants to do what Matt McConaughey did, so we're financing these movies when we think they're put together the right way. This will be Eddie Murphy like you've never seen him. Of that, I can assure you."

Okay, well, those are some pretty big words, especially when Murphy is involved. You will find few people who have been as staunchly in Eddie's corner over the years as I have. I believe Murphy to be almost infuriatingly talented, and I use that word specifically because I have such mixed emotions over what he actually makes versus what he is capable of making.

That's why I asked that initial question. When Eddie Murphy first exploded onto the national consciousness, the thing that was most arresting about him was that full-volume need to entertain that just poured out of him. I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone work the "Saturday Night Live" studio audience quite the same way he did, before or since, and it was magic watching the way he could ride a wave of laughter or turn it up or get them to simmer down. The control was what made Murphy seem so awesome, and it felt like he really did care about that audience and his connection to them.

The same was true of his concert albums or his concert films. I saw him live one time on the tour that was filmed for what eventually became "Eddie Murphy: Raw," and it was amazing. Even in an arena, packed to the rafters and noisy and no good for staging a comedy show, Murphy was able to create that connection to every person in that place, and he absolutely understood what was happening as that audience reacted to him.

Watch his recent movies, though. Tone-deaf doesn't even begin to describe it. One of the things I find most infuriating about Hollywood is how often I've met people who would not watch the movies they make if their own names weren't on them. That makes me crazy. I have a hard time picturing Eddie Murphy sitting down to watch "A Thousand Words" or "Imagine That" or "Meet Dave" for fun.

When I saw "Dreamgirls" for the first time, I walked out of the theater and ran into the director, Bill Condon, and found myself almost in tears as I tried to explain to him how much it meant to me to see an Eddie Murphy performance in a real movie that suggested that all the talent and potential we've seen in him is still in there, still ready to be tapped by the right filmmaker on the right project.

But now… I'm not so sure I believe that. I mean, I think talent is talent. Eddie has bags of it, and any time he wants to, he could tap into it, but I don't believe that's the goal anymore. I don't think Eddie particularly likes movies anymore. I don't believe Eddie particularly likes the business. And I don't believe he reads projects based on what excites him or makes him reconnect to that eager 19 year old kid who burned so incredibly bright.

Instead, the most cynical part of me hears the description of "Cook," and it sounds to me like Oscar-bait. Having Beresford direct is the thing that really makes me itch. I don't think I'd want to make that movie twice, but Beresford is in the same boat as Eddie, someone who hasn't really put it together in a significant way in a while now, and it feels like he's retreating to safety. That's never the best place for a filmmaker to be when making something. And if the primary reason Eddie's making the film is so he can potentially be in that Oscar conversation again, as he was with "Dreamgirls," I wonder why. After all, he was clearly incensed when he didn't win that night, and the Oscar season requires a type of campaigning that Murphy's clearly not interested in, so he'll most likely never actually win. Instead, he'll just put himself through an ordeal again that won't result in the prize, rendering it all pointless and frustrating.

When I look at a future that includes a "Twins" sequel called "Triplets" and a "Beverly Hills Cop 4," I'll admit it… I sort of hate Eddie Murphy. Those films sound vile. "Twins" was a bloated, miserable, unfunny CAA deal memo that somehow got released as a movie, and a sequel to it is not only unnecessary, it is an act of aggression against the audience, a spirited "F U" to the entire notion of demand driving the act of making sequels. And as someone who saw the TV pilot for "Beverly Hills Cop," completely with painful obligatory Eddie Murphy cameo, I am comfortable stating that Axel Foley has left the goddamn building.

Maybe "Cook" will be great. Maybe Eddie will show up and deliver. But I've noticed that the only times he truly seems free now are when he's not the one we're looking at onscreen. If Rick Baker builds him a suit that renders him unrecognizable, or if he's doing an animated voice, he seems to come to life. But when it's him onscreen, there is something, some strange barricade, that seems to hold him back, and it gets more pronounced the older Eddie gets. So unless Rick Baker's going to completely transform him for this, I'm not sure I buy that Eddie Murphy has it in him to do something we've never seen before. I think that time passed.

And as a fan of Eddie Murphy, it sort of breaks my heart.

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'John Carter' could head back to Mars now that Disney has lost the film rights
Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

'John Carter' could head back to Mars now that Disney has lost the film rights

Andrew Stanton's movie is about to become a cautionary tale for new filmmakers

My guess is that it will not take as long for us to see a second "John Carter" movie as it did for the first one to get made.

It still seems sort of amazing that it took almost 100 years for John Carter to jump from the pages of the stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs to the big-screen, especially considering how many other properties took direct inspiration, sometimes to the point of theft, from the writing of Burroughs. While "John Carter" does not completely work, and it definitely suffers from having to follow many of its antecedents into the pop culture arena, it at least managed to capture some of the spirit of the source material.

Andrew Stanton's film may prove invaluable to whoever steps up next to try to turn the property into a viable big-screen franchise. They'll be able to learn from the casting, from the marketing, from the creative choices that worked and the ones that didn't. And make no mistake… someone will try. Even as a flop, the film raised the awareness level of the underlying material, and as I've said a few times now, I think pulp is starting to make a creep into the mainstream.

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Film Nerd 2.0: How 'Minecraft,' 'My Bodyguard,' and 'Meatballs' help with a changing family
Credit: Lionsgate Home Video

Film Nerd 2.0: How 'Minecraft,' 'My Bodyguard,' and 'Meatballs' help with a changing family

We look at how movies can help create a dialogue when we need it most

"When are they going to kill a bear?!"

Allen appears to have missed the point of "Meatballs," but we'll get to that presently.

I have been on the road for much of this last eight weeks. A few days here, a few days there, ten days here, ten days there. As a result, there's been a lack of connection between me and my sons. That's been exasperated, of course, by the fact that we no longer share a primary residence, something that is new to all of us.

I know I'm not inventing the wheel here. Any parent who's gone through a divorce has had to figure out how to invent a new space for them to exist with their kids, whatever the situation is. My wife has an advantage, one that I specifically wanted her to have, which is the house that my kids have grown up in. I think they need some sense of continuity right now, and both of us being in new homes would be really difficult. They get to spend the majority of their time, and their school week, at the place that they've known at home for the vast majority of their lives. For Allen, there's never been anything else.

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Jason Momoa talks how 'Aquaman' will draw on his Polynesian heritage
Credit: Lionsgate

Jason Momoa talks how 'Aquaman' will draw on his Polynesian heritage

Plus he confirms his appearance in 'Batman v Superman'

We confirmed that Jason Momoa would be playing Aquaman for you back in June of this year, and it's something that's been in the works for a lot longer than that. Until last week, though, Warner Bros. hadn't officially connected him to the role, and Momoa was still silent on the subject. Now that Warner Bros. has finally revealed their DC Universe game plan, with Momoa right there in the midst of it, the actor is able to discuss how excited he is about the role and his approach to it.

According to a report from this weekend's Walker Stalker Con in Atlanta, Momoa talked about the months of denials he's had to give to reporters asking him about the role. "Listen, I was asked to play it. You know, you audition and stuff like that, but the fact is you've just got to keep it quiet. You know what I mean? I was just trying to respect Warner Bros. and everyone's wishes. I'm really, really happy that I don't have to be quiet anymore, because that's really hard for me."

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<p>Spoilers make Batman sad.</p>

Spoilers make Batman sad.

Credit: Warner Bros/Clay Enos

Local reporter believes Detroit extra knows major character spoiler for 'Batman v Superman'

Watch how this game of Internet Telephone evolved

Warner Bros has been hard at work on "Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice" in Detroit, where local news crews have been stalking the film, trying to break whatever they could about the production.

Now it appears one station is at the center of a controversy about information they revealed. While there are plenty of details that have already been confirmed about the film, the vast majority of what we'll see in March of 2016 is still a mystery. And good for them. Warner Bros. has no other film in production right no that is more important to their overall game plan for their tentpole movies for the next six years. Forget about the creative side for a moment… just in terms of numbers, this movie matters more to them than anything else they're making right now. If it works, they are off to the races. If it doesn't, then they're looking at a whole slate of stuff they might start second-guessing.

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Review: Tatum is hilarious in smart and funny cross-cultural family film 'Book Of Life'
Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: Tatum is hilarious in smart and funny cross-cultural family film 'Book Of Life'

This one doesn't look like any other movie in theaters right now

Right away, "The Book Of Life" is appealing to me on a purely visual level. Simply put, this is a film that is delightful to look at, pretty much start to finish. Using CG to create a tactile world and a style that feels like part puppet, part cartoon gives the characters an unusual quality.

It's kind of a lovely moment for family-audience movies right now. If you're in the right area this weekend, your options include "The Book Of Life," "The Boxtrolls," and "The Tale of Princess Kaguya," all of which are excellent exercises in voice. It's true that Pixar and Dreamworks have house styles, that there is a thread that runs through the way their films look and feel that unites them. And it's hard not to get used to it. Familiarity sometimes hurts the reception to these films because we're used to seeing them get it right. It's still an incredible accomplishment any time you make a good animated film, a monumental task of artistry and collaboration, and we sometimes take for granted that big companies make it look easy.

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