<p>The new animated film from the director of 'How To Train Your Dragon' and 'Lilo &amp;&nbsp;Stitch' may play the jokes broad, but there's real heart to the way it portrays family.</p>

The new animated film from the director of 'How To Train Your Dragon' and 'Lilo & Stitch' may play the jokes broad, but there's real heart to the way it portrays family.

Credit: Dreamworks Animation

Review: 'The Croods' may be obvious, but its heart is in the right place

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
Strong vocal performances anchor a silly but sentimental film

Chris Sanders seems to me to be one of the shining stars in the animation world right now, and while I don't think his new film 'The Croods' is as great as either "How To Train Your Dragon" or "Lilo & Stitch," it's still a solid execution of a fairly simple idea. There are some visually breathtaking moments, and the family material in the film is executed with real heart, directly and honestly. For families who have been waiting for a movie to see together for most of the spring, "The Croods" is going to be a welcome sight, indeed.

Eep (voiced by Emma Stone) is a typical teenage girl, bristling at the restrictive rules her parents live by, eager to see the wider world around her, and able to hunt and kill prey with her bare hands. She is, after all, a caveman. Or cavegirl. Or whatever you'd call her. She lives with her father Grug (Nicolas Cage), her mother Ugga (Catherine Keener), her brother Thunk (Clark Duke), her grandmother (Cloris Leachman), and her baby sister Sandy, and they spend most of their time blocked safely in their cave, afraid of the outside world. They venture out to eat, and that's about it. Grug believes the entire world is a threat, and there's value in fear. To his credit, pretty much everyone they've ever known has been eaten or stepped on or otherwise killed, and they are the last of their kind that they know of, so there's some justification for the way Grug feels.

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<p>I hope he looks exactly like this is the new movie, but it's otherwise gritty and dark. That would rule.</p>

I hope he looks exactly like this is the new movie, but it's otherwise gritty and dark. That would rule.

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Disney's got David Lowery jumping from a Sundance triumph to the 'Pete's Dragon' remake

Does this mean Shane Carruth might direct? Probably not, but let us dream

I should start this by saying that David Lowery was a regular contributor of reviews to Ain't Cool News for many years while I was an editor at the site. He wrote as "Ghostboy," and he was always one of the quietest but most consistent of the reviewers we had sending us material. I always looked forward to seeing what he had to say, and he had a good eye for films that were worth catching up with as soon as possible. I've "known" David online for years, but to my great amusement, we've still never actually met.

This year, Lowery was all over Sundance. He was the editor of "Upstream Color," the Shane Carruth film, he was the writer of "Pit Stop," and he made his feature directorial debut with "Ain't Them Bodies Saints."  There's not one of those three films that would have given me any indication that he would be the person Disney would turn to in the hopes of rebooting "Pete's Dragon."

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<p>It's been a long journey from the original Japanese film to the new American reboot, but it looks like Godzilla may finally be scary again next summer.</p>

It's been a long journey from the original Japanese film to the new American reboot, but it looks like Godzilla may finally be scary again next summer.

Credit: Toho Studios

'Godzilla' begins production and Gareth Edwards says hello from the set

Hard to believe the big guy's back in theaters in just over a year

Today, for the first time in a while, there is a Godzilla movie shooting somewhere in the world.

I can't believe it was 2004 when I wrote about the Hollywood premiere of "Godzilla: Final Wars." At the time, Toho was experiencing some kaiju fatigue, and they declared that they were finished. They've actually stuck true to their word in the years since, and as a result, Godzilla has been absent from the bigscreen for the better part of a decade now.

Considering what an important overall cultural icon he is, it's sort of amazing they've been willing to keep him off-screen for this long. Toho considers him one of the most important assets they own as a studio, and the decision to allow Hollywood to take another crack at the character could not have been an easy one for them.

This has been a long and careful process for Legendary Pictures, too. They know how badly things went with the Devlin/Emmerich version, and they seem to understand what some of the most pronounced mistakes were with that film. But knowing what's wrong and fixing what was wrong are two different things, and Legendary has been moving slowly during pre-production on this because they didn't want to screw it up a second time.

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<p>Tina Fey should take Paul Rudd and that suitcase and take off in search of a better script than 'Admission'</p>

Tina Fey should take Paul Rudd and that suitcase and take off in search of a better script than 'Admission'

Credit: Focus Features

Review: 'Admission' wastes the considerable charms of Tina Fey and Paul Rudd

HitFix
C-
Readers
n/a
The director of 'About A Boy' whiffs his latest adaptation of a novel

I haven't read the novel by Jean Hanff Koreltiz that served as the source material for the new film "Admission," but Karen Croner's screenplay is one of those films where the lead characters are ostensibly smart people who do some oddly not-so-smart things for reasons that seem less than genuine. I wouldn't call "Admission" a bad film, but I think it's a muted pleasure at best, even with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd both doing their best to keep things light and charming.

Fey stars as Portia Nathan, who works at Princeton as one of the gatekeepers who help decide who gets into the school and who doesn't. Portia is portrayed as one of those people who has no real life outside of her job as the film begins, and she seems fine with that. Her devotion is one of the reasons she ends up as a candidate to replace her boss (Wallace Shawn), the department head who is about to retire. All she has to do is buckle down for one more admissions season, do her job as well as she always has, and then reap the rewards.

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<p>Just how many spy franchises does one man need?</p>

Just how many spy franchises does one man need?

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Is signing Tom Cruise to star in 'Man From UNCLE' an impossible mission?

Guy Ritchie's big-screen version is looking for a lead

When I was in Las Vegas a few weeks ago for the "Incredible Burt Wonderstone" press day, part of what we did involved a tour of David Copperfield's private magic museum. In order to get into the museum, you have to go through an outer room that is a reproduction of the men's wear store that his parents owned. Before showing us the secret door that would open the door to the inner warehouse, Copperfield told us that his favorite show as a kid was "The Man From UNCLE," and as soon as he said it, the theme started playing.

To some degree, "The Man From UNCLE" has always been the poor cousin to other spy shows. Norman Felton is the creator of the show, but his work was overshadowed by the publicity around Ian Fleming, who created two characters for the show. Napoleon Solo and April Dancer (who later served as the lead in "The Girl From UNCLE") both came from the back-and-forth between Fleming and Felton, and there was a point where the show was going to be called "Ian Fleming's Solo." The James Bond producers sued to prevent the show from using Fleming's name in the promotions for the show, and his work was just a small part of the overall premise. Producer Sam Rolfe also played a big part in coming up with the details of how UNCLE worked. Once the show went on the air, it was quickly turned into a buddy show, with Robert Vaughn playing Solo and David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin. The series ran for 105 episodes in the mid-to-late '60s, and it was a massive cultural hit.

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<p>Simon Baker, Anna Faris, Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall have got some serious issues to work out in the deconstructionist romantic comedy 'I Give It A Year'</p>

Simon Baker, Anna Faris, Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall have got some serious issues to work out in the deconstructionist romantic comedy 'I Give It A Year'

Credit: Working Title

Review: Rafe Spall and Rose Byrne headline fresh and funny anti-romantic comedy 'I Give It A Year'

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
Supporting players score big laughs in a sly deconstruction of a genre

AUSTIN - Dan Mazer has built a career based on a very particular type of humor. As a writer/producer, he's been involved in "Da Ali G Show," "Borat," "Bruno," and "The Dictator," and he's helped define Sacha Baron Cohen's public persona in the process. Now with his first feature film as a writer/director, he's turned his attention to the Working Title romantic comedy formula, and "I Give It A Year" manages to parody the structure of those films while playing as an actual one at the same time. No easy feat, that, and I was surprised by how well Mazer manages the balancing act.

Josh (Rafe Spall) and Nat (Rose Byrne) meet, fall in love, and tie the knot all within seven months of meeting one another, and from the very start, their marriage seems like a bad fit. It would be easy to make one of them the bad guy in this film to make it clear whose fault things are, but Mazer instead paints both of them as decent people who simply might not be suited for each other. The weakest element in the film is a structure that involves both of them talking to a marriage counsellor played by the great Olivia Colman, and those scenes play like they're cut in from another movie. The actual day-to-day struggle between Josh and Nat is written well, and it's only gradually that Mazer starts to bring in Chloe (Anna Faris) and Guy (Simon Baker), who seem like far better-suited partners to Josh and Nat.

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<p>Eleven-year-old me spent all of Halloween night 1981 trying to explain to the adults in the neighborhood who Snake Plissken is. It did not end well.</p>

Eleven-year-old me spent all of Halloween night 1981 trying to explain to the adults in the neighborhood who Snake Plissken is. It did not end well.

Credit: MGM/UA Home Entertainment

Will Joel Silver finally 'Escape From New York'?

The long-in-development remake gets another shot at life

Even in an age where horror remakes seem to arrive every other week, the work of John Carpenter seems to be particularly picked over. Small wonder, though. Carpenter was a writer before he was a director, and he had a knack for creating films based around smart, easy to understand hooks. And of all of his films, one of the best loglines was for "Escape From New York." Talk about easy. New York is a prison now, and the President's plane crashes on it. One man is sent in to find the President and rescue him, and if he fails, he will die.

It would be accurate to say that the film has been unofficially remade any number of times now, including last year's "Space Jail" with Guy Pearce, or whatever the heck it was called. Neil Marshall's "Doomsday" went so far in its homage as to even use Carpenter's signature font for the film's credits.

There have been several attempts to remake "Escape From New York" in recent years. Ken Nolan, one of the "Black Hawk Down" writers, wrote a fairly faithful version of the movie that almost happened in 2007 with Gerard Butler attached to play Snake Plissken. What Nolan's script tried to do was flesh out the world around New York, while also delving slightly into the back story for Plissken that was suggested with a few key lines in Carpenter's script.

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<p>I feel like I should be put on a watch list just for putting a photo on this review. Sheeeeesh.</p>

I feel like I should be put on a watch list just for putting a photo on this review. Sheeeeesh.

Credit: Anapurna Pictures

Review: 'Spring Breakers' corrupts Gomez and Hudgens to sad and canny effect

HitFix
B
Readers
B+
Harmony Korine's new film is crazy like a fox

AUSTIN - Harmony Korine has been a provocateur since the start of his film career, and his new film "Spring Breakers" may be the single most controlled and subversive thing he's made so far. Hypnotic and garish, the film feels like it was assembled from terrible music videos, irritating internet memes, and the worst impulses of a generation of kids raised on gangster culture. It's going to be interesting to see how this one lands, because I think some people will judge it by its surface, while other people will engage with what feels like a deliberate piece of deconstructionist art.

Even the casting of the movie seems to be an attempt to play off the relationship people have with pop culture. Selena Gomez stars as Faith, and there's no way her background as a Disney Channel star was not part of Korine's thought process. Faith is the one good girl in the group, and at the start of the film, we see the things that all of the girls do for release.  For Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Cotty (Rachel Korine), that's drinking and smoking pot and dancing, and for Faith, that's church group and prayer. The four of them are all broke, frustrated that they can't go to spring break in Florida with everyone else, and Faith in particular is dying to get out of their small town, to see the world for the first time.

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<p>Olivia Wilde may have just done the best work of her career in 'Drinking Buddies,' but there are tons of fans who still want to see her suit up as Quorra again for a 'TRON:&nbsp;Legacy' sequel</p>

Olivia Wilde may have just done the best work of her career in 'Drinking Buddies,' but there are tons of fans who still want to see her suit up as Quorra again for a 'TRON: Legacy' sequel

Credit: HitFix

Olivia Wilde gives us an update on whether or not there will be a 'TRON: Legacy' sequel

If not, maybe she could just wear the costume occasionally for us

Man, I wish I'd seen "Drinking Buddies" before I went to Vegas for the press event we did for "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone."

Look, it's never a bad thing to sit down and have a conversation with Olivia Wilde. She's good at making each press day feel relaxed and casual, something not everyone can do. Often, when there's a new film getting ready to come out, I will get e-mail from readers who have certain things they are curious about. In the case of Wilde, I continue to get letters from people who want to know if Disney is moving forward on a new chapter in the "TRON" franchise.

I may not be the biggest fan of "TRON," but I recognize that there is an audience that wants to see more in that world, and asking her about it, it seems that Wilde has heard that same feedback. So far, that's really the biggest blockbuster role she's played, and if they are going to continue the series, she's a big part of what they set up.

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<p>Yeah, that's still awesome.</p>

Yeah, that's still awesome.

Credit: Universal Pictures

Will Steven Spielberg return to the franchise to direct 'Jurassic Park 4'?

If Universal wants the series to be an event again, the choice seems clear

I've heard some exciting things about the "Jurassic Park 3D" release that's coming in a few weeks, and I am looking forward to taking both Toshi and Allen to see the film on an IMAX screen in 3D. They're excited, and they've been talking about it since the release was first announced.

As we covered in Film Nerd 2.0, they saw the film on Blu-ray, and while it was definitely a formatively scary experience for them both, it's one that we had as a family, and at home, and they enjoyed it. They've seen the film many times since then, and they love the dinosaurs now. They love the scary scenes. They know most of them beat for beat.

Seeing the first "Jurassic Park" in the theater in 1993 was a huge cultural moment, and I really studied the way the screenings worked as I went back over and over. The T-rex attack in the middle of the film played like virtual reality. When it started, some tiny little part of the ancient animal brain inside each of us remembered that stark, existential fear that comes from being prey. Right now, we are not used to, as a species, being hunted and eaten. It is uncommon for us. We are the top of the food chain, a hard won placement that we've maintained for a long time now.

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