<p>Bilbo Baggins prepares to sneak away in the dead of night in a scene from 'The Hobbit:&nbsp;An Unexpected Journey'</p>

Bilbo Baggins prepares to sneak away in the dead of night in a scene from 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'

Credit: Warner Bros/New Line

Review: Is 'very good' good enough for 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'?

HitFix
B
Readers
C+
Peter Jackson's return to Middle-Earth frustrates at times, transports at others

Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey" is an above-average fantasy film, a dense piece of entertainment that packs more visual wonder into its two-and-three-quarter hour run than seems possible.  It is a very good movie.  I say that upfront because any discussion about what does or doesn't work about the movie is going make some people very angry since they've been waiting to see it since 2003.  If a careful appraisal of the films flaws (and there are many) is upsetting to a fan who wants perfection from what they'll see in theaters later this month, then please just skim down and read the positive things I have to say, then go see it for yourself.

When I reviewed "Fellowship Of The Ring," it is safe to say that I lost my ever-lovin' mind for it.

I remain a huge fan of not only that film, but of every combination of footage consisting of "The 'Lord Of The Rings' Trilogy. The theatrical films, the extended editions, the DVD sets, the Blu-ray editions, an upgrade every time.  I think it is a major accomplishment in the history of fantastic filmmaking, drawing on horror, science-fiction, fantasy, and even historical dramas in terms of how it was crafted and paced and designed and executed.  Peter Jackson tried something that no one else had ever done on that scale, and he pulled it off with aplomb.

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<p>Guillermo Del Toro accepted a special award at the Eyegore Awards this September, and anyone who knows what those are is probably excited to hear he's making a haunted house movie next.</p>

Guillermo Del Toro accepted a special award at the Eyegore Awards this September, and anyone who knows what those are is probably excited to hear he's making a haunted house movie next.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello/Invision

Guillermo Del Toro brings haunted house movie 'Scarlet Peak' back to life

A long-dormant project may be his next film as a director

Guillermo Del Toro's building a haunted house, and I can't wait to move in.

One of the most fertile collaborations of Guillermo's entire career is the work he's done with Matthew Robbins as co-screenwriters.  There is something perversely funny about the notion that "Mimic" is the one thing that they co-wrote that has made it to the screen so far, because that is the least of the work they've done as a team.  They wrote a script called "Montecristo" that is a dark, wicked retelling of "The Count Of Monte Cristo" that floored me when I first read it, and their adaptation of "At The Mountains Of Madness" is a veritable master's class of how to create a sense of creeping dread on the page.

If you're unfamiliar with Robbins, he's been around for a while.  He wrote with Hal Barwood for a while in the '70s on films like "The Sugarland Express" and "Close Encounters," and he wrote and directed "Corvette Summer," "The Legend Of Billie Jean," "*batteries not included," and his best film, "Dragonslayer."  He and Guillermo have a great chemistry on the page, and anytime they set up a new project, it is an exciting prospect.

In this case, Legendary Pictures is picking up a project in turnaround from Universal, who may still end up co-funding the film, and it looks like "Crimson Peak" may well be the next film Guillermo directs, with hopes that they'll kick off production in early 2014.  In the meantime, Lucinda Coxon is going to take a run at the script with input from Del Toro.  I reached out to him today to ask for a little context, and here's what he said:

We wrote it "hush-hush" as a spec in and around 2006.  Universal acquired it by a big spec sum. It was to be my "next"  and then HELLBOY came through and then HOBBIT.   I have been keeping it close to my heart and vest and, fortunately, the interwebs never quite spoke about it.  But when I came out of Hobbit and said I was intending to resurrect a project of yore this and Montecristo were alongside with ATMOM the things I pushed for.

I hope that at some point, "Montecristo" ends up getting made, and of course I'm still praying someone gives them the money to make "At The Mountains Of Madness," but knowing that Guillermo plans to make a Gothic haunted house movie in the near future is more than enough to excite me.  And the best thing about this entire story is that Guillermo is obviously having a great experience with Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, and the other fine folks at Legendary Pictures.  I would love for this to finally be the deep-pocketed home he has needed his whole career.

In the meantime, of course, he's got "Pacific Rim" coming out next summer, and his animated take on "Pinocchio," also co-written with Robbins, is in production as well.

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<p>I wonder if they pinched him for speeding.</p>

I wonder if they pinched him for speeding.

Credit: Warner Bros/Legendary

New 'Man Of Steel' poster sees Superman in handcuffs

A Facebook contest earns fans a sneak peek at a striking new image

I'll say this for the new "Man Of Steel" poster… it's a very different image than I would expect to see on a Superman poster, and that's a good thing.

Zack Snyder recently said that the trailer that is arriving in theaters in front of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is going to be "crazy," and I believe him.  More than anything, I want "Man Of Steel" to shake up the very idea of what a Superman film has been in the past.

Considering just how significant "Superman: The Movie" was to the history of superhero films, you have to acknowledge the bad influence it had as well as the good.  Yes, there is a lovely lead performance by Reeve.  Yes, the second one had very menacing villain characters.  Yes, the John Williams score is one of the best of the genre.  There are things Donner did right that are still being mimicked by directors now.  But the campy tone with the villains, the nonsensical nature of the plots… those things are also still resonating through the new superhero films being made. 

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<p>I'm hoping for a little more of this, a little less of Earth once we finally lay eyes on 'Star Trek Into Darkness'</p>

I'm hoping for a little more of this, a little less of Earth once we finally lay eyes on 'Star Trek Into Darkness'

Credit: Paramount Pictures

'Star Trek Into Darkness' gets an oddly familiar teaser poster

Next summer's science-fiction megasequel starts its campaign with a blast

Boy, the Internet is gonna break today.

As if there weren't already a thousand breathless rants revving up on message boards everywhere about the "Justice League" rumor that broke a few hours ago, there's also a new "Star Trek Into Darkness" poster that reveals…

… well, I'm still not sure what it reveals.

The people who point out that the poster seems to mimic some of the imagery and layout of the posters for "The Dark Knight" are correct, and that's really no surprise.  Marketing tends to have one truly new idea in film marketing every few years and then ten thousand echoes of that one new idea.  Marketing is all about successfully selling something, so if there's a campaign that pushes a film to a billion-dollar worldwide gross, of course the marketing people are going to cannibalize that campaign for years afterwards, as often as they can until it doesn't work anymore.

The use of the Starfleet Delta emblem suggested by the shape of the destruction is a strong visual element… and definitely calls back those "Dark Knight" posters, which must be frustrating in a way.  After all, if it works, and if that destruction plays a key, iconic part in the story that JJ Abrams and crew are telling in the new "Star Trek," then that's a good idea for the poster.  But the comparison is going to dog them no matter what, and in the hour and a half since the poster arrived online, that's all I've seen.

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<p>Darkseid, seen here at the end of 'The Avengers,' is... wait, I think I'm confused about something.</p>

Darkseid, seen here at the end of 'The Avengers,' is... wait, I think I'm confused about something.

Credit: Walt Disney Company/Marvel

'Justice League' finds a villain as Warner keeps aping Marvel's playbook

Is it really as simple as 'do whatever 'The Avengers' did'?

I have a serious question for the team that Warner Bros. is putting together on what will no doubt be one of their biggest films of 2015:  do you really want to spend the next two and a half year basically riding Marvel's tail, imitating every move they make, or do you want to start building a stand-alone film universe in which you can do almost anything?

I ask because right now, Warner Bros. is setting itself up for a fall.  They are making choices that look from the outside to be made out of a kind of corporate fear instead of setting the stage for themselves in a way that will both excite fans and invite in new viewers.  They are dealing with several different factors that seem to be causing this potentially-costly poor decision making, and they need to carefully consider what they're doing before they commit to things.

According to Latino Review this morning, Darkseid will be the threat that will unite Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter and more, and if that's true, then more than ever before, it looks like they really are trying to do exactly the same thing "The Avengers" did, but skipping all the carefully-laid groundwork that made it so exciting when "The Avengers" finally happened.  Darkseid is the ruler of Apokolips, and he has consistently proven himself to be one of the biggest threats in the DC Universe.

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<p>Megan Fox plays against expectation with her sharp and knowing work as Desi in Judd Apatow's new film 'This Is 40'</p>

Megan Fox plays against expectation with her sharp and knowing work as Desi in Judd Apatow's new film 'This Is 40'

Credit: Universal Pictures

Two new 'This Is 40' clips feature a bikini-clad Megan Fox and a rowdy Rudd and Mann

As we get closer to the film's release, new clips show off some great character beats

I'm not shocked to see mixed reactions to Judd Apatow's new film "This Is 40."  At this point, Apatow is making fairly personal films, and there's a voice to these movies that isn't going to please every single audience.  But that's exactly what I like about his work in general.  I like how particular those choices are, how close to the edge of unlikeable he allows his characters to be.  So often, people have their rough edges sanded off by studio movies, so someone's either all good or all bad, and I think any rational adult knows that simply is not the case.

Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) were stand-out character in "Knocked Up" when they first appeared, and while this isn't a direct sequel to that film, it makes sense that Judd would return to them to tell this particular story.  The age of 40 is a major milestone, but I'm not sure it means what it used to mean.  I'm 42 now, and I feel like my adult life is still revving up.  It used to be that 40 was a shift into middle-age, but these days, people end up switching careers several times and reinventing themselves and 40 is now often an age where people are still figuring themselves out.

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<p>I cannot explain why JCVD's wearing white paint all over his bald head in this scene, but I'm sure it has nothing to do with Col. Kurtz.</p>

I cannot explain why JCVD's wearing white paint all over his bald head in this scene, but I'm sure it has nothing to do with Col. Kurtz.

Credit: Magnet Releasing

Review: Loopy and brutal 'Universal Soldier 4' should make fans Van Damme happy

I am so so sorry for that headline, but I would do it again in a heartbeat

I was going to write a formal review of "Universal Soldier 4: Day Of Reckoning," and then I put it in the player tonight and the following happened on Twitter:

"Okay, 'Universal Soldier 4,' here's your chance. Thrill me.

I will say that it's a good sign that the first face I see in the film is Scott Adkins. That guy is awesome.

So far, Adkins seems to be doing nice work playing a sensitive father dealing with a personal trauma. When does he kick someone's spine out?

I'll say this much for 'Universal Soldier 4': I'm 40 minutes in and I have no idea what the hell is going on.

I am compelled to keep watching if only for the freaky Jean Claude Van Brando thing they're going for. #thehorror #thehorror

Scott Adkins just got superpowers. Not sure why, but Scott Adkins with superpowers means I keep watching.

Two, two, two times the Adkins! Two, two, two times the confusion!

I love that Adkins is in 'Zero Dark 30," but watching this, I wonder why they didn't send him after Bin Laden alone. Woulda been easier.

Another way they could have improved 'Zero Dark 30'? Jean Claude Bin Laden.

John Hyams loves 'Blade Runner,' 'Apocalypse Now,' and dudes kicking holy hell out of other dudes."


Technically, I feel like I could leave it at that and we'd be good.  That is a very accurate moment-to-moment summary of how odd it is to sit through the film, but I do have a little more to say about it.  When I say I had no idea what was going on, that's not hyperbole.  There were stretches where I was baffled by the things people were doing or the way they were behaving or just the simplest of exchanges between them. 

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<p>This pretty much sums up why I&nbsp;love video games.</p>

This pretty much sums up why I love video games.

Credit: Ubisoft

Ubisoft dazzles with a ten-minute 'Far Cry 3' launch trailer

There's a lot of hype here, but it looks like it may live up to it

It blows me away when I see some of the work being done in videogames today.  I spend very little time writing about games here on the site, and part of the reason for that is that when I play a game, it is (A) far too infrequently for my tastes and (B) the way I choose to escape from that analytical mode that I'm in while watching pretty much any film or TV show these days.  I love games.  I love the way they've evolved over the years.  And while I have strong opinions about the games I play, that has not been something I've consistently voiced over the years.

Right now, what intrigues me is the way the marketing of games is getting very sophisticated.  The campaign for "Halo 4" was impressive, with that one live-action commercial that was produced by David Fincher, and I really dug the "Grand Theft Auto V" trailer that was recently released.  But when it comes to really pulling out all the stops, I'm going to have to give it up for Ubisoft's new ten-minute sneak peek at the highly-anticipated "Far Cry 3."

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<p>Rob Corddry, Keegan Michael Key, and Leslie Bibb all grapple with the supernatural in 'Hell Baby'</p>

Rob Corddry, Keegan Michael Key, and Leslie Bibb all grapple with the supernatural in 'Hell Baby'

Credit: Darko Entertainment

Sundance 2013 Midnight Line-up Including Demon Babies, Video Game Heroes, 'S-VHS' and more

Our first look at the announcement for the Sundance midnight selection seems promising

It does not seem possible that the next Sundance Film Festival is just over a month away now.

I mean, we're still waiting on screening dates for some of the Christmas movies, and now we're already poring over the Sundance announcements so we can figure out who's seeing what when Team HitFix descends on Park City once again for the start of the fest on January 17, 2013.

I know that I'm on midnights duty, as always, and in festival after festival, some of my favorite experiences come from the midnight line-ups.  It was at Sundance two years ago that I witnessed that amazing meltdown during a screening of Lucky McKee's "The Woman," and last year, I had my socks knocked off by "V/H/S," the anthology horror film.

Looking at the titles announced today, the first thing that jumps out is the follow-up to that anthology, and I had to laugh when I saw that they've titled it "S-VHS."  There will come a point when no one is alive who understands those two titles or remembers what they refer to, but for those of us who lived through the video revolution, that's immediately funny.  I'm excited to see the filmmakers behind "The Raid" involved in this one, and Eduardo Sanchez, who can be described as a pioneer of the found-footage genre, is also joining the roster.  Throw in Jason Eisener, the sociopath behind "Hobo With A Shotgun," and it sounds like it's going to be another huge kick.

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<p>I can see why you'd want someone very serious to handle this film.</p>

I can see why you'd want someone very serious to handle this film.

Credit: Marvel Studios/Disney

James Gunn skirts faux controversy as 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' closes in on cast

Comments from two years ago suddenly ignite some online indignation

Hey, guys, I don't want to speak out of turn, but I have a sneaking suspicion that James Gunn, who is writing and directing "Guardians Of The Galaxy" for Marvel, likes really, really dirty jokes.

I can't prove it, but it's just one of those feelings I get.  Maybe it's because I've seen his Troma movies.  Or because I've watched his "PG Porn" shorts or because I saw "Super," his deranged little riff on the superhero film, or because he is pretty much a non-stop blast of filthy and funny on Twitter.  If you've seen "Slither," then I think you've got the basic idea, which is that there is no line James Gunn is unafraid to cross for no other reason that It amuses him.

The first thing I heard today about "Guardians" was that they're about to start screen-testing guys for the lead, and it's a cool short list of guys who could all bring something different to the part.  I like Joel Edgerton a lot, but don't know Jack Huston at all.  I haven't watched "Boardwalk Empire" yet, and if he's in something else I've seen, I don't recognize the name.  Jim Sturgess was really good in "Cloud Atlas," and I'll have my full review of Eddie Redmayne in "Les Miserables" soon.  The name that mosts interests me on this list is Lee Pace, who was really good in "Twilght: Breaking Dawn, Part 2."  Yes, I know I just put the phrase "really good" in the same sentence as the title of that film, but Pace shows up and it's like he's just stepped in from another much more fun version of the franchise.  He could be a great unexpected choice for Peter Quill, who is half-human, half-alien, and the leader of the Guardians.

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