<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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<p>This is as good as things get, and they don't ever get this good again in the brilliant and angry 'Cheap Thrills'</p>

This is as good as things get, and they don't ever get this good again in the brilliant and angry 'Cheap Thrills'

Credit: Drafthouse Films/Snoot Entertainment

Review: 'Cheap Thrills' is a black-comedy masterpiece about the way we live today

HitFix
A
Readers
n/a
A pitch-perfect cast makes this one hurt

AUSTIN - The biggest acquisition story out of this year's SXSW festival so far came when Drafthouse Films picked up "Cheap Thrills," and now that I've seen the film, I can vouch that it is money well-spent.

Drafthouse Films has demonstrated eclectic taste in what they will or won't pick up so far, and any company that will release "Miami Connection" and "Bullhead" and give both the same amount of attention and support is a company that intrigues me. This summer, they're releasing "The Act Of Killing," a documentary that made my top ten list last year after I saw it at the Toronto Film Festival, and while I think that's an incredibly important release, and a film that I want people to see, a documentary about an Indonesian genocide is not the easiest sell of all time. I recognize that they're taking a big chance with that film, and I respect that they're willing to do it. Any distributor who wants to stay in business has to play the commercial game as well, and "Cheap Thrills" is the sort of pick-up that I can get behind critically, but that has a real shot at being a commercial title for them as well, and that is exciting.

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<p>LOOK&nbsp;AT&nbsp;HIM.</p>

LOOK AT HIM.

Credit: Universal Pictures

First red-band 'Kick-Ass 2' trailer comes out swinging and cursing and leaving a mark

Jim Carrey joins the cast in what looks like the year's wildest superhero ride

Just before Thanksgiving of last year, I spent four days at Pinewood Studios outside of London to see them wrapping up production on "Kick-Ass 2." At the end of the visit, I got to see about 20 minutes of the film, a sizzle reel that director Jeff Wadlow put together to show the cast and crew what they'd been working on so very hard, and I walked away from that deeply impressed.

Today, the red-band trailer has gone live, and Mark Millar has been counting down the hours until that premiere on Twitter, giddy because he knows what Wadlow's made, and he's justifiably excited by it. If you didn't like the first "Kick-Ass," you may not be the audience for this new one, but if you did like the first film, they've made a sequel here that seems to be poised to genuinely up the stakes from the first film while building logically onto the characters and events we saw in that movie.

You get a glimpse here of how Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson) and Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) have been spending their time in the years since the death of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Frank DeMarco (Mark Strong), and you also get a glimpse of the way they've changed the world around them. They've inspired other people to start dressing in costumes and standing up to criminals, and they begin to assemble these people into a group, figuring there must be safety in numbers. One of the most outrageous new additions to the cast this time is Jim Carrey playing Colonel Stars'n'Stripes. Look closely at him when you see him in the trailer. It's a pretty heavy set of prosthetics that Carrey designed to wear in the film, and he looks like he leapt off the pages of the comic, like John Romita Jr. drew him for the film.

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<p>Um, Sheri, you have something on your face</p>

Um, Sheri, you have something on your face

Credit: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Exclusive: Rob Zombie's 'Lords Of Salem' gets two new one-sheets

A conversation at SXSW ends with an online premiere

AUSTIN - A few minutes ago, I concluded the "Conversation With Rob Zombie" panel that I moderated by physically premiering the new one-sheets for the film in the room, and now we've got them here for you online as well.

Zombie is in town to show and discuss his new film "The Lords Of Salem," and the conversation we had about the film today was a good one.  I think it's interesting that they asked me to moderate the panel, as I've been very frank in print about my reaction to each of his films. Some of them I like, some of them I don't, and I was concerned at first that it was going to create some tension between us as a result. Nothing of the sort, as it happens, because Zombie genuinely doesn't seem to care about critical reaction. He seems to be the sort of filmmaker who had realized at this point that he's got to be happy with the work, and once he is, anything else that happens is almost irrelevant.

We talked about the development of the film, and he's continued to work on it even after I saw it at the Toronto Film Festival in the fall. There was one more round of editing to tweak the opening of the film and some individual moments within it, and the version that played here is the same one that will open in April. We also discussed his other work, including the new album he has coming out in April, the book version of "Lords" that arrives in stores today, and even his plans for what could have been a feature version of "Werewolf Women Of The SS" if only "Grindhouse" had made some money.

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<p>They only made one.</p>

They only made one.

Credit: Automat Pictures/Andrew Curtis

Review: New documentary does right by a cult movie icon in 'I Am Divine'

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
The real story behind John Waters's greatest movie star

AUSTIN - No horror movie has ever given me the same amount of anxiety before seeing it that "Pink Flamingos" did.

The first time I read about the film, I remember recoiling completely at every single part of the description. It was in Danny Peary's book "Cult Movies," and when I picked that book up in 1981, I read through it in about three days, and it started me on a search to see all the films in the book as quickly as possible. The only film that I hesitated about in any way was "Pink Flamingos." It didn't help that I read the J. Hoberman/Jonathan Rosenbaum "Midnight Movies" not long after that, and their chapter on John Waters only made me more sure I was afraid of everything that film stood for.  I was still in my early teens, and while I was drawn almost innately to the wilder fringes of film, my own personal life experience was so alien to what it sounded like Waters captured in his films that I just cringed at the idea of seeing them.

Now, at the age of 42, I laugh at the idea of ever having been afraid of Divine or John Waters or the films they made together. I may not love every one of their collaborations, but I love that they collaborated. I love that they found each other, and that along with the rest of the lunatics who were part of Dreamland Studios, like David Lochary or Mink Stole or Edith Massey, they made movies that didn't capture a subculture so much as they launched one. John Waters has been so thoroughly embraced by the mainstream at this point that it's hard to remember a time he was considered a purely underground artist, but the new documentary "I Am Divine" does a great job of showing how Glenn Milstead went from being a nice Baltimore kid to being a drag icon who shocked the world.

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