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Culture Cafe

Movie, music, and television reviews from a select group of bloggers.

Pixar sequels will include a new 'Incredibles' film, according to Pixar's president. (Walt Disney Studios/Pixar Animation/AP)

Pixar sequels: 'The Incredibles 2,' 'Cars 3' moving forward, says Pixar president

By Sandy SchaeferScreen Rant / 03.19.14

Many a person was relieved when Pixar president Ed Catmull offered his assurances that the beloved animation studio will, heron out, put renewed emphasis on the task of churning out quality original content – hence the company’s next two releases, Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur – rather than just prioritizing sequels and/or spinoffs of its previous hits (see: Cars 2, Monsters University, and so forth).

The plan moving forward – as Catmull described it – will be for Pixar to alternate between new intellectual properties and established franchise installments, on a year-by-year basis. We already knew that the list of upcoming sequels includes Finding Dory (i.e. the followup to Finding Nemo), but we can now officially add The Incredibles 2 to that list.

A sequel to The IncrediblesBrad Bird’s Oscar-winning 2004 computer-animated film about a family of superheroes – is something that many a person has been asking for, far more than any other prospective Pixar sequel mentioned to date.

In fact, yours truly can attest: pretty much every single time I’ve written about an upcoming Pixar movie (no matter what it is), someone inevitably leaves a comment expressing their desire to see the adventures of the middle-aged Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), his wife Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), their super-powered children Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Spencer Fox), and their friendly-neighbor Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) continue on the big screen.

Well, at long last, it appears that Disney/Pixar is ready to grant the masses of Incredibles die-hard fans their wish. Today, at the annual meeting for the shareholders and D23 members, Disney Chairman and CEO Robert A. Iger confirmed that not only is an Incredibles sequel being actively developed, but that Pixar and the Mouse House also have a third installment in the popular (though the least critically-respected among Pixar’s brands) Cars franchise planned and starting to move down the pipeline.

The news about Cars 3 is bound to generate far less excitement than the Incredibles 2 announcement. Fact is, after the comparatively lackluster Cars 2 – which many people still regard as superior to a lot of other kids-oriented entertainment on the market – and multiple less-than-memorable shorts focused around the tow-truck character Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), many a film buff tends to view the Cars franchise as being an easy way to make money for Disney/Pixar – and not much else.

On the other hand, the profitability of the Cars movies has eased pressure on Pixar and Bird to make Incredibles 2 as quickly as possible. Indeed, Bird has said on multiple times over the last decade that he’s never stopped brainstorming ideas for an Incredibles sequel, but has simply yet to find a premise that he believes has real potential – seeing how, like everyone else, he wants the sequel to match or improve upon the original film’s mix of rousing can-do action, engaging familial drama, and clever social commentary elements.

Hopefully, the reason that Incredibles 2 is now moving forward at a faster pace is because the creative minds over at Pixar have, at last, found a way to start cracking that especially difficult nut. Then again, it is Pixar; at this stage, its track record is still strong enough to ensure that any product the studio releases should have a reasonable amount of thought and care put it into. (Yes, even with something like Cars 3.)

As for Bird’s involvement as director on Incredibles 2, that isn’t guaranteed yet, even though (as reported by Variety) Iger says Bird is currently working on the screenplay. However, given his healthy working relationship with Disney (Bird is also putting together the sci-fi adventure Tomorrowland for the studio) – combined with his obvious affection for the franchise – there’s good reason to believe that Bird could end up calling the shots on this project.

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

Mila Kunis stars in the film 'Jupiter Ascending.' (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum star in 'Jupiter Ascending' – check out the trailer for the sci-fi film

By Robert Yaniz Jr.Screen Rant / 03.18.14

Andy and Lana Wachowski first burst onto the scene with the 1996 crime thriller Bound, but it was their sophomore effort – ground-breaking sci-fi action thriller The Matrix – that went on to define their careers. However, in the years since concluding The Matrix trilogy, the writing/directing duo has struggled to live up to the success of the Keanu Reeves-fronted film.

Both of their subsequent directorial efforts – 2008 live-action cartoon Speed Racer and ambitious 2012 epic Cloud Atlas (which they co-directed with Tom Tykwer) – failed to draw in large audiences, and while these two films have their share of defenders (read our Cloud Atlas review), neither has lived up to the promise (i.e. box office numbers) of their signature franchise. That being said, their latest offering – sci-fi epic Jupiter Ascending – could be a step in the right direction.

We’ve already seen the first U.S. trailer for the film – which stars Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis – and now we have our first look at the international trailer (see above). Narratively speaking, the latest footage doesn’t reveal much new information regarding the mysterious plot of the film, but questions are nothing new when it comes to the Wachowskis’ complex tales. The film’s visuals look impressive enough, and the quirky character design and juxtaposition of earthly elements with over-the-top sci-fi elements does bear some resemblance to another anticipated summer film, namely Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

Like Rocket Raccoon’s big-screen debut, Jupiter Ascending is certainly one of the industry’s riskiest releases this year. The film’s creators are positioning it as a “science fiction space opera” and claim that – not unlike Cloud Atlas - it meshes together several different genres. In that way, the film could follow the tradition of sci-fi epics like Star Wars and Avatar, or it could prove to be a John Carter sized financial misfire, despite the star status of Tatum (Magic Mike) and Kunis (Oz: The Great and Powerful).

At this point, it could go either way, but considering the Wachowskis’ track record, the film will likely feature breathtaking effects and at least attempt to bring something fresh to theaters. Whether or not the film actually pulls it off is perhaps the biggest question surrounding the mystery-laden world of Jupiter Ascending.

Robert Yaniz Jr. blogs at Screen Rant.

Emily VanCamp stars in 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier.' (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Emily VanCamp, Chris Evans star in 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' – what are early reviews saying? (+video)

By Sandy SchaeferScreen Rant / 03.17.14

Last year, Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World continued Marvel Studios’ dominance at the box office, as the beginning of “Phase 2″ for the studio’s Shared Cinematic Universe, following The Avengers becoming a massive critical/financial hit. Both the latest Iron Man and Thor movies played well with audiences overall, though between hardcore fans griping about the films’ (mis)treatment of their comic book mythology and more general complaints – like how, arguably, Marvel has thus far been treading water in “Phase 2″ – the hope has been that this year’s MCU releases will up the ante, quality-wise.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier has been generating lots of positive buzz over the past few weeks in particular, with recently-unveiled footage from the Cap sequel indicating that early word about directors Anthony and Joe Russo – drawing from a script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Captain America: The First Avenger) – having knocked this one out of the park, may’ve not been exaggeration after all.

The filmmakers behind Winter Solider have identified it as being a superhero movie by way of political thriller, suggesting that it could break new creative ground for Marvel Studios; inclusion of more than just elements of a non-comic book film genre (example: the sprinkles of buddy/action in Iron Man 3) would indeed be something innovative for the young studio.

In addition, buzz surrounding Markus and McFeely’s script has suggested that its plot beats will shakeup the MCU something fierce – whether through Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) character arc or via direct narrative repercussions for other Marvel properties, like its television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Similarly, insiders have been claiming that, with the Cap sequel, the Russo brothers have transitioned with ease from making cult TV comedy (Arrested Development, Community) to creating impressive big-budget spectacle.

So… is there actually some fire behind all this smoke? Well, have a look through the initial reactions posted to Twitter, by various movie bloggers and journalists who caught an early pre-release screening for Captain America: The Winter Soldier:

Steven Weintraub  @colliderfrosty

The CAPTAIN AMERICA sequel blew me away. Movie has a fantastic script, amazing action, and great character moments. Just about perfect.

1:14 AM - 11 Mar 2014

Germain Lussier @GermainLussier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is awesome. A tad too long, a tad too plotty, but its action & MCU impact will blow your damn mind.

2:45 AM - 11 Mar 2014 

Jarett Wieselman @JarettSays

Really liked Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Proves Joss isn't only 1 in Marvel's arsenal who can craft a compelling/fresh female char

1:18 AM - 11 Mar 2014 

Eric Eisenberg @eeisenberg

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is absolutely incredible. Best action in a Marvel solo movie and perhaps the best of them all - around.

1:06 AM - 11 Mar 2014

 Damon Houx  @houx

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER: Phase 2 is 3/3 for me. Anthony Mackie has finally found that breakthrough role.

1:43 AM - 11 Mar 2014

Don Kaye @donkaye

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER is right up there as one of the best Marvel movies ever. Epic and full of great surprises for fans.

2:39 AM - 11 Mar 2014

You can peruse through additional Twitter reactions to the early screening of the Captain America sequel at sites like Collider and /Film, but the above posts seem to provide a nice summary of what people are saying in general about the film thus far:
 

  • It’s the best of Marvel’s “Phase 2″ movies yet, and one of the strongest films overall released by the studio.
  • Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are given proper screen time and development, as promised.
  • Despite a tad-convoluted plot, this movie feels more like a genuine “shared universe” installment (see: complaints about Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World being too isolated and non-impactful on the greater MCU narrative).

That’s by and large encouraging to hear, for sure. Winter Soldier is not only heavily based on a particularly famous (and critically-acclaimed) Captain America comic book storylines – so fans want to see it done justice onscreen – but in addition the film is such a pivotal entry in the buildup to next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron (This summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy quite literally takes place too far away to have as much immediate impact on Joss Whedon’s Avengers sequel.)

No doubt, the actual reviews for the Captain America sequel will be more informative and detailed with their inspection of the film, giving us a better idea as to how successful the movie is as simply a good Steve Rogers story – not to mention, whether or not it really is a popcorn-thriller that has something to say about contemporary world politics. Still, we’ll take a good omen wherever we can it, especially given some of the important developments that lie ahead for the MCU (both during and as a result of Cap’s new adventure).

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

Elizabeth Olsen stars in 'Godzilla.' (Kevork Djansezian/Reuters)

Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston star in 'Godzilla' – here's the newest information from SXSW

By Sandy SchaeferScreen Rant / 03.14.14

Sixty years have passed since Ishirô Honda’s sci-fi/horror classic Godzilla (a.k.a. Gojira) tapped into the emotional aftermath of the Japan atomic bombings in WWII. Honda’s film ended up giving rise to a immensely popular giant monster franchise – one which has descended very deep into the realm of cornball B-movie entertainment over the decades since then, for good and bad.

It’s fitting, then, that director Gareth Edwards will unleash his reboot of the property this year, as the movie seeks to restore the eponymous Kaiju’ original image – as a genuinely menacing and terrifying force of nature, albeit for moviegoers in the new century. Trailer footage released from the new Godzilla has certainly painted a promising picture of the final outcome, as has Edwards’ palpable enthusiasm about the project (something that was apparent in his original 2012 Comic-Con appearance and the interviews that he’s done since then).

Edwards hosted a special screening of Honda’s original 1954 Godzilla movie at the 2014 South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Conference and Festival, which was followed by the showing of previously-unreleased material from the 2014 reboot. Some of the footage had been screened before at the movie’s 2013 Comic-Con panel, but much of it was new to the public – that includes the portion of the film’s official score composed by Alexandre Desplat (Argo, Grand Budapest Hotel) that accompanied it.

You can read the point-by-point breakdown of the new Godzilla material over at STYD, but the shorter and non-spoilery version is that the footage struck the same intense tone and apocalyptic mood as the film’s trailers, by heightening the sheer terribleness of its namesake – through a realistic depiction of exactly what kind of impression it would leave on the landscape (city, nature) in its wake.

Moreover, the audience got a glimpse at another Kaiju, which has been teased since the original Godzilla conceptual trailer was shown at the 2012 Comic-Con. (In case you missed it, be sure and read our list of the Other Monsters That We Could See in the Godzilla Reboot.)

The physical design of Godzilla in Edwards’ film has made for an interesting discussion topic, with regard to how it both pays homage to the creature’s look in Honda’s 1954 film – a monster played by an actor dressed in a (by today’s standards) unrefined costume with stubby jawline and hefty “cankles” – yet, updates and tweaks the monster’s appearance, so that its seems more convincing to the human eye. Edwards talked about the challenges of changing up Godzilla’s facial characteristics, during his SXSW interview with STYD:

If you’re not careful, you’ll wind up with something cute. For me, the thing that stopped it from getting cute was getting a bit more angular. Get it a bit more squarer. A bear, a Grizzly, had that effect, but the eyes didn’t look right. One of my favorite images from film design is The Dark Crystal. This book I have has a full page of eyes for the Skeksis. They have these cheekbones or eye sockets that stick out, and I said let’s start looking at birds of prey and vultures. There’s a nobility you get when animals have the brow of their forehead go to their nose or beak. That was a character trait that felt right for Godzilla. It was a long journey. From the day we started drawing to the day we locked his design was a year. I thought it was going to be a week’s work. [laughs]

Judging by the initial footage of the lumbering beast in motion (or merely standing by, admiring its handiwork), that year of careful work has paid off handsomely for Edwards and his Godzilla effects/arts department crew. Part of the reason this matters is because the film is embracing the popular trend in Hollywood of ” gritty realism” – by striving to imagine what could actually happen, were a Godzilla somehow able to exist and wreak havoc in the real world today.

On the other hand, as Edwards pointed out, that’s far from being a brand-new concept:

 I think it’s really underrated and Godzilla is misunderstood in terms of how it all began. People think of Godzilla and think of child-friendly versions. It’s funny because people look at the ’60s films, they’re a bit B-movies and people can say, what if you made it serious like the Batman series became? And if you look at the original, they did that already. They beat us to it by 60 years, it’s really serious and somber and very harrowing. Apart from the fact there’s a giant monster, I challenge you to show me a film – like a popcorn movie – where they show a child and they hold a Geiger counter and it clicks as if the child is going to die of radiation sickness and the shot moves on. I have not seen that in films of real dramatic weight, let alone a monster movie. I can’t think of a more serious monster movie.

During that same interview, STYD cited Steven Spielberg’s 1970s alien drama Close Encounters of the Third Kind as a similar classic genre movie that, much like the 1954 Godzilla, is very socially-conscious and sophisticated in its realistic handling of fantastical material, which Edwards agreed with:

I think that movie is a perfect example of the film I love. Close Encounters was referenced a lot on this, because we have a conspiracy thread in our movie and they get it right. That movie is a great example of doing it right and not putting one foot into cheese. Close Encounters, I think, is one of the best movies ever made and has influenced me as a filmmaker. I think when you see it, I never claimed to make a movie as good as Spielberg ever did, but Close Encounters has infected Godzilla quite a bit.

Godzilla costar Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) also previously noted the Spielberg influence on Edwards’ Godzilla reboot, specially with regard to how Jaws portrays its “monster” – and, by association, what effect the shark has on the lives and behavior of the human characters within the film’s narrative.

Similarly, Edwards previously referenced that very “conspiracy thread” that he mentioned in his SXSW interview during his breakdown of the full trailer. To be exact, the most recent theatrical preview alludes to a government conspiracy/coverup subplot that is also further grounded emotionally through a personal tragedy story – one that involves the father-son duo played by Cranston and Aaron-Taylor Johnson (Kick-Ass 2). “Spielbergian” feels like all the more appropriate (and welcome) a description, in that sense.

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

Tina Fey (l.), Ricky Gervais (r.), and the Kermit doppelganger Constantine (center) star in the film 'Muppets Most Wanted.' (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais star in 'Muppets Most Wanted' – here's the trailer, which pokes fun at sequels

By Sandy SchaeferScreen Rant / 03.13.14

Last time in the world of The Muppets, Kermit and the gang had reunited, only to fail – then succeed – at saving their old studio. Now, their popularity restored, the beloved crew of googly-eyed characters are headed overseas to Europe, where they get caught up in a comical caper (hopefully another “Great” one) that involves Kermit’s evil doppelgänger – who secretly swaps places with the Muppets’ froggy leader – in a sequel to the 2011 Muppets franchise relaunch, titled Muppets Most Wanted.

Past trailers for the upcoming Muppets romp were conventional in design, but the latest promo ditches tradition in favor of a music video format (which appears to include at least some footage from the opening scene for Muppets Most Wanted). Here, we see the Muppets crew perform “We’re Doing a Sequel” – a tune that was presumably cooked up by the returning songwriter Bret McKenzie (who won an Oscar for his work on The Muppets) – picking up right after the conclusion to the last movie, with the Muppets in their typical cheeky, self-deprecating, pop culture-riffing form.

Genreally-speaking, anticipation for Muppets Most Wanted doesn’t seem to be quite as high as that for its predecessor three years ago, but not necessarily because the film seems that less appealing to most people. After all, The Muppets was not only the first Muppet-y flick in some time, but it also built up expectations through a clever trailer parody campaign – before delivering a final product that yanked down hard on many an older Muppets fan’s nostalgia chain.

By comparison, the Muppets sequel advertising has playfully mocked Internet comments, but has otherwise painted Muppets Most Wanted as being standard fare for the Muppets – not a special event, like the 2011 movie.

Still, Muppets director – and McKenzie’s fellow Flight of the Conchords alum – James Bobin is back at the helm, along with Nicholas Stoller as his co-writer (though, minus Jason Seagull). So, if you were a fan of the previous Muppets flick’s humor, then Most Wanted should also provide you with a fair share of laughs (see:the “Sequel Song” number).

The human celebrities who make an appearance in the latest Muppets jam include Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais, and Ty Burrell, along with Selma Hayek, Danny Trejo, Tom Hiddleston, Christoph Waltz, and many, many more.

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

Jaimie Alexander recently guest-starred on an episode of the TV show 'Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Jaimie Alexander guest-stars on 'Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.': Was it a successful crossover?

By Anthony OcasioScreen Rant / 03.12.14

This week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. proves that a full-on Marvel Cinematic Universe crossover can not only work and be fun, but that effects-heavy superheroics can be scaled-down to a television budget while still remaining believable. More so, Coulson (Clark Gregg) decides to go after the heart of S.H.I.E.L.D.

In this week’s episode, “Yes Men,” written by Shalisha Francis, Lorelei (Elena Satine) continues her plans to build an army and take over the world, while Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) travels from Asgard to Earth, to recapture her escaped prisoner. When Ward (Brett Dalton) falls under Lorelei’s spell, and Fitz is coaxed to “not muck her plans”, Coulson calls upon his femme fatales to help Lady Sif quiet the man-eater. Elsewhere, Agent Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández) is mocked, and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is put in the crosshairs.

There are quite a few interesting developments that occur within this episode. The success of Lady Sif’s inclusion is clearly the most apparent; however, the subtle nudges many of the characters receive while involved in this adventure will likely be the most important, long-term. Skye (Chloe Bennet) and Ward show that a one-off, awkward whisper conversation can reveal a bit of range we’ve not seen from them before; Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) proves he can absolutely stand on his own, comedically-speaking; Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) wins every battle – including fighting her way out of her relationship with Ward; and Agent Phillip Coulson draws a line in the sand and goes after Fury.

Coulson taking on Fury might be most interesting, as it allows Coulson to create a logical divide between the theatrical universe and its television counter-part. Now there’s a real reason for the team to be somewhat distant from the rest of the group, and now any appearance from Fury – or even Sitwell – will bring with it the promise of a confrontation – not just the quarterly “Hey, we still exist in the same world” check-in we’ve seen previously. Additionally, it plants the seeds of S.H.I.E.L.D shenanigans, which Captain American: The Winter Solider will play into upon its release.

As for the actual tale at hand, Lady Sif and Lorelei help bring some of the fun that the show promised from the start. The story may not be as compelling as the inner-workerings of S.H.I.E.L.D. that “The Hub” brought, but as a “do over” of sorts for the previous Thor: The Dark World tie-in, fans should be more-than pleased with how successful this crossover is. Asgardian powers work just as well on the small screen as they do in the films, and when the budget to allow Lady Sif and Lorelei to realistically punch through anything ran out, they relied on established knowledge to help sidestep their limitations: S.H.I.E.L.D. has developed Asgardian-proof items before.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has clearly been attempting to find itself throughout its many episodes, and this is really the first time that this experimental synergistic universe can truly be called successful. Sure, the helping hand of a theatrical voice does make things a bit easier; however, they made good use of Sif’s inclusion and earnestly attempted to include some actual character development. Whether or not this continues still remains to be seen, but Coulson’s newfound “uprising” will certainly give them something to play off of.

Anthony Ocasio blogs at Screen Rant.

'True Detective' director Cary Fukunaga (r.) works on the set of the HBO series. (Jim Bridges/HBO/AP)

'True Detective' director Cary Fukunaga will reportedly direct adaptation of Stephen King's 'It'

By Sandy SchaeferScreen Rant / 03.10.14

Stephen King properties continue to prosper on the small screen (see: Haven, Under the Dome), even as multiple film adaptations – based on the iconic pop horror/suspense novelist’s work – have started to make their way down the pipeline. Indeed, in the past few months, we’ve seen (among other developments) the Pet Sematary remake enlist a new director, Warner Bros. actively scouting for a filmmaker to helm The Stand, and the Cell movie adaptation finishing up its casting in order to begin production this year.

One King project that we haven’t reported on since 2012 is IT, a big-screen treatment of King’s hefty best-selling novel, published in 1986 and made into a famous TV mini-series four years later (starring Tim Curry as the clown monster, Pennywise, who haunted many a child of the ’90s’ dreams). Last time we tuned in, acclaimed cinematographer-turned writer/director Cary Fukunaga had just been recruited to get the ball rolling again, after the project had spent the previous few years trudging along to, essentially, a complete stop (at that time).

Producer Dan Lin (Sherlock Holmes) added a new hit intellectual property to his belt when The LEGO Movie opened big at the box office, and while promoting the animated feature/toy adaptation, he provided Collider (hat tip STYD) with an update on Fukunaga’s prospective IT adaptation:

“… Cary Fukunaga is writing and directing Stephen King’s It for me, and I’m really excited for that.  So I’m hoping that’ll be his next movie after the indie he’s shooting in Africa.  So I love what he did with True Detective.  I think it’s a great sample for Stephen King’s It.  So I’m really excited about that.”

The “indie he’s shooting in Africa” in this case refers to Beasts of No Nation, Fukunaga’s adaptation of Uzodinma Iweala’s novel – about an African child soldier – that will include award-winner Idris Elba (Pacific Rim) in a key role. According to previous reports, Fukunaga is going to be collaborating on the IT script with Chase Palmer – Fukunaga’s writing partner on the developing project No Blood, No Guts, No Glory – with the intention of covering King’s (more than) 1,000 pages-long source material during the course of two feature-length films.

It’s not clear yet whether a two-part movie is still the plan for IT, though nowadays that’s not so much of a far-fetched idea, with young adult franchises (Harry Potter, Twilight and later this year, The Hunger Games) and recent genre tentpoles (see: The Hobbit) having popularized the practice – demonstrating just how lucrative the box office reward can be. Not only is a King property like IT arguably popular enough to justify such a move from a business perspective, artistically the story lends itself to such an adaptation – as the novel alternates between two time periods (the 1950s and 1980s), yet revolves around younger and older versions of the same characters.

HBO’s Fukunaga-directed True Detective limited series relies upon a related narrative structure, wherein extended flashbacks set during the mid-1990s are framed with scenes featuring the same lead characters in the year 2012. Moreover, the acclaimed detective drama has exposed Fukunaga’s technical mastery of pure visual storytelling to a larger audience than that which saw his arthouse releases (see: Sin Nombre, Jane Eyre), while having also illustrated his ability to weave a yarn that is both fairly atmospheric, yet at the same time character-focused and contemplative.

In other words: an IT movie by Fukunaga sounds all the more promising now, perhaps even more so if it were to be split up into two separate movies.

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

Hayden Panettiere starred on the NBC series 'Heroes.' (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

Hayden Panettiere: Will she return for the 'Heroes' miniseries?

By Anthony VieiraScreen Rant / 03.07.14

Superheroes have ruled at the multiplex for the past decade, and comic book properties are hitting television in a big way, from the CW’s ongoing hit series Arrow and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to the upcoming Gotham, The Flash and Constantine. Before all this, NBC’s Heroes was arguably as instrumental to the dominance of superhero stories as Marvel’s Iron ManBryan Singer’s X-Men movies or Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins.

Heroes premiered to great acclaim in 2006, making stars out of the previously unknown Hayden Panettiere (who has gone on to star in ABC’s Nashville) and Zachary Quinto (who went on to play the young Spock in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot). The show followed a group of people who develop super powers, exploring the ways these powers corrupted or inspired them and the conflicts that arose in their wake. The show won an immediate cult following and exploded across popular culture, only to see ratings and critical reception tank hard, leading to cancellation after four seasons.

Still, that brilliant first season remains beloved by fans, and now we have a report from Deadline that creator Tim Kring is bringing Heroes back to the network as a 13-episode miniseries event. Titled Heroes: Reborn, the limited run is set to air in 2015, with all new characters and storylines to appear online in a digital series before the new series premieres.

As for whether or not any members of the original cast could return, NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke had this to say in the official press release:

“…we won’t rule out the possibility of some of the show’s original cast members popping back in.”

Furthermore, the show will be “appropriately shrouded in secrecy” as the 2015 air date approaches. The resurrection of Heroes comes soon after our first look at the next phase of Fox’s 24, which returns to the airwaves this May. We’ve recently detailed the reasons that everyone should really love reboots and remakes, and the return of an iconic show like Heroes with its original creator at the helm could really pound this point home.

On the other hand, Tim Kring – who went on to create Fox’s short-lived Touch - is credited as executive producer on all 79 episodes of Heroes, and arguably owns the lion’s share of the responsibility for how quickly Heroes appeared to jump the shark. Still, Kring has had plenty of time to reflect, and plans to “add to his original concept.” 

Interestingly, we heard some similar news just under a year ago – a fifth season could have premiered exclusively on the Xbox, with very similar details, including “new stories and heroes, while mixing in cameos from the original series’ cast.” This is the real deal, though. Heroes was unique in the way it utilized the comic book structure – each season consisted of two main volumes, with many inter-connected story arcs (too many, eventually) – without drawing directly from any established property.

This 13-episode format also mirrors the current run of most cable series, a hint that NBC is attempting to prove that they can match Starz, AMC or HBO in quality. The network’s critically-acclaimed Hannibal (created by former Heroes writer Bryan Fuller) arguably does just that. Can Heroes really stand its ground in this post-Marvel and DC Cinematic Universe world?

Anthony Vieira blogs at Screen Rant.

Anna Kendrick (second from l.), Rebel Wilson (l.), and Brittany Snow (r.) starred in the film 'Pitch Perfect,' written by Kay Cannon (second from r.). (Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson will return for 'Pitch Perfect 2,' star Elizabeth Banks will direct (+video)

By Staff writer / 03.04.14

Pitch Perfect” stars Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson will reportedly be returning for the film’s sequel and “Perfect” star Elizabeth Banks will reportedly be directing “Pitch Perfect 2,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Entertainment Weekly reported that Kendrick and Wilson have both signed on for the sequel.

“Elizabeth originated the idea for Pitch Perfect and was instrumental in making the first film such a huge success,” Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley said of Banks coming aboard as director, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “She brings an enormous amount of energy and experience to everything she works on and we’re thrilled that she is making her feature directorial debut on Pitch Perfect 2.”

Screenwriter Kay Cannon, who wrote the first film, will also return for the sequel, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The 2012 comedy about college a cappella groups was a box office hit, grossing more than $65 million domestically, according to the website Box Office Mojo, and one of its songs, Kendrick’s ditty “Cups,” peaked at number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Banks, who recently starred in the 2013 film “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and lent her voice to the animated film “The Lego Movie,” has previously directed short pieces and directed part of the 2013 film “Movie 43.”

Kendrick will star in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical “Into the Woods,” which will be released this Christmas, as well as the movie adaptation of the musical “The Last 5 Years.” She recently appeared in the movie “Happy Christmas” and the film “Life After Beth.”

Wilson is currently starring on the ABC comedy “Super Fun Night” and appeared in the 2013 film “Pain & Gain.” She previously co-starred with Kendrick and Banks in the 2012 film “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”

“Pitch Perfect 2” is set to hit theaters in May 2015.

'Her' stars Joaquin Phoenix. (Warner Bros. Pictures/AP)

Oscars 2014: Nominee 'Her' is all too timely for one husband

By Jim Sollisch / 03.02.14

The movie “Her” imagines a world in the very near future where the disembodied voices on our phones already guiding us through our days are more attractive and alluring than the fully embodied people around us.

My friend Kevin and I were talking about the movie and he said, “It’s already happening. I can’t compete with my wife’s phone.”

Kevin is a funny man, but apparently he’s not as funny as “The Sneezing Baby Panda.” Kevin is interesting, too. He often makes lists of subjects to discuss when he gets together with friends. I barely look at my phone when I’m hanging out with Kevin. Barely.

But according to Kevin, his wife seems more interested in lists other than his, such as "15 Things That Inevitably Happen When You Work in an Office" or "17 Terrible Puns to Brighten Your Day."

Kevin got me thinking – not big existential thoughts about the transformative powers of technology, but about my wife’s phone use. Am I more interesting than Rique’s phone? I kept notes this weekend. The early analysis does not look good.

We left Cleveland for Cincinnati to visit our son and future daughter-in-law. Four-and-a-half hours of driving, just the two of us. And her phone.

I started strong. I brought up an issue that had to trump anything happening on the interwebs: our wills. We’d met with a lawyer a few months ago and we were supposed to get back to him after we’d worked out a few details. A few minutes into our conversation, the term “codicil” came up. She Googled it. From there, she was off. A text came in, which she answered in a novella-length flurry of finger-tapping. 

It turns out it was a group text, so she started getting responses from people whose numbers weren’t in her phone, which led to inquiries, which led to new friendships and a conversation about rescue dogs, which led to a site about rescue dogs and lots of oohs and aahs. We arrived in Cinci just in time. One exit farther and we would have been the proud parents of Bernie the Pyrenees.

The ride home was no better. Clearly, I’m not as smart as I was when we met back in the age of dumb phones. My opinions of restaurants now have to compete with Yelp. My stories aren’t as compelling as “Grumpy Cat Doing the Harlem Shake.” My quips aren't as funny as nearly any animated gif.

And in the old days, before Facebook, my wife had to wait to run into someone who knew someone who knew her friend who said so-and-so just got divorced. In the meantime, I still seemed pretty interesting.

As tough as it is to compete with the amazing world at my wife’s fingertips, I’m hanging on. Fortunately, I can cook and I know exactly where to rub her neck. No matter how intelligent the voices coming out of our operating systems get, I’ll still have that. 

What worries me most, though, is how easily these artificial intelligences will expose my flaws. Take listening. According to my wife, this isn’t one of my top ten skills. Already Siri outperforms me. And Siri’s skills are pretty primitive compared to Samantha, the operating system in “Her.” 

Jim Sollisch is a Monitor contributor.

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