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John August, who counts Big Fish and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory among his screenwriting adaptations, has just made a deal to author three books targeted at middle-grade children. The first will be Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire, set to be published in early 2018 by with Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of the Macmillan Children's Publishing Group. It follows a boy who joins a mountain scouting troop and discovers that his fellow campers aren’t just training in… »
Roald Dahl famously loathed all the movie adaptations of his books, including the 1971 classic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” starring Gene Wilder. So when the beloved author died in 1990, his widow Felicity (who goes by Liccy) was torn about what to do with his catalogue. It was a time, following the hit comedy “Home Alone,” where the major studios were vigorously chasing family-friendly tales, and many of Dahl’s stories fit the bill. But Liccy didn’t want celebrated bestsellers such as “Matilda” or “James and the Giant Peach” falling into the wrong hands.
Dahl’s publisher at Penguin Books set up a few meetings, and she eventually connected with literary agent Michael Siegel. They bonded right away. “I don’t want there to be bad movies,” Liccy told him. They came up with an unorthodox, boutique approach. “Rather than sell the stories directly to the studios, we would »
- Ramin Setoodeh
There’s something inherently remarkable about the field of animation: that, with just a paper and pen, one can use infinite imagination to create a world unbound by physical restrictions. Of course, in today’s age it goes far beyond those simple tools of creation, but it remains the rare patience-requisite medium in which a director’s vision can be perfected over years until applying that final, necessary touch.
With Pixar’s 17th feature arriving in theaters, we’ve set out to reflect on the millennium thus far in animation and those films that have most excelled. In picking our 50 favorite titles, we looked to all corners of the world, from teams as big as thousands down to a sole animator. The result is a wide-ranging selection, proving that even if some animation styles aren’t as prevalent, the best examples find their way to the top.
To note: we only stuck with feature-length animations of 60 minutes or longer — sorry, World of Tomorrow, and even Pixar’s stunning Piper — and to make room for a few more titles, our definition of “the 21st century” stretched to include 2000. We also stuck with films that don’t feature any live-action (for the most part) and that have been released in the U.S. thus far, so The Red Turtle and Phantom Boy will get their due on a later date. Check out our top 50 below and let us know your favorites in the comments.
50. The Lego Movie (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller)
Admit it: When The Lego Movie was announced, you did not expect it to wind up any best-of-the-year lists. But, against all odds, Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s first smash hit of 2014 is an unadulterated pleasure. This bold, original film has a wildly clever script (by the directors) with a message of creativity that made it a glorious surprise. It is also well-cast: Lego is the first movie to fully make use of Chris Pratt’s essential sweetness, and offered Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson, and Morgan Freeman their freshest parts in years. It is not often that a “kids” film entertains adults as much as their children, but The Lego Movie is far more than a piece of entertainment for the young ones. What could have been a headache-inducing, cynical creation is instead a pop treat. Everything is, indeed, awesome. – Christopher Schobert
49. 5 Centimetres per Second (Makoto Shinkai)
Makoto Shinkai’s emotional tour de force is the embodiment of the Japanese term “mono no aware,” which describes a wistful awareness of life’s transience. In the way its characters are haunted by bygone moments in the face of a vast and shapeless future, 5 Centimetres per Second could function as a spiritual companion to the oeuvre of Wong Kar-wai, but whereas Wong’s lovelorn protagonists are stuck in the past, Shinkai’s move forward, steadily, in a state of melancholic acceptance. Time is itself a character here, a fact brought to our attention by shots of clocks, the evolution of technology alongside the characters’ aging, and scenes where narrative stakes ensure that the passing of each second is palpably felt. And yet it is precisely the ephemerality of these seconds that lends them elevated significance —fittingly, the film’s animation is breathtakingly detailed and tactile, allowing us to identify with the characters by having us inhabit each, vivid moment before it vanishes. – Jonah Jeng
Leave it to Steven Spielberg to eke more thrills out of an animated feature than most directors could with every live-action tool at their disposal. The Adventures of Tintin is colored and paced like a child’s fantastical imagining of how Hergé’s comics might play in motion, and the extent to which viewers buy it depends largely on their willingness to give themselves over to narrative and technical flights of fancy. Me? Four-and-a-half years later, I’m still waiting for a follow-up with bated breath. – Nick Newman
It’s the movie that took down Don Bluth, netted Fox a $100 million loss, and starred the young voices of Matt Damon and Drew Barrymore. From a script by Joss Whedon, John August, and Ben Edlund, Titan A.E. is a swashbuckle-y tale with stirring visuals and moments of sheer originality that now feels like a more-accomplished precursor to something such as Guardians of the Galaxy. If you’re going to go down, this is an impressive picture to sink with. – Dan Mecca
46. Metropolis (Rintaro)
Metropolis has more than a little in common with the apocalyptic orgy of violence of 1988 anime touchstone Akira, as the story follows the tragic inevitability of mans’ relationship with overwhelming power. But Rintaro’s Metropolis — which is based on Osama Tezuka’s manga and Fritz Lang’s canonical film — is also a story of overwhelming kindness in its central relationship between Kenichi, a well-intentioned and naïve child, and Tima, a cyborg capable of immense destruction. Distinguished by its washed-out watercolor character designs and its inventive cast of characters, Metropolis is a distinctly lighter take on the characteristically dreary dystopia genre. – Michael Snydel
Animation has never shied away from grief. It’s the bedrock of everything from Grave of the Fireflies to the majority of Pixar’s filmography, but it’s rarely been as unbearably beautiful as in 2014’s unfairly overlooked Song of the Sea. Animated with a mythic tableau style, steeped in Celtic folklore, and filled with a cast of characters worthy of Hayao Miyazaki, Tomm Moore’s work is the rare heartwarming family film that knows it doesn’t need to compromise genuine emotion with fake-outs or Hollywood endings. – Michael Snydel
While much of Studio Ghibli’s popularity focuses on the adored writer-director Hayao Miyazaki, some works from other directors deserve equal praise. One of them — which, yes, cheats a bit because Miyazaki scripted it — is The Secret World of Arrietty by first-time helmer Hiromasa Yonebayashi. The film follows a little boy’s fascination with the Borrowers — small humans that live in our world — and weaves the story of him and his family with Arrietty, one of the Borrowers. There are intensely dramatic moments as the Borrowers are constantly striving to survive amidst this world of luxury and easy life that the larger humans enjoy. Much like some of the best of Ghibli’s work, the film works on multiple levels and layers and thus becomes one of the studio’s most beautiful, enjoyable, and enduring works. – Bill Graham
43. ParaNorman (Chris Butler and Sam Fell)
A story of bullies and the bullied, Laika Studios’ second stop-motion film, ParaNorman, was unfortunately overshadowed by their astounding previous effort, Coraline. But time has been kind, and ParaNorman feels ahead of its time in both the exploration of darker themes (witch hunts, child murder, bigotry) and its juxtaposition of a Puritan New England ghost story and a vividly supernatural present. Buoyed by Jon Brion’s characteristically thoughtful score and an inventive reconfiguration of horror movie iconography, ParaNorman is a coming-of-age story that recognizes that even the “bad guys” have their reasons. – Michael Snydel
42. Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit (Nick Park and Steve Box)
Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit, Aardman Animation’s second feature collaboration with DreamWorks, brings Nick Park‘s brilliant claymation series about an absentminded inventor and his mute canine companion to the big screen. Working as humane pest removal specialists, Wallace and Gromit have hatched a plan to brainwash every hungry rabbit in town to dislike vegetables, preventing Gromit’s prized melon from being ruthlessly devoured. But the experiment backfires and the Were-Rabbit, a monstrous beast with an unquenchable appetite for veggies, is unleashed on the lush gardens of Tottington Holl. On par with the most uproarious shorts of Park’s career (working this time out with co-director Steve Box), the film slyly evokes fond memories of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in never treating its goofy leads as seriously as its surprisingly effective scares. It’s a shame that Park has announced the titular duo are likely retired, due to the failing health of voice actor Peter Sallis. Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit is a light-hearted and whimsically clever gem that also works as a charming introduction to the horror genre for young cinema-lovers. – Tony Hinds
41. Lilo & Stitch (Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois)
What other film can pull off starting with an all-out sci-fi adventure and transition into a heartful ode to culture and family? Before they delivered an even more impactful variation on a similar sort of creature-human bond with How to Train Your Dragon, Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois created this touching tale. Featuring a return to watercolor-painted backgrounds for Disney, as well as a reliance on 2D animation, it’s one of the company’s last in this era to have that long-missed tangibility. As often repeated in the film, “Family means nobody gets left behind,” and, by the end credits, you’ll feel like you’ve added a few new members to your own. – Jordan Raup
- The Film Stage
It's been 21 years since Vertigo released the first issue of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's blasphemous horror/action/comedy mash-up comic Preacher, and 20 since a screenwriter first attempted the seemingly impossible task of adapting it for the screen. Over the last two decades, Ennis watched his baby pass through many hands, none of them quite knowing what to do with it, before the improbable team of Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Breaking Bad vet Sam Catlin turned it into an actual show, which debuted on AMC on Sunday night. (Due to Memorial Day weekend, AMC will be rerunning the premiere this Sunday at 9, followed by the debut of the Chris Hardwick-hosted Talking Preacher. The second episode will debut June 5 at 9 p.m.) I liked the TV take on Preacher quite a bit, even though it takes many enormous liberties with the source material. (Roth Cornet and I recently »
- Alan Sepinwall
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is bigger than ever these days, with a slew of popular and successful movies such as this past weekend's Captain America: Civil War, and a number of hit TV shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Daredevil. Marvel's parent company Disney now has plans to make this universe even bigger, by bringing one of the McU's most popular movies, Guardians of the Galaxy, to Disney's California Adventure theme park. A new report claims that the company is planning on replacing The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride with a Guardians of the Galaxy ride.
While Disney hasn't officially announced these plans, the Disney blog Micechat has confirmed earlier rumors are true, that Guardians is replacing Tower of Terror in California Adventure. This latest report claims that the entire Twilight Zone back story of the ride will be replaced by a Guardians of the Galaxy story, centering on The Collector, »
At long last, the board game Monsterpocalypse will be getting the big screen treatment. THR.com is reporting that the popular game, in which humans as robots fight monsters, will be adapted as a movie. The publication adds that Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead) will co-write as well as direct the film. This is not the first time the game was being considered as a movie. In 2010, Tim Burton was attached to direct the project that was to be written by John August. But the movie never came to pass, reportedly because of similarities between the project and Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim. Monsterpocalypse ended up with Warner Bros after a bidding war that also included DreamWorks and Sony. Board games as movies have had mixed results at best. The 1995 film Jumanji, featuring Robin Williams, took in $262 million worldwide but outside of that, it’s slim pickings. In recent memory, »
- David Eckstein
If there's anything that can be counted on in this world, it's that Hollywood will always be on the lookout for the next big film franchise, even if it's in the unlikeliest places, e.g. board games. The Hollywood Reporter announced that studios like Warner Bros., DreamWorks, and Sony are currently bidding over a "Monsterpocalypse" movie, an adaptation of the popular board game where humans in robot suits fight against monsters. The project has been in development since 2010 when an adaptation with director Tim Burton ("Pee-Wee's Big Adventure") and screenwriter John August ("Big Fish") attached, but it eventually stalled after Guillermo del Toro filmed "Pacific Rim," a movie that also pits humans in robot suits against monsters. Needless to say, sources close to the project say that the new project is much different than the original conception as well as "Pacific Rim." Read More: Guillermo Del Toro To Direct 'Fantastic. »
- Vikram Murthi
During last night's Fear the Walking Dead premiere, AMC gave fans a sneak peek at the upcoming comic book adaptation Preacher, which is set to debut Sunday, May 22 at 9 Pm, after Fear the Walking Dead wraps up the first half of its second season. This scene, which was posted to the Preacher Twitter page earlier today, gives us our first full look at Ruth Negga's Tulip, who is seen trying to fend off an attacker while driving a car. This intense clip only hints at how awesome the action is in the upcoming pilot!
Preacher is a supernatural, twisted and darkly comedic drama that follows a West Texas preacher named Jesse Custer, who is inhabited by a mysterious entity that causes him to develop a highly unusual power. Jesse, his badass ex-girlfriend Tulip and an Irish vagabond named Cassidy come together and when they do, they are thrust into »
"The Lego Movie" scribes Dan and Kevin Hageman are set to do a polish on the screenplay for "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark," the upcoming film adaptation of Alvin Schwartz's beloved children's book anthology that is in the works at CBS Films.
Guillermo del Toro ("Crimson Peak," "Pan's Labyrinth") will direct the film based on the three books in the series published which deals with various macabre stories including those involving ghosts and haunted houses.
del Toro, Elizabeth Grave, Jason Brown and Sean Daniel will produce. John August and "Saw" screenwriters Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton were all previously attached as writers at one point or another.
Source: Variety »
- Garth Franklin
Following the recent announcement that Guillermo del Toro is developing a film adaptation of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book trilogy, it’s now been announced that a pair of previous del Toro collaborators have been hired to pen the latest draft of the screenplay.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Dan Hageman and Kevin Hageman have signed on to help pen the newest version of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark script. The duo have already teamed up with Del Toro on his animated series Trollhunters (due out on Netflix later this year), and they previously worked on the screenplays for Hotel Transylvania and The Lego Movie.
Prior to the Hagemans coming on board, Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan (The Collector films, the Feast films, final four Saw movies) were in the process of developing a screenplay after their pitch for a Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark »
- Derek Anderson
We recently found out that Crimson Peak director Guillermo del Toro had signed on to develop and possibly direct a movie based on the classic series of children’s book from Alvin Schwartz, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, and now the project has gained a couple of writers.
I have had such a great time working with the Hagemans on Trollhunters — and they have proven to be such brilliant writers — that the fit for this material was just perfect: they grew up with the books, they love the genre and they are smart and emotional when writing characters.
Alvin Schwartz published three somewhat controversial Scary Stories books between 1981 and 1991, and all featured »
- Mark Cassidy
The books were released in 1981 (“Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”), 1984 (“More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”) and 1991 (“Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones”). The series consisted of short stories based on folklore and legend, accompanied by illustrations by Stephen Gammell. It’s sold more than 7 million copies worldwide.
Del Toro is developing the film with an eye to direct.
Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton first worked on the script for the project, with John August working on a later draft. Del Toro is producing along with Jason F. Brown, Sean Daniel and Elizabeth Grave.
- Justin Kroll
Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award For Television Writing Achievement (Wgaw)
Longtime writing partners Kauffman and Crane created the hit television series “Friends,” which earned 63 Emmy nominations in its decade-long run, the Kirstie Alley starring “Veronica’s Closet”; “The Powers That Be”; and the HBO series “Dream On.” And they didn’t stop there. Outside their partnership, Crane has co-created several series with Jeffrey Klarik, including “Episodes” and “The Class.” Kauffman most recently co-created Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie,” which was nominated for an Emmy and Golden Globe this year.
Screen Laurel Award (Wgaw)
May is being honored by the Wgaw in recognition for her lifetime of work. May first hit the national stage with Mike Nichols in improv comedy “Nichols and May,” and their influence is still felt today. She’s earned recognition for penning “Heaven Can Wait,” “The Birdcage” and “Such Good Friends. »
- Variety Staff
The original "Game of Thrones" pilot has become the stuff of television legend, since it featured significantly different plots, and several different main actors, from the final product that audiences saw on HBO back in 2011, and was widely considered pretty terrible. Now, the showrunners have recently discussed just how bad their first crack at adapting George R.R. Martin's books really was, and it turns out that that first pilot was "a complete piece of s--t."
That assessment came courtesy of screenwriter Craig Mazin (the "Hangover" sequels, "Identity Thief"), who together with fellow writer John August ("Big Fish") runs the podcast Scriptnotes. The pair hosted "Thrones" showrunners Dan Weiss and David Benioff on a recent episode for a frank discussion about the fantasy drama's pilot, which Mazin saw at a screening for friends organized by Weiss and Benioff back in 2010.
It didn't go well.
"Watching them watch that original pilot »
- Katie Roberts
The agonies of screenwriting were on full view Thursday night at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, where 11 scribes nominated for WGA Awards took part in the guild’s Beyond Words program.
One of the biggest laughs from the full house came when “Spotlight” writer Josh Singer admitted that he and writer-director Tom McCarthy spent several years going through the Boston Globe’s investigation of pedophile priests.
“We did research for a long time,” Singer said. “Anything to put off writing.”
McCarthy admitted that interviews with the victims of the scandal was a turning point. “The story really came together once we talked with survivors,” he added.
Both “Spotlight” writers were effusive in their praise of the Boston Globe journalists portrayed in the film, noting that editor Martin “Marty” Baron (portrayed by Liev Schreiber) even supplied them with extensive emails to keep the timeline straight. They also credited the initial producers, »
- Dave McNary
Before Game of Thrones was a pop culture phenomenon, it was just another genre show struggling to get made. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss spent almost four years getting the pilot episode off the ground, including seven months spent filming overseas. So when the final product came back, it should have been meticulous. Instead, it nearly sunk the show before it even began. Over 90% of the pilot episode had to be reshot, with several characters recast — as was the case with Michelle Fairley taking over from Jennifer Ehle as Catelyn Stark — or cut entirely. The unaired original pilot has become almost mythical, with fans wishing it’d be released just to see if it lives up to the infamy. Benioff and Weiss haven’t been shy when it comes sharing how wrong it all went, even admitting their friends didn’t pick up on the fact Cersei and Jaime were brother and sister, »
- Donna Dickens
Film School Rejects it's all about talking animals who sound just like celebrities this year
Towleroad ABC rejects a TV ad for Carol because (Gasp) naked lesbian shoulders
John August shares depressing box office stats on why we get so many sequels
Guardian picks 5 best moment of Jane Fonda in the movies - bizarre choices beyond her Oscar winning roles
Guardian investigation of why movie posters are so terrible in comparison to their aged counterparts
Mnpp ...goes all out with an endless gratuitous post celebrating Whittle
Tracking Board Chan-wook Park to direct the adapation of sci-fi novel Genocidal Organ about homemade nuclear devices
- NATHANIEL R
Hot on the heels of the surprising success of the Goosebumps movie comes the announcement of another movie based on another 1980s/90s children’s horror anthology book series: the genuinely too disturbing for most kids Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. With regular Tim Burton scripter John August tasked with penning a script a couple of years ago, the project has suddenly received a boost from the attachment of director Guillermo Del Toro.
Is Del Toro’s involvement really likely to enhance a movie’s chances of getting made, though? The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth helmer is undoubtedly popular with film fans, but his lack of ever making a big earning blockbuster makes it harder and harder for his cherished projects to come to the screen. Indeed, while compatriots and sometime collaborators Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu have been lining up for their Oscars, »
- Jack Gann
La Times the Academy has clarified some of its new rulings on membership due to confusion from within its own ranks - very useful info
In Contention Kris Tapley has some thoughts on that as well and depressingly mentions there is still talk of "expanding" the acting categories. This will be very hard for yours truly to stomach if it happens. Traditions are important (and no I dont mean traditions of discrimination - don't confuse the issue!). Changing an 80 year tradition of a set of five slots in no way helps diversity and may actually serve to make the Academy look much much worse sending an accidental message (you weren't good enough for five but maybe with seven -- oops you weren't good enough for seven either!) so I pray to all the cinematic gods that wiser heads prevail and they reject it.
Fistful of Films... speaking of working through something by talking about it. »
- NATHANIEL R
Some links as we hole watching movies and writing future articles during the blizzard...
• John August on torrenting the Oscars
• Mnpp remembers 5 great experiences at New York City's historic Ziegfeld Theater (about to close). Oh the memories
• Pajiba Charlie Cox has not yet been invited to Marvel's Infinity Wars. He is waiting impatiently
• Fandor breaks down the Best Actor race
• Salon talks up Tori Amos's "Boys for Pele" (my favorite of her records) on its 20th anniversary
• Interview Magazine talks to the »
- NATHANIEL R
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