<p>John Gallagher Jr. and Brie Larson are both amazing in Destin Cretton's shattering 'Short Term 12'</p>

John Gallagher Jr. and Brie Larson are both amazing in Destin Cretton's shattering 'Short Term 12'

Credit: Cinedigm

We've got a new poster for the remarkable 'Short Term 12'

We're prepared to beg if it'll get you to check out one of the year's best films

We've got plenty more Comic-Con coverage today coming your way, as well as a review of one of this summer's biggest geek events, but before we get into any of that, I want to direct your attention to one of the best movies of 2013 for a few minutes.

"Short Term 12" was a film I almost skipped at this year's SXSW festival because when I glanced at the title on the schedule, I assumed it was a shorts program. No offense to anyone who makes short films, because I certainly think it's a valid form and an important training ground for people who want to make features, but when I'm at a festival, there is rarely time for me to cover shorts. It's just a matter of how to spend my time. It wasn't until the SXSW jury gave "Short Term 12" an award for its performances that I realized it was a feature, and when I read the description of it, I realized it sounded like something that I might like.

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<p>There were few things as emotionally genuine at this year's Comic-Con as the rapport between Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen on the 'X-Men:&nbsp;Days Of Future Past' panel</p>

There were few things as emotionally genuine at this year's Comic-Con as the rapport between Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen on the 'X-Men: Days Of Future Past' panel

Credit: Eric Charbonneau/Invision/AP Images

Fox's mammoth 'X-Men' panel unites old and new casts for a great Hall H moment

'Days Of Future Past' makes a strong showing with Singer's return

SAN DIEGO - By far, the worst kept secret at this year's Comic-Con was the planned "X-Men: Days Of Future Past" panel, but I will give 20th Century Fox this much. While everyone was sure the film would be part of the panel, I don't think anyone knew quite how far Fox planned to take things, or how much of an emotional charge it would pack.

The "X-Men" films in general hold an odd space in the evolution of the genre. They are absolutely pivotal in terms of pushing the entire idea of superhero movies forward. The first film was a game of Russian Roulette as far as Fox was concerned. Even after they greenlit the movie and watched dailies as they came in, they panicked and cut the budget and forced the filmmakers to adapt on the fly. The studio made choices out of fear regarding costumes, marketing and even casting. They held their breath when they released "X-Men," sure they were about to get clobbered…

… and then people liked it. It wasn't massive, but it was a hit. And it was a big enough hit that they moved forward with a second film. And again, just as soon as they started into production, they started losing their nerve, and it turned into another corporate game of chicken with filmmakers pushing hard to do something cool and execs pushing hard to make sure it wasn't all too damn "comic book." It was a fascinating era, and as much as fans are sure they know the story of how the first three "X-Men" film got made and what the decisions behind those films were, they don't. Not really. There were battles about everything. There is a reason you still haven't seen the Sentinels in the movies, and that reason left the studio not too long ago. A comic book with decades of history was held hostage by any number of outside influences, and the results are movies that genuinely try to capture the spirit of a world, and they succeed in ways, and they fail in ways, and they are all covered in development battle scars that define the movies.

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<p>Lee Pace, Benicio Del Toro, Dave Bautista, James Gunn, Djimon Hounsou, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker,&nbsp;Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana all showed up for the 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' panel</p>

Lee Pace, Benicio Del Toro, Dave Bautista, James Gunn, Djimon Hounsou, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana all showed up for the 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' panel

Credit: Marvel Studios

Marvel's strangest film so far, 'Guardians Of The Galaxy,' makes a strong Hall H debut

This looks like one hell of a gamble, but a thrilling one

SAN DIEGO - I was here for the first-time presentations that Marvel made for both "Thor" and "Captain America," and I thought they were both very confident panels that did a good job of conveying (A) the casting and (B) the general tone of each of the movies. They were good. Solid. Did the trick.

Today's presentation for "Guardians Of The Galaxy" was easily better than both of those combined. I am going out on a limb here, but I think this looks like one of the most genuinely fun things Marvel has ever made. I find something about the entire notion of Marvel just suddenly doing space fantasy ballsy and weird in the first place, but this particular property, done this particular way, by this particular filmmaker? That's just insane. It's an insane proposition on paper. I have no doubt there are execs at other studios just waiting to see this one stumble, and I also have no doubt those same people are going to be dumbfounded when they see what it actually is.

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<p>Why do I get the feeling that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Jane (Natalie Portman) don't get a lot of opportunity to smile in 'Thor:&nbsp;The Dark World'?</p>

Why do I get the feeling that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Jane (Natalie Portman) don't get a lot of opportunity to smile in 'Thor: The Dark World'?

Credit: Marvel Studios

Sequels to 'Thor' and 'Captain America' show up and make big splash at Comic-Con

Cap and Widow, sittin' in a tree... f-i-g-h-t-i-n-g

SAN DIEGO - At this point, Saturday has become the big day for fan-gasms in Hall H, the day the studios all compete to see who can make the biggest noise, and for the last several years, Marvel has walked away victorious.

This year, their panel started with moderator Chris Hardwick taking the stage for the second time that day, still dressed as Booker DeWitt, and he immediately brought out Kevin Feige, all-around head poobah of Marvel Studios.

Kevin walked out, sat down, and as he was in the middle of his introductory banter with Chris, said one word about "Thor: The Dark World," only to be cut off mid-sentence as the entire Hall H plunged into darkness.

"Humanity," a suspiciously familiar voice said over the Hall H speakers. "Look how far you've fallen. Lining up in the sweltering heat for hours. Huddled together in the darkness. I am Loki of Asgard… and I am burdened with glorious purpose."

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<p>'Godzilla'</p>

'Godzilla'

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

'Godzilla' storms into Hall H to kick off Warner's Comic-Con presentation

It looks like he's got some serious foes to face

SAN DIEGO - For the second year in a row, Legendary and Warner Bros. came to San Diego's Comic-Con so they could promote one of the biggest films they have on their release schedule, next summer's "Godzilla."

As they did last year, Warner Bros. blew everything out to three screens that surrounded the front end of Hall H. It's a very clear sign that they want to overwhelm the audience that's gathered here at the start of the day. The presentation began with black and white footage of nuclear bomb tests, filling every screen until a logo emerged from the ash, the single word. "Godzilla."

Chris Hardwick, the panel moderator for the day, introduced the mood piece that was shown last year. It really is a gorgeous introduction to what director Gareth Edwards hopes to accomplish with the film, with Oppenheimer's narration placed over visions of mass destruction, evidence of something that has already happened, holes in skyscrapers and derailed trains and bodies positively everywhere. And then, at the very end, just a hint of Godzilla himself looming up out of some smoke.

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<p>Andrew Garfield practically radiated joy when we spoke today and why not?&nbsp;The dude is <em>Spider-Man</em>.</p>

Andrew Garfield practically radiated joy when we spoke today and why not? The dude is Spider-Man.

Credit: HitFix

'Amazing Spider-Man 2' star Andrew Garfield talks about being starstruck with Jamie Foxx

The star seems just as excited to play the role again as he was the first time

SAN DIEGO - Evidently, Andrew Garfield spent his day charming people.

I wasn't in Hall H during today's presentation of footage from "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," but I did have a chance to sit down with Garfield pretty much the second I stepped off stage from moderating the "Kick-Ass 2"/"Riddick" panel.

While I wasn't crazy about "The Amazing Spider-Man," I think highly of the casting in the movie, and I was very clear in my review that I look forward to seeing if they can turn the sequel into the slam dunk that it should be. When I was asked if I wanted to talk to Garfield even though I wouldn't get to see the presentation, I didn't even hesitate. Of course I did.

One of the most charming moments I've ever seen in Hall H took place the first year Garfield came here for "The Amazing Spider-Man," and I wrote about it that year. It convinced me that no matter what, Garfield really did believe that it was an honor to be tapped to play the iconic character. Now he's gone through the entire process once, and he's just wrapped up his second time playing the character, and I was curious to see if it was starting to feel like just another job to him.

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<p>Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse seemed to get along better on today's 'Kick-Ass 2' panel than they do in the rude and rowdy sequel.</p>

Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse seemed to get along better on today's 'Kick-Ass 2' panel than they do in the rude and rowdy sequel.

Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP Photo

The new red-band 'Kick-Ass 2' preview shows just how far the new film is willing to go

Trust me... you don't want a visit from Eisenhower

SAN DIEGO - The thing that I take away each year from San Diego is that it doesn't matter how much you plan or how hard you work to organize things. When Comic-Con wants to beat the crap out of you, Comic-Con will beat the crap out of you, and all you can do is smile, take it, and hope you make it through.

This morning was a perfect example. What should have been a nine-minute bus ride took 55 minutes, so by the time I arrived at the Convention Center, I had less than ten minutes to the scheduled start of the Universal panel I was moderating. I wanted time to say hello to everyone, chat a little to break the ice, organize my questions. Nope. I ran in, ran backstage, ran upstairs, put my bag down, and then walked out onto the stage, still scattered from the crazy ride over.

Thankfully, the materials that they brought for "Kick-Ass 2" today speak very loudly for the film. While the first ten or fifteen minutes of this one feel very much like an extension of the first film, once it starts to establish its own voice, it is that rare sequel that actually seems determined to shake things up and really push the characters in new directions.

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<p>Vin Diesel shows off his special Furyan t-shirt during today's 'Riddick' panel at the San Diego Comic-Con</p>

Vin Diesel shows off his special Furyan t-shirt during today's 'Riddick' panel at the San Diego Comic-Con

Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP Photo

Red-band 'Riddick' preview makes the new Vin Diesel movie look like bloody good fun

You get to see what we showed the folks in Hall H today

SAN DIEGO - By far, the strangest moment from any Comic-Con for me now has got to be when Vin Diesel stopped the panel today to thank me for supporting "Pitch Black" back in the early days of Ain't It Cool. He told the story of bringing the film to the first Butt-Numb-A-Thon and talked about how that was the first experience he had with an audience watching the film.

Now, thirteen years later, it was a pleasure to be able to moderate the panel for "Riddick," the third film in which Vin plays the optically-challenged Furyan warrior who tends to kill everything he comes into contact with. Writer/director David Twohy was also on the panel this morning, along with "Battlestar Galactica" star Katee Sackhoff, who plays a bounty hunter named Dahl in the film.

One of the things that made the Universal panel a bit of a challenge for the studio is that both of the films they brought this year are very R-rated, and Hall H is an inclusive place where you have families and fans of all ages and people who are in there from first thing in the morning until the end of the day. You have to be aware of that, and yet you also want to give the audience a taste of what they can genuinely expect from the film when they finally see it.

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<p>Christoph Waltz appears to be having a very weird day in Terry Gilliam's new film 'The Zero Theorem,' which showed a preview at today's Comic-Con</p>

Christoph Waltz appears to be having a very weird day in Terry Gilliam's new film 'The Zero Theorem,' which showed a preview at today's Comic-Con

Credit: Voltage Pictures

The first 10 minutes of Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem' screened at Comic-Con 2013

Gilliam appears onscreen in Hall courtesy of NSA wiretap

SAN DIEGO - The San Diego Comic-Con 2013 is in full swing, but to me, it still feels like it's revving up. Both times I was in Hall H today, huge sections of it were empty. That's no fault of the people on the stage, but it is a sign that Comic-Con sometimes seems to be scheduling things in the wrong venues. It sounds like Ballroom 20 was running at capacity all day today with wildly popular TV programming, when maybe a smaller, more intimate setting would have been a better place to see the panel I enjoyed this afternoon, a first look at the new film by Terry Gilliam.

Gina McIntyre, who writes for Hero Complex at the LA Times, was the moderator of the panel, which was nice to see after Anne Thompson asked me last night at the HitFix opening night party if there were any women I could think of who moderated any of the Hall H panels. I couldn't offhand, and Anne has a good point. As more and more of the programming here seems to be aimed at a very different audience than the stereotypical fanboy, it seems logical that you'd also see some more diversity in the people who moderate these events.

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<p>When it's not trying too hard, 'RED 2' does manage to deliver some big laughs and some charming chemistry between the leads.</p>

When it's not trying too hard, 'RED 2' does manage to deliver some big laughs and some charming chemistry between the leads.

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Review: Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker almost make 'RED 2' a worthwhile return

HitFix
C+
Readers
n/a
A lot of chemistry and a wafer-thin script can't quite pull it off

Sequels are never easy, which makes me wonder why Hollywood always seems to be in such a rush to get to them. I remember when sequels were still relatively uncommon, and the prevailing wisdom was that not every automatically deserved a second part. Just as I believe that filmmakers frequently are surprised by the reasons audiences fall in love with movies, I think they also often emphasize the wrong things when they make sequels, undermining that initial affection in the process.

One of the most direct parallels I can draw to the differences between "RED" and "RED 2" would be by using the model of "Romancing The Stone" and "Jewel Of The Nile." In both cases, the first film is ostensibly an action-comedy, but what really makes it work is the palpable romantic chemistry between the leads. The script for "Romancing The Stone" was written by the great Diane Thomas, who died much too young, and it is a wicked clever read that both mocks the conventions of the romance novels that Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) writes while also playing them straight enough to generate some real heat. When Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner co-wrote the sequel, they needed to find a way to generate friction between Turner's character and Jack Colton, the Michael Douglas character, and it undermines the happily ever after of the first film's ending. That's fine if it ended up working, but instead of rekindling the heat of the first film, it soured the relationship between the two of them, making it all seem like less fun.

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