<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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<p>Hugh Jackman and Rila Fukushima make a fascinating team in 'The Wolverine'</p>

Hugh Jackman and Rila Fukushima make a fascinating team in 'The Wolverine'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: Hugh Jackman makes a nice return to form in James Mangold's 'The Wolverine'

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
There seems to be plenty of gas left in the 'X-Men' franchise

From the very beginning, Fox's "X-Men" series has played fast and loose with the source material, and enjoying the films has required the viewer to set aside any preconceived notions about the characters and the world. When Bryan Singer made the first "X-Men," this current wave of superhero movies was still in early days, and it seemed like the key to making a comic book film was somehow muting the more overtly "comic-book" elements and making things "gritty" and "real." Looking back at that first film now, I'm amazed by just how much it feels like the film just barely holds together, carried along by a certain excited energy and by the charisma of the cast.

The one breakout star from that film was Hugh Jackman, who was not Fox's first choice for the role. I thought it was evident immediately that he was not the same Wolverine that I'd grown up on, but that he brought a great, no nonsense gruffness to the role that made it okay that he's about a foot and a half taller than the character. The attitude was right, and the first time his claws went "SNIKT," it felt like we had turned a corner in terms of comic-books on the big screen.

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<p>Jean Grey returns in 'The Wolverine,' and we talked to Famke Jannsen about how that's possible and how she fits into the still-expanding 'X-Men' universe</p>

Jean Grey returns in 'The Wolverine,' and we talked to Famke Jannsen about how that's possible and how she fits into the still-expanding 'X-Men' universe

Credit: HitFix

Famke Jannsen talks about playing as the conscience to Hugh Jackman as 'The Wolverine'

Plus we talk about what this means for 'The Last Stand'

I had a moment of panic as I walked into the room with Famke Jannsen on the recent press day I attended for "The Wolverine" in New York. I have spent much of the past fifteen years referring to her in print as "The Dutch Treat," and as long as I am just a faceless person on the Internet, I can enjoy a silly way of acknowledging that she has always been a strikingly lovely and intriguing performer.

But I've had several moments recently where I had a conversation with someone and realized that they've read the site and that, more specifically, they've read things I've written about them. I am always pleased to hear that and happy to then dig into the conversation afterwards, but in Jansen's case, I had a sort of mini panic attack because I have no idea what she'd think about that nickname, and since she is seven feet tall when wearing big crazy high fashion heels, as she was that day, I was pretty sure she could kick my ass easily if she didn't like the joke.

Thankfully, Jannsen seemed to in a great mood. It helps sometimes when you're the last person scheduled for an interview that day, because you walk in and they're in this sudden great mood because someone just told them this is the last one. They get that one last blast of energy, but by that point, they're sort of punchy, and that can be the perfect condition to be in for an interview. It also might help that I was a bit punchy myself because of the travel I had just done.
 
Whatever the case, talking to her about this particular film should be a difficult thing because I don't want to give away too much of what she does in it, but I also wanted to really discuss it as a choice. If you don't want to know how she fits into the film, bookmark this page and then come back to it once the film is out next weekend. If you aren't afraid of a tiny bit of spoiling, then you might enjoy our conversation here.

When we talked about how this builds off of the ending of "X-Men: The Last Stand," it came through clearly that she was frustrated by that film and by the way it wrapped up a storyline in which she was the focal point. We talked a bit about how this film redeems some of that one, and it felt like things wrapped up very quickly. Once the cameras were off, we talked about the film's biggest surprise, and then they told her she was done for the day. Considering the last few films in the series, it was great to talk to her about the way the series seems to be rebounding now.

See for yourself when "The Wolverine" opens everywhere July 26, 2013.

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<p>James Mangold had to get sneaky to win a major battle on his new film 'The Wolverine'</p>

James Mangold had to get sneaky to win a major battle on his new film 'The Wolverine'

Credit: HitFix

Director James Mangold talks about how he approached redeeming 'The Wolverine'

Plus find out how he snuck through all the Japanese spoken in the film

I've never met James Mangold before. I had a great couple of meetings with his producing partner Cathy Woods back around 1995 and 1996, but nothing ever came of it. Mangold at that point was still establishing his voice, and what I've enjoyed about watching his career over the years is that he's never really allowed himself to be pinned down to one thing, but he certainly doesn't seem like an anonymous studio guy, either. That's not easy to pull off.

When I sat down for our interview this past weekend, I was operating on no sleep and a weird case of jet lag, and I had just ridden in from the airport and showered quickly before we spoke. I barely knew where I was, and I thought it was very kind of Mangold to check out the way my shirt buttons were lined up and get up, walk over, and make sure I was camera-ready. He did it unconsciously, like he was setting up a shot, and it said so much about him, and especially in the way he introduced himself at the same time in a very disarming manner.

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<p>Yep. That's a snail versus a race car.</p>

Yep. That's a snail versus a race car.

Credit: Dreamworks Animation

Review: Dreamworks Animation's 'Turbo' offers up a sort of diet 'Ratatouille'

HitFix
C+
Readers
n/a
Kids should be entertained, but it covers familiar ground

It seems unfair to compare Dreamworks to Pixar or Illuminated Entertainment or Blue Sky. After all, they all produce family-oriented family entertainment, but that doesn't mean they're chasing the exact same goals… does it?

To be honest, I wish they worked harder to distinguish their product, because it can start to all blur together at times. Even when someone makes an amiable, charming little movie, when you start to see unavoidable echoes from one project to another, it's a bit of a drag. "Turbo" arrives in theaters tomorrow, and while younger viewers are going to enjoy it, most likely, it started to feel very familiar to me to a disconcerting degree.

Brad Bird's "Ratatouille" was one of those cases where Pixar reached a breaking point on a film that wasn't working, and they were willing to strip it down and start again, resulting in a film that carries a powerful emotional charge and a surprisingly smart, adult message. It was not originally Brad Bird's film, but the idea of a rat who loved to cook was enough of a hook that they felt like they had something there to build off of.

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<p>Let's see... Tom Hanks, a pretty European actress, a work of art, and a secret... yep, that's a Robert Langdon film, all right.</p>

Let's see... Tom Hanks, a pretty European actress, a work of art, and a secret... yep, that's a Robert Langdon film, all right.

Credit: Sony Pictures

Ron Howard and Tom Hanks are both back for Dan Brown's 'Inferno' for 2015

Robert Langdon has a new mystery to solve thanks to David Koepp

I am not remotely surprised that they're skipping "The Lost Symbol" completely.

Actually, maybe I am a little surprised. After all, Tom Hanks and Ron Howard both made mountains of cash for the first two Robert Langdon films, "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons," despite the fact that very few people seemed to genuinely like either of the films. Dan Brown's books are pop culture juggernauts, and that combination of talent combined with the omnipresence of the books made the movies as close to a can't miss proposition as you can get in modern Hollywood.

"The Lost Symbol," though, tarnished the brand pretty thoroughly, because it seemed to reveal the mechanical structure behind the franchise too nakedly. It is a formula book to such a deadening degree that it's almost a parody. It's so by-the-numbers, and it covers the exact same ground as the not-terribly-subtle also-ran series of "National Treasure" movies that Bruckheimer made for Disney. Those films seemed to stake a pretty firm claim on the idea of Washington D.C. as a big giant Rubik's Cube ready to be solved, and Brown's book felt thin even by his own standards.

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<p>Kristen Wiig and Darren Criss are both charming, but 'Girl Most Likely' never quite comes together</p>

Kristen Wiig and Darren Criss are both charming, but 'Girl Most Likely' never quite comes together

Credit: Lionsgate

Review: Kristen Wiig's 'Girl Most Likely' definitely doesn't connect

HitFix
C-
Readers
n/a
A scattered comedy doesn't really showcase anyone well

When I saw this film at last year's Toronto Film Festival, it was called "Imogene," which is the name of the main character in the movie, played by Kristen Wiig. At that point, the film did not have a distributor lined up, and I decided to wait to see if they were ever going to release it to theaters before writing a review. Since it will actually be seeing a limited release this Friday, I guess now it's fair game to write about it and to try to explain what a frustrating near-miss the whole thing turns out to be.

Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini have a very uneven overall filmography. I think they always seem to be totally engaged with what they're doing, sincere about it, but it doesn't always connect. I think "American Splendor" is pretty great, a lovely variation on the biopic genre, and their early documentary "The Last Days Of Chasen's" was a fairly wise look at the struggle for status in LA culture and the impermanence of Los Angeles. "The Nanny Diaries"? Not so much. Not for me. And I thought "Cinema Verite" was decent, but ultimately felt like a thin version of something much meatier. "The Extra Man" is uneven, but Paul Dano and Kevin Kline are so in tune playing off each other that it pushes it over in the end.

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