<p>This promo art for Kevin Smith's 'Red State' was part of his announcement that production on his tenth feature film has wrapped</p>

This promo art for Kevin Smith's 'Red State' was part of his announcement that production on his tenth feature film has wrapped

Credit: The Harvey Boys Productions

The Evening Read: Kevin Smith finishes 'Red State' and wages war on film critics

Plus Jackman and Elfman on 'Houdini' and more AFM 'news'

Welcome to the Morning Read.

Actually, thanks to a visit to Santa Monica to check in on a film that's currently editing and a delightful afternoon of traffic on the 405 that makes no sense at all to me, today it's the Evening Read.  And so be it.  It was a big day of things to read, and just trying to find the time to sift through it all took until now.

In the time between when I posted my "Sucker Punch" set visit this morning and now, the new trailer premiered on Apple.com, and I'm sorry if you're one of those people who still inexplicably insists that Snyder doesn't handle narrative well… I disagree.  Yes, he's a man who loves style and loves to play with the image, but I think he's a storyteller.  And this new trailer tells a complicated story well, setting up the movie in a way that hints at how much there's going to be for viewers, but that also leaves you wanting more.  And the use of Led Zeppelin?  Bonus points. 

Also, I have to say… I have resisted joining the cult of Apple for many years, but watching a 1080p trailer from Apple.com on a 13" Macbook Pro is only one of the ways I've been converted since I got the laptop in September.  This must be what it feels like when The Thing takes you over.  I can feel myself changing into one of those people…

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<p>Baby Doll (Emily Browning) faces one of the many dreamscapes she is forced to conquer in order to find the key to escape from a prison both mental and physical in Zack Snyder's 'Sucker Punch,' due in theaters in 2011.</p>

Baby Doll (Emily Browning) faces one of the many dreamscapes she is forced to conquer in order to find the key to escape from a prison both mental and physical in Zack Snyder's 'Sucker Punch,' due in theaters in 2011.

Credit: Warner Bros/Legendary

Set Visit Preview: Zack Snyder's 'Sucker Punch' is next year's craziest ride

Hot girls? Robots? Dragons? Don Draper? 'Sucker Punch' promises something for everyone

Take "Inception."  Drop in "Black Swan."  Add a dash of cosplay fantasy and a hint of "Excalibur" and a pinch of "Return To Oz," and then blend until liquified.  At that point, shoot the whole thing in Zack Snyder Dream-o-vision and brace yourself for "Sucker Punch," the director's first original feature film, not based on any source material.

And I can honestly say that after visiting the Vancouver location for the film, after talking to the director, the cast, and Deb Snyder, one of the film's producers, I still don't feel confident saying that I could "describe" the film to you accurately.  I get the feeling that until it's done, polished, and every last detail is in place, there's no way to get your head around exactly what it is that Snyder's tried to do.

When I compare this film to both "Inception" and "Black Swan," don't get me wrong… I'm not saying Snyder was influenced by those movies.  He wasn't.  It's just that there are thematic ideas he's chasing that those two films also explore.  He's been chipping away at "Sucker Punch" with his co-writer Steve Shibuya since before he made "300," and he's just finally gotten himself to a place where he has the expendable clout to make something that is this purely an expression of his own interests and fancies.  His relationship with Warner Bros. and with Legendary is very similar to the relationship they have with Christopher Nolan.  They have a faith in him and his overall vision that extends well beyond any one film.  They are in the Zack Snyder business, and they plan to be in that business for as long as they're still convinced that Snyder has a connection to the zeitgeist.

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Skyline

Not a good sign

Credit: Rogue Pictures

Watch: Eric Balfour and company try to escape the invasion in 'Skyline'

Five new clips from this 'low budget' adventure look anything but

The story behind "Skyline" is pretty interesting: two brother's with a special effects house (Hydraulx Filmz) get inspired to shoot an alien invasion flick in one of their condos. They hire mostly TV talent and with a tiny crew put a movie together that gets picket up by a major studio!

Ok, these guys were pros already, (Hydraulx was working on 'Battle for Los Angeles" for Sony while finishing this) but "Skyline" is truly a great example of what digital effects technology can do nowadays, and will be held up by many a penny pinching studio exec as what is possible "on a budget" for years to come.

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<p>Todd Phillips, director of 'Due Date,' sat down with HitFix to discuss his new film, working with his two high-energy co-stars, and the way Internet news works</p>

Todd Phillips, director of 'Due Date,' sat down with HitFix to discuss his new film, working with his two high-energy co-stars, and the way Internet news works

Credit: HitFix

Watch: 'Due Date' director Todd Phillips talks about dark comedy and Mr. Creepy

Comedy titan talks about Internet rumors, Galifianakis, and road trips

Todd Phillips is one of those guys I'm always happy to sit down and talk to, no matter how much I do or don't like his most current film, because I know he'll be frank in an interview, and because I've learned over time spent interviewing him that as long as you treat him fairly in print, he'll treat you the same in person.

We live in an age of controlled media spin as the norm, so on those occasions we actually hear someone speak their mind in an unfettered way, it's a little shocking.  I was enjoying the reaction earlier today to an interview Phillips gave to Movieline, and the way people were getting upset or defensive about what he said.  I don't think any outlet with a voice as gleefully confrontational as Movieline's should ever be surprised if someone has a strong reaction to what they do, even if it's negative. 

That's what you risk when you adopt a tone that is largely built on snark, which is the coin of the realm these days.  I'm occasionally cutting with the way I'll sneak a joke into something, but for the most part, I find that sincerity works best when writing about film because the only real reaction that matters is the genuine one.  I could easily put my finger up to the wind, figure out which way things are going, and come out on the side of the majority on every film.  I could use sarcasm to distance myself from my emotional responses to films, and mask it all by building one-liners that score points on the various things I cover.

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<p>Brad Pitt, seen here in Andrew Dominik's 'The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford,' may reunite with the filmmaker for a new heist comedy</p>

Brad Pitt, seen here in Andrew Dominik's 'The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford,' may reunite with the filmmaker for a new heist comedy

Credit: Warner Bros./Virtual Studios

Brad Pitt and his 'Jesse James' director pull a Vegas hustle in 'Cogan's Trade'

Will the heist film also reunite much of the acclaimed 'Jesse James' cast?

If you were to take a poll purely of film critics and not the general moviegoing public, I think you'd find that "The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford" is considered one of the most unjustly overlooked films of the last decade.  I know I tried to impart to my readers an urgency in regards to seeing the film on the bigscreen, and if I was the sort of person who got crazy about awards at the end of the year, I would have spent most of that year's award season sputtering and spitting about the film's mistreatment.

I think history will eventually hold the film in high regard, and part of the reason for that is the incredible ensemble of actors that director Andrew Dominik put together.  Casey Affleck did some of the best work of that year in his role as Robert Ford, and Brad Pitt did career best work in the lead.  Sam Rockwell, Garrett Dillahunt... these are some of the best guys working now, and Dominik not only put that great cast together, he also knew what to do with them.

Now word comes that Dominik and Brad Pitt are going to reunite in what sounds like a comic heist picture.  "Cogan's Trade" is described as the story of "Jackie Cogan, a professional [enforcer who investigates a heist that takes place during a high stakes poker game under protection of the mob."  And in addition to Pitt, there is a chance Dominik will be using Rockwell and Affleck, which would be tremendous news.  If he adds Mark Ruffalo and Javier Bardem to the mix, that sounds too good to be true.

Keep in mind the American Film Market is in progress in Los Angeles right now, which means you'll be reading a lot of casting news and word of exciting new projects, and it'll seem in the next ten days or so like every one of these projects you read about is happening, absolutely, set-in-stone, no-chance-anything-goes-wrong.  That's not the case, of course.  Much of what the AFM does is hypothetical, in which rights packages are sold and unmade movies are described in the most glowing possible terms.

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<p>Will Ferrell and Tina Fey give voice to Megamind and Roxanne Ritchi in the new Dreamworks Animated superhero comedy 'Megamind,' in theaters this Friday. </p>

Will Ferrell and Tina Fey give voice to Megamind and Roxanne Ritchi in the new Dreamworks Animated superhero comedy 'Megamind,' in theaters this Friday.

Credit: Dreamworks Animation

Review: 'Megamind' casts Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill in smart superhero comedy

Dreamworks Animation finishes off a best-ever creative year with another winner

There are very few riffs on the big superhero icons that have yet to be played.  Within the officially licensed playgrounds of characters like Superman and Batman and Spider-Man and the Hulk and Wonder Woman and the like, they've played every variation on the theme imaginable, and that doesn't count all the unofficial ways people have digested and re-digested this material and these archetypes.  Post-modernism has given rise to a rich tradition of taking these characters and intentionally inverting the basic ingredients to see what will happen.

Which is a long way of saying "Megamind" isn't particularly cutting-edge in terms of the way it plays with the DNA of Superman and Lex Luthor, but it is smart about it.  Director Tom McGrath and screenwriters Alan J. Schoolcraft & Brent Simons start with some very familiar origins, and from those very first moments, they're playing with expectation.  Megamind is launched as a baby from a dying planet, his spaceship programmed to take him to Earth.  On the way through space, though, he encounters another spaceship with another baby, and that's the spaceship that lands in the perfect place, with the perfect parents, with the perfect baby inside eventually growing into the beloved hero Metro Man.  Megamind's spaceship lands inside the walls of a prison, where he is raised to be a criminal.  He embraces his identity early on, hating Metro Man for all of his advantages and for the way he's beloved.  Their lifelong rivalry falls into a pattern that should be familiar to anyone who ever read a comic book.  Megamind kidnaps Metro Man's girlfriend Roxanne Ritchi, Megamind threatens the city, and Metro Man saves the day.  Over and over and over.

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<p>Andy Serkis plays the beloved Captain Haddock in Steven Spielberg's 'The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret of The Unicorn, due in theaters in December of 2011. </p>

Andy Serkis plays the beloved Captain Haddock in Steven Spielberg's 'The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret of The Unicorn, due in theaters in December of 2011.

Credit: Amblin/Wingnut

The Morning Read: Spielberg and Jackson's Tintin makes his CGI debut

Plus John Carpenter's directing 'Darkchylde'

Welcome to The Morning Read.

Wow.  So that's what Tintin looks like.

Empire's been teasing this for the last week, revealing these individual panels, never saying exactly what it was they were teasing.  Their readers had it figured quickly, though, and over on Bleeding Cool, they've been trying to sort out the panels as they've been revealed, confident that the eventual reveal would be one of the great iconic Tintin images, he and his dog Snowy running along a wall while a spotlight shines on them.  Sure enough, that's the cover of the next issue of the magazine, and my first reaction is that Tintin is incredibly realistic and that the world looks incredibly beautiful and the whole thing is… strange.

That's a natural first reaction, though.  The other day, I had lunch with Alex Dorn, who posts articles here on the blog now, and we were talking about how he and I both great up with Tintin, which isn't a common American thing.  In my case, I had a next-door neighbor and best friend whose parents were from Germany, and they had all the Tintin books in the house.  In his case, he grew up overseas, where Tintin is a much bigger deal.  And as we discussed the upcoming Steven Spielberg/Peter Jackson collaboration on bringing Tintin to the bigscreen, the big question was still "What will it look like?"  I told him what I'd heard from the WETA Digital people, and now that I've seen the three stills that Empire is running, I'm not sure it looks at all like I thought it would.

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<p>Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) will use this hammer on you if you don't buy the new Blu-ray release of 'Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World' on November 9</p>

Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) will use this hammer on you if you don't buy the new Blu-ray release of 'Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World' on November 9

Credit: USHE

You could win one of five copies of 'Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World' on Blu-ray

One lucky winner gets a little something extra, too

Okay… now that we've given away the "Apocalypse Now" Blu-rays, it's time for another Blu-ray contest, and this time, we're giving away one of my favorite films of this year.

One of you is going to win the grand prize, which is a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack for "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World," as well as a signed copy of the CD soundtrack for the film (Young Neil himself, Johnny Simmons, signed it) and a special collectible Backstage Pass.

Four more of you will win special Backstage Passes and copies of the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.

All of this is courtesy Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and ABKCO Records, and all you have to do if you want to win is send me your very best fake band name.  Scott Pilgrim may have been part of Sex Bob-omb, but I want to know what bands you guys would christen given the chance.

Me?  I've always been partial to Paulie's Robot.

If you want that Grand Prize, though, you should also include the name of your first album.  The best band name/album title combination takes the big one, so do your best.  Make me laugh.

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<p>Zach Galifianakis and Robert Downey Jr. co-star as exasperated travel companions in the new comedy 'Due Date,' in theaters everywhere this Friday.</p>

Zach Galifianakis and Robert Downey Jr. co-star as exasperated travel companions in the new comedy 'Due Date,' in theaters everywhere this Friday.

Credit: Warner Bros/Legendary

Review: 'Due Date' genuinely funny, but oddly unlikable

Familiar material played darker than you'd think makes for uneven comedy

It's more "Starsky and Hutch" than "The Hangover."

That may seem like I'm bagging "Due Date" right off the bat, but it's more a case of setting expectations at the right level.  There are a number of big laughs in the film, and both Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis show up ready to play.  It's a film that has problems with connective tissue, though, and what you're left with is thin, a sort of rough draft of what might have been a much better movie.

One surprise up front that probably shouldn't be:  don't expect the warm fuzzies to be the main goal of the movie.  This is in many ways the exact model of what studios want from a comedy these days, but because of the darker notes that Todd Phillips can't help but play, the film is basically "Planes, Trains, and Sociopaths."  It's strange, because Robert Downey Jr. has the ability to make you like almost any character.  It's been his gift since the beginning of his career, and the reason he was the exact right person to cast for "Less Than Zero."  He played a moral vacuum in that film, a piece of human garbage, and yet you can't stop watching him.  Zach Galifianakis has a very different comic gift, the ability to play straight-faced eccentric with real authenticity.  It's easy to be weird.  It's hard to make weird feel real and also be funny.  The entire point of doing this sort of a road movie is to pick two personalities that are going to clash in an interesting way, and that hopefully are compelling.

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Danny Boyle and James Franco

'127 Hours,' opens in theaters Friday

Watch: Danny Boyle and James Franco spend six minutes on '127 Hours'

Meet the two charming men behind one of the year's most intense films

One of the worst experiences I've had with a screening this year was in Toronto, and despite a bizarre series of technical and logistical screw-ups that delayed the film by nearly two hours and cost me another screening, I ended up deeply affected by "127 Hours," which is a real testament to just how effective the film is.  For a movie to immediately make all of that accumulated stress and irritation drop away is a real trick, and I've certainly been guilty of letting the day leak into viewings of films.  It happens to anyone who does this day in and day out.

Little wonder, though.  Danny Boyle's been a favorite of mine since his first film, "Shallow Grave," and it's been great watching the way his voice has developed from picture to picture.  When I really like a filmmaker's work, it's doubly upsetting when they make something I really don't like, and that's been rare in his filmography.  He's tried some of everything, it seems, and he's done most of it really well.  It's hard to pinpoint his signature precisely because he's so nimble, but what I think unites Boyle's films is the way he constantly strives to use film and music together to bring you past an intellectual reaction to his films.  He's a smart filmmaker, but he's interested in the visceral, the pure reaction.  His best moments in his best films are amazing, emotional, and immersive.

That's "127 Hours" in a nutshell.  The whole point of the film is to put you in the same position that Aron Ralston was in when he got his arm pinned during a rockslide while he was free-climbing by himself in the Utah desert.  Working from a lean and winning screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, Boyle has crafted an experience that's both highly stylized and deeply realistic.  By pushing the style as far as he does, Boyle gets at the way something would really feel.

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