<p>The title character from the charming and creepy short film 'Alma,' set to be developed as a full-length feature by Dreamworks Animation and Guillermo Del Toro.</p>

The title character from the charming and creepy short film 'Alma,' set to be developed as a full-length feature by Dreamworks Animation and Guillermo Del Toro.

Credit: Rodrigo Blaas

Guillermo Del Toro champions animated 'Alma' and Eli Roth is afraid of a 'Clown'

It's a heady time for DIY filmmakers looking to break through

You're a filmmaker working on original projects, and you're looking at the misery of the international financing market, and you're looking at the marketplace and its near-psychotic dependence on remakes and sequels and brands and widgets, and you are filled with despair.

The reason some people break through and some people don't comes down to something as simple as presentation.  It is absolutely still possible for a good original idea to take root and bloom and even succeed wildly these days.  Possible, but incredibly difficult.  If you want to get people to pay attention to your idea, you have to be professional about it, but you also have to think beyond the basics.  You have to take initiative, and if you really believe in your idea, you find a way to tell that story.  You do it because you have to, not because you're looking to get rich.  You do it because it's a compulsion.

I love it when artists take it upon themselves to kickstart something, and when they do it using limited resources, on a small scale, somehow creating things that don't feel like they were created by committee based on market research.

This week's been a good week for this type of story, and two of them deserve to be highlighted.  The first is a major new Dreamworks animated film called "Alma," based on a short film by Rodrigo Blaas.  Guillermo Del Toro will be working with Blaas and Dreamworks to turn Blaas's award-winning short film into a full-length feature, and it's obvious that Blaas has made a huge impression on Del Toro, since they'll also be co-directing the animated film "Trollhunters".

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Anthony Hopkins in 'The Rite'

He ain't catching raindrops

Credit: New Line

Watch: Anthony Hopkins teaches exorcism in 'The Rite' trailer

New trailer delivers a new look at an old tradition

Over the years since "The Exorcist" exorcism and possession movies have almost become a genre unto themselves. Journalist Matt Baglio sought to get to the reality behind all the green vomit and glazed over eyeballs from those films and followed a young priest as he took a course in exorcism from a Vatican affiliated university. His 2009 non-fiction book "The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist" was the result.

One year later and here comes the film version of that book, "The Rite." From the looks of this trailer, all of the Hollywood conventions about exorcism are back with a vengeance. Colin O'Donoghue stars as Michael Kovak, the disillusioned American seminary student who meets Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins,) who introduces him to the darker sides of the faith.

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Paranormal Activity 2 victim

This woman did not close her mouth for an hour and a half

Watch: 'Paranormal Activity 2' audience in LA reacts in nightvision

Getting a free screening means you may be in their commercial

So I woke up this morning to a news alert about some raw video of the "Paranormal Activity 2" screening, including that night-vision stuff of people in the audience sh**ting their pants at the scary parts. It's amazing how effective that footage was in the trailers last year. This stuff is really fun, it's fascinating and voyeuristic to watch people squirm as they get scared.

Given that Drew liked the movie, I threw together a look at the evening for you all to see. Are any of our VIP pass winners in the video? Let us know! And remember, being lured into a free screening may get you on national TV, looking like a scare-dy-cat!

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<p>M. Night Shyamalan, seen here on the set of 'Devil' with the Dowdle Brothers, may direct his first piece of material written by someone else if 'One Thousand A.E.' happens</p>

M. Night Shyamalan, seen here on the set of 'Devil' with the Dowdle Brothers, may direct his first piece of material written by someone else if 'One Thousand A.E.' happens

Credit: Universal

M. Night Shyamalan's secret new SF film will be first not written by him

Gary Whitta's the author this time, so what does that mean for Night?

Can you feel it?  The wind just changed direction, and I have a feeling it's going to be a long time before that wind changes back.

Since the release of "The Sixth Sense," M. Night Shyamalan has been calling his own shots, and he's grown a reputation for himself as a wee bit of a control freak.  And by "wee bit," I mean "planet-sized."  If you've never read The Man Who Heard Voices, the book that was written by Michael Bamberger about the development and production of "The Lady In The Water," you should.  It's an amazing glimpse at a man who is still wracked by insecurity even after having a career-affirming mega-success or two, and who is so wounded by the development process on his early film "Wide Awake" and the unproduced "Labor Of Love" that he has never been able to fully embrace collaboration again.

That may be changing, though, and I consider it very promising news, indeed.  When Shyamalan first started gaining momentum in Hollywood, it was because of his skills as a writer.  If you go back and look at his early scripts on the page, like "The Sixth Sense" or his draft of "Stuart Little," what comes across first is the economy of his writing, and the elegance of how he could communicate an idea.  Over time, he's become more and more confident as a director, but in the process, he's lost touch with his own talents as a writer, and I'd say his last few feature scripts have been the worst work of his career.

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<p>Katie Featherston returns for 'Paranormal Activity 2,' and while that's good news for the audience, I'm not entirely sure the other characters would agree.</p>

Katie Featherston returns for 'Paranormal Activity 2,' and while that's good news for the audience, I'm not entirely sure the other characters would agree.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Review: 'Paranormal Activity 2' more than lives up to last year's surprise hit

Quickie horror sequel turns out to be a smart and scary ride

Anyone who walks into "Paranormal Activity 2" skeptical would be well within their rights.

Think about it.  The original, released theatrically last year, was a sort of lightning strike of indie inspiration, a shot-on-video film that used one house as a set and that managed to wring some real scares out of something as simple as two characters and some sound effects.  It was actually made two years earlier, and it took that entire time for people… specifically Paramount… to figure out how to sell this $11,000 film.  They pulled off an aggressive campaign and opened the film to impressive business, even managing to dent the previously undentable "Saw" franchise.

Releasing a sequel a year later would seem to be a sign that the studio is cashing in, and that this is something for them to squeeze as quickly as they can.  It's no stretch to imagine that whatever Paramount was rushing onto screens this year was going to be a pale imitation of the first, which was already a fairly lean little trick of a movie.

So how is the second one genuinely scary, and why do I feel like this is a near-perfect example of how to learn from a first film when building a second film?

One thing that made tonight's viewing so fun was the way Paramount has kept pretty much all story details under wraps, including the time-frame for this film.  When they started showing a few snippets (because it's not fair to call them clips based on how short they were) from the film in the last few weeks, it was surprising to see Katie Featherston show up again.  Considering the end of the first film, that isn't what I expected.  I thought we'd be seeing a brand-new family and just more of the same.

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Ghostface

Ghostface on the set of 'Scream 4' courtesy of the director

Credit: Wes Craven

Watch: Ghostface is back in official trailer for 'Scream 4'

Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox are back and joined by new stars

A few days after this trailer premiered, appropriately enough, at "Spike's 2010 Scream Awards" and just two days after a crappy bootleg of said trailer made the rounds, we have the official trailer for Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson's latest installment in the "Scream" saga. ("exclusively" on Yahoo today)

"Scream 4" looks to review some familiar but much beloved territory. Ten years after the last installment, (wow, really?) Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is once again tormented by a demented knife wielding maniac with a sense of humor and a love of horror movies.

Returning are the franchise's surviving regulars, Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courtney Cox Arquette as well as a few fresh faces such as Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin. In the trailer, Culkin has the coveted role of explaining "the rules." Or the horror movie conventions that Ghostface will tend to follow this time around.

Looks like fun, watch the trailer embedded above and let us know what you think. Are you ready for more, or over it? 

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<p>Johnny Depp, looking fairly dapper here, reportedly wants to remake 'The Thin Man' with his 'Pirates 4' director Rob Marshall at the helm.</p>

Johnny Depp, looking fairly dapper here, reportedly wants to remake 'The Thin Man' with his 'Pirates 4' director Rob Marshall at the helm.

Credit: AP

The Morning Read: Johnny Depp's thirsty to remake 'The Thin Man' with Rob Marshall

Plus a first 'Cars 2' trailer, 'The Hobbit' is done with NZ, and Gene Simmons versus Anonymous

Welcome to The Morning Read.

Of course Johnny Depp wants to remake "The Thin Man".  He'll get to play another comic lead who spends an entire movie drunk.  It's like Jack Sparrow in a tuxedo, for god's sake.  And since he and Rob Marshall are evidently getting along like a house on fire on "Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" right now, I'd say if Depp really wants him to direct this remake, he will.  Intense jealousy barely begins to describe what I feel towards anyone lucky enough to be involved in this. 

I have a love of the "Thin Man" films, even the weakest of them, that I have for very few other films.  I love Nick and Nora Charles.  Hell, if you go to my Twitter page, my background since day one has been the two or them and Asta, their dog.  There is no greater screen couple, and as much as Depp feels like an easy slam-dunk as Nick Charles, the real key is finding a Nora Charles who gives as good as she gets, and who can be a completely game partner for him.  No easy feat.  This one's still an idea in a movie star's head, an itch he wants scratched, and there's no writer yet, much less a script, so for now, it's an interesting hypothetical.

I can't believe they caught the kid who threatened to kill Matt Stone and Trey Parker over their depiction of the prophet Muhammad on "South Park."  That's sort of amazing.  Anonymity really isn't the shield that people think it is.

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<p>Early character designs from Brenda Chapman's 'Bear and the Bow,' which is now called 'Brave,' and which will no longer be directed by her.</p>

Early character designs from Brenda Chapman's 'Bear and the Bow,' which is now called 'Brave,' and which will no longer be directed by her.

Credit: Pixar/Disney

Director Brenda Chapman replaced on Pixar's 'Brave' while animation insiders buzz

As the first woman to helm a Pixar movie steps aside, what does this mean for the studio?

Female directors are not uncommon only in the world of animation.  There's a reason it was a big deal when Kathryn Bigelow won her Oscar last year.  I'm not a "meet a quota" kind of guy, but I do believe that a variety of voices is what we need in film if the art form is going to remain vital and interesting.  The more types of voices we have making films, the more perspective we gain on ourselves, and that's one of the primary reasons we make art in the first place.

Of course, when you're talking about giant budget franchise pictures, the word "art" is a little precious.  And as much as I enjoy the work of Pixar, they are absolutely one of the most important financial brands in modern Hollywood.  They have the best track record in the business for a reason.  They have a carefully managed story department, and they are ruthless during development.  They have had several major shake-ups on films, including "Cars," "Ratatouille," and "Toy Story 2," with directors being replaced and big chunks of story being thrown out.  Recently, they pulled the plug on "Newt," and some of the concept art for that ended up on their Facebook page.  John Lasseter is now also the man in charge over at Walt Disney Feature Animation, and he's had a major late-in-the-game influence on both "Bolt!," which began life under the direction of Chris Sanders as "American Dog," and "Tangled," which arrives in theaters next month in a very different form than was originally intended by Glen Keane.

Obviously, none of that matters if the film actually works.  And time after time, Pixar has managed to snatch success from the jaws of failure.  They've been quite open in discussing the way the process works.

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<p>Y'know, I can't blame that kid at all for being preoccupied with Angie Dickinson in 'Pretty Maids All In A Row,' new to DVD from Warner Archive.</p>

Y'know, I can't blame that kid at all for being preoccupied with Angie Dickinson in 'Pretty Maids All In A Row,' new to DVD from Warner Archive.

Credit: Warner Archive

One Thing I Love Today: Rock Hudson and Angie Dickinson in 'Pretty Maids All In A Row'

Warner Archive hits another home run with their release of Roger Vadim's sexploitation gem

Roger Vadim once referred to it as "the most enjoyable film I made in my career."  Gene Roddenberry fans generally have no idea it exists.  Rock Hudson was at the tail end of his career when he made it.  And the Osmonds recorded the totally awesome theme song.

So why doesn't everyone already own "Pretty Maids All In A Row"?

Oh, that's right.  It's been totally unavailable until next week, when Warner Archive (who should be given some sort of Congressional medal for their efforts in the last few years) releases the film on DVD for the first time.  I saw the movie in February of 1999, when I was at QT III, the third film festival that Quentin Tarantino programmed at the old original Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, and I fell for it, head over heels.  It's a slasher movie, and it's a teen sex comedy, and it's a sort of last lap around the pool for Rock Hudson, and somehow, all of these different things going on work together.

Angie Dickinson is exceptionally sexy in the film, and Rock Hudson may have been in his sunset years, but he is sharp and charming and manages to make an incredibly distasteful role into something almost charming.  Roger Vadim packed the film with crazy gorgeous '70s girls, all of whom seem practically offended by the notion of wearing clothing.  The young lead in the film, John David Carson, should have had a real career, but for some reason this is one of those one-offs.  I don't think Vadim is a great director, but I think he's occasionally a really fun director, and maybe it was the chemistry between his sensibility and the totally wackadoo screenplay by "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry, who reveals himself as sort of a gleeful superfreak with this one.  Whatever the case, this was a case of Vadim getting it all just right.

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<p>Ben Affleck, seen here on the set of his latest film &quot;The Town,&quot; may direct and star in an adaptation of the Ken Grimwood SF&nbsp;romance 'Replay'</p>

Ben Affleck, seen here on the set of his latest film "The Town," may direct and star in an adaptation of the Ken Grimwood SF romance 'Replay'

Credit: Warner Bros/Legendary

Ben Affleck may direct and star in long in-development SF love story 'Replay'

Novel's been through a lot of hands, and may finally make it to the bigscreen

Ben Affleck could probably make any script in town right now if he wanted to.

"The Town" may not be a giant preposterous megahit, but the reviews were great and audiences have definitely responded.  What impresses studio execs when they look at something like "The Town" is a film for grown-ups that isn't based on a comic book and that stars adults and that was made for a reasonable cost, and that seems like the Holy Grail for these folks these days.

When they turn to Affleck, they're looking to him to make something that can be commercial, but that they can genuinely be proud of.  My guess is there are snowdrifts of scripts for long-dormant properties being dumped on Affleck's doorstep these days, and all he has to do is say yes if he wants to get one of them made.

Ken Grimwood's "Replay" is definitely not a new property.  The first time I remember hearing about the development of the novel into a film was in the mid-'90s, and at that point, it had already been kicking around for a while.  I was a fan when it was published in 1987, and it's one of those books that has stuck with me for decades, clearly, without ever revisiting it.  Grimwood's book is about a guy in his early '40s who has a heart attack.  Instead of dying, though, he wakes up in his 18-year-old body, with all of his memories of the 20-plus years that follow. 

And not just once, but in a cycle that he realizes is not unique to him.  The reasons why he is a Replayer, and the way he plays out these second and third and so on chances is what makes the material so powerful, and Grimwood plays riffs on this idea that you've never seen.  Sure, the idea of being caught in a loop like that is somewhat similar to "Groundhog Day" on the surface, but "Replay" digs deeper, and the book is powerfully emotional as well as wickedly high-concept.

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