<p>Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess) is the unlikely hero of the animated adventure movie 'Legend Of The Guardians:&nbsp;The Owls of Ga'hoole&quot;</p>

Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess) is the unlikely hero of the animated adventure movie 'Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga'hoole"

Credit: Warner Bros./Village Roadshow

An afternoon with 'Legend Of The Guardians' and Zack Snyder

Warner Bros. throws a sneak preview of their animated adventure

I spent a decent chunk of time on the Warner lot this afternoon, for more than one purpose, and at one point, I found myself standing, stretching my legs, ten free minutes to myself for the first time since waking up, having a Jamba Juice. 

It was hot today in Burbank but not punishing.  At least not on the lot, where there was a constant breeze.  Some scoring session must have just let out, because there were people walking past me carrying instrument cases large and small.  Lots of them, chatting, off work and on their way home.  It was just after 4:00, and I had three more things to do by 6:30, so I was enjoying the sort of brain-off disconnect.

Amidst the musicians, I saw a few people walking toward me, and it was one of those moments where you see them out of focus at first, and there's something vaguely familiar, and then as they get closer, something in the way someone moves, or some distant raised voice that you catch just a hint of sets off some alarm, and you look closer.  Do I know this person?  Or these people?

And sure enough, it was Zack Snyder, his wife and producer Deb Snyder, and their producing partner Wesley Coller, three familiar faces in a row.  They were one of the reasons I was on the lot, and by "they," I mean there was a "roadshow presentation" today on the lot for their new film together, "Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga'hoole".  It's a 3-D animated adventure epic... starring owls.  Lots and lots and lots of owls.  As Deb Snyder pointed out later in the afternoon, the first "Star Wars" is still Zack Snyder's favorite movie, and that journey that Luke Skywalker makes, as he learns of his own innate power and he takes his first steps into the larger world... that's the journey that drew Snyder to react to the Kathryn Lasky novels in the first place, and that's the journey you'll find underlining the visually stunning movie that Warner will release September 24 of this year.

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<p>Will Ferrell gives voice to the title character in 'Megamind,' one of two films that I'll be helping to introduce at this year's San Diego Comic-Con</p>

Will Ferrell gives voice to the title character in 'Megamind,' one of two films that I'll be helping to introduce at this year's San Diego Comic-Con

Credit: DreamWorks Animation

What do the 'Megamind' and 'Skyline' panels have in common in Hall H at Comic-Con?

And could it be true? Motion/Captured t-shirts?

I've never been on that stage in Hall H to moderate.  I've handled the job on smaller panels in other rooms, and no matter what size venue, I've felt like I've been incredibly lucky to be asked to do some of the things I've been asked to do.  For god's sake, I got to stand a few feet away from Edgar Wright, Jessica Hynes neeeeeee Stevenson, and Simon Pegg in a room full of (understandably) crazed "Spaced" fans, and it was amazing to see how much love that packed room was able to generate for the people who made this thing that they all loved so very, very much.  Introducing "Mystery Team" and DERRICK Comedy to Comic-Con last year or trying to stay afloat in a conversation with the wicked minds behind "Paper Heart," those were things that I'd been hoping to do since seeing those films at Sundance, and going from that fest to a room at Comic-Con just underscored how very, very odd the entire experience has become.

This year, however, I've been invited to moderate two panels at Comic-Con, and both of them are in Hall H, and in both cases, I'm just as curious as anyone else about what we're going to get to see.  I love that these aren't things I'm already completely sold on, because for me, the Comic-Con experience is about the great surprise, that moment where you go, "I had no idea I needed to see that right now" or "I had no idea this book existed, and I don't know how I ever lived without it" or "I will watch every episode of that TV show no matter what," a presentation that just plain sells something.  That is, after all, what Comic-Con's Hall H has become... a parade of what's next, and this is the moment when the first audience gets a very focused look at what you're doing.

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<p>Steve Carell and Paul Rudd co-star in &quot;Dinner for Schmucks,&quot; opening next week.</p>

Steve Carell and Paul Rudd co-star in "Dinner for Schmucks," opening next week.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

The M/C Interview: Paul Rudd loves 'Schmucks'

The actor discusses why he made it, working with Jay Roach, and farce

Every married couple has "the list."

You know what I mean, too.  Each spouse gets their fantasy list of celebrities they are allowed to indulge any carnal fantasy with if the opportunity ever arises, which it won't, which is the point.  It allows you to admit some stray desires to your spouse safely, under the guise of a game, and then it removes the threat of temptation.

The problem if you work in a business like mine is that celebrities don't just remain images on a TV screen.  I end up interacting with them all the time, and in many cases, you end up in a strange vaguely familiar relationship with them that lasts for years in some cases.  I'm not presumptuous enough to call these people my friends, but I would say you end up being friendly with them, almost as a side effect of just doing the job.

In my case, I had a moment where "the list" became a terrifying prospect, because I'm fairly sure Paul Rudd sits very near the top of my wife's list.  She's not alone, of course, thanks to the almost mythic power of "Clueless" on the girls who saw it at the right age.  Rudd is one of those actors who has always been fairly charming, since his first major roles, and who continues to redefine himself as he works.  When I was invited to the set of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" in Hawaii, it was amusing to watch how even the actors who didn't need to be on-set decided to hang around for weeks after they had to be there in some cases.  Often when a film is on location, actors will fly home when they aren't needed, but with "Marshall," there was none of that.  People stayed.  It was probably the longest I saw the various member of the Apatow repertory company all in one place.

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<p>Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galiafinakis co-star in the new Todd Phillips comedy 'Due Date'</p>

Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galiafinakis co-star in the new Todd Phillips comedy 'Due Date'

Credit: Warner Bros./Legendary

Zach Galifianakis teams with Downey Jr. for 'Due Date' trailer

Plus a first look at a more serious side in 'It's Kind Of A Funny Story'

I've been watching Zach Galifianakis live onstage here in LA for years now, and it's been strange watching him explode in popularity in the last year since the release of "The Hangover."  It's not even like he was new to movies, but for whatever reason, "The Hangover" turned him into a sudden star, and so it shouldn't be a surprise to see movies being built around his particular comic persona.

If I had to describe that persona, I'd go with "seriously mentally unstable man-baby."

At least, that's what he played in "The Hangover," and that looks to be exactly what he's playing again in the new film from Todd Phillips.  I thought the script for "Due Date" was familiar stuff, funny but definitely a rehash of very familiar ground that we've seen in movies like "Planes, Trains & Automobiles."  Take two mismatched people, stick them together on a hellish road trip, and wait for the comic hijinks to ensue, right?

Casting Galifianakis opposite Robert Downey Jr. is smart casting.  And it looks like there could be some genuine friction between the two of them based on the first trailer for "Due Date," released today.  The problem I'm having is that it just all feels so familiar.  The film may turn out to be very funny in context, but it's one of those films where I think even the most casual moviegoer is going to be ahead of the story from the very start, and no matter how well acted, I'm not sure you can win an audience over completely if they're sitting and waiting for story beats to play out.

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<p>Anthony Hopkins has his one eye on his two sons in an exclusive new image online today for next year's Marvel adaptation of 'Thor'</p>

Anthony Hopkins has his one eye on his two sons in an exclusive new image online today for next year's Marvel adaptation of 'Thor'

Credit: Marvel Studios

'Thor' and 'Captain America' confirmed for 3D conversions

Plus Marvel reveals more of their Comic-Con plans

If you'd asked me a few days ago what the most eagerly anticipated panel at Comic-Con was, I would have said "Tron," but now, I don't think that's true.  I think the events of the last few days and the announcement this morning, via Geoff Boucher at the Hero Complex blog, that both "Thor" and "Captain America" will be given the full 3-D treatment before they are released next year makes the Saturday evening Marvel panel the single most important hour for anyone who's covering the event, and for any fan who has any interest in understanding what the next few years of Marvel movies might look like.

When I visited the set of "Thor," a day I hope we get permission to write about soon so I can finally explain some of the enthusiasm I've got for the film, it was obvious that the conversations were already underway about whether or not to release these movies in 3-D.  With "Captain America," the discussion about shooting it in native 3-D was still ongoing, and according to Boucher's article, they actually had Joe Johnston direct a test using the 3-D cameras.  He didn't like the process at all because of the way the gear changed the style of shooting he wanted to do on the film.  He just didn't feel comfortable using the big bulky 3-D rigs.

So now it looks like we're going to see films that are being shot and immediately handed over to 3-D conversion teams a full year before they're in theaters, with all the visual effects work being produced for 3-D specifically.  That last detail may not sound like a big deal, but it could easily make the difference in how the films work visually and how well they integrate the process with the storytelling.

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<p>The ensemble cast of the new horror film 'Devil,' sharing the elevator that is the film's central location.</p>

The ensemble cast of the new horror film 'Devil,' sharing the elevator that is the film's central location.

Credit: Universal Pictures

Watch: M. Night's name main push behind creepy new 'Devil' trailer

Can the Dowdles kickstart this anthology franchise?

What day is it?  What time is it?  Where am I?

I keep waiting for the twist ending to this week, but I have a feeling I'm just wrapped up in that build-up to Comic-Con whirlwind, and until I'm done with that convention, I don't think things are going to ease up.

As a result, yesterday pretty much vanished without a trace.  The trade-off is that I now have all of Wednesday here at the house, and I plan to try to post about 99 article.  Or six.  Something like that.  We'll see what things look like by Thursday morning.  The point is that I've got a lot of content for you, and before I head to bed, I wanted to catch up on a few things that broke while I was doing things like writing up a set visit, visiting another set, and prepping for some of the crazy stuff going down at Comic-Con next week.

First, have you seen the "Devil" trailer?

I've been an ardent supporter of the horror career of John Erik Dowdle and Drew Dowdle, his creative partner/brother, and considering the heat I took for supporting their unfortunately underseen "The Poughkeepsie Tapes," it's extra-nice to hear the buzz I've been hearing for their new film "Devil," and to see a trailer that promises a crazy, stylish little dark "Twilight Zone" style thriller.  This is the first release under a new anthology banner, presented by M. Night Shyamalan, and it's based on a story idea by him, with the screenplay written by Brian Nelson.  The Dowdles were the ones picked to direct the first film and kick off "The Night Chronicles," and despite the rumors in the days after the release of "The Last Airbender," they've certainly got M. Night's name front and center in the ad campaign that this kicks off.

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<p>Nicolas Cage stars as wizard Balthazar Blake in the new fantasy-comedy 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice,' in theaters everywhere this week.</p>

Nicolas Cage stars as wizard Balthazar Blake in the new fantasy-comedy 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice,' in theaters everywhere this week.

Credit: The Walt Disney Company

The M/C Review: 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' offers inconsequential fun

Film works thanks to charm of cast, breezy approach

Seeing this film within two day of also seeing M. Night Shyamalan's feature film version of "The Last Airbender" helped me clarify some thoughts about this entire school of "actors waving their arms around while CGI happens" action movies.

Because ultimately, no matter how you dress it up, that's what these movies boil down to, and it marks a radical and in some ways depressing evolution for the "action" movie.  I'll say this much... "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is charming, and it's an easy sit, and there's a genuine oddball chemistry between Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel that goes a long way to convincing an audience that these two are involved in something that actually matters, something with some real stakes attached, and not just a bunch of people waving their arms around while some CGI happens.

Based loosely on the classic segment from "Fantasia" featuring Mickey Mouse and Yensid the Sorcerer, the film tells the story of a kid named Dave who stumbles into a magical store when he's on a field trip with his class as a pre-teen, only to attract the attention of Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage), a powerful sorcerer who has been waiting for centuries to find someone who can become the Merlinium, a direct descendent of Merlin himself.  Thanks to a magic ring that was designed to recognize the Merlinium when he shows up, Balthazar is sure that Dave is the person he's been waiting for.  In his brief few moments in the store, Dave manages to accidentally free Balthazar's most powerful adversary, the dark sorcerer Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina) and set off a chain of events that ends with young Dave thinking he's crazy, humiliated in front of his friends.

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<p>Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel star as master and student in the new big-budget fantasy adventure 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice'</p>

Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel star as master and student in the new big-budget fantasy adventure 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice'

Credit: Walt Disney Company

Watch: Nic Cage and Jay Baruchel discuss 'Sorcerer's Apprentice'

Plus Drew McWeeny knows magic

I'll have my review of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" up very soon, but for now, let's give Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel the floor to explain the film to you directly.

As I've said, we do most of the press days for these films in the same place, and in some cases, we're running up and downstairs all day for different movies, sometimes three at  time.  It's a circus, frankly, and what makes it work is the insane amount of effort spent by the publicity people wrangling the talent and the tech crews and the journalists and the other studios and somehow making it all work.  At worst, I have to wait around a little bit longer than I planned and eat a free dessert.  It's punishing, back-breaking work.  Like building the Railroad, but harder.

Here's an example.  I actually heard a conversation between two people who were seriously overheated about something, like some genuine indignity had been done to them.  They were both positively lathered over having had to "do that thing with the ball."

I listened while I waited to start my interviews.  These two people were both eating plates literally piled with food, had magazines out they were reading, and were just grousing about how "that guy was so pushy, right?"  And I was wondering what could possibly have set them off.  I did each of the interview rooms that was set up, and each one went well, and as I was finishing the final interview of the group, the Nicolas Cage/Jay Baruchel interview you see imbedded above, someone asked if I had taken my turn with the plasma ball yet.

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<p>Liv Tyler and Edward Norton appeared together at the premiere for 'The Incredible Hulk' at Universal Studios Hollywood.</p>

Liv Tyler and Edward Norton appeared together at the premiere for 'The Incredible Hulk' at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Credit: MTV

Edward Norton issues statement, wraps up long weekend of 'Hulk' news

As the 'Avengers' moves on, so does the actor

I had no idea the weekend would play out like that when I put up the first piece on Friday about Edward Norton not being asked back as The Hulk for "The Avengers."  The back and forth of the statements released to HitFix from Marvel President of Production Kevin Feige and Edward Norton's WME representation was feisty, to say the least, and the story seems to have spread everywhere.

This morning, though, it feels like this chapter came to a close with the release of a statement by Edward Norton on his Facebook page, and thankfully that statement is not an escalation of the already-existing tensions.  Instead, it's simply Norton gracefully saying that he enjoyed playing the part and he looks forward to seeing who is next to play the iconic role.

So despite all the sound and energy this weekend, nothing's really changed.  Well, Devin Faraci's running the rumor that Joaquin Phoenix might be up for the role, and it makes a certain kind of sense.  I've been told Phoenix was actually in the running for the part when they did the reboot with "The Incredible Hulk," and the art department actually worked up some Phoenix-as-Hulk art at the time.  So maybe Marvel's figuring they've already got the design part down if he comes onboard, right?

Look, whoever it is, I'm obviously still very interested in "The Avengers."  The real shame of it is that I thought they had the cast right.  Whoever you cast as Banner needs to be able to stand toe-to-toe with Robert Downey Jr. and look like he can actually hold his own in an intellectual back and forth with the guy.  I would love for the human scenes in the film to be as exciting as any of the superhero stuff, and I hope when Marvel does hire a new Banner, they end up with someone who brings real weight to the table.

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<p>Next time The Incredible Hulk shows up onscreen, in 2012's 'The Avengers,' it will be a brand-new actor playing the role of Bruce Banner.</p>

Next time The Incredible Hulk shows up onscreen, in 2012's 'The Avengers,' it will be a brand-new actor playing the role of Bruce Banner.

Credit: Universal/Marvel Studios

EXCLUSIVE: Marvel confirms they will hire new 'Hulk' for 'The Avengers'

As HitFix reported Friday, Edward Norton will not return to role of Bruce Banner

[Update - Sunday, July 11 2:10 PM PST: Edward Norton's agent responds to Kevin Feige's statement below.]

 

As HitFix exclusively reported yesterday, Marvel Studios has now confirmed that it is moving forward on development with their summer 2012 blockbuster "The Avengers," and they have decided not to cast Edward Norton in the key role of Bruce Banner, aka The Incredible Hulk.

In a statement sent in direct response to yesterday's story from the set of "Captain America" in London, Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige forwarded the following exclusively to HitFix:

"We have made the decision to not bring Ed Norton back to portray the title role of Bruce Banner in the Avengers. Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members. The Avengers demands players who thrive working as part of an ensemble, as evidenced by Robert, Chris H, Chris E, Sam, Scarlett, and all of our talented casts. We are looking to announce a name actor who fulfills these requirements, and is passionate about the iconic role in the coming weeks."

 

And that, as they say, appears to be that.

Fan reaction regarding Norton's departure from the role has been vocal, and there has certainly been much outrage at the idea of such a major piece of the puzzle being recast.  There are also fans who are so anxious to see any version of "The Avengers" onscreen that the individual casting is less important to them than the issues of villains or storyline.  One thing that is interesting in the statement is the indication that they are, indeed, looking for a name to replace Norton, and not an unknown.  Who they pick will ultimately determine whether this continues to be an issue for fans or not.

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