<p>Vanessa Redgrave and Amanda Seyfried both bring their rather prodigious charms to the new film 'Letters To Juliet'</p>

Vanessa Redgrave and Amanda Seyfried both bring their rather prodigious charms to the new film 'Letters To Juliet'

Credit: Summit Entertainment

The M/C Review: 'Letters To Juliet' charms with low-key ease

Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave equally appealing in gentle love story

If you'd told me at the start of the year that I would only like one of the two major releases this weekend, either "Robin Hood" or "Letters To Juliet," I would not have been surprised.  But if you'd told me that the film made by Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe would be the one I found to be an intolerable collection of cliches and poor script decisions, I would never have believed you.

Gary Winick has demonstrated some ability with this sort of material.  "Tadpole" was an interesting small-scale film, and "13 Going On 30" was a shameless riff on "Big" that worked because Jennifer Garner made it work.  Winick also has "Bride Wars" to answer for, though, so he's certainly not without his sins to answer for.  This sort of breezy romantic film seems like one of the easiest things in the world to pull off, and certainly there are dozens of them a year.  Most of them are terrible, though, dependent on truly stupid and unlikeable characters, focused on the idea that women are incomplete without a man, incapable of anything that doesn't involve "romance."  I find it amazing that women actually watch "chick flicks," because so many of them seem to genuinely hate women and treat them like thin-skulled creeps.

"Letters To Juliet," which takes its basic inspiration from a true story, is a gentle, charming story that features a winning lead performance from Amanda Seyfried, who is finally starting to carry films on her own, and who proves here that she's absolutely capable of doing so.  She plays Sophie, a fact checker for The New Yorker, a girl on the verge of marriage to Victor (Gael García Bernal), and from the very start of the film, they allow her play a credible mix of strength and insecurity that has more to do with her age and experience than it does with her gender. She and Victor have a pre-honeymoon trip planned to Verona, although they have very different ideas about what they're going to be going to be doing once they get there.

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<p>Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett do their best to enliven the pointless and deadly-dull new 'Robin Hood,' from director Ridley Scott.</p>

Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett do their best to enliven the pointless and deadly-dull new 'Robin Hood,' from director Ridley Scott.

Credit: Universal Pictures

The M/C Review: 'Robin Hood' is another empty, unwanted prequel

Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott come up empty in this bone-headed origin story

"Robin Hood" is not a badly-made film.

"Robin Hood" is not an unwatchable movie.

"Robin Hood" is not a painful experience in a theater.

But having said that, I'm not sure "Robin Hood" is a movie anyone needs to see, or that anyone would have any reason to anticipate.  It's a near-perfect example of what I've been saying recently about remakes and sequels and reboots and prequels.  It is a fascinating miscalculation by smart and talented people, and it's the sort of film that must be frustrating to make, because there's no one way to fix it once things go as wrong as they go here.

I love "Gladiator."  Unreservedly.  I still think it's one of the best and most audience-minded movies Ridley Scott ever made.  I think it's incredibly good at what it does.  There's a tone, a style, a dramatic energy that the film gets just right.  Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott are equally responsible for that film's success, and there's no way to overstate the importance of Joaquin Phoenix's performance as a very, very bad bad guy.

The thing that "Gladiator" gets right that "Robin Hood" misses completely is a sense of fun.  Yes, there's a sense of tension and urgency, and the stakes in "Gladiator" are certainly personal and sad, but there's a sense of fun to the mayhem, a thrill.  I think Scott has a tin ear for "fun" a lot of the time.  He does somber well.  He does moody well.  He does atmospheric as well as anyone.  "A Good Year," his comedy with Russell Crowe in the lead, is a good example of what happens when Ridley Scott does "funny."  Maybe the lumps he took on that one explain the swing towards pure dour, which is what "Robin Hood" is, and it's a shame.

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<p>Jane Goldman made international news with her dress at the &quot;Kick-Ass&quot;&nbsp;premiere, but it's her work on a word processor that makes her Matthew Vaughn's secret weapon.</p>

Jane Goldman made international news with her dress at the "Kick-Ass" premiere, but it's her work on a word processor that makes her Matthew Vaughn's secret weapon.

Credit: Rex Features

Jane Goldman re-writing 'X-Men: First Class'

Definitely a good sign regarding the film's potential

The first hint that this might be happening came, as so many hints do these days, from Twitter.

Jonathan Ross, or @wossy, is the outspoken English TV host and comic book/movie supergeek who happens to be married to the charming and wicked-smart Jane Goldman.  She was Matthew Vaughn's co-writer on both "Kick-Ass" and "Stardust," and based on my time watching the two of them together on-set, I'd say that she's a key collaborative part of Matthew Vaughn's process.  The script that the two of them wrote for "The Debt," a Helen Mirren film that is still looking for a release date, is probably the strongest thing they've written together yet, and a clear indication that they're capable of far more than just post-modern comic book riffing.

About the same time that Matthew Vaughn was confirmed by Fox as the director of "X-Men: First Class," Ross posted something about how his wife's new job would keep her busy for the next ten weeks.

Hmmmm...

I tried to verify the news through the regular channels, but before I could even get a response, Ross did it himself.  Today, he posted that his wife is away from home working on "X-Men 4."  Okay, then.  Unless we hear that they've broken the team up so Goldman can write a future X-Men film with Matthew's working on "First Class," I'm going to take this as confirmation that Vaughn is indeed customizing this movie as he works to get it ready for a mid-summer production start.

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<p>Scott Grimes, Kevin Durand, and Alan Doye appear both in 'Robin Hood' as Russell Crowe's Merry Men and on this week's Motion/Captured Podcast.</p>

Scott Grimes, Kevin Durand, and Alan Doye appear both in 'Robin Hood' as Russell Crowe's Merry Men and on this week's Motion/Captured Podcast.

Credit: Universal Pictures

Listen: The Motion/Captured Podcast #5

Special guest Matthew Robinson discusses 'Iron Man 2,' 'Robin Hood,' 'The Puffy Chair,' and more

I am a firm believer in a learning curve.

Little by little, I feel like I'm getting a better idea of what I want out of this podcast, and I'm having fun with the process.  Matthew Robinson, who co-wrote and co-directed "The Invention Of Lying," is our guest this week, and based on the conversations I had with him when I visited him on the set of that film, I had a feeling Matthew would be a really good fit for the sort of conversations we've been having on the podcast so far.

Turns out, I was right.

To celebrate Matthew stopping by, we have two copies of his film to give away, one on Blu-ray and one on DVD.  If you'd like to win one of those copies, then post the most outrageous lie you've ever gotten away with in our comments section.  Points will be awarded for style and chutzpah.

In the meantime, please know that we are working to get the iTunes account set up.  There's a few tech concerns to deal with on our end, and we've been working our tech guys overtime to get the site ready for the arrival of Alan Sepinwall.  We're finally able to focus on some of these other things that have stacked up in the meantime, and as soon as possible, we'll have the podcast available for you in other ways.

For now, you can download the MP3 here, or play it via our embedded player.

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<p>Scott Grimes, Alan Doyle, and Kevin Durand are exponentially charming when locked in a room with journalists for an entire Saturday afternoon.</p>

Scott Grimes, Alan Doyle, and Kevin Durand are exponentially charming when locked in a room with journalists for an entire Saturday afternoon.

Credit: Universal Pictures

Watch: 'Robin Hood' certainly found some merry Merry Men

Ever heard 'Smoke On The Water' on a lute? Prepare to live.

I'll have my review for Ridley Scott's "Robin Hood" very soon, and we'll also have a few interviews from the film for you this week, including a conversation with a loose and funny Russell Crowe that took me by surprise.

First up, though, we've got this conversation with The Merry Men, although I'm fairly sure they're never called that in the movie.  This is, after all, pure prequel.  Don't expect to see any moments you love from any Robin Hood stories.  This is a film that reinvents for the sheer sport of reinvention, and the conception of Will Scarlett (Scott Grimes), Little John (Kevin Durand), and Allan A'Dayle (Alan Doyle) plays directly into that.

There are press days that feel like punishment just because of the general tenor of the afternoon, where everyone's so stressed and schedules are so tight that the sound of laughter during one of those interviews almost feels like a crime.  And then there are press days like the one for "Robin Hood."  Keep in mind, this was actually the same day all the "Iron Man 2" press was going on, so if you were in the elevator, there's a good chance you were riding up with Russell Crowe and back down with Mickey Rourke.  Very strange atmosphere anyway.

The real treat of the day, though, wasn't the "Iron Man 2" buffet upstairs.  It was the room where they had Grimes, Durand, and Doyle tucked away doing a group interview, and anyone who walked into that room was guaranteed to walk out a few minutes later smiling.  It breaks my heart that these guys aren't used on film the way they appear together in this interview, because if this was what we saw from Robin's Merry Men, I think "Robin Hood" could have only been better for it.

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<p>Even the signs that dot the border of the desert base known as Area 51 are famous because of UFO&nbsp;enthusiasts, but is there enough interest in the subject to support two similar films from the same studio in the same year?</p>

Even the signs that dot the border of the desert base known as Area 51 are famous because of UFO enthusiasts, but is there enough interest in the subject to support two similar films from the same studio in the same year?

What does 'Super 8' mean to 'Area 51'?

Is it possible for a studio to have too many good things on a slate?

I would not want to be Oren Peli this year.

Sure, he had a monster hit for Paramount in the form of "Paranormal Activity," and they paid a pretty penny for his follow-up film, the still-in-production "Area 51."  So the studio obviously feels some affection for Peli, or at least for his earning potential.

But let's play the game and pretend we're Hollywood executives, and we're looking at two films on our release slate that both deal with very similar topics.  On the one hand, we've got this little found-footage movie about Area 51 that's made by the guy who made a surprise hit for us, and on the other hand, we've got a movie from Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams, a film that supposedly taps into the vibe of early Spielberg and that also seems to use Area 51 as a jumping-off point.

That's a whole lotta Area 51 to digest for a general audience, don't you think?

The first question, of course, is just how similar the projects really are, and since they're both being made under a veil of secrecy, that could be a hard question to answer.  After all, until we revealed the project's existence last week, no one even knew "Super 8" existed.  Even when I published the title, I still didn't know what the film was, and it was fascinating listening to guesses from sources who had actually been close to the project.  If even they were confused about what the film's going to be when it shoots this fall, then Abrams and Spielberg have done a great job of locking their project down.

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<p>Do not deny the power of Chuck, especially in the Andrew Davis movie, 'Code Of Silence,' one of the best films Norris ever made.</p>

Do not deny the power of Chuck, especially in the Andrew Davis movie, 'Code Of Silence,' one of the best films Norris ever made.

Credit: MGM/UA Home Entertainment

ActionFest Part One: 'Code Of Silence,' '14 Blades,' and a kimchi Western revisited

Plus a look at the struggles of a first-year film festival
My parents just retired to Asheville, North Carolina.
 
And when I say "just," I mean it's something they've been planning for about two years, but that they just finally put into effect about eight weeks ago.  So I mean "just."
 
They're still living out of boxes in an apartment they're renting while they wait on their condo to be finished.  It's funny... the place they're in now is the sort of place I lived in my first few years in LA, and seeing my parents living like that, even temporarily at the end of their work years, was sort of disorienting and hilarious.  I love that they're starting their new lives, and they really seem to be enjoying the prospect of what's next.  Hanging out with them has always been fun (duh... they're my parents), but recently, they've seemed to be at an endless low-key cocktail party.  It's retirement the way I think you're supposed to do it, and it's great to see my dad relax after seeing how deeply dedicated he was to work my whole life.
 
He relaxed sometimes when I was growing up, of course.  He had things he did when I was younger, ways to unwind.  He liked to go to shooting ranges.  He liked to hunt.  He liked judo.  He had solitary things he did to relax, and I always saw him in some way as the heroes from the books that were stacked around the house or the movies that he watched and took me to see.  He's 6'4", cut from the same cloth as Sam Elliott, a Vietnam vet just like all the heroes in all the '80s action movies.  Because of the way he looks, I was confused when I was five or six, and I distinctly remember thinking my dad left the house, went to the Brady house, pretended to be Mr. Brady all day, then came home to us.  My dad was an engineer, so he often carried document tubes just like the ones Mr. Brady would carry on the show and have in his office.  I was five, keep in mind.
 
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<p>Chloe Moretz is seen here in the first still from the upcoming Matt Reeves film &quot;Let Me In'</p>

Chloe Moretz is seen here in the first still from the upcoming Matt Reeves film "Let Me In'

Credit: Summit Entertainment

First Look: Hit Girl Chloe Moretz in vampire drama 'Let Me In'

First glimpse offers little more than mood

When I was at SXSW this year, I sat down to discuss "Let Me In" with Matt Reeves.  "Let Me In" is, of course, the remake of the acclaimed international success "Let The Right One In," and that original featured two of the best performances from young actors in recent memory.

So of course the trickiest part of making a new version of the film is finding a young cast who can bring something equally interesting to the table, and who can handle the somewhat adult demands of the material.  And even if I'm not excited about the idea of someone taking this story on again so soon after someone got it right in the first place, Reeves made some good points about what he's trying to do.

And he hired Chloe Moretz.

If there's one thing that people agreed upon regarding "Kick-Ass," it was that Moretz absolutely crushed it in her work as Hit Girl, the 12-year-old killing machine who many people felt stole the film from her adult co-stars.  The role she's playing in the film is absolutely key to the success of it, and she's more than up for the challenge.  A lot of the film depends on how she and Kodi Smit-McPhee work together, and he's the one that makes me nervous.  I know people who liked "The Road" quite a bit, but I thought one of the things that hobbled the film was his work.

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<p>Kevin Feige talks to Robert Downey Jr on the set of 'Iron Man 2'</p>

Kevin Feige talks to Robert Downey Jr on the set of 'Iron Man 2'

Credit: Paramount Pictures/Marvel Studios

Kevin Feige talks about 'Iron Man 2' and the future of Marvel

Watch an executive dodge a Joss Whedon confirmation like a pro

I've been speaking to Kevin Feige about Marvel movies now for the better part of 12 years. 

The first time I met him, it wasn't as a reporter, but rather as a writer.  At that point, Marvel was working with Lionsgate to develop a slate of mid-sized movies based on their characters, sort of like the program that Devin Faraci recently wrote about, and my writing partner and I went in to pitch on a "Deadpool" movie.  Keep in mind, this was before they'd even made the first "X-Men," so there was no template yet for what a Marvel movie looked like.  Even in that meeting, though, the feedback we got from Kevin was concise and demonstrated that he was a real fan of the character and not just an executive trying to squeeze some cash out of an intellectual property.

Sitting down with him at the Four Seasons to talk, there was no formality at the beginning, no need for introduction.  Instead, we just dove right into the conversation, starting with some discussion of the way "Iron Man 2" seems to be working harder at laying the groundwork for the larger Marvel Universe than any film released previously by the studio.  I asked how hard it is to build a larger multi-series multi-film franchise while also trying to focus on each film individually.

"It's hard, frankly, because you don't want the audience to feel like they have to do homework before they go to a movie.  We live in this every day, and someone who reads your website may recognize Captain America's shield in Tony Stark's stuff he gets from his father, but a large part of the audience isn't going to do that."  He made an interesting comparison to the Harry Potter series.  "I've never read the books, but every time a movie comes out, I go see it opening weekend, and then I usually only see them once.  I'm sure there's tons and tons of stuff that I don't get, but I get enough to carry me through the movies."

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<p>'Iron Man 2'</p>

'Iron Man 2'

Credit: Paramount

Justin Theroux talks about the challenges of writing 'Iron Man 2'

How did being an actor help him write this super-blockbuster?

On a recent Saturday, I drove to the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to sit down with two of the architects of this year's first big summer movie.  Justin Theroux, the screenwriter of the film, is also known for his work in front of the camera, and the last time I saw him, he was wearing a ridiculous wizard's costume for his role in the David Gordon Green comedy/fantasy "Your Highness."

"I look a little different now, right?" he laughed.  "I was all Lazar-ed up last time."

We chatted about my reaction to the film and the first thing I brought up was the obviously improvisational nature of much of the work in the film.  I asked him about building structure and plot when things are that fluid on-set.  "It's not hard," he said.  "I'm not a novelist." 

He explained that he prefers a collaborative atmosphere.  "Moviemaking is a socialist endeavor."  His background as an actor prepared him for the idea that these things can change dramatically each day.  "I like writing.  I like that challenge.  If someone says, 'Oh, and Mickey wants a bird in this scene,' I want to be able to figure out how to do that."

I asked if it helps on a film like this knowing exactly who he's writing for.  After all, when you've got voices like Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke and Sam Jackson and Robert Downey Jr, why not make the most of their specific voices.  "It helps that I'm an actor and I know what actors hate to say.  They can sniff out exposition.  If anything, I did a lot of that for these guys, and it's a joy."  He talked about knowing Rockwell for 20 years in New York.  "I called him up and I was like, 'Dude, you're going to do this role.  It's great.  You're going to love it.'" 

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