<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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<p>If all of the apes in Fox's new reboot of one of their oldest franchises are created with CGI, how will the modern-day Cheston play a love scene with one of them?</p>

If all of the apes in Fox's new reboot of one of their oldest franchises are created with CGI, how will the modern-day Cheston play a love scene with one of them?

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Fox formally announces an all-CG 'Apes' reboot

How new is this 'new idea'?

Reviving the "Planet Of The Apes" franchise has been a top priority for 20th Century Fox for well over a decade now, and even before they made the Tim Burton version of the film in 2001, they had spent years of development time and millions of dollars trying to figure out how to re-introduce talking monkeys to the general population.

In many ways, modern franchise filmmaking began with "Planet Of The Apes," not "Star Wars."  Over the course of five movies and both a live-action and an animated television series in the '70s, several variations were played on the basic idea of our modern-day society colliding with a future where apes have become the dominant species and mankind has become a subservient species.  Time-travel got involved and eventually the series folded in on itself.

The Tim Burton film was supposed to kick off a whole new series, but poisonous critical reaction and general public indifference killed that plan.  Recently, writer/director Scott Frank worked for a while to create a script called "Caesar" which would have jumpstarted the series, starting from a new beginning that would hopefully fold into the original run of movies, narratively-speaking.  That version also stalled out, and now Fox is moving forward with a film that will incorporate ideas from a number of different incarnations over the years.

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<p>Bayar, one of the four babies observed in the new documentary 'Babies,' enjoys a personal triumph and some fresh air.</p>

Bayar, one of the four babies observed in the new documentary 'Babies,' enjoys a personal triumph and some fresh air.

Credit: Focus Features

The M/C Review: Overbearingly adorable documentary 'Babies' is nearly abstract

A nature documentary about human infants almost plays as straight-faced joke

It's distinctly possible that "Babies" is review-proof. 

I saw the film earlier tonight at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, as part of a special promotional screening.  I'm not sure how they did the word of mouth for the event, but there were a lot of mothers with very young babies in attendance.  It was like having extra Dolby speakers sprinkled throughout the auditorium, randomly cooing and crying and blabbering.

And the movie played tonight.  It played like it was "There's Something About Mary" to that crowd, big laughs throughout.  The film is non-narrative in any traditional sense, and there's something about the visual language, the choices made in how it's cut, what is shown, that is almost like a straight-faced parody of nature documentaries.  I don't think it's intentional... I just think that the "big idea" of the film is basically shooting human babies in four different places in the world like they're wildlife, a la "Planet Earth."

Ponijao, Bayar, Hattie, and Mari are the four babies that were chosen by the filmmakers, and they live in Namibia, Mongolia, Japan, and the US, each in very specific, very different surroundings.  The film traces two years in the development of these kids, and it does so without any voice-over or any dialogue.  What little talking takes place in the film is there simply as ambient sound, part of the background of what the directors are shooting.  It's cut to compare and contrast the way these kids develop, to show a common experience in the first few years of life with a family.

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<p>Hello, Arizona?&nbsp; Danny Trejo would like a word with you.</p>

Hello, Arizona?  Danny Trejo would like a word with you.

Credit: 20th Century Fox/Troublemaker

The Morning Read: Robert Rodriguez and Danny Trejo celebrate Cinco De Mayo 'Machete' style

Plus a porno 'Batman' parody, Patton Oswalt joke theft, and more on JJ Abrams and 'Super 8'

Welcome to The Morning Read.

Over the weekend, it started to sink in.  I am turning 40 this month.  There's no way to spin that to feel like I'm young anymore.  That is a number that used to make my skin crawl when I was young.  I used to joke about making a pact with another friend with a birthday the same month that we would go on vacation and end things in a blaze of murder/suicide glory rather than face life after 40.  Now, as someone with kids and a career that's nothing like what I expected or attempted, I am in such a different headspace that I can hardly believe that younger version of me was actually me.

It's made me nostalgic for the great movie going experiences I've had in my life so far and it's made me reflect on all the intriguing twists and turns that got me to this particular point.  I consider the great movies in my life to be milestones by which I can trace my own development as a person.  I know where I was and who I was when I saw things for the first time, and one of the reasons I revisit certain films is because I know I'll be different when I get back to them, and that difference is worth observing.  When I was 19, I saw "Lawrence Of Arabia" in the theater for the first time, and it blew my mind.  On May 30, the Aero theater is showing "Lawrence" in 70MM, and I think I'm going to see how many friends I can round up to join me for that screening.  It's my favorite film, and it seems like a wonderful way to celebrate what is frankly a difficult birthday for me to internalize.

In the meantime, enough mopery... let's see what's going on out there...

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<p>Jon Favreau, seen here as Happy&nbsp;Hogan in 'Iron Man 2,' is enjoying his time as a Marvel Studios filmmaker.</p>

Jon Favreau, seen here as Happy Hogan in 'Iron Man 2,' is enjoying his time as a Marvel Studios filmmaker.

Credit: Marvel Studios

Having The Moment: Jon Favreau

The director of 'Iron Man 2' rocks the turntable for fun at the film's Austin premiere

Watching the director of one of the biggest films of the summer commandeer a DJ's gear so he could perform a full set at the Highball in Austin the other night, my wife leaned over to me and said, "I don't think he really wants to make movies.  Look how happy he is right now."

Little wonder.  Once "Iron Man 2" hits theaters on May 7, Favreau's going to be the man behind one of the biggest films of the year, so I think right now, he can afford to smile a bit.  And while some people still seem shocked that Favreau has turned into an event movie filmmaker, I'd say that a close look at "Iron Man 2" and Favreau's earlier films would reveal that he's actually perfect for this series, and that the films wouldn't work with someone who works in a different style from Favreau.

To explain, one should look at both "Swingers" and "Made," movies that were well-scripted but which came to life on the set thanks to the chemistry of the performers and their willingness to play.  When I recently spoke to Sean "P Diddy" Combs on the set of "Get Him To The Greek," he credited Favreau with preparing him for the sort of environment where lightning fast improv is not just valued but essential.  With "Iron Man 2," Favreau has embraced this sort of loose and inventive on-set mood and the result is a blockbuster that's almost entirely personality-driven.

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