<p>Bruce Willis, seen here in 'Cop Out,' is one of the stars of the upcoming action/comedy 'Red'</p>

Bruce Willis, seen here in 'Cop Out,' is one of the stars of the upcoming action/comedy 'Red'

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman love killing folks in first 'Red' trailer

This one looks like fun


Genuinely, this is one of those out-of-left-field surprises for me based on on the earlier work by director Robert Schwentke.  His first big studio movie, "Flightplan," was a slick-but-undistinguished riff on "Bunny Lake Is Missing" that was notable mainly for having Jodie Foster in it.  More recently, he made the unintentionally creepy and unlikeable "The Time Traveler's Wife."  Neither film inspired much passion in me, and if you'd asked me what sort of film he was most suited for, I wouldn't have had an answer.  I certainly wouldn't have guessed "action/comedy."

And yet, this trailer for "Red" looks like fun to me.

No... more than that.  It looks sort of great.  And it seems that people really like the source material, a Warren Ellis comic.  I do not know the book at all, which is actually refreshing.  When I look at the just-released trailer for the film, what I'm reacting to is how this looks as a movie, not as an adaptation.

And, like I said, the trailer for "Red" looks like a whole lot of fun to me.

I had to miss an opportunity earlier today to sit down with Helen Mirren to chat, and that really pained me.  I've interviewed her before, and she is one of those people who can't help but give you something good and real.  She's got a great ribald sense of humor, and seeing her play comedy is a welcome thing when the material is up to her abilities.  And it always helps to have a fencing partner worth the effort, which appears to be the case with Bruce Willis.  The introduction of Ol' Dirty Morgan Freeman in the trailer was great, and the energy of the action is promising.  The explanation of the title... great.  The cast looks big, and there's a number of people we barely see in this first trailer.  Richard Dreyfuss?  Karl Urban?  Brian Cox?

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<p>Sharlto Copely, Peter Jackson, and Neill Blomkamp appeared together at last year's Comic-Con to help introduce 'District 9' to the world.</p>

Sharlto Copely, Peter Jackson, and Neill Blomkamp appeared together at last year's Comic-Con to help introduce 'District 9' to the world.

Credit: Sony Pictures

Want to know who's not directing 'The Hobbit'? Neill 'District 9' Blomkamp

The studio's search continues

I have a feeling we're in for a lot of this.

Ever since Guillermo Del Toro's dramatic announcement that he was dropping out as director of "The Hobbit," speculation has been running wild about who will step in to replace him.

One school of thought has Peter Jackson eventually giving in to pressure and making the films himself.  I can understand why Jackson wouldn't want to direct "The Hobbit," but I can also understand why anyone involved in financing two "Hobbit" movies would want the guy who directed "The Lord Of The Rings" to be the one calling the shots.

Based on everything I've heard the last few weeks, I don't believe Peter will end up making the movie.  I think they will find someone else, and I think they'll find that someone else sooner rather than later.  I'm still not sure who's actually planning to pay for the film, what with MGM's financial issues and the whole complicated rights issue in the first place.  Still, there seems to be some confidence that they'll get things worked out in time to let someone roll film in January of next year.

But who?

This week, TheOneRing.net reported that Neill Blomkamp's name had started showing up on production breakdowns as the director of the film.  And almost as soon as that story exploded everywhere, The Vulture contacted the people who actually, you know, represent Blomkamp, and they firmly denied the story.

My guess is that Blomkamp wouldn't be interested.  I've heard that he has made it fairly clear to everyone on his team that he doesn't want to make giant studio franchise films.  I think almost-but-not-quite making "Halo" had a profound and positive effect on Blomkamp.  He was forced to make "District 9" outside the system, and he ended up making it his way without compromise, and he got a Best Picture nomination and an unlikely box-office hit as a result.  

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<p>Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets ready to deliver the kick in Christopher Nolan's 'Inception'</p>

Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets ready to deliver the kick in Christopher Nolan's 'Inception'

Credit: Warner Bros.

New 'Inception' featurette intros characters, offers up new footage

It's getting closer, and Warner Bros. keeps showing more and more

Ah, Christopher Nolan.

For a lot of years, I did not have any sort of relationship with Warner Bros. publicity, and when I did finally start talking to them, one of the first guys I dealt with was Don Buckley, a legendary publicity guy who was with the studio back in the days when Warner Bros. was the home of Stanley Kubrick.

What was most amazing to me about the Kubrick years at Warner Bros. was the way they just left him alone to cook up his masterpieces, and when he was ready, he made them the way he wanted, and they sold them the way he wanted, and they were happy to do it.  They had a pure unrelenting faith that Kubrick would give them something to be proud of each and every time, something that would be part of the cultural conversation.  And when they sold those movies, they sold them on the cultivated mystique of Kubrick's name, and on the films he'd made before that.

I'm not saying I think Christopher Nolan is Stanley Kubrick.  Because only Stanley Kubrick will ever be Stanley Kubrick.

But I think Nolan is in that rare sweet spot for a filmmaker with as strong and personal a voice as he has, where he has had tremendous commercial success for the studio, enough that they're willing to not only support a strange and risky personal vision, but they'll also sell it on his name and they'll let him play with the audience and keep his secrets instead of ruining the whole thing six months early like so often happens with big movies.  And since Warner's biggest financial co-partner right now, Legendary Pictures, is also onboard the Nolan train, he's pretty much found a home for the foreseeable future.

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<p>The Marvel Universe just keeps getting bigger, especially if recent rumors are true and if they make the 'Dr. Strange' film they just hired new writers for.</p>

The Marvel Universe just keeps getting bigger, especially if recent rumors are true and if they make the 'Dr. Strange' film they just hired new writers for.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Marvel's keeping busy with short films and 'Dr. Strange'

The Marvel Universe looks like it's getting even bigger

Based on my enthusiasm for the Marvel game plan as of late, one might think I am incapable of being critical of the studio or their efforts.

I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities for me to dislike Marvel movies in the future.  I've certainly had issues with many of the films they've made already.  It's just that they've started making choices in the last few years that might or might not pay off creatively in the end, but they are cool gambles in the meantime.  They make interesting choices.  They make big choices.  And it sounds like they're going to be following up on an idea they were discussing not long ago in an unexpected way.

George Roush over at Latino Review caught a great scoop this week, reporting that Marvel Studios is considering a series of short films that will introduce some of their classic new characters in the future.  It's a great move because it has both business and creative potential.  Marvel Studios has the opportunity, and one might argue the obligation, with these short films to not only test out potential characters on the mainstream, but also filmmakers with the passion to bring some of these lesser-known characters to the screen.

I've heard many reactions over the year to the idea of Edgar Wright making an "Ant-Man" movie, and I understand... it's "Ant-Man."  There's nothing about that when you hear the title that demands that the movie exist.  But several years ago, Edgar explained his initial idea for the movie with me, and it really was this crazy groovy weird sideways way into the Marvel Universe that suggested a much bigger world just outside the frame of the story he wanted to tell.  I have no idea how much of that early premise will or won't end up in the film if he ever decides to make it, but I can tell you... it wouldn't just be a phoned-in cookie-cutter movie.  There's too much genuine passion behind it, and if that's not there anymore, I guarantee Edgar wouldn't end up making it.

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<p>Seth Rogen and Jay Chou co-star in 'The Green Hornet,' and the first trailer for the film is available online now.</p>

Seth Rogen and Jay Chou co-star in 'The Green Hornet,' and the first trailer for the film is available online now.

Credit: Sony

An evening with 'The Green Hornet' with new images and the first trailer

The key creative team takes questions, premieres the trailer

Tonight, just after I posted my review of "Knight and Day," I hopped in the car and sped down to Hollywood, where I joined a group of other online writers to see the trailer for "The Green Hornet" on the bigscreen, and then participate in a Q&A afterwards.  That was enough for me to go.  I visited the set last year, and I dug what I saw including the sizzle reel that was sort of a loosely-cut trailer.

The trailer, which is online now for you to enjoy, is not what we saw in the sizzle reel.  My first impulsive reaction was that they were overexplaining things in this trailer, but in talking to the filmmakers afterwards, it's obvious that they have done the testing and they realize that they need to sell the character first with an introduction, since the general attitude seems to be that no one in the general mainstream has any idea who or what The Green Hornet is.

My reaction to the footage we see in the trailer is strong overall.  The fight stuff still only hints at what Gondry has planned for the film visually, and instead, the focus in this trailer is on the premise (no-good playboy decides to follow up on his father's death by assuming the identity of a criminal, trying to get close to other criminals) and on the relationship between Brett Reid (Seth Rogen) and Kato (Jay Chou).  Their chemistry is the movie.  Either they work together, or the film doesn't work at all.

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<p>Cameron Diaz may want to get whatever's causing that smoke looked at in a scene from the new action/comedy 'Knight and Day,' in theaters Friday.</p>

Cameron Diaz may want to get whatever's causing that smoke looked at in a scene from the new action/comedy 'Knight and Day,' in theaters Friday.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

The M/C Review: 'Knight And Day' delivers solid fun and no surprises

James Mangold gives familiar script a smart sense of style

Today on my Twitter feed, screenwriter Geoff La Tulippe pointed out that in adjusted dollars, Tom Cruise's "Cocktail" earned $140 million when it was released.  That's domestic box-office.  For "Cocktail."

That's how big a movie star Tom Cruise used to be.  The dirty secret about Cruise as a movie star, though, is that he is a solid character actor who works harder than anyone when he's onscreen.  There are definitely Tom Cruise performances I don't like, Tom Cruise movies I don't like, but I would be hard-pressed to name many lazy Tom Cruise performances.

Watching "Knight And Day" a month after the release of "Killers," the first thing that struck me is that a side-by-side comparison of the first thirty minutes of each film is a perfect lesson in the difference between a movie star and a pretty face.  They both start from a similar premise, although written in very different ways.  In both, the lead actor is a spy/assassin who meets a totally normal girl and then drags her into his world.  Ashton Kutcher seems focused on looking cool in his film, working as hard as he can to strike a pose like each scene in a still page in a fashion magazine.  Kutcher's still working the same spoiled pout he picked up in the film "Spread," and it's sort of ridiculous. 

Meanwhile, Cruise is well aware of the value of a precisely struck pose to sell an action scene, but he also seems dedicated in "Knight and Day" on deconstructing that pose and poking fun at it at the same time.  It's a tricky thing to pull off, tone-wise, and if you do it wrong, you're making "Hudson Hawk."  Or you're just making an action movie.  More often than not, filmmakers trying for this sweet spot where you are gently ribbing the exact thing you're doing fail at it.  They tip their hand in some way and the whole thing just falls apart, collapses under the weight of all the clever.

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<p>Chris Evans kicks the ever-lovin' stuff out of Scott Pilgrim in a remarkable sequence in Edgar Wright's 'Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World'</p>

Chris Evans kicks the ever-lovin' stuff out of Scott Pilgrim in a remarkable sequence in Edgar Wright's 'Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World'

Credit: Universal Pictures

Edgar Wright and JJ Abrams premiere 9 minutes of 'Scott Pilgrim' at LAFF

New footage showcases Chris Evans as a bad boy movie star

The Los Angeles Film Festival is underway right now, camped primarily in the LA Live facility in downtown Los Angeles, and the Regal Cinemas there is one of the main venues for the festival.  I've never been in the theater before tonight, but it is apparently 1700 stories high and features a full 5000 movie screens showing everything ever.  I may have those numbers slightly wrong, but that's how it feels when you're walking through it and gently being sent up spirals and spirals and spirals.

Tonight, I was there along with a capacity crowd for a look at a few minutes of Edgar Wright's new film "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World," but more than that, to look back at how Edgar got to this point where he's making this one-of-a-kind.  To moderate the event, Edgar invited JJ Abrams, and it was an interesting choice.  Abrams is razor-sharp, and he asks a mix of questions you'd expect and questions that simply seem to be his real in-the-moment reactions to the conversation.  There are some moderators who never accomplish that, the conversational, in front of a crowd of that size, and Abrams and Edgar relaxed into it fairly quickly.  It was an event that ran over two hours long, starting a little later than the scheduled 9:30 PM time, and even given that much room, it still felt like things hustled along. 

The first part of the evening, discussing Edgar's life as a young film fan and a nascent filmmaker, felt like Abrams was mining information on the memories of making super 8 films with your friends as a kid, and the joy and the freedom of that.  Imagine that.  I wonder why that subject would interest him right now.

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<p>Can you believe this is the same guy who appears on 'Community' each week now?&nbsp; Me, neither.</p>

Can you believe this is the same guy who appears on 'Community' each week now?  Me, neither.

Saturday Night At The Movies: He's Chevy Chase, and you're not

A look at the rise and fall of the first 'SNL' movie star

Yes, I know that headline's probably been used a thousand times, and I expect that when Chevy Chase finally shuffles off this mortal coil, that headline or some variation on it will be used another thousand times.  That line summed up an attitude that personified what made "Saturday Night Live" such an amazing immediate cultural sensation, and it is entirely appropriate that it has followed Chevy Chase as a sort of signature since then.

Chevy Chase was the first "Saturday Night Live" movie star.

Even though the entire cast made an impression that first year, "Weekend Update" gave Chase a forum to be showcased as himself, not as a character,and for whatever reason, that translated into an immediate sort of stardom.  He left the show after a single season, the first person to defect, and I think that set a reputation of sort in motion, one that Chase may or may not deserve based on who you talk to.

One director I'm friends with only uses the filthiest words possible when describing Chase and his experience working with him, and he's only one of many people I've spoken with who have relayed truly awful personal and professional stories about the guy.  It used to disturb me, because I consider myself an original-generation Chevy Chase fan.  I still remember seeing "Foul Play" first-run in the theater and walking away from that film convinced that Chase was the funniest person of all time.

Keep in mind I was eight when "Foul Play" came out, and I was primed.  I already knew Chase from "SNL," and I knew Goldie Hawn from "The Sugarland Express," which I'd seen at a drive-in as part of a double-feature with "Duchess And The Dirtwater Fox," and I was excited to be taken to see what my parents obviously thought of as a "grown-up" comedy.  What made Chase different from most of the comics I was familiar with is that he obviously placed just as much emphasis on being cool as he did on being funny, and those two things don't often work well together.  In Chase's case, though, what made him truly hilarious was the way he tore down his own carefully constructed facade of cool, and in doing so, seemed to be even cooler.  It was an impressive juggling act of tone, and right away, I think it's what made people so crazy about his work.

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<p>Digital Olivia Wilde stars in 'Tron Evolution,' the video game that promises to put you into the world of the 1982 genre classic and the upcoming sequel.</p>

Digital Olivia Wilde stars in 'Tron Evolution,' the video game that promises to put you into the world of the 1982 genre classic and the upcoming sequel.

Credit: Walt Disney Company

The game trailer for 'Tron Evolution' just sold me a movie ticket

This taps the reason the first film worked in a very tangible way

I'm a first-generation "Tron" fan, and saying that, I will be the first one to admit that the thing I like the least about "Tron" is the movie itself.

When it came out in 1982, I was dizzy from the amazing summer that Hollywood had accidentally unleashed on a nascent film nerd like myself.  Today, I think most genre fans would agree that 1982 was a very special year full of very good movies in American theaters.  "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan."  "Conan The Barbarian."  "E.T."  "John Carpenter's The Thing."  "Blade Runner."  "The Road Warrior."  I was starting to feel spoiled by the end of that summer, by that glut of amazing films that absolutely cemented my love of the fantastic on film.

And right in the middle of all of that, Disney promised to change the world with "Tron."

I was already such a film nerd that I had my subscriptions to Fantastic Films and Cinefantastique and Starlog, and they'd been talking about what a revolution "Tron" was because it was going to be animated... BY COMPUTERS!  There was much talk of the fearsome Cray Supercomputer that was being used for the task, a beast that made HAL 9000 look like an iPod Nano.  This wasn't just a revolution... it was a shock considering Walt Disney was the studio behind the film, a studio that had been built on the type of animation done by HAND.  By REAL PEOPLE.  Not by computers.

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<p>Just one of the many moments that aim for 'cool' but land on 'ridiculous' in the strange misfire 'Jonah Hex,' opening the theaters today.</p>

Just one of the many moments that aim for 'cool' but land on 'ridiculous' in the strange misfire 'Jonah Hex,' opening the theaters today.

Credit: Warner Bros.

The M/C Review: 'Jonah Hex' is a total ambush

Weak performances and an awful script cripple this comic-book movie

How much can you really say about a film like "Jonah Hex"?

"Jonah Hex" is a total failure as a movie.  It seems to have all of the ingredients that would be in a good film... things like costumes and actors and sets and color and sound and scenes and dialogue... but every single one of those things lays there separately, never coming together into a coherent whole.  It is inert as a movie from the beginning to the end.  It features terrible performances, a script that doesn't manage even the most basic tasks of storytelling, and it is directed with a near-complete lack of understanding for how a scene works.  It is about 80 minutes long, and it feels like four hours.  It's a collection of random incident, and completely tone deaf.

And beyond that... what is there to say?

I visited the set for the filmI went to the press conference with the filmmakersI interviewed Josh Brolin.  I can tell that Brolin, at the very least, was sincere in his desire to make an unconventional and entertaining film, and that he really wanted to figure out how to make Hex into an iconic Western character.  For Jimmy Hayward, this was an important film because he was moving from animation into live-action, and based on the evidence of this, I'm not sure I believe he's got the skill set for live-action.  It's not enough just to stage a scene on a set and capture it on camera.  Hayward's movie never feels like it's alive.  There's no sense from moment to moment that what you're watching is all connected.  You can practically see the Teamsters standing around off-camera, waiting for the take to be over.  It's perfunctory.

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