<p>Steve Carell and Jack McBrayer are among the many comic talents who provide voices for Universal's 'Despicable Me,' in theaters this July</p>

Steve Carell and Jack McBrayer are among the many comic talents who provide voices for Universal's 'Despicable Me,' in theaters this July

Credit: Universal Pictures

A promising sneak-peek at 'Despicable Me' with Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand... and Julie Andrews?

'Spy Vs Spy' style supervillian mayhem with a heart from one of the producers of 'Ice Age'

Well, Mike Myers, it looks like there's really no reason for you to bother making a Dr. Evil movie.

Last week, I drove down to Santa Monica, where I met a handful of other online writers at the offices of Illumination Entertainment, the company that was founded by Chris Meledandri, a former Fox executive who was in charge of animated films there like "Anastasia," "Titan A.E.," and "Ice Age."  We sat to talk with Chris for a while, then saw a few sequences from the film, and then talked to Chris again.  The intent was to unveil the film for us and to explain what Illumination Entertainment is up to in general.

I suspect you'll see several articles today and tomorrow popping  up at various sites, and I suspect most of the reactions to what we saw will be favorable.  I'll give Meledandri this... he's earned his place in the animation industry the hard way, by making many films, and by making gradually refining his idea of what he wants from animation.  When he was a kid, he was raised by a mom who would take him to see things like "Easy Rider" or "Taxi Driver" in the theater, but who refused to take him to "Bambi," so he was not familiar with animation to any real extent until he became a parent and, more importantly, a Fox executive.  Fox tried to set up their own animation studio in the '90s with Don Bluth as one of the guys running it, and I remember that era.  When I first moved to Los Angeles, it was just as Disney was starting to make massive commercial hits, and I was here when Disney managed to get that Best Picture nomination for "Beauty and the Beast."  You could feel the shock wave in town, and suddenly everyone wanted to have their own feature animation division.  Fox paid a fortune to set up a studio in Arizona, and as soon as they put Don Bluth in charge of it, I knew they were finished.  I admire Bluth's first film, "The Secret Of NIMH," but I knew a lot of people who had been part of Bluth's doomed Irish endeavor, and I had heard way too many stories about his approach to development to have any faith in him as a filmmaker.

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<p>Benecio Del Toro's feeling a little hairy in a pivotal scene from Joe Johnston's updated version of 'The&nbsp;Wolfman,' in theaters this Friday.</p>

Benecio Del Toro's feeling a little hairy in a pivotal scene from Joe Johnston's updated version of 'The Wolfman,' in theaters this Friday.

Credit: Universal Pictures

The M/C Interview: Joe Johnston howls about 'The Wolfman'

The director talks about Rick Baker, Anthony Hopkins, and Benicio Del Toro

Joe Johnston designed both Boba Fett and The Iron Giant.  So say what you will, but he's got that going for him.

He also talked with me last Saturday as part of the press day for Universal's new version of "The Wolfman," which arrives in theaters February 12, following a long and difficult and fairly public production process that included Johnston stepping in at the last possible moment for the original director, Mark Romanek, and a very irate Rick Baker talking to the press about what he considered a raw deal on the film.  There was additional shooting late in the game, and even rumors (incorrect ones, according to what I've heard) about last minute teams working side-by-side on totally different cuts of the movie.

Any time a film has that sort of birthing pains, you have to wonder how the filmmaker is going to be when you finally speak with him, and my take is that Johnston seemed utterly unphased by any of it.  Tell me if you agree, and be warned... we do talk about some major spoilers...

Drew:  Thank you for taking the time today.

Joe Johnston: Glad to do it.

Drew:  It’s funny... I’m sitting here in the office, my kids playing while we talk, and I’ve got "Iron Giant" stuff everywhere.

JJ:  Oh, boy.

Drew:  The very first interview I did for Ain’t It Cool, almost… god, it must have been 11 or 12 years ago... was with Brad Bird, and he talked about the process of bringing you in specifically to work on the design of the Giant.

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<p>Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart throw some attitude in the rock'n'roll biopic 'The Runaways,' part of this year's Sundance Film Festival</p>

Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart throw some attitude in the rock'n'roll biopic 'The Runaways,' part of this year's Sundance Film Festival

Credit: Apparition

Sundance 2010: 'The Runaways' rocks at half-strength, but Stewart and Fanning impress

Floria Sigismondi makes an only semi-successful jump from music videos to feature films

I'm always interested when I see someone from a photography/music video background make the jump to feature films, because the results have turned out some of the best directors in recent memory (Spike Jonze, Michael Gondry, or David Fincher) and some of the worst (Joseph Kahn, Simon West, Dominic Sena), and I think it's a tough jump to make in general.  Photography and music videos are a particular discipline, and the skills it takes to make a great music video do not automatically translate to the skills it takes to make a great feature film.

So in approaching "The Runaways," my first question was not "How accurate is this to the reality of the band from the '70s," since I'm not an expert on the band or the milieu in which they worked, but rather "can Floria Sigismondi tell a story?"  And the answer, based on this film, appears to be... sorta.

By now, most of the publicity for this film has focused on the casting of Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning as Cherie Curry, and that's understandable.  Stewart's media profile has skyrocketed as a result of her participation in the "Twilight" films, although many critics were already seriously considering her work thanks to roles in films like "Into The Wild" or "Zathura," where she exhibited an interesting charisma on the rise.  Fanning, of course, is one of the best known child actors in the world right now, and as she moves towards adulthood, she faces the same struggle that every child actor does:  can she make the jump?

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<p>Gamers of all stripes are excited by today's release of 'Bioshock 2,' the biggest event title since last year's 'Modern Warfare 2'</p>

Gamers of all stripes are excited by today's release of 'Bioshock 2,' the biggest event title since last year's 'Modern Warfare 2'

Credit: 2K Games

DVD & Games Forecast: 'Bioshock 2' and 'A Serious Man' top today's releases

Plus 'Dante's Inferno' gets a makeover and Sony releases a double-fistful of bad girl film noir

Welcome to the DVD & Games Forecast.

I originally thought there was nothing worth writing about this week.  A cursory glance at the release list left me thinking I'd have about four titles in total to mention.  But as with most weeks, if you really dig, there are things out there that are worth the time and attention.  Today is a huge one for gamers, which is nice because it's been a sort of slow 2010 so far.  Here's my take on what might earn a place in your player this week, no matter what the make or model:

THIS WEEK'S FEATURED TITLES:

"Bioshock 2" (X360/PS3/PC)

That's right, gamers... it's time to return to Rapture.  I've read some incredible reviews of this one in the last few days, and I'm cautiously excited.  I thought the first game was beautifully designed and a really interesting narrative, but I wasn't crazy about the actual mechanics of the game.  It seemed like a lot of work to manage the actual controls.  I hear there are some big improvements on that front, and that the narrative takes some real chances as it builds off the mythology that was established the first time around.

If you're not familiar with the first game, I'm not sure what you'll get from a description, but Rapture is an underwater city in an alternate version of our own timeline, a place where Ayn Rand-ian philosophy and scientific genetic manipulation are both out of control, and where Art Deco has spread like kudzu.  It's a gorgeous, weird, steampunky world of monsters and moral choices, and if there's anyone out there who found themselves addicted to the first, go ahead and say goodbye to friends and family for a while.

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<p>Carey Mulligan, pictured here in her Oscar-nominated role in 'An Education,' chatted with Dustin Hucks for HitFix at the Santa Barbara Int'l Film Festival</p>

Carey Mulligan, pictured here in her Oscar-nominated role in 'An Education,' chatted with Dustin Hucks for HitFix at the Santa Barbara Int'l Film Festival

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

SBIFF: An interview with Oscar-nominee Carey Mulligan

Our man at the Santa Barbara Int'l Film Festival talks with the star of 'An Education'

It's strange that a year ago, Carey Mulligan was just starting to get press, as critics reeled out of the Sundance Film Festival smitten with this newcomer's work in the warm and knowing "An Education." 

Now she's got an Oliver Stone movie and a Mark Romanek movie both waiting for release, and she's Oscar-nominated for the same role that introduced her to filmgoers.  Getting that sort of acclaim this early in a career can be dangerous, and I've been curious about how she's handled it. 

When Dustin Hucks, our man in Santa Barbara this year, told me that he was going to talk to Mulligan as part of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, I thought it was fitting since he's new to doing interviews, and Mulligan is still relatively new to giving them.  Hopefully this is just one of several interviews that Dustin will be filing with us this week.  In particular, I hope he talks to Kathryn Bigelow, since he's an ex-Marine, and I think that would be a great perspective for their conversation.

I sincerely dig Mulligan's work.  I almost hope she doesn't win, though, because I think it would complicate her career in a way that she doesn't need at this point.  The nomination is such a huge thing that I think it's put her on the map, and now it's time to just see what she can do for a while.

Dustin... take it away:

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<p>One of these men is doing his very best to guarantee he does not survive the upcoming 'Ghostbusters 3'</p>

One of these men is doing his very best to guarantee he does not survive the upcoming 'Ghostbusters 3'

Credit: Columbia Pictures

TMR: Nolan's 'Batman' and Murray's 'Ghostbusters 3' headline a big duh Monday

Plus 'Apes,' 'Saw,' and more on 'Captain America'

Welcome to The Morning Read.

There's a wee bit of "duh" running rampant around the internet this morning in some of the headlines, but considering I ran a story this weekend clarifying what "Jurassic Park IV" will NOT be about, I guess we are filling column inches any way we can.

For example, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis and Ivan Reitman and Sigourney Weaver have all said in interviews in the past that the only way Murray would return for a new "Ghostbusters" film would be if they killed him off early and had him return as a ghost.  And now, Murray has confirmed that he will indeed die in the first reel of "Ghostbusters 3" so he can spend the rest of the film as a "free-roaming full-body apparition."  I can't say I consider that big news, if only because we've heard it so many times now.  I like the idea, but I'm confused... will it be Bill Murray shot in front of a greenscreen?  Will the ghost be a CGI character who he only voices, a la "Garfield"?  I think the wee bit of speculation that Cinematical added to the story is very interesting, and I hope their bad guy in this film is as smart and fun as the franchise deserves, and not just a rehash of Gozer from the first movie.

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<p>Hugo Weaving, pictured here in 'Lord Of The Rings,' may return to play the character Elrond again when 'The Hobbit' goes into production later this year</p>

Hugo Weaving, pictured here in 'Lord Of The Rings,' may return to play the character Elrond again when 'The Hobbit' goes into production later this year

Credit: New Line Cinema

Hugo Weaving talks about his return as Elrond in 'The Hobbit'

A short conversation with the star of 'Lord Of The Rings' about the possible sequel

One of the pleasures of participating in this weekend's press day for "The Wolfman" was finally chatting with Hugo Weaving, an actor whose work I've admired for many years.  I'll have that whole interview for you later in the week, but it's worth making special mention of the short conversation we had about the upcoming Guillermo Del Toro version of "The Hobbit," which is currently still working its way towards production.

Just where it is in that process has been the subject of much debate online, and I decided to ask Weaving about what he's heard.  After all, his character Elrond is a major figure in the world that J.R.R. Tolkien created, and it would seem logical to expect him to show up in this new film.  With some characters, it would make sense to recast them younger for "The Hobbit," but with Elrond, he's an elf, and so his lifespan is very different, and Weaving could easily step in to play him again, even after the passing of a decade since the last time he played the part.

I asked him if he's already been contacted, and he responded, "My understanding is that that film should be happening this year, towards the end of this year."  That's a later timetable than we'd originally heard on the production, but don't take it as set in stone yet, since Weaving continued, "And what I’ve heard is that, yeah, they’re interested in me.  I haven’t had any conversations, and I haven’t read any scripts because they’re being closely guarded.  I don’t think the studio has even got the second script yet."

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<p>James Cameron, onstage with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, at the Santa Barbara Film Festival this weekend.</p>

James Cameron, onstage with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, at the Santa Barbara Film Festival this weekend.

Credit: Aaron Morgan/Ain't It Cool

SBIFF: James Cameron gets an award from Schwarzenegger

The 'Avatar' director gives a loose and fun Q&A with Leonard Maltin

One of the main attractions of the Santa Barbara Film Festival is the way its timed right in the middle of Oscar season, so that the tributes that are planned frequently serve as showcases for recent nominees.  Roger Durling's programming looks positively prescient many times, and this year was no exception.  He books these things early, and his call to put together a big tribute to Sandra Bullock turned out to be right on the money.

Less of a gamble was the inclusion of James Cameron, whose "Avatar" is now pretty much the biggest damn thing in the history of biggest damn things.  Even if he hadn't been nominated for Oscars this year, his work on "Avatar" would be worth the conversation, and the film's seismic impact on pop culture only makes it even more worthy of discussion.

The idea of getting the Governator to come down and actually present Cameron with the honor makes for an irresistible press opportunity.  Dustin Hucks, our man at the Santa Barbara Film Festival this year, was on hand to witness the Q&A, and he's got a report for us this morning that does a pretty good job of giving us a taste of what was discussed and the mood of the event overall.

Take it away, Dustin:

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<p>Michel Cote and Louis-Jose Houde co-star in 'Fathers and Guns,' the highest-grossing French-language film in Canadian history.</p>

Michel Cote and Louis-Jose Houde co-star in 'Fathers and Guns,' the highest-grossing French-language film in Canadian history.

Credit: Alliance Vivafilm

SBIFF: 'Fathers and Guns' and 'Mother' both play

A huge Canadian hit and the new film from Bong Joon-ho make an interesting double-feature

Dustin Hucks is still at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, working hard to secure interviews, see films, and send me updates as much as possible.  If you missed his first two reviews here at HitFix, you should catch up.  He reviewed "The Wild Hunt" and "When You're Strange" on Saturday.

This is my first time really working with Dustin, but so far, I'm impressed by how much he's sent me, and by how he's handling the pace of the festival in general.  This weekend, for example, he sent me two reviews that I thought I'd run together, both foreign-language titles, both with reason to pay attention to them. 

In the case of the first film, "Father and Guns," you can expect to see a Sony remake of the film sometime soon.  They bought it for Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy to produce, and it's little wonder.  The original was a monster hit in Quebec last year, and it's the highest-grossing French-language film ever released in Canada now.

The second film is the latest effort from Bong Joon-ho, the director of "Memories Of Murder" and "The Host," and I'm seeing the film a little later this month myself.  I'm a big fan of his work, and I think he's one of the most important voices in Korean cinema right now.  Anytime he releases a film, it's automatically an event as far as I'm concerned.

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<p>Chia Min-Seo plays a woman who slowly becomes paralyzed by her fear of meat in the Korean drama 'Vegetarian,' part of this year's Sundance Film Festival.</p>

Chia Min-Seo plays a woman who slowly becomes paralyzed by her fear of meat in the Korean drama 'Vegetarian,' part of this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Credit: Bluetree Pictures

Sundance 2010: 'Vegetarian' disturbs and provokes

A demented character drama puts me off my feed

There are few things that drive me as nitpick crazy as a film that plays a film festival that has a terrible IMDb page and no press notes.  I'll still be able to tell you what I thought of the film, obviously, but I won't be able to talk about the characters or the actors by name.  This is a Korean film by a first-time director, and not a main entry in the festival, so it looks like it's basically flying under the radar.

No matter.  It's easy enough to say that it's a smart adult character drama that carries an unexpected erotic charge amidst a barrage of profound sorrow that seems to be woven into the fabric of the film.  It's not as easy to describe why, but I'll give it a shot.

When the film starts, it's a dark and angry family drama in which  Yeong-hye (Chae Min-seo), the younger of a pair of adult sisters, has a terrible dream that results in her decision to stop eating meat.  More than that, though, she grows almost phobic of it.  She can't have it in the house, and she can't have any milk or eggs in the house, either.  After a while, she can't even stand the smell of her husband (Kim Young-jae) if he's eaten meat during the day.  She rejects it to a degree that seems mentally unhinged, like the mere thought of it is too much for her to bear.  Basically, it starts off like a distinctly Korean riff on the Todd Haynes film "Safe."

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