<p>Jonah Hill and Sean Combs in 'Get Him To The Greek,' a dangerous new comedy from Universal, in theaters this summer.</p>

Jonah Hill and Sean Combs in 'Get Him To The Greek,' a dangerous new comedy from Universal, in theaters this summer.

Credit: Universal Pictures

EXCLUSIVE: Nick Stoller discusses the new 'Get Him To The Greek' trailer

The director talks about how crazy the film is, writing the music, and why Diddy is the new McLovin'.

In April, I'll be publishing a series of reports from the set of the upcoming Universal comedy "Get Him To The Greek," including one of the only on-set interviews anyone got with Sean Combs.  I was there for the stuff you'll see in the new trailer where Jonah Hill gets stabbed in the heart with an adrenaline needle.

What new trailer?  Well, the first trailer landed online this weekend, and Universal asked me if I wanted to talk to director Nick Stoller about the trailer, the film, and what's going on.  We had a short chat by phone, and as always, it was good to catch up with this young filmmaker:

Drew:  Sir, very good to hear from you.

Nick:  Yeah, good to hear from you.

Drew:  So, the trailer hit yesterday, and I’ve got to say, man, I love the energy of the trailer.  It’s bigger and rowdier than I even expected.

Nick:  Oh good, good.  That’s what we were going for.

Drew:  So I’ve seen you mention on Twitter... I think you guys are pretty much locked at this point. Are you completely done?

Nick:  Well, we’re locked in the reels.  Yeah, we’re basically done.  We’ve got one last reel to lock and some sound mix to fine-tune.  Just stuff like that.  We’re done.

Drew:  And you’ve screened it for the ratings board already?

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<p>Medusa (Uma Thurman)&nbsp;is about to get a headache from Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) in the new film 'Percy Jackson &amp;&nbsp;The Olympians:&nbsp;The Lightning Thief,' in theaters today.</p>

Medusa (Uma Thurman) is about to get a headache from Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) in the new film 'Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief,' in theaters today.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

The M/C Review: 'Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief'

Can Chris Columbus strike 'Harry Potter' gold a second time?

Before you read this review, you may want to refer to the opening paragraphs of my Chris Columbus interview for some personal disclosure.  If you choose not to take my word on this one, I'll refer you instead to the always-articulate James Rocchi, whose feelings fairly closely mirror my own, and who has no connection to the filmmakers at all.

Let's start with a simple statement:  nothing is going to be "the next 'Harry Potter.'"

When Jo Rowling wrote the first few books in the "Harry Potter" series, she wasn't breaking bold new ground.  She didn't invent a genre.  She didn't come up with the idea of magic wands or wizards or even a Chosen One having to learn his role in a larger destiny with the help of various mentors.

Allow me to restate Joseph Campbell's definition of the monomyth:

"A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man."

Sounds familiar, right?  It should, since it has basically swallowed pop culture whole.  I'd argue that George Lucas (who also didn't create a genre or a storyline or his character archetypes) was the one who started us down that path in terms of modern pop culture.  The success of "Star Wars" changed things in much the same way that the success of "Harry Potter" has impacted the past decade.  All Rowling did was tell her story well, invest some genuine feeling into her characters, and perfectly tap a loneliness and a desire to be special that spoke to a generation of kids who were ready for her message.  What she did was singular, and it was a commercial force that will not be matched in this genre.  Since the explosion of popularity for "Potter," there have been many pretenders to the throne, many book series cranked out trying to capture the same market, and some of them have done well enough to make it to the screen. 

I'm not surprised 20th Century Fox purchased the "Percy Jackson" books.  The idea of doing a "Harry Potter" riff with Greek myths is simple and potentially rich enough in source material to run for many, many books, and Rick Riordan, who created the books, came by it honestly.  He started writing the first book well before there was a Harry Potter, well before Rowling published anything, even if he wasn't able to find a home for the idea until her success kicked the door open.  He was a teacher of Greek mythology whose own son was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD, characteristics that he incorporated into Percy Jackson, his hero.  I haven't read the five books, but I have a general sense of what they are, and they certainly have an active fanbase that has taken to the world that Riordan brought to life.  Are they "Harry Potter" big?  No.  But nothing is.  The next thing that becomes a phenomenon like that will come out of left field, and even if it also plays with familiar tropes (which I can almost guarantee it will), it will do so in a way we haven't seen in a while, and it will spawn its own army of imitators.

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<p>Chris Columbus in the classroom set from his new film 'Percy Jackson &amp;&nbsp;The Olympians:&nbsp;The Lightning Thief,&quot; in theaters today.</p>

Chris Columbus in the classroom set from his new film 'Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief," in theaters today.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

The M/C Interview: Chris Columbus and Craig Titley on 'Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief'

In which we discuss the legacy of 'Potter,' shooting FX, and selfish film criticism

It amuses me greatly that the first formal interview I'm doing with Craig Titley is for a film that deals with Gods as the fathers of mortal children.

Why?  Well, it could be because I'm aware that Titley has spent the last four years plus working towards a doctorate in mythology, making him pretty much the perfect guy to write a film about gods as fathers.  And it could also probably have something to do with the fact that he's the actual godfather of Film Nerd 2.0 himself, my son Toshi. 

Yes, that's right... Craig Titley is family.  Figuratively speaking.  I actually met Craig a decade ago at the premiere of "Detroit Rock City," when Kiss played the afterparty and the two of us ended up standing front row center and talking between songs.  At the time, I knew him as a writer who had several scripts floating around that I'd read, including an early pass at the live-action "Scooby Doo" that was dead-on perfect, and a Bugs Bunny feature film that never got made.  We bonded over mutual interests and both having last names that sound just plain dirty.  We used to joke that we should open a law film for porn stars with a producer friend called Suckle, Titley, and McWeeny.  When I did the long-running "Jedi Council" articles at Ain't It Cool, Craig was one of the guys who attended almost every single one, and he hosted quite a few of them.  He's been a good friend at some hard times over the years, and when Toshi was born, Craig stepped up to stand with us at his baptism, and since then, he's been an active godfather, having fun in the role.  He's the one who has given Toshi the full line of books that we read at bedtime, each one about a different movie monster, and thanks to a birthday gift of a puppet theater and some animal hand puppets, his full name is, according to Tosh, "Craig Puppet Show."  He's also part of "Bat Out Of Hell," the film Scott Swan and I wrote for Joe Dante to direct, a producer who was invaluable in helping us refine the screenplay.  So consider that a whole fat lot of full disclosure, and read on fully aware of our ties.

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<p>Benicio Del Toro stars in 'The Wolfman,' opening today, and I&nbsp;can't help thinking it would have been more effective if only he'd worn make-up.</p>

Benicio Del Toro stars in 'The Wolfman,' opening today, and I can't help thinking it would have been more effective if only he'd worn make-up.

Credit: Universal Pictures

The M/C Review: 'The Wolfman' is all bark, no bite

Some good parts but not a successful whole

"The Wolfman" is a strange hybrid, which may be somewhat appropriate.  It's a film that feels endlessly tampered with in many places, a gothic horror film with decidedly modern tendencies, and I can't say I think it all hangs together are a movie.  But there are many things I like about it, and I would suggest that if you're at all interested in it, see it theatrically.  It's more good than bad, and when it really gets its wolf on, it does so with a shaggy, deranged glee that left me laughing.

There was a much-publicized last-minute switch of director on the film, from Mark Romanek to Joe Johnston, and there was some not-so-secret turmoil with Rick Baker, the legendary make-up artist hired to bring the classic Jack Pierce design into the 21st century, but none of that really matters if the film works, right?


There is an interesting surreal sense of mood to the film.  From the way Benicio Del Toro's Lawrence Talbot is established as a very successful actor who spent much of his life in America to the way the attack on the gypsy camp is handled to a crazy sequence in an asylum, much of the film is handled like a fever dream.  Johnston's moon stalks the film like a psycho killer, always on the wax, and his settings are pure backlot, unreal and impressionistic.  Sir Anthony Hopkins, starring as Sir John Talbot, lives alone in a house that's run-down and abandoned, an external expression of the hollow heart of his family, and the local village seems to mainly consist of a tavern where people sit around and tell stories about horrible murders.  I don't think there's anything remotely "realistic" about the movie, but I'd argue no one was aiming for realism.

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<p>Emily Blunt stars as Gwen, a woman caught up in the tragic events of 'The Wolfman,' the new update of the classic Universal horror film.</p>

Emily Blunt stars as Gwen, a woman caught up in the tragic events of 'The Wolfman,' the new update of the classic Universal horror film.

Credit: Universal Pictures

The M/C Interview: Emily Blunt tames 'The Wolfman'

A short but sweet conversation with the rising star

Oh, my.  You ready to mock me mercilessly?  Prepare to read an interview conducted by a man struggling to contain his shameless adoration.  I think I managed to avoid yelling "I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU!  I LOVE YOU!" until she hung up so she could dial the proper authorities.  But just barely.  As a result, I'm not responsible for any spoilers we discussed, since I was just trying to maintain a sense of decorum.

Believe it or not, though, it's not her striking, quiet beauty that piques my interest... it's the talent behind it.  There are many lovely women working in film today, but few of them make choices I like as much as the ones Blunt makes in front of the camera.  I am impressed by the maturity to her work that made her seem like someone who had always been in front of the camera, completely comfortable even in her first film I saw, able to simply let the viewer in.  She's still building her filmography, but I already consider her someone who is simply worth watching, each and every time.

Our chat took place late Saturday afternoon, and when she called, my youngest son Allen had just passed out in my lap for his nap.  I'm almost positive she didn't notice his snoring as we talked by phone, her calling in from the Four Seasons:

Emily Blunt:  Hello.

Drew:  Hello, how are you?

EB:  I’m good.  How are you?

Drew:  Excellent.  Thank you for taking the time today.

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<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:


"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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