<p>A sneak peek at the Robert Rodriguez/Nimrod Antal revitalization of a favorite monster movie series, &quot;Predators,&quot; was a cornerstone the opening night line-up at this year's SXSW&nbsp;Film&nbsp;Festival.</p>

A sneak peek at the Robert Rodriguez/Nimrod Antal revitalization of a favorite monster movie series, "Predators," was a cornerstone the opening night line-up at this year's SXSW Film Festival.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

SXSW: Friday the 12th - 'Kick-Ass,' Twin Ed Nortons, hillbilly slashers, and Predators

The opening night of SXSW makes a splash with sneak previews and world premieres

Welcome to Austin, TX.  Or welcome back, rather.  It's my home away from home at this point, the place where I've spent so much of the last 15 years.  And it's familiar by now, so when I arrive, I know where I'm going.  Thursday was picking up the rental car, getting a first dinner with people, and writing up my reviews for "Green Zone" and "Remember Me" as well as that Greengrass interview.  Friday was a morning of faxing papers and trying to meet deadlines for insurance stuff, things that don't care if you're at a festival, like a busted brake light on my rental car that makes me nervous I'm going to get hassled by over-zealous SXSW-crazed law enforcement.  I'd hate to miss a screening because of some ridiculous technical glitch with the rental car.

That's almost what happened anyway.  I got a later start than I wanted dealing with all of this, then went to the South Lamar Alamo, so I could leave my car there, catch the shuttle to the Paramount, then shuttle back over for a double-feature to close the night.

Might even have been a plan.  Except the shuttle never came.  So eventually, I had to hop in the rental and drive over to the Paramount anyway.  By the time I found parking and walked over, it was 6:30, and the film was set to start at 7:00.  At that point, there was a line around the back end of the theater.  I walked around to the front of the lines to see which of them I was supposed to be in at that point with my gold film badge.  As I did, cars began to pull up to the front of the theater, filled with the cast and the crew of the film, and the back doors of the first car opened.  Producer Tarquin Pack and producer/writer/director Matthew Vaughn got out.  And as they did, they looked over, saw me, and walked over to say hello.  We'd talked after the screening of the film in December at Butt-Numb-A-Thon, and I've been eagerly waiting to see the finished film since.

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<p>Emilie de Ravin and Robert Pattinson co-star in Allen Coulter's romantic drama 'Remember Me,' opening today in theaters</p>

Emilie de Ravin and Robert Pattinson co-star in Allen Coulter's romantic drama 'Remember Me,' opening today in theaters

Credit: Summit Entertainment

The M/C Review: 'Remember Me' surprises in ways both good and bad

A weak script betrays solid work from alumni of 'Lost,' 'The Sopranos' and, of course, 'Twilight'

I've been rough on the "Twilight" films in print so far, and that new trailer for "Eclipse" looks like a whole lot of the same, but just because someone's in one of those films, or involved in one of those films, I'm not the sort of person who would dismiss them entirely.  Kristen Stewart has absolutely had other worthwhile moments on film in movies like "Into The Wild," "Adventureland,' and the upcoming "The Runaways."  It would be silly to judge her entirely on the work she does as Bella Swan.

The same is true of her co-star Robert Pattinson, who has a rabid fanbase, but who so far has yet to prove he can draw an audience outside of "Twilight," and who I've never seen in a big enough role to judge one way or another.

The good news for his fans is that Pattinson is a real actor, an interesting guy capable of making some really intriguing choices on film, and if he can survive the "Twilight" series without developing a hatred of stardom, then he may well evolve into someone of real merit and weight.  He is charismatic and charming in much of "Remember Me," and he works overtime to bring an emotional honesty to the role he plays.  He creates a solid onscreen rapport with his co-star Emilie de Ravin, and he really throws himself into his big scenes.

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<p>Matt Damon plays a more flesh-and-blood hero than Jason Bourne in the new Paul&nbsp;Greengrass action-thriller &quot;Green Zone&quot;</p>

Matt Damon plays a more flesh-and-blood hero than Jason Bourne in the new Paul Greengrass action-thriller "Green Zone"

Credit: Universal Pictures

The M/C Review: 'Green Zone' is ambitious but overcautious

The film wants to throw punches, but pulls almost every one

If you go to the theater this weekend looking for "Green Zone" to work as an action-thriller, you'll absolutely leave happy.  Paul Greengrass brings a master's touch to the chaos and the fury of the Iraqi stage in the days after the American invasion, illustrating how the frustrating search for WMDs leads Captain Roy Miller (Matt Damon) to operate as a one-man wrecking crew, determined to learn the truth at any cost.  It is genuinely thrilling, something I'd think would be a pre-requisite for the genre, but so often, we settle for busy instead of exciting, noisy instead of compelling.  Greengrass is amazing in terms of how he builds a set piece, and from the opening to the closing, the film is never less than engaging and involving.

It is also frustrating in the sense that Greengrass and his screenwriter Brian Helgeland are looking to make some real-world points about the way the world swallowed a lie, and by turning everyone into composites, by refusing to make a movie that points fingers and names real names, it gets to pretend outrage without having to suffer any real consequence.  It is almost timid in the way it scores its political points, something I wouldn't have expected.  If that derails the film for you... if you can't get over the idea that Greengrass is more interested in the emotional experience than any sort of factual name-calling... then "Green Zone" could easily be a film that just plain doesn't work for you.  That would not surprise me at all.

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<p>Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon work on a scene with director Paul Greengrass on the set of the new action-thriller &quot;Green Zone'</p>

Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon work on a scene with director Paul Greengrass on the set of the new action-thriller "Green Zone'

Credit: Universal Pictures

The M/C Interview: Paul Greengrass takes us inside the 'Green Zone'

We discuss his philosophy on shooting an action scene

I can't really claim to know Paul Greengrass, but we've had a few encounters over the years, and I think he's a provocative and fascinating filmmaker, a guy who is pursuing a personal style in a major mainstream way.  Talking to him is an exercise in being overwhelmed.  Even the person who does my transcriptions after my interviews was a little taken aback.  It's a delight to have this sort of conversation with a filmmaker this smart, though.  I love that he's this passionate about what he does, and even if he's moved on now from the Bourne series, I'm sure that whatever he does in the future is just as worth your attention as his new film, "Green Zone," is.

I hope you dig this as much as I enjoyed doing this.

Paul Greengrass:  Hello?

Drew:  Hello, Mr. Greengrass.  How are you, sir?
 
Paul:  I’m very, very good.  How are you?
 
Drew:  Very good to speak with you again.
 
Paul:  And you.  We spoke after "Ultimatum," didn’t we?
 
Drew:  After "Ultimatum," and then I saw you at the early, early screening of "Green Zone" last year.
 
Paul:  Oh, right.
 
Drew:  I have to say, it’s interesting for all the time that’s passed between, it still very much feels like the same film I saw at that point.  And it…
 
Paul:  Is that a bad thing?
 
Drew:  Not at all.  I really enjoyed it the first time and it just feels like you really squeezed it.  Like it just got tighter and…
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<p>Greg Kinnear and Amy Ryan have a dangerous relationship in the new Paul Greengrass political thriller 'Green Zone'</p>

Greg Kinnear and Amy Ryan have a dangerous relationship in the new Paul Greengrass political thriller 'Green Zone'

Credit: Universal Pictures

The M/C Interview: Greg Kinnear and Amy Ryan conspire on 'Green Zone'

Two short interviews with the cast of the new Greengrass thriller

As part of the press day for the new Paul Greengrass film "Green Zone," I scheduled phone interviews with both Greg Kinnear and Amy Ryan.  Their roles in the film aren't huge, but they are pivotal and important, and they are connected.  I like both actors a lot, yet this represents the first time speaking to either of them, so it was a good opportunity.

First up was Kinnear, and we jumped right into it:

Greg Kinnear:  Hi, Drew.

Drew McWeeny:  Hello, Mr. Kinnear.  How are you?

Greg:  Fine.  How’re you doing?

Drew:  Good.  So is it a compliment to say that you are absolutely detestable in this film?

Greg:  Oh, thank you!

Drew:  It’s a really tricky role to play, I would think, because you are positively hissable the way Paul positions you in the movie, but you play this guy as an incredibly efficient political animal.

Greg:  Yeah.

Drew:  In getting ready to do this, who do you look at as role models?  How do you get ready to play somebody like this?

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<p>Clint Eastwood and J. Edgar Hoover look like a match made in high-caliber heaven, which bodes well for the biopic that Eastwood just signed to direct.</p>

Clint Eastwood and J. Edgar Hoover look like a match made in high-caliber heaven, which bodes well for the biopic that Eastwood just signed to direct.

Credit: Warner Bros./FBI archives

Clint Eastwood signs to direct J. Edgar Hoover biopic

Dustin Lance Black wrote the picture, currently seeking studio

This is seriously great news.

I'm not always in love with each of Clint Eastwood's movies, but I think he's one of those directors whose no-nonsense approach and tireless work ethic is fascinating.  And when it does connect for me, I tend to fall head over heels.  In most cases, it just boils down to subject matter.

And believe me... J. Edgar Hoover is about a good a source of material as there is for a biopic.

One of my particular strange avenues of interest over the years has been the history of espionage and intelligence in the United States and around the world.  There's something about the notion of how information is gathered and used and turned into currency that I find endlessly fascinating.  And if you're interested in that subject, you cannot avoid J. Edgar Hoover.  He was hugely important to the way this country's culture developed, both because of what he did and what he struggled to suppress.

Dustin Lance Black, who won the Academy Award for his screenplay for "Milk," has already written the script for producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard.  They were going to make the film at Universal, but it's in turnaround now, and with Eastwood signing on to direct, a safe assumption would be that the film will end up at Warner Bros.

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<p>Russell Crowe's hunting box-office gold as the legendary outlaw in Ridley Scott's new version of 'Robin Hood' in theaters this summer.</p>

Russell Crowe's hunting box-office gold as the legendary outlaw in Ridley Scott's new version of 'Robin Hood' in theaters this summer.

Credit: Universal Pictures

Watch: 'Robin Hood' gets an epic new trailer

Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe reteam for this new telling of the classic tale

I don't say this to be rude, but I keep forgetting this film is coming out.

I'm not one of those people who bashed "Gladiator" post-Oscars.  I thought it was a rousing piece of entertainment the first time I saw it, and I still admire the way Ridley Scott put it all together.  I actually prefer the more complex "Kingdom Of Heaven," or at least the director's cut, but I think it's exciting to put Scott and Russell Crowe together again.

I guess the reason I've had trouble mustering much enthusiasm of any sort for this film is because of the story itself.  Robin Hood has been told and retold in myriad ways, and I think it's a decent story that's hard to make fresh.  Still, the new trailer for this film goes a long way towards selling me on the idea that this is going to be an epic adventure story.

And aside from Russell Crowe, there is a fairly amazing cast here.  Mark Strong has quickly become one of the go-to bad guys in Hollywood, and with good reason.  He's able to bring nuance to even the broadest of characters, and he's just one of the opponents that Crowe's got to face in the film.  There's Prince John (Oscar Isaac) and the Sheriff Of Nottingham (Matthew Macfayden), and it looks like one of the biggest obstacles he's going to face in the film is the incredible strength of this film's Maid Marian (Cate Blanchett).

There are collaborators for Robin as well, including Mark Addy as Friar Tuck and Kevin Durand as Little John.  Throw in Danny Huston, William Hurt, and Max Von Sydow, and it's just packed with heavy-hitters.

Ultimately, though, what's going to define this film is the action, and that seems to be on a scale that only someone with the experience that Ridley Scott has would even try to stage.

Enough preamble, though.  Check it out for yourself.

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Comic fans are gearing up for war if John Krasinski is cast in "Captain America: The First Avenger," but should they all calm down until they see what Marvel's seen so far?

Comic fans are gearing up for war if John Krasinski is cast in "Captain America: The First Avenger," but should they all calm down until they see what Marvel's seen so far?

Credit: Marvel

As Krasinski closes in on 'Captain America,' the fanboy crybaby rally begins

Why Hollywood needs to stop listening to fanboys altogether

Right now, all eyes are on "Captain America:  The First Avenger," which is the last lynchpin in the ongoing road to "The Avengers," and casting rumors are flying.  Cinematical first broke the news that John Krasinski was the top choice for the role, and since then, we've seen the full list of names in consideration leak via Michael Fleming.  Now word is that Krasinski has tested twice and that Marvel Studios is pretty much sold on him playing the part.

And, predictably, fanboys are already gnashing their teeth and angrily posting messages in all caps with several exclamation points afterwards.

At what point does the fanboy nation realize that they are terrible at being casting directors?  When Heath Ledger was cast as The Joker in "The Dark Knight," you would have thought he had broken into their homes and pooped on their grandmothers.  Oh, the outrage.  Oh, the tears.  If they'd had their way, Crispin Glover would have played the part that eventually won Ledger an Academy Award, and which has now become the iconic version of the character.  It reminds me of how with my own children, both still under the age of five, any time I suggest we try to eat something they've never eaten before or watch a movie they've never seen before, they protest and cry and resist, absolutely sure they're going to hate it, only to reverse their opinion after they actually try whatever it is.  It would be funny if it didn't waste so much time and energy on something that seems inevitable.

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<p>The Final Fantasy series is one of the biggest names in gaming, so today's release of &quot;Final Fantasy XIII&quot; is a major event for gamers.</p>

The Final Fantasy series is one of the biggest names in gaming, so today's release of "Final Fantasy XIII" is a major event for gamers.

Credit: Sony

DVD & Games Forecast: 'Final Fantasy XIII', 'Precious,' and 'Up In The Air' top today's releases

Plus 'Old Dogs' and 'Boondock Saints 2' stink up the schedule

So I've been thinking about how to handle this column, and I'm starting to seriously think that after I get back from SXSW, you're going to see this evolve into my first-ever weekly podcast.  It's one of those things that can take a lot of time on a busy week, and I think I could actually do a better job in a more conversational way with an audio version of this column.  So stay tuned... big changes are coming...

For now, it feels like all of Hollywood has a hangover in the wake of the Oscars.  Everything's quiet, and that includes this week's fairly modest release schedule.  There's a huge title for gamers, a few of this year's Oscar contenders, and a couple of the worst films in recent memory.  All in all, an interesting week, so let's get right to it.

THIS WEEK'S FEATURED TITLES:

"Final Fantasy XIII" (X360/PS3)

I've never been a big fan of this particular type of game, but there's no denying that "Final Fantasy" is one of the biggest franchise titles in the world, and the release of this particular chapter in that franchise comes with enormous expectations both from the audience and from the developers.  New approaches to combat, more overt SF influences than ever before, and the first time one of these has been released multi-platform in the US means we're looking at one of the biggest launch days of the year.  I hope this one lives up to all the hopes that fans have for it, because it's been a long time trying to get this on shelves.

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<p>Olivia Wilde and Garrett Hedlund star in the highly anticipated sequel &quot;Tron Legacy,&quot; due in theaters this December.</p>

Olivia Wilde and Garrett Hedlund star in the highly anticipated sequel "Tron Legacy," due in theaters this December.

Credit: Walt Disney Company

Watch: 'Tron Legacy' trailer impresses with quiet confidence

The much-discussed trailer debuts online as part of a viral game

Big day for trailer premieres, and the difference in approach between the last "Iron Man 2" trailer and this first "real" trailer for "Tron Legacy" is night and day.

I love the new "Iron Man 2" trailer precisely because it basically kicks in the door, swaggers onto your monitor, and dares you not to have fun.  It's packed with money shots, and it is aggressive in the way it introduces characters and storylines.

This "Tron Legacy" trailer, on the other hand, is the very definition of a soft sell.  The Daft Punk cue, written for the trailer, is all gentle dynamics and slow build.  Even once the action switches from the real world into the world of the game, it's still just suggestive.  There are a few beats showing action, but I get a feeling all this is supposed to do is suggest tone and mood and the look of the movie.

We do get our first looks at Olivia Wilde and Michael Sheen in the game world, and there's a particularly creepy shot of Academy Award-winner Jeff Bridges as Clu, the young digital version of himself, and seeing just that one shot, I am absolutely amazed at how authentic it looks.  It's nothing like that effect in "X3: The Last Stand," which felt artificial.  Here, i just looks like they found some footage of a young Jeff Bridges.

It's also our first look at Garrett Hedlund as the son of Bridges, looking for his father, and what surprised me (pleasantly) is that he comes across as a real adult, not as a teenager.  That makes him a formidable lead, and watching this trailer makes me very curious how his "Captain America" screen test went.

There is a lot to like in this new trailer, and I have my fingers crossed that this could be that rare sequel that actually exceeds the original film.  "Tron" was a sensation for kids my age when it was released in the summer of 1982 because it didn't look like anything we'd ever seen before.  But as a film, it's got some real pace and tone issues, due in large part to Steve Lisberger's inexperience behind the camera.  He is still involved this time around, but I'm hoping the involvement of other talent like Edward Kitsis (one of the writers of "Lost") and Joseph Kosinski, whose got an amazing eye, means that we're going to get a film that finally delivers on the potential of this world.  Here's the trailer for you:

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