<p>Sharlto Copely stars in 'District 9' as a mid-level bureaucrat whose work with the 'prawns' lands him in a very, very strange world of pain</p>

Sharlto Copely stars in 'District 9' as a mid-level bureaucrat whose work with the 'prawns' lands him in a very, very strange world of pain

Credit: Sony/TriStar

SDCC 2009: 'District 9' (p)reviewed

Could this Peter Jackson production be one of this year's best sleepers?

This is not a review of the film "District 9."

Although I did indeed see it on Thursday night as a precursor to an hour-and-a-half long intimate evening with Peter Jackson, I've been asked not to write a formal review of the film yet.  So instead, what I'll offer up is a preview of the movie, some background on it, and a general reaction.

Neil Blomkamp was originally brought to Peter Jackson's attention by Mary Parent while she was working at Universal, and the idea was for Neil to direct "Halo" while Peter would produce it.  Solid plan, until the co-financed film between Universal and Fox imploded, and suddenly Peter Jackson was left with a protoge but no movie for him to make.

Thankfully, Blomkamp's solution was to return to South Africa to make a small SF indie film based on some of his earlier short films.  And the result is, in my opinion, an instant classic, a movie that had the same effect on me as the first time I saw Paul Verhoeven's "Robocop" in 1987.

Keep in mind... today, "Robocop" is respected and loved and acknowledged as one of the great SF films of the '80s.  But before it came out, it looked like a joke.  I was working at a theater at the time, and we made fun of that poster relentlessly.  "PART MAN... PART MACHINE... ALL COP!"  Oh, please.  I went to a pre-release employee's screening just to make fun of the film... and then lost my mind.  I ended up taking a good dozen people or so back to see it over the next few weeks, amazed by the film, and time after time, people flipped out for it.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Max leads one of the Wild Things across a desert in a beautiful image from the Spike Jonze adaptation of 'Where The Wild Things Are'</p>

Max leads one of the Wild Things across a desert in a beautiful image from the Spike Jonze adaptation of 'Where The Wild Things Are'

Credit: Warner Bros.

SDCC 2009: 'Where The Wild Things Are' wows Hall H

Odd and beautiful adaptation of the Maurice Sendak classic finally debuts

I'm sure by now you've seen the trailer.  It's one of my personal favorite trailers in recent memory, because it does what I feel like a great trailer should do... it teases.  It gives you a taste, but it doesn't really give anything away.

Spike Jonze has taken a long and undeniably difficult road to get to this morning and, to be fair, so has Warner Bros.  This is an $80 million film from the director of "Being John Malkovich" and "Adaptation."  Not exactly a track record that makes a studio think "giant box-office guarantee."  Spike's film, which I saw in rough form many many months ago, is beautiful and stark and sad and scary.  It's a great film, I think, but not an easy film.  I've spoken to Spike at length about the making of the film.

And today... finally... at the beginning of the Warner Bros. presentation in Hall H that kicked off the day, Spike and Warner Bros. premiered footage from the film, far more than the trailer.  For me, the biggest question mark of the movie was answered conclusively today, and I can say now with all confidence... "Where The Wild Things Are" is going to be a very special movie.  And the characters, the Wild Things themselves, are gloriously, amazingly alive.

Maurice Sendak appeared with Spike in a special reel that was shown at the start of the panel, and listening to him talk about how his book was fairly reviled when it came out, how his own family didn't like the book at first, and it wasn't until a few years later that the most important group of critics in literature finally weighed in on the book... the librarians.  They were the ones who saw that children didn't just read the book... they internalized it.  It became part of how they processed the world.  It was Sendak who whispered in Spike's ear, "Make it dangerous," and he did.  His film is not a safe piece of merchandising bait.  It's very somber, and it's very strange, and it's conceptually quite bold, maybe as bold as either of his Kaufman collaborations.

Max Records, the boy who plays Max in the film, came on after the Sendak/Jonze film and then introduced the footage.  He professed to being nervous enough to need to read the notes on his hand.  He explained that he had just recently seen Maurice who said to pass along a very sweet message to the Comic-Con crowd:

"I really like this movie, and I hope they like it, because if they don't, they can all go straight to Hell."

[more after the jump]

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<p>Do not doubt this man...</p>

Do not doubt this man...

Credit: 20th Century Fox

SDCC 2009: I have laid eyes on 'Avatar,' part one...

... and the controversy is just warming up...

"Avatar" absolutely will change the way films are made.

Or, to be more precise, it will revolutionize the way $400 million films are made.  And make no mistake... we're about to see another price paradigm shattered, just like we did the first time a single film cost over $100 million.  "Avatar" is ginormous to the power of superhumongous.  And, personally, I'm glad.  Because it's not my money.  I'm in for at least $28 or so theatrically, and another $40 for the eventual BluRay that will be just plain awesome.  So for a personal investment of around $70, I get to go to Jim Cameron's new planet, Pandora, and have a crazy adventure with the giant blue cat people.

Totally.

I'm glad I didn't live blog this event, and that I didn't rush back to the hotel to just run a description of the footage.  I'm glad I ended up doing several other things after "Avatar," and that I've run into a number of people whose disappointment in the footage was profound, near-complete.  I've been listening to the reactions of the ones who are disappointed.  A good friend of mine, a guy who loves at least one James Cameron film so much that if he ever has a son, he will probably name that son "Aliens"... that guy was so upset about the footage tonight when I saw him that I felt like he was almost confused by how upset he was.  There were things he liked about it, but a whole lot of it was stuff he didn't like.  And that freaked him out a little.  I don't think he expected at the start of today that he'd be a raving fan of "District 9" and disappointed and irritated by "Avatar."

But that's Comic-Con, isn't it?

[more after the jump]

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<p>The first released image from James Cameron's "Avatar."</p>

The first released image from James Cameron's "Avatar."

Credit: 20th Century Fox

SDCC 2009: 'Avatar', Burton's 'Wonderland,' Gilliam, and 'Tron'

Quick impressions on my way out the door

God, I'm dying time-wise, but San Diego is amazing so far.

Yes, "Avatar" is awesome.  I've heard contrarians so far, and we'll get into that tonight.

Yes, my interview with Terry Gilliam is the best interview I've ever done, and you'll read the whole thing SOON.

Yes, Burton's "Wonderland" is gorgeous and strange, and yes, 5000 people seemed to explode at the same time as Johnny Depp made a surprise appearance on the panel.

Yes, "Tron: Legacy" looks cool and gigantic.

And, yes, I'll have details on all of this and more later tonight.  I hate not being able to share details yet, but if I don't walk out the door five minutes ago, I'm not seeing "District 9," and then I won't be able to talk to...

.... well, you'll see.  I'll be back tonight with full reports on everything above and even more insane coolness.  Comic-Con never stops, it seems, and so I guess for the next four days, neither do I.

Talk to you soon.

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<p>Robert Downey Jr. gets all serious after Whiplash disrupts a race in 'Iron Man 2'</p>

Robert Downey Jr. gets all serious after Whiplash disrupts a race in 'Iron Man 2'

Credit: Paramount Pictures

TMR: Off To Comic-Con for 'Iron Man 2,' 'Avatar,' and more

Plus an early look at Neal Brennan's 'Goods' with an R-rated clip

Welcome to The Morning Read.

Very possibly the last Morning Read ever published.  I am, after all, leaving the house in a few hours to drive to San Diego, where I full expect I'll have a massive David Cronenberg style meltdown sometime around 5:30 on Friday afternoon.  Expect the second half of my Con coverage to read largely like this:

"Oh god, oh, god, ohgodohgod, oh, god, ohgod.  So.  Many.  Nerds."

Then screaming.  Lots of screaming.  I dunno... maybe the Benadryl will help.  I plan to drink a gallon a day.

Keep in mind, I say that as a self-avowed professional nerd.  I'm not opposed to nerds on an individual scale.  It's just taken en masse that the thought makes me want to black out.  Whatever the case, I'm off to enjoy Wednesday through Sunday at a hotel somewhere in lovely San Diego.  I'll be back in my own bed Sunday night, and then I'm off to what could sort of be described as a Comic-Con field trip of sorts for a few days.  I won't be back on a regular schedule until Thursday of next week.  That's not to say you won't get content... in fact, you'll be getting more content from this blog than normal, and much of the HitFix team is going to be in San Diego as well.  Dan Fienberg, Greg Ellwood, Katie Hasty, Jen Wilhelmi, and myself will all be onsite for some or all of the convention.  I'm going to be at preview night tonight.  I'm going to an IMAX reception before that.  I've got a Thursday that doesn't seem physically possible already booked, and a Friday that's just as crazy.

Friday night, don't forget, we're going to be screening Hayao Miyazaki's latest delight, "Ponyo," the new Disney dubbed version that will be released in August.  This is your chance to see the movie with the legendary filmmaker in attendance, introducing the film, and somehow, they're actually letting me introduce him.  WHICH IS INSANE, BECAUSE HE IS AN ENORMOUS GENIUS, AND I AM A DUDE THAT CAN TURN A CLEVER PHRASE ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE'S WORK! It's still amazing to me that they'll let me be in the same building as him, much less introduce him to an American audience before they get to see one of his films for the first time.  That's seriously a crazy honor, and one of the many, many moments I expect will make all the stress of the next seven days worthwhile.

[more after the jump]

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<p>I'm sure somewhere, some fanboy is already writing out a petition to get Bruce Campbell to play whatever the hell this thing is</p>

I'm sure somewhere, some fanboy is already writing out a petition to get Bruce Campbell to play whatever the hell this thing is

Credit: Blizzard Entertainment

Sam Raimi logs on for 'World Of Warcraft'

Sets adaptation of popular game to shoot after 'Spider-Man 4'

Well, Harry, nicely played.

Leave it to Grande Rojo to break one of the biggest out-of-the-blue scoops of the year so far on the eve of Comic-Con so he can roll into San Diego with that omnipresent shit-eating grin intact.  And deservedly, because breaking the news that Sam Raimi is set to direct "Warcraft," the mega-budget adaptation of the insanely popular "World Of Warcraft" MMORPG, is a huge story in the geek world.

Actually, it's a huge story.  Period.  Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures have been working to develop a "WOW" film for a while now.  I first reported on this project back in 2007, and at that point, they were working to try to get it onscreen by... well... now.  Obviously, that didn't happen.  I know a lot of filmmakers have approached them about the project, and they've talked to many directors.  But holding out for someone with as strong a voice as Raimi was a great decision, one that should pay off nicely for them in the end.

Raimi obviously digs fantasy.  Aside from producing the "Hercules" and "Xena" series, he's also a producer on "Legend Of The Seeker" right now.  And there's a lot of interesting fantasy material working its way towards the screen still, even six years after the end of "Lord Of The Rings" on the bigscreen.  I'm dying to see what HBO does with the George RR Martin books, for example.

But I'll admit I know very little about the world of "World Of Warcraft."  I don't have time to give to MMORPGs.  It just sounds like such a huge investment of headspace and energy.  Obviously, there's something to it.  You don't create rabid addicts the way Blizzard has if you're delivering a weak experience, so people are definitely getting something out of WOW as they play it.  The biggest question is, will they get the same thing out of a film version?

[more after the jump]

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<p>The extended director's cut of 'Watchmen' arrives on BluRay today</p>

The extended director's cut of 'Watchmen' arrives on BluRay today

Credit: Warner Bros.

TMR: 'Watchmen' and 'Coraline' on BluRay and Human Giant mashes up 'Point Break' with Reno 911

Plus a game of frisbee between 'Scott Pilgrim' and 'Paul,' and 'Tron' sightings a-plenty

Welcome to The Morning Read.

I'm not sure yet how I'll be handling these at Comic-Con.  I'll have something up to start the day, but it may be a summary of the previous day's coverage, or a link to other Comic-Con coverage worth seeing, or a quick list of things that happened while we were immersed in the Comic-Con hubbub.  I'm not sure yet.  Rest assured, we're going to have so much content up between tomorrow and next Sunday that it's going to be overwhelming.  For you and for us alike, I think.  So that makes this the last "normal" Morning Read until next week, so let's see what's going on out there.

On DVD this week, the two biggest titles are "Watchmen: Director's Cut" and "Coraline."  Both of those are BluRay must-haves.  That amazing "300" BluRay double-dip is also out today, and even though I haven't seen it all the way through, just a cursory examination of the extra features leaves me convinced that today's Zack Snyder releases are fairly significant just in terms of exploring the potential for what you can do with a BluRay edition of a film.  Criterion's releasing both "2 Or 3 Things I Know About Her" and "Made In U.S.A." today, so Godard fans can rejoice.  All three seasons of "The Mighty Boosh" finally land on US soil today as well, too, and the discs are packed with extras that do a great job of tracing the whole history of the Boosh.  "Midnight Express" hits BluRay today, along with Paramount titles like "U2: Rattle And Hum," "Black Rain," "The Warriors," Mel Gibson's "Payback," "Nacho Libre," "Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow," and "The Truman Show."  And if you're a TV fan, "Pushing Daisies" season two is out today, along with season seven (!!!) of "Monk."

It's increasingly uncommon to read a first-hand recollection of what it was like when we dropped atomic weapons on Japan, so this piece in The New York Times is amazing just for that reason, even if it weren't well-written and perceptive and haunting.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Jake Gyllenhaal on the first official teaser poster for Walt Disney's 'Prince Of Persia,' due summer 2010</p>

Jake Gyllenhaal on the first official teaser poster for Walt Disney's 'Prince Of Persia,' due summer 2010

Credit: The Walt Disney Company

TMR: Raaaaaaaandy returns, 'Persia' posters, and my new favorite critic

Updated: Large version of the new 'Prince of Persia' poster and 'Voltron' assembles again

Welcome to The Morning Read.

It's Comic-Con week.  Oooooooh.  And I just learned a few hours ago that Comic-Con doesn't really end for some of us until Wednesday of next week.  It's going to be seven solid days of ridiculously over-the-top geekery, and I'll be bringing you all of it as it happens.

Make sure you're subscribed to my Twitter feed if you want constant updates.  Getting to the computer will happen at some very odd and specific times as I scramble away from the convention center just long enough to file a few quick reports.  In the meantime, Twitter should give you a sense of how things are going, a shorthand. I'm @DrewAtHitfix, so I'm easy to find.

Sounds like quite a few of you are planning to be in San Diego.  Still not sure what sort of meet-up we'll do, but I would hope you come to the "Ponyo" screening on Friday night.  Toshi can't wait, and he seems excited since he learned that Miyazaki will be there.  He's starting to ask "who made that?" after he sees something he likes, and he's very curious about what that means.  Since I can't imagine many opportunities in the future for him to see a film with Hayao Miyazaki in attendance, I'm really pleased this came together, and I'm glad Disney's doing this with us.

Don't forget that I'm moderating three panels now on Sunday in Ballroom 20.  One on "Paper Heart," one on "Mystery Team," and one on "Alien Trespass."  Did you see that there's a new "Mystery Team" trailer out now?  Just hit YouTube last night:

[more after the jump]

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<p>Peter Capaldi and James Gandolfini go toe-to-toe in the black political comedy 'In The Loop'</p>

Peter Capaldi and James Gandolfini go toe-to-toe in the black political comedy 'In The Loop'

Credit: IFC Films

Movie Diary: 'In The Loop' and 'Ashes Of Time'

Plus Troma Namsploitation and 'Alien Trespass'

Thursday was almost a complete bust for me.  I saw one film, Shane Acker's animated vision of post-apocalyptic life, "9," but I'm under an embargo  so I can't offer up a reaction to it yet.  Then Friday, fate conspired to create one of those days where I don't end up seeing a single movie.  And I know I'm an addict because a day like that leaves me with a vicious jones.

When Saturday rolled around, I was excited about working my way through the stacks that seem to accumulate each week.  All you can do when you're working your way through a bunch at once is just pull randomly from the stack, put it in, watch whatever it is.  You can't be precious about your choices, and it makes for more interesting collisions of films.

"In The Loop"
(in limited release in theaters and available on-demand)

I'm not sure I'd recommend starting your day with Armando Ianucci's blistering, ridiculous, venomous look at the petty power struggles of modern politics in London and Washington D.C.  Building off of characters and style developed in "The Thick Of It," Ianucci has made a modern "Strangelove," a film that seems well aware that the straighter it plays things, the more absurd they seem.  Peter Capaldi threatens to run away with the movie as a truly obscene government bully from the UK, but I was also fairly smitten with James Gandolfini's sly turn as a career military man with political aspirations.  I'm not sure the movie says anything I didn't already know about the way power structures work in company towns, but I love the way they get to it, the way the satirical land mines are laid and then detonated.  Great stuff, and I'll write more on this before it opens this weekend.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel bring the adorable in '500 Days Of Summer'</p>

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel bring the adorable in '500 Days Of Summer'

Credit: Fox Searchlight

The Motion/Captured Review: '(500) Days Of Summer' breaks the rom-com mold

Sweet, slight, and occasionally devastating film should make stars of Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel

Memory's a funny thing.

Obviously, I can't speak to the way other people process things, but for me, memory is anything but linear, and always active, alive.  It's more like a web, made up of thousands of individual points and hundreds of thousands of connections between those points, connections that might not make sense to anyone but me.  Calling up a specific memory is not an isolated act of data retrieval, although I wish it did work that way.  Instead, when I dredge up one memory, I can count on also calling up dozens of others, some of which I specifically might not want to remember.

That simple truth provides both the structure and the narrative tension in "(500) Days Of Summer," a charming new comedy from first-time feature director Marc Webb and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber.  Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a young man at the tail end of a very broken relationship.  He warns us at the start of the film that this is not a love story, and he's right.  That's what transforms this from a cute little romantic fluff with a pair of winning leadsinto something almost deceptively substantial.

Obviously, this isn't the first film to deal with the nature of memory or our relationship with it.  I love films that do it well, like "Memento" or "Brainstorm" with its gorgeous imagery of the bubbles filled with each moment of our lives or "Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind," perhaps the best film that's ever touched on the subject.  This is one of thos movies that's been building buzz all year, ever since its Sundance premiere.  And now, "(500) Days Of Summer" is open in limited release, with plans to open it wider in the weeks ahead.  We ran a great interview last week by Dan Fienberg with the writers of the film.  Earlier, we posted an interview with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as well as an interview with Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel together.  And back at Sundance, Dan reviewed the film.  I didn't jump in at that point because there were other films to cover.  In the months since then, I've been looking forward to seeing the film again, and more specifically, showing the film to my wife.

[more after the jump]

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