<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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<p>Ponyo and Sasuke, the young leads in Miyazaki's enchanting 'Ponyo'</p>

Ponyo and Sasuke, the young leads in Miyazaki's enchanting 'Ponyo'

Credit: Walt Disney/Studio Ghibli

Wanna see Miyazaki's 'Ponyo' at Comic-Con? HitFix tells you how

Plus a special appearance by the master filmmaker himself

We just posted the details of our special Comic-Con screening of Hayao Miyazaki's magical new film "Ponyo," and I couldn't be more pleased to be part of the event.

It's been ten years since Hayao Miyazaki came to America to promote "Princess Mononoke," the first of his films to get a major push theatrically here.  That was through Miramax, back when they were a Disney company, and since then, the Studio Ghilbli deal has moved over to the Walt Disney label, where they've been slowly but surely putting out most of the Ghibli library on DVD with new English-language dubs.  Honestly, I can't think of any anime library that's been better treated overall, and I'm sure a big part of that is because of John Lasseter and his boundless respect for Miyazaki.  At this point, when Lasseter talks, Disney listens.

"Ponyo" is going to get the widest release yet of any of the Ghibli/Disney titles, and it's one of the youngest-skewing of their films.  This is a family movie in every sense of the word.  It's about family, it's for families, it celebrates the importance of family.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Judd Apatow, past and present, and a few familiar faces</p>

Judd Apatow, past and present, and a few familiar faces

Credit: The New York Times

TMR: Judd Apatow, Adam Sandler, Boosh and zombies, and who will be 'The Hobbit'?

Plus 'Percy Jackson,' 'Star Wars Uncut,' and bad Kindle business

Welcome to The Morning Read.

Friday already.  Which means next week is Comic-Con.  Which means it's time for me to hide under my bed and weep, just to get it out of my system, because the mere thought of dealing with the crowds next week gives me a case of the screaming heebie-jeebies.  I guess it's technically called demophobia, and I know sometimes people think I'm kidding, particularly since my job requires me to go sit in the middle of a crowd of people in the dark several times a week, but seriously... when I find myself in the midst of several thousand people, some part of me goes absolutely foaming rabid in blind animal fear, and it takes every other part of me to keep from having a minor breakdown.  That's Comic-Con, for four straight days.

But at least there's "Avatar" footage and Terry Gilliam, right?

RT @michaelianblack:  Forty years ago we landed on the moon.  This year Bruno landed on Eminem.  We're doomed.

Speaking of, any of you guys readers of Boston.com's The Big Picture?  If not, it's the single best photo blog out there, and you absolutely should be familiar with it.  Especially when they do something like their tribute to the moon landing on the 40th anniversary.

I love that RiffTrax has caught on and given Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy a second wind on their riffing-on-bad-movies career.  And now you can see them in theaters coast-to-coast, doing a live RiffTrax for "Plan Nine From Outer Space."  Perfect fodder to test this sort of model for how this might work in the future for them, and I hope August 20th is a huge success for them.

Have you heard of "Star Wars: Uncut"?  It's like the ultimate group effort to swede a movie, in 15-second-chunks, and I would imagine when the end result is all cut together, the result will open a doorway in time and space for anyone who watches it.

You know what's fun?  Scaring the crap out of austistic kids with a fake UFO story.  Oh, wait, no... that's not "fun," that's "insane and cruel."  Mixed my words up there a little bit.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Scarlett Johansson is The Black Widow in next summer's 'Iron Man 2'</p>

Scarlett Johansson is The Black Widow in next summer's 'Iron Man 2'

Credit: Paramount Pictures

'Iron Man 2' images land in Entertainment Weekly

Comic-Con preview issue reveals Johansson as Black Widow

One day, HitFix will be so big that we will command movie stars to appear at the HitFix studios for photo shoots that we will run as exclusives, but until that day, we are stuck with the sloppy seconds from outlets like Vanity Fair or Entertainment Weekly, and that's just the way it is.

Thankfully, with Comic-Con happening next week, Entertainment Weekly decided to court the nerds a bit, and the result is an "Iron Man 2" cover along with a preview inside that includes new photos and, yes, our first look at Scarlett Johansson as Natasha aka The Black Widow.  She's a spy, but our introduction to her comes when she's hired to replace Pepper Potts (Gwenyth Paltrow), who has been promoted to CEO of Stark Industries.

I like the look of this film, and the world they're building out from the first one.  I like the tech that Mickey Rourke's character Vanko aka Whiplash is using.  Electrified bullwhips?  A crazy drunk Russian who talks to his cockatoo and teams up with Sam Rockwell?  Oh, please, yes.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Nicolas Cage ladles on the crazy in the Alex Proyas apocalyptic thriller 'Knowing'</p>

Nicolas Cage ladles on the crazy in the Alex Proyas apocalyptic thriller 'Knowing'

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Movie Diary: 'Knowing,' 'Thirst,' and 'Watchmen Director's Cut'

Plus Ray Harryhausen on BluRay

Welcome to The Movie Diary.

Tuesday and Wednesday sort of blurred together for me, with one film spilling from one day to the next, so I'm going to put them together as one big entry.  And, no, it's not me trying to get out of doing one... it's just that sometimes, especially when you're watching something longer, days do end up blending, so it makes sense to write them up like this.


One of the reasons I sat this one out theatrically is because my managers, Aaron Kaplan and Sean Perrone, are the executive producers of the film, and I've been aware of "Knowing" since the first draft sold years ago.  I've read any number of drafts over the years, and I've always liked the core idea even if I thought some of the execution was off in some of the drafts.  Alex Proyas is a near-perfect choice for the film as director.  He can orchestrate feelings of apocalyptic doom with panache, and the major set pieces here are admirably chaotic, some of the most traumatic disaster footage I've ever seen in a big-budget film.  If Irwin Allen saw just how bloodthirsty Proyas is in those sequences, he would tapdance his way right out of the grave.  I like that the film doesn't flinch away from the extremity of the scenario, and eventually, it builds to a climax that is unexpectedly dark while offering a surprisingly moving coda.  If you get all twitchy at any religious symbolism, then "Knowing" probably isn't for you, but I thought it delivered as a thriller and as a surreal SF vision of the end of the world.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner take the act on the road in 'Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home'</p>

Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner take the act on the road in 'Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home'

Credit: Paramount Home Video

My BluRay Shelf: 'Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home' not quite what I remembered

Wrap-up of the unofficial 'trilogy' deserves its place in fans' hearts

So here's a practical question for you:  how do you explain time travel to a four-year-old?

I spent so much time fretting while we were watching "Wrath of Khan," thinking about how to put Spock's death in the proper context, that it never occurred to me that I might end up engaged in a conversation about quantum physics with someone who believes werewolves live in our pool.  The conversations are the entire point of watching something with Toshi, though, so I don't try to dodge it when I'm not sure how to explain something.  It's good practice.  After all, if we can't discuss something like this, how am I ever going to explain the important things to him later, when it counts.

And then to complicate things, I told him there was time travel in JJ's "Star Trek."

"What you say?!"  That's a big one for him right now.  He says it like you just called him an asshole.  "Not in the theater 'Star Trek.'  You know, what you and me saw?  Just us in the theater?"

"Yes.  That's why Old Spock and Young Spock talked.  Old Spock went back in time so he could talk to himself."

"No way.  You're crazy."

"It's like if you went back in time to see yourself as a baby."

"I'm not a baby.  I'm a kid."

"I know that.  But what if we went in your room right now, and in the crib... instead of your brother, what if it was you when you were a baby?"

Mind.  Blown.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Drew Barrymore, Ellen Page, and Kristen Wiig all star in 'Whip It,' a roller derby comedy</p>

Drew Barrymore, Ellen Page, and Kristen Wiig all star in 'Whip It,' a roller derby comedy

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Drew Barrymore's 'Whip It' trailer debuts

Ellen Page, Barrymore, and Kristen Wiig in a roller derby comedy

Kristen Wiig is playing a roller derby goddess named "Maggie Mayhem"?

Ticket.  Sold.

Actually, this script had a good reputation anyway, having found a spot on the 2007 Black List, and then Drew Barrymore cast the crap out of it when she signed on to make her directorial debut.  She's in it, as well, but the star appears to be Ellen Page, playing a girl who hasn't figured herself out yet, until she sees roller derby and decides she wants to beat the hell out of other girls on wheels.

*sniffle*  Gets ya' right here, don't it?

Actually, I like the trailer.  It's funny, and aggressive, and I'll bet you Barrymore was the perfect person to create a sense of comraderie on that set.  I'm sure it won't reinvent the genre, but I'm getting a distinct vibe here of a film a la "A League Of Their Own," one that's got such a finely tuned sense of itself that it overcomes cliche.

Check out the embedded trailer after the jump, or check it out in high-definition on Yahoo!, where it premiered today.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Natalie Portman and Emily Blunt are both set to go 'on point' in upcoming and intriguing roles</p>

Natalie Portman and Emily Blunt are both set to go 'on point' in upcoming and intriguing roles

TMR: Stephen Chow leaves 'Green Hornet,' Blunt and Portman dance, and a 'G.I. Joe' review

Plus did Ryan Reynolds ditch 'Deadpool'?

Welcome to The Morning Read.

This is the third... YES, THIRD... false start on the column today.  I'm having monstrous computer issues this morning.  Let's see if I can get through this in baby steps, because I am having a hard time writing more than three lines before my computer throws up and runs screaming around the room for ten minutes.

It's not all bad news today, of course.  Vern declared "Spawn" the worst comic book movie of all time, so Wednesday's got that going for it.

And speaking of comic books and superheroes, when our own Greg Ellwood interviewed Michel Gondry back in April, Gondry suggested that the involvement of Stephen Chow as Kato was, at best, an unresolved question.  Now, unsurprisingly, Chow has left the film.  I couldn't imagine a scenario where he stepped aside as director but stayed on to play a supporting character.  I'm so curious to see what Gondry and Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are putting together, and I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing that Chow's gone.  All depends on how Kato's written and what Gondry wants from him.

This is an important conversation for all of us who are writing online these days, because trust me... things are changing out there.  I have no idea what the internet's going to look like five years from now or even a year from now... but I guarantee that our media diets are only going to get more complex and that the number of voices out there involved in the media will only increase.

Great article about marriage that was originally linked to on Twitter by Dave Chen, of Slashfilmcast infamy, and it ties in nicely to an interview with Bill Hader that was shot for "Paper Heart," and which is online now:

[more after the jump]

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