<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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<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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