<p>Has Marvel Studios been able to build a better 'Iron Man' for their second time out?</p>

Has Marvel Studios been able to build a better 'Iron Man' for their second time out?

Credit: Marvel Studios

The M/C Review: 'Iron Man 2' whips the summer movie formula

With the element of surprise gone, how do you convince the audience they care about Iron Man?

Let's call this one the victory lap.

"Iron Man" was no guaranteed hit before the weekend it opened.  There were people predicting failure for that film even after it opened, even after it started to turn into a word-of-mouth-must-see, not just a box-office success but a genuinely loved pop culture moment.  The first movie's got its weak points, but it also has a ridiculous energy to it, and I unabashedly loved it when I reviewed it for Ain't It Cool.

"Iron Man 2" is, in every possible way, issue two of a comic book.  It doesn't have to spend time setting up the origin of the character, and it doesn't feel the need to resolve every single story thread introduced in this one film.  There's a sense that everyone's settling into this series and thinking big.  It is just as confident as the first film, and incredibly aggressive in the way it handles story and characterization.  The pre-title sequence picks up mere seconds after the ending of the first film, and introduces Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), an embittered Russian with family ties that make Tony Stark a perfect target for his rage.  By the time the main title appears onscreen, everything's already in motion, and then we're right into the Stark Expo, where Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) takes the stage.

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<p>Albert Brooks (seen here with Bruno Kirby) is the writer, director, and star of one of the great comedies ever made about the way relationships work (and don't), &quot;Modern Romance&quot; </p>

Albert Brooks (seen here with Bruno Kirby) is the writer, director, and star of one of the great comedies ever made about the way relationships work (and don't), "Modern Romance"

Credit: SPHE

The Basics: 'Modern Romance' turns the rom-com formula inside out

The series returns with a look at the most significant film in the Albert Brooks filmography

It's been a while since we've done one of these, but that's because Will Goss got caught trying to smuggle 7.3 metric tons of Gourdough's gourmet doughnuts out of Austin, TX.  Internally.  And the AMA needed to study him to see how he kept his heart from exploding.

Now that the study is complete (answer:  he deep-fried it), Goss is ready for his latest installment of "The Basics."  Last time we did this, he watched "Manhattan," and I didn't mean to move on to a neurotic romantic comedy from a writer/director as a follow-up, but when Goss told me he'd just rented a stack of movies recently and he listed off the titles, I couldn't resist one of the ones he was about to watch.  "Modern Romance!" I wrote to him.  "Please! Make it 'Modern Romance'!"

Why?  Well, it's hard for viewers with no long-term memory to understand why Albert Brooks is significant to film comedy.  An "In-Laws" remake?  "The Muse"?  "Looking For Comedy in The Muslim World"?  It's been a while since he's done something worth serious consideration, but man... when he did...

I have trouble reconciling the Brooks of those later films with the guy who made some of my favorite comedies of the '70s and '80s.  There was a time when I thought he was making truly lacerating films about the ways in which we were failing ourselves as a culture.  "Real Life" managed to burn reality TV to the ground before there ever was such a thing, and it retains every bit of its bite thirty years later.  "Lost In America" demolished the whole obsession that the baby boomers had with '60s culture and the "freedom" they supposedly gave up when they "sold out," and I think the reason the film didn't do better is because it was a bitter pill to swallow.  Even in his later "Defending Your Life," he managed to score powerful points about what we call courage in life and how we all compromise ourselves, little by little, day after day, all wrapped up in what looks like a high-concept comedy about Heaven.  Brilliant.

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<p>There's a whole lot of suit-on-suit action ahead with the release of four new clips from 'Iron Man 2,' which hits theaters next Friday.</p>

There's a whole lot of suit-on-suit action ahead with the release of four new clips from 'Iron Man 2,' which hits theaters next Friday.

Credit: Marvel Studios

Four new 'Iron Man 2' clips highlight the Black Widow, Whiplash, and the suitcase suit

See Mickey Rourke in action and Sam Rockwell crank up the sleaze

There is only a little over a week until "Iron Man 2" hits theaters, and I'm excited for people to finally lay eyes on what Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. and all of their collaborators have put together for issue two of this big-screen comic series.

I've already heard some complaints from fellow journalists who saw it last week when I did, many of them upset that this film doesn't have the same "wow" for them as the first one. I think they forget how everyone was skeptical about the need for an "Iron Man" movie in the first place, making the first one a huge mainstream surprise.  That's something you can never duplicate with a second film, so it seems like the wrong thing to get hung up on, in my opinion.

If "Iron Man" was the surprise out of nowhere for most people, then "Iron Man 2" is the victory lap that they absolutely deserve to take, and today, there are four new clips available that give you a good look at the tone and attitude and, yes, scope of what Marvel Studios is about to unleash.

There's been a fair amount of speculation about how Scarlett Johansson's character would end up interacting with Tony Stark in the film, and how she ties in to SHIELD and the larger "Avengers" plan that Marvel's building bit by bit right now.  Without spoiling the fun, let's take a look at her introduction in the film.

By the way... next time I upgrade my home computer, I want whatever system it is that Stark's using when he Googles "Natalie Rushman" after being introduced to her:

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<p>Brad Pitt, seen here on location, stars in the new Terrence Malick film 'The Tree&nbsp;of Life,' will hopefully be released at some point this year.</p>

Brad Pitt, seen here on location, stars in the new Terrence Malick film 'The Tree of Life,' will hopefully be released at some point this year.

The Morning Read: Trumball talks Malick's 'Tree Of Life' at TCM Fest in Hollywood

Plus 'Hobo' gets a blog, Ebert publishes 'Bambi,' and Gizmodo gets busted

Welcome to the Morning Read.

I'd like to start this morning by welcoming Alan Sepinwall to the HitFix team.  We are slowly but surely cultivating a great crew of people to write about entertainment culture of all sorts, and adding a guy as sharp and widely read as Alan can only be a good thing.  I hope you guys check out his blog and his reportage for the site in the days ahead, and that you agree with us that he's a great fit for the site.

If I disappear completely and only make occasional public appearances dressed head-to-toe in cowboy gear, you can blame "Red Dead Redemption," the open-world Western game from the same people who created the "Grand Theft Auto" games.  The more I read about this game, the more I'm convinced this is going to be one of those immersive gaming worlds that I'm able to play for months.  If I ever manage to get my 70-year-old father to try a videogame, this would be the one that did it.

Douglas Trumball spent some time this weekend at the Turner Classic Movies festival in Hollywood talking about his work on the new Terrence Malick films, among other things.  After reading this and the rumors of a recent Austin screening, I think it sounds like we're in for something special with "The Tree Of Life," even among the ranks of the other Malick films.  Brad Pitt may get people into the theater, but it's Malick that will make the experience a one of a kind.

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<p>Ridley Scott is returning to the series where he first cut his teeth with a pair of &quot;Alien&quot;&nbsp;prequels that are in development and may start shooting soon.</p>

Ridley Scott is returning to the series where he first cut his teeth with a pair of "Alien" prequels that are in development and may start shooting soon.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Ridley Scott talks about the 'Alien' prequels and shooting in 3D

Will we see a 3D 'Blade Runner' post conversion in theaters soon?

Earlier today, Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe sat for an eight-person roundtable during the Los Angeles press day for "Robin Hood," and before the press conference began, the famed director sat and chatted about his recovery from recent knee surgery and how glad he is to not be shooting while he's still on the mend.  Crowe was running a few minutes behind him, so talk turned to what Scott might be up to next, with many of us guessing that we knew for sure what his next film would be.

He didn't even make us ask.  He just shrugged.  "Alien.  Yeah.  We're doing that now.  We've got a fourth draft, which is pretty good."

We asked him if he was going to considering shooting it in 3D, since most event movies at least have that conversation now.  "Of course," he replied.  "It will be in 3D."  Can't really ask for a more direct confirmation than that.  He talked about how the cameras he'll be using are already "moved beyond" what James Cameron used on his monster hit "Avatar," and how it will be easier for him as a result.  "It took them four years [on "Avatar"], but now we can do it in two."

One of the rumors we heard at the end of last year was that Scott considered retrofitting "Robin Hood" into 3D before releasing it.  "I could have squeezed it in under the hammer," he said, but decided against it.  I asked him if it made more sense to compose the images in 3D originally.  "It's not a big deal," he answered, surprising me.  "People always agonize over whether something's 1.85 or 2.35, and I don't really give a sh*t."  Even so, I asked him if shooting 3D makes sense with an "Alien" movie, since they're so dark, traditionally, and with 3D, you need as much light as possible on something to shoot it and give it a real sense of depth.  "You'll have to grade it later," he conceded.  "You'll have to grit your teeth and light it not the way you'd like it, and then later, regrade it.  Repaint it, basically.  When you think about it, 'Avatar' is almost completely an animated movie."

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<p>The idea of the original 1977 'Star Wars' making it to Blu-ray intact is just one of the things discussed on this week's 'Motion/Captured Podcast'</p>

The idea of the original 1977 'Star Wars' making it to Blu-ray intact is just one of the things discussed on this week's 'Motion/Captured Podcast'

Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Listen: The Motion/Captured Podcast #3

Special guest Scott Swan discusses 'Star Wars' on Blu-ray, 'The Losers,' and plays a new weekly game

Third time's a charm, I think.

Or at least, technically speaking, I think this is the best-recorded of any of the podcasts so far.  I almost have it down to just "record/compile/publish" in terms of workflow, which is what I envision for these.  I'm not sure about doing a live streaming podcast... I don't think that's as important to me.  The point is providing something that is hopefully worth your attention and not just "nerd talk radio," as a friend recently put it.

Having Scott Swan as my co-host again is just plain easy.  I have no other friend who I've known as long and still talk to regularly.  Scott's been my friend for well over half of my life at this point, and for over twenty years.  That means I can talk to him casually about pretty much anything, and there's a comfort level there that I am not going to have with anyone else.  While I'm still figuring this out technically, I want someone around who isn't going to be adding any stress on my end in terms of getting things right.  I'd hate to be embarrassed in front of most of my peers, but Scott's well aware of what an idiot I am, so I'm beyond embarrassment with him at this point.

There's a game that we've been playing for a long time, my friends and I, and we almost used it on an AICN TV Show at one point.  It's a simple game of "What If?" that you play with two classic film titles... or really any two film titles you choose... and we'll explain the rules and play a few rounds this week, as we will with every guest from now on.

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The Green Hornet

Sony promises we'll get more than just a logo for "The Green Hornet" very, very soon.

Credit: Sony Pictures

Exclusive: 'Green Hornet' adds 3-D to the mix, and Seth Rogen explains why

It will be a battle between Seth Rogen vs. Joss Whedon for genre fans' dollars

UPDATE (6:00 PST) -- You'll find Seth Rogen's exclusive comments on the move to 3D in the article below, added after the initial publication.

The cynicism of most film "fans" is positively breathtaking these days.  More and more often, I feel like a freak for not being instantly knee-jerk snarky and dismissive.

Case in point:  "The Green Hornet."  The news just broke that Sony is moving the film from December 22nd, 2010 to January 14, 2011.  The reasoning behind the move is that Sony Imageworks is building out the film's various Kato-vision fight sequences in 3D, something they're doing from scratch.  Keep in mind, this film is still nine months away from release, so this is absolutely not the same situation that recently played out with Warner's "Clash Of The Titans," which was totally finished when the studio made their choice to release it in 3D, requiring a major last-minute post-production process.

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<p>Tony Stark's got a brand-new suit on the IMAX&nbsp;poster for 'Iron Man 2'</p>

Tony Stark's got a brand-new suit on the IMAX poster for 'Iron Man 2'

Credit: Marvel Studios

TMR: Marvel thinks small with new line of movies including 'Dazzler,' 'Power Pack'

Plus 'South Park' is muzzled and Helen Mirren joins Russell Brand in 'Arthur'

Welcome to The Morning Read.

Devin Faraci's been chasing this story for a while now, and it's good to see he finally got it pinned down.  It's probably the biggest story breaking today, and it's one that we'll be feeling the ramifications of for a while.  We've talked about the plan at Marvel Studios to get from "Iron Man" to "The Avengers," with all the films in-between, but there's been very little talk about what happens after they get there.  Devin finally got a peek at what's going on over there, and it's promising.  Evidently, Marvel is quietly meeting with writers and directors about a series of smaller films, somewhere in the $30 - $50 million range, that will allow them to bring some of their lesser-known characters to the screen for the first time, and with far less risk than if they were asked to carry a giant tentpole film.  I love this idea because it seems both business-sensible and creatively challenging.  Devin included several titles that he says are under consideration right now, including Dr. Strange, Ka-Zar, Luke Cage, Dazzler and Power Pack.  I know the last time I saw Kevin Feige (during a still-embargoed set visit for a film that rhymes with "Thor"), he spoke about how much he loves Dr. Strange, and I got the sense that it was one of the most important characters for him to get on film in the future.  I would imagine anyone who grew up reading Marvel Comics has their own list of characters they'd love to get their hands on, and I doubt Marvel's going to have any trouble getting filmmakers excited about this opportunity.

Is anyone else bitterly disappointed in Comedy Central?  One of the reasons that "South Park" is enjoying a successful 14th season on the air is because they are fearless satirists.  You may not like what they do, but it would be hard to deny that they have stayed on top of their game the entire time they've been around by simply refusing to buckle to fear, no matter how powerful their targets.  In their 200th episode, they brought together many of their earlier targets, and in particular, they brought back the Prophet Muhammad.  As a result, they were threatened repeatedly this week, and there was a website that went up that included photos of Theo Van Gogh, the filmmaker who was killed by Muslim extremists.  As a result, Comedy Central censored last night's new episode completely, rendering it nearly incoherent in the process.  Look, what happened to Theo Van Gogh was awful and terrifying, but anyone who reacts out of fear as a result is only feeding into the idea that the Prophet Muhammad is somehow beyond the same criticism and commentary as any other religious icon or even public figure.  I'm sorry that there are people who consider themselves Muslim who feel that murder is the way to handle their disagreements with the world at large.  I am.  But the only way to give them power is to give in to their bully tactics, and Comedy Central is now officially complicit in making violent Muslim extremists more powerful today, when the whole point of Matt and Trey's comedy is to make them less powerful.  Way to go, Comedy Central.  Way to go.

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<p>Will Smith may be reprising his starring roles in both the 'Men In Black' and 'Bad Boys' franchises very soon if Sony Pictures has its way.</p>

Will Smith may be reprising his starring roles in both the 'Men In Black' and 'Bad Boys' franchises very soon if Sony Pictures has its way.

Credit: Sony Pictures

Is Will Smith making both 'Men In Black 3' and 'Bad Boys 3' for Sony?

The closest thing there is to a sure thing times two

Will Smith really is our last movie star.

Sure, there are people who audiences enjoy watching, actors who are a draw for one crowd or another, but that's not a movie star.  A movie star is someone who audiences will go see in anything, someone whose personal charisma is so strong, so recognizable, that they sell tickets simply by being named on a poster.  Tom Cruise probably counts, but he's taken some big hits in the last few years, and until we see how "Knight and Day" opens, I'm not sure I can say he's still the movie star he once was.

Will Smith, though?  There's no one bigger.  And Sony has got to be hoping that's as true today as it's been in the past, because it looks like he's the focus of two megamovies that the studio hopes to greenlight in the very near future.

They've got to be praying that all the stars align for "Men In Black 3-D," which may reunite Smith with Tommy Lee Jones and director Barry Sonnenfeld.  It sounds like if they do it, they're going to have to do it fast, since they need a movie for Summer 2011.  Roger Friedman is reporting that Sonnenfeld says all the deals are done and both Smith and Jones are onboard for this new installment in the SF/comedy franchise.  Rumors have been brewing for a while now about this film, including one that Sacha Baron Cohen and Jemaine Clement are competing for a featured role in the film.  Either one would be a nice catch for Sonnenfeld.  Just adding 3D isn't enough to make me think this is a film worth seeing, but who am I kidding?  This thing will be omnipresent if it does get made, unavoidable.  And I have a feeling if it's happening, it'll happen very very soon.

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<p>Zoe Saldana, Chris Morgan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Columbus Short, Idris Elba, and Oscar Jaenada star as 'The Losers' in the new action/comedy adapted from the DC/Vertigo comic book.</p>

Zoe Saldana, Chris Morgan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Columbus Short, Idris Elba, and Oscar Jaenada star as 'The Losers' in the new action/comedy adapted from the DC/Vertigo comic book.

Credit: Warner Bros.

The M/C Review: 'The Losers' offers up low-key action-comedy charm

Chris Evans, Idris Elba, and a surprisingly funny Jason Patric round out the ensemble

Peter Berg and Jamie Vanderbilt wrote the screenplay for "The Rundown," which is still probably the best film that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has starred in, and there's a lot of that film's strengths on display in their latest produced script, "The Losers," adapted from the DC/Vertigo comic series about a disgraced bunch of black ops specialists who go to war with a rogue CIA agent.  Sylvain White directs a fairly great ensemble of charismatic character actors, all of them giving solid, fun performances, and the entire thing has a breezy, casual charm that I found difficult to resist.  It's not particularly memorable, but it's preposterous fun while you're watching it, and it should be an effective showcase for everyone involved.

As the film's ostensible leads, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Zoe Saldana both seem determined to burn holes in the screen with the smoldering they're doing, and the way the two of them play off of each other is a lesson in PG-13 sexual tension.  They've got a first scene together that doesn't make any real story sense, but it's not about story... it's about throwing punches as foreplay, and both Morgan and Saldana take tangible pleasure in the sequence.  It's my favorite example of this type of unconventional meet-cute since "Out Of Sight' and the trunk sequence, with the difference being that this time, both ends of the equation are of equal strength.  Saldana's coming off the best year of her career, and she's well aware of just how she comes off onscreen these days.  It's been a slow burn, but suddenly she's in total command of her presence.  And Jeffrey Dean Morgan is one of those guys who seems like he's been a movie star his whole life.  Here, he's the swagger at the center of "The Losers," the guy whose job it is to harness all of these outsized personalities into one cohesive team.  He has to be the biggest charisma in the room to wrangle the others, and in a group like this, that's no easy feat.

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