<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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<p>Zoe Saldana and Jeffrey Dean Morgan enjoy themselves waaaaaay too much at the press day for 'The Losers,' in theaters this Friday.</p>

Zoe Saldana and Jeffrey Dean Morgan enjoy themselves waaaaaay too much at the press day for 'The Losers,' in theaters this Friday.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Watch: Idris Elba, Zoe Saldana, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan talk about 'The Losers'

Plus director Sylvain White discusses making action movies the '80s way

I'll have my review of the new action-comedy "The Losers" later this week, but for now, let's take some time to talk to the cast and the director, Sylvain White.

Walking into a room to sit down opposite Idris Elba, Zoe Saldana, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan would make even the most self-confident person in the world question their own personal appearance.  It's amazing how charismatic they are as a trio, and to make things worse, they also appear to be incredibly nice and engaging people.  Just before I walked in the room, they took a break for a few minutes, and listening to the banter between them and everyone outside, there was none of the movie-star attitude that I frequently see at these events.  Just a lot of good-natured kidding and a sense that they were enjoying their day together doing press as much as they obviously enjoyed making the film.

Idris Alba was on crutches, recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, and seemed delighted to discuss "Thor" off-the-record before the cameras rolled.  Trying to resist the urge to call him "Stringer Bell" was one of the most difficult things I've ever done.  Saldana seemed preoccupied with thoughts of snack pastries.  Meanwhile, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, or "Javier Bardowney Jr" as a friend called him recently, let the expletives fly in a barrage of good-natured enthusiasm whenever anyone approached him to talk about their reaction to the picture.  Wrangling the three of them back into their seats seemed to take a lot of effort, but only because these three are all so energetic and outgoing.

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<p>If Robert Downey Jr. does end up heading to Oz, will he encounter the Lion and the Scarecrow and the Tin Man, and Dorothy and her little dog, too?</p>

If Robert Downey Jr. does end up heading to Oz, will he encounter the Lion and the Scarecrow and the Tin Man, and Dorothy and her little dog, too?

Credit: Warner Home Video

Is Robert Downey Jr. heading to 'Oz' for Sam Mendes?

And if so, what does that mean for the other 'Oz' projects at Warner and Universal?

There's a race to see who is going to get the first new film based on the work of Frank L. Baum made, and today, it appears that Disney is pulling out in front of the race.

They've got a script, after all, originally called "Brick," and now known as "Oz: The Great and Powerful".  Written by Mitchell Kapner, the story follows a circus worker who ends up in Oz and then goes on a trip similiar to Dorothy's before eventually ending up in the job as The Wizard, according to the LA Times.  It's an interesting way to end up back in the land of Oz and build something out of the various books in Baum's series, all of which are public domain now.  Joe Roth, former head of Revolution Studios, is set to produce the film, and the one thing that makes me nervous is that the success of the godawful "Alice In Wonderland" is what got this movie onto the fast track.  I hope and pray that this film doesn't share anything in common with Burton's monstrosity.

The news that broke today came via the Twitter feed of Production Weekly, where they say Sam Mendes is attached now to direct the film and Robert Downey Jr. is close to coming onboard to play the Wizard.  Mendes was developing the latest James Bond film until MGM's financial woes put that film on indefinite hold, and he also recently walked away from Sony's proposed "Preacher" adaptation.  This gives Mendes a possible franchise, since there's a ton of source material they could use.  Baum's books are so much fun, and so rich and inventive, that they could possibly build a dozen films without ever once touching on the same material we've seen brought to the bigscreen before.

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<p>Alex Pettyfer stars opposite Vanessa Hudgens in the new teen-romantic-fantasy-drama 'Beastly,' due out this summer.</p>

Alex Pettyfer stars opposite Vanessa Hudgens in the new teen-romantic-fantasy-drama 'Beastly,' due out this summer.

Credit: CBS Films

Watch: Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer in brand-new 'Beastly' trailer

Look out, 'Twilight,' this summer's looking ugly

"Beastly" is most likely going to make a lot of money.

I am most likely not going to like it.

And it will not matter a bit.

To be fair, I haven't seen the last film by Daniel Barnz, 2008's "Phoebe In Wonderland," a moderately well-reviewed picture with Elle Fanning, Felicity Huffman, Patricia Clarkson, Bill Pullman, and Campbell Scott.  Here, though, we've got a movie that is like a "Twilight"-fan-seeking-missile.  It is a fascinatingly crafted, just in this 47-minute sneak peek they've posted today.

Wait.  It's not actually 47 minutes.  I had to go back and look, and I'm surprised it's only actually a total of 2 1/2 minutes.  It's a "Beauty and the Beast" riff for the crowd that has been well-and-truly primed with the adventures of Edward and Buffy and Angel and Bella and now, here it is, the ol' girl-sees-past-a-rough-exterior-to-the-cuddlebuddy-buried-deep-inside number.

Vanessa Hudgens and a dude star in the film as the girl and... well, the dude.  I'm not sure who the kid is at first glance.  IMDb offers up "Alex Pettyfer."  Still drawing a blank.  I read his previous credits, and "'Entertainment Tonight' (Himself)" is the most familiar thing on the list before this.  No matter.  He was hired right, based on the glimpse here.  As the pre-curse version of himself, he's almost absurdly pretty, and then when he's become "The Beast," he just looks like a dude who took Burning Man a little too far.  It's carefully designed "ugly" make-up.

Let's see if I'm right.  Let's see if CBS Films can deliver on the throwdown they made in the just-released trailer, which MTV Films exclusively premiered.

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<p>Hey, wait a minute... The Hitcher had a shotgun, too! Guess that means Rutger Hauer should knock 'Hobo With A Shotgun' out of the ballpark, eh?</p>

Hey, wait a minute... The Hitcher had a shotgun, too! Guess that means Rutger Hauer should knock 'Hobo With A Shotgun' out of the ballpark, eh?

Credit: HBO Pictures

The Morning Read: Rutger Hauer is a 'Hobo With A Shotgun'

Plus Ebert on videogames and Knowles on Ebert as multiple online debates go nuclear

Welcome to The Morning Read.

It's been a genuinely lovely weekend in Asheville, North Carolina.  The area is gorgeous, the people were friendly, the food was good, and the movies were plentiful.  Not much more you can ask, and now, as I get ready to fly out in the morning so I can get home to my beautiful wife and my baby boys, it's time to take a look at what's been going on while I've been submerged in ActionFest.

It's interesting how much information I've heard here at ActionFest that I can't do anything with at the moment, genuinely big news that would get people fired if I printed it.  It gives me several jobs to do when I get back to LA this week in order to try to find secondary sources for things, but I have a feeling it's going to be a frustrating race to pin the stories down before someone else publishes them, which is exactly what happened with the breaking of the news that Rutger Hauer has been cast as the title character in Jason Eisener's feature film version of "Hobo With A Shotgun."

If you don't know the title, that's fine.  When "Grindhouse" was being prepped for release, there was a contest for people to create their own grindhouse-style trailers, and the winner was Jason Eisener.  Since then, he's also made a great short film called "Treevenge" that I reviewed at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, and he's been working to develop a feature out of the trailer that got him all that initial attention.  It's been a long and frustrating process, but as of right now, the movie is actually shooting, and I think the casting of Rutger Hauer is absolutely amazing.  It's frustrating because just before Quint broke the news over at Ain't It Cool, we talked about it here at the fest, with the understanding being that we weren't allowed to write about the casting yet.  Oh, well.  Good score for Quint.  And for those of you who still don't understand what it is I'm talking about, here's the trailer that kicked this whole thing off:

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<p>Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham are two of the stars of Neil Marshall's new action film 'Centurion'</p>

Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham are two of the stars of Neil Marshall's new action film 'Centurion'

Credit: Magnet Releasing

ActionFest 2010 opens with Neil Marshall's 'Centurion'

The first-year festival kicks off with the latest from the acclaimed genre director

Neil Marshall has proven himself over time to be a filmmaker who is able to move from style to style, genre to genre, and he seems to understand that the films he makes are entertainment, pure and simple.  Watching "The Descent" in a dark theater that's completely packed is a great exercise in tension.  His "Doomsday" is one of the most remarkable examples of one filmmaker paying homage to the style and technique of another filmmaker I can recall.  He has a great sense of camera and energy, and even when I don't love his movies, I respect the craft and the confidence.

"Centurion," his latest, attempts to answer the question of what happened to Rome's legendary Ninth Legion, and it's a bloody, gritty, simple chase film that gives Michael Fassbender a lead role that could easily turn him into a viable action hero in big Hollywood films.  So far, he's proven himself to be a gifted and interesting actor in films like Steve McQueen's "Hunger," Quentin Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds," and the underseen "Fish Tank" from earlier this year.  He's a bit of a chameleon, and he's one of those actors who pushes his body to extremes depending on the role.  For "Hunger," where he played an Irish hunger striker, he looked like he was on the verge of death, emaciated and frail.  In "Centurion," he's preposterously ripped, and he handles himself like an old pro in the fight sequences.  It's an impressive piece of work, and he grounds the film with his performance.

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<p>Wait, I'm confused... which one's Drew McWeeny, and which one is James Rocchi?</p>

Wait, I'm confused... which one's Drew McWeeny, and which one is James Rocchi?

Credit: Lionsgate/MARV

Listen: The Motion/Captured Podcast # 2

Special guest James Rocchi debates 'Kick-Ass' and 'The Losers' and discusses life on the festival circuit

James Rocchi is one seriously decent melonfarmer.

One of the fringe benefits of my job is the way it brings me into contact with so many like-minded people, serious film fans who have found a way to make a living discussing the thing they love so much.  Over the last year or so, I've gotten to know Rocchi fairly well on the festival circuit and at various press events, and although he and I frequently disagree on the merits (or lack thereof) of various films, I've always enjoyed the conversations.

Quick-witted, incredibly well-read, and unfailingly polite, James is one of those guys who you want to have along on events because even if the thing itself turns out to be a bust, you know you'll have someone to hang out with and enjoy.  As a result, he seemed like a perfect second guest for this podcast, especially since I knew going into it that we disagreed strongly on this weekend's biggest theatrical title, "Kick-Ass."

As with last week, I offer up the podcast with the caveat that I am still learning how to do this.  I am going to be investing in some better recording equipment for the office, and I'm still a little green at the whole editing process, especially since I did this one entirely by myself without the invaluable technical assistance that Scott Swan offered me last week.

Still, I think there's some really good stuff here this week, and what was meant to be a brisk 35 minutes or so became almost a full hour because we ended up following some great digressions to their natural conclusions.  It's a little late because I put off the editing as I prepared for travel this week, but I hope it's aged like fine wine for you.

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<p>Sean Combs reviews a scene with director Nicholas Stoller on the set of the new comedy 'Get Him To The&nbsp;Greek'</p>

Sean Combs reviews a scene with director Nicholas Stoller on the set of the new comedy 'Get Him To The Greek'

Credit: Universal Pictures

Exclusive: Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs on the set of 'Get Him To The Greek'

What is it that makes this music mogul want to act?

By the end of a long day on set for the new film "Get Him To The Greek," one thing was apparent: everyone on the film was convinced that Sean Combs is going to be the film's breakout comedy star.

Most of the pop culture world knows Combs by his other names, of course.  Puff Daddy.  P. Diddy.  Diddy if you're nasty.  He's a big personality, a huge figure in the music world, and a tremendous success story overall.  He's carefully been building a career for himself as an actor as well, though, in films like "Made" and "Monster's Ball," and with an acclaimed turn onstage in "A Raisin In The Sun."

People know Combs from his unflaggingly cheerful Twitter account ("Locked in!") or from his appearances on MTV reality shows or even from the way he was portrayed in "Notorious," the B.I.G. biopic, but the real Sean Combs in person comes across as soft-spoken, modest, and very serious about the craft of being very silly.  At the end of a long day of shooting, Combs sat down with HitFix for a few minutes to talk about taking this next step as an actor.

"My plan as an actor has always been to try to get close to as many talented people as I can and really just learn from them and observe."  When asked about the improvisation that was so much a part of the morning's shoot, he said, "This process is probably the freest acting process I’ve ever been involved in because there’s really no limitations, you know?"  That was evident from the sheer range of jokes they attempted in each scene, and the crazy places they pushed the characters.  Asked if there was anything he balked at doing or was uncomfortable with, Combs shook his head.  "No, when your whole passion is trying to make people laugh, I think you just have to be ready to do or say anything.  You can’t really have your guard up."

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