<p>Lee Pace, Benicio Del Toro, Dave Bautista, James Gunn, Djimon Hounsou, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker,&nbsp;Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana all showed up for the 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' panel</p>

Lee Pace, Benicio Del Toro, Dave Bautista, James Gunn, Djimon Hounsou, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana all showed up for the 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' panel

Credit: Marvel Studios

Marvel's strangest film so far, 'Guardians Of The Galaxy,' makes a strong Hall H debut

This looks like one hell of a gamble, but a thrilling one

SAN DIEGO - I was here for the first-time presentations that Marvel made for both "Thor" and "Captain America," and I thought they were both very confident panels that did a good job of conveying (A) the casting and (B) the general tone of each of the movies. They were good. Solid. Did the trick.

Today's presentation for "Guardians Of The Galaxy" was easily better than both of those combined. I am going out on a limb here, but I think this looks like one of the most genuinely fun things Marvel has ever made. I find something about the entire notion of Marvel just suddenly doing space fantasy ballsy and weird in the first place, but this particular property, done this particular way, by this particular filmmaker? That's just insane. It's an insane proposition on paper. I have no doubt there are execs at other studios just waiting to see this one stumble, and I also have no doubt those same people are going to be dumbfounded when they see what it actually is.

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<p>Why do I get the feeling that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Jane (Natalie Portman) don't get a lot of opportunity to smile in 'Thor:&nbsp;The Dark World'?</p>

Why do I get the feeling that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Jane (Natalie Portman) don't get a lot of opportunity to smile in 'Thor: The Dark World'?

Credit: Marvel Studios

Sequels to 'Thor' and 'Captain America' show up and make big splash at Comic-Con

Cap and Widow, sittin' in a tree... f-i-g-h-t-i-n-g

SAN DIEGO - At this point, Saturday has become the big day for fan-gasms in Hall H, the day the studios all compete to see who can make the biggest noise, and for the last several years, Marvel has walked away victorious.

This year, their panel started with moderator Chris Hardwick taking the stage for the second time that day, still dressed as Booker DeWitt, and he immediately brought out Kevin Feige, all-around head poobah of Marvel Studios.

Kevin walked out, sat down, and as he was in the middle of his introductory banter with Chris, said one word about "Thor: The Dark World," only to be cut off mid-sentence as the entire Hall H plunged into darkness.

"Humanity," a suspiciously familiar voice said over the Hall H speakers. "Look how far you've fallen. Lining up in the sweltering heat for hours. Huddled together in the darkness. I am Loki of Asgard… and I am burdened with glorious purpose."

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<p>'Godzilla'</p>

'Godzilla'

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

'Godzilla' storms into Hall H to kick off Warner's Comic-Con presentation

It looks like he's got some serious foes to face

SAN DIEGO - For the second year in a row, Legendary and Warner Bros. came to San Diego's Comic-Con so they could promote one of the biggest films they have on their release schedule, next summer's "Godzilla."

As they did last year, Warner Bros. blew everything out to three screens that surrounded the front end of Hall H. It's a very clear sign that they want to overwhelm the audience that's gathered here at the start of the day. The presentation began with black and white footage of nuclear bomb tests, filling every screen until a logo emerged from the ash, the single word. "Godzilla."

Chris Hardwick, the panel moderator for the day, introduced the mood piece that was shown last year. It really is a gorgeous introduction to what director Gareth Edwards hopes to accomplish with the film, with Oppenheimer's narration placed over visions of mass destruction, evidence of something that has already happened, holes in skyscrapers and derailed trains and bodies positively everywhere. And then, at the very end, just a hint of Godzilla himself looming up out of some smoke.

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<p>Andrew Garfield practically radiated joy when we spoke today and why not?&nbsp;The dude is <em>Spider-Man</em>.</p>

Andrew Garfield practically radiated joy when we spoke today and why not? The dude is Spider-Man.

Credit: HitFix

'Amazing Spider-Man 2' star Andrew Garfield talks about being starstruck with Jamie Foxx

The star seems just as excited to play the role again as he was the first time

SAN DIEGO - Evidently, Andrew Garfield spent his day charming people.

I wasn't in Hall H during today's presentation of footage from "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," but I did have a chance to sit down with Garfield pretty much the second I stepped off stage from moderating the "Kick-Ass 2"/"Riddick" panel.

While I wasn't crazy about "The Amazing Spider-Man," I think highly of the casting in the movie, and I was very clear in my review that I look forward to seeing if they can turn the sequel into the slam dunk that it should be. When I was asked if I wanted to talk to Garfield even though I wouldn't get to see the presentation, I didn't even hesitate. Of course I did.

One of the most charming moments I've ever seen in Hall H took place the first year Garfield came here for "The Amazing Spider-Man," and I wrote about it that year. It convinced me that no matter what, Garfield really did believe that it was an honor to be tapped to play the iconic character. Now he's gone through the entire process once, and he's just wrapped up his second time playing the character, and I was curious to see if it was starting to feel like just another job to him.

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<p>Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse seemed to get along better on today's 'Kick-Ass 2' panel than they do in the rude and rowdy sequel.</p>

Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse seemed to get along better on today's 'Kick-Ass 2' panel than they do in the rude and rowdy sequel.

Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP Photo

The new red-band 'Kick-Ass 2' preview shows just how far the new film is willing to go

Trust me... you don't want a visit from Eisenhower

SAN DIEGO - The thing that I take away each year from San Diego is that it doesn't matter how much you plan or how hard you work to organize things. When Comic-Con wants to beat the crap out of you, Comic-Con will beat the crap out of you, and all you can do is smile, take it, and hope you make it through.

This morning was a perfect example. What should have been a nine-minute bus ride took 55 minutes, so by the time I arrived at the Convention Center, I had less than ten minutes to the scheduled start of the Universal panel I was moderating. I wanted time to say hello to everyone, chat a little to break the ice, organize my questions. Nope. I ran in, ran backstage, ran upstairs, put my bag down, and then walked out onto the stage, still scattered from the crazy ride over.

Thankfully, the materials that they brought for "Kick-Ass 2" today speak very loudly for the film. While the first ten or fifteen minutes of this one feel very much like an extension of the first film, once it starts to establish its own voice, it is that rare sequel that actually seems determined to shake things up and really push the characters in new directions.

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<p>Vin Diesel shows off his special Furyan t-shirt during today's 'Riddick' panel at the San Diego Comic-Con</p>

Vin Diesel shows off his special Furyan t-shirt during today's 'Riddick' panel at the San Diego Comic-Con

Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP Photo

Red-band 'Riddick' preview makes the new Vin Diesel movie look like bloody good fun

You get to see what we showed the folks in Hall H today

SAN DIEGO - By far, the strangest moment from any Comic-Con for me now has got to be when Vin Diesel stopped the panel today to thank me for supporting "Pitch Black" back in the early days of Ain't It Cool. He told the story of bringing the film to the first Butt-Numb-A-Thon and talked about how that was the first experience he had with an audience watching the film.

Now, thirteen years later, it was a pleasure to be able to moderate the panel for "Riddick," the third film in which Vin plays the optically-challenged Furyan warrior who tends to kill everything he comes into contact with. Writer/director David Twohy was also on the panel this morning, along with "Battlestar Galactica" star Katee Sackhoff, who plays a bounty hunter named Dahl in the film.

One of the things that made the Universal panel a bit of a challenge for the studio is that both of the films they brought this year are very R-rated, and Hall H is an inclusive place where you have families and fans of all ages and people who are in there from first thing in the morning until the end of the day. You have to be aware of that, and yet you also want to give the audience a taste of what they can genuinely expect from the film when they finally see it.

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<p>Christoph Waltz appears to be having a very weird day in Terry Gilliam's new film 'The Zero Theorem,' which showed a preview at today's Comic-Con</p>

Christoph Waltz appears to be having a very weird day in Terry Gilliam's new film 'The Zero Theorem,' which showed a preview at today's Comic-Con

Credit: Voltage Pictures

The first 10 minutes of Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem' screened at Comic-Con 2013

Gilliam appears onscreen in Hall courtesy of NSA wiretap

SAN DIEGO - The San Diego Comic-Con 2013 is in full swing, but to me, it still feels like it's revving up. Both times I was in Hall H today, huge sections of it were empty. That's no fault of the people on the stage, but it is a sign that Comic-Con sometimes seems to be scheduling things in the wrong venues. It sounds like Ballroom 20 was running at capacity all day today with wildly popular TV programming, when maybe a smaller, more intimate setting would have been a better place to see the panel I enjoyed this afternoon, a first look at the new film by Terry Gilliam.

Gina McIntyre, who writes for Hero Complex at the LA Times, was the moderator of the panel, which was nice to see after Anne Thompson asked me last night at the HitFix opening night party if there were any women I could think of who moderated any of the Hall H panels. I couldn't offhand, and Anne has a good point. As more and more of the programming here seems to be aimed at a very different audience than the stereotypical fanboy, it seems logical that you'd also see some more diversity in the people who moderate these events.

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<p>When it's not trying too hard, 'RED 2' does manage to deliver some big laughs and some charming chemistry between the leads.</p>

When it's not trying too hard, 'RED 2' does manage to deliver some big laughs and some charming chemistry between the leads.

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Review: Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker almost make 'RED 2' a worthwhile return

HitFix
C+
Readers
n/a
A lot of chemistry and a wafer-thin script can't quite pull it off

Sequels are never easy, which makes me wonder why Hollywood always seems to be in such a rush to get to them. I remember when sequels were still relatively uncommon, and the prevailing wisdom was that not every automatically deserved a second part. Just as I believe that filmmakers frequently are surprised by the reasons audiences fall in love with movies, I think they also often emphasize the wrong things when they make sequels, undermining that initial affection in the process.

One of the most direct parallels I can draw to the differences between "RED" and "RED 2" would be by using the model of "Romancing The Stone" and "Jewel Of The Nile." In both cases, the first film is ostensibly an action-comedy, but what really makes it work is the palpable romantic chemistry between the leads. The script for "Romancing The Stone" was written by the great Diane Thomas, who died much too young, and it is a wicked clever read that both mocks the conventions of the romance novels that Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) writes while also playing them straight enough to generate some real heat. When Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner co-wrote the sequel, they needed to find a way to generate friction between Turner's character and Jack Colton, the Michael Douglas character, and it undermines the happily ever after of the first film's ending. That's fine if it ended up working, but instead of rekindling the heat of the first film, it soured the relationship between the two of them, making it all seem like less fun.

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<p>Hugh Jackman and Rila Fukushima make a fascinating team in 'The Wolverine'</p>

Hugh Jackman and Rila Fukushima make a fascinating team in 'The Wolverine'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: Hugh Jackman makes a nice return to form in James Mangold's 'The Wolverine'

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
There seems to be plenty of gas left in the 'X-Men' franchise

From the very beginning, Fox's "X-Men" series has played fast and loose with the source material, and enjoying the films has required the viewer to set aside any preconceived notions about the characters and the world. When Bryan Singer made the first "X-Men," this current wave of superhero movies was still in early days, and it seemed like the key to making a comic book film was somehow muting the more overtly "comic-book" elements and making things "gritty" and "real." Looking back at that first film now, I'm amazed by just how much it feels like the film just barely holds together, carried along by a certain excited energy and by the charisma of the cast.

The one breakout star from that film was Hugh Jackman, who was not Fox's first choice for the role. I thought it was evident immediately that he was not the same Wolverine that I'd grown up on, but that he brought a great, no nonsense gruffness to the role that made it okay that he's about a foot and a half taller than the character. The attitude was right, and the first time his claws went "SNIKT," it felt like we had turned a corner in terms of comic-books on the big screen.

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<p>Jean Grey returns in 'The Wolverine,' and we talked to Famke Jannsen about how that's possible and how she fits into the still-expanding 'X-Men' universe</p>

Jean Grey returns in 'The Wolverine,' and we talked to Famke Jannsen about how that's possible and how she fits into the still-expanding 'X-Men' universe

Credit: HitFix

Famke Jannsen talks about playing as the conscience to Hugh Jackman as 'The Wolverine'

Plus we talk about what this means for 'The Last Stand'

I had a moment of panic as I walked into the room with Famke Jannsen on the recent press day I attended for "The Wolverine" in New York. I have spent much of the past fifteen years referring to her in print as "The Dutch Treat," and as long as I am just a faceless person on the Internet, I can enjoy a silly way of acknowledging that she has always been a strikingly lovely and intriguing performer.

But I've had several moments recently where I had a conversation with someone and realized that they've read the site and that, more specifically, they've read things I've written about them. I am always pleased to hear that and happy to then dig into the conversation afterwards, but in Jansen's case, I had a sort of mini panic attack because I have no idea what she'd think about that nickname, and since she is seven feet tall when wearing big crazy high fashion heels, as she was that day, I was pretty sure she could kick my ass easily if she didn't like the joke.

Thankfully, Jannsen seemed to in a great mood. It helps sometimes when you're the last person scheduled for an interview that day, because you walk in and they're in this sudden great mood because someone just told them this is the last one. They get that one last blast of energy, but by that point, they're sort of punchy, and that can be the perfect condition to be in for an interview. It also might help that I was a bit punchy myself because of the travel I had just done.
 
Whatever the case, talking to her about this particular film should be a difficult thing because I don't want to give away too much of what she does in it, but I also wanted to really discuss it as a choice. If you don't want to know how she fits into the film, bookmark this page and then come back to it once the film is out next weekend. If you aren't afraid of a tiny bit of spoiling, then you might enjoy our conversation here.

When we talked about how this builds off of the ending of "X-Men: The Last Stand," it came through clearly that she was frustrated by that film and by the way it wrapped up a storyline in which she was the focal point. We talked a bit about how this film redeems some of that one, and it felt like things wrapped up very quickly. Once the cameras were off, we talked about the film's biggest surprise, and then they told her she was done for the day. Considering the last few films in the series, it was great to talk to her about the way the series seems to be rebounding now.

See for yourself when "The Wolverine" opens everywhere July 26, 2013.