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This weekend, The Smurfs becomes the latest theatrical film to use cutting-edge CGI technology to bring nostalgic cartoon figures into the realm of live-action.  Previous films fitting this description include Alvin and the Chipmunks, Garfield, and Scooby Doo, which was actually directed by The Smurfs helmer Raja Gosnell

While the little blue forest dwellers whose name serves as noun, verb, and adjective are most identified with the NBC animated series that held the rapt attention of children every Saturday morning, the creatures began their fictitious existence more than 50 years ago as Les Schtroumpfs, a comic strip created by the Belgian artist Peyo in 1958.  In that sense, The Smurfs could then sort of be considered a comic book movie.

Though they're usually seen in the tiny, fantastical Smurf village, for their first cinematic outing, the Smurfs make their way to New York City via an interdimensional portal.  There, they impose themselves on a married couple played by Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays.  Of course, their wizard nemesis Gargamel (Hank Azaria) follows them to the Big Apple and promptly gets up to his dastardly business.  At a recent press conference here in Los Angeles, all three actors joined Alan Cumming, who voices Gutsy Smurf, to discuss working with digital creations, Smurf collecting, baldness, and the enduring place of The Smurfs in popular culture.

Yesterday brought the world its very first official look at Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson in costume as Gale Hawthorne and Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games, the adaptation of Suzanne Collins' novel, the first in a trilogy.  That image didn't inspire a huge amount of enthusiasm, however, as it was simply the two of them standing in the woods.  Today brings three new, equally official images from the Gary Ross-directed film, currently filming in North Carolina.  Once again, one features Hemsworth and Hutcherson in the woods, but this time they're strutting.  The other two are more interesting: Peeta in front of his familial bakery, and Hawthorne with bow-toting protagonist Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence.

Before the film eventually came to fruition under Steven Soderbergh, director Brett Ratner spent some time developing the Ocean's Eleven remake, so he's had a comedic heist movie in his bones for more than a decade.  He's finally getting the opportunity to exercise his ensemble caper muscles with Tower Heist, and he's doing so with hint of working-class indignation.  The first trailer for the film introduces Alan Alda as a millionaire Ponzi-schemer who cheats the employees of his high rise out of their pensions.  When he goes on house arrest in his penthouse, those employees, led by Ben Stiller and criminal mastermind Eddie Murphy, conspire to steal back $20 million in ill-gotten booty.  Check out the brand new trailer and the first poster for Brett Ratner's Tower Heist.

With Conan the Barbarian arriving in less than a month, Robert E. Howard's most famous creation returns to the big screen for the first time since Conan the Destroyer in 1984.  Given that seven time Mr. Universe-turned-action-hero-turned-philandering-California-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made a lasting as a monosyllabic, thickly-accented slab of beef, the actor playing Conan now faces a formidable challenge, but Jason Momoa seems undaunted.  Momoa, who just impressed as Khal Drago on HBO's Game of Thrones, recently discussed his preparation for the role and the challenges of the production.  He also voiced his absolute confidence that we'll be seeing his Conan again in sequels.

At San Diego Comic-Con last week, co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor rolled out the first footage from their not-really-a-sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, which more or less disregards the 2007 film directed by Mark Steven Johnson, but does see Nicolas Cage reprising the role of Johnny Blaze.  As one would expect, the presentation included a surplus of ridiculous-looking action.  Unexpectedly, it also included Ghost Rider gleefully pissing a stream of fire and the delightfully profane tagline "Fucking Your Shit Up in 3D February 2012."  Three pristine new images from the film are now available, and while they don't offer that level of lunacy, they do include Idris Elba as, "A French wine-drinking, motorcycle-riding, warrior monk," Cage as Blaze, and the titular rider atop his steel horse.

The title of Bryan Singer's 2006 Superman Returns referred not just to the Big Blue Boy Scout's first big screen adventure in almost twenty years, but also to the film's premise that Superman was back on Earth after disappearing into outer space for five years.  The theatrical film opens with credits referencing Richard Donner's 1978 Superman, then a scene or two later shows Supes crash-landing in Smallville.  The original opening sequence, which was filmed but cut, is said to have cost in the neighborhood of $10 million.  The dialogue-free, five-minutes-and-change opening introduces Brandon Routh as Superman aboard a crystal spaceship exploring the ruins of Krypton, and it is now freely available for viewing for the first time online.

Just three films in, George Clooney has a fascinating resume as a director, starting with his wild take on Charlie Kaufman's Confessions of a Dangerous Mind up to Leatherheads, a period football comedy that never found its groove.  His best film so far, 2005's Good Night, and Good Luck, indicated that Clooney the director might be at his best when grappling with politically-inclined material.  The trailer for his latest, The Ides of March, seems to back that up.  Ryan Gosling stars as a charismatic campaign staffer for Clooney's character, a presidential candidate with whom some very Obama-like imagery is associated.  Check out the first trailer and poster for what looks to be a solid political allegory with an incredible cast, including Gosling, Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, and Max Minghella.

The rhythms of the buddy cop movie are so familiar that, even when not done spectacularly well, such a movie can function as comfort food, like a more male-oriented romantic comedy.  After all, aren't all stories of mismatched partners forced to work together and gain an abiding respect for one another love stories on one level? 

In John Michael McDonough's new film The Guard, Brendan Gleeson stars as small town Irish police sergeant Gerry Boyle, a profane, racist misanthrope whose love of prostitutes has left him with a serious itch in his crotch.  An international cocaine operation forces him into cooperation with Wendell Everett, a humorless straight-arrow FBI agent played by Don Cheadle.  To celebrate their unconventional but ultimately fruitful partnership, we're happy to present a list of ten buddy cop duos that hit every note just right.

With The Hangover, screenwriting duo Jon Lucas and Scott Moore created the most successful comedy franchise of all time by taking a unique and clever approach the time-honored masculine cinematic tradition of the bachelor party gone awry.  For 21 and Over, their feature directorial debut, Lucas and Moore will take on another such tradition: the 21st birthday celebration.  Miles Teller was previously announced as one of two friends who take their buddy, an upstanding student just trying to study, on a raucous misadventure for his 21st birthday.  Today, Relativity Media officially announced that actors Justin Chon of The Twilight Saga and Skylar Astin from Hamlet 2 will join fill out the central trio in the comedy, and they'll be joined by Sarah Wright, who appeared in The House Bunny.

If you’ve never heard of director Will Gluck, then learn his name now because he is one filmmaker that you will be hearing from for a very long time. Gluck first made a name for himself as a feature film director last year with his sophomore outing Easy A starring Emma Stone, which went on to become both a critical and box office success. His recent release Friends with Benefits, has received positive reviews and earned almost $20 million in its debut last weekend despite opening opposite Captain America: The First Avenger on the second weekend of Potter-mania. All things considered, Gluck is well on his way to becoming one of the most interesting and unexpected mainstream directors working in the industry today.

Will Gluck began his career on TV writing for such short-lived but popular shows as Grosse Pointe, and Andy Richter Controls the Universe, as well as creating series like Luis, and The Loop. He made the jump to the big screen by helming the collegiate comedy Fired Up in 2009 before producing and directing Easy A, and eventually Friends with Benefits. His newest outing, the “will they or won’t they” comedy Friends with Benefits starring Justin Timberlake (The Social Network), and Mila Kunis (Black Swan), hit theaters on July 22nd and features the two sexy stars as platonic friends who engage in the age old experiment to see if acquaintances of the opposite sex can sleep together with out letting their emotions get in the way of their friendship.

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