Welcome to The Morning Read.
Without question, the biggest news of the morning is the announcement that Disney will be releasing "Iron Man 3" and "The Avengers." It was inevitable, but I think everyone watching the situation from the outside expected this to be a long and ugly legal process, if not an outright war. Instead, this one settlement makes it all go away, and the march towards "The Avenges" continues without hesitation or incident, it seems, exactly as Marvel wants.
Look, you may not like the face of modern event movies. You may not like the movies Marvel makes. But there is no way to argue now that they've been anything less than uncanny about trying to build a Marvel Universe onscreen. I'm amazed this played out the way it did because it's such a defining moment for Paramount. I like the folks over there, and I think they've had a really strong run of big movies in the last few years, with some very smart salesmanship on some tricky titles. I also think they've got the sort of team that knows what to do when you hand them a giant "Duh" home run, and that's not always true. I've seen great movies that should have been hits wildly mishandled many times. Paramount has had plenty of lean years creatively, too, though, even in the time since I've started doing this job, and the loss of Marvel is something that has to be seriously considered over there. Taking a cash payout instead of dragging things into court for a possible piece of profits is a reasonable outcome, but it's also a choice that marks a quiet passage from one era of Paramount to the next.
Right now, the final "Transformers" is wrapping up, and that's a film that Paramount only co-owns with DreamWorks, so that's not something they can build their company's future around. They're dicking around with the Jack Ryan property again, but who knows if that will ever happen. They're remaking "Footloose" and flirting with "Top Gun." Really, the only two full-fledged Paramount franchises they've got going at the moment are "Mission: Impossible 4" and "Star Trek 2." Essentially, by letting Marvel go, Paramount has put their full faith in JJ Abrams, currently directing his own big crazy secret 2011 movie, "Super 8." He's still a producer on the Brad Bird "M:I 4," and he's obviously the man at the top of the "Star Trek" team, so with so many of their eggs in his basket, I'm guessing that whatever JJ wants on the Paramount lot these days, it happens. He seems to value the original idea as well as understand how to repurpose pop culture without being insulting about it, so maybe it's good that Paramount is somewhat at his mercy right now. Could make for some really interesting choices in the near-future.
I think this may be a first, but I'm actually linking to the NY Post, since they were the ones to first breathlessly ruin the "Hangover" celebrity cameo a full year before we'll see it. Although my guess is the shock would have probably been used in the trailer for maximum effect, if they'd been able to keep it even remotely secret. Now, it's been ruined so pervasively everywhere by people unable to write a headline that teases instead of spoiling that by the time we actually see footage, it'll just feel like some item on a checklist we're waiting for. On the off-chance you haven't had it ruined for you, I won't actually even say the celebrity's name here. I'll just say that there are times the information age really is the pure enemy of being able to enjoy things in their right time.
I like that Robert Zemeckis is considering a move back to live-action as a director with that time-travel movie, but it's also good to see him continue to reach out to other directors, inviting them to work with the motion-capture tools he's been developing for the past decade. Simon Wells is the latest guy in the pool, and he's adapting the Berkeley Breathed book "Mars Needs Moms". Seth Green and Joan Cusack star in the film as a mother and son who are pulled into an interplanetary adventure when Milo has to go save his mom from some mom-less Martians. The first poster was released today, which I guess means this is Alien Day between this and the "Paul" teaser trailer. Check it out:
I love this regular feature on The A.V. Club. I've got so many commentary tracks I'll never listen to, and reading something like this is even more fun, I suspect, than actually listening to them in the first place. I like "Equilibrium," but I'm still entertained by this piece.
This piece on Sigourney Weaver and her time at this weekend's Scream Awards is pretty general puffery for a deserving subject, but there's one observation that Weaver makes regarding James Cameron's mother that I thought was particularly sharp. It really explains a lot of who he is as a filmmaker.
Have you seen the Green Lantern's Power Battery yet? Has the Warner Bros. legal team landed on The Daily Blam! like a ton of bricks yet?
I can't believe Bobby Bottleservice went to Africa.
Great piece in the Guardian about the '80s and the "video nasties." I've always been amazed by this period in the UK's film history, and it's particularly appropriate to look back on this year, when the BBFC ordered the most cuts in its history to "A Serbian Film," driving it out of the FrightFest UK line-up where it was booked.
J.W. Rinzler is the best thing to happen to "Star Wars" since Genndy Tartakovsky. Last week, his "The Making Of 'Empire Strikes Back'" book finally came out, and now they're already teasing his next project, which looks flat-out amazing.
I have plenty of people in my life who get irritated with me because I'm not the most phone-friendly person in the world, but I am sort of terrified by the way people live their whole lives through these devices now, these strange little cyborg parasites that connect us to the outside world. I need time to shut the world out to write and to pay attention to the things I watch and read, and I wonder if all this connectivity is good for us. This is a fairly well-observed piece about our relationship to our phones, and what it means.
Mike Russell, a damn fine cartoonist in his own right, ran a Twitter link to the full text of a speech that Bill "Calvin & Hobbes" Watterson gave, and it just knocked me flat. God, I miss Watterson.
And speaking of Twitter, Patton Oswalt was gloating that he got an advance copy of the new Stephen King book Full Dark, No Stars. I didn't realize King had a new book coming out, but that's a great title, and Patton's mention of it must have opened some sort of floodgate because now, about 12 hours later, there's an actual trailer for the book, which is a collection of four novellas.
And speaking of books, I was sent the new Charles Burns book X'ed Out last week, and it's amazing. If you are familiar with his work, like the groundbreaking Black Hole, then you have some idea what to expect, but he's made an important jump here, working in full-color for the first time. It's a disturbing read, the first of a three-part series, and if you head over to NY Mag, they've got a special annotated look at a page from the book. You have to hit "View The Slideshow" to see it, but trust me… it's worth it if you're a fan, or if you're curious why someone else might be.
This is a very, very naughty article.
"Scooby-Doo" got hip when I wasn't looking. Harlan Ellison and H.P. Hatecraft? You're going to make me watch a "Scooby-Doo" cartoon, aren't you? AREN'T YOU?!?
By the way, H.P. Lovecraft himself could not have come up with anything to equal the terror inherent in every one of the six things on this list. I mean it. This is why I am considering the full Howard Hughes disappearing act at some point. I'm not just afraid of accidentally eating any of these things… I'm afraid of coming into contact with anyone who has.
I do not fully grasp this man's work, but I love it anyway. What a wonderful mark he left on our understanding of our place in things.
From now on, I plan to compose all of my HitFix articles on this machine. Sure, it'll take longer, but imagine how groovy I will look while doing it. Isn't that what really matters?
Should be a busy week both here on the site and in terms of preparing things for you guys and seeing screenings. We're kicking off that avalanche of end-of-the-year activity, and it should be a blast.
This week, we're going to be looking at some of the biggest home video releases of the Christmas season, and I'll also be reintroducing another regular column that will bookend The Morning Read. You'll see that later tonight. And, no, I haven't forgotten about the Podcast. That's just a matter of figuring out which day of the week is going to be the regular day for that one, and I'm sorting that out right now.
The Morning Read appears here every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Except when it doesn't.
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