<p>&nbsp;Rolling for their lives</p>

 Rolling for their lives

Credit: Pixar

Pixar drives down a more serious road with 'Cars 2'

The sequel skews older with an action packed sub-plot

I have to admit that I had always kind of avoided the original "Cars." It had seemed like the most nakedly "market tested" Pixar film to me. I saw it as a movie that popped up right at the height of the NASCAR craze replete with hundreds of cute toy-ready cars just begging to be merchandized. The design of the characters, with their extra big adorable eyes leant the whole thing a syrupy air that had kept me away.

Of course when I sat down and actually watched the movie I was taken in by heart of the thing. It has a solid story of cocky little red race car who is forced to slow down and appreciate small town values and the beauty of the countryside. Still not my favorite Pixar film, but a solid effort and I'd recommend it.

So my cynicism had melted a bit as I rode the bus across the Bay Bridge to visit the Pixar campus back in March to get a sneak peek at "Cars 2" and meet the folks behind the film. We had been bused out the night before to have a tour of their newly built office building, attend a Pixar 25th anniversary mixer and screen the "Toy Story" Short "Hawaiian Vacation," which will be released theatrically in front of "Cars 2." I don't have a lot to say about the night before, however, as I can't talk about the the short, and the mixer was pleasant but not much to write about.

More after the jump.

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<p>When the Dark Knight rises next year, which star from an earlier film will be making an appearance to surprise him?</p>

When the Dark Knight rises next year, which star from an earlier film will be making an appearance to surprise him?

Credit: Warner Bros/Legendary

EXCLUSIVE: What 'Batman' star shot a scene for 'Dark Knight Rises' on Monday?

Secret cameo gives big hints at the film's overall thematic direction

I would hate to be the guy who blows all the big secrets for Christopher Nolan's upcoming "The Dark Knight Rises."  In fact, after some of the ways I've stumbled across giant secrets over the years and blabbed them without knowing full well what the impact would be, I try to err on the side of caution when I can.

Having said that, some news crossed my desk today that is too cool not to share.  However, I want to ask you to respect that not everyone is going to want to know this news, and without knowing context for it, we're still not sure what it means for this third film in Nolan's saga.  If you reprint this news, please try to preserve some sort of a secret for people.  I'm going to run the actual news after the fold, and I'm warning you… it could be a bombshell of a spoiler.

I contacted Warner Bros. to ask them to comment on this story, and they politely refused, saying that's simply not policy when it comes to the Batman films that Nolan and company make.  They know already that they're not going to get him to confirm something, especially not something like this.

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<p>'Have you seen the movie they made about you, Hal?' 'No, is it good?' 'Don't make me punch you.&nbsp; I'm not sure I would ever be able to stop.'</p>

'Have you seen the movie they made about you, Hal?' 'No, is it good?' 'Don't make me punch you.  I'm not sure I would ever be able to stop.'

Credit: Warner Bros

Review: Awkward, uneven 'Green Lantern' packs no punch

HitFix
C-
Readers
C+
DC's big summer superhero movie fails across the board

I want to like "Green Lantern."

I don't want to be the guy who calls the time of death at the scene of the crime.

I walked in with several different levels of expectation for the movie, and to fully explain my reaction, I'll have to clue you in to what I was thinking as I sat down.  First, my two sons are absolutely out of their mind crazy to see the movie, and I was watching it as a parent wondering if it would be appropriate for the boys based on the other things they've seen.  Second, I like the idea of DC and Warner Bros. trying a big DC Universe on film, and I hoped for "Green Lantern" to be the movie to kick that off.  Third, I think Ryan Reynolds is a guy who is primed for stardom, and he's just looking for the right movie.  I walked in liking the last few major pieces of marketing, the stuff I saw at Wondercon and the big online trailer and the last big mythology trailer.  I like Martin Campbell at times.  In general, I was pumped and primed and buttered to go.

And yet...

I don't like "Green Lantern."  Not even a little bit.

I think the movie is pretty much inert, artificial and dead on arrival.

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<p>Tom Cruise, seen here at the premiere of 'Super 8,' fits into the pocket of a normal-sized man, yet he's going to play Reacher for Paramount?&nbsp; Really?</p>

Tom Cruise, seen here at the premiere of 'Super 8,' fits into the pocket of a normal-sized man, yet he's going to play Reacher for Paramount?  Really?

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Tom Cruise in talks to star in a wildly-miscast Jack Reacher movie

Just because the author of the books likes the idea, does that make it right?

What, are you people trying to kill me?

Look, I'm dealing with the third case of mono I've had in my lifetime, and my entire central nervous system is a little shaky to start with, so when I see the headline "Tom Cruise In Talks To Play Reacher," my first reaction is to kick my computer into little pieces then run outside and bellow impotently at the sky in rage.

That's normal, right?

I wrote an article last year where I brought up a candidate for the job, Dwayne Johnson, and I admitted that I'm still fairly new to the world of Jack Reacher.  Love the character.  I think Lee Child writes awesome, compulsively readable pulp.  And one of the things that I love about his character is the image I get as I read each of the books.  Like John D. McDonald's Travis McGee, Reacher is a very specific type of man, a huge slab of beef who can fall on a bad guy like a goddamn house.  When you cast these roles, you need burly, outsized macho men.  You need physical specimens that will make the rest of us feel painfully inadequate.

So you hire Tom Cruise and Leonardo Di Caprio?

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<p>I'm not sure what to make of the fact that this is a Disney movie and that Pixar's name is nowhere to be seen in that trailer, despite the fact that this is a spin-off from 'Cars'</p>

I'm not sure what to make of the fact that this is a Disney movie and that Pixar's name is nowhere to be seen in that trailer, despite the fact that this is a spin-off from 'Cars'

Credit: Walt Disney Home Video

Disney reveals teaser for 'Cars' spin-off movie 'Planes'

Am I the only one who is creeped out by the world of these movies?

I don't get it.

I want to get it.  I want to understand the basic world so that it doesn't nag at me while I'm watching these films, but so far, I don't get it.

Here's the thing… every Pixar film hangs on at least one big idea that the audience is asked to accept, and for the most part, I get the big ideas.  "The Incredibles" is a family of superheroes.  Easy enough.  "A Bug's Life" is our world, but just observed from the perspective of bugs.  "Toy Story" sets up the basic rule that toys are alive but pretend not to be when we're around.  Got it.  "Ratatouille" asks you to swallow the notion of a rat with a refined palette who wants to be a world-class chef.  "WALL-E" takes place in a world where our trash finally choked our planet out.  All of these ideas are fairly easy to grasp.

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<p>I&nbsp;cannot even fully explain to you how much my sons love T.J. Miller in 'Yogi Bear,' and to be honest, it terrifies me.&nbsp; Just a little.</p>

I cannot even fully explain to you how much my sons love T.J. Miller in 'Yogi Bear,' and to be honest, it terrifies me.  Just a little.

Credit: Warner Home Video

TJ Miller and Scot Armstrong join forces on 'Road To Nardo'

The co-writer of 'The Hangover Part II' is set to bring more bad behavior to the screen

Hollywood, like football (at least according to Oliver Stone), is a game of inches.

Sure, there are people who arrive with their first film, fully formed and lucky enough to connect with the public in a way that means that they never have to struggle.  But those people are what we call "freaks," and for the most part, people in the film industry have to make their way from job to job, gradually climbing the food chain, until they are able to call the shots for themselves.

"Road To Nardo" could represent a major jump forward for at least two of the major collaborators in the film, and I'm curious to see how it comes together.  The first reason I'm curious is T.J. Miller, a comedian who has been steadily building a resume since he first appeared in "Cloverfield."  Miller is very funny when you see him onstage, and I'm not sure I've seen a film yet that uses him to anywhere near his full potential.  My kids are big fans after "Yogi Bear," but that's hardly representative of the sort of work he does as a stand-up.

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<p>Laura Ziskin produced the Academy Awards show twice, but will likely be remembered most for her work on the 'Spider-Man' series</p>

Laura Ziskin produced the Academy Awards show twice, but will likely be remembered most for her work on the 'Spider-Man' series

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Carlson

'Spider-Man' producer Laura Ziskin passes away at 61

A remarkable life and career cut short and remembered

Laura Ziskin was an uncommonly decent person, and not just by the admittedly low standards of Hollywood culture.

I had several encounters with Ziskin over the years, and always found her to be sharp, funny, and kind, and it was obvious on every set of hers I ever visited that she cared deeply about the work she was doing.  I remember two different times that Harry Knowles and I dealt with her, once on the set for the original "Spider-Man" in 2001, and then again on the set of the live TV version of "Fail Safe," and in both cases, she went out of her way to deal with us personally instead of handing us over to publicists or assistants.  When she talked about the projects she was working on, it never felt to me like I was being hard-sold something.  Instead, she was just a tireless cheerleader for her collaborators, knowing full well how hard it is to produce even a bad film, much less a great one.

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<p>Will Eddie Murphy redeem himself in Brett Ratner's 'Tower Heist,' co-starring with Ben Stiller, Michael Pena, Matthew Broderick, and Casey Affleck? &nbsp;No, probably not, but I&nbsp;can hope.</p>

Will Eddie Murphy redeem himself in Brett Ratner's 'Tower Heist,' co-starring with Ben Stiller, Michael Pena, Matthew Broderick, and Casey Affleck?  No, probably not, but I can hope.

Credit: Universal Pictures

Saturday Night At The Movies: Why Eddie Murphy Breaks My Heart

A look at the rise and fall (and fall and fall) of one of SNL's great movie stars

When I walked out of the first early screening of "Dreamgirls" that I attended, Bill Condon was standing there, and I walked over to share some thoughts with him.  I've known Bill for a while now, and I was just going to offer him some quick impressions, then let him go because I knew other people wanted to talk to him.  As I started to tell him what I thought, I was fine until I got to my feelings about Eddie Murphy in the film.  Suddenly, as I tried to articulate just what it meant to me to see a great performance from Eddie, I got choked up.  I found myself almost overwhelmed by emotion, and I couldn't even fully explain why.  I just had to thank Bill for giving Eddie something to do, something worth his talent and my time, and then hurry to the car, embarrassed by the unexpected depth of my own feelings.

It's not my fault, though.  Like many film fans, the relationships I have with the work that actors and directors and writers do is a personal one.  It means something very particular to me, and in the case of Eddie Murphy, I consider him an important part of my formative years, and the arc of his career has been almost crushingly sad to witness.

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<p>Just one of the trolls from the original Norwegian 'Trollhunter,' and I can't help but wonder if the remake will try to stay true to these designs.</p>

Just one of the trolls from the original Norwegian 'Trollhunter,' and I can't help but wonder if the remake will try to stay true to these designs.

Credit: Magnet Releasing

The Afternoon Read: Chris Columbus signs to produce 'Trollhunter' remake

Plus Warren Beatty talks 'Dick Tracy' sequel and the 'Super 8' viral wraps up

Welcome to The Morning Read.

And now the cycle is complete.  This is how it works these days, right?  You make a foreign-language genre film, you get it booked into festivals, it gets picked up by a smaller distributor, and then as soon as it gets some US theatrical play, someone sets up an American remake.  At this point, if you don't manage to sell your film as a remake, then there must be something wrong with your movie.

Certainly, there's nothing wrong with "Trollhunter," which I just reviewed the other day.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised to hear that it's been set up as a remake.  Chris Columbus and CJ Entertainment & Media are going to co-produce the American version, and it looks like they've already got a writer attached, Marc Haimes.  Last year, there was word that Andre Ovredal, who wrote and directed "Trollhunter," was going to work with Columbus on an original film in the vein of "Gremlins," and I guess this means Columbus is a fan in general.  I still want to strongly encourage you to seek out and see the original, either on VOD or at one of the film's theatrical dates, but I guess this remake is inevitable.

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<p>Richard Donner's laugh absolutely fills a room, so it's always nice to earn a few of them during an interview with him.</p>

Richard Donner's laugh absolutely fills a room, so it's always nice to earn a few of them during an interview with him.

Credit: HitFix

Interview: Richard Donner on 'Superman,' Blu-ray, and more

A loose and funny chat with the father of the modern superhero movie

I've been lucky enough to have an ongoing conversation with Richard Donner for the last twenty years, starting with an evening when I was a studio guide for Universal Studios, and he has always been one of those guys who tells it like it is.  I admire that, especially after two decades in Los Angeles.  I am no longer surprised at how completely full of crap people are in this city.  Instead, I am surprised when someone isn't full of crap, especially when they're an iconic member of the creative community.  That almost seems like permission for some people, like being talented gives you the right to be a total phony. 

Not Donner.  He always strikes me as a guy who simply isn't wired that way and who couldn't be phony even if he tried.

The occasion for this conversation was the release on Blu-ray of all five "Superman" feature films, and that's as good a reason as any to sit down with the man again.  After all, his two "Superman" films set the template that people are still following closely with superhero movies, and the "X-Men" franchise that he helped produce, along with his wife Lauren Shuler Donner, helped kick off the new wave of superhero movies.

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