Watch: Natalie Portman spills the secrets of 'Black Swan'

Watch: Natalie Portman spills the secrets of 'Black Swan'

Watch her face when we mention 'Your Highness'

It's funny that I'd be posting this only a few days after I've posted an interview with Jeff Bridges, because this is pretty much the polar opposite in terms of performances.

I'll admit it… I'm a tech nerd.  I love the way technology and performance are increasingly combined for an end result these days.  But I am also a huge fan of performances where an actor pushes themselves to a physical extreme in pursuit of a transformation that no computer could accomplish.

One of the defining performances I saw as a young film fan growing up was Robert De Niro's in "Raging Bull."  I studied that film, looking at the way De Niro took himself from lean, polished, chiseled physical perfection to this bloated, ruined bag of fat, and it stuck with me because I couldn't imagine that being the same person.  Since then, we've seen other actors who have pushed themselves to extremes in order to create striking images and give life to stunning characters. 

Christian Bale practically built his early career on his ability to waste away to almost nothing, and if you saw Matt Damon in one of his early roles in "Courage Under Fire," what he did to himself in the film actually hurt him.  One of the reasons I would consider Michael Fassbender one of the most promising actors to emerge in the last few years is because of his harrowing work in "Hunger."  It's dangerous to push your body to extremes in either direction, which is one of the reasons we can't look away when we're watching it.

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<p>Garrett Hedlund starts to suspect he may be in trouble in a moment from Disney's megabudget new sequel, &quot;TRON:&nbsp;Legacy&quot;</p>

Garrett Hedlund starts to suspect he may be in trouble in a moment from Disney's megabudget new sequel, "TRON: Legacy"

Credit: Walt Disney Company

Review: 'TRON: Legacy" dazzles visually, but ultimately disappoints

Is it enough to just look and sound great?

In 1982, when the original "TRON" was released, I was a wee lad of 12 years old.

I feel like I should offer up some thoughts on the original film because it may help you gauge what you should think about my review of the new mega-budget sequel to the film, "TRON: Legacy," which arrives in theaters on December 17th on a wave of hype that is as big as Disney can possibly generate.  They've been building to this moment for a while now, ever since that reveal of the test footage at Comic-Con.  They've bet big on this one, and they're already working on an animated spin-off and talking about making more sequels.  And all of that makes sense… if the film is good.

So in 1982, I was already a rabid movie addict, and that summer was, in my opinion, the single best genre year of my lifetime.  And not just up till the point, but still.  It was a preposterous avalanche of great genre films, and I soaked it all up happily. 

I even ran a whole series of articles about the subject over at Ain't It Cool back in 2007, in which I had different writers tackle different films from that summer that they loved or that were important to them.  Harry wrote the article on "TRON," and I wrote an introduction for that piece which I'll reprint here:

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<p>Johnny Depp will reprise his wildly popular character Captain Jack Sparrow in at least two more &quot;Pirates&quot;&nbsp;sequels following the release of &quot;On Stranger Tides&quot;&nbsp;in May.</p>

Johnny Depp will reprise his wildly popular character Captain Jack Sparrow in at least two more "Pirates" sequels following the release of "On Stranger Tides" in May.

Credit: Walt Disney Company

EXCLUSIVE: Disney will set sail for 'Pirates of the Caribbean' 5 & 6 back-to-back

But with a busy Johnny Depp, when will the sequels happen?

After the surprise success of "Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl," Disney quickly put a plan in place to create two sequels back-to-back.  Gore Verbinski directed both of the sequels, and I spent time with him during the editing of both pictures. 

Towards the very end of post-production on "At World's End," we spoke at the ADR stages, and I've never seen someone who looked more tired.  He was so exhausted that Disney wouldn't allow him to drive himself anywhere.  And when he got those films across the finish line, it didn't surprise me at all that he just kind of dropped off the radar for a little while.  It's an unreal amount of work to pull off something like that.

Without Verbinski directing the fourth film in the series, and without Dick Cook at Disney to help shepherd the film, the prospect of "Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" seemed daunting at first, but eventually, Disney hired Rob Marshall, and they've wrapped photography on the film now.  My guess is that things went very, very well, better than Disney even expected.

How do I know? 

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David Slade on 'Eclipse' saying goodbye to 'Wolverine 2' and what's next
Credit: Erica Farjo

David Slade on 'Eclipse' saying goodbye to 'Wolverine 2' and what's next

Director also explains just why Victoria went up that tree

It’s safe to say that for film fans of the non-“team-Edward” or “team-Jacob” variety,  “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” is the most accessible. It was choc full of action and included considerably less navel gazing than the previous installments. I’m biased of course, as I’ve known director David Slade since the days when I was in TV commercial production and he was primarily a commercial director.

His first feature “Hard Candy” was a stunning psychological thriller about a teenaged girl who takes revenge on a suspected pedophile by kidnapping him in his own apartment. Slade’s second film was “30 Days of Night,” a hard “R” horror movie about vampires that take advantage of the sunless winters in northernmost Alaska to have a “sunless spring break” of sorts, and go blood crazy on a small town.
 
So, when Summit Entertainment Googled “Director” “teenaged girl” and “vampire” his name popped up and he was instantly hired for “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.” (Ok, it might have been more complicated than that, let me re-check my facts and get back to you.)
 
Long story short, “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” is being released on Blu-Ray this weekend and Mr. Slade was kind enough to have me over and talk about the “Eclipse” DVD and more.
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<p>Jeff Bridges was a pure delight to chat with at the press day for his new giant-budget sequel 'TRON:&nbsp;Legacy'</p>

Jeff Bridges was a pure delight to chat with at the press day for his new giant-budget sequel 'TRON: Legacy'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Jeff Bridges talks about getting digital in 'TRON: Legacy'

What is it like to work with a younger version of yourself?

Jeff Bridges has entered a new stage of his career, one that very few actors ever reach.

When he started in this business, he was "Lloyd Bridges' son."  After his first few roles of note, movies like "The Last Picture Show" and "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot," he became a working actor and an Oscar nominee.  With his work in recent years in films like "The Big Lebowski" and last year's "Crazy Heart," he has become a beloved screen icon, and it seems like the love for him just keeps growing.

So once you become a legend, what's left to accomplish?

How about co-starring in a movie with a 35-year-old version of yourself?

My review of "TRON: Legacy" will be here on the site on December 5th, but until then, we'll be bringing you some chats with the cast of the highly-anticipated sequel to 1982's cult film, and where better to start than with Obi-Wan Lebowski himself?

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<p>Deadpool may find himself called into service offscreen as well as on if Fox has their way regarding sites that traffic in screenplays for download</p>

Deadpool may find himself called into service offscreen as well as on if Fox has their way regarding sites that traffic in screenplays for download

Credit: Marvel Comics

The Morning Read: Has Fox declared war on online script trading?

Plus the latest Motion/Captured Podcast is a tasty Thanksgiving leftover

Welcome to The Morning Read.

I guess based on the volume of e-mails and messages and conversations I've had about this in the last few days, it's time to take a look at the lawsuit that 20th Century Fox is filing against the woman who was hosting the download page for screenplays.  If you haven't read about the lawsuit, you should start by reading the basics of the case.

The core truth here is simple, and it's not one that the online community likes very much:  no one has the right to distribute screenplays via an online archive.  Not legally.  One of the reasons I think people assume I'll pick up the charge on this one is because of my history reviewing scripts for Ain't It Cool, and David Poland was quick as always to bring my name up when writing about this issue, claiming once again that discussing something is the same as publishing that something.  He calls it a semantics issue.  I call him a donkey-headed moron because that distinction is a significant one.  I knew from day one that you cannot and must not provide actual links to download screenplays, and especially not for in-development work.  You can discuss something all day every day, and it's not legally actionable, no matter what someone thinks of it.  But distributing the actual material?  The reason Fox is lawsuit-happy right now is because of the leak of the script for "Deadpool," which they are actively working to get onscreen.  The lawsuit may list the rest of the Fox scripts that were on the site of PJ McIlvaine, but it's "Deadpool" that made this lawsuit happen.

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<p>Jeff Bridges offers up a new interpretation of a classic character in 'True Grit'</p>

Jeff Bridges offers up a new interpretation of a classic character in 'True Grit'

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Review: Jeff Bridges headlines the triumphant 'True Grit' for the Coen Brothers

Is Hailee Steinfeld up to the challenge of carrying this classic story?

As a longtime fan of Joel and Ethan Coen, one of the things that I have always taken a special delight in is the love they have for language. 

After all, it was a line of dialogue maybe five minutes into the first film of theirs that I saw, 1986's "Raising Arizona," where I fell in love with them:  "Her insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase."  I still remember reading the script for "Miller's Crossing" a few months before it came out and just reading and re-reading that opening monologue out loud, basking in the cascade of language.  "The Big Lebowski" is like a ballet of profanity, every stammer and shouted swear a perfect punctuation for the unbalanced adventures of the Dude.  "Fargo" makes high comedy of a regional accent, and nobody finds a more adorable way around a sentence than Marge Gunderson.  And in their unproduced adaptation of "To The White Sea," there's an amazing monologue at the beginning, straight out of the James Dickey novel, that I could picture them cackling about as they wrote it.

That's one of the things that makes them perfect to adapt the work of Charles Portis, and if someone were to ask what the key difference is between the John Wayne version of the story and this new interpretation, it is that the Coens have preserved the language of Portis.  No… more than that… they have positively rolled around in it. 

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<p>The entire cast should return for a 'Star Trek' sequel, and it sounds like the writers know how important it is to give them the right material to play</p>

The entire cast should return for a 'Star Trek' sequel, and it sounds like the writers know how important it is to give them the right material to play

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Kurtzman and Orci say all the right things about 'Star Trek 2'

No story details yet, but things sound good for the 2012 sequel

I am genuinely excited by the prospect of a new "Star Trek" film.

It's been a long time since I can say that's been true.  I like the original series, and I have enjoyed sharing it with my son greatly, but before 2009's "Star Trek," the movie series had been limping along for a while, and I can't honestly say I was looking forward to any of them.  I saw them out of the sense of obligation that comes from being a genre fan.

But the JJ Abrams film rekindled my belief in "Star Trek" as a franchise moving forward.  The cast was just right, and the spirit of the storytelling struck me as a perfect match for the material.  I've seen the first third of next summer's "Cowboys and Aliens," and I honestly feel like Kurtzman & Orci are in the second stage of their bigscreen career, where they're starting to craft some great popcorn films, movies that manage to mix a genuine love of genre with a respect for the importance of character and theme, things that are sadly lacking in the skill set of many mainstream filmmakers these days.

Kurtzman and Orci just spoke with Geoff Boucher about their plans for the sequel to "Star Trek," and they certainly say everything I would want the writers of that sequel to say.  These two answers really give me confidence in the direction the film is headed right now:

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<p>If Johnny Knoxville and the rest of the cast was willing to shoot enough pain and suffering to make a 'Jackass 3.5,' then we should honor their sacrifice by laughing ourselves sick as often as possible</p>

If Johnny Knoxville and the rest of the cast was willing to shoot enough pain and suffering to make a 'Jackass 3.5,' then we should honor their sacrifice by laughing ourselves sick as often as possible

Credit: Sean Cliver/Paramount

'Jackass 3.5' arrives online before heading to DVD and Blu

When can you expect to see the new 'Jackass' and where?

When I interviewed the guys from "Jackass" in October, we had some great conversations, and Johnny Knoxville in particular was very open about the fact that they were actively planning to make a "Jackass 3.5" with all the material that they had shot but didn't use.  He and Tremaine both indicated that they felt like some of the best material was intentionally held to make sure that "Jackass 3.5" wouldn't feel like leftovers, but would be a real movie just as much as any of the other releases in the series.

Today, Paramount finally made the news official with a press release about how they plan to handle the different stages of release for "Jackass 3.5," and it's worth a read, since it's a complicated process:

"Paramount Digital Entertainment in association with MTV, both part of Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA and VIA.B) announced today that it plans to add another original project to its popular digital programming line-up:  JACKASS 3.5, which will premiere in March 2011.

The third installment of JACKASS from Paramount Pictures and MTV Films – JACKASS 3D – hit theaters on October 15, 2010 and has already grossed over $155 million at the worldwide box office.   The film stars Johnny Knoxville and the boys and was produced by Dickhouse Production’s Jeff Tremaine and Spike Jonze, along with Knoxville.  JACKASS 3.5, which was tailor-made for launch in digital media, will feature all new content, including never-before-seen stunts, pranks and other side-splitting antics by the JACKASS crew.  New stunts and antics from JACKASS 3.5 will be released online weekly and then packaged together as a feature length film distributed digitally followed by other platforms including home video.

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<p>Darren Aronofsky, director of 'Black Swan,' sat down with HitFix to discuss his amazing new film</p>

Darren Aronofsky, director of 'Black Swan,' sat down with HitFix to discuss his amazing new film

Credit: HitFix

Watch: A special interview with 'Black Swan' director Darren Aronofsky

Plus some early talk about his approach to 'The Wolverine'

I think it's safe to say that Darren Aronofsky is one of my favorite working filmmakers.  I truly believe he's getting better with every film, more confident, more limber as an artist.  With his new film, "Black Swan," he's made a bold and original movie that will launch him to a new level of respect, a film that transcends genre, and I knew that when we sat down to talk, I wanted more than the typical five minutes you get at a junket.

The result is this expansive, relaxed conversation that took place at the W Hotel a few weekends ago.  You'll see another one a little later in the week with Natalie Portman, but we wanted to kick the week off with Aronofsky himself.

I think "Pi" is a great debut film.  It's brash, it's edgy, it's cheap, it has a voice, and it's hard to pin down.  Basically, Aronofsky announced from the start that he didn't plan to chase the big obvious down-the-middle career, and his follow-up film "Requiem For A Dream" was a throw-down.  It's one of the few films I've ever seen that I heartily recommend for any serious film fan, but which I will never watch again.  It's just too much to take.  It's overwhelming.  I found my one theatrical viewing of the film to be a punishment almost beyond what I could take.  It's incredibly skillful, and it made me reassess him. 

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