<p>This is real.&nbsp; This is happening.&nbsp; And not you or any of your friends can stop it.</p>

This is real.  This is happening.  And not you or any of your friends can stop it.

Credit: Satan/Sony Pictures

The Morning Read: 'Thor' gets pantsed as part of a crazy superhero rumor blizzard

Plus JJ Abrams rumors swirling and 'Piranha 3D' gets a trailer

Welcome to The Morning Read.

Time to wrap the week up, and it's been a strange one.  They all are these days, though, aren't they?

No matter what, they're making a "Smurfs" movie, and it's from the director of "Scooby-Doo" and "Home Alone 3," so you can count on it being of the highest possible quality.  Especially when it features Hank Azaria looking like this.  No, really.  That's a good idea.  I'm sure of it.

It's frustrating for studio publicists these days, because it seems like the game for movie sites is to run every piece of information they get the second they get it, no matter what.  I've never been of that mind, personally, and in the overall balance of things, I've kept waaaaaay more secrets over the years than I've revealed.  I don't think the role of a film reporter is to ruin everything they can simply to prove they can do it.  Then again, I also don't think scoops are the main reason to do this.  I've certainly run my share over the years, and there are times I've made certain filmmakers crazy, but I try to strike a balance.  There are certainly sites out there who have the attitude that everything is fair game and they don't owe anything to any filmmaker, and that's their choice.  I think in the end, I'm engaged in an ongoing dialogue with both the readership of this blog and the people I'm writing about, and it would be slightly suicidal for me to intentionally and repeatedly burn either end of that equation. 

The most mercenary scoop site online right now is Latino Review, and I'm not using that word in any way other than descriptive.  They genuinely don't care.  Earlier this week, they ran a spy photo of a major villain from "Thor."  Not the major villain, but certainly a key part of a major sequence of the film, and what they shot was a piece of a costume.  It's a character that's going to be pulled off with a combination of techniques, and what they ran was a good indicator of just how close some of this movie's designs are going to be to things from the full history of the Marvel incarnation of the character.  Whether it's The Warriors Three or certain weapons or sets, the filmmakers seem to be using key art from the entire history of Thor as reference.  Although it's obvious from their response that Paramount is upset about the spy photo, they should count the general reaction to the image as a win. 

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<p>Chris Hemsworth is the next major Marvel superhero in 2011's 'Thor'</p>

Chris Hemsworth is the next major Marvel superhero in 2011's 'Thor'

Credit: Marvel Studios

Check it out... the first image of Chris Hemsworth as 'Thor'

Next summer's first big Marvel movie finally reveals its hero

Here's a case where a studio is taking back the conversation about a film of theirs after several online leaks, and in the best possible way.  First the "secret ending" of "Iron Man 2," which may tie in to the larger Marvel Universe in some way, was spoiled by a bootlegged version of the scene, and then a spy photo showed up online this week of  one of the major villains in "Thor."   In an effort to shift the conversation, Paramount and Marvel have now offered up the first official still of Chris Hemsworth in costume as Thor, and it's a great, evocative first look at the character.

I sincerely believe "Thor" is poised to be a major surprise hit next year, and I say "surprise" even though this is a giant-budget Marvel Studios superhero movie because I think it's still a title that is under the radar for many people.  "Thor" is in the same position now that "Iron Man" was a year before release.  Many people predicted that the general public had no idea who Iron Man was, and that they wouldn't care.  With "Thor," the question marks all seem to be about the way the studio plans to introduce Norse gods and mythology and magic into an onscreen universe that so far seems to be based in science, even if it is Marvel pseudo-science.

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<p>Will Ron Howard be the one to bring Roland and the Man In Black to the bigscreen?</p>

Will Ron Howard be the one to bring Roland and the Man In Black to the bigscreen?

Credit: Marvel Comics

Ron Howard's planning a trek to Stephen King's 'Dark Tower'

And unfortunately, Akiva Goldsman's charting his course

Stephen King's epic "Dark Tower" series would seem, at first glance, to be a natural source for a major film franchise.  For a while, JJ Abrams, Carlton Cuse, and Damon Lindelof were attached to the material, and that was interesting... but even with them onboard, it's such a big and strange and slippery piece of work to turn into film.

But now, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and Akiva Goldsman are said to be signing on to produce the property together as a film (or films, depending on which source you read) as well as a television series.  Ambitious.  That's fitting for a piece of work like this.  I'm not sure exactly what that means, and I'll bet they're not sure yet either.  But at least they're thinking of something big and sprawling.

For "Dark Tower" fans, my question is this:  can anyone really pull off the essence of what is "The Dark Tower" on film?  For me, the experience of that story came from how it was told, over decades, as well as what was told, and being there to read it from start to finish felt special.  It added an urgency to the last few books.  I'm not sure someone starting with a finiite stack of books already done and easy to get can ever have the same "Dark Tower" experience as someone who read the thing as it came out, wondering if it would ever actually have an ending.  And that's not to say that this team can't find a strong central storyline to tell in what King wrote.  They probably can.  I'm not sure if I buy that the general public really knows what "The Dark Tower" is, though, and even as a major King fan, I'm not sure his name carries the singular commercial clout it might have in other earlier moments.

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<p>What are you so happy about?&nbsp; Paramount said they don't want to make the 'Anchorman' sequel, damn it!</p>

What are you so happy about?  Paramount said they don't want to make the 'Anchorman' sequel, damn it!

Credit: Dreamworks

Is there still hope for an 'Anchorman 2'?

Or did Paramount kill it today?

More and more often, Twitter is a place where movie news breaks even before a studio can put together a press release, and in some cases, things that are said on Twitter give us a glimpse of the corporate process that no press release would address.

Today, Adam McKay (who uses the handle @GhostPanther on Twitter) had this to say:

So bummed.  Paramount basically passed on Anchorman 2.  Even after we cut our budget down.  We tried.

Now, he's only got 140 characters, so he doesn't really offer up any details, and he hasn't followed up when questioned today, so it's unclear if they're able to take the film anywhere else.  I was actually surprised to see that this was a Paramount film, although maybe McKay had to offer it to Paramount first as part of his production deal for Gary Sanchez Productions.  The first film was released by Dreamworks, and I wonder if they get a shot at it now that Paramount's passed.

[UPDATE:  McKay just Tweeted the following at 4:15 PST -- To all who asked: no we can't do Anchorman 2 at another studio. Paramount owns it.]

As recently as a few months ago, when I spoke to Paul Rudd and Steve Carrell on the set of "Dinner For Schmucks," they seemed excited about what they were discussing as a follow-up, and a cast like this seems to be a studio's marketing dream come true.  I'm a little puzzled how, in this climate of sure-things-only, Paramount just turned down a movie that would star Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, and more, especially after the way the first film performed on home video and the way its grown a fairly substantial cult since its theatrical release.

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<p>Rooney Mara catches a potentially very uncomfortable nap in the new Platinum Dunes remake of 'A Nightmare On Elm Street'</p>

Rooney Mara catches a potentially very uncomfortable nap in the new Platinum Dunes remake of 'A Nightmare On Elm Street'

Credit: Warner Bros.

The M/C Review: 'A Nightmare On Elm Street' is dead on arrival

A whole lot of slick can't hide the hollow center of this remake

I found this film deeply upsetting, but not in the ways the producers or the director intended.

"A Nightmare On Elm Street" has always been a franchise I've found deeply uncomfortable.  I saw the first film theatrically.  I was 14 at the time.  I thought it was effective and inventive and stood out from the typical slasher fare that was being released by that point in the '80s.  I still think it's one of the best things Wes Craven ever did.  Beyond that first film, though, I find the franchise loathsome.  Freddy Krueger is an uncommonly grotesque creation even in the world of movie killers, and if there's any flaw with the original Craven film, it's the way he sidesteps the nature of Freddy's real-world crimes.  He was described as a "child killer" in the first film, and the idea of molestation was carefully avoided by Craven entirely.  By softening the point in the first film, it made the character more palatable, and by the time there were Halloween costumes for kids based on the Krueger design, it was obvious that no one really understood the monster they were watching or releasing.  The way they quickly turned him from a figure of fear into a bad stand-up comic with claws rendered pretty much every one of the sequels a gutless mess.  I listened to someone at a press day recently explain which ones are the "good" sequels and which ones are the "bad" sequels, but I've never been able to get behind that idea.  I think the entire notion of spinning him into a recurrent character robbed him of all effectiveness and led to incredibly mean-spirited and wrongly-silly films.

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<p>Arnold Schwarzenegger's early action hit 'Commando' is getting the remake overhaul by 20th Century Fox</p>

Arnold Schwarzenegger's early action hit 'Commando' is getting the remake overhaul by 20th Century Fox

Credit: 20th Century Fox

A 'Commando' reboot? Our karaoke culture is officially out of control

One more pointless remake is announced, and an editorial is the result

Enough.  Please.  Mercy.  I beg you.

I don't think "Commando" is sacred ground, some untouchable masterpiece that no filmmaker will ever equal.  Actually, it's the contrary that's true.  I don't think "Commando" is fertile ground, worth anyone's time to remake.  David Ayer may not be my favorite working writer/director, but I think he's got more to offer audiences than yet another regurgitation of the '80s that no one is asking for.  Sure, Ayer served in the Navy, and he comes from a military family, so he certainly seems qualified to write the main character in the film.  And he's not afraid of remakes... heck, this guy's got nerve enough to have attached himself to a modern-day remake of "The Wild Bunch," so obviously he's not afraid to get in there and mix it up.

But "Commando"?  A military guy with a ton of training has to chase down his kidnapped daughter and kill a bunch of dudes.  That's it.  That's all there is to the original.  It's a bunch of cheesy one-liners, Vernon Wells chomping scenery, some good action, and a ridiculous body count.  It's not a movie with a strong narrative spine or a particularly clever hook that would justify a remake.  It's very much a product of its time, a perfect vehicle for an Arnold Schwarzenegger, and little else.

The thing is, coming on the heels of some of the films I've seen in the last week, this is another case of karaoke culture out of control, and it's at the point now where I swing between trying to accept that this is the way things are at the moment and an almost irrational degree of anger at the idea that this is the way things are at the moment.  I love movies.  I have spent my life totally immersed in movies.  I work incredibly hard not to be cynical and overly negative, and I hate judging things before they even really get going.  The truth is, though, that any adult who depends on cinema to feed them in all the various appetites that a film freak cultivates is starving these days.  It is harder than ever before to track down truly original voices, even though I would argue there are more films to see and more ways to see them.  The cowardice that runs most Hollywood decision making is just breathtaking, and it reveals just how sad the current power structure really is.

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<p>Ang Lee, seen here on the set of his Oscar-nominated film 'Brokeback Mountain,' is hoping to direct a bigscreen version of the acclaimed novel 'Life Of Pi'</p>

Ang Lee, seen here on the set of his Oscar-nominated film 'Brokeback Mountain,' is hoping to direct a bigscreen version of the acclaimed novel 'Life Of Pi'

Credit: Focus Features

Why is Ang Lee so determined to make 'Life Of Pi' as a film?

Is there really going to be a big-budget 3D film of the new age fable?

Ang Lee is close to getting the go-ahead to finally bring the bestelling novel Life Of Pi to the bigscreen, and current plans are for the film to be a 3-D FX heavy affair.  The proposed budget of $70 million doesn't sound like much, relatively speaking for the studio system, but I'm willing to bet they lose all $70 million if they're really betting on this as a box-office hit.

I love Ang Lee.  I've been a supporter of his even when I haven't loved the end results.  As most people were arguing over "LA Confidential" or "Titanic" as the best film of 1997, I personally felt like "The Ice Storm" dusted both of them.  Even if I don't play the Oscar game, I can understand why "Brokeback Mountain" was such a key player in the race the year it was released.I was a vocal advocate for his much maligned "Hulk," and I still defend it, convinced it's a film that aims high and almost pulls it all off.  When I wrote my list of the "50 Best Films Of The Decade" in December, I gave the top spot to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."  And I still think people just plain missed out when it comes to "Lust, Caution" and "Ride With The Devil," although there's at least a Criterion release of the latter film available now.

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<p>Has Marvel Studios been able to build a better 'Iron Man' for their second time out?</p>

Has Marvel Studios been able to build a better 'Iron Man' for their second time out?

Credit: Marvel Studios

The M/C Review: 'Iron Man 2' whips the summer movie formula

With the element of surprise gone, how do you convince the audience they care about Iron Man?

Let's call this one the victory lap.

"Iron Man" was no guaranteed hit before the weekend it opened.  There were people predicting failure for that film even after it opened, even after it started to turn into a word-of-mouth-must-see, not just a box-office success but a genuinely loved pop culture moment.  The first movie's got its weak points, but it also has a ridiculous energy to it, and I unabashedly loved it when I reviewed it for Ain't It Cool.

"Iron Man 2" is, in every possible way, issue two of a comic book.  It doesn't have to spend time setting up the origin of the character, and it doesn't feel the need to resolve every single story thread introduced in this one film.  There's a sense that everyone's settling into this series and thinking big.  It is just as confident as the first film, and incredibly aggressive in the way it handles story and characterization.  The pre-title sequence picks up mere seconds after the ending of the first film, and introduces Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), an embittered Russian with family ties that make Tony Stark a perfect target for his rage.  By the time the main title appears onscreen, everything's already in motion, and then we're right into the Stark Expo, where Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) takes the stage.

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<p>Albert Brooks (seen here with Bruno Kirby) is the writer, director, and star of one of the great comedies ever made about the way relationships work (and don't), &quot;Modern Romance&quot; </p>

Albert Brooks (seen here with Bruno Kirby) is the writer, director, and star of one of the great comedies ever made about the way relationships work (and don't), "Modern Romance"

Credit: SPHE

The Basics: 'Modern Romance' turns the rom-com formula inside out

The series returns with a look at the most significant film in the Albert Brooks filmography

It's been a while since we've done one of these, but that's because Will Goss got caught trying to smuggle 7.3 metric tons of Gourdough's gourmet doughnuts out of Austin, TX.  Internally.  And the AMA needed to study him to see how he kept his heart from exploding.

Now that the study is complete (answer:  he deep-fried it), Goss is ready for his latest installment of "The Basics."  Last time we did this, he watched "Manhattan," and I didn't mean to move on to a neurotic romantic comedy from a writer/director as a follow-up, but when Goss told me he'd just rented a stack of movies recently and he listed off the titles, I couldn't resist one of the ones he was about to watch.  "Modern Romance!" I wrote to him.  "Please! Make it 'Modern Romance'!"

Why?  Well, it's hard for viewers with no long-term memory to understand why Albert Brooks is significant to film comedy.  An "In-Laws" remake?  "The Muse"?  "Looking For Comedy in The Muslim World"?  It's been a while since he's done something worth serious consideration, but man... when he did...

I have trouble reconciling the Brooks of those later films with the guy who made some of my favorite comedies of the '70s and '80s.  There was a time when I thought he was making truly lacerating films about the ways in which we were failing ourselves as a culture.  "Real Life" managed to burn reality TV to the ground before there ever was such a thing, and it retains every bit of its bite thirty years later.  "Lost In America" demolished the whole obsession that the baby boomers had with '60s culture and the "freedom" they supposedly gave up when they "sold out," and I think the reason the film didn't do better is because it was a bitter pill to swallow.  Even in his later "Defending Your Life," he managed to score powerful points about what we call courage in life and how we all compromise ourselves, little by little, day after day, all wrapped up in what looks like a high-concept comedy about Heaven.  Brilliant.

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<p>There's a whole lot of suit-on-suit action ahead with the release of four new clips from 'Iron Man 2,' which hits theaters next Friday.</p>

There's a whole lot of suit-on-suit action ahead with the release of four new clips from 'Iron Man 2,' which hits theaters next Friday.

Credit: Marvel Studios

Four new 'Iron Man 2' clips highlight the Black Widow, Whiplash, and the suitcase suit

See Mickey Rourke in action and Sam Rockwell crank up the sleaze

There is only a little over a week until "Iron Man 2" hits theaters, and I'm excited for people to finally lay eyes on what Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. and all of their collaborators have put together for issue two of this big-screen comic series.

I've already heard some complaints from fellow journalists who saw it last week when I did, many of them upset that this film doesn't have the same "wow" for them as the first one. I think they forget how everyone was skeptical about the need for an "Iron Man" movie in the first place, making the first one a huge mainstream surprise.  That's something you can never duplicate with a second film, so it seems like the wrong thing to get hung up on, in my opinion.

If "Iron Man" was the surprise out of nowhere for most people, then "Iron Man 2" is the victory lap that they absolutely deserve to take, and today, there are four new clips available that give you a good look at the tone and attitude and, yes, scope of what Marvel Studios is about to unleash.

There's been a fair amount of speculation about how Scarlett Johansson's character would end up interacting with Tony Stark in the film, and how she ties in to SHIELD and the larger "Avengers" plan that Marvel's building bit by bit right now.  Without spoiling the fun, let's take a look at her introduction in the film.

By the way... next time I upgrade my home computer, I want whatever system it is that Stark's using when he Googles "Natalie Rushman" after being introduced to her:

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