<p>What do you think is happening in this new image from the upcoming horror film 'The Crazies'?&nbsp; Read today's Morning Read to find out.</p>

What do you think is happening in this new image from the upcoming horror film 'The Crazies'?  Read today's Morning Read to find out.

Credit: Overture Films

TMR: Three new exclusive stills from 'The Crazies'

Plus possible first looks at 'Thor,' 'Green Lantern,' and 'Captain America' on film

Welcome to The Morning Read.

Any time I take a break from The Morning Read, jumping back into it feels intimidating until I actually do it.  These are probably the most labor-intensive columns I put together for the site.  It probably doesn't help that I had weekend plans with Rip Torn that got a little complicated, and I haven't heard back from him.  I guess I need the distraction, so let's jump right in.

Mike Fleming was the first to reveal the existence of Shane Salerno's mysterious documentary about J.D. Salinger, a passion project that's been underway for years now, and I'm curious to see if the rumored missing five minutes actually turn out to be an appearance by the author, or if this is going to be another hype moment like Morgan Spurlock's ultimately empty Osama documentary.

And speaking of documentaries, Karen Schmeer's work as an editor was tremendous, and her reputation among filmmakers was amazing.  This weekend, Errol Morris broke the shocking news that she had been killed by a car that was speeding away from a robbery.  That's the sort of death that will never make sense to anyone who knew her, and all they can ever hope to do is remember her work and her spirit, much like Shawn Levy did in his moving tribute to her.

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<p>The four Marx Brothers at their very best in the 1933 classic 'Duck Soup,' the first film under discussion in our new column, 'The Basics'</p>

The four Marx Brothers at their very best in the 1933 classic 'Duck Soup,' the first film under discussion in our new column, 'The Basics'

Credit: Universal Home Video

The Basics: A re-introduction to a new column

In which we welcome Will Goss from Cinematical to the fold

Okay, so that didn't exactly go as planned.

Waaaaaaay back on May 8th of last year, I wrote a piece called "The Basics:  My Favorite Film, or Where The Conversation Begins."  It was meant to be a spin-off from my ongoing series, "The Motion/Captured Must-See Project," and it began because of some criticisms that were leveled against another online writer.  Here's what I wrote about the reasoning behind the column:

"... one of the reasons I have spent the last 14 years writing about movies online is because I think those of us who have this voracious appetite for movies, who have gone out of our way to mainline thousands and thousands of films, good and bad, big and small, mainstream and obscure... it's our obligation to pass on to others why we do that, what makes those films worth that sort of investment of time and energy, and to steer people to the things that we think are most essential. In a world where you have as many options as we do now for entertainment, where you can constantly swim in the new without ever looking backwards, it seems to me more essential than ever to communicate our enthusiasm for the greats, the films that we hold dear.

So I called Alex [Billington]. And instead of just lambasting him about what he hasn't seen, I suggested a different approach to this, one that acknowledges that there are probably far more people out there whose relationship to movies is like his than like mine. Or Devin's. Or Harry's. One of the reasons I've had this long friendship with some of these other film writers is because they speak the same language I do. They have the same vocabulary. If I reference a movie, they'll understand it, and they understand why I draw a comparison. And so if we're going to treat this... all of it... like a conversation, then we have to acknowledge that if we want people to take part in that conversation, we have to invite them in, not attack them for something they haven't experienced yet."

At that point, my idea was that I would reach out to Alex and suggest one film at a time to him that he hadn't seen, writing a column to explain why I felt like that film was essential, and then he would write a response column on his own site in which he could talk about his reaction to the movie.  To start, I suggested he go see a 70MM screening of my favorite film, "Lawrence Of Arabia," and he agreed.

That was the last I ever heard from him about it.

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<p>Katie Aselton stars with Dax Shephard in 'The Freebie,' which she also directed and which screens as part of this year's Sundance Film Festival.</p>

Katie Aselton stars with Dax Shephard in 'The Freebie,' which she also directed and which screens as part of this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Credit: Sundance Film Festival

Sundance 2010: 'The Freebie'

Katie Aselton's knowing film tells hard truths about fidelity and love

Marriage is hard work, and for anyone in the trenches, this year's Sundance was a rough ride.

"The Freebie" is ostensibly a comedy, but it's a comedy that plays rough.  Katie Aselton, who wrote, directed, and stars in the film, offers up a a tough look at the way couples can find themselves stalled out in their emotional connection, and what they'll do to try to reforge those connections.  In this case, Darren (Dax Shepard) and Annie (Aselton) have been married for several years, and they have a relationship that looks perfect from the outside.  They spend all their free time together, they laugh, they share crosswords in bed, and they seem genuinely happy.  But their sex life has grown stagnant, to the point that they can't remember the last time they were together, and as they confront that idea, they try to figure out the best way to kickstart things.

What begins as a theoretical conversation quickly becomes an agreement:  for one night, they'll call a time out, and each of them is allowed to pick one person to have sex with.  No questions asked.  No strings attached.  No recriminations.  Their thinking is that the vacation from fidelity will rekindle the passion between the two of them, and after setting some ground rules, they kick things off.  The film then jumps in time to after the night off, and leaves the question hanging:  who did what, and how is it going to affect them in the long run? 

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<p>The corner that is the center of a debate over abortion in the new documentary '12th &amp;&nbsp;Delaware,' part of this year's Sundance Film Festival.</p>

The corner that is the center of a debate over abortion in the new documentary '12th & Delaware,' part of this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Credit: Sundance Film Festival

Sundance 2010: '12th & Delaware'

The directors of 'Jesus Camp' return with a look at the abortion debate

We live in a country where genuine debate seems to be dead, and has instead been replaced by polemic, polar opposites that scream at each other.  Most documentaries these days are produced to advance an agenda by one side or another, and as a result, sitting in a theater frequently feels just like watching this biased news channel or that one.  Not that I think bias is necessarily a bad thing, or even something that can be avoided, as long as it's open and not disguised.  A film like "Outrage," for example, is profoundly biased, but it still makes its points in a clear-eyed, well-argued way.

What's truly difficult is to make a film about something as hot-button divisive as abortion and still somehow give both sides of the debate equal time and equal weight.  Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, the filmmakers behind the terrifying "Jesus Camp," found the perfect way into the conversation in their new film "12th & Delaware."  Even the title of the film serves as a microcosm, since I'd imagine there are thousands of 12th and Delawares in America.  In this case, Ewing and Grady went to Fort Pierce, Florida, where they found a remarkable situation that sums up exactly where we are with this dialogue right now.  Their approach to the film was to give both sides of the situation half the film to present the case with no editorializing at all, and in doing so, I think they've made a powerful film that is infuriating and heartbreaking.

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<p>Director Martin Campbell, pictured here on the set of 'Casino Royale,' returns to theaters this weekend with the new Mel Gibon film 'Edge Of Darkness'</p>

Director Martin Campbell, pictured here on the set of 'Casino Royale,' returns to theaters this weekend with the new Mel Gibon film 'Edge Of Darkness'

Credit: EON Productions

The M/C Interview: Martin Campbell discusses 'Edge Of Darkness'

A short chat with the man who's kickstarted James Bond... twice.

My sit-down conversation with Martin Campbell didn't take place under the best of circumstances, through no one's fault.  It was just one of those things.  It was the press day at the Casa Del Mar, and things ended up running super-late.  My interview was supposed to be at 12:05, and at 2:00, I was finally ushered into the room where Campbell was sitting, visibly agitated that his lunch was being delayed by yet another reporter. Even worse, I knew that Devin Faraci from CHUD was waiting to talk to him after me, meaning his lunch was even further away than he thought.

It's hard enough to have a real conversation in these circumstances, but when things get this sort of tight, what you get is pretty much a quick set of cursory responses.  I credit Campbell for attempting to dampen his own irritation with the situation, and I hope we were able to touch on some points that are of interest.  You be the judge:

Martin: How are you?

Drew: Very good, sir.  So... my 4-year-old is now a fan of your work.

Martin:  Oh, good.

Drew:  They sent us the Disney "Zorro" to watch first...

Martin:  Oh, have they?

Drew:  ... and then when the BluRay for your first Zorro film showed up, he insisted and it became like a big event this week in the house.

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<p>Paul Bettany reaches for profundity but falls short in the oddball misfire 'Creation,' one of two movies opening today dealing with fathers crippled by grief over their dead daughters.</p>

Paul Bettany reaches for profundity but falls short in the oddball misfire 'Creation,' one of two movies opening today dealing with fathers crippled by grief over their dead daughters.

Credit: Newmarket Films

The M/C Review: 'Creation' and 'Edge Of Darkness'

Two fathers, two dead daughters, and a whole lotta grief

I put off writing these because, frankly, I don't have a lot to say about either of the films.  I wouldn't call either of them a bad film, but I don't think they deliver any real satisfaction.  They fall into that middle ground that seems to frustrate film critics the most, the amiably mediocre, and because there's little room for hyperbole when writing about a middling effort, most film critics feel handcuffed in these instances.

"Creation" is the story of Charles Darwin in the years after he'd done his research but before he published "Origin Of The Species," and it is earnestly acted by Paul Bettany, Toby Jones, and Jennifer Connelly, among others.  Jon Amiel is a director whose work I've liked many times in the past, but this time out, there's no pulse.  I watched the film one and a half times, afraid that maybe I was too tired the first time I saw it, but there's something overly serious and glacial about the film that just doesn't work for me.  It's a film about ideas, but it skips across the surface of those ideas, and dramatically, the film just lays there.  The major conflict in the film comes from the difference between Darwin's ideas and the religious faith of his wife.  Toby Jones plays Thomas Huxley, who pressures Darwin to publish his book because he believes it will be the final blow from science, killing religion once and for all.  Darwin and his wife are already stretched thin because of a personal tragedy, so the tension between them, escalated by his work, threatens to destroy them.  And that tragedy is what ties today's two new films together, and the way both of them handle the tragedy is oddly similar.

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<p>She ain't heavy... she's Uhura.&nbsp; Zoe Saldana prepares to deal some pain in 'The Losers,' the ensemble action film Warner Bros. will release on April 9.</p>

She ain't heavy... she's Uhura.  Zoe Saldana prepares to deal some pain in 'The Losers,' the ensemble action film Warner Bros. will release on April 9.

Credit: Warner Bros/Dark Castle

'The Losers' continues this year's push to bring '80s action movies back

The first trailer for the film highlights the cast and the things that go boom

Are you ready for the return of '80s action movies?

A few weeks ago, we got our first look at "The A-Team," which seems to be filled wall-to-wall with ideas that are right out of the '80s, and now "The Losers" premieres its first trailer over at MSN Movies, and it looks like Sylvain White is just as big a fan of that aesthetic as Joe Carnahan is.

The film was written by Peter Berg and Jamie Vanderbilt, the guy behind the new "Spider-Man" scripts, and here's the way Warner Bros. describes it in the official synopsis:

"An explosive tale of double cross and revenge, "The Losers" centers upon the members of an elite U.S. Special Forces unit sent into the Bolivian jungle on a search and destroy mission. The team--Clay, Jensen, Roque, Pooch and Cougar --find themselves the target of a lethal betrayal instigated from inside by a powerful enemy known only as Max. Presumed dead, the group makes plans to even the score when they're joined by the mysterious Aisha, a beautiful operative with her own agenda. Working together, they must remain deep undercover while tracking the heavily-guarded Max, a ruthless man bent on embroiling the world in a new high-tech global war."

The cast includes Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Holt McCallany, Oscar Jaenada, and Jason Patric.

Interested?  Well, here's the embed from MSN Movies:

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<p>Louis CK, one of the funniest men working in stand-up comedy, is the subject of the documentary 'Louis CK:&nbsp;Hilarious' at this year's Sundance Film Festival</p>

Louis CK, one of the funniest men working in stand-up comedy, is the subject of the documentary 'Louis CK: Hilarious' at this year's Sundance Film Festival

Credit: Randy Tepper

Sundance 2010: 'Louis CK: Hilarious'

An amazing set from an amazing comic makes for a deadly funny new film

Louis C.K. is one of the best stand-up comics working, cut from the same cloth as the greats of the profession like Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby, and he spent last year building an all-new set, then shooting it, and "Louis C.K.: Hilarious" is the result.  It is indeed preposterously funny, so funny that my body simply gave out halfway through and I found myself completely unable to laugh anymore, the first time that's ever happened to me.

If that's all I had to say about the film, that would still pretty much sum up what you can expect if you get the chance to see the film theatrically.  It starts with him walking onstage and ends with him walking onstage.  There's no awkward framing device, no attempt to make it "more" than a concert film.  I've seen him live many times over the years, but I'd say in the last five or six years, he's really jumped to a new level as a performer.  His writing has gotten sharper and sharper, and the way he's blended shockingly confessional material with the sort of observational humor that many comics build their set around is what makes him stand apart.  There are times Louis says things that I can't believe anyone would ever have the stones to say them in public.  They're things that we all think, but for some reason, we've created a social contract in which we only allow people to voice these thoughts under the cover of art, and Louis C.K. absolutely raises stand-up to an art when he's at his best.

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<p>A crowd braves the elements for a screening at the Eccles, one of the many Park City venues that are being used for the Sundance Film Festival.</p>

A crowd braves the elements for a screening at the Eccles, one of the many Park City venues that are being used for the Sundance Film Festival.

Credit: Brandon Joseph Baker

Sundance 2010: Aaaaaand we're outta here!

But, wait, there's more coverage still to come

It has been a blur.

Every festival is different.  They are affected by where they take place, what's available during programming, who's doing the programming, what message they want to send, and by the crowds that show up to watch the films.  There are dozens, if not hundreds of variables, that make each festival around the world different, and that make an individual festival different from year to year.

This year, Jeff Cooper stepped up as the director of the festival, and I'd say he should feel confident that what he and his amazing team presented to audiences and journalists from around the world was a solid, eclectic look at what is going on in independent cinema at this particular moment, and what we can expect moving forward.  It was nine years ago that I first came to Sundance, and it's changed a lot in that time, as would be expected.  Even so, it's still unmistakably Sundance.

For example, that crazy spot in the Albertson's/Yarrow parking lot that always turns to knee-deep puddles of ice cold slush?  Still there.  Still dangerous.  Still infuriating.

The volunteers?  Always amazing.

The people working in the press office who have to listen to a staggering amount of whining and poor behavior all week?  Absolutely brilliant, as expected.

Spending a week in the dark, mainlining movies while chatting with film freaks just like yourself from all over the world between the films?  Sublime.

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<p>Jay and Mark Duplass, on set and directing the new film 'Cyrus,' part of this year's Sundance Film&nbsp;Festival.</p>

Jay and Mark Duplass, on set and directing the new film 'Cyrus,' part of this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Sundance 2010: The Duplass Brothers on 'Cyrus'

Indie darlings Mark and Jay Duplass talk about their first studio experience

The final interview I did for "Cyrus" at the Sundance Film Festival was with writer/directors Jay and Mark Duplass.  I've liked their work for a while now, but I've never seen one of their films on the right schedule to actually have an interview with them.  They're Austin boys, which practically makes us family at this point, and we've talked via e-mail a little earlier this year, so by the time the publicist introduced us, both Mark and Jay already seemed familiar.  They asked me as I was sitting down how my Sundance had gone overall:

Drew:  I scheduled a little smarter so I’m not seeing everything.  But I’m processing what I’m seeing as opposed to... because you get into those six movie days and, man, I don’t know what I’m watching anymore, so I can’t do that.  I can’t do that to the movies.

Mark:  What is your limit?  What can you do well?

Drew:  Three movies and a couple of interviews during the day and then I feel like that’s huge.  So, gentlemen, we had these made up for Hitfix.  These are the official HitFix mints that we’re giving out.

Jay:  Awesome.  All day, every day, we're talking to people right now.  This is awesome.  Sweet.

Drew: I’ve had a few people beg off saying no, no, I’m straight. It’s okay. I’m not handing out pharmaceuticals.

Mark:  These are... this is awesome.  Thank you.  That’s bad-ass.  Kind of important when you’re doing interviews all day.

Drew:  Yeah, well, thank you for sitting down with me, guys.

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