<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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<p>Spider-Man made his long-delayed Broadway debut last night, and it sounds like there's plenty of work to do before 'Spider-Man:&nbsp;Turn Off The Dark' officially premieres in January</p>

Spider-Man made his long-delayed Broadway debut last night, and it sounds like there's plenty of work to do before 'Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark' officially premieres in January

Credit: Marvel Entertainment, LLC

The Morning Read: 'Spider-Man' makes his first swing over Broadway

Plus Kevin Smith's SMODCast spills on 'Red State,' Richard Kelly and more

Welcome to The Morning Read.

Last night, up to the moment I heard about Leslie Nielsen's death, I was totally focused on the early reactions to last night's first preview performance of the long-in-development musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark."  Then this morning, it was Irvin Kershner's death that rocked me, so it's a late start getting back to the business of seeing what's going on out there.  I'm jealous of anyone who goes to see this production in New York.  I have a feeling it's something you'll want to be able to say you saw later, when it is the stuff of legend and myth.  With an original score by Bono and the Edge, directed by Julie Taymor, and produced at a rumored cost of $65 million, which would make it the most expensive stage production of all time, this is a blockbuster by design, but by no means a sure thing.

For years now, it's seemed impossible to believe it would ever actually open.  Even now, based on the reports that are emerging from the preview performance, it sounds like there are a number of fundamental issues they're still working out.  The New York Times is probably the most authoritative source to weigh in so far, but there's also a handful of reviews up at AICN and there are message boards and industry blogs where more reactions are appearing.  You can run a Google search on "Turn Off The Dark reviews" and more and more reactions are showing up from the 1900 people who were there.  By and large, it sounds like last night was a glimpse at what they hope the show will be, and not the show itself.  I'm not a big Taymor fan, but I've been curious.  I think this show sounds like a collection of all of her worst tendencies, wrapped in some borrowed iconography.  It doesn't sound to me like she's added any real insight to the archetypes or the specific character of Peter Parker, and I'm not sure the Cirque Du Soleil spectacle of it is enough to justify all of this energy.

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<p>Kersh and Darth, sittin' in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G</p>

Kersh and Darth, sittin' in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G

Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Irvin Kershner, director of 'Empire Strikes Back,' is one with the Force at age 87

A look at the life of the only American to ever direct a James Bond movie

"My ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.  Life creates it, makes it grow.  Its energy surrounds us and binds us.  Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.  You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes."

Irvin Kershner, director of "The Empire Strikes Back," has passed away at the age of 87.

I would be saddened to hear this at any point, but I just finished reading J.W. Rinzler's remarkable The Making Of "The Empire Strikes Back" last night, a distressing coincidence.  I've always believed "Empire" to be the best film in the "Star Wars" series, and one of the finest examples of fantasy filmmaking of all time, but my regard for just what it was that Kershner brought to the table was increased exponentially by this read of the book.

Kershner had already been making films for 30 years by the time he crossed paths with Luke Skywaker, Darth Vader, and the rest, and he was a fascinating choice for Lucas.  I honestly believe that if Lucas had chosen anyone else for the job, things would have turned out very differently for Lucasfilm and fandom in general.  Understanding how he ended up in that director's chair in the first place goes a long way towards appreciating just how important a part of that process he really was.

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<p>Jon Favreau gives Daniel Craig tips on firing blasters, skills he learned shooting &quot;Iron Man&quot;</p>

Jon Favreau gives Daniel Craig tips on firing blasters, skills he learned shooting "Iron Man"

Credit: Universal Pictures

Set Visit: Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford on set for 'Cowboys and Aliens'

Good moods abound on big budget Western (with Aliens)

 “Cowboys and Aliens” was shooting a good distance away from Santa Fe. As we sat on the bus for over an hour, parked in a large field and waited for another bus to take us to the set itself, I looked up at the giant desert sky and reflected on other set visits I’d been to, and how often they were not like this one. 

Set visits, can often be very ordinary things. Usually we are ushered in quickly to a sound-stage somewhere to watch a scene over and over again. We are then escorted to another room and the actors are brought in, one by one, to discuss a movie that is currently in the process of being made, so no one is really sure what to make of it yet. Sure, they can talk about what they love in the script, how nice the other actors are, etc. But often times there are still lots of lingering questions: Will this movie be any good? Will it go straight to video?
“Cowboys and Aliens” will not go straight to video. The film boasts a production team of Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer, folks who certainly do not do things by half measures. And all though they weren’t present on the set when we visited, there was a certain confidence and enthusiasm present in everyone we talked to that really stood out in my mind as special and exciting. We may have hit a weird day, but everyone seemed… Happy.
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<p>Leslie Nielsen, seen here as the iconic bumbler Lt. Frank Drebin, passed away this weekend at the age of 84</p>

Leslie Nielsen, seen here as the iconic bumbler Lt. Frank Drebin, passed away this weekend at the age of 84

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Leslie Nielsen has died at age 84, and don't call him Shirley

A leading man who aged into one of the great screen clowns has passed away

According to breaking reports, Leslie Nielsen has passed away in Florida, where he was hospitalized for pneumonia.  The veteran character actor and funnyman was 84 years old, and his death brings to a close one of the great reinventions in modern film.

Here's a short interview with his nephew, confirming the details.

One of the reasons I'm glad I grew up in an era where the theatrical experience was still the main way to see a film is because of the memories I have of certain films when they played originally.  Seeing "Airplane!" in a movie theater in 1980 was one of those great audience moments for me.  People don't react to comedies like that anymore, and part of it is that Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker changed the way film comedy worked, and their style of shotgun-blast silliness has been so thoroughly absorbed by the mainstream that it doesn't have the same impact.  "Airplane!" blindsided the audience, and it was amazing to sit in that theater and ride those waves of laughter.  I must have seen it theatrically at least a half-dozen times while it was out.

It was a particularly brilliant move on the part of the filmmakers to cast Leslie Nielsen as Dr. Rumack in the film.  Nielsen was at that point a regular guest star on every TV show in production, and seemed to be settling into that career the way so many older actors do.  He was appearing in films like "Day of the Animals" and "Viva Knievel!" and "The Poseidon Adventure," but this is a guy who had already played something like 80 speaking roles by that point, and who had been a leading man during the 50s. 

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<p>The mysterious street artist Banksy is both subject and filmmaker with the dazzling documentary 'Exit Through The Gift Shop'</p>

The mysterious street artist Banksy is both subject and filmmaker with the dazzling documentary 'Exit Through The Gift Shop'

Credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories

Review: 'Exit Through The Gift Shop' offers up intoxicating look at modern street art

Famed prankster Banksy makes a dizzying documentary debut

At the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, I made sure I was in the audience for the secret screening that turned out to be "The Girlfriend Experience."  When the 2010 festival's secret screening rolled around, I wasn't interested.  I heard the description of "Exit Through The Gift Shop" from someone and I opted for something else instead.

It's taken me eleven months to make up for this mistake.

The film begins as the story of Thierry Guetta, a boutique owner who loved to record everything with video cameras as a hobby.  He did that aimlessly for a while until he encountered a street artist named Invader and became interested in his work.  I get it.  I love Invader's work.  And honestly, I think my attitude to street art comes down to execution. You get points for doing anything well, and there's a lot of street art that I think is dazzling, amazing, a transformation of a mundane space into something exceptional.  I've been involved in my share of late-night adrenaline-fueled adventures, and "Exit Through The Gift Shop" does a lovely job up front of capturing that feeling, the seductive nature of being involved in something like this. 

As the main character, Thierry, starts to get more involved in what Invader is doing, he meets Shepard Fairey.  And here's the thing… I don't know how much of this is real and how much of this is a put-on, but the material about Fairey is all captured before his Obama image made him infamous.  They deal with his Andre the Giant picture, the ubiquitous "Obey" that was everywhere in Los Angeles, and it's really interesting to see this thing that I just continued part of the texture of my city explained and humanized.

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<p>Lena Dunham and Jemima Kirke co-star in the indie comedy 'Tiny Furniture'</p>

Lena Dunham and Jemima Kirke co-star in the indie comedy 'Tiny Furniture'

Credit: IFC Films

Review: Why has 'Tiny Furniture' turned Lena Dunham into a comedy sensation?

The much-hyped indie comedy finally hits theaters today

It has become almost impossible to avoid Lena Dunham at this point, and her first film "Tiny Furniture" is only hitting theaters today.  How does an independent filmmaker in her mid-20s go from a micro-budget comedy that seems, on the surface, like a hundred other mumblecore movies from the last half-dozen years and end up making an HBO series produced by Judd Apatow before it's even been released?

That's not all she's done, of course.  Scott Rudin also hired her to adapt Dash and Lily's Book of Dares.  So that's Rudin and Apatow both obviously impressed by "Tiny Furniture."  That seems like pretty strong endorsement.  And when you're talking about a very tiny film, sometimes that sort of endorsement can work against the movie by the time you see it.  I missed it at this year's SXSW, but the buzz has really only kicked in over the last few months.  At this point, Dunham's everywhere, and now people have a chance to see her film and get their introduction to her.

And, yes, I apologize for using that dreaded "m" word in the opening paragraph, but that's certainly the label that is easiest to apply to the general school of filmmaking that Dunham belongs to.  All that really means when most people use it is a certain sort of low-fi aesthetic and the basic subject matter of young people struggling to figure out their place in things.  Dunham stars in her film as Aura, a girl who has just graduated and who returns home so she can figure out her next step in life. 

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