<p>This poster for 'Dracula' is one of the posters featured in the book 'The Art of Hammer'</p>

This poster for 'Dracula' is one of the posters featured in the book 'The Art of Hammer'

Credit: Titan Press

Review: 'The Art Of Hammer' is pure film geek pleasure

Marcs Hearns delivers a lovely piece of film history in coffee-table book form

When I was first falling in love with horror movies, my main supplier was Dr. Paul Bearer on WTOG, Channel 44, in St. Petersburg.  When they started rotating Hammer films into the line-up in the mid-'70s, I remember thinking how much crazier they were than the '50s films or the classic Universal monster movies.  "The Gorgon.'  "I, Monster."  "The Curse Of Frankenstein."  "Dracula, Prince Of Darkness."  "Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed."  "Brides of Dracula."  "Curse of The Werewolf."  I vividly remember each of those films when they screened, and I remember the impact they had on me as I gradually pieced together Hammer as an entity.

Forry Ackerman's Famous Monsters was a great source for learning about the great British horror studios, and I was smitten with the occasional glimpses I'd get in the magazine of the wild poster art for those films.  I love British quads, which we don't really have an equivalent to in our own poster system, and I love painted posters of all types.  Having not grown up in England, though, my exposure to the Hammer posters has been limited, which is one of the reasons I was delighted when the new book The Art Of Hammer showed up at my house.

The other reason is because the book more than lives up to its potential, and is overstuffed with amazing images and great artwork.

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<p>Billy Bob Thornton sat down at the Four Seasons to discuss his new film 'Faster' with us</p>

Billy Bob Thornton sat down at the Four Seasons to discuss his new film 'Faster' with us

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Billy Bob Thornton gets ugly Leone-style in 'Faster'

We caught the actor in a great mood talking about his new movie

Some people pick up a reputation over the years with interviewers, and Billy Bob Thornton is one of those guys who I've heard both good and bad about, certainly. 

The thing is, when you look at the good interviews he's done, it seems like all he really wants is for people to have a real conversation with him instead of feeding him cues for pre-packaged sound bites like he's doing a trick.

When I sat down with him last Friday at the press day for "Faster," he was great from the moment I walked in the room.  Relaxed, engaged, and when the cameras finally rolled, we were already mid-conversation.

I think Thornton is a great character actor, the kind of guy we don't have enough of these days.  I cannot overstate how perfect I think his work in "A Simple Plan" is, and I think he approaches each role with a filmmaker's perspective, which makes sense. 

He is, after all, a writer.  He's a director.  And he's been an actor long enough to be a guy who has taken jobs because he just plain needed work.  And so when he has an opinion, and when he's a collaborator on a film, I think he brings something special to the mix.

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<p>Colin Firth stars as King George VI&nbsp;in the new film 'The King's Speech'</p>

Colin Firth stars as King George VI in the new film 'The King's Speech'

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: Colin Firth & Geoffrey Rush make 'The King's Speech' a delight

Director Tom Hooper takes a big step forward with this crowd-pleasing character study

Every now and then, there's a film that builds a head of critical steam, typically right after a film festival, and no matter how much people try to explain the movie to me or how hard they sell it, the thing just feels like homework.  When I was at Toronto this year, there was a choice on the first morning of the festival between two press screenings.  One was "Black Swan," and the other was "The King's Speech," and I chose "Black Swan."  No hesitation.  And as soon as the screenings were over, the buzz on both films began, and it's been building ever since.  And after each earnest recommendation, I would smile and think, "I'm sure I'll get to it," but without any real passion or energy.  It just felt like a chore based on the descriptions.

Now that I've caught up with the film, I feel silly for resisting it as long as I did.  Tom Hooper's done some really solid work in the past.  I thought "John Adams" was an impressive piece of period drama and "The Damned United" is a really solid movie that never quite tipped over into great for me.  With "The King's Speech," Hooper takes a big step forward, crafting a canny tale of a friendship based on need, one that happened across class and national boundaries, and one that changed the course of England's fate in WWII.  Although King George VI has been portrayed in various films and television shows over the years, this is the first time the story of his private struggle with a speech impediment has been the focus of a film, and while that doesn't immediately sound like the most compelling story to tell, the screenplay by David Seidler is very canny in terms of what details it uses to tell the story, and it gives some great material to Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, who both respond with some of the best work of their careers.

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<p>Mark Wahlberg, seen here in 'The Fighter,' is apparently set to reteam with his director David O. Russell for the adventure film 'Uncharted'</p>

Mark Wahlberg, seen here in 'The Fighter,' is apparently set to reteam with his director David O. Russell for the adventure film 'Uncharted'

Credit: Paramount Pictures

The Morning Read: Mark Wahlberg confirms he'll be hunting treasure in 'Uncharted' for David O. Russell

Plus the UK Film Council backs Hammer & Tongs and Kanye keeps stirring up trouble

Welcome to The Morning Read.

I am heartily looking forward to whatever David O. Russell's "Uncharted" is going to be, because I'll tell you what it absolutely won't be:  any video game movie we've seen so far.  I've enjoyed both of the "Uncharted" games, and I think they're ambitious in the way they use story animations to move from challenge to challenge, and they both feature strong performances and fun adventure and action set pieces.  I don't think they are such brilliant narrative accomplishments that I'm going to get worked up about anything that Russell wants to change as he writes the script and directs the film.  All I care about is the movie itself, and I'm guessing Russell isn't going to get hung up on trying to translate the game directly, and is instead focused on making a movie.

Now it looks like we know for sure that Mark Wahlberg, Joe Pesci, and Robert De Niro are part of that plan.  Wahlberg just gave an interview where he makes it sound like his own participation is a done deal.  When I was at the "Fighter" premiere for the AFI, I was in the row where Joe Pesci and his guests were sitting, and I wasn't sure what direct connection Pesci had to Russell or Wahlberg.  Looks like this is going to be an R-rated adventure movie, because if it's not, I'm not sure why you would want to cast those two guys as the uncles of Nathan Drake.

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<p>The Lone Ranger, seen here in his recent Dynamite Comics incarnation drawn by John Cassaday, is officially on his way back to the bigscreen in a film with Johnny Depp directed by Gore Verbinski</p>

The Lone Ranger, seen here in his recent Dynamite Comics incarnation drawn by John Cassaday, is officially on his way back to the bigscreen in a film with Johnny Depp directed by Gore Verbinski

Credit: Dynamite Comics

Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp officially saddle up for 'Lone Ranger'

Depp's schedule shaping up with one blockbuster after another

Some lucky journalists are going to get an early look at "Rango" footage soon, and I'm curious to hear the reactions to the latest collaboration between Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp.  I know that before they left on their four-month trip, both Toshi and Allen were mesmerized by the "Rango" trailer, asking to see it at least once a day, and in Allen's case, three or four times a day for a week or two.

As Depp wraps up work on "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," his first time playing Captain Jack Sparrow without Verbinski as director, he's looking at spending much of his next year playing with familiar partners.  He recently cemented plans to shoot "Dark Shadows" with Tim Burton at the start of the year, and it sounds like he'll segue right afterwards into "The Lone Ranger," where he'll play Tonto for Verbinski, who will direct from a script by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio with rewrites by Justin Haythe.

It's funny that The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet are, technically speaking, related.  The characters share a common creator, George W. Trendle, and they share familial bonds that explain why they share the same mask and a fondness for a hyper-capable sidekick.  They are very similar film properties in some regards.  People recognize the iconography of the titles, and they may know some character names like Kato or Tonto, but when it comes down to it, if you asked any random hundred people on the street to tell you the story, they couldn't.  As a result, you've got a lot of latitude for how faithful you have to be in building a modern-day version of the story for audiences.

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<p>Dwayne Johnson laughs as he discusses his new revenge thriller 'Faster'</p>

Dwayne Johnson laughs as he discusses his new revenge thriller 'Faster'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Dwayne Johnson on 'Faster' and his return to action

Which John Boorman film did George Tillman Jr. show him during production?

If you read the article I published this weekend about the Jack Reacher books and Paramount's involvement in them, then you already know part of what Dwayne Johnson and I discussed when we sat down last Friday at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills.

Some, but not all.  I've spoken with him enough times that I feel comfortable with the occasional digression.  I think that's where the Reacher talk came from.  It's also why we ended up talking about "Point Blank," and it's the reason the entire interview sort of zips by.

It's interesting, because as much as I'd love to talk about whatever dynamic there is between him and Billy Bob Thornton, but this is a movie where the two protagonists are largely kept apart.  It's a very specific type of performance, and I like that Johnson is able to bring something new to each time we sit down to talk.

It's a short chat, but that's fine.  I've got one long interview with Johnson from the set of "Fast Five" already stored on my hard drive, and I'll be seeing him again next week as well.  I'm starting to suspect that he's been cloned, and there's an army of Dwayne Johnsons slowly taking over Hollywood.

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<p>Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi sit down together to discuss the new Disney animated fairy tale 'Tangled'</p>

Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi sit down together to discuss the new Disney animated fairy tale 'Tangled'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Mandy Moore and Zach Levi discuss Disney's 'Tangled'

The duo talk about acting and singing in the fairy tale comedy

On this film, it makes a lot of sense to interview Mandy Moore and Zach Levi together.  After all, the film ultimately boils down to the chemistry between the two of them.

So of course you're dealing with a process that never really puts actors in the same place at the same time.

I'm not a rabid fan of "Chuck," but I've seen enough of it to know it's a solid show and has a fun cast, and in my house, Zach Levi is a superstar because both the five-year-old and the two-year-old love "The Squeakquel".  He's playing a Han Solo variation on a Disney prince here, and he does it very well.  You can tell he's having fun in pretty much every moment of the film, too.

Mandy Moore is someone I never gave a fair shot at first because of her pop princess origins, but over time, I've become convinced that she is an untapped resource, a natural and charming actress who just hasn't had that great role yet.

It's not easy bringing something new to the Disney hero and heroine, but I'd say both Levi and Moore manage the trick in the film.  And in addition, the film's a legitimate musical, and both of them have some fairly hefty vocal work required of them at various points.

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<p>Greetings, program.</p>

Greetings, program.

Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal goes inside the 'Source Code' in new trailer

Will this be Duncan Jones' "Southland Tales?"

The trailer for "Source Code" hit the web this week and it looks like a doozy of a movie. It seems that Jake Gyllenhaal plays a kind of time astronaut who is repeatedly quantum-leaped into the body of a passenger aboard a doomed train in order to find out who bombed the thing. To put it simply: "The source code enables you to cross over into another man's identity for the last eight minutes of his life."  Oh boy.

Of course the doomed man he possesses happens to have a doomed beautiful girlfriend (Michelle Monaghan) on that doomed train and, well it seems things get complicated. The trailer moves quickly and seems to get all the important concepts across quickly and easily. Even the conceptual environment of Jake being "inside a computer program" looks pretty matter of fact. This is slightly worrisome.

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<p>Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) and Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) share a very special moment in 'Tangled,' the 50th animated feature from Walt Disney</p>

Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) and Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) share a very special moment in 'Tangled,' the 50th animated feature from Walt Disney

Credit: Walt Disney Feature Animation

Review: 'Tangled' is a lovely, energetic return to form for Disney Feature Animation

Mandy Moore, Zach Levi, Donna Murphy all excel in animated roles

It is appropriate that "Tangled" is the 50th feature-length animated film from the Walt Disney Company, as it manages to look both back and forward at the same time, embodying where the studio has been and where it's headed in the future.  It is a lovely, funny movie, surprisingly modest in scale and ambition, and better for it.  The focus is split between truly innovative animation that blends several different schools of thought and a screenplay that doesn't innovate in the slightest, but that plays things at just the right pitch.

Put simply, "Tangled" is exactly what it should be.

It is an important time for Walt Disney Feature Animation.  The studio as a whole is a robust, well-oiled machine that manages to course correct no matter what stumbles they make.  They make a lot of money from their singles, their doubles, and their triples, and then every now and then, they make an "Alice In Wonderland" that makes a billion dollars, and then they all get naked and roll around in dollar bills inside that freaky building with the dwarves on it on the Burbank lot.  Or at least, that's what I heard.

Point is, the studio will be fine, but that's not enough.  All that other stuff, that's what came after Walt Disney built the foundation for the studio on animation, and while they could just coast on the work that Pixar is doing, that's not enough either.  It's a point of pride.  Walt Disney Feature Animation needs to be doing good work.  They need to be making movies that add to the tradition, that honor the name.  It's important.

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<p>There's an animated sequence in the new film 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1' that may have just won a new job for its director</p>

There's an animated sequence in the new film 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1' that may have just won a new job for its director

Credit: Warner Bros.

The Morning Read: 'Harry Potter' animation director signs on for a brand-new 'Pan'

Plus Nic Cage freaks out and Pixar says 'It gets better'

Welcome to The Morning Read.

I'm off to a late start today.  There was that breaking "Buffy" news, the "Tangled" interview, and some running around to get ready for the rest of the week.  But now I'm ready to sit down and see what's been going on while I've been busy.

It appears a whooooole lot of people went to see "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1" this weekend, and if you did, there's a good chance one of the things you remember most about the film is that animated sequence they used to tell the story of The Three Brothers, the exposition necessary to make sense of the Deathly Hallows.  Ben Hibon directed that sequence, it turns out, and now he may be signed on to direct the Ben Magid script "Pan."  That's intriguing news.  I remember reading "Pan" back when it was first set up with Guillermo Del Toro attached as director.  It's a refiguring of the Peter Pan archetypes that plays as a dark murder-mystery with Hook as a police detective tracking a killer.  It's about as far from the original J. M. Barrie story as possible, and I'm a firm believer that Barrie's work is already jet-black to begin with, filled with rich subtextual material for new writers to explore in a million different ways.  If the new "Potter" is what it took to kickstart Hibon as a filmmaker, it sounds like a real win all the way around, because he ended up contributing one of the best moments in the series, a pivotal piece of Potter folklore.

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