<p>&quot;Give me your wife, Green Zone.&quot; &quot;My name in the film isn't Green Zone, you dummy, and besides, you haven't looked like that in 20 years.&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Whatever, Green Zone. &nbsp;Hand her over.&quot;</p>

"Give me your wife, Green Zone." "My name in the film isn't Green Zone, you dummy, and besides, you haven't looked like that in 20 years." "Whatever, Green Zone.  Hand her over."

Credit: Universal Pictures

Are Matt Damon and Ben Affleck trading wives with Dave Mandel?

'The Trade,' an acclaimed Black List script, may reunite the 'Good Will Hunting' stars

This sounds awesome.

According to Mike Fleming, Ben Affleck is now attached to direct and possibly star in "The Trade" for Warner Bros., and there is a chance that the film will reunite the stars of "Good Will Hunting" in major starring roles.

The script first hit the radar for a lot of people this past December when it made the 2009 Black List, an informal survey of well-liked in-development projects.  At the time, I noticed only because I like Dave Mandel, a "Seinfeld" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" writer who was the man who put pen to paper here.

It's a true story about New York Yankees Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich, who swapped wives at the start of the 1973 season.  You add in the extra "wow" of Affleck playing Peterson and Damon playing Kekich, and that sounds like Warner Bros. has pretty much a sure thing on their hands.

Mandel is a very smart and funny guy, and this is easily going to be the biggest thing he's been associated with so far.  I love "Seinfeld" and "Curb," but those are someone else's playground.  Here, it sounds like Affleck's going to work with Mandel to polish the script, so hopefully he'll stay on for the whole thing.  Especially on projects like this, where there's a real voice to the story you're telling, you want some consistency of vision.  It's better that way.

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<p>Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor match wits (or do they?) in the sly and entertaining new thriller 'The Ghost Writer,' directed by Roman Polanski.</p>

Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor match wits (or do they?) in the sly and entertaining new thriller 'The Ghost Writer,' directed by Roman Polanski.

Credit: Summit Entertainment

'The Ghost Writer' is a sleek and satisfying thriller for grown-ups

Old-fashioned enough to seem cutting-edge, the film entertains

There is something fundamentally old-fashioned about the construction and delivery of Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer," based on the novel by Robert Harris.  And, man, I wish someone else had directed this exact same film, because it would make the conversation about it so much easier.

It seems to me sometimes that movies play a game of one-upsmanship that ultimately hobbles the audience, in which filmmakers feel the need to "top" what has come before at the price of making solid films that simply tell a story well.  I enjoy watching the Jason Bourne movies, but did I need every single action movie or thriller of the last five years to mercilessly copy those movies?  Nope.  I actually like it when a "thriller" remembers that it doesn't have to bombard me with sound and image for its full running time, stunt after empty stunt piled on in hopes that I pay no attention to the story or the lack thereof.  It is with open arms, then, that I welcome "The Ghost Writer," a film that manages to distill a very real anger that exists in today's society into a sleek, well-constructed adult entertainment.

I've seen a few people already knock "The Ghost Writer" because it draws its paranoid conspiracy underpinnings from reality, barely bothering to disguise the things it's talking about, but when did that become a sin?  One of the reasons we got so many great paranoia thrillers in the '70s was because filmmakers were willing to let the real world bleed into their films, because they took their own very real fear and fury and made it part of the entertainment that they were making.  Do I think "The Ghost Writer" is the equal of something like "The Parallax View" or "The Conversation"?  No.  Do I think it's worth seeing, though, and an honorable entry in the genre?  Absolutely.

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<p>Alex Raymond's original 'Flash Gordon' comic strip is the main source of inspiration for director Breck Eisner's new film version of the classic SF&nbsp;character.</p>

Alex Raymond's original 'Flash Gordon' comic strip is the main source of inspiration for director Breck Eisner's new film version of the classic SF character.

Credit: King Features Syndicate

Breck Eisner talks about his goals for 'Flash Gordon'

Don't expect to hear Queen singing the theme this time around

We are entering a new age of cinematic pulp.

I know for some audiences, the word "pulp" makes them immediately think of Quentin Tarantino, thanks to the way he staked his claim on it in the '90s, but for some of us, pulp is a particular flavor of fantastic fiction that has only been flirted with in recent years.  "Avatar" may have felt brand new to many audiences, but I thought it was a big fat slice of pulp science-fiction, unapologetic about it.  And with "John Carter Of Mars" in production now and Sam Raimi talking about "The Shadow" and Shane Black writing a new "Doc Savage"... well, it feels like now's the time if you are sitting on a pulp property worth doing.

And when I spoke with director Breck Eisner today about his new film "The Crazies," I had to ask him what is up with "Flash Gordon," a project he's been associated with for a while now.  There was a immediate difference in him, like he perked up.  He sounds happy with "The Crazies," but he sounds positively rabid about "Flash Gordon."

"'Flash Gordon' is a project I've been passionate about for years and that I've been pursuing for years.  I love sci-fi.  I absolutely am obssessed with sci-fi," he told me.  "The 'Flash Gordon' that we're currently writing... we're turning in the script in a month or so.  Maybe two months." 

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<p>George Lucas has long wanted to tell the story of 'Red Tails,' about the Tuskegee Airmen, and rumor has the project facing even more trouble in post-production.</p>

George Lucas has long wanted to tell the story of 'Red Tails,' about the Tuskegee Airmen, and rumor has the project facing even more trouble in post-production.

Is George Lucas directing major reshoots on 'Red Tails'?

Will his Terrence Howard/Cuba Gooding Jr. movie make its release date?

Is this a case of publicists playing cover-your-ass, or is it a case of information being taken out of context?  Let's break it down and see if we can figure it out. 

According to a report on First Showing, the long-in-gestation Lucasfilm project "Red Tails" has taken another step back on its road to release, and at this point, if there was a new story tomorrow that somehow all the dailies and negatives for the film were somehow burned, I would not be surprised.

For those who are not familiar with the film's history, "Red Tails" is a story about the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, and for those not familiar with real history, the Tuskegee Airmen was a fighting unit, the 332nd Fighter Group of the US Army Air Corps, to be exact, made up of all African-American pilots.  Since that was the 1940s, that was downright revolutionary, not just progressive, and it was an uphill battle against the realities of race relations the entire time.  It's a truly important story, and since the early '90s, George Lucas has been talking about making this film.  I think I remember hearing this title around the same time I first heard Lucas talking about "Radioland Murders."

I've learned not to believe Lucas when he vaguely discusses projects that might or might not happen at some point, because I think he talks a good game but rarely delivers.  When "Red Tails" went in front of the camera last year with Anthony Hemingway directing, I was shocked.  Pleased, but shocked.  Mr. Beaks wrote an excellent report on the film's script, and if you're curious to see what story Lucas is telling about these important military heroes, check out that Beaks article.

According to First Showing's report, things didn't exactly go as planned.

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<p>Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams do some of the best work of their careers in the searing 'Blue Valentine'</p>

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams do some of the best work of their careers in the searing 'Blue Valentine'

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Sundance 2010: 'Blue Valentine'

A heartfelt review of the heartfelt film from this year's Sundance Film Festival

Marriage and love are not the same thing, and one is not enough to guarantee the other, no matter what we want or think we deserve.

I can honestly say that in my nearly 40 years alive, the single most complex, frustrating, terrifying, rewarding, and influential relationship I've had with anyone is the one I have with my wife.  Every marriage is different, offering different reasons for the union between the two people, and every marriage comes with its own built-in pitfalls and stumbling blocks.  No one can truly understand or judge a marriage from the outside, and even the people in the marriage are often hard-pressed to fully explain it to themselves.

I was thinking about this earlier when I noticed, of all things, my Facebook "relationship" status that just says "Drew is married."  What does that really tell anyone about the emotional rollercoaster ride that I'm on as I deal with issues of money, children, career, intimacy, honesty, communication, passion, language, culture, travel, and the future on a daily basis?  What does that simple phrase tell you about our joys, our sorrows, our highs, our lows, our wants, our needs, or our shared history?  Nothing.  And yet marriage is all of that and more.

For Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams), marriage is a journey that seems to be nearing an end, and in a narrative that bounces from past to present, from start to finish, from cause to effect, director Derek Cianfrance does an expert job of charting the way love waxes and wanes and the incredible difficulty of making it out of any marriage in one piece.  It is sobering work, exquisitely observed and acted with a searing emotional honesty.  My first year at Sundance, back in 2001, I was blown away by Ryan Gosling's work in "The Believer," and now, nine years later, I find myself once again flattened by his work.  Dean is all impulse, all surface, everything about him easy to read.  He's an uncomplicated guy, and that seems to be a good thing for him.  It's charming when he's young and Cindy's just getting to know him, but it's nowhere near as cute when he's closer to forty than thirty and they're trying to raise a child.

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<p>You know why Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep are dancing in 'It's Complicated'?&nbsp;&nbsp;Because their biggest problem in the world is who to bang.&nbsp; Ahhhhh, the travails of the grotesquely rich.</p>

You know why Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep are dancing in 'It's Complicated'?  Because their biggest problem in the world is who to bang.  Ahhhhh, the travails of the grotesquely rich.

Credit: Universal Pictures

QuickFix: 'It's Complicated' is simple-minded lifestyle porn

More of the same from one of the unfunniest comedy directors working

I think it boils down to a fundamental philisophical difference of opinion. 

I just plain don't like the stories Nancy Meyers tells or the people she tells stories about, and I don't believe the behavior of anyone in her films.  I think she is a terrible observer of human behavior, and as a result, the "comedy" in her films hits me all wrong.  I find myself irritated with her characters and the situations instead of laughing.

In a way, I'd say "It's Complicated" is her masterpiece, by the technical definition.  She's taken every single thing I despise about her work and cranked it up to eleven, and the result is a film that I found infuriating.  She's never gotten further under my skin, and so it's obvious she is refining her approach from picture to picture.  There has never been a film that more fully embodies all that is "Nancy Meyers," and perhaps that's why I spent most of my time watching my screener of this film wishing for it to end.

To be fair, Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, and John Krasinski all do exactly what they were hired to do, and with a fair amount of precision.  They are all expert comic actors, and they do their very best to make it interesting.  Watching them flounder and watching the way they score laughs is genuinely educational.  Baldwin, of course, has ripened into one of the biggest cheeseballs in Hollywood, and in the most glorious sense of what that means.  He is ridiculous on "30 Rock," a lunk of a cartoon of a lunk.  It's a special sort of actor who can make the jump from "movie star male lead" to "beloved comedy presence," and I think Baldwin's done it better than William Shatner, precisely because of the ways he lets the brakes off his male ego.  He's got it cranked up here, but the script just isn't good enough to give him anything really worth doing. 

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<p>Seriously... in a fight between an Alien, a Predator, and Clint Eastwood from 'Gran Torino,' who are you going to put money on?&nbsp; Hint:&nbsp; only Clint Eastwood is real.</p>

Seriously... in a fight between an Alien, a Predator, and Clint Eastwood from 'Gran Torino,' who are you going to put money on?  Hint:  only Clint Eastwood is real.

Credit: Rebellion/Sega/WHV

DVD & Games Forecast: Clint Eastwood's career gets boxed and 'Aliens Vs. Predator' fights once more

'GoodFellas' turns Blu at 20 and Criterion does 'Lola Montes,' 'Revenche,' and 'Hunger'

Welcome to the DVD & Games Forecast.

For what seems like a slow week, it's gonna get pretty expensive for me when I make it to the store.  There aren't a ton of titles, but the ones worth picking up are REALLY worth picking up, so let's get right to it, eh?

THIS WEEK'S FEATURED TITLES:

"GoodFellas - 20th Anniversary Edition" (BluRay)

As we prepare for the release of "Shutter Island" this weekend, it's a good time to look back at the work of Martin Scorsese, and it's nice of Warner Bros. to put out this BluRay edition of one of his best films just in time.  I was impressed by the picture quality right off the bat because the Michael Balhaus photography has always been particularly tricky to reproduce at home.  As the film progresses through time, there are subtle shifts in the image that pay off thematically, and for the first time, I feel like this version of the film gets it all right.  The sound quality is just as impressive.  The extra features are primarily recycled, including a very good documentary on Warner Bros. gangster films that I swear I own five different times, but no matter.  If you're a fan of the film, there's no reason to hesitate.  This is absolutely worth the price.

"Lola Montes" (BluRay/DVD)
"Revenche" (BluRay/DVD)
"Hunger" (BluRay/DVD)

Okay, Criterion, do you really want to hear a grown man cry?

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<p>Hugo Weaving plays Detective Abberline, on the heels of Benicio Del Toro's character in 'The Wolfman,' which opened this weekend.</p>

Hugo Weaving plays Detective Abberline, on the heels of Benicio Del Toro's character in 'The Wolfman,' which opened this weekend.

Credit: Universal Pictures

The M/C Interview: Hugo Weaving on 'The Wolfman'

Learn why he's playing a real person in Universal's monster movie remake

I ran a lot of interviews I did for "The Wolfman" last week, and in each case, I upset someone because of spoilers.  It's hard to talk about that film with the cast and not have the urge to talk about some of the crazier third act moments.

In the case of my talk with Hugo Weaving, we ended up talking about the punchline to the movie, so I decided to hold the interview until after opening weekend.  By now, you've probably seen the film, or you know if you're going to see it, and so read on at your own risk.  It's a brief talk, but a pleasure.  I've been a fan of Weaving's for a lot of years:

Hugo Weaving:  Hello, Drew?

Drew:  Mr. Weaving.

Hugo:  Oh, hi.

Drew:  It is a great pleasure to speak with you, sir.

Hugo:  Thank you.

Drew:  It is interesting the way at the beginning of this decade, you were pretty much in every giant geek movie being made.  Between “The Matrix” and “Lord of the Rings” it seemed like you pretty much dominated everything I wrote about at “Ain’t It Cool” for about six years.

Hugo:  Right.

Drew:  Now with “The Wolfman,” you're tackling another geek icon.  Was the original something that you were familiar with or a fan of before you were asked to be involved with this one?

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<p>Today's most interesting stories include a possible new spin on 'Taxi Driver' from Martin Scorsese and Lars Von Trier and a way for you to demand 'Frozen' in your own local theater.</p>

Today's most interesting stories include a possible new spin on 'Taxi Driver' from Martin Scorsese and Lars Von Trier and a way for you to demand 'Frozen' in your own local theater.

Credit: Lionsgate/SPHE

TMR: Von Trier vs Scorsese vs 'Taxi Driver' and how to see 'Frozen' locally

Plus a little bit of 'Batman' rumor-killing and the secret career of John Hughes

Welcome to The Morning Read.

Last week got crazy busy, and the Morning Read suffered for it. Such is the ebb and flow of columns, I suppose, but here we are at the start of a new week, and there's more than a little bit to talk about, so no time to waste...

First, there's the report that began with the Danish magazine Echo over the weekend. Congratulations are due to the Danish magazine Echo, because I now know that the Dutch magazine Echo exists. Well-played. The "news," such as it is, sounded like Lars Von Trier, the cinematic terrorist behind "Anti-Christ," "Breaking The Waves, and " "Dancer In The Dark," had made a deal with Martin Scorsese to remake "Taxi Driver" with Robert De Niro starring in it. And, suitably, people exploded because that is sacred ground, and taken at face value, there's something almost numbing about reading "remake of 'Taxi Driver'" at this point in pop culture's Ouroboros.

The truth, though, is actually exciting in a "what if?" sort of a way.  It doesn't sound like any deal has been made to do anything, but Scorsese is a self-avowed Von Trier fan, which makes perfect sense.  There's a playful appreciation of form to even the most punishing of Von Trier's films, and I think Scorsese is the sort of film nerd who gets a boner from mise en scene and aesthetic formalism in people's work.  He loves movies where the director's hand is evident, and he has a love for the classic Hollywood women's pictures.  There was a sense in all of those films that being a woman is rough because the universe has it in for them, and if Scorsese was reared on those, as he seems to have been, it's no wonder he tunes in to what Von Trier does.  Now... does that mean he's going to take on a challenge from Von Trier, a la "The Five Obstructions"?  That's another question, and he's got a really full plate in the next few years, starting with his upcoming kid's film "The Invention Of Hugo Cabret," which goes in front of the camera this summer.  It's a love-letter look at a young boy who becomes friends with Georges Melies in Paris, and early reports indicate it'll be the first 3D film from Scorsese.  He also still wants to make "Silence" and several other already-announced projects, so I'm not sure where he'd find time to do it.  And the translation of the piece from Echo leaves a lot of room for uncertainty.

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<p>Mariel Hemingway and Woody Allen make an unlikely couple in the classic 'Manhattan'</p>

Mariel Hemingway and Woody Allen make an unlikely couple in the classic 'Manhattan'

Credit: MGM/UA

The Basics: 'Manhattan' casts a long shadow over the romantic comedy genre

Just how much can one movie be ripped off over the years?

If you're not familiar with The Basics, a new occasional column here at HitFix, then you should read this article.  And this one.

And if you haven't read the first response column from William Goss yet, in which he talks about his reaction to "Duck Soup," then by all means, check it out.

After that first column, I was asked by producer Keith Calder if anyone was allowed to write a response column to The Basics, or if it's just Goss.  And after Goss and I discussed it, we like the idea that anyone can play along if they want to.  I would love it if other people jumped in and added their voices to the mix.  After I write a challenge piece to Goss, if anyone else feels like responding, please just e-mail me a link to your piece, and we'll make sure to include links the next time around.

I figured in keeping with today's date, and also because the movie "Valentine's Day" was released this weekend as part of the genre called "Romantic Comedies" that are neither romantic nor funny, I thought it would be fitting to take a look back at a film that has been ripped off so mercilessly for so many years and by so many films that when Goss watches it, I anticipate he'll get a wicked case of deja vu.

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