<p>Cowboys, meet aliens!</p>

Cowboys, meet aliens!

Credit: Universal Pictures

Interview: Bob Orci talks about taking 'Cowboys and Aliens' seriously

Robert Downey Jr. almost played the role of Jake Lonergan

SANTA FE – One of the joys of the “Cowboys and Aliens” set visit was getting to hang out with Bob Orci. The guy is a bundle of energy and really likes to talk about his projects. For ‘Cowboys’ he’s performing double duties as writer and as producer, so he had spent a better part of the past three months before our visit on set in the New Mexico desert. As I mentioned before, the set had a light and happy mood, or perhaps everyone was just happy to have someone new to talk to.

Ever since the trailer premiered last week, there has been talk, most notably in the New York Times about audience expectations about a movie with such a flatly comedic title like “Cowboys and Aliens” but a very serious tone, even in the trailer. Orci was aware of this disconnect and talked to us about the various directions they thought about going tone-wise before settling on “Western, interrupted.” He looked upon it as an advantage.

We all know of movies that work really well for the online film folks and the Comic Con crowd, but falter when they hit the less “quirky” world of mainstream audiences (Scott-COUGH-Pilgrim-COUGH.) Obviously with talent like Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig and Olivia Wilde, Orci and company do not mean for this picture to only appeal to a niche audience, even though the film is based loosely on a comic book by Scott Michael Rosenberg and Damon Lindelof. Mr. Orci seemed confident that they had enough lead time to get audiences used to the idea of a non-ironic movie with a very ironic title. Time will tell if he was right.

Read Full Post
<p>I have a feeling Olivia Wilde, seen here at the press day for 'TRON:&nbsp;Legacy' would have a much bigger career if only she weren't so terribly, terribly unattractive.</p>

I have a feeling Olivia Wilde, seen here at the press day for 'TRON: Legacy' would have a much bigger career if only she weren't so terribly, terribly unattractive.

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Olivia Wilde talks about bringing 'TRON: Legacy' to life

Plus a bit of chat about her mysterious role in 'Cowboys and Aliens'

When you are asked, "Would you like to spend time sitting in a room talking to Olivia Wilde?" the correct answer is always "yes."

Thankfully, it seems that many more opportunities for that situation will be presenting themselves in the year ahead, because she is basically the female Sam Worthington now, suddenly cast in every potential blockbuster, and once people start to see the work she's doing in these films, my guess is that even more offers are going to start to roll in.

I may not be the biggest fan of "TRON: Legacy" overall, but there are things that I think undeniably work about it.  First and foremost, Olivia Wilde's performance in the film is alive in a  way that almost nothing else about it is.  She plays Quorra, a key collaborator for Flynn in the time he's spent hiding somewhere inside the computer world of the film. 

Who is Quorra?  More importantly, what is Quorra?  These questions and the answers to them are some of the most compelling things about the film, and if there's anything in the movie that felt genuine or human, it is due to the way she reacts to the circumstances she faces in the film.

Read Full Post
<p>I'm gonna go out on a limb and predict there's more of this in the new film, 'Transformers:&nbsp;Dark Of The Moon&quot;... but in 3D!</p>

I'm gonna go out on a limb and predict there's more of this in the new film, 'Transformers: Dark Of The Moon"... but in 3D!

Credit: Paramount/Dreamworks

First teaser for 'Transformers: Dark Of The Moon' debuts

Updated: Watch the trailer that poses numerous questions

The "Transformers" films so far have managed to frustrate many different demographics in many different ways.  I liked the first film, more than I typically like Michael Bay's movies, but it seemed to make the hardcore "Transformers" fans from the '80s crazy because of all the ways it messed around with the characters and situations they knew.  The second film frustrated anyone who likes coherence or narrative structure or non-racist robots.  And the idea of Michael Bay shooting a 3D movie for the third chapter in the franchise sounds like a whole new form of motion sickness waiting to be invented.

Today is the launch for the official marketing campaign on "Transformers: Dark Of The Moon," the new sequel, and the biggest news for fans of the series is the release of the teaser trailer that you can see now in HD on Apple.com.  It's a big teaser, too, set during the Apollo 11 moon landing, and the response today has been favorable from most people, even those who didn't like the first or the second film.  I'm guessing this is actual footage from the film, not just something shot for a trailer, and it looks like the set-up for the film, a reveal that we found a crashed Autobots ship on the moon, complete with not-quite-dead robots inside.

Maybe I'm dumb, but wasn't the teaser trailer for the first film pretty much the exact same idea, but set decades later and on Mars?

And if you were the people making "Apollo 18," wouldn't this teaser trailer give you fits?

Read Full Post
<p>Michelle Williams will break your heart in 'Blue Valentine,' and now she does it with an &quot;R&quot;&nbsp;rating instead of the patently-absurd &quot;NC-17.&quot;</p>

Michelle Williams will break your heart in 'Blue Valentine,' and now she does it with an "R" rating instead of the patently-absurd "NC-17."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

'Blue Valentine' rating overturned on appeal

What does this mean for the film's Oscar chances?

"Blue Valentine," the piercing new drama by Derek Cianfrance starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, has won its appeal against the NC-17 rating originally awarded to the film by the MPAA's ratings board.  The film will now be released with an "R" rating on December 31st by the Weinstein Company.

What does this appeal mean in regards to the MPAA overall, and what does this mean to the film as an awards season contender?  Those two questions have both come up in the last few weeks in multiple conversations about the film, and I think both questions have answers that can be seen as either troubling or promising depending on your perspective.

For example, the Classification and Ratings Administration, or CARA, which is the actual voting body of the MPAA that handles the ratings, has been changing in the last few years, and I would argue that this appeal has to be viewed as part of a continuity of events that indicates that the CARA's decisions are just as random and baffling as ever, but that the appeals process has finally been fixed, meaning filmmakers have a real shot at getting a reversal on those totally arbitrary decisions at this point. 

The reason I think the system has started to work is because of one revision in the rules on the appeal process, allowing for appeals to cite precedent.  That's so important, such a fundamental idea, that it seems bizarre that it's a recent development.  When you can point at a moment from an earlier film that was rated "R" and show that it was either the same or more graphic than a moment you're fighting for in your own movie, it's invaluable.

The following quotes were sent over from The Weinstein Company in response to today's appeal:

“All of us – the filmmakers and cast – were united in our support for the film in its original form.  After presenting our case to the MPAA appeal board today, they were convinced of the artistic nature of Blue Valentine and recognized that it was consistent with the kind of movies for which The Weinstein Company is known.  We appreciate their decision to give the film an ‘R’ rating,” stated TWC Co-Chair Harvey Weinstein, who led the appeal with a team of attorneys including Alan R. Friedman and David Boies.

“Every so often you get to stand up for something that you believe in.  We believed in presenting relationships and sexuality with an honesty and truthfulness often lacking in the grand tradition of Hollywood sensationalism,” stated Derek Cianfrance.  “I am thankful the MPAA saw the light and were humble enough to reverse their decision, and I am also thankful for all the support from the industry and fans of Blue Valentine.  This is a victory for free speech and artistic integrity.”

“I am so appreciative that the MPAA was gracious enough to reconsider their rating of the film,” offered star Ryan Gosling.  “I can’t express how grateful I am to those in the media who stood up for the film and put their reputations on the line in using their voices to support something they believed in.  This is a film that was created for the audience, to reflect how complex they are and to involve them in a dialogue that Derek Cianfrance has been trying to engage them in for twelve years.  We’re over the moon to have the opportunity to finally be able to share it with those for whom it was intended.”

“It is amazing to be a part of this historic decision,” said Blue Valentine producer Jamie Patricof.  “While this has been a frustrating distraction from the film, the outpouring of support from the industry, journalists and film fans has been truly moving.  We are ecstatic, that the MPAA was able to see the honesty that Derek was able to achieve in this film and overturned the original rating, so the film can now be seen all across the world.”

Read Full Post
<p>The poster art for this year's Butt-Numb-A-Thon in Austin promises one of the manliest installments of the festival yet.</p>

The poster art for this year's Butt-Numb-A-Thon in Austin promises one of the manliest installments of the festival yet.

Credit: AICN

The Pre-NAT edition of the Motion/Captured Podcast

Plus a look at what's new onscreen and on video in December

'Tis the season.

And by "season," I mean that it is time for Butt-Numb-A-Thon, the 24-hour movie marathon created by Harry Knowles as the ultimate birthday for himself.

This is the 12th year of the festival, and I've been fortunate enough to attend all of them so far.  As I write this, I'm already in Austin, where I'll be making my way to the Alamo Drafthouse on Saturday, ready for another barrage of both new and vintage films, programmed by Harry for maximum effect.  I know a few things playing, and it's going to be a great year.  I love that I never know a single vintage title that will play, and that those are almost without fail the highlights of each year's line-up.

Scott Swan, my old friend and writing partner, is unable to join us in Austin this year, but he's been to many prior Butt-Numb-A-Thons.  As a result, he was the perfect guest to have on the podcast this week to talk about years past and what may happen this year.

We also run down the last few weeks of home video new-releases and we look at what's still coming out in these final days of 2010.  It's a loose and casual podcast overall, and one of the last ones for the year.  We may have a special holiday edition, and if things really work out, I'll run a couple of "best of" looks at the year's very best in Blu-ray with Scott by my side to sift through it all.

Read Full Post
<p>By the time the third 'Matrix' movie was released, the Wachowskis were viewed as major mainstream filmmakers, but 'Speed Racer' may have tarnished that.&nbsp; Will 'Hood' put them back on top?</p>

By the time the third 'Matrix' movie was released, the Wachowskis were viewed as major mainstream filmmakers, but 'Speed Racer' may have tarnished that.  Will 'Hood' put them back on top?

Credit: Warner Bros.

Will the Wachowskis play Robin 'Hood' with Will Smith?

The writing-directing team looks to update a classic myth in their next mainstream movie

I'm one of the critics who went on the record to defend "Speed Racer" when the film was released a few years ago, and I am confident that the film will grow in esteem over the years.  I am very curious to see how the Wachowskis overcome the baggage that has become attached to their names, and I'm confident they can do it. 

An important step may be the production of the film "Hood," which was just set up at Warner Bros.  Described as a "modern urban" version of the classic "Robin Hood" story, the most intriguing thing about the way the movie's coming together is the missed opportunity that the Wachowskis appear to be revisiting here.

Did you know Will Smith was very nearly Neo opposite Sean Connery as Morpheus in "The Matrix"?  How do you feel about that as an alternate version of the movie?  Can you imagine it?

If Will Smith wants to play a modern urban Robin Hood for the Wachowskis, I think that sounds like a great match, a great team-up, and it's exciting to think about what might result from that collaboration.  It sounds like the script is done, and with Warner Bros. coming onboard, this may come together quickly.

Read Full Post
<p>Sharlto Copely starred in Neil Blomkamp's Oscar-nominated debut film, 'District 9,' and the two will team again for 'Elysium'</p>

Sharlto Copely starred in Neil Blomkamp's Oscar-nominated debut film, 'District 9,' and the two will team again for 'Elysium'

Credit: SPHE

The Morning Read: Neil Blomkamp gets ready to depart for 'Elysium'

Plus the big 'Narnia' gamble and Louis CK dominates Jay Leno

Welcome to The Morning Read.

We're entering that time of the year when things get weird and schedules go wonky and I want to make sure that the Morning Read doesn't suffer.  I've had that happen before, and it becomes a hard habit to get back into if I let things get away from me.

It's certainly not for lack of material.  I was on the move last Friday, so we're talking about almost a week since the last Morning Read, and that means there's been an avalanche of links that I've bookmarked.  Let's see how many of them I can get through, working roughly backwards in chronology, starting with this morning's news that Neil Blomkamp is hard at work now setting up his next film, "Elysium."  It's exciting to hear that Sharlto Copley will be starring again for him.  I would love to get a hold of that graphic novel that Blomkamp is presenting to studios as they meet about the film, set on another planet in a distant future.  The cool thing here is that MRC is already committed to making the film.  All they're doing right now is looking for a distributor, something that should be very easy to pin down based on the amazing success of "District 9," both critically and financially.

Read Full Post
<p>Jang Dong and Danny Huston co-star in the new film 'The Warrior's Way' opening this weekend</p>

Jang Dong and Danny Huston co-star in the new film 'The Warrior's Way' opening this weekend

Credit: HitFix

Watch: The cast of 'The Warrior's Way' mixes cowboys and kung-fu

Danny Huston and Jang Dong bring East and West together

It's unusual for me to sit down to speak to cast from a film before I've actually seen the movie and even now, I still haven't seen "The Warrior's Way," which opened yesterday after spending some time on a shelf. 

That may not be promising, but I'm a fan of genre mash-ups, and one of my favorite in recent memory was the sensational "The Good, The Bad & The Weird," a movie that mixed Korean/Chinese history and American Western archetypes to amazing effect.

It sounds like "The Warrior's Way" is aiming for that same sort of mix of influences, and that's the main reason I agreed to sit down with Danny Huston and Jang Dong, the stars of the film.  Well, that and the fact that Huston hails from a Hollywood family that has demonstrated a mastery of genre for several generations now.

Jang Dong isn't a household name here in the U.S., but he's been in some remarkable Korean films.  In particular, I would recommend anyone who loves war films should track down "Tae Guk Ki," which Jang Bong was part of.  It's an amazing ensemble effort that offered up a perspective I'd never seen in film before.

Read Full Post
Watch: Natalie Portman spills the secrets of 'Black Swan'

Watch: Natalie Portman spills the secrets of 'Black Swan'

Watch her face when we mention 'Your Highness'

It's funny that I'd be posting this only a few days after I've posted an interview with Jeff Bridges, because this is pretty much the polar opposite in terms of performances.

I'll admit it… I'm a tech nerd.  I love the way technology and performance are increasingly combined for an end result these days.  But I am also a huge fan of performances where an actor pushes themselves to a physical extreme in pursuit of a transformation that no computer could accomplish.

One of the defining performances I saw as a young film fan growing up was Robert De Niro's in "Raging Bull."  I studied that film, looking at the way De Niro took himself from lean, polished, chiseled physical perfection to this bloated, ruined bag of fat, and it stuck with me because I couldn't imagine that being the same person.  Since then, we've seen other actors who have pushed themselves to extremes in order to create striking images and give life to stunning characters. 

Christian Bale practically built his early career on his ability to waste away to almost nothing, and if you saw Matt Damon in one of his early roles in "Courage Under Fire," what he did to himself in the film actually hurt him.  One of the reasons I would consider Michael Fassbender one of the most promising actors to emerge in the last few years is because of his harrowing work in "Hunger."  It's dangerous to push your body to extremes in either direction, which is one of the reasons we can't look away when we're watching it.

Read Full Post
<p>Garrett Hedlund starts to suspect he may be in trouble in a moment from Disney's megabudget new sequel, &quot;TRON:&nbsp;Legacy&quot;</p>

Garrett Hedlund starts to suspect he may be in trouble in a moment from Disney's megabudget new sequel, "TRON: Legacy"

Credit: Walt Disney Company

Review: 'TRON: Legacy" dazzles visually, but ultimately disappoints

Is it enough to just look and sound great?

In 1982, when the original "TRON" was released, I was a wee lad of 12 years old.

I feel like I should offer up some thoughts on the original film because it may help you gauge what you should think about my review of the new mega-budget sequel to the film, "TRON: Legacy," which arrives in theaters on December 17th on a wave of hype that is as big as Disney can possibly generate.  They've been building to this moment for a while now, ever since that reveal of the test footage at Comic-Con.  They've bet big on this one, and they're already working on an animated spin-off and talking about making more sequels.  And all of that makes sense… if the film is good.

So in 1982, I was already a rabid movie addict, and that summer was, in my opinion, the single best genre year of my lifetime.  And not just up till the point, but still.  It was a preposterous avalanche of great genre films, and I soaked it all up happily. 

I even ran a whole series of articles about the subject over at Ain't It Cool back in 2007, in which I had different writers tackle different films from that summer that they loved or that were important to them.  Harry wrote the article on "TRON," and I wrote an introduction for that piece which I'll reprint here:

Read Full Post