<p>Michael Jackson rehearses... and rehearses and rehearses and rehearses... in 'This Is It,' opening in theaters everywhere today</p>

Michael Jackson rehearses... and rehearses and rehearses and rehearses... in 'This Is It,' opening in theaters everywhere today

Credit: Sony Pictures

The M/C Review: Michael Jackson's 'This Is It' is barely a movie

Which raises the question... what, exactly is it?

Nobody likes to be the jerk.

It would be easy to smile and nod and mention the sentimental value of seeing Michael Jackson performing just weeks before the end of his life, and to give "This Is It" a general pass because of the curiosity factor.  It would be easy... but it would be dishonest.  So I guess I'll be the jerk in this case.

"This Is It" is barely a movie by any definition.  If I bought a deluxe collector's edition of a polished, finished Michael Jackson concert, and the extra features on disc two were made up of the footage from this film, then maybe I'd say, "Oh, cool, look at him rehearsing.  That's sort of interesting."  But this isn't a DVD extra.  This is a movie that you're expected to pay full price for in a theater, that's playing on IMAX screens everywhere, that's being touted as a major entertainment event.

And whatever "This Is It" is, it ain't that.

The first and most obvious problem with the film is that Kenny Ortega was simply too close to the subject matter to cut any sort of documentary out of the available footage.  I can only imagine how hard it is to sit and watch a collaborator on screen, day after day, while the pain of their death is still fresh, so I'm not going to beat him up.  I'll just say that while he may have upheld his responsibility as a friend of Michael's, he utterly fails in his responsibility as a filmmaker.  Here you are with this footage, the last recorded live performances by one of the biggest superstars in the world, and you're given the task of making a film out of it.  The first thing you need to do is set up interviews to help place that footage in context, and you need to decide what narrative it is that you're going to craft to help make the film into an experience and not just a clips package.  Those choices were never made here, and the result is flabby, inert.  I took my co-writer Scott with me tonight because he's a huge Michael Jackson fan, and even he was bored by the end of the film.

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<p>Matt Damon in a behind-the-scenes photo taken on the set of 'Green Zone,' the new Paul Greengrass film due in March 2010</p>

Matt Damon in a behind-the-scenes photo taken on the set of 'Green Zone,' the new Paul Greengrass film due in March 2010

Credit: Universal Pictures

The first trailer for Paul Greengrass's 'Green Zone' is online now

Should Universal have pulled the film from 2009?

Did any of you see the season finale of "Entourage" this year?  Best part of the whole thing was Matt Damon's appearance as himself, pushing his children's charity with all the intensity of Jason Bourne trying to shake an answer out of a bad guy.

I like Damon a lot as an actor, and I like that he has reached a place in his career where almost every time out, he's working with a world-class filmmaker, taking chances, following his own personal passions.  I think his work in "The Informant!" was great this year, and I've been curious to see how his work with Clint Eastwood would turn out on "Invictus."  Greg Ellwood's going to write up of the "Invictus" trailer over at his Awards Campaign blog, which makes sense, since I have no doubt this will turn out to be one of the year's big awards season titles.

It's a shame that Universal pulled "Green Zone" out of play for this year, though. The movie works both as political body blow and unapologetic action film.  It marries the sensibilities of both "United 93" and the "Bourne" series, and it seems to me to be the most commercial thing that Greengrass has ever made, even if it is set in Iraq.  I can't speak to the finished film, but I can say that "Green Zone" is a perfect role for Matt Damon.  He plays a guy who is part of the initial raids on all the sites where weapons of mass destruction are supposedly stored, and he notices that each place they hit, the intelligence they were given does not match the physical evidence they find.  Determined to figure out where these reports are coming from, his character steps outside the system and very quickly finds himself in over his head.

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<p>I look at this picture, and I&nbsp;too have a plan involving Grace Park and Katee Sackhoff and Tricia Helfer, only mine would end with tears and an arrest and much public shame, so perhaps we'll let that go.</p>

I look at this picture, and I too have a plan involving Grace Park and Katee Sackhoff and Tricia Helfer, only mine would end with tears and an arrest and much public shame, so perhaps we'll let that go.

Credit: Universal Home Video

DVD & Games Forecast: 'Galactica' has a 'Plan' and 'The Prisoner' goes Blu

Plus Ratchet & Clank return to the PS3 and Criterion does 'Z'

Welcome to the DVD & Games Forecast for October 27, 2009.

It's sort of a thin week all the way around, but the highlights are worthwhile, and so let's do this as quickly and efficiently as we can, since I just realized that I'm pretty much in motion and running around from now until Saturday morning without stop.

THIS WEEK'S FEATURED TITLES:

"Battlestar Galactica: The Plan" (BluRay/DVD)

I'm a fan of the reboot of "Galactica," but having said that, I have the final season here in the house and haven't watched it yet.  I think part of me just doesn't want to be done with the show, so I've delayed and put it off andas a result, this film arrived at my house on BluRay, and I can't watch it yet because I don't want to ruin the last season.  Although Edward James Olmos told anyone who would listen this week at the DVD junket that he hopes there will be more "Galactica" films with this cast, this may well be the real last hurrah as the producers turn their attention to "Caprica."  As a result, this final puzzle piece for fans has some significance to the series overall, even if it wasn't attempting to explain all the gaps in the Cylon mythology as established over the show's run.

"The Prisoner: The Complete Series" (BluRay/DVD)

My favorite TV show ever, "The Prisoner" was Patrick McGoohan's response to his long and successful run on "Secret Agent," which was known here in the States as "Secret Agent Man."  He decided to take the spy series and turn it inside out, building a limited-run series about a retired spy who is kidnapped to The Village, a mysterious place run by mysterious people.  Unsure if it's his own side or his enemies who have abducted him, Number Six finds himself struggling for escape each week, and barring that, struggling to at least hold on to his identity. 

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<p>Zoe ('Star Trek')&nbsp;Saldana as the alien being Naytiri in James Cameron's new megascale SF adventure, 'Avatar'</p>

Zoe ('Star Trek') Saldana as the alien being Naytiri in James Cameron's new megascale SF adventure, 'Avatar'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Charge of 'Avatar' plagiarism goes viral

How much does James Cameron encourage media's attitude to him?

I really dig the still you're looking at next to this article.  I love the sense of motion, the tactile qualities of it.  The high-res version is a thing of wonder, really.  I'm sorry, but as an FX nerd AND as a sci-fi/world building nerd, I am absolutely loving this so far.

I am well aware that there are a lot of people who are at this point gunning for Cameron and the film, and a good deal of those people are in the critical community and in the media.  And my guess is that Cameron is well aware of the attitude, and that he really doesn't care.  I even get the sense he encourages some of the bigger "Evil Jim" stories.  I would once I got a reputation as a legendary world-beating sonofabitch.  I wish I was a big enough personality to cultivate that.  I envy Cameron his ability to give the finger to pretty much everyone and everything and just pursue a massive personal vision.  Live or die, succeed or fail, when "Avatar" hits screens on December 18th, you can believe that what you're seeing is James Cameron's baby.

I love, though, how quick everyone was to come to the defense of Poul Anderson and his short story "Call Me Joe" after iO9 ran their article today.  Almost immediately, by mid-morning, the court case was over, Cameron was guilty, and the conversation had already moved into the damages stage.  "I wonder if they'll change the title to 'Poul Anderson's Avatar'".

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<p>Charlie (Peter Ostrum) finds the last golden ticket in one of the many magical moments from 1971's 'Willy Wonka &amp;&nbsp;The Chocolate Factory,' now on BluRay</p>

Charlie (Peter Ostrum) finds the last golden ticket in one of the many magical moments from 1971's 'Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory,' now on BluRay

Credit: Warner Home Video

Film Nerd 2.0: Talking Heads, 'Astro Boy,' and 'Willy Wonka' on BluRay

In which we discuss rewards, punishment, and golden tickets

Welcome to Film Nerd 2.0, an ongoing look at my relationship with my first son, Toshiro, and his relationship to media of all types, particularly the stuff that I grew up with as I pass it along to him.

It's been a rough two weeks to be Toshi.

He's four now, so he's got typical four-year-old issues, and since he's not really able to articulate those issues or feelings yet, he's obviously trying to vent.

It sort of cracks me up that a four year old could have anxiety over things like pre-school or playtime or coloring, but of course they can.  Tension and anxiety happen for any number of reasons, and when you react only to a kid's behavior, you're sort of trying to juggle water.  Things are constantly shifting.  Toshi's got competition in the house now for people's attention thanks to his adorable nineteen-month-old brother Allen, who has recently become self-aware of said adorabilosity, and who works it shamelessly.

Like I said... the last few weeks have been particularly rough.  Since media in my house is a privilege, not a god-given right, Toshi's been benched from absolutely everything cool.

"You're grounded from cool, buddy," is exactly what I told him, and he knows that means a lockdown on everything except vintage "Sesame Street" on DVD or bedtime stories at night.  Those are always okay.

He's trying.  I know he is.  He's had a few tearful heart to heart conversations with me.  He's just got an itch he can't scratch.  So as we approached the weekend at the end of a whole lot of bad days, I decided we needed to cut him a break. 

As I sat down to write the beginning of this column, I had a plan for the weekend, and a list of directives for myself:  I've got to give him a taste of the promised land if I expect him to work harder.  I've got to give him a weekend that is the weekend he aspires to have every weekend.  The weekend he's got to earn.

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<p>Bradley Cooper, 'Rampage' Jackson, Sharlto Copely, and Liam Neeson are the stars of Joe Carnahan's movie version of the '80s TV series 'The A-Team'</p>

Bradley Cooper, 'Rampage' Jackson, Sharlto Copely, and Liam Neeson are the stars of Joe Carnahan's movie version of the '80s TV series 'The A-Team'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

The Morning Read: Has Edgar Wright made 'The Matrix for love'?

Plus first 'A-Team' photo, Haggis quits Scientology, and Richard Kelly guest-blogs

Welcome to The Morning Read.

It's funny the way Twitter works... it's such a loose, conversational platform for conversation that what ends up happening is people say things that they might never say in a more formal environment.  It's great when you're following people who happen to be talking about things that interest you intensely like... ohhhhh, let's say "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World."

Jason Reitman and Edgar Wright were obviously separated at birth, so it makes sense that once they were finally reunited, they became fast friends, and recently, when Reitman was in London for the London Film Festival premiere of the excellent "Up In The Air," Wright took him to a secret location and showed him a half-hour of "Scott Pilgrim," swearing him to secrecy.

Obviously secrecy doesn't involve Twitter.  Thank god.

Here's what Reitman had to say:

In London, @edgarwright showed me 30min of Scott Pilgrim. While sworn to secrecy (so much, surprised blood wasn't demanded) I will say this:  It is a game changer for Edgar and the genre. It moves the speed of light and carries more unadulterated joy than Ive seen in recent cinema.  SP does what everyone our age has been dreaming about: achieves the first all encompassing film of the joystick generation.  I'm in awe of the sheer control in the filmmaking. It feels like a "Matrix" for love and how willing we are to fight for it.  If I had a movie coming out next year, I wouldn't want to be anywhere near it. Hats off my friend. Can't get it out of my head.

Great.  Now I just have to tell myself to calm down for a year or so.  Should be no problem at all, right?

What else is going on out there this morning?

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<p>Lester Dent's pulp hero 'Doc Savage' could be headed back to the bigscreen thanks to Shane Black and Sony Pictures</p>

Lester Dent's pulp hero 'Doc Savage' could be headed back to the bigscreen thanks to Shane Black and Sony Pictures

Credit: Boris Vallejo

Shane Black! 'Doc Savage'! Christmas comes early!

Can the 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' scribe bring pulp back?

Okay... now is the moment on "Sprockets" when I celebrate.

Normally I'd go into a deep, depressive, near-catatonic state at the news of someone taking a shot at "Doc Savage," since I dearly love these books and it's been a longtime dream of mine to get my own chance to bring Doc and his team of friends to life on the bigscreen.

But if Shane Black's the guy with the gig right now, consider me stone-cold thrilled to just sit on the sidelines, because I have a feeling if anyone can get the character right, he can.

There have been many attempts to bring "Doc Savage" to the screen over the years, and for a while, one of the best candidates was the script that David Leslie Johnson developed under the supervision of Frank Darabont.  That script understood the tone of the original Lester Dent stories, and they understood the appeal of the material.  Reading that script actually made me think "Doc Savage" could work on film in a way that the George Pal version convinced me it could not.

So of course it didn't get made.

Last I heard, Michael Uslan was the producer on the film and Michael Chabon was the guy writing it, which sort of bummed me out.  I like Chabon as a novelist quite a bit, but I think as a screenwriter, and particularly as a screenwriter of pulpy fun material, he's a bust.  I hated his "Spider-Man" work, and I think he's a perfect example of a guy who loves certain material but who has no knack for actually creating it.  Much like me and horror films, if you agree with my most vocal critics.

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<p>Kiera Knightley is rumored to have won the iconic role of Eliza Doolittle in an upcoming film version of 'My Fair Lady' </p>

Kiera Knightley is rumored to have won the iconic role of Eliza Doolittle in an upcoming film version of 'My Fair Lady'

Credit: AP Photo

Keira Knightley and Joe Wright reteam for 'My Fair Lady'

Will they update the classic musical with an Emma Thompson script?

If this is all confirmed, this becomes a major upcoming project, one worth noting now. 

Keira Knightley and Joe Wright have had a very successful collaboration so far on both "Pride and Prejudice" and "Atonement," and both of them have benefitted from those successes.  The two of them working together on anything becomes news by virtue of their track record together.

But the two of them working together on "My Fair Lady" with a screenplay by Emma Thompson?

That is news.  Really, really good news.

I've liked Wright more than his material so far, but I think "My Fair Lady" is a really tough, funny, smart musical, with a huge book and a huge song score, so this time out, I don't think I'm going to have a problem with the material.  It's ambitious.  You can't just be a good singer or a good actor to pull it off, you've got to be GREAT! And at BOTH!  And not just good.  Not just very good.  GREAT!

Because that's the kind of show it is.  So casting is a big deal.  According to The Telegraph, Scarlett Johansson was in the running to play Eliza Doolittle until very recently, when Kiera Knightley decisively won the role from her.  The same article implies that Daniel Craig is the current choice to play Henry Higgins.

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<p>It's a real shame that January Jones and Diane Kruger are both so homely... imagine how much work they'd get if only they were as beautiful as they are talented</p>

It's a real shame that January Jones and Diane Kruger are both so homely... imagine how much work they'd get if only they were as beautiful as they are talented

January Jones and Diane Kruger set to torment and tease Liam Neeson in 'Unknown White Male'

Dark Castle thriller sets female leads and a start date

It seems like a very good time to be either January Jones or Diane Kruger.

For Jones, her ongoing role as Betty Draper on "Mad Men" has given her one of the best-written women's roles in either film or television, and she's more than proven up to the challenge over the course of the three seasons of the show so far.  She is the best example of the archetype of the suburban housewife on the edge of madness that I've ever seen, and I think she manages to bring real nuance and depth to the role, week after week after week.

For Kruger, her introduction to Hollywood was a rough one.  The role of Helen in "Troy" was chased by every actress in town, but the film was a stiff, and Kruger seemed really overwhelmed by the size of the production.  She's been in the "National Treasure" movies since then, but for the most part, she seemed like she was being boxed in, given eye candy roles that had no substance at all.  That seems to have changed, though, due to her sensational work as Bridget Von Hammersmark in this summer's surprise hit "Inglourious Basterds."

Now the two of them are going to co-star opposite Liam Neeson in "Unknown White Male," a new thriller from Dark Castle and Warner Bros that is set to be directed by Jaume Collet-Sera, whose most recent film "Orphan" divided audiences, but which has been a subject of conversation almost continuously since it came out.

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<p>Suzi X, voiced by Sheri Moon Zombie, is alarmed by the bad touch of Captain Spaulding, voiced by Sid Haig, in Rob Zombie's twisted 'The Haunted World Of El Superbeasto'</p>

Suzi X, voiced by Sheri Moon Zombie, is alarmed by the bad touch of Captain Spaulding, voiced by Sid Haig, in Rob Zombie's twisted 'The Haunted World Of El Superbeasto'

Credit: Starz Media

HorrorFest 2009: Rob Zombie, 'H2,' and 'El Superbeasto'

Is Zombie horror's great hope or proof of the genre's decline? Depends who you ask.

Welcome to HorrorFest 2009.

My absolute favorite thing about Rob Zombie?

On his IMDb page, under "alternate names," he actually has a fake middle name.  Robert Wolfgang Zombie.  That is endlessly funny.

Rob Zombie as a filmmaker embodies many of the things that I think are endemic of fandom at large right now, both in his work and in the reaction that work seems to elicit, both positive and negative.  As a result, I think it's silly for any critic to dismiss Zombie out-of-hand, just as I think it's silly for anyone to proclaim him one of the greats, or even argue that the work he's done so far is across-the-board significant. 

I didn't review "Halloween 2" when it opened because, frankly, I wasn't invited to see it before it opened.  Fair enough.  I paid.  And at the time, I didn't know if I'd even bother writing about it, but since 'tis the season, I thought I'd take a look at the state of Zombie's career in general as one of the HorrorFest entries.

I haven't spent a ton of time writing about Rob Zombie as a filmmaker so far, but on those occasions I have, I think it's been fair, different from film to film.  I liked "House Of 1000 Corpses" and thought it was an effective piece of side-of-the-road porno-funhouse fluff.  I thought "The Devil's Rejects" was better.  Not genius, but solid, upsetting, and it seemed to indicate that he was growing from film to film.  I was interested to see what sort of original stuff he had planned.

And then it's like he chickened out.

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