<p>Yep... that's a desert.&nbsp; And not a single chameleon in existential crisis in sight.&nbsp; Or is there?</p>

Yep... that's a desert.  And not a single chameleon in existential crisis in sight.  Or is there?

Credit: Paramount Pictures

What is 'Rango'? The strangest teaser trailer of the year arrives

That mechanical fish is freakin' me out

According to Paramount, what I'm linking to today isn't technically a teaser trailer.  It is "an announcement piece."  Now, I'm not familiar with that term, but I guess it's good that they describe this as something other than a trailer, because by any conventional standard, this would fail as a piece of advertising.

Paramount's in an interesting position on this one.  After all, "Rango" is the follow-up collaboration of director Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp, the first thing they've done together since the release of the final movie in the "Pirates Of The Caribbean" trilogy.  Verbinski intrigues me because despite this enormous financial success of that trilogy, I don't get the feeling he's a mainstream guy at heart.  I've met him and spoken to him a few times, and even when he was battling deadlines and dealing with the international salesmanship that goes with making a blockbuster, there was a piece of him that felt like it was watching all of that with bemused detachment.

This project has the vaguest synopsis possible at this point:  "The story of a chameleon with an identity crisis."  That's all the studio has released.  That and a cast list that includes Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, the newly-omnipresent Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone, and, most intriguingly, Timothy Olyphant as "The Spirit Of The West," whatever the heck that means.

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<p>Wait... maybe I'm crazy, but how does John C. Reilly resemble a jaguar?&nbsp; You'll have to watch our exclusive clip from 'Cyrus' to find out.</p>

Wait... maybe I'm crazy, but how does John C. Reilly resemble a jaguar?  You'll have to watch our exclusive clip from 'Cyrus' to find out.

Credit: Fox Searchlight

EXCLUSIVE: Jonah Hill tortures John C. Reilly in new clip from 'Cyrus'

This preview showcases the twisted relationship at its very funny core

I quite liked "Cyrus" when I saw it at Sundance in January, and the more movies I've seen this year, the more I'm convinced that "Cyrus" is something special.

On the surface, the idea of two people locked in a secret antagonistic relationship is an old comedy trope, and John C. Reilly just played a variation on this recently in the Adam McKay film "Step Brothers," where he was pitted against Will Ferrell.  That was an overtly ridiculous comedy version of the idea, and worked well.  But the Duplass Brothers don't really do the broad comedy thing.  Their films are frequently funny, but they are also more grounded in simple observation than in trying to build big comedy set pieces.

"Cyrus" feels a lot like a natural extension of what they did in "The Puffy Chair," and fans of the awkward are going to eat this one up.  Reilly plays a decent guy nursing a broken heart who meets a woman played by the good-god-so-hot Marisa Tomei.  At first, their relationship seems to be going well, but then Reilly follows her home and realizes she has an adult son who still lives with her.  Jonah Hill's work as Cyrus, the overly-dependent son, is flat-out disturbing at times, exactly as it should be, and as Reilly works to build a new life with this woman he loves, Cyrus works overtime to ruin things.

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<p>Nicolas Cage stars in 'Bad Lieutenant:&nbsp;Port Of Call New Orleans,' one of the odes to bad behavior that is the subject of today's Blu-ray review round-up.</p>

Nicolas Cage stars in 'Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans,' one of the odes to bad behavior that is the subject of today's Blu-ray review round-up.

Credit: First Look Pictures

Bad behavior on Blu-ray: Will Smith, Nic Cage, The Ramones and more

What makes it so much fun to watch someone else do wrong?

When I say I'll give almost anything a chance, I mean it.  The question isn't whether or not I'll watch something I've been sent.  The question is when will I get to it.

With much of what I'm sent, that's random chance.  I put things in stacks and then just watch my way from top to bottom.  What's interesting is when themes emerge over a series of movies that you put on by chance.  For example, last week I watched a stack that turned out to be half chick flicks, half anti-social bad behavior.  I didn't mean for it to split down the middle like that, but it just worked out.  So it makes sense to split the stack in half for review.

Let's start with the bad behavior, because the undeniable truth is that bad behavior is just plain fun.  That's why so many movies love to revel in the ridiculously anti-social.  These are things we would ever ever do... so why not watch someone else do them?

I'm shocked that "Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans" exists, and that it's even remotely good.  The idea of anyone doing a requel to the Abel Ferarra wallow seems pointless.  That film was all Catholic guilt and unrelenting squalor, and despite the extreme nature of the material, it was one of the most accessible things that Ferarra ever made, due at least in part to Harvey Keitel's self-eviscerating work in the lead.  I guess if you're going to try to follow up that kind of organic freakshow, you've got to pick your ingredients wisely.

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<p>This is a good example of what not to expect from a new 'Mortal Kombat' film if today's proof-of-concept leak is anything to go on.</p>

This is a good example of what not to expect from a new 'Mortal Kombat' film if today's proof-of-concept leak is anything to go on.

Credit: Midway Entertainment

What is that mysterious 'Mortal Kombat' video?

The director of 'Fame' and the choreographer for 'Undisputed III' revamp the franchise

Since 2001, I've had a "Mortal Kombat 3" listed on my IMDb page.  The film's title has changed several times, and the film has had tons of false starts and stops.  At various points, I've been in contact with different directors who were temporarily attached to the project, but no one's ever rolled film on it at all.

Until now.

When I was at ActionFest in Asheville, North Carolina, one film really stood out, a direct-to-video action film called "Undisputed III."  I'll have more about that in the next couple of days, but for now, the most important thing about that film is the way Isaac Florentine shot the action, and the way Larnell Stovall choreographed the fights.  Stovall is a guy who I think we're going to end up hearing a lot about in the next decade, a guy who has a genuine hunger to change the way action happens on film.  He comes from a fight background himself, and as a result, he has very strong ideas about what he wants to see when he looks at fights onscreen.

He's been working in stunts for a while now, and thanks to the buzz that's building from "Undisputed III" and "Bunraku," the upcoming film he also did the choreography for, he's starting to become one of the most in-demand names in town.  One of the things Stovall has been doing is proof-of-concept test shoots for possible blockbusters, some big movie geek/comic nerd properties, and I think if he ends up landing these jobs, fans of the material are going to flip out.

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<p>Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes go digging into family secrets in the hillbilly noir film 'Winter's Bone'</p>

Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes go digging into family secrets in the hillbilly noir film 'Winter's Bone'

Credit: Roadside Attractions

The M/C Review: 'Winter's Bone' showcases star-making work by Jennifer Lawrence

Debra Granik's second film marks her as a strong independent voice

Debra Granik's first feature, "Down To The Bone," was my introduction to Vera Farmiga, and as introductions go, it was impressive.  The film is a solid if familiar tale of addiction, distinguished by Granik's eye for detail and her work with actors.  Farmiga's natural, honest approach won her wide acclaim, and I'm fairly sure the same will be true for Jennifer Lawrence in "Winter's Bone," the latest film from Granik, which opens Friday in limited release.

Granik's new film is hillbilly noir, a deliberate, moody little story about a girl chasing the ghost of her bad-boy father, desperate to provide for herself and the family he left behind. Ree Dolly (Lawrence) has been raised hard, so when her father disappears and leaves her in charge of her younger brother and sister and her mother, who is so severely mentally broken that even the most basic tasks of motherhood seem beyond her, Ree is more than up to the challenge.

Problem is, unless she produces her father, she's going to lose the land and the house they all live in.  Her father skipped bail, and everything they own is on the line.  Ree knows who to ask to figure out where her father is, but the more she asks, the more she realizes her father vanished for a reason, and maybe she doesn't want to know what that reason is.

Lawrence is in pretty much the entire movie, and she's an arresting presence.  Stripped down and real, with a strength in the face of some serious adversity that is convincing.  Her extended family is explained as a sort of Ozark mountain people Mafia, a loose network of meth dealers and manufacturers and runners and users, all bound by blood and marriage, and the further she digs into it, looking for her father, the more she upsets the order of things.  Women don't get to challenge the men about the way things are run, and if there are question, they don't get to ask them.  Ree refuses to accept that, though, and she challenges her way up the ladder, eventually putting herself in harm's way when she crosses lines that simply aren't crossed.  And especially not from some little girl.

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<p>Justin Long, seen here in this summer's new film 'Going The Distance,' is one of the stars of a new short film that is meant to help turn the tide against Proposition 8 before this fall's vote in&nbsp;California.</p>

Justin Long, seen here in this summer's new film 'Going The Distance,' is one of the stars of a new short film that is meant to help turn the tide against Proposition 8 before this fall's vote in California.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Justin Long and Mike White are getting married

This new short film from the writers of 'Blades of Glory' makes a hilarious point

Marriage is hard work.

In a way, it's amazing that the institution has lasted in its current form as long as it has.  Socially, we've changed so much that the purpose of marriage is different now than it used to be.  I am three days away from my eighth wedding anniversary, and each and every one of those years has been worthwhile, but difficult.  The stresses of career and parenting and money and everything else can take a real toll on both parties in any marriage.

When you add in the difficulties of prejudice and hatred from the outside, it's got to be damn near insurmountable.  And over the last few years, it's been a hotly debated topic around the country thanks to the efforts by many to make marriage legal for gay couples.  In California, we gave those couples that right before Proposition 8 took it away again.

And, yes, I know that voters were part of passing Proposition 8, but anyone who thinks the system wasn't gamed on that particular proposition isn't paying attention.  It's a fairly easy system to manipulate, especially when you're selling fear and hatred, which unfortunately is still a fairly easy thing to use to mobilize voters.

Right now, work is underway to get Proposition 8 reversed, and I'm impressed by the various efforts being made to win hearts and minds.  I personally will never understand why anyone would try to deny someone else the right to be married to whoever they love, and I think we'll look back at this particular scuffle over a fairly fundamental civil right and be embarrassed at some point, sooner rather than later.

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The Wizard from The Sorcerer's Apprentice

The Wizard from The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Exclusive: 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' introduces 'The Wizard'

Just how bad are this movie's bad guys going to be?

One of the films that I'm hoping really works this summer is "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," which pairs Nic Cage and Jay Baruchel as a teacher and student using magic to beat back the force's of evil.

It appears that the main bad guy in the film is Alfred Molina's character, and it's a good summer for Molina and Jerry Bruckheimer movies.  I didn't care much for "Prince Of Persia," but Molina had the showiest supporting role in the film, and he seemed to relish every moment of it.

In "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," Molina appears to be playing a much bigger role and a much darker role.  It looks like he's made of bugs in one of the scenes in the trailer, and I hope he skirts that edge of too-freaky-for-kids that I always loved from summer movies when I was a kid.

What may help with that is the supporting cast of other bad guys, including the one we're premiering today in our exclusive character poster debut.  Gregory Woo plays Sun Lok, and in today's poster, we're told that he is, in fact, "The Wizard."

We've seen some glimpses of his characters in the early trailers for the film, and it appears he is able to turn himself into a giant Chinese dragon, which I'm sure is just one of his powers.

I'm curious to see just how large the scale of this movie is, and how much of an international flavor it has.  That's something that could distinguish it from the "Harry Potter" films, and obviously that's going to be a point of reference when you're doing something about people teaching other people magic and a battle between good and evil.  For all of the importance of the events going on in the "Potter" films, it all feels like it's going on in a small corner of England.  This movie appears to hop around the world, incorporating mythology and design elements from many cultures.

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<p>Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson are all grown up and facing possible death in 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One'</p>

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson are all grown up and facing possible death in 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One'

Credit: Warner Bros.

Watch: New 'Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part One' teaser premieres

This one's going dark, kids

Another of MTV's big gets for the evening is the dark and moody new teaser trailer for "Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part One," and until I saw this trailer, I guess it really hadn't hit me that they're going to really screw with audiences this time around.

It's brilliant, since anyone who wants to know how things end has already read the book, and they know that the film is absolutely going to end the same way, but that doesn't begin to address the separate and urgent emotional connection people have to seeing these films bring the books to life. 

Stopping the last book halfway, leaving the characters emotionally ruined... that's the "Empire Strikes Back" trick, and it's a GREAT TRICK.  No one has the stones to do this anymore because they're afraid of the audience walking out of the theater on a down note, but if you can do it... if you can genuinely crush your heroes and end the movie at that point and leave them hanging for six months... that is a gift.  A gift it looks like the producers are going to exploit to tremendous effect.

In the end, unless something goes horribly unexpectedly awry with these last two movies, the "Harry Potter" films are going to stand as one of the most creatively successful and expansive film series of all time.  Watching this cast grow up, and watching the films change and grow and redefine themselves midstream, has been exhilarating, and not just for what happens in the movies.  Ever since they started, it's been a race against the clock.  Could they make these movies while the cast was still able to play the parts?

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<p>Chris Evans is just one of the Evil Exes that Scott Pilgrim (Michael&nbsp;Cera) has to defeat in Edgar Wright's new film 'Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World'</p>

Chris Evans is just one of the Evil Exes that Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) has to defeat in Edgar Wright's new film 'Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World'

Credit: Universal Pictures

Watch: New 'Scott Pilgrim' clip pitts Michael Cera against... Captain America?

Chris Evans and his stunt team look amazing in extended sneak peek

I didn't watch the MTV Movie Awards tonight.  I feel like I did when I read the amazing coverage everyone else at HitFix did for them tonight.  But I did check out some of the footage for upcoming films that was sneaked during the broadcast.

I'll run that new "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" trailer in a few minutes and talk about my reaction to that, but first... there's the "Scott Pilgrim" sneak peek.

That new trailer was, I thought, spot on, a perfect way of explaining the story and setting up the style, and I thought it was just plain charming.  But so far, all we've seen are trailers, where stuff is cut up super-fast.  I wanted to see some context.

That's exactly what tonight's clip provided, too.  Context.

Edgar Wright, consummate hambone, introduced the clip, and I love the "Col. Kurtz in the bunker" vibe to Edgar's editing room tweets lately.  He's been cutting this film now for 11 years, nonstop, and he's almost halfway done.  Or at least that must be what it feels like. 

Looking at the clip tonight, I can understand exactly why the film is such a post-production heavy effort.  It's not just a world that Wright's building (a world that looks a lot like Toronto), but an emotional comic book/video game/anime/pop culture language that he expresses visually.  It's absolutely what he was already doing on "Spaced," taken one step further, and I think it feels in this one clip like Edgar has made something that is absolutely, no matter what it's adapted from, his in the way it is told.

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<p>Rob Riggle is one of two former 'SNL' cast members to appear in this weekend's new release 'Killers'</p>

Rob Riggle is one of two former 'SNL' cast members to appear in this weekend's new release 'Killers'

Credit: Lionsgate

Saturday Night At The Movies: Riggle, O'Hara, Wilson, and the art of the supporting player

When you're not the movie star, what role are you really playing?

In "Killers," there is a good idea that is lost amidst a terrible movie.  At a certain point in the movie, Spencer (Ashton Kutcher) realizes that all of the people in his life, the people he's been surrounded by for three years, are fakes, sleeper assassins who were in place to possibly kill him, and they've all suddenly been activated.  There's one character in particular, Kristen, who is the stereotypical chubby best friend to Katherine Heigl's Jen, and when she finally reveals herself to be a killer as well, finally able to drop the act, what was a stock genre character suddenly becomes someone completely different who was tired of playing that stock genre character.  It's a very funny idea, and in the role, Casey Wilson shines during her short onscreen time.

If you're not someone who pays close attention to "Saturday Night Live," you might not know who Casey Wilson is.  She's been a presence in the LA comedy scene for years now, and she's a sharp, eccentric comic mind.  She was on "SNL" for one season, and when she left, there was some controversy about why she was let go.  I'm sure she's going to have a long career as a character actor, and I think her work in "Killers," as well as the work of fellow "SNL" alumni Rob Riggle and "SCTV" legend Catherine O'Hara in the film, offers a good opportunity for us to discuss the perennial supporting player in this week's "Saturday Night At The Movies."

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