<p>An important encounter from Hayao Miyazaki's enchanting new film 'Ponyo'</p>

An important encounter from Hayao Miyazaki's enchanting new film 'Ponyo'

Credit: Walt Disney/Studio Ghibli

The Motion/Captured Review: Miyazaki's magical 'Ponyo'

The other most reliable brand in animation returns with a charming children's tale

My introduction to the work of Hayao Miyazaki was a crash course right around the time Miramax was getting ready to release "Princess Mononoke" here in the US.  One of the regular contributors to AICN, Paul Alvarado-Dykstra, was a raving Miyazaki lunatic, and he had spent months trying to talk Miramax into letting AICN have one of the one-on-one interview spots when Miyazaki came to LA.  He finally talked them into it... and then couldn't make it to LA for the interview.

He was gutted, and I still feel bad about it.  He really should have been the one to sit down and talk to this master animator.  He'd spent years thinking about what he would ask his idol if he met him and it just didn't work out.  So I was sent in his stead.  I was only able to see "Kiki's Delivery Service," "My Neighbor Totoro," and the Neil Gaiman-scripted dub of "Mononoke" before I spoke to him.

It was an amazing encounter that culminated in him drawing me my very own Totoro.

So, yeah, after that and then after catching up with the rest of his work and getting laid flat by how amazing it is, I've become a the same sort of raving fan, and I understand now why Paul took his work so seriously back in 1999.  Since then, he's added several more masterworks to his resume, and he's back with a new one later this summer, a film that played last night as the closing night event at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Sacha Baron Cohen in one of the calmest moments in the insane new Larry Charles comedy "Bruno"</p>

Sacha Baron Cohen in one of the calmest moments in the insane new Larry Charles comedy "Bruno"

Credit: AP Photo/Universal Pictures

The Motion/Captured Review: 'Bruno' will upset and entertain equally

Sacha Baron Cohen doesn't just push the boundaries, he erases them, but to what effect?

Here's my short version of this review for those of you who don't really want to read any details:  "Bruno" is a better film overall than "Borat" was, but it's also far more difficult material, and there's a chance it may really hurt some viewers.  I think it's worth it, because this is social satire that matters, timely and angry and truly extreme, but there are some caveats I'd offer to viewers who are at all hesitant based on the type of material that the film deal with this time.

I realized recently that I never quite reviewed "Borat," the last collaboration by Sacha Baron Cohen and Larry Charles, mainly because by the time I got around to seeing it, that was opening day, and everyone else in the world had already written about it, including about 400 reviews on Ain't It Cool.  The night the film opened, I went to a screening at The Bridge that was hosted by G4, and then I made a quick appearance on "Attack Of The Show" live from the theater to talk about it with Kevin, Olivia, and Chris Gore. 

When I wrote about that TV appearance, here's what I had to say about "Borat," which represents the sum total of my writing about Cohen's film output so far:

[more after the jump]

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<p>Once again, Sacha Baron Cohen decides to play it subtle at the LA premiere of 'Bruno'</p>

Once again, Sacha Baron Cohen decides to play it subtle at the LA premiere of 'Bruno'

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Universal cuts 'Bruno' to avoid Michael Jackson joke

Is it possible that the filmmakers are showing restraint when no one else is?

Considering the bad rap that Sacha Baron Cohen and Larry Charles take as guys who will do anything to anyone for a laugh, it's a genuine shock to think that the only people who WON'T be mining Michael Jackson's death for laughs in the upcoming weeks will be the filmmakers behind "Bruno."

When I saw "Bruno," the scene in question was still part of the film, during a montage of efforts by Bruno to set up a celebrity interview show.  He burns enough bridges that he's reduced to interviewing C-listers, and that's where LaToya Jackson comes in.  As she sits on a Mexican gardener and eats sushi of a naked fat man (yeah, you read that right), Bruno uses her Blackberry to look up Michael's phone number and, in German, read it off to his assistant so he can write it down.

Last night, at the film's premiere, which took place at the Chinese Theater about 40 feet from where Michael Jackson's star is placed in the Walk of Fame, the scene had already been excised.  Evidently, the edit took place there in the projection booth, and now they've decided to make it a permanent change.  Here's the statement I was given from a Universal source earlier this afternoon:

"Out of respect for the Jackson family, the filmmakers have decided to remove a small scene involving La Toya Jackson."

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<p>A scene from 'The Invention Of Lying' with Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, and cowriter/codirector Ricky Gervais</p>

A scene from 'The Invention Of Lying' with Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, and cowriter/codirector Ricky Gervais

Credit: Warner Bros.

Trailer for 'Invention Of Lying' by Ricky Gervais premieres online

This first look sells the joke but doesn't ruin the biggest laughs

Honestly, this is one of films I am most looking forward to right now, and this trailer only makes that worse.

Right now, the trailer is an exclusive to Yahoo! Movies UK, so rather than steal it and embed it and screw them out of their traffic (cougheveryonecough), I'm going to direct you to go check it out over there.

Hopefully, we'll have our coverage of this film starting soon.  I think the script is one of those rare comedy scripts that not only has something to say, but that message is woven into every joke, every beat, every idea in the movie.  This is an attempt to analyze the way truth and lies are entertwined in our daily lives to such an extent that it is folly to try to remove one or to deny that they are both essential to the social contract.  I know... that sounds like heady stuff for a comedy, but the trailer does a very strong job of setting up the basics of the premise.

[more after the jump]

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<p>This is how I like to think of Michael Jackson.&nbsp; Come on... that 'fro is awesome</p>

This is how I like to think of Michael Jackson.  Come on... that 'fro is awesome

Some personal thoughts on Michael Jackson's passing

A recollection of some odd encounters with the King Of Pop

Wow.  Stunning.

You know that scene in "Talladega Nights" where Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) is praying to Jesus?  And he keeps referring to him as "Baby Jesus" and asking him to use his "Baby Jesus" powers.

"Ricky: Dear tiny infant Jesus...

Carley:  Um, hey, you know, sweetie... Jesus did grow up.  You don't always have to call him baby.  It's a bit odd and off-puttin' to pray to a baby.

Ricky:  Look, I like the Christmas Jesus best, and I'm sayin' grace.  When you say grace, you can say it to Grownup Jesus or Teenage Jesus or Bearded Jesus or whoever you want."

Well, Michael Jackson is the same way.  He's one of those guys who exists as all these separate and distinct versions of Michael Jackson, and for me, the one I like remembering is either "Off The Wall" Michael Jackson, when he was sort of rocking the whole disco thing and just plain cool, or my favorite, Little Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, when the sound of him singing was pretty much the happiest thing I've ever heard.  "A-B-C" or "I Want You Back"?  Those are bottled happiness in music form, and no matter how depressing and weird the end of Michael Jackson's life has been, you can't get deny that one of the most influential and omnipresent pop performers of the 20th century passed away today at the age of 50 in Los Angeles.

[more after the jump]

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<p>If this iconic Farrah Fawcett poster could talk and tell you everything it's seen, an entire generation would have some serious 'splainin' to do</p>

If this iconic Farrah Fawcett poster could talk and tell you everything it's seen, an entire generation would have some serious 'splainin' to do

Credit: Farrah Fawcett

TMR: A fallen 'Angel,' Richard Kelly's 'Box,' and Tommy Wiseau talks

Plus flesh-eating robots, 'Basterds' rumors, and Buzz Aldrin raps

Welcome to The Morning Read.

I had the t-shirt when I was in grade school.  It was a blue shirt, with the famous poster of her in the swimsuit covering the entire front of the shirt.  When I say "grade school," I mean first grade.  Second grade.  I was a wee little kid, but when I wore that shirt, I felt like I was a high schooler, cool and suave.

When we moved from Florida to Texas, we ended up moving into a nice neighborhood on a golf course, and our next-door neighbors were her parents.  For a ten year old, that meant I spent every day in anticipation of the moment when she would decide to (A) visit her parents (B) sunbathe nude and (C) develop a sudden, undeniable attraction to ten-year-olds.  Alas, never happened, and we only ended up living there until the neighborhood completely flooded out less than a year later, and we moved on to Tennessee, which meant that Farrah Fawcett was out of my life forever.  *sniffle*

Her successful bid for respect with roles in films like "Extremeties" and "The Burning Bed" may not have amounted to much, but it did allow her to enjoy the second half of her career as more than just "ex-'Charlie's Angels' star Farrah Fawcett."  And now, at age 62, she's gone.  Rough way to go, too, but it's obvious from reactions today that her iconic appeal never really faded.  She'll be missed.

[more after the jump]

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<p>If only someone had thought to tell Jack Nicholson that the Joker is a flamboyant character before shooting 1989's 'Batman'</p>

If only someone had thought to tell Jack Nicholson that the Joker is a flamboyant character before shooting 1989's 'Batman'

Credit: Warner Home Video

My BluRay Shelf: Batman Gone Blu

How do the seven live-action Batman movies on BluRay stack up, best to worst?

Out of the seven live-action "Batman" movies I've got in my house, there's only one I consider age-appropriate for Toshi right now, and he watches it every single chance he gets. 

That's an interesting ratio... six to one.  The character is something a kid gets innately the first time they're introduced to it.  "This is Batman."  "Okay.  Cool."  That's how simple their relationship to the character is.  But in terms of Batman movies, they've tried a number of different takes on the material now, and all of it is available from Warner Home Video on BluRay at this point, with one exception.

Warner Bros. has shown a pretty aggressive attitude towards getting some of their big-ticket catalog titles out on BluRay quickly, so it's not surprising there's already a slim box set that includes "Batman" (1989), "Batman Returns" (1992), "Batman Fever" (1995), and "Batman In Rubber" (1997).

[more after the jump]

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<p>Just a wee hint of the magic contained in Miyazaki's latest film, 'Ponyo,' due out later this year in the US from Walt Disney</p>

Just a wee hint of the magic contained in Miyazaki's latest film, 'Ponyo,' due out later this year in the US from Walt Disney

Credit: Walt Disney/Studio Ghibli

TMR: JJ Abrams loves Ricky Gervais' 'Lying,' 'Ponyo' trailers, and 'Avatar' footage premieres

Plus M. Night's new website, Quint worships Dick, and some shameless 'Ghostbusters' nostalgia

Welcome to The Morning Read.

Well, then.  Maybe next time I have surgery and the doctor tells me to take it easy, I'll listen, because I screwed it up badly this time around.  I ran out of here Monday to see "Bruno," and in spending two and a half hours in the car (including 45 minutes on the Mulholland Pass, which desperately needs someone to take care of about 10,000,000 potholes) and two hours in a theater, I managed to re-injure myself severely.  In fact, I think I'm worse off now than I was right after the surgery.  Stupid, I know.  But that became my whole Tuesday.

I did write a couple of reviews yesterday.  "Transformers:  Revenge of The Fallen."  And "Public Enemies."  If, y'know, you feel like checkin' 'em out.

Before anything else, I want to share an e-mail with you that I got from Ricky Gervais.  Seems he showed his new film, "The Invention Of Lying," to JJ Abrams, and Abrams sent him his reaction.  And now, if you're curious, Ricky passed that reaction along so I can share it with you.

"Ricky Gervais proves, once again, that he is the master.  Not only of comedy, but social commentary.  'The Invention of Lying' is as funny as it is biting, wholly original, and surprisingly moving.  Is there such thing as an important comedy?  Turns out there is, and this is it.  If you're still reading this, you should stop immediately and go see 'The Invention of Lying!'"

But we can't! Not until later this year! Damn youse, JJ Abrams, getting me that revved up!

I will point out that Ricky's co-writer and co-director, Matthew Robinson, cautioned me not to get two worked up when I mentioned this on Twitter:

@MrMattRobinson Take what JJ says with a grain of salt. Ricky has some VERY naughty pics of JJ he's holding over his head.

@MrMattRobinson I'm just saying, don't be surprised if there's a Vulcan in Star Trek 2 with a Reading accent. :)

Seriously, though... the trailers appear to be cut... the film's been testing... I'm so curious at this point.  I hope Gervais and Robinson have pulled off the film they were talking about on-set.  They were aiming pretty high.  I'm excited to see what form our first look at the movie finally takes, and when... and how soon... pleeeeease.  Hopefully, we will be able to offer you some great material from the time I spent onset for the film very soon, beginning with an interview with the great Louis CK.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Meet Mudflap and Skids, whose appearance in 'Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen' should please anyone who thought 'Birth Of A Nation' went too easy on race relations</p>

Meet Mudflap and Skids, whose appearance in 'Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen' should please anyone who thought 'Birth Of A Nation' went too easy on race relations

Credit: Paramount Pictures

The Motion/Captured Review: 'Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen.'

Bayhem taken to a new scale equals something I've never seen before

I have never felt more like a third nipple than I did, as a screenwriter, while watching Michael Bay's new movie, "Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen."

And believe me... the ownership of this film, artistically speaking, belongs to Michael Bay.  This is absolutely a movie authored by the guy who directed those Coke commercials, that great "Aaron Burr" Milk ad, the ultra-sleek Aerosmith videos.   This is a guy who has one thing on his mind... the moment you are watching RIGHT NOW.

"Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen" takes Bay's signatures to a new level, a purely visual experience that plays as a two and a half hour action sequence.  It is, quite possibly, the most powerful physical assault I've ever experienced in a movie theater, seeing it at the IMAX screen at the Bridge.  More so than "Irreversible" at the Egyptian.  It's that kind of a wicked knee to the privates.  TROTF, as we'll call it, really is the most primary storytelling experience so far in Bay's whole career.  Taken as a whole, it's barely a movie.  It starts at an arbitrary moment, and it ends at an equally arbitrary moment.  And the moment that should be the film's big emotional moment will probably work best on younger viewers, much as it did when the animated film came out in the '80s, because for most viewers, it won't connect in any significant way

And, having said that, if you have even the slightest interest in giant robots, you should absolutely see it the way I did.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Johnny Depp makes a nighttime getaway in Michael Mann's 'Public Enemies,' opening July 3</p>

Johnny Depp makes a nighttime getaway in Michael Mann's 'Public Enemies,' opening July 3

Credit: Universal Studios

The Motion/Captured Review: 'Public Enemies'

Johnny Depp robs banks, but can Christian Bale stop him?

Michael Mann is our poet laureate of bank robbery.

He's also been a fairly accurate barometer of the zeitgeist, always running a few steps ahead, since the '80s, when his work on "Miami Vice" was as era-defining for cop films as "Blade Runner" was for science-fiction.

So it would seem like an easy slam dunk to pair Mann with two white-hot movie stars in a true story set during the banking collapse of the Great Depression, replete with bank robberies, broken hearts, and badass machismo, all things that set Mann off.

Instead, "Public Enemies" struck me as a fairly mainstream take on an oft-told story, the final days of John Dillinger, featuring some wonderful work by one of our biggest movie stars while also definitively answering a question that's been on my mind for a while now about another actor.  I don't think this is necessarily going to change anyone's mind about Michael Mann at this late date, but I think it's more accessible than "Miami Vice," thanks to casting and the nature of the story.

Dillinger's been well-documented on film.  He's been played by some powerhouse actors like Warren Oates and Martin Sheen and Lawrence Tierney to varying degrees of success.  His story intersects with so many other quintessential American stories that it's no wonder we keep circling back to it in our pop culture.  The question each time has got to be, "What does this version bring to the table?", and the answer with Michael Mann's film involves all of his typical obsessions and interests, all of which seem to dovetail naturally with the story.

[more after the jump]

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