<p>Sacha Baron Cohen appeared out of character on 'The Late Show' and seemed to entertain David Letterman tremendously</p>

Sacha Baron Cohen appeared out of character on 'The Late Show' and seemed to entertain David Letterman tremendously

Credit: AP Photo/CBS, John Paul Filo

TMR: Sacha Baron Cohen sighted in the wild and Mary Louise Parker makes bedtime stories fun

Plus MK3D, Joe Dante, Harold Ramis, and more 'Scott Pilgrim' blogs

Welcome to The Morning Read.

Well, I was supposed to do an interview this morning by phone, but apparently I've dropped off the "to do" list, so instead, let's jump right in and see what's going on all over the internets this morning.

Kim Voynar published an excellent piece about the notion of "truth" in the non-fiction film.  I've never heard of anything like what happened with the situation around "Bananas!" at the LA Film Festival.  Crazy.

I was fascinated to see Sacha Baron Cohen on Letterman last night, out of character.  It's a very rare thing, like seeing Bigfoot doing a talk show, and even though it's just a clip, it's worth following that link to see him talk about how he shot the segment of "Bruno" involving the interview with the terrorist.

It makes me sad when former cast members of "Saturday Night Live" go hopelessly barking mad.  It makes me even sadder when they write revealing columns about just how crazy they are and they don't seem to realize they've even pooped themselves in public.

JJ Abrams is a tech nerd.  I love it.

And check it out... I think Jackie Earle Haley is starting to transform into a nerd as well.  Cool!

Oh, I see how this is going to be, Esquire.  You're going to use my shameless love of Mary Louise Parker to bait me into visiting your website and embedding your videos, aren't you?

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<p>Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard make for a memorable duo in the shaggy, smart 'Humpday'</p>

Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard make for a memorable duo in the shaggy, smart 'Humpday'

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

The Motion/Pictured Review: 'Humpday' Sundance hit opens in limited release

Can this wry look at sexual politics compete with 'Bruno' this weekend?

It's interesting strategy by Magnolia Pictures to open the movie "Humpday" the same weekend that Universal opens the they're-praying-it's-a-juggernaut "Bruno." Both of them touch on similar subject matter, but come at it from such profoundly different directions that any hope Magnolia has of getting some free publicity in the form of trends pieces designed to showcase the Sacha Baron Cohen vehicle is somewhat negated by the fact that they're chasing different audiences.

There's a game called "gay chicken." Not the most brilliant or defensible of games, but the gag is that two ostensibly straight opponents lean in towards each other like they're going to kiss.  And the first one to flinch is the loser. Both "Humpday" and "Bruno" feel like they are playing the game, both onscreen and in terms of what they hope to do to the audience. And the question that you have to ask when you see several people chasing this same reaction is "Why?"

I think this goes back to the idea that Lenny Bruce discussed, how the more you say something or the more you discuss something or the more frank you are about something, the less impact it has.  He believed you could rob any word of its power to hurt if you reclaim it the right way. A movie like "Humpday" puts the very notion of heterosexual panic on trial, and to hilarious effect. Lynn Shelton, working in close collaboration with her cast, has crafted a wise and mature film that happens to be explosively funny in places.  Would I call it a comedy?  No.  Not really.  I think it's a film that has a lot to say, and it uses some outrageous situations and reactions to offer some hefty social criticism.

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<p>Nicolas Cage in what I must assume is a wildly exciting moment from the apocalyptic thriller 'Knowing'</p>

Nicolas Cage in what I must assume is a wildly exciting moment from the apocalyptic thriller 'Knowing'

Credit: Summit Entertainment

TMR: 'Knowing' and 'Push' hit DVD, 'Humpday' interviews, and the best trailer of all time

Plus wild tilt-shift Mardi Gras, a 'Potter' mash-up, and 'The Collector' trailer premieres

Welcome to The Morning Read.

As you read this, pray for me.  I'm driving from Northridge to 20th Century Fox on Pico.  Today is the Michael Jackson funeral, which could create traffic ripples so profoundly screwed up as to alter the fabric of space and time.  And I could get totally caught up in that crap against my will.  I'm not going to to the same part of town.  But what if people can't get onto the 10, and so they're backed up on the 405, and they're backed up so far that I can't get to Pico, since it's so close to the 10?  Don't just pray for me... light candles or whatever else you can do, and let's hope two hours is enough time for me to make it there.

So it may be a slightly shorter column today.  First up, the DVD releases for this week, something I got out of practice doing.  I like it here in the Morning Read, where it doesn't become some giant ridiculous recitation each week.  There are some interesting titles, including a Summit double feature of "Knowing" and "Push."  I haven't seen either yet, but I will.  I guess I'm picking them up next time I'm at Amoeba.  There's also the 15th "Mystery Science Theater 3000" collection.  I haven't seen it, but I hear it's got one of the earliest episodes published yet in any of these collections.  I've got the prior 14, and it's 100% certain I'll be adding this to the collection immediately.  There's an Iron Maiden documentary called "Iron Maiden Flight 666" that I will have to track down.  Looks cool.  I can't wait to pick up the new "Peanuts 1960's Collection," featuring six of the original animated specials.  Those are the best.  David Goyer's "The Unborn" comes out today in an unrated edition from Universal, who are also releasing four vintage titles that any serious film freak should pick up.  "Beau Geste," "Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves," "Lonely Are The Brave," and "The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine" will all get reviews here, and they're all sensational.  "Reno 911: The Complete Sixth Season" is out now, and at this point, either you dig the joke or you don't.  "The Deep" is out in BluRay this week.  Interesting random catalog title from Sony.

That's pretty much it, too.  It's a light couple of weeks.  Admittedly, I'm hoping a wrangle a review copy of next week's release of "The State," but we'll talk about that next week.

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<p>The first appearance of the USS Enterprise in the 1979 release 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture,' spruced up here for BluRay</p>

The first appearance of the USS Enterprise in the 1979 release 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture,' spruced up here for BluRay

Credit: Paramount Home Video

My BluRay Shelf: 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture'

A fresh eye wins me over to the first bigscreen attempt for the series

When I saw this film theatrically, I was nine years old.

It was post "Star Wars," which meant that I was a walking talking billboard for the gospel according to George Lucas, and "Star Trek" was some old news they were dressing up to look like The Truth.  There were a lot of pretenders to the throne, but I knew there was another "Star Wars" movie coming.  And it would show this dumb old "Star Trek" what was what.

So I had made up my mind walking in.  And by the end of the glacial two hours, I was half won over.  I thought the movie was really cool to sit through, but a little weird overall.  And that was pretty much the depth of my relationship with it.  I didn't really watch the series until after the first film came out, and local channels started showing the old episodes again.  Late on Saturdays, two at a time.  That's when I filed the show next to "Twilight Zone" as the best of a certain kind of TV writing... the moral one-act plays with a fantastic face on a recognizable idea.  That's what "Trek" is to me... a great set-up for an anthology show about flying around and meeting everything that's out there.  Some good, some bad, some weird as shit.  That's "Trek."  To me.

As I said yesterday, Toshi's introduction to "Trek" was the JJ Abrams film.  When the BluRay box set of the Paramount film series showed up, we decided to watch one every couple of days.  And first up, of course, is "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," directed by Robert Wise.  It's a film I've taken a lot of cheap shots at over the years.  And I mean cheap, too.  Most of my impression of this film is based on my initial impulsive reactions all those years ago.  So when Toshi and I sat down to watch it, I made the conscious choice to watch it as something brand new.  I'm that unfamiliar with it.

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<p>Life will never be the same for Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) or, indeed, anyone else after these climactic moments from 'Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince'</p>

Life will never be the same for Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) or, indeed, anyone else after these climactic moments from 'Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince'

Credit: Warner Bros.

The Motion/Captured Review: 'Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince'

David Yates returns with the best of the series so far

Seems fitting that I should publish this review on the day before I'm going to go see the new Chris Columbus film.  I know people love to beat up on Chris for the first few films in the series, and the second one in particular, but I'm going to point out that Columbus was the one who found these kids in the first place, and based on the work they do in this new movie, he's looking more and more like a genius for the decisions he made almost a decade ago.

I'm going to write this review as if there's little of substance that I'd be able to spoil for you, since this is a book that's been out there for a while.  If you're one of those people who has only been watching the films, then I'll warn you before I drop any big plot points.  Because I'd read the books, I realized from the moment the film began that director David Yates is working from a whole new level of confidence this time out.  The movie begins with the Warner Bros shield, and then we find ourselves in the Ministry of Magic at the end of the last movie.  Harry's still got blood on him, and as people push in to ask questions and the Daily Prophet starts snapping photos, everything slows down.  Harry looks lost.  Upset.  And just before he's overwhelmed by it all, Dumbledore steps close to him, puts one arm around him, and pulls him close to protect him.  That one gesture says everything you need to know thematically about this film, and from there, we cut to the main title, and I knew... just knew... that Yates was going to nail this film.

And he did.  This is absolutely the best of the "Harry Potter" films so far.

That may sound like faint praise, but it's not.  Even removed from the sliding scale of this particular series, "Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince" is a remarkable fantasy adventure, dense and serious and adult, and it serves as a fascinating benchmark for just how far this series has come since 2001.  I've always liked the ambition more than the execution, but now, finally, it feels to me like we're seeing the full potential of the series realized, and the result is somewhat breathtaking.

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<p>Jack Black stars as Eddie in 'Brutal Legend,' a new game by eccentric gaming legend Tim Schafer, due out this year on PS3 and XBOX</p>

Jack Black stars as Eddie in 'Brutal Legend,' a new game by eccentric gaming legend Tim Schafer, due out this year on PS3 and XBOX

Credit: EA Games

TMR: Jack Black rocks out in 'Brutal Legend,' 'Star Wars' in 3 minutes, and a trip to heaven and hell

Plus how to see a space station and the truth about movie weed

Welcome to The Morning Read.

And happy birthday, Toshi! As you read this, I'm probably already at Toshi's school, where we're planning to celebrate with his classmates and pizza a nd cake, and I can't stop smiling at the fact that I've made it four years now as a father, and so far, no authorities have had to be called in.  Before I met my wife, I could barely keep myself alive from day to day, so it's sort of gobsmacking to me to think that we're starting to get pretty good at this whole "being parents" thing.  How do I know we're good at it?  Because my kids are awesome, and happy, and healthy, and that's pretty much all the yardstick I need to know I'm doing the job right.

I love that The New York Times ran a segment on "Jaws" because (A) you can never talk about "Jaws" enough, it seems and (B) they once again show the most oft-displayed beaver shot in cinema history.  And it's not marked "NSFW" at all, because it's "Jaws."  Everyone's seen "Jaws."  And even if you haven't seen "Jaws," you've probably seen the graphic push-in on a completely naked actress from underwater.  Depends on which color timing you've seen of the film, evidently, but still... I love that Steven Spielberg is so omnipresent in our film culture at this point that this shot, as explicit as it is, has simply entered the cultural language.  That's what I mean when I say you really can't say enough about "Jaws" and how good it is at what it does.  It is simply a marvel of storytelling by tagteam.  From script to cast improv to Spielberg to Verna Fields to John Williams to release, "Jaws" is about a series of storytellers all taking their shot at "Jaws," and all landing their punches with precision and taste.  "Jaws" is a blockbuster, sure... but it's a great movie first.  It was a blockbuster precisely because it was such a great movie.  It was an organic event.  Last time that happened, in my opinon?  "The Sixth Sense."  Here's the NY Times piece, which is pretty nicely done.  I like the use of the Alex scene on both ends of that report.

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<p>The full cast of the JJ Abrams 'Star Trek' reboot, lookin' mighty serious</p>

The full cast of the JJ Abrams 'Star Trek' reboot, lookin' mighty serious

Credit: Paramount Pictures

'Star Trek' week begins on Motion/Captured

In which we examine everything 'Trek' available on BluRay so far

Today is my oldest son's fourth birthday.

Crazy.  I can't believe I've been a dad for four years already, and I can't believe that in that time, I've managed to create a raving "Star Trek" nerd already.  That wasn't the endgame I had in mind, certainly, but a series of events in the last two months has brought us to this place, and so in honor of Toshi and his latest obsession, this week we're going to be talking about a whole lot of "Trek" here on the blog, as well as my evolving reactions to the series since rewatching it all and the reactions of a nascent nerd being exposed to it all for the first time.

It's strange, too.  I've never really thought of myself as a "Star Trek" fan.  I've liked some of it.  Haven't liked some of it.  So this definitely isn't a case of my trying desperately to force Toshi to like something I like.  No, like most of his current obsessions, this began with him asking to watch trailers on my computer one afternoon while I was working.  This was right after the third of the "Trek" trailers was released, and I figured he'd like seeing some spaceships and aliens.

When it finished, though, he looked at me, eyes wide, and just said, "Again, Daddy."  Once.  Twice.  Three times.  He would have kept watching it over and over all afternoon if I let him.  That trailer hit him like a bullet, dead between the eyes, and left him reeling.  He asked me dozens of questions about it.  "Who's that?  Who's that?  What is he doing?  What's that ship called?"  Right away, there was a hunger to try and understand the images that so obviously rang his bell.  In case you've forgotten it, here's that final theatrical trailer for the JJ Abrams film:

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<p>Guillermo Del Toro on the set of 'Pan's Labyrinth,' with one of his iconic monster creations</p>

Guillermo Del Toro on the set of 'Pan's Labyrinth,' with one of his iconic monster creations

Credit: New Line Home Video

My Book Shelf: 'The Strain' Del Toro returns to vampires

A proposed TV show-turned-novel definitely feels like Del Toro's work... but is that enough?

I remember when Guillermo Del Toro signed a deal with Fox to develop a TV series.  I thought at the time it was a strange fit, and I couldn't imagine Fox having the nerve to actually air anything that came out of the fertile and fevered mind of Guillermo.  They're so bad about supporting genre shows that they put on that I couldn't imagine that partnership proving to be a durable one.

Sure enough, Del Toro pitched them a series about a plague that turns out to be an attempt by vampires to take over the world, and when Fox passed on it, Guillermo decided instead to develop the story as a series of three novels, working with co-writer Chuck Hogan.  The result has already made a huge impact on the bestseller lists, and I'm willing to bet that the entire trilogy will end up optioned for film at some point.  The question is how does this work as a book, by itself, removed from the hype of Guillermo's involvement and the promise of a trilogy?

Before picking up The Strain, I was unfamiliar with the work of Chuck Hogan.  He's an award-winning crime novelist, and his book Prince Of Thieves is going to be adaptated into a film by Ben Affleck as his follow-up to "Gone Baby Gone," so I'm guessing there's some substance to his work.  Now that I've read The Strain, though, I think I have a pretty good handle on Hogan's voice as a writer, because no matter what I thought of it as a book, it doesn't read like it came out of Guillermo Del Toro.

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<p>Being a film director is really, really hard work, as Jody Hill demonstrates here.&nbsp; Pray for him.</p>

Being a film director is really, really hard work, as Jody Hill demonstrates here.  Pray for him.

TMR: Jody Hill talks 'East Bound,' Harlan Ellison rants, and what role do critics play?

Plus the greatest trailer ever, lists about effects, and serious conversation about cookies

Welcome to The Morning Read.

Since Hollywood tried to get a jump on the holiday weekend, everything opened on Wednesday, so "Public Enemies" and "Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs" are both playing wide, and for anyone who feels like they just didn't get enough Nia Vardalos with "My Life In Ruins" last month, her new film "I Hate Valentine's Day" is opening limited.  How much you want to bet her character doesn't reeeeeally hate it?  Hmmm?

Fourth of July weekend normally means the news cycle slows down to a crawl, but already this morning, Sarah Palin announced she's resigning from politics and the New Beverly announced they're bringing The Movie Orgy back in August.  I can't handle a "slow day" like this.  I am troubled by rumors that Palin's resigning because she is the one who killed Jeff Goldblum, and I hope there is swift and terrible and hopefully dinosaur-oriented justice in the days ahead.

I can't believe I forgot to run this link in one of the Morning Reads already.  For a truly great interview with Jody Hill on all things "East Bound And Down," check out part one of /Film's talk.  Part two isn't up yet, but I'm sure it'll be equally awesome.  Jody is one of those guys who hasn't learned that you're supposed to never tell the truth in interviews and you have to only say the "right thing," and I hope to god he never learns those lessons.  He's way too cool for Hollywood to ruin.  I hope.

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<p>This image from Atari's 'Ghostbusters: The Video Game' highlights the game's biggest plus... using the proton packs</p>

This image from Atari's 'Ghostbusters: The Video Game' highlights the game's biggest plus... using the proton packs

Credit: Atari

The Motion/Captured Review: 'Ghostbusters' returns on BluRay and as a game

Is it 1984 all over again, or do these new releases fall flat?

I was 14 when "Ghostbusters" opened.

I had spent the two weeks before the movie opened with my grandmother in Memphis.  She was my most dedicated moviegoing co-conspirator.  A trip to Grandmommy's house meant a full week of going to see everything playing in the theater all week long.  I picked.  We went.  That was how easy it was.  I was set to leave from her house and go straight to Boy Scout Camp for two weeks, and the day before I left from her house, "Ghostbusters" opened.

I was the only kid in camp for those two weeks who had seen "Ghostbusters" before leaving home.  While the outside world was going crazy for the movie, with bootleg t-shirts onsale in Times Square three days after the movie opened and the dialogue instantly becoming the most-quoted lines of the year, inside the camp, I was alone in my mania, and I think I must have sounded like a lunatic to everyone else as I tried to explain just why "Ghostbusters" was so incredible.

Even now, it's hard to explain to someone who wasn't a movie fan at the time just how big an impact the film had.  It was a monster runaway financial hit, sure, but beyond that, it was one of those genuine collective cultural moments, and I would argue that "Ghostbusters" is one of the most influential movies of the '80s.  What they did so well was make a blockbuster horror film, complete with "state-of-the-art" ghosts and hardware, while making fun of it at the same time.  The attitude of Bill Murray's character, Peter Venkman, has become the prevailing attitude of pop culture in the '90s and the '00s.  Pop culture ribs itself so mercilessly all the time now that sincerity is almost subversive. 

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