<p>Paramount is ready for warp speed on a new 'Star Trek' adventure.</p>

Paramount is ready for warp speed on a new 'Star Trek' adventure.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

The Morning Read (3.31.09) Green chicks and sequels for 'Star Trek'

Plus Rob Zombie on 'H2', Raimi's 'Hell' poster, Cronenberg part two, and a man who rode Twitter around the world

You know why it sucks that we're giving away an "Observe and Report" skateboard?  Because I obviously can't win, and that sounds like a great prize.  I want a freakin' "Observe and Report" skateboard, damn it.

You know, I've been fairly optimistic about "Star Trek" so far.  I liked the 25 minutes or so that they showed us last year.  I think that new trailer is all sorts of awesome.  I'm not some rigid intractable Trekkie.  But there's a controversy brewing today that threatens to derail my affection for the film before I've even seen it.  I am talking, of course, about the way they managed to take Diora Baird, cast her as The Green Chick, and yet somehow turned this easy geek slam dunk into a disappointment by making her look... lousy? The fine folks over at Film Drunk ranted about it with pictures this morning, and I think they make a strong case.  Diora Baird is indeed one of the most startlingly beautiful women in film right now, a throwback to the sort of sex kittens that made the '60s and '70s great, and The Green Chick is one of the most immediate images of SF sexuality.  The combination of the two should have people in the streets throwing spontaneous parades, not wishing for a Brillo pad and some soap and water.  Party foul on JJ.

Even with this hiccup, though, the "Star Trek" team seems awfully confident.  Signing Kurtzman, Orci, and Lindelof to write the sequel before the first one's even in theaters is a bold step.  My question about sequels hinges on a slight spoiler for the film coming out next month.  It's not a reboot so much as it is a way for JJ to honor previous continuity while also releasing this franchise from any obligation to what has come before.  Because the world has changed, anything can happen after the first film.  They could reintroduce any characters they want from the whole history of "Star Trek," and the stories can play out in totally different ways now.  I have to think that's part of the plan, and we'll see Tribbles and Klingons and Harry Mudd in the future.  Most importantly, I hope we're going to see Khan again, and if we do, I'm afraid I have to insist... Javier Bardem will be playing him.  I will accept no arguments on this point.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Tom Hanks has a moment of clarity in the wonderful 'Joe Vs. The Volcano'</p>

Tom Hanks has a moment of clarity in the wonderful 'Joe Vs. The Volcano'

Credit: Warner Home Video

HitFix and Ain't It Cool present our first joint screening at The New Beverly

'Ishtar' and 'Joe Vs The Volcano' at a criminally underrated double-bill


This Wednesday and Thursday night, Ain't It Cool News and HitFix are teaming up with the awesome New Beverly Cinema to present a double-feature of films that do not deserve the bad reputation they got when they were first released.  Mr. Beaks, aka Jeremy Smith, is going to be presenting the hilarious "Ishtar," and I plan on singing along with every single one of the insane Paul Williams songs in the film.  Afterwards, I'll be presenting "Joe Vs. The Volcano," John Patrick Shanley's romantic and silly story of a man, a brain cloud, and three suspiciously similar women.

That's April 1st and 2nd, but it's not a joke.  We really are screening these films at 7:30 and 9:40, and they really do deserve your respect.  I find it infuriating when a movie comes out, makes no money, and yet everyone decides that they hate it, even though no one saw it.  It's okay to call a film that fails financially a "bomb" in financial terms, but how can there be a public concensus if no one sees the film?  How does that group think set in?

I know that with "Ishtar," a lot of it was because of the various reports of out-of-control budget before the film was released.  For some reason, the press decided that they were going to freak out on behalf of every single dollar spent, sight unseen.  And with "Joe," it baffles me how the combination of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, box-office magic every other time it happened, did absolutely nothing to help push this romantic fairy tale into the public eye.

I hope to see you at one of the double-features, and if there's a good turn-out, maybe we can present even more screenings at this great venue in the months to come.

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<p>Gene Kelly takes flight in one of many amazing moments in the remastered BluRay release of 'An American In Paris'</p>

Gene Kelly takes flight in one of many amazing moments in the remastered BluRay release of 'An American In Paris'

Credit: Warner Home Video

On The Shelf (3.30.09) 'Slumdog,' 'Marley,' and classic musical BluRays

Plus exploitation trash, live comedy, and Riddick in high-def

Have you seen the new image gallery we're putting together each week to showcase some of the week's biggest DVD and BluRay titles?

The first one's right here.

And it's a good week, definitely.  There are some big mainstream titles like Best Picture Academy Award winner "Slumdog Millionaire," which I'm guessing looks great on BluRay in particular, as well as the tearjerker "Marley & Me," which I'm glad someone warned me about because my wife would have been very, very unhappy seeing this one without prior warning.  And I'm willing to bet a lot of people missed "Seven Pounds" in the theater, and I know it got some truly venomous reviews, but I'd still say give it a chance.  Yes, it's a melodrama.  Yes, it makes some big stretches at a few points.  But I still found it affecting, maybe because it's Rosario Awesome playing the Sick Girl, and I'm sorry... my protective male chromosome kicks into overdrive when it's Rosario Awesome in distress.  Will Smith plays the most nearly-unhinged saint in recent memory, and if you're willing to go with the film in its crazier moments, you might find yourself as taken with it as I was.

I'm a Leonard Cohen fan from my teenage years on, and I think he puts on ridiculously cool live shows.  I'll probably read a few reviews to see what people's general impressions are of the set list and the performance, but it's a safe bet I'll be adding "Leonard Cohen: Live In London" to the collection very soon.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan ponder taking the ultimate leap of faith in John Patrick Shanley's classic 'Joe Versus The Volcano'</p>

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan ponder taking the ultimate leap of faith in John Patrick Shanley's classic 'Joe Versus The Volcano'

Credit: Warner Home Video

Motion/Captured Must-See: 'Joe Versus The Volcano'

A surreal romance whose cult grows more every year

I fell in love with this movie the first time I saw it.  The Plitt 4 in Brandon, Florida.  And there were two other people in the theater.  One of the last films I saw there before leaving Tampa and moving to Los Angeles.  I wasn't really connected to "the business" at all, but I knew that the film was considered a bomb.  I wanted to see the movie because I liked Tom Hanks, I liked "Moonstruck," I liked Meg Ryan, and I liked the clip I saw on David Letterman.  It had been out for four days, and my buddy who still worked at the Plitt called me.  "We're getting rid of it on Thursday," he said.   "If you wanna see it, come see it before then."  So the next afternoon, I did, and I thought it was great.  It hit me the same way "Raising Arizona" did.  It felt like great entertainment with a huge exposed heart and a sense of style.  It felt like the sort of thing I wished everyone was trying to do.  It felt like someone having fun, aiming high.  It was dizzy, silly, drunk romantic, and it was also unexpectedly profound.  The things it had to say... the real things, underneath all the talk of brain clouds and orange soda... were important.  Heartfelt.  Direct.

"Joe Vs The Volcano" is a great film.  It's not a guilty pleasure.  It's not a film I think is okay.  It is one of the titles I am most enthusiastic about on the list so far.  It is a fable, an extended metaphor.  It is about life, in toto, and about death.  It's got a lot on its mind, but it is very concise about expressing it.  "Joe" covers a lot of ground.  That's one of the things that I find most interesting about the film... the stages that Joe passes through.  He goes from spirit guide to spirit guide, learning what he needs to know, preparing himself so that when he meets the right person... when he finally finds his Karma Girl... he's ready.  He can make the leap.  He can be open to her, to love, to life, to fate.  From crumpled office zombie to man in love.  A crooked road.  Eventual nirvana.  Shanley's vision of adventure is beautiful, and there's a touch of magic from the very start.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Catherine Deneuve in the just-released BluRay of the 1980 French film 'The Last Metro'</p>

Catherine Deneuve in the just-released BluRay of the 1980 French film 'The Last Metro'

Credit: The Criterion Collection/Blu-Ray.com

My BluRay Shelf: 'The Last Metro' (Criterion)

Francois Truffaut's last major hit gets the deluxe treatment

1980 was near the end of the distinguished career of Francois Truffaut.  Every film of his I've seen was after the fact, even though he was still releasing movies while I've been an active filmgoer.  I just wasn't ready for his movies at that point.  My only exposure to him was from his role in "Close Encounters."  From reading about the making of that film, I knew he was a director.  It wasn't until I was 15 and I saw a theatrical screening of "The 400 Blows" that I finally woke up to his work.  I've spent the home video era catching up with his movies as much as possible, and now, with the release of "The Last Metro" on Criterion BluRay, I've finally had my chance to see his last major hit, both critically and commercially.

Set in Nazi-Occupied France, it's the story of the Theatre Montmartre and its struggles to mount a production in 1942.  The theater's star director, Lucas Steiner (Heinz Bennent), is Jewish at a time when that can get you killed, so he goes into hiding in the cellar of the theater.  Everyone's told that he fled the country, so the theater company moves forward with a new production, a place called "The Vanished Woman."  Although his assistant director Jean-Loup Cottins (Jean Poiret) is ostensibly directing, he's working from notes that were "left behind" by Lucas.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Sacha Baron Coen, as Bruno, at a Prop 8 rally last November.&nbsp; Will he take to the streets of the MPAA doesn't give "Bruno" an R-rating?</p>

Sacha Baron Coen, as Bruno, at a Prop 8 rally last November.  Will he take to the streets of the MPAA doesn't give "Bruno" an R-rating?

Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

The Morning Read (3.30.09) 'Bruno' gets an NC-17

Plus Eric Bana's hair and David Lynch meditates

Hope you guys had a good weekend.  I spent a little family time, which was nice, and I also caught up on a fair-sized stack of DVDs and BluRays which needed reviewing.  Now, as I start the Morning Read, I think it's time to put on "The Terminator" for the first time in about nine years.  It's a BluRay, one of the first I got when I got my PS3.  I figured I'd find time this year, before McG's new Terminator reboot arrives, to watch the first two films again, and I'm glad I've waited this long.  It'll feel fresh.

"Lawrence Of Arabia" is my favorite movie.  So you can imagine that Maurice Jarre's score is probably a favorite as well, and in general, I think of Jarre as one of the old-style giants, and I thought our own Melinda Newman did a lovely job summing up the career of this legend. Maybe later this morning I'll watch one of my other favorite Jarre films, "Top Secret!"

I'm not remotely surprised to read that the MPAA has slapped an NC-17 on the first cut of "Bruno," the new comedy from Sacha Baron Cohen.  Considering how homophobia is the target in this film, and considering how much explicit gay material is included in the movie, it was inevitable.  We're in the midst of one of the most permissive moments from the MPAA in recent memory... filmmaker after filmmaker lately has told me how amazed they were at what they were able to get away with... but when it comes to gay-themed content, particularly if it gets specific about the mechanics of gay sex, I think that current air of permissiveness vanishes.  I don't think "Bruno" is going to have an easy time getting to the R, but I'm sure they'll figure it out.  All I know is that the unrated DVD is going to be absolutely packed.  Fudge packed, if you know what I mean.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Jay Chandrasekhar, Eric Stolhanske, April Bowlby, Paul Soter, Cobie Smulders, Steve Lemme, Michael Clarke Duncan and Kevin Heffernan in 'Broken Lizard's The Slammin' Salmon'</p>

Jay Chandrasekhar, Eric Stolhanske, April Bowlby, Paul Soter, Cobie Smulders, Steve Lemme, Michael Clarke Duncan and Kevin Heffernan in 'Broken Lizard's The Slammin' Salmon'

Credit: Broken Lizard Industries

SXSW Review: 'The Slammin' Salmon'

Broken Lizard returns to peak form with this frequently hilarious ensemble comedy

I sort of like Broken Lizard as underdogs.  I remember walking into the first screening of "Supertroopers" at Sundance, and no one in that theater knew what it was or who they were.  The film absolutely killed as a result, blindsiding everyone there.  By the time it hit theaters, enough advance buzz existed that there was a bit of a "prove it" attitude from fanboys, and I don't think they gave the film a fair shake.  And then with "Club Dread" and "Beerfest," there's been a feeling that people were almost lying in wait for the films, determined to prove how much smarter they are as an audience than Broken Lizard are as filmmakers.  And at Sundance this year, I heard many people in the press grumbling about how "The Slammin' Salmon" must be awful because it wasn't even being shown to the press.

I'm sure the guys who make up Broken Lizard would prefer not to be underdogs at this point.  I remember being on set for "Beerfest," talking to Warner Bros. about signing BL to a long-term deal that would allow them to not only make their own films but to also produce for other rising comedy talent, and that optimism was very encouraging.  It also seems to have evaporated after "Beerfest" actually came out.  While Jay Chandrasekhar, who directed the first four features for the group, stayed busy with episodes of "Knight Rider," "Chuck," and "Lipstick Jungle," it was Kevin Heffernan who stepped up to direct this one, and the result has a different energy.  It's also the best overall film they've made since "Super Troopers," and I hope it gets a wide enough release to be a significant hit for the guys.  It's such an appealing, silly, easy-to-like film that it would be a shame if it wasn't given a chance to reach the widest audience possible.

[more after the jump]

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<p>'Open the door for Mr. Muckle!' W.C. Fields finds the perfect foil in the Depression-era classic 'It's A Gift'</p>

'Open the door for Mr. Muckle!' W.C. Fields finds the perfect foil in the Depression-era classic 'It's A Gift'

Credit: Universal Home Video

Motion/Captured Must-See: 'It's A Gift'

W.C. Fields hates you, and with good reason

Why this film and why W.C. Fields?

Is it reflexive?  Am I just running down a checklist of comedy icons and now it's his turn?

No.  I'm not particularly brand-loyal it comes to the early days of comedy, with the possible exception of Buster Keaton.  Him, I endorse across the board.  Everyone else, I've got my likes and my dislikes.  And in the case of W.C. Fields, I think it all came together in his Depression-era comedy version of The Book Of Job, and any discussion of great movies should include this dark-hearted misanthropy.

Part of that is because of Norman McLeod.  This is a guy who worked with the comedy legends of his day, and helped shape who they were on film.  He directed the Marx Brothers in "Monkey Business" and "Horse Feathers."  He directed Cary Grant and Constance Bennett in "Topper."  He directed Danny Kaye repeatedly.  He directed Bob Hope and Bing Crosby repeatedly.  And, yes, in 1934, he directed the great W.C. Fields in the film that I think best showcases the particular comic sensibilities that made Fields such an icon in his time.  Not only did he know funny innately, he helped define the vocabulary of how it's still being shot today.  He understood that it's not just funny people doing funny things, but also how you shoot and cut it.  He really understood where to put his camera to sell every single punchline.  He made great use of all of his actors and not only his stars. 

[more after the jump]

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<p>A glimpse at the final 'Star Trek' poster, which is exclusively online at MySpace</p>

A glimpse at the final 'Star Trek' poster, which is exclusively online at MySpace

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Final 'Star Trek' Poster Appears At MySpace

Iconic imagery, but does it speak to the general audience?

Okay, I think that the new "Star Trek" poster that just went online at MySpace is sort of amazing.

But to the general public, who aren't that savvy, is this monochromatic look at pure velocity going to communicate the scope and the excitement of what it looks like JJ Abrams has pulled off?  Or is this preaching to the choir?

Tough call, but I'm excited by everything we've seen on this one so far, and that last trailer is such a perfect piece of film marketing that I am willing to bet there is no misstep, great or small, that could derail this movie at this point.

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<p>'Monsters Vs. Aliens' is the first test of Jeffrey Katzenberg's determined drive to make every film for the rest of eternity in 3D</p>

'Monsters Vs. Aliens' is the first test of Jeffrey Katzenberg's determined drive to make every film for the rest of eternity in 3D

Credit: AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

On The Screen (3.27.09) 'Monsters Vs. Aliens' reviewed

Plus what else is on screens near you this weekend

The biggest title opening this weekend, both in terms of budget and in terms of screen count, is "Monsters Vs. Aliens."  I talked a bit about the experience of going to see the film in IMAX 3D in a piece I ran earlier this week, but I didn't really review the movie.  Let's kick off this column today with a more formal look at the film itself, even as I crank up this gorgeous "Quantum Of Solace" BluRay loud enough to piss off my neighbors.

"Monsters Vs. Aliens" is closer to the "Kung-Fu Panda" end of the Dreamworks Animation scale than the "Shark's Tale" end of things, and that's encouraging.  Conrad Vernon and Rob Letterman co-direct, and it's obvious they have a genuine love of both giant monsters and '50s aliens, as they gently, affectionately roast both sub-genres.  There are moments where the film succumbs to the pop culture joke thing that derails so many Dreamworks animated films, but not many, and for the most part, the humor seems to be an organic extension of the characters and the situation.  It's a huge spectacle, especially if you see it in 3D, and features some solid voice work by a star cast, something that isn't always the case.

There are some mis-steps.  I think pretty much every scene involving The President, played by Stephen Colbert, is a bust.  In fact, can we declare a moratorium on wacky scenes set in the War Room?  Even in films where they're supposed to be serious, like "Watchmen," it just feels like someone trying to out-do Kubrick and "Strangelove," and that ain't never gonna happen.  The War Room scene here is redundant, since it's mainly designed to introduce the various Monsters in the film, but by that point, they've already been well-established.  It's like they decided to build a trailer right into the movie, but when you're actually sitting in the theater, these scenes sort of stop things cold.

[more after the jump]

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