<p>What could they possibly do for a 'Paranormal Activity 2'?&nbsp; Well, I'm pretty sure they had a guest room.&nbsp; You could put the camera in there for a while.</p>

What could they possibly do for a 'Paranormal Activity 2'?  Well, I'm pretty sure they had a guest room.  You could put the camera in there for a while.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

TMR: De Palma possible for 'Paranormal 2' and and Variety makes a huge ethical gaffe

Plus the making of "Drunk History' and the best junket moment ever

Welcome to The Morning Read.

Is it really already the last weekend of February?  Good god, at this point, time goes by so fast that I feel like Dave Bowman inside the monolith.  It seems like Sundance was yesterday and SXSW starts tomorrow and in the meantime, I'm just scrambling to write as much as possible.  I'm working on a script with my writing partner for the first time in a year in what little free time I have, and it's felt incredibly good to be finally flexing that creative muscle again.  I love this work I do here at HitFix, but I am amazed that a whole year has already gone by and we're into the second year now.  If I let myself, I could spend every day just churning out articles, and never get around to writing my own material again.

One of the things that takes up a lot of mental real estate is the prep involved in the Morning Read.  I'm always looking for material for it, always bookmarking things for later, and it's changed the way I read things online.  I spend more time now, hunting and reading, and I almost never get to use everything that I bookmark.  This week, several things got on top of me, and as a result, I've got paaaaages of bookmarks, and today, I want to share at least a few, even if I am getting a late start.

Man, I was taken aback when The LA Times ran a piece about the potential directors for "Paranormal Activity 2."  I like the first film, so don't take this wrong, but... what world are we living in where Brian De Palma is considering Oren Peli's leftovers?  That's just f'ing crazy.  Admittedly, De Palma is good at creepy horror, he's been preoccupied with notions of what reality is in front of a camera for decades, and his not-very-good "Redacted" was a direct experiment in this sort of found-footage filmmaking.  So it's not that I think it's a bad choice.  But still... this is BRIAN FREAKING DE PALMA we're talking about.  His career trajectory is so awful that it makes me feel better about my own near-total failure in Hollywood.  If this guy, at this point, is looking this as a potential job, then obviously this business is deeply broken.  Brad Anderson (who's no freshman, no matter what The LA Times says) is a great choice if they can get him.  I'm a little amazed that the list features names I actually like.  I guess the first film's success put Paramount in a great position on this one.  My question is who's going to be able to pull this off and have it in theaters in October.  Sounds like one hell of a ride for some filmmaker, and my guess is we'll have a name soon if they hope to make that date.

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<p>Niels Arestrup and Tahar Rahim co-star in 'A Prophet,' the powerful new film from Jacques Audiard</p>

Niels Arestrup and Tahar Rahim co-star in 'A Prophet,' the powerful new film from Jacques Audiard

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

The M/C Review: 'A Prophet' is intense, harrowing, and a must-see

French film about prison life is jet black but still emotional

A young man is sent to jail.  He ends up under the wing of an older mentor.  He works his way up the private food chain inside the jail and then eventually makes some moves of his own.

It's not a particularly new story, but as told by Jacques Audiard, "Un Prophète" is electrifying, soulful entertainment, a beautifully told film featuring great performances and remarkable cinematography.  I saw the film at the Toronto Film Festival, and it actually made my top 20 for last year.  Here's what I wrote when I included it on the list at #12:

"Jacques Audiard has been building an incredible resume as a director over the last  decade, and he's been working as a writer for almost 30 years now, but to me, it feels like everything came together for the first time here, with 'A Prophet,' a haunting film that takes the 'life in prison' genre and supercharges it with a soul that's normally lacking from these films.  A young Arab man is sent to prison, where he has to learn the rules of survival.  He demonstrates a real knack for it, though, and gradually starts to move his way up the social ladder, eventually crossing into a world that is typically closed to his kind, the Mafia.  The relationship between him and an Corsican crime boss is a study in the way power works, and in the way it fosters resentment that slowly simmers until someone has to die.  The film is visually arresting, but beyond that, it feels authentic, organic, never forced despite the rigid structure of the script.  It is a singular experience, and it managed to take a basic story (someone learning to survive in prison) and make it feel like it's being told for the very first time."

I don't think it's accurate to say this is the first time Audiard has put it all together.  Both "Read My Lips" and "The Beat My Heart Skipped" are very good films, and "A Prophet" is definitely an extension of the work he did on those, the next evolutionary step for him as a filmmaker.  It's just that the jump here from very good to oh-wow-great was enough to send me reeling. 

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<p>Tracy Morgan describes his bowel movements in loving detail to Bruce Willis in Kevin Smith's new buddy-cop comedy 'Cop&nbsp;Out'.</p>

Tracy Morgan describes his bowel movements in loving detail to Bruce Willis in Kevin Smith's new buddy-cop comedy 'Cop Out'.

Credit: Warner Bros.

The M/C Review: Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis in 'Cop Out' fall flat

Buddy cop film with no chemistry aims high, misses completely

I haven't spoken to Kevin Smith regarding "Cop Out," but everything I've read him say is that he doesn't look at this as a "Kevin Smith" movie.  It seems to be hard to review his films without reviewing him to some degree, but I get the feeling he'd rather be left out of the review.  So fair enough.  Suffice it to say he directed and edited the film.

"Cop Out" is a case study in how you can do everything right in theory and everything wrong in practice.  I like the idea of hiring writer/directors to sometimes shoot someone else's script, and I think they should do the opposite, too... have someone else direct their work and give that person the trust of final cut.  And so I'm down with the idea of hiring this guy to make a movie outside his comfort zone.  Tracy Morgan is a performer who's only as good as the context you give him, and I like the notion of him in a cop film with a real cop movie icon, Bruce Willis.  That works as an idea.  Seann William Scott and Guillermo Diaz and Kevin Pollack and Adam Brody and Jason Lee... all good comic performers who have had great moments in the past, and who make sense if you're trying to fill the cast out.  A script that makes the much-discussed "Black List", which increasingly seems to be "the list of all the stuff that's about to start casting in the next four to six months" rather than any sort of genuine poll of the best unproduced scripts.  All of these things are ingredients that should add up to a fun studio comedy that pays playful "ho-mage" to the interracial buddy cop films of the '80s.

They don't, though.  At all.

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<p>Timothy Olyphant and Joe Anderson deal with some very bad things in 'The Crazies,' the new remake of George Romero's '70s horror film.</p>

Timothy Olyphant and Joe Anderson deal with some very bad things in 'The Crazies,' the new remake of George Romero's '70s horror film.

Credit: Overture Films

The M/C Review: 'The Crazies' showcases Tim Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, smart horror

Another remake of a George Romero film yields strong results

Civilization is, at best, a verbal agreement that we trust each other to uphold, and it seems to me the older I get that all it would take to topple it all is the slightest excuse, the smallest push, and it would all end up in ash.

That's the fear at the heart of "The Crazies," a loose remake of George Romero's 1973 film, and it's a surprisingly effective and engaging film that hits the ground running and never lets up.  Anchored by strong lead performances by Tim Olyphant and Radha Mitchell, the movie is being sold as a sort of pseudo-zombie film, but The Crazies themselves are not the thing to be most afraid of in the film.  Instead, it's the reaction to The Crazies that is truly frightening, and what makes the film work is just how grounded it is in the total distrust of authority that seems to be growing in our society these days.  It would make a fascinating double-feature with Michael Winterbottom's recent documentary "The Shock Doctrine," an explicit illustration of the worst-case scenarios presented in that film.

This is the second Romero remake that has turned out to be surprisingly strong.  Zack Snyder's "Dawn Of The Dead" gave fanboys fits while it was in production, but when it was released, it turned out to be a good horror film with a great opening sequence, and a lot of what made it work was the casting.  Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, and Jake Weber all elevated the film with their work, never once treating the material like they were slumming.  The same is true of "The Crazies," with Olyphant and Mitchell playing a married couple who are the sheriff and the family doctor for a small town in the midwest.  Joe Anderson as a deputy and Danielle Panabaker as Mitchell's assistant also do strong work, really putting a face on the human toll of this particular tragedy.

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<p>Warner Bros. would love to see Superman fly again, but according to sources, David Goyer is not onboard to write a new adventure for the 'Man Of Steel'... yet.</p>

Warner Bros. would love to see Superman fly again, but according to sources, David Goyer is not onboard to write a new adventure for the 'Man Of Steel'... yet.

Credit: Alex Ross/DC

Updated: Is David Goyer suiting up for new Superman film 'Man Of Steel'?

Rumors say yes, but our sources say not yet

UPDATE:  (5:30 PM PST) - Now IGN is saying that not only has Legendary Pictures hired David Goyer to write the film, but he's also got a co-writer:  Jonah Nolan.  And IESB is saying that there's already a finished draft of "Batman 3," and that's what got Warner Bros. to pull the trigger on "Man Of Steel" now since the clock is ticking before they lose the legal rights to make a film about Superman.

I'm going to attempt to clarify this with some people, but since this story has become such a hot potato today, I'm doing my best to separate cover stories from confusion, and there are some wild contradictions in what I'm hearing.

ORIGINAL STORY:  (3:30 PM PST) - When David Goyer left his show "Flash Forward" recently, there were dozens and dozens of stories, led by Nikki "Toldja" Finke, about how he was leaving to write a new "Batman" film with Christopher and Jonah Nolan.

Only that wasn't true. 

Chris Nolan is still hard at work on "Inception," and will be until the film is in release.  There have certainly been some "Batman" conversations, but the idea that the script is in progress right now isn't correct.  It's a process that will begin when they have the current work off their plate, and not until.

Fink also recently broke a story saying that Chris Nolan will be godfathering a new "Superman" film through development.  That may be true, although I can't independently verify it, and at this point, there's been so much about Superman that's been written that is inaccurate that I hardly know how to sift through it anymore.

This morning, Latino Review ran a story in which they say that David Goyer has been hired to write a film called "The Man Of Steel" for Warner Bros.  They have some details about it, including Braniac's involvement and the notion that the Daily Planet is struggling against the internet for survival.

Thing is, I don't think that's accurate, either.  All due respect to the guys at Latino Review, who are very good at breaking scoops, but according to my source, someone who absolutely is in a position to know if this has happened, David Goyer has not been hired, and they are not moving forward at the moment.

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<p>Guy Williams and Antonio Banderas have both played the legendary outlaw and hero, Zorro, the subject of the newest installment of 'Film Nerd 2.0'</p>

Guy Williams and Antonio Banderas have both played the legendary outlaw and hero, Zorro, the subject of the newest installment of 'Film Nerd 2.0'

Credit: Walt Disney Company/SPHE

Film Nerd 2.0: A Tale Of Two Zorros

Will the boys prefer the '50s TV show or the '90s big-budget blockbuster?

Walt Disney was a genius.

That's always important to remember, and easy to forget on any conscious level.  At this point, "Walt Disney" is a corporation, a corner of pop culture that is ubiquitous.  But before that, before the parks, before his name became a brand, Walt Disney was a genius.  And for someone who grew up after the real heyday of Walt as an onscreen figure, there are things I simply never knew.

One of the greatest things about the Walt Disney Treasures series is that they offer up collections of what I would call the ephemera of Walt's career, things that don't necessarily have the same sort of awareness now that they once did, but that were key steps along the way.  Like many of the things that Walt Disney was associated with, "Zorro" was not created by him, but when Disney got around to telling his version, he did it in a way that staked a certain ownership on the character for an entire generation.  The "Zorro" series that premiered in 1957 was hugely influential to young audiences at the time, and I know a whoooole lotta film geeks who were kids then who have fond memories of that show.  They know the theme song.  To them, Guy Williams was the gold standard that they'll compare any other Zorro to, forever.  For an older generation, Douglas Fairbanks was Zorro.  To the generation between, it's Tyrone Powers.  My sons are just the right age for the adventures of Zorro, and when trying to decide where to start them, I decided that Disney was the right way in.

Each season of the show comes in a separate oversize tin case.  "Zorro: The Complete First Season, 1957 - 1958" is a hefty six-disc collection, featuring all 39 episodes of the first season of the show as well as two one-hour episodes of the show produced after the second season ended, both of which aired originally on "Walt Disney Presents."  They're all remastered, and they are as impressive as any black and white film from the '50s, crisp and clean and genuinely sort of amazing, especially for the time.  Disney spent a ton of money on this film, and as a weekly production, it looks better than a lot of modern shows.  Matte paintings, major stunt sequences, tons of extras, expert swordfighting... the show has it all, week after week.

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<p>It's not nice of Matt Damon in 'The Informant!' to make fun of Frank Langella in 'The Box' just because his face is all messed up.</p>

It's not nice of Matt Damon in 'The Informant!' to make fun of Frank Langella in 'The Box' just because his face is all messed up.

Credit: Warner Home Video

DVD & Games Forecast: Matt Damon is 'The Informant!' and Cameron Diaz opens 'The Box'

Plus the PS3 game 'Heavy Rain' arrives today with high expectations

Welcome to the DVD & Games Forecast.

This isn't one of the big weeks of the year.  There are a few big titles, but overall, it's sort of slow.  Then again, with the home video landscape, it seems like slow weeks are the norm, and the big weeks are few and far between.


"Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths" (BluRay/DVD)

I'm not sure why Warner/DC's been so good at their animated superhero films, and so completely unable to get their live-action division working right.  Whatever the case, I'm excited to check this one out.  The Justice League finds themselves battling their own alternate selves from a parallel universe, and they find themselves at a disadvantage when they realize that the alternate-world versions of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are willing to kill to win the fight.  There's also a "Spectre" short subject on the disc, and that's just as interesting to me as the feature.  So far, these DC animated films have all been smart and well-produced, and I'm glad that they're at least doing something with the characters.  At this point, maybe animation is the best option for this sort of group picture, since it seems to allow for experimentation in a way that a giant live-action film might not.

"The Informant!" (BluRay/DVD)

Steven Soderbergh's hilarious true story of a corporate stooge who turns government rat seems like it'll be a dry prospect when you read a description, but pretty much everything about the film works.  Matt Damon's lead performance is one of the best of his career, layered and lunatic, and the supporting cast is a mix of stand-up icons playing it straight and interesting character actors working against type.  It's a great-looking movie, and it's that rare comedy that demands that you actually think.  It's rewarding, and a reminder of just how beautifully diverse Soderbergh is as a filmmaker.

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<p>Ian McShane, best known to many from his role as Al Swearengen on 'Deadwood,' has agreed to join the cast of 'Pirates Of The Caribbean:&nbsp;On Stranger Tides' as the legendary pirate Blackbeard.</p>

Ian McShane, best known to many from his role as Al Swearengen on 'Deadwood,' has agreed to join the cast of 'Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides' as the legendary pirate Blackbeard.

Credit: HBO

Ian McShane sets sail with 'Pirates Of The Caribbean 4' as Blackbeard

Veteran character actor onboard to play Blackbeard

Now this is how you get me interested.

Over the weekend, Greg Ellwood and I both attended the "Alice In Wonderland" press day in Hollywood, where I sat down for some one on one talks with cast and crew while Greg sat in on the press conference.  He already brought you the news on "Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" straight from Johnny Depp's mouth, but today, there's even more news on the next installment in the series, which seems to be quickly taking shape now.

It appears Blackbeard will be a major part of the new film.

And even more interesting?  Ian "Deadwood" McShane is playing him.

If you factor in Penelope Cruz appearing in the film as well, along with Johnny Depp as Captain Jack and Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa, this is starting to sound like it could be more fun than the first three films, with a much richer cast.  I'll take McShane and Cruz over Knightley and Bloom any day of the week.

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<p>Bruce Willis may have made an underwhelming 'Die Hard 4,' but that doesn't mean he's not willing to try and disappoint fans of the original film once again with a 'Die Hard 5,' and thank god for that.</p>

Bruce Willis may have made an underwhelming 'Die Hard 4,' but that doesn't mean he's not willing to try and disappoint fans of the original film once again with a 'Die Hard 5,' and thank god for that.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Will there really be a 'Die Hard 5'? Bruce Willis thinks so.

No director and no writer yet, but that doesn't seem to concern Bruno

I can honestly say that if I were sitting across from Bruce Willis in an interview these days, the last thing that would cross my mind would be asking him if he's going to be making another "Die Hard" film.

That's why there's an MTV, I suppose.

Maybe I misread the general reaction to the last film in the "Die Hard" series.  Maybe there are people out there saying to themselves right now, "I wonder what happened to John McClane after he fought that jet airplane bare-handed and saved the universe from the Internet," but if so, I've never met one of them.  Maybe there are hardcore fans who are already angrily logging in to HitFix so they can respond, "Mr. McWeeny, you are simply not cool enough to appreciate a PG-13 'Die Hard' movie, so go FORK yourself."  Maybe.

Personally, I like to imagine an alternate reality where the producers of the original "Die Hard" realize that the charm of the film hinges largely on the idea of John McClane being a very average guy who finds himself in one-time-only circumstances much larger than him, and who survives just barely, and as a result, they decided to never make a sequel because they know it would just be stupid to do so.  I like to imagine that reality, and when I look at my own DVD collection, that is indeed the reality it reflects. 

There are no "Die Hard" sequels in this dojo.

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<p>Daniel Day Who?&nbsp; Marcello Mastroianni plays the original Guido Anselmi in Fellini's '8 1/2,' considered by many to be the best film about filmmaking ever made.</p>

Daniel Day Who?  Marcello Mastroianni plays the original Guido Anselmi in Fellini's '8 1/2,' considered by many to be the best film about filmmaking ever made.

Credit: The Criterion Collection

Motion/Captured Must-See: Fellini's '8 1/2' is a master class in navel-gazing

What could a nearly fifty-year-old film about filmmaking have to say about life today?

Welcome to The Motion/Captured Must-See Project.

If there's any one column that I've started since joining HitFix that I love and dread in equal measure, it's this one.  I love it because it gives me a chance to write about anything in the history of film that I consider formative and essential to a film education.  I dread it because it's such a big blank canvass each week, and after I finished my initial run of 26 entries on the list, picking one for each letter of the alphabet, I hit the wall because I realized I was free to write about anything next... and "anything" is an awfully big target to hit.

Thankfully, I finally broke my writer's block, and there's no small irony to the idea that the film that did it for me was Fellini's "8½," a story about a director who, free to make anything he wants, finds himself unable to figure out what, if anything, he has to say.  For many people, their exposure to this Italian classic is still only knowing it as the movie that inspired the musical "Nine" last Christmas.  Considering how powerfully off-base that film was, and how wrong it got the source material, that's a shame.  I feel like "Nine" might have put people off of Fellini's film if they've never seen it, and that would be a travesty.

The difference is that "8½" is authentic, the work of a man trying to make sense of his own life with art, while "Nine" is an act of empty fetishism, a pale echo of the original.  Everything that is wrong with "Nine" was encapsulated in the song "Cinema Italiano," a naked admission of what "Nine" was about.  It treats the look and mood and feel of Fellini's films as something you can slip on like a t-shirt, an affectation.  But Fellini wasn't making films and putting something on... he was making films about the world he lived in, the people he worked with, the faces that surrounded him.  His movies could be surreal and grotesque and outrageous, but they were his.  They were movies that came from inside him, and in the case of "8½," it was a movie he had to make, or there was a chance he was done making movies altogether.

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