<p>William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy during the emotional climax of the best-loved 'Star Trek' film</p>

William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy during the emotional climax of the best-loved 'Star Trek' film

Credit: Paramount Home Video

My BluRay Shelf: 'Star Trek 2: Wrath Of Khan' The overwhelming fan favorite considered

Why is 'Star Trek 2' the best-loved of the series? Does it hold up?

At first, it was going to be a return to the small screen.  "Star Trek II" was the name of a TV show.  And as they're putting it together, they're starting to realize that it's not a TV series like they thought at first but, instead, should be a big-screen big-budget motion picture to compete with "Star Wars."  Because LOOK AT ALL THE MONEY!

So they make a movie instead in 1979, and they spend a lot of money on it and they hire a huge famous director... but they really don't do anything like "Star Wars" at all.  And that's to their credit.  They decided that they weren't going to imitate it in terms of structure or style or storytelling.  They made a "Star Trek" movie, definitely... although I'd argue that Wise is also sort of obviously madly in love with "2001" to some extent.  And that movie, that film that is sort of uncompromised and a best-effort and genuinely sort of ambitious and daring... tanks.

Relatively speaking.  It wasn't so embarrassing that people were fired, but it wasn't the cultural sensation Paramount was hoping for.  Gee, can you imagine a summer where a "Star Trek" film came out and made $250 million?  Crazy, right?  Never happen.  But at Paramount, they had to be thinking that Lucas was doing something right, and it was something they were doing wrong. 

Because "The Empire Strikes Back" came out, and it was another monster hit.  So you'd better believe that when they went to camera with a second "Star Trek" movie, they were a lot more open to the idea of turning up the space opera and turning down the Roddenberry.  Literally, with the replacement of the show's creator by new producer Harve Bennett, who was the one who picked the episode "Space Seed" and suggested creating a sequel to it, bringing back a villain from the show so that they could play off of an established history.  Sort of like having an Empire that... you know... strikes back. 

The result is what gave them the rest of the franchise.  It was a turning point, and at the moment they absolutely had to do it, they stuck the landing.

[more after the jump]

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<p>I can totally see it.</p>

I can totally see it.

Credit: DC Comics

'Green Lantern' narrows to three choices; Justin Timberlake, Bradley Cooper, and Ryan Reynolds.

We examine the choice Warner faces, and the pros and cons of each candidate

Ohhhh, I'm so tempted to do a Nikki Finke.

I'll just say that I am happy to see Bradley Cooper still absolutely in the race for the part, and in my opinion, the best guy for the job.

Ryan Reynolds is a movie star waiting for the right part.  If they'll let him make the "Deadpool" movie he really wants to make, that could be his signature part.  He's put in the time to make that happen.  Fox wants it to happen.  It really should happen.  And that's a Fox/Marvel Universe character.  Reynolds shouldn't also be playing a character in the DC Universe.  And vice versa.  I don't really want to see Christian Bale in a "Fantastic Four" reboot.  He's Batman.  Stay on this side of the net, right?

Justin Timberlake is...

Let's be honest.  It doesn't matter how he tests.  What matters is can you sell him to the audience as a credible movie star in a superhero film called "Green Lantern" where he's flying around in outer space and hanging out with aliens and having cosmic-scale adventures?

Can you sell JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE to the audience doing that, without cracking a smile and winking at them about it?  Because that's what you have to do.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Here's a partial view of the t-shirts we'll be wearing to San Diego this year for Comic-Con, and we hope you will, too</p>
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Here's a partial view of the t-shirts we'll be wearing to San Diego this year for Comic-Con, and we hope you will, too

Credit: HitFix

The Morning Read: Win Comic-Con swag

Plus: Comic-Con lineups from Disney, appearance from Miyazaki

Welcome to The Morning Read.

I'm going to try to make this a more compact edition of the column today, because I've got a huge schedule ahead of me for the afternoon, but before we get into things, I've got a very simple contest for you, and it's one I'm excited to explain to you.

HitFix is going to ComicCon this year in a big way, and we would love to find some HitFix readers who'd be happy to be part of that presence.  So I'm going to offer up something special today, our very first HitFix t-shirt, designed and printed specifically for the convention.  If you'd like to be one of the first fifteen people anywhere to own one of these shirts, designed by the very talented Kyle Cummings, it's simple.

There are two requirements to win the shirt:

(1)  You must be going to Comic-Con in San Diego in two weeks.

(2)  You must leave a comment here on this story.  Any comment.  Just leave "comment" if that's all you want to leave, although obviously, I'd rather you leave something more. 

I get mail from you guys, so I know you're out there, and I'd love to hear from you here as well.  There's a really interesting cross-section of people who seem to be reading, and I'd love to see that reflected in the kinds of conversations we could have here.  I like what Jim Emerson wrote (which was a response to earlier pieces by both David Poland and Roger Ebert), and I think one of the reasons Ebert's blog is so great is because of the community of commenters he's attracted.  And you guys who do comment here so far are all welcome additions.  I'm just hoping to add some new voices as well.  I mean, no less than David Puttnam recently called for the entire British film industry to get better at engaging the online community in dialogue.

The t-shirts come in grey for guys and light blue for girls, and the design on each shirt is just a little different, paying homage to different comic icons.  That's it, the graphic at the top of this story, and I love it.  The design is inspired by a certain 1980s superhero lunchbox, and if anyone wants to post an link to that image, I'm sure I can come up with a little extra something for you as a reward.

We want to meet you in San Diego, too, and you can follow me on Twitter at @DrewAtHitFix to find out where we might be over the course of the convention.  It's going to be an exciting test of the HitFix team working together, and I think it's going to be a big week overall.

So come on... leave a comment.  Face down the dreaded Captcha beast and respond to something from today's read, or something about Comic-Con (like what you hope to see), and let's hand out some shirts.

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<p>Leslie Hayman, Kirsten Dunst, A.J. Cook, and Hanna Hall play the lovely, haunted Lisbon sisters in Sophia Coppola's 'The Virgin Suicides'</p>

Leslie Hayman, Kirsten Dunst, A.J. Cook, and Hanna Hall play the lovely, haunted Lisbon sisters in Sophia Coppola's 'The Virgin Suicides'

Credit: Paramount Home Video

Motion/Captured Must-See: 'The Virgin Suicides'

Sophia Coppola's first film is still her best

Welcome to The Motion/Captured Must-See Project.

Been a while.  I got busy running the blog, I guess.  The reason for an ongoing column like this is to hit the "reset" button while you're writing on deadline about what's happening, part of a sort of a dull roar of entertainment sites all writing about the same thing.  It's nice to pick something, a film you really love and respect and think is worth sharing with people, and write about that.  Just refocus, then do whatever else you have to do that day to stay afloat.

That's doubly true of a film as delicate and particular as "The Virgin Suicides."  I think this is a home run.  An effortlessly great film.  It's a film that's overflowing with this heated emotional secret language of girls thing, but it's told from the outside, so the glimpses of the girls are still like UFO encounters, these haunting surreal impossible-to-believe-and-impossible-to-forget memories that stick with these boys for life.  Sophia Coppola nails both points of view, and that dreamy, sweaty empathy that she evokes throughout is what makes me love the film so protectively.  It's a film that wears its heart bare, and that can make it uncomfortable because it's so strange and raw.

"The Virgin Suicides" is the tragedy of the Lisbon family.  Walking into it, you should take the title seriously.  This is a movie about how grief comes calling, and the only question is to what degree will it happen.  The Lisbons have four daughters, four beautiful girls.  Therese (Leslie Hayman), Mary (A.J. Cook), Lex (Kirsten Dunst) and Cecelia (Hanna Hall).  Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon are played by James Woods and Kathleen Turner, and they're both in absolutely peak form here.  Woods plays Mr. Lisbon as a sort of charming shambles, a flustered schoolteacher who has no idea how to talk to his household of women.  He loves them, but he's as mystified by them as any of the boys in the neighborhood who orbit the girls, looking for any opening.  The main obstacle is Mrs. Lisbon, and Turner's heartbreaking as a woman whose own twisted fears of reality corrupt her family to catastrophic degree.

[more after the jump]

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<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?

[more after the jump]

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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.

[more after the jump]

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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.

[more after the jump]

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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.

[more after the jump]

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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.

[more after the jump]

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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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