<p>If they gave an Oscar just for Best Hair, Michael Pena would have it locked up after his work in Jody Hill's scabrous new comedy 'Observe and Report'</p>

If they gave an Oscar just for Best Hair, Michael Pena would have it locked up after his work in Jody Hill's scabrous new comedy 'Observe and Report'

Credit: Warner Bros

The Motion/Captured Interview: Michael Pena in 'Observe and Report'

Character actor breaks loose with one of the most unexpected comedy turns this year

When I visited Jody Hill in the editing room of "Observe and Report," one of the first scenes he showed me was an extended sequence that spotlights Dennis, one of the co-workers of Ronnie, the character played by Seth Rogen.  After the clip, I turned to Jody and said, "That guy's awesome.  Who is he?  Cause it's funny how much he looks like Michael Pena."

"Uhhhh... that is Michael Pena."

I suspect I will not be the only one to have that reaction.  Pena is known more for dramatic work in films like "Crash" or "World Trade Center," and he's made a good career out of playing sensitive and earnest.  But there's a crazy person bubbling deep inside, and Hill finally tapped into that to spectacular result.  When I was in Austin for SXSW, I sat down with Pena to discuss his new role, perceptions of him in the business, and our Facebook friendship.

Motion/Captured:  Michael, this is a reinvention for you in a lot of ways, in terms of how people will perceive you.

[more after the jump]

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<p>"They did what? They showed the movie already?"</p>

"They did what? They showed the movie already?"

Credit: Paramount Pictures

The Morning Read (4.07.09) Paramount wins the summer with 'Star Trek' in Austin

Plus Michael Crichton is the new Tupac and Michael Winterbottom works it out

Um, yeah, did we mention that Paramount just served everyone a huge plate of shut the f**k up?  Cause they did.

May's going to be huge for everyone.  There's no doubt about it.  There are so many giant movies coming out in May that it's sort of sick.  "Wolverine."  "Angels & Demons."  "Terminator: Salvation."  "Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian," my nominee for most unweildy title of the year.  "Up."  And those are just the giant mega-budget movies.  I also count another 12 films worth seeing in May, ranging from Steven Soderbergh's "The Girlfriend Experience" to Rian Johnson's "The Brothers Bloom" or even Sam Raimi's "Drag Me To Hell."  That's not a list for the whole summer, mind you... just May.

But last night in Austin, with the help of the amazing Alamo, Paramount threw down with a smile on their face, unleashing "Star Trek" on an unsuspecting crowd while also unveiling it halfway across the globe at a gala Australian premiere.  Surprise and red carpet.  Totally different experiences.  The Austin reviews are pouring in, and they're fairly blissful.  Seems to me people really, really liked what they saw, and it also seems that much of what I took away from the early footage screening event I went to held true for the film as a whole, and that my early scoop on the film's plotline turned out to be about 90% accurate.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Peter Lorre realizes there's no escape from his fate in Fritz Lang's searing masterpiece 'M'</p>

Peter Lorre realizes there's no escape from his fate in Fritz Lang's searing masterpiece 'M'

Credit: The Criterion Collection

Motion/Captured Must-See: 'M.'

Fritz Lang's searing look at life on the run

I'd argue that "Metropolis" is the most famous of Fritz Lang's films.  After all, even if you've never seen it, chances are you recognize the image of the Maria robot, or at the very least, you've seen some of the 10,000 movies that have borrowed ideas in production design from the influential SF movie.  But "M" is a far superior work of cinema overall, a mood piece propelled by a fearless performance from one of cinema's most recognizable character actors.  And when you consider that this was one of the first things Peter Lorre ever did, it's even more astonishing.  It's fearless work, made even more emotionally complicated because Lang dares to express some sort of empathy for the character, an entirely-loathsome child murderer.  This is no dusty homework assignment, something you should watch so you can understand film history.  This is an angry primal scream of a film, still vital and electric, as modern in its attitudes towards crime and media as anything released this year.

Five minutes in, we're treated to the first of many indelible images in the film, and we get a hint of Lang's overall visual plan.  A little girl bouncing a ball stops in front of a poster, and the camera moves past her to focus on the poster so we can read it.  The little girl stays off-camera, but the ball keeps appearing in frame as she bounces it off the poster while we read it.  There's a 10,000-mark reward for anyone who can help track down a child murderer.  And as a man's shadow slides across the poster, looking down at the little girl while he introduces himself, it's hard not to get immediately anxious.  Lang's staging tells us clearly that this is the killer, and the little girl?  His next victim.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Jackie Earle Haley's work in 'Watchmen' must have played some part in the decision to cast him as iconic killer Freddy Krueger</p>

Jackie Earle Haley's work in 'Watchmen' must have played some part in the decision to cast him as iconic killer Freddy Krueger

Credit: Warner Bros.

The Morning Read (4.06.09) Haley's Krueger and the NY Times on Jody Hill

Plus free 'Party Down' episodes and vintage 'Spider-Man'

So how was your weekend?

Mine was nice, but not nearly as productive as it needed to be.  Sort of the story of my life, I guess, but I really wish I had about seventeen extra copies of myself.  I might have some hope of eventually catching up if that were the case.

As it is, I've got about seven things to write today if I want to just keep from falling further behind.  Let's see if I'm able to pull it off.

By the way... if Roger Friedman has indeed been fired, as we've heard and reported, then someone should probably tell Roger Friedman.  Actually, it sounds like things are still in play.  Friedman's got a chance to argue for his job today, according to Gawker's source.

Have you had a chance to check out the new Starz original series, "Party Down"?  It's co-created by Rob "Veronica Mars" Thomas and Paul "Paul Rudd" Rudd, along with John Enborn and Dan Etheridge, both also "Mars" veterans.  It's a series about a catering company, with each episode set at a different event.  Very simple.  Very, very funny, and the cast is excellent.  Adam Scott, Jane Lynch, Lizzie Caplan, Ryan Hansen, the great Martin Starr, and Ken Marino are the regulars, and it's been a loooooong time since I've seen any series premiere with a bench that strong.  There's not a weak link in that cast.  Still not convinced?  Well, you can see for yourself right now.  Starz has two of the episodes online over at their site, The Screening Room, and you can check them out after entering some info for the age gate.  It's mainly for language and a quick glimpse of Enrico Colantoni's junk.  I'm not sure what my favorite line in the two episodes was:  "I believe the preferred term is jigroes."  Or maybe, "It was like watching a mummy battle."  Either way, check it out.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Steven Prince, subject of two fascinating documentaries that played back-to-back at this year's SXSW film festival</p>

Steven Prince, subject of two fascinating documentaries that played back-to-back at this year's SXSW film festival

Credit: The Criterion Collection

SXSW Review: 'American Prince'

A follow-up to an obscure Martin Scorsese documentary packs a big punch

I remember the first time I saw "American Boy."  Criterion put out a laserdisc called "Three By Scorsese," and we got in several copies for sale and one copy for rental at Dave's, the store where I worked.  Laserdiscs were fairly steep for the most part.  $39.99 and $34.99 were standard price-point, and sometimes things came down lower, but a lot of times, they were $79 or even $99 and $129 for some of the bigger high-end box sets.  I think "Three By Scorsese" was low-end pricey, like most of the Criterion stuff.  Sort of like now on BluRay.  I couldn't justify buying it, so I rented it, but I had to wait for two weeks since it was a new release.  Finally, the first night I could use my employee rental to take it home, I rented it for a long weekend, along with a few other things, and my roommates at the time watched it with me, part of our typical weekend-long film festival of back to back to back laserdiscs with occasional breaks for "Mystery Science Theater 3000" or "120 Minutes" and "Liquid Television."

There were, not surprisingly, three films on that Scorsese disc.  One was a bust, a student-film thing called "The Big Shave" that's more or less just a little tiny haiku of a thuddingly obvious Vietnam metaphor.  But the other two, both mini-documentaries, were both dynamite.  One is "Italian-American," a piece about Scorsese's parents, telling stories about their families.  It's beautiful, and if you don't immediately fall in love with Scorsese's parents, there's something wired wrong in you.  They're such great, big, sweet personalities.  The other one is the reason that disc is one of the best laserdiscs to still have a copy of.  Otherwise out of print, it's a minor Scorsese classic, and a big part of his personal history is encapsulated in that fifty-five minutes that make up "American Boy."

[more after the jump]

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<p>Hugh Jackman in yet another blue-tinted shot from 'Wolverine' featuring claws, his undershirt, and sideburns</p>

Hugh Jackman in yet another blue-tinted shot from 'Wolverine' featuring claws, his undershirt, and sideburns

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Fox fires Friedman over 'Wolverine' review

Corporate consistency? Perish the thought!

According to Nikki Finke's most recent posting on the subject, Fox News columnist Roger Friedman has been fired from his position as a direct result of his review of the leaked "Wolverine" workprint.  I've been able to independently verify that this is indeed the case.  We've been writing about this as it's unfolded, as the workprint leaked, and then Friedman reviewed it, and as Fox condemned his actions.

I find it amazing how many people have misunderstood why this matters, or why it was reported as widely as it was by online news sites.  It demonstrates a few things to me, the first of which should be obvious at this point:  there is a generation that has such an ingrained sense of entitlement towards any and all intellectual property that they simply do not accept that copyright exists, or that there is every any reason to pay for any media that they choose not to pay for.  And if you write anything, even if it's not aimed at them, that dares to defend the idea of anything less than rampant piracy, they will react as if you insulted their mothers.  I'm used to it, and it's the scariest thing that any intellectual property creator or distributor has to deal with.  You can push enforcement or punishment as much as you want, but we're dealing with a generational paradigm shift, and that's not something any amount of law enforcement can necessarily curb or stop.

And I've had many e-mails yesterday and today screaming at me about how Ain't It Cool was built on pirated materials, so how dare I call for Friedman's job?  But that's sort of the point... I've been punished by Fox, both as a screenwriter (fired from a job there after criticizing Rothman) and as an online columnist (totally barred from press screenings for years now), and that's fine.  That's their right.  They were unhappy with actions of mine, they did what they felt they needed to as a reaction, and I've had to live with it.  I may not like every action of theirs, but I can more than readily accept that they have the right to do what they've done.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Hugh Jackman in 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine'</p>

Hugh Jackman in 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Fox condemns early review of leaked 'Wolverine'

Will Fox take further action against Fox News employee Roger Friedman?

The following statement just arrived in our mailbox direct from 20th Century Fox:

"We've just been made aware that Roger Friedman, a freelance columnist who writes Fox 411 on Foxnews.com - an entirely separate company from 20th Century Fox -- watched on the internet and reviewed a stolen and unfinished version of X-Men Orgins: Wolverine. This behavior is reprehensible and we condemn this act categorically -- whether the review is good or bad."

Okay.  That's a start.  The big question that I've been discussing with other webmasters all afternoon is just how far Fox is going to follow this.  I know that Fox News and 20th Century Fox are technically separate companies, but they're both under the News Corp. banner, meaning everyone eventually answers to Rupert Murdoch.

It is my sincere belief that there is only one course of action for Fox News and 20th Century Fox to take here.  It's clear.  It's simple.  And it puts the matter to bed.

Fire Roger Friedman.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Denzel Washington, set to star in Cronenberg's 'The Matarese Circle,' points out just how great he is.</p>

Denzel Washington, set to star in Cronenberg's 'The Matarese Circle,' points out just how great he is.

Credit: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, file

The Afternoon Read (4.03.09) Cronenberg talks, Louis CK goes to war, and Ellison sues 'Trek'

Plus Roger Friedman reviews the 'Wolverine' workprint... at what cost?

Ready for the weekend?  Cause I sure am.  I'm exhausted, and I still have about thirty-seven tons of work to do.  The weekend just means more prep work and less actual publication, not any time off.  I'm pleased that my one-year-old is starting to vocalize.  I'm less pleased that it takes the form of a high-pitched shriek that he can sustain for about 11 minutes each time he does it.  I think one of my corneas actually shattered the last time he did it.  Certainly makes focusing on anything a little tricky, but let's see if I can make it through an afternoon read with my nerves intact.

So I'm willing to admit I may have been wrong about the potential of David Cronenberg's "The Matarese Circle," adapted from a Robert Ludlum book and set to star Tom Cruise and Denzel Washington.  I love Cronenberg's work, and the idea of him spending a year and a half on a routine Hollywood spy movie instead of something more personal or idiosyncratic had me bummed out at first.  But an interview Cronenberg gave to the Toronto Star is encouraging.  It sounds like he's got some big ideas for how to make this a real Cronenberg movie and not just a paycheck.  I'm particularly pleased to read him say, "It's not easy to keep all the satisfying elements people expect and still find a way to subvert the genre and surprise the audience."

[more after the jump]

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<p>Vin Diesel says a silent prayer to whatever box-office gods made a fourth 'Fast and Furious' possible.</p>

Vin Diesel says a silent prayer to whatever box-office gods made a fourth 'Fast and Furious' possible.

Credit: AP Photo/Universal Pictures

On The Screen (4.03.09) Vin and Kristen Stewart and that 'Little Miss Sunshine' Dude

'Fast and Furious,' 'Adventureland,' 'Gigantic,' and 'Sugar' all open

It's an interesting weekend, and depending on where you are, you either have one option, a few options, or a whole bunch of options.

The big stuff first.  "Fast and Furious" is opening, the fourth film in the unlikeliest franchise I've seen since Clint Eastwood made a second movie with the monkey.  Our own Greg Ellwood confessed to me that he enjoyed this far more than he expected to when he saw it.  I meant to make a press screening of it, but I just plain couldn't schedule it.  I'm thinking that if I'm going to pay for it, I'm going to go all out and pay for it at the Mann's Chinese, where the D-Box seats were just put in. 

Do you know what I'm talking about when I say D-Box?

Because I didn't until tonight.  And two things happened to convince me that I am absolutely going to the theater to do this at some point this weekend.  First, when I went to the New Beverly to introduce "Joe Versus The Volcano" tonight for the second night of the AICN/HitFix Cinema Rehab double-feature, I talked to Greg and he mentioned it.  He said there were motion-controlled seats installed at the Mann's Chinese 6, synched to the movie.  Okay.  That sounds like a crazy gimmick, but fun.  I'll go do that, I'm thinking.

And then as I'm getting ready to put this column together tonight, I see on Twitter that three very funny guys are going to the Mann's Chinese 6 midnight show and they've purchsed D-Box tickets and they're planning to live-Tweet the entire experience.  Scott Aukerman ("Mr. Show") and two-thirds of Human Giant, Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel.  I imagine that anyone in that theater who isn't them is sort of hating life.  Which makes me laugh harder.  Evidently, you can adjust the intensity of the D-Box experience, like turning up the volume.  That sounds so obnoxious if you're not the person in the chair.  I can't help but read all their Tweets about how much fun they're having and imaging them all whooping it up like Slim Pickens riding the bomb down.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Martin Starr and Jesse Eisenberg in the excellent new comedy 'Adventureland,' from director Greg Mottola</p>

Martin Starr and Jesse Eisenberg in the excellent new comedy 'Adventureland,' from director Greg Mottola

Credit: Miramax Films

The Motion/Captured Review: 'Adventureland'

Greg Mattola's sweet nostalgia piece features great performances, perfect atmosphere

I love Richard Linklater's "Dazed & Confused."  Yes, I think it's funny and well-written and well-performed and I love the soundtrack and the sense of time and place... but what makes the film a classic for me is the way it's not about a story at all, but is instead about an experience.

I know I had that night in high school.  That first night where I got caught up with friends and with possibilities and when I got totally lost, adrift in the night, not caring at all about curfew or consequence.  I think most people have a night like that, or many nights like that, and I think they're an essential part of the transition from childhood to adulthood, a milestone in adolescence.  I thought Linklater and his huge ensemble cast perfectly captured that night, that feeling, a time and place.  And because of that very special, distinct approach, "Dazed and Confused" almost feels like a real memory, and not just a movie.

Greg Mottola's heartfelt and pitch-perfect new film "Adventureland" hits me the exact same way, and from the moment it got overshadowed at Sundance by the much showier Fox Searchlight rom-com "500 Days Of Summer," I've felt protective of this film, taking any negative comment on it almost personally.  If "Dazed" is the movie about that first night of freedom, then "Adventureland" is the movie about that first summer job.  And thanks to the talented ensemble cast and Mottola's deft touch with tone, this isn't just some teen comedy aiming at the easy set piece or the gross-out gag.  It's a sincere look back at that moment when you first enter the workforce, and suddenly you find yourself with a whole new social group, a whole new set of dynamics to negotiate, access to things you've never had access to.

[more after the jump]

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