<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.

THIS WEEK'S FEATURED TITLES:

"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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<p>58-year-old Paul Reubens looked amazing at a Q&amp;A after a recent performance of 'The Pee-Wee Herman Show,' his live production that will hopefully lead to new feature films with the beloved character.</p>

58-year-old Paul Reubens looked amazing at a Q&A after a recent performance of 'The Pee-Wee Herman Show,' his live production that will hopefully lead to new feature films with the beloved character.

Credit: Marcia McWeeny

Paul Reubens signs to CAA, so are Pee-Wee movies on the way?

Details on what to expect from a recent post-show Q&A

On February 2nd, the night that "Lost" premiered, that was the second coolest bit of pop culture I enjoyed.

And I say that as a big giant honking "Lost" fan who stayed up until 3:00 AM writing a recap of this season's opening two-hour salvo.  No, the coolest thing about that evening happened a few hours earlier.  My wife and I took our four-year-old son Toshi to the Nokia Live, right next to the Staples Center, not telling him what he was going to do.  We got him into the theater and into a seat, and he still didn't know why we were there.  He thought we were just out to have dinner together.

When the lights went down, the announcer came over the PA.  "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Pee-Wee Herman Show!"  And Toshi looked up at me, eyes wide as saucers, and said his new favorite exaggerated overreaction:

"Oh... snap."

Words for the ages.  If you didn't get a chance to see the show during its run last month, it was incredible.  It was a perfect hybrid of the original Roxy show that HBO shot back in the '80s and the beloved "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" series that was on TV at the end of the '80s.  The Roxy show was a really sly parody of children's shows, but the actual content of the show was sort of adult.  Lots of insinuation and entendre.  The "Playhouse," by simple adjusting the material a few degrees, was a genuine kid's show, and one of the greatest.  The reason Toshi's little mind was so blown by this particular event was because the very first show he loved... hell, the very first piece of pop culture on which he imprinted... was the DVD box set of both seasons of "Pee Wee's Playhouse."  He used to dance by the TV when the theme song played.  He could say "Pee Wee" before he could identify every person in our house by name.  It was a BIG DEAL to him.

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<p>Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan star in 'Cop Out,' which features a score by Harold Faltermeyer that you can hear online now.</p>

Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan star in 'Cop Out,' which features a score by Harold Faltermeyer that you can hear online now.

Credit: Warner Bros

TMR: Ebert Speaks, QT steps up, and Faltermeyer rocks

Plus people begin to respond to 'The Basics'

Welcome to The Morning Read.

By far, the most moving, beautiful, inspirational thing I read all week was the Esquire profile of Roger Ebert.  I actually read it in print first, as that's one of the magazines I subscribe to.  Yes... crazy, I know... I still like my actual paper media.  I feel like a bad internet professional, especially since most of that content shows up online within days of me getting my issue in the mail.

If you haven't read the piece yet, it's amazing.  And it's amazing because Roger is amazing.  I had a few encounters with him at Sundance this year, all in passing, and I felt like I was imposing no matter what.  I've dined with Roger in the past, and he once drove me around Champaign-Urbana in the middle of the night, telling me stories about his student days, which was one of those moments where I almost felt like I was having an out of body experience, it was so surreal.  It is impossible to overstate the impact that he's had on film criticism, and what I find most dazzling about him is the way he continues to have that impact, and how his voice has only gotten clearer and stronger and more vital in the days since he spoke his last words aloud.  You should also ready his follow-up to the interview for a nice look at how it feels to be profiled like that.

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<p>&quot;Give me your wife, Green Zone.&quot; &quot;My name in the film isn't Green Zone, you dummy, and besides, you haven't looked like that in 20 years.&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Whatever, Green Zone. &nbsp;Hand her over.&quot;</p>

"Give me your wife, Green Zone." "My name in the film isn't Green Zone, you dummy, and besides, you haven't looked like that in 20 years." "Whatever, Green Zone.  Hand her over."

Credit: Universal Pictures

Are Matt Damon and Ben Affleck trading wives with Dave Mandel?

'The Trade,' an acclaimed Black List script, may reunite the 'Good Will Hunting' stars

This sounds awesome.

According to Mike Fleming, Ben Affleck is now attached to direct and possibly star in "The Trade" for Warner Bros., and there is a chance that the film will reunite the stars of "Good Will Hunting" in major starring roles.

The script first hit the radar for a lot of people this past December when it made the 2009 Black List, an informal survey of well-liked in-development projects.  At the time, I noticed only because I like Dave Mandel, a "Seinfeld" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" writer who was the man who put pen to paper here.

It's a true story about New York Yankees Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich, who swapped wives at the start of the 1973 season.  You add in the extra "wow" of Affleck playing Peterson and Damon playing Kekich, and that sounds like Warner Bros. has pretty much a sure thing on their hands.

Mandel is a very smart and funny guy, and this is easily going to be the biggest thing he's been associated with so far.  I love "Seinfeld" and "Curb," but those are someone else's playground.  Here, it sounds like Affleck's going to work with Mandel to polish the script, so hopefully he'll stay on for the whole thing.  Especially on projects like this, where there's a real voice to the story you're telling, you want some consistency of vision.  It's better that way.

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<p>Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor match wits (or do they?) in the sly and entertaining new thriller 'The Ghost Writer,' directed by Roman Polanski.</p>

Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor match wits (or do they?) in the sly and entertaining new thriller 'The Ghost Writer,' directed by Roman Polanski.

Credit: Summit Entertainment

'The Ghost Writer' is a sleek and satisfying thriller for grown-ups

Old-fashioned enough to seem cutting-edge, the film entertains

There is something fundamentally old-fashioned about the construction and delivery of Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer," based on the novel by Robert Harris.  And, man, I wish someone else had directed this exact same film, because it would make the conversation about it so much easier.

It seems to me sometimes that movies play a game of one-upsmanship that ultimately hobbles the audience, in which filmmakers feel the need to "top" what has come before at the price of making solid films that simply tell a story well.  I enjoy watching the Jason Bourne movies, but did I need every single action movie or thriller of the last five years to mercilessly copy those movies?  Nope.  I actually like it when a "thriller" remembers that it doesn't have to bombard me with sound and image for its full running time, stunt after empty stunt piled on in hopes that I pay no attention to the story or the lack thereof.  It is with open arms, then, that I welcome "The Ghost Writer," a film that manages to distill a very real anger that exists in today's society into a sleek, well-constructed adult entertainment.

I've seen a few people already knock "The Ghost Writer" because it draws its paranoid conspiracy underpinnings from reality, barely bothering to disguise the things it's talking about, but when did that become a sin?  One of the reasons we got so many great paranoia thrillers in the '70s was because filmmakers were willing to let the real world bleed into their films, because they took their own very real fear and fury and made it part of the entertainment that they were making.  Do I think "The Ghost Writer" is the equal of something like "The Parallax View" or "The Conversation"?  No.  Do I think it's worth seeing, though, and an honorable entry in the genre?  Absolutely.

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<p>Alex Raymond's original 'Flash Gordon' comic strip is the main source of inspiration for director Breck Eisner's new film version of the classic SF&nbsp;character.</p>

Alex Raymond's original 'Flash Gordon' comic strip is the main source of inspiration for director Breck Eisner's new film version of the classic SF character.

Credit: King Features Syndicate

Breck Eisner talks about his goals for 'Flash Gordon'

Don't expect to hear Queen singing the theme this time around

We are entering a new age of cinematic pulp.

I know for some audiences, the word "pulp" makes them immediately think of Quentin Tarantino, thanks to the way he staked his claim on it in the '90s, but for some of us, pulp is a particular flavor of fantastic fiction that has only been flirted with in recent years.  "Avatar" may have felt brand new to many audiences, but I thought it was a big fat slice of pulp science-fiction, unapologetic about it.  And with "John Carter Of Mars" in production now and Sam Raimi talking about "The Shadow" and Shane Black writing a new "Doc Savage"... well, it feels like now's the time if you are sitting on a pulp property worth doing.

And when I spoke with director Breck Eisner today about his new film "The Crazies," I had to ask him what is up with "Flash Gordon," a project he's been associated with for a while now.  There was a immediate difference in him, like he perked up.  He sounds happy with "The Crazies," but he sounds positively rabid about "Flash Gordon."

"'Flash Gordon' is a project I've been passionate about for years and that I've been pursuing for years.  I love sci-fi.  I absolutely am obssessed with sci-fi," he told me.  "The 'Flash Gordon' that we're currently writing... we're turning in the script in a month or so.  Maybe two months." 

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