Ben Affleck and Blake Lively discuss 'The Town'

Ben Affleck and Blake Lively discuss 'The Town'

Watch: Ben Affleck and Blake Lively take on 'The Town' and 'Green Lantern'

'Gossip Girl' star is almost unrecognizable in her darkest role yet

Looking to make a nice debut at the box office this weekend is Ben Affleck's second directorial effort, "The Town."  The film has received positive reviews so far (73 on Metacritic, 93% on Rotten Tomatoes) and easily confirms Affleck's talent as a filmmaker after the will received "Gone Baby Gone."  Speaking to "Town" cast members Jon Hamm and Blake Lively during the 2010 Toronto Film Festival, this pundit was struck by how reassured they seemed by Affleck's directing skills. Yes, sometimes begin in front of the camera can be a big advantage behind it.  

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Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart in "Rabbit Hole"

Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart in John Cameron MItchell's "Rabbit Hole."

Nicole Kidman's 'Rabbit Hole' could severely change the Oscar equation

'The Hours' winner, Aaron Eckhart and Dianne Wiest would all be major category players

Is your studio lacking a legitimate best picture candidate this year?  Are you feeling depressed from looking on the outside in this awards season? Are you nervous that your hyped best picture contender really isn't up to snuff?  Do you have an expert creative and publicity team salivating to put their talents to the test? Well, have I got a movie for you. It's called "Rabbit Hole," and it was written by Pulitzer prize winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire (from his original play) and was directed by none other than "Hedwig and the Angry Inch's" John Cameron Mitchell.  Plus, it stars Oscar winners Nicole Kidman, Dianne Wiest and everyone's favorite Two Face, Aaron Eckhart.  And ladies and gentleman, it's got potential to turn your Oscar season around!

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"Mad Men's" Jon Hamm talks "The Town" and HitFix's own Alan Sepinwall

"Mad Men's" Jon Hamm talks "The Town" and HitFix's own Alan Sepinwall.

Watch: 'Mad Men's' Jon Hamm talks 'The Town' and Alan Sepinwall

Who knew that Don Draper was such a fan?

One of the more respected commercial films screened at this week's Toronto Film Festival is Ben Affleck's "The Town."  While most admit it's not as artistically ambitious as Affleck's previous effort, "Gone Baby Gone," but it features an impressive ensemble cast who get to showcase many of their charismatic talents.  Joining Affleck in the film are Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, an almost unrecognizable Blake Lively and none other than Don Draper himself, Jon Hamm.

Now, it's almost sacrilegious to say so on HitFix, but I've probably only watched one or two episodes of "Mad Men" so far.  Unfortunately, the life of a movie journalist often limits what you can find the time to catch on the small screen and I purposely didn't even get a DVR until less than a year ago.  Excuses aside, I had hoped to ask Hamm something about "Men" for our readers, but as soon as I was introduced (before the cameras began to tape), Hamm asked, "HitFix?  That's Alan Sepinwall's site.  I read that."  And, after a quiet "Yes!" went through my heart, well, that's when the camera started rolling…

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Bryce Dallas Howard at the world premiere of "Hereafter."

Bryce Dallas Howard provides one of the more memorable performances in Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter."

Credit: AP Photo/Dan Steinberg

Toronto: Debating Clint Eastwood's 'Hereafter'

Is it really an awards contender or not?

Pretty much since "Mystic River," every time Clint Eastwood directs a new film the awards season spotlight inevitably shines on the project, whether its really a contender or not.  Eastwood has been on a tear in the 21st Century with "River," "Letters from Iwo Jima" and the best picture winning "Million Dollar Baby."  He's also had his share of misfires though with the middling "Flags for our Fathers" and "Changeling."  Plus, he also starred in and helmed the massive hit "Gran Torino" which would easily have been in the best picture race if there were 10 nominees that year.  Eastwood's latest endeavor is the Peter Morgan scripted "Hereafter" and after catching the picture this week at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival, it's unclear where it fits in the mix.

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Craig Roberts and Yasmin Page in "Submarine"

Craig Roberts and Yasmin Page in the remarkable "Submarine."

Toronto: Pray that the hilarious 'Submarine' finds a U.S. distributor

Update: Report indicates Weinstein Company will bring comedy to U.S. shores, plus watch clips

Whether it's Sundance or Toronto, every year both festivals seems to produce one crowd pleasing hit that appears completely out of the blue.  It may not have a distributor or may be just too under the radar because of lack of starpower, but there's always a film that you just want all your friends and colleagues to see once it finds a home. This year, that picture is "Submarine."

Based on a novel by Joe Dunthorne, "Submarine" centers on Oliver Tate (an impressive Craig Roberts), a teenage boy in Wales who falls for an emotionally detached girl, Jordana (Yasmin Page), all while trying to stop his mother (Sally Hawkins in picture stealing mode) from having an affair with her old high school boyfriend (a bizarre Paddy Considine).  The film marks the feature debut of commercial and British TV director and screenwriter Richard Ayoade who provides an original voice to the bluntly comic, but oh so dark proceedings.  

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Helen Mirren at the world premiere of "Brighton Rock" Monday night at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Helen Mirren at the world premiere of "Brighton Rock" Monday night at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Credit: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese

Toronto: Helen Mirren returns in 'The Debt' and 'Brighton Rock'

Something suggests things didn't turnout as planned

Since winning her well deserved Oscar for "The Queen," Helen Mirren has hardly jumped at every prestige picture that came her way.  In fact, she'd really only had two potential contenders in the pipeline: "State of Play," the less said about that one the better, and "The Last Station" which resulted in her fourth Academy Award nomination this past March.  Now, after segueing to the little seen "Love Ranch" for director and husband Taylor Hackford, Mirren has three new films either being released or ready for distribution this fall.  Two of them screened at the Toronto Film Festival today.  What was the verdict?  Mixed to be kind.

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John Legend and Bill Gates at a press conference for "Waiting for Superman"

John Legend, who contributed to the film's end credits song, and Bill Gates at a press conference for "Waiting for Superman"

Credit: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese

Toronto: Bill Gates and real kids make 'Waiting for Superman' Q&A worthwhile

New education documentary is hoping to make a difference

Like most large corporations, movie studios have a number of charities they give to ever year or engage in fundraising activities with their employees.  For years Paramount Pictures has hosted the LA AIDS Walk which has raised millions for AIDS outreach in the Los Angeles area.  What's more rare is for a studio to jump on board a human rights issue surrounding a film they are actually releasing.  It does happen, but hardly anyone can remember the last time a Hollywood motion picture company devoted so much of their internal resources as Paramount has with their upcoming documentary "Waiting for Superman."

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Melanie Laurent and Ewan McGregor in "Beginners"

Melanie Laurent and Ewan McGregor in "Beginners."

Toronto: Mike Mills' 'Beginners' an unexpected Los Angeles love letter

Watch: Ewan McGregor, Melanie Laurent and Christopher Plummer are superb in new drama

There is something quietly surprising about Mike Mills' new drama "Beginners" which premiered at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival this past weekend.  The picture is stylistically unlike Mills' best known cinematic effort to date, "Thumbsucker," and feels inspired by the work of many of his peers including Spike Jonze, Sofia Coppola and Miranda July (who just happens to be his girlfriend).  But considering Mills' artistic background and evolution that's more of a relief than a surprise.  Nor is it the relaxed and sublime performances delivered by Ewan McGregor, Melanie Laurent or Christopher Plummer (although more on that later). What stands out most from Mills' story of late thirtysomething love is what an unexpected quintessential LA film it is.  

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Marion Cotillard during a press conference for "Little White Lies" at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.

Marion Cotillard during a press conference for "Little White Lies" at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.

Credit: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese

Toronto Roundup: 'Trust,' 'Easy A, 'Let Me In,' 'Conviction'

Which of these films will make a worst of the year list?

As with every film festival Awards Campaign covers, the goal is to see as many films as possible. Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in the day to provide complete reviews.  With that in mind, here's a rundown of some talked about pictures over the first four days of this year's Toronto Film Festival.

Already primed for the worst films of the year list, David Schwimmer's follow up to "Run, Fatboy, Run," centers on a 14-year-old twirl (Liana Liberato) who is seduced and then raped by an online pedophile.  While her parents (Clive Owen, Catherine Keener) each deal with this horror in their own way, their daughter continues to defend the man who has quickly become a target for an FBI investigation.  The movie is so flawed beyond Schwimmer's uninspired direction it's hard to know where to start. The script is at times ludicrous and filled with one cliched scene after another.  The cinematography is putrid and Liberato's over-the-top performance severely undermines her character's credibility.  The biggest question though is why did Owen and Keener agreed to appear in the indie financed film in the first place?  Your guess is as good as mine. 

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Megan Fox and Mickey Rourke in "Passion Play"

Megan Fox and Mickey Rourke in "Passion Play."

Toronto: Megan Fox has wings, but only Bill Murray flies in 'Passion Play'

Mickey Rourke is the biggest problem in Mitch Glazer's 'passion' project

There is an idea for a movie in "Passion Play" that's worth exploring, but at this point it's not visible on screen.  Debuting Friday night at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, "Play" stars Mickey Rourke, Bill Murray and Megan Fox in her first significant dramatic role.  None of the actors embarrass themselves, but one in particular doesn't elevate the material as needed and it's not who you think.

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