Inside Movies and Pop Culture with Gregory Ellwood

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

New education documentary is hoping to make a difference

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

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."

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

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

Melanie Laurent and Ewan McGregor in "Beginners"

Melanie Laurent and Ewan McGregor in "Beginners."

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.  

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

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

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

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. 

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

Megan Fox and Mickey Rourke in "Passion Play"

Megan Fox and Mickey Rourke in "Passion Play."

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.

Contender Countdown: 'Inception,' 'King's Speech' and 'Social Network' in early Oscar lead

A rundown of the best picture field as the Toronto Film Festival kicks off

Andrew Garfield and Jesse Eisenberg in "Social Network"

Andrew Garfield and Jesse Eisenberg in "Social Network."

Credit: Sony Pictures

It's cloudy in Toronto today, but the best picture field for the 83rd Academy Awards is not.  There are well over 15 potential films who could fill the 10 coveted slots and that could change if certain films get picked up or find a surprise late release in December.  That's a big change from only a few months ago when many in the industry were expecting a dearth of legitimate candidates.  Oh, ye of little faith.

First Look: Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter in a scene from 'The King's Speech'

Watch a new clip from the early Oscar favorite

Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech

Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter in "The King's Speech."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

One of the most buzzed about and adored films at this past weekend's Telluride Film Festival was Tom Hooper's 'The King's Speech."  Set predominantly in the 1930's, the film tells the tale of Prince Albert (Colin Firth) and how his speech impediment (ie, stutter), was a dramatic hurdel for him to overcome before and after his brother King Edward abdicated the throne making him the unexpected King.

Albert, who became King George VI, was ushered by his wife (Helena Bonham Carter) to see a relatively little known Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).  This was the last stop after countless other options and doctors had been seen to try and fix his problem.  In this brand new clip released by The Weinstein Company today, Albert has returned to work with Logue after initially being skeptical of his quirky technique.  Logue notes Albert has both mental and mechanical difficulties and they immediately get to work, with his wife lending a bum, er hand, as well.

Check out the charming preview embedded in this post and see why "The King's Speech" may be a true Oscar contender.  For more on "Speech," check out my review from Telluride.

"The King's Speech" opens on Nov. 26.

Oscar Watch: Brad Pitt's 'Tree of Life' will play the Academy game…in 2011

Plus: Sony Classics takes 'Barney's Version,' aka 'the movie Rachelle Lefevre lost 'Eclipse' for'

<p>Brad Pitt will return to theaters with &quot;Tree of LIfe,&quot;&nbsp;but probably not until 2011.&nbsp; Maybe.</p>

Brad Pitt will return to theaters with "Tree of LIfe," but probably not until 2011.  Maybe.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

In a major surprise, Fox Searchlight has acquired domestic rights to Terrence Malick's long in the works drama "Tree of Life." 

Starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, the film was almost released last December and has had rumored debuts at Cannes and Venice this year only to remain sight unseen.  After Apparition, the distribution company that was expected to release "Life," began to shutter its operations over the summer it was clear producer Bill Pohlad was going to have to find the film another home.  Suitors were expected to include Summit Entertainment, Focus Features, Relativity Media or Lionsgate, but instead, Searchlight surprised the industry by placing the film on its 2011 release slate.

Oscar Watch: Will Brad Pitt's 'Tree of Life' finally crash the awards season dance?

lus: Who said Jean-Luc Goddard wasn't going to pick up his honorary award?

Brad Pitt on the set of "Tree of Life."

Brad Pitt on the set of "Tree of Life."

The continuing saga of Terrence Malick's long awaited opus "The Tree of Life" took another turn on Monday with a report indicating the drama could be a late arrival to the awards season derby. 

Watch: 'Easy A' is a pocket full of sunshine for Emma Stone

'Zombieland' star takes no credit for any of the film's great lines

Emma Stone talks about her new comedy "Easy A"

Emma Stone talks about her new comedy "Easy A."

If eight solid reasons on why "Easy A" isn't just you're everyday teen comedy wasn't enough, will some words from the film's always charming star Emma Stone convince you to throw $10 down at your local multiplex?

Speaking to the "Zombieland" star last month, Stone was impressively blunt in admitting how important landing the role of Olive in the Screen Gems comedy was to her.  The first produced feature script from Bert V. Royal, "Easy" is inspired by the "Scarlet Letter," but stands on its own as it follows Olive's self-induced, but inaccurate rise to high school slut because of an out of control rumor. After seeing the film, however, it's hard to imagine any other actress in the part.  Whether it was tailored made for her is irrelevant.  Stone is ready to break out big time with this one.  

One of the great pleasures of the picture was watching Stone on screen with Olive's parents played by old friends Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson.  Tucci admitted there was some improv in those scenes, but Stone gives most of the credit to the more established former Oscar nominees.  Still self-deprecating and honest to a fault (and never change no matter what your publicist says Emma), the one thing Stone did have trouble answering was regarding one of the funnier moments in the film.  Already well known because of it's release as a teaser trailer, the scene finds Olive opening a musical card that contains Natasha Bedingfield's "Pocket Full of Sunshine."  After initially referring to the song as "gross," Olive finds it stuck in her head and happily belting the tune out to the world only a few days  later.  I asked Stone if she had her own "Sunshine" song she can't believe she sings all the time, but she insisted she's just that goofy all the time and that her friends would back her up on it.

Oh, Emma.  You already had before we sat down in the interview chair.  You can watch the entire conversation with Stone embedded in this post.  

After debuting at the Toronto Film Festival this weekend, "Easy A" opens nationwide on Sept. 17.

Telluride: 'Another Year,' 'Incendies' and…Brad Pitt?

Some thoughts on the last 24 hours of the cinefile's film festival

Oliver Maltman, Lesley Manville and Ruth Sheen in Mike Leigh's "Another Year"

Oliver Maltman, Lesley Manville and Ruth Sheen in Mike Leigh's "Another Year."

Credit: Sony Classics

The 2010 Telluride Film Festival was an unqualified success.  Well, at least that seemed to be the universal opinion according to the slew of veterans who have made the Labor Day festival a yearly tradition.  The programmers at Telluride refer to filmmakers and attendees as "family" and considering how amazingly friendly everyone was, its hard not to see why.

This year's installment had fine films such as "Black Swan" (review),  "Tabloid" (review), "127 Hours" (review), and the universally adored "The King's Speech" (review). Other movies that found positive notices were "Tamara Drewe" (review), "Inside Job" (review), "Precious Life" and "Another Year."  Peter Weir's "The Way Back," "Incendies" and "Never Let Me Go" (review) received more mixed reaction -- at least from patrons.  With that in mind, here are few quick roundup reviews from the festival

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