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<p>Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr raise some serious hell in Bobcat Goldthwait's primal scream of a movie, 'God Bless America'</p>

Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr raise some serious hell in Bobcat Goldthwait's primal scream of a movie, 'God Bless America'

Credit: Darko Entertainment

Review: Bobcat Goldthwait opens fire with 'God Bless America'

An angry cry for kindness spattered in blood and wrapped in filth

Bobcat Goldthwait referred to himself as "that guy from 'Police Academy'" onstage tonight after the premiere of his latest film as a writer/director, "God Bless America," and it's interesting to see just how he's developed as a comic voice in the nearly thirty years I've been aware of him.

If you weren't a big stand-up comedy nerd back in the '80s, maybe you don't know what the landscape was like.  There was an explosion of venues coast-to-coast, and as a result, there was suddenly a glut of stand-up comedy.  The new American Dream was suddenly "write a good stand-up set, get on Carson, get your own sitcom, make a mint, and win."  And much of that stand-up was the same, totally homogenized observational crap that sounded like it came from the same awful jokebook.  The guys who broke through, who really stood out, were guys who came at it from their own particular angle, who had a unique voice.  And if there's one thing you can say about Bobcat Goldthwait, he absolutely had a unique voice.

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<p>Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt in the latter's directorial debut, &quot;Friends with Kids.&quot;</p>

Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt in the latter's directorial debut, "Friends with Kids."

Review: Adam Scott and Maya Rudolph shine in very funny 'Friends with Kids'

Jennifer Westfeldt's dramedy has some big and cutting laughs

TORONTO - One of the more anticipated potential acquisition titles at the Toronto International Film Festival this year is Jennifer Westfeldt's directorial debut, "Friends with Kids." And, it's not hard to figure out why.  Especially when you've recruited an ensemble cast that includes Jon Hamm (also a producer), Megan Fox, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Adam Scott.  Happily for distributors and moviegoers, "Friends" delivers the goods and should spark a bidding war before heading to a theater near you.

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<p>&quot;Sarah Palin - You Betcha!&quot;&nbsp;co-director Nick Broomfield and a larger than life image of his subject Sarah Palin.</p>

"Sarah Palin - You Betcha!" co-director Nick Broomfield and a larger than life image of his subject Sarah Palin.

Review: Nobody in Wasilla wants to talk about 'Sarah Palin'

'You Betcha!' just isn't a good documentary

TORONTO - No one over the past three years has been a more polarizing figure in American politics than Sarah Palin.  The former Vice Presidential candidate and Alaska Governor has transformed herself from a self-proclaimed "Hockey Mom" to a major media and political figure while alienating most of the country in the process.  There have been many investigative and in-depth pieces on Palin during that time, but that didn't stop British filmmaker Nick Broomfield ("Kurt and Courtney") and his partner Joan Churchill ("Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer")  from trying to find out the "truth" about the "real" Sarah Palin in their new documentary "Sarah Palin - You Betcha!"

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<p>U2 rehearses new arrangements of the songs from 'Achtung Baby' during the making of the documentary 'From The Sky Down'</p>

U2 rehearses new arrangements of the songs from 'Achtung Baby' during the making of the documentary 'From The Sky Down'

Credit: Showtime

Review: 'From The Sky Down' offers intimate look at U2 recording 'Achtung Baby'

Director of 'It Might Get Loud' does solid job with artistic retrospective

I distinctly remember the release of "Achtung Baby."  I had not lived in Los Angeles for very long at that point, and I was still forming my groups of friends.  There was one guy in particular who was every bit the lunatic for music that I was for movies, and once we met at Dave's Video, where we both worked, we became fast friends.  While music has always been an important thing to me, it was almost always as background, as soundtrack to other things, and even the albums that were important to me were albums I soaked up by osmosis more than anything.

But on a night in mid-November, I found myself at Tower Records on Ventura, long gone now, waiting in a big line for the release of the first album in three years from one of my favorite bands.  I saw them live for the first time on the "Unforgettable Fire" tour when they played the Omni in Atlanta, and then I saw them again for "Joshua Tree."  I felt like they lost something moving from smaller venues into stadiums, and that second show had none of the intimacy that I found so riveting the first time I saw them.  I felt like the bombast of "Rattle & Hum" had led them in a rough direction artistically, and so I was curious to see if they could win me back over as a fan. 

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<p>Michael Fassbender of &quot;Shame&quot;&nbsp;</p>
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Michael Fassbender of "Shame" 

Fox Searchlight snags Steve McQueen's 'Shame' for Oscar run

Telluride favorite could get attention for Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan
Fox Searchlight has made one of the big acquisitions of the Fall 2011 festival circuit, snagging domestic distribution for Steve McQueen's provocative drama "Shame."
"Shame" had its US premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, drawing raves from critics including this blog's regular Oscar pundit Gregory Ellwood, who speculated that star Michael Fassbender, plus co-star Carey Mulligan, could be Oscar contenders with the proper handling.
In the press release announcing the pick-up, Fox Searchlight mentions specific plans for a 2011 release, putting Fassbender and Mulligan in early Oscar discussion.
"Steve McQueen’s courageous exploration of modern life’s extremes is breathtaking. He has crafted an extraordinary film that probes some of the deepest and darkest issues ever portrayed on screen with amazingly gifted performances by Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan," state Fox Searchlight Presidents Stephen Gilula and Nancy Utley. 
Fassbender, already having himself quite the 2011, stars as Brandon, a sex-addicted New Yorker whose life enters a downward spiral when his younger sister (Mulligan) moves in with him.
"Fox Searchlight contacted us immediately after the screening in Telluride to tell us how much they loved the film. Their approach to marketing and distributing the film this year was incredibly detailed and impressive. We are excited to be working with them on a film that is sparking debate and a strong emotional reaction from audiences," say producers Iain Canning and Emile Sherman.
Adds McQueen, "This is a brave statement and an important move by Fox Searchlight. I am very happy they came on board to release Shame in the U.S. It's great to be working with a team that is so passionate about cinema."
In his review, Ellwood mentioned the "intense sex scenes and nudity" which would make it impossible for "Shame" to be released with an R rating, while McQueen told press at Telluride that he had no plans to cut the movie in any way. The Fox Searchlight release makes no mention of whether "Shame" will be released with an NC-17, or whether it will go out unrated.
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"The X Factor"

 "The X Factor"

Credit: Fox

What you need to know about this fall's reality TV shows

'Survivor,' 'America's Next Top Model' and 'The Amazing Race' are back with new twists

Summer may be (almost) over, but that doesn't mean reality TV is disappearing from the airwaves. In fact, it's almost time for beloved favorites (and some new contenders) to make their fall debuts, so here's what you need to know before you set your DVR. 

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<p>Clive Owen and Jason Statham play a lightning round of Quien Es Mas Macho? in 'Killer Elite'</p>

Clive Owen and Jason Statham play a lightning round of Quien Es Mas Macho? in 'Killer Elite'

Credit: Open Road Films

Review: Jason Statham butts heads with Clive Owen in semi-successful 'Killer Elite'

'Based On A True Story' action movie stretches crediblity, but breaks bones with style

The only way you could make a Jason Statham movie more preposterously macho would be to add Clive Owen as the bad guy, right?  Well, if that sounds like heaven to you, prepare yourself for the battle of the glowering English thugs that is Gary McKendry's fitfully successful new action movie "Killer Elite."  It's not connected in any way to the James Caan/Robert Duvall movie "The Killer Elite" that Sam Peckinpah made, but it's exactly the sort of story that I could see Peckinpah getting interested in.  Guys and their complicated moral codes, the way loyalty drives people to extremes, the cost of violence over the course of a lifetime… all of these themes are present in the film written by McKendry and Matt Sherring based on the novel "The Feather Men" by Ranulph Fiennes.

The book was a nonfiction account of a vigilante group in England in the '60s that solved crimes that the police ignored.  There was a particular crime that they spent 14 years trying to solve, and that crime is the lynchpin that McKendry built his movie around.  I'm not sure how much of the book is true or not true, but I'm going to guess that the film has largely fictionalized things while trying to also use that whole "based on a true story" thing has part of the hook of the film.  Too much of this is too thematically constructed, too neat and perfect and planned out, and that's fine when it's a drama.  As a "true story," though, "Killer Elite" stretches credibility pretty far, and it's one of those movies where I'm not completely sure I can recommend it.

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<p>Ryan Gosling gives good smart in George Clooney's new film 'The Ides Of March'</p>

Ryan Gosling gives good smart in George Clooney's new film 'The Ides Of March'

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Review: Clooney's 'Ides Of March' is smart conversation-starter

Film doesn't work dramatically as a whole, but still packs a punch

It will not come as a shock to any moderately-aware adult living in America that modern politics is a shell game for the corrupt, but even if you already know the ideas that fuel George Clooney's latest film as a director, "Ides Of March," there is a certain amount of dramatic pleasure to be taken from watching the exact moment where someone's idealism flickers out and dies forever.  While the film's script has some issues, and there are a few choices that I found distracting, overall, this is a solid adult drama that benefits enormously from a strong and compelling cast.

Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) is the assistant campaign manager for Governor Michael Morris (George Clooney), a tough-talking Democratic Presidential candidate still mired in primary season.  Steven and his superior, the much-more-jaded Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), are both confident that they've got a winning candidate in Morris, but for Stephen it goes deeper than that.  Paul's a killer, the sort of campaign manager who puts victory above everything else, while Stephen actually still feels like he needs to believe in the person he's working for, and in Morris, he feels like he finally has that Presidential idea, a good man with good ideas.  Their opponent in the primaries, Sentator Pullman (Michael Mantell), is a faceless obstacle to them, represented mainly by his campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti).  Duffy admires Stephen and the way he works a room, and he makes no secret of the fact that he'd love to hire Stephen away.

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<p>Avril Lavigne</p>

Avril Lavigne

Credit: AP Photo

Watch: Avril Lavigne emotes in new video for 'Wish You Were Here'

Can the song revive 'Goodbye Lullaby?'

Avril Lavigne’s “Goodbye Lullaby” album has failed to resonate with a pop audience so far, but maybe the video for latest single, “Wish You Were Here” can help revive the project.

As the title implies, the mid-tempo ballad, written by Lavigne, Max Martin and Shellback,  features Lavigne lamenting that her beloved isn’t around. She expresses her dismay by rolling around on a dirty floor in what looks like an abandoned room, save a perfect Gerbera daisy, a bathtub and a lighter.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Joe Jonas</p>

Joe Jonas

Listen: Joe Jonas's new song, 'Just In Love'

He's got it bad and that's not good

Who says getting mad is a bad thing? Not Joe Jonas. As he sings in his new up-tempo, rhythmic new single, “Just In Love”: “Love is even more wild when you’re angry.”  We hope that purity ring is off and tucked deep inside a drawer where it can’t witness what’s going on.

The tune, which debuted on Ryan Seacrest’s website at midnight, is the second single from “Fast Life,” Jonas’s Oct. 11 solo album debut. It’s different from anything that he and his brothers released during their heyday.  A synthesized keyboard line and heavy synth drum beat propels the beat-heavy track, during which Jonas is trying to convince his lady that they can work out whatever issues they have because he loves her.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya share a not-entirely-normal post-coital cuddle in Almodovar's new film 'The Skin I Live In'</p>

Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya share a not-entirely-normal post-coital cuddle in Almodovar's new film 'The Skin I Live In'

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Review: Antonio Banderas does very bad things in Almodovar's 'The Skin I Live In'

Crazy revenge film is most outrageous Almodovar in years

When I was first introduced to the work of Pedro Almodovar, I was in college, and the only local arthouse theater booked a one-week run of "Matador."  This was well before he had become internationally respectable, before he turned into one of the masters of melodrama, when he was still this slightly crazy Spanish indie upstart making sex-soaked movies about death and madness.  "Matador" also marked the first time I saw Antonio Banderas in something, and the two of them seemed to be in tune with one another.  I love when filmmakers and actors have ongoing creative relationships because you see all sorts of interesting things happen over the course of time.  Little wonder, then, that "The Skin I Live In" marks a return to the early crazy grindhouse sensibilities of Almodovar since it is his first collaboration with Banderas in over a decade.

This is a hard film to discuss without spoilers, but I'm going to do my best to not ruin things.  After all, when I walked in and sat down, I knew nothing beyond having seen a few still images, and with a film like this, built around a mid-movie paradigm shift, it is incredibly easy to ruin the experience for someone else with one or two careless word choices.  Based on a novel by Thierry Jonquet, this is a mad scientist film wrapped in a disturbing exploration of gender politics, and it unfolds with an overheated intensity that I found both darkly hilarious and occasionally even moving.

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<p>Skylar Grey</p>

Skylar Grey

Interview: Skylar Grey goes 'Invisible' in video, talks Eminem, Marilyn Manson collabs

Is this Wisconsin-native, hip-hop songwriter a superhero?

Songwriter Skylar Grey’s Interscope debut is titled “Invisible,” and so it is in more ways than one.

Superheroes, for one, have exhibited such a superpowers. Grey shows off her Spider-man side in the newly minted music video for the album’s title track, below.

“I discovered that my insecurities and my flaws were things that I actually need to embrace, and I let them become my superpowers,” Grey said in a statement.

But in my interview with the rising star, she spoke of invisibility as more of an unknowable, which is sort of the general impression of the album at this point. “Expectations are an evil thing,” as she said coolly.

Grey has stepped out as a prominently featured vocalist on several hip-hop hits, including on Dr. Dre’s “I Need a Doctor” with Eminem and on Lupe Fiasco’s “Words I Never Said.” Additionally, she was the songwriting power behind one of Slim Shady’s biggest hits of all time, “Love the Way You Lie” (which guested Rihanna on vocals).

But on the flip side, her performance at Lollapalooza was equally dark but much more rock, like an industrial Nelly Furtado. It was a showcase of her hook-writing abilities but also of personality, cultivated from more than a half-dozen years of navigating a tricky industry in turmoil.

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