In Contention signing off at HitFix

In Contention signing off at HitFix

This will be our last month as part of the HitFix family

In truth, I struggle with whether this is a necessary post. A long-winded "goodbye" seems a little egotistical. But I also recognize that there is a community here that does not deserve to be left in the dark. It's that community that figured heavily into HitFix's decision to partner with In Contention four years ago, and it's that community that I've grown to respect and appreciate as part of a conversation throughout all my years doing this — not just an audience being dictated to from a perch, but an engaged collective vital to the elixir of it all.

So let me fill you in on the news: This will be my, and In Contention's, last month as part of the HitFix family.

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Mark Ruffalo on the balancing act of playing a bipolar dad in 'Infinitely Polar Bear'

Mark Ruffalo on the balancing act of playing a bipolar dad in 'Infinitely Polar Bear'

And is Bruce Banner in 'Captain America: Civil War' or not?

In this business you can easily watch up to 200 films in a single year. It's therefore no surprise that it's already hard for this pundit to remember all the films I caught at the Cannes Film Festival, which was less than one month ago. Of course, that doesn't mean some films don't stick with you. One film that made a lasting impression with me over the past 18 months was Maya Forbes' "Infinitely Polar Bear." The autobiographical drama debuted at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and is finally making its way to theaters this week.

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A Perfect Shot: Vittorio Storaro on a warrior reborn in 'Apocalypse Now'

A Perfect Shot: Vittorio Storaro on a warrior reborn in 'Apocalypse Now'

What an iconic film image says about one of cinema's most enduring masterworks

If you recognize the iconography of canonical cinema, then the image of a paint-smeared Martin Sheen rising with piercing, purpose-filled eyes from a South Asian bog is something you know well. It is — perhaps along with a fleet of UH-1 Hueys descending like Valkyries out of a tempest, or the haunting visage of Marlon Brando glaring through a penetrating beam of light — the most identifying image of Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 masterpiece "Apocalypse Now." And like so many other frames within, it is one rife with psychological and thematic context.

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Find out why 'The Secret Life of Pets' with Louis C.K. is next summer's smash hit

Find out why 'The Secret Life of Pets' with Louis C.K. is next summer's smash hit

Universal Pictures and Illumination are on a roll

Unless you've been living under a rock, it's hard not to recognize what an amazing year Universal Pictures is having. "Fifty Shades of Grey," "Furious 7," "Pitch Perfect 2" and "Jurassic World" have all performed beyond expectations with the latter knocking off "Marvel's The Avengers" for the biggest opening of all-time. What's even more remarkable is that the studio still has at least three more hits on the way this summer including Judd Apatow's "Trainwreck," Seth McFarlane's "Ted 2" and "Minions."  

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More than just Pixar's best, 'Inside Out' is a new animation masterpiece

More than just Pixar's best, 'Inside Out' is a new animation masterpiece

20 years after 'Toy Story,' this is the studio's greatest achievement

"Inside Out" isn't just Pixar Animation Studios' best film to date, it's one of the best films of the 21st century. That's a big bite, I know, but that's where I was left after the emotional, mature, brilliantly examining and creative experience of the movie. It is the project that most completely reflects the studio's tenets of refined storytelling and entertainment, a mission statement so often repeated as to flirt with the platitudinous. Yet "Inside Out" reminds you how real it is, how powerful cinema can be and how profoundly it can explore, reflect and express the human condition. This is why we project images in dark rooms, to achieve heights such as these.

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Looking back on the Oscar-winning designs of 'Dick Tracy' 25 years later

Looking back on the Oscar-winning designs of 'Dick Tracy' 25 years later

Makeup artist John Caglione Jr. and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro on the film's unique iconography

Long before the comic book boom of the 21st Century, Hollywood's handling of heroes drawn from the funny pages was a touch and go enterprise. More at home in the serials era of the 40s and 50s, that iconography leaked out onto the big screen in only drips and drabs, a "Superman" here, a "Batman" there. And indeed, a year after Tim Burton brought the latter to unique Gothic heights in 1989, Warren Beatty brought another flesh and blood crime fighter to the big screen with bold expressionistic strokes.

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From 'Toy Story' to 'Inside Out': Ranking all of Pixar's films

From 'Toy Story' to 'Inside Out': Ranking all of Pixar's films

Where does the studio's 15th feature 20 years later register?

You probably think you're having deja vu, but don't adjust anything. Yes, we've covered the best of Pixar in a nifty, click-y list before, but opinions shift and slide. And with a company putting out work as consistently great as this one has, it's understandable that nothing ever feels rooted. Ask me again in another year and I might have a different order.

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Lance Armstrong sells himself out in the trailer for 'The Program' with Ben Foster

Lance Armstrong sells himself out in the trailer for 'The Program' with Ben Foster

The Stephen Frears film does not have US distribution yet but looks like a potential player

One film I've had my eye on in the upcoming season is Stephen Frears' "The Program" (formerly "Icon"). It's the story of journalist David Walsh, chief sports writer of the Sunday Times, who was hot on the trail of cyclist Lance Armstrong's fall from grace amid his performance-enhancing drugs scandal. A sharp trailer gives us our first glance at what we're dealing with here.

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Thomas Mann knows it will be hard to play a teenager again after 'Me and Earl'

Thomas Mann knows it will be hard to play a teenager again after 'Me and Earl'

Sundance hit finally arrives in theaters this week

Thomas Mann is an actor on the cusp. Think of Miles Teller right before the release of “The Spectacular Now” or Michael B. Jordan before “Fruitvale Station.” Once “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” hits theaters over the course of the next month, the 23-year-old actor is going to find himself busier than ever.

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'The Martian' trailer: Will Ridley Scott's space drama wash out the 'Exodus' taste?

'The Martian' trailer: Will Ridley Scott's space drama wash out the 'Exodus' taste?

Can it avoid obvious comparisons?

I can't help but wonder if "The Martian" is fighting uphill from the start. After all, we just watched Matt Damon in a hyped space prestige drama last year. Could the familiarity ding it a bit? Maybe. The bigger question for me is what Ridley Scott has left up his sleeve.

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