'Hector' stars Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike on how the English are scared of sincerity
Credit: HitFix

'Hector' stars Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike on how the English are scared of sincerity

Plus we get into the way this film and 'The World's End' are entangled

There are a few people on a very short list who are a genuine pleasure to run into under any circumstances, and Simon Pegg is on that very short list for me.

We first met during the build-up to the American release of "Shaun Of The Dead," and at that point, Pegg and Nick Frost and Edgar Wright were cult stars thanks to "Spaced." As much as I adored "Shaun" straightaway, I had no idea if it was going to make a dent in American pop culture.

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Exclusive: A sneak peek behind the Bayhem in a clip from the 'Transformers' Blu-ray
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Exclusive: A sneak peek behind the Bayhem in a clip from the 'Transformers' Blu-ray

In one minute, you will see more explosions than a Boston fireworks display

When I ran my most recent Film Nerd 2.0, several of you e-mailed me to point out what seemed to be a glaring contradiction in things I'd published here.

"Why were you complaining about your kids watching the 'Transformers' movies? Don't you like those movies?"

It is safe to call my relationship to the movies complicated. I am not sure I would say I enjoy the third and the fourth films, but I am endlessly fascinated by them. The scale on which Michael Bay is working is so preposterous that it's easy to get numbed by it when you're watching the actual movies. As "Transformers: Age Of Extinction" prepares to hit home video, we've got a clip from some of the behind-the-scenes extras that serves as a reminder of just how much actual physical labor goes into creating those outsized images.

People tend to dismiss these movies based on all of the digital effects included in each one (among other reasons), but more of what is happening onscreen is practical than I sometimes remember. I am particularly impressed in this short one-minute clip by just how many cars they manage to drop from the sky. I'd like to think that's one guy's specialty, and right now, he is somewhere napping until Michael Bay needs him to launch a bus through the air again.

No matter what rating the movie actually carries, Bay's films all have an R-rated sheen to them. He can't help it. It's simply the prism through which he views things. Just the fact that it perpetually looks like everyone on his set is moments away from dying for real is enough to push them over the top.

By now, I suspect you know whether or not you're buying "Transformers: Age Of Extinction" on Blu-ray or DVD. Either way, starting your day with stuff blowing up is always a good choice. And because it's Bay, rest assured, the home-video release is a beast. Gigantic. Epic. This is a one-minute clip. There are over three hours of special features on the disc, which arrives in stores on September 30th.

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Review: 'Maze Runner' gives a strong young cast plenty of room to shine
Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: 'Maze Runner' gives a strong young cast plenty of room to shine

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
Sure, it's familiar fare, but it's got the moves down cold

The rules of engagement have changed in the ongoing push-me/pull-you of tentpole filmmaking, especially when aiming at the oh-so-important young adult demographic. That is a very business-minded opening sentence for a review, but these days, when you're making a film like "The Maze Runner," it is a very business-minded endeavor. If you get one of these movies right, you buy yourself the room to make two or three or however many more. Casting is a huge part of that, as is the way you bait the hook for the larger franchise.

Wes Ball's background is in animation and effects, and he certainly has an eye for composition. Thankfully, he doesn't just lean on visual flash in his debut feature, the adaptation of the first of James Dashner's four books, and his skills allow him to build a convincing world around his appealing cast without losing them in it completely.

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Notes From Toshi Station: A sneak peek reaction to 'Star Wars Rebels: Spark Of Rebellion'
Credit: Disney XD/Lucasfilm Ltd.

Notes From Toshi Station: A sneak peek reaction to 'Star Wars Rebels: Spark Of Rebellion'

Who is better suited to judge the new show than an actively engaged fan?

To begin with, I'd like to announce that my nine-year-old son Toshi McWeeny has been appointed "Senior Junior 'Star Wars' Correspondent" for HitFix.

After all, he was the one who attended the "Phantom Menace 3D" press day with me and conducted all of the interviews, and one of the things that defined Film Nerd 2.0 was our series of "Star Wars" articles. At this point, Toshi is far more immersed in "Star Wars" than I am on a daily basis. He has books he reads, comics he looks at, and a constant stream of revisits of the different films and TV shows that are already part of the overall franchise. It is something that is an active part of his inner life and his ongoing play with his little brother. It is safe to say that there is not a day that goes by that "Star Wars" is not part of their conversation to some extent, so who better to have be our liaison to that galaxy far far away?

When I was at the Toronto Film Festival, there was a special event thrown by Disney on the Disney lot in Burbank where they screened the premiere for "Star Wars: Rebels," the new animated series that Disney XD is about to start airing. One of the weirdest nights I've had this year was the opening night of this year's Comic-Con, when we had our annual HitFix party and our sponsors for the evening were Lucasfilm for this particular show. It was a bizarre evening simply because it's not often I am one of the people throwing a party where there are Stormtroopers, Imperial Guards, and droids all milling about, and if seven-year-old me had tried to imagine a poolside party full of not only the characters but the people in charge of them, he would have failed utterly to imagine how much fun the reality could be.

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Review: Ethan Hawke goes numb at the controls of a deadly drone in 'Good Kill'
Credit: Voltage Pictures

Review: Ethan Hawke goes numb at the controls of a deadly drone in 'Good Kill'

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
It's sad just how timely this one is

Traveling back from the Toronto Film Festival meant spending a fair amount of time in airports, and in each of those airports, the same revolving barrage of news went by, including discussions of new drone missions over Syria.

It made it very unsettling as I had "Good Kill" still bouncing about inside me, one of the last movies I saw at the fest this year, and as timely a film as I could imagine seeing. Written and directed by Andrew Niccol, the film is a close-up character portrait of Tommy Egan, a former fighter jet pilot who has been relocated to a Las Vegas suburban neighborhood. Every day, he reports to a local base where he and his crew file into a small trailer and then spend their shift watching and occasionally killing people on the other side of the world.

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Liam Neeson on using his 'Taken' clout to get 'Walk Among The Tombstones' made
Credit: HitFix

Liam Neeson on using his 'Taken' clout to get 'Walk Among The Tombstones' made

We talk about his new twelve-step hero from Lawrence Block's popular book series

"Excalibur" was a formative theatrical experience for me. It was one of the first R-rated films I specifically decided I wanted to see in a theater. I'd seen other R-rated films before that, but always at random and because someone else decided I was going to see it. With "Excalibur," I was crazy to see it, and the film landed on me like a ton of bricks. Surreal, violent, beautiful, explicit, and for a mythology nut, seeing how the film dealt with each of the characters, each of the Arthurian archetypes, I was in love.

One of the guys who made an impression in the film was a young Liam Neeson, and for the rest of the '80s, he racked up a number of performances where, good film or bad, he made an impression. How could he not? No one else looked like him. Slightly over eight feet tall, possessed of an Irish brogue that could be poured like whiskey, he finally started to really move front and center in the second half of the decade. Like anyone trying to build a resume in the '80s, he made a memorable appearance on "Miami Vice," then played major roles in "Suspect," "The Good Mother," the underrated "A Prayer For The Dying," the Dirty Harry film "The Dead Pool," and even the odd Neil Jordan romantic-comedy-wtih-ghosts film "High Spirits."

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Review: Smart kids once again save Winter in sweet 'Dolphin Tale 2'
Credit: Warner Bros.

Review: Smart kids once again save Winter in sweet 'Dolphin Tale 2'

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
It's more of the same, but that's not a bad thing

If I were the one running Warner Bros, I must admit it would not have occurred to me to pursue the idea of a sequel to 2011's "Dolphin Tale".

After all, the first film was the story of how a dolphin lost her tail in a crab trap, only to find her way to an aquarium and animal rescue facility in St. Petersburg, Florida, where she was eventually fitted with an innovative prosthetic. Story told, right? The sequel answers that question with a resounding no, and in doing so, it serves to highlight just how difficult it is for people, even with the best of intentions, to keep these animals in captivity and in good health at the same time. In its own small way, the film is part of the same conversation as "Blackfish," making the case that it's important work, but under carefully controlled circumstances only, and never at the expense of the animal.

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Review: John Cusack and Paul Dano give voice to Brian Wilson's broken soul in 'Love & Mercy'
Credit: A24

Review: John Cusack and Paul Dano give voice to Brian Wilson's broken soul in 'Love & Mercy'

HitFix
A
Readers
n/a
This is how you get a music biopic right

TORONTO - One of the most original interpretations of the music biopic in recent years was 2007's "I'm Not There," in which no less than six actors played different versions of Bob Dylan. Directed by Todd Haynes, the film used the different actors as a way of getting to the essential truth about an artist renowned for reinventing himself.

The co-writer of that film was Oren Moverman, and now he's the co-writer of "Love & Mercy," a beautiful new movie that once again refuses to fall into the formula that hobbles so many biopics of any kind. The cliches of the genre are so pervasive that Jake Kasdan's "Walk Hard" essentially destroyed the entire form for me. Ultimately, I think the best way to approach any biopic is to pick a moment that you feel illuminates the subject in a way that allows you to narrow in, focus, and tell a story that isn't just a greatest hits condensed into two hours.

In the case of "Love & Mercy," they picked two.

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Review: Simon Pegg has great fun playing slimy in Aussie thriller 'Kill Me Three Times'
Credit: Cargo Entertainment

Review: Simon Pegg has great fun playing slimy in Aussie thriller 'Kill Me Three Times'

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
Australia's sunshine hides some shadowy hearts in this one

Kriv Stenders is not a filmmaker whose name I knew before this, but "Kill Me Three Times" suggests he has both a slick sense of style and a wicked nasty sense of humor. The film stars Simon Pegg as a slimy hitman named Charlie Wolfe, and it is a sort of sun-drenched round robin of terrible people doing terrible things to one another to largely charming effect.

The script by James McFarland fractures the story into three overlapping chunks of time, doubling back on itself to illuminate why people are behaving certain ways, but it's actually a fairly simple story once it becomes untangled. Someone hires Charlie to kill someone else, and that someone may not be on the level. Charlie may not be on the level, either. Basically, it is a movie of double and triple crosses in which pretty much everyone deserves what they get, all set in the bright and beautiful sunshine of Australia.

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Review: Ben Stiller and Adam Driver put a stake in hipster culture's heart in 'While We're Young'
Credit: A24

Review: Ben Stiller and Adam Driver put a stake in hipster culture's heart in 'While We're Young'

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
Plus an unexpected debate about ethics in modern documentary film

While I'm always up for watching a new film by Noah Baumbach, I'm fairly sure I wouldn't want to spend any time in the real world with the characters in his movies.

Take "While We're Young," for example, his latest film which just premiered here at the Toronto Film Festival. In it, Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are a couple who have reached that point in life where all of their friends are having babies and they seem fairly sure that's not something they want. Josh is a documentary filmmaker who is coming up on his tenth year of tinkering with the same project, and Cornelia is a producer who works for her father (Charles Grodin), a successful older documentarian who used to be Josh's mentor. If they were the only three main characters in the film, there's still enough angst and tension and underlying pathology in the three of them to make me squirm for two full hours.

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