<p>Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal find different paths through the darkness in the harrowing new film 'Prisoners'</p>

Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal find different paths through the darkness in the harrowing new film 'Prisoners'

Credit: Warner Bros

Review: Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal both dig deep for the brutal, haunting 'Prisoners'

The French-Canadian director of 'Incendies' makes a strong US debut

TORONTO - I think it's safe to say that "Prisoners" is the best police procedural since "Se7en," and it works as a grim, ugly companion piece to that film in the way it is meticulously plotted without ever truly telegraphing its intentions. The difference is that "Prisoners" also focuses on the way grief drives us mad in the long haul, and just how fragile parents are when it comes to the notion of anything happening to their children.

I've certainly seen a number of films that cover similar thematic ground to "Prisoners," but Aaron Guzikowski's script takes its time, laying out its various tricks and traps very carefully, so that when it decides to hurt you emotionally, it does so with maximum efficiency. The film begins with a Thanksgiving celebration shared by two families. Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and his wife Grace (Maria Bello) take their kids down the street to share the day with Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard) and his wife Nancy (Viola Davis). Ralph (Dylan Minnette) and Eliza (Zoe Borde) are the teenagers in the families, and they also both have little girls, Anna (Erin Gerasimovich) and Joy (Kyla Drew Simmons).

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<p>Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl are both outstanding as racing rivals Hunt and Lauda in Ron Howard's new film 'Rush'</p>

Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl are both outstanding as racing rivals Hunt and Lauda in Ron Howard's new film 'Rush'

Credit: Universal Studios

Review: Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl both shine in Ron Howard's dynamic racing drama 'Rush'

A true-life sports movie dazzles thanks to the director's energy and a great cast

TORONTO - Ron Howard must be one of the most successful directors to have ever made as many giant films as he has without developing his own signature directorial style, and while one could level that against him as a criticism, I think in some ways, it's the key to his success. He is rarely the star of his movies the way someone like Scorsese is. Instead, Howard seems to reinvent the way he tells a story based entirely on which story he's telling, and in the case of "Rush," that strategy pays off to remarkable effect.

Peter Morgan's script is inelegantly structured, particularly in the first half hour, and at first it feels like they're not sure what story they're telling. Gradually, though, the film settles into a rhythm, and things snap into focus. Once they do, Howard's filmmaking seems to get more and more confident, and by the end of the film, I was shocked to realize just how invested I was in the story of James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), especially considering how little I care about the world of Formula 1 racing.

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<p>Daniel Bruhl and Benedict Cumberbatch play real-life WikiLeak cohorts Daniel Berg and Julian Assange in Bill Condon's 'The Fifth Estate'</p>

Daniel Bruhl and Benedict Cumberbatch play real-life WikiLeak cohorts Daniel Berg and Julian Assange in Bill Condon's 'The Fifth Estate'

Credit: Dreamworks

Review: Cumberbatch's Assange anchors muddled 'The Fifth Estate'

Some strong ideas get buried in a film that never quite finds a focus

TORONTO - The strongest, clearest expression of an idea in all of "The Fifth Estate" happens under the opening credits, as we watch the evolution of journalism from Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses to the death of print and the rise of the Internet, and while it's a compelling expression of the idea that how we share important news has changed over time, it also captures one of my issues with the film itself. I don't concur that print is dead and the Internet has replaced it, and I think it will take the perspective of time before we truly digest what is happening right now to news media.

Telling the story of Julian Assange and Wikileaks is premature, I believe. After all, Bradley Manning was just sentenced last month, and Assange is still holed up in an embassy in London, and the full ramifications of everything that leaked by the website are still being digested right now. In time, we'll be able to get a full sense of who Assange is, of what Wikileaks really did, and of the impact of their actions, but at the moment, it all still feels like it is unfolding. Ultimately, it seems that this is not the story of Assange and his website, but rather the story of Daniel Domscheit-Berg, whose book "Inside Wikileaks: My Time With Julian Assange At The World's Most Dangerous Website" is one of the two primary source for the movie. This is the story of how a young computer hacker fell under Assange's sway, helped him turn Wikileaks into an international presence, and ultimately ended up disillusioned and frustrated by Assange's agenda.

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<p>Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston spend an eternal night together in Jim Jarmusch's moody 'Only Lovers Left Alive'</p>

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston spend an eternal night together in Jim Jarmusch's moody 'Only Lovers Left Alive'

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Review: Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton shine in Jim Jarmusch's moody 'Only Lovers Left Alive'

I thought I'd seen every riff on the vampire myth. I was wrong.

TORONTO - One of the things I've noticed when you're at a film festival is that, more often than not, when you ask someone what they're going to see, they will tell you by using the name of the director. "I'm seeing the Jason Reitman film." "I'm seeing the Cronenberg movie." "I'm seeing the Fincher." I think the reason for that is it's easier to remember whose film you're seeing instead of the title when you're going through roughly 300 titles or more. Many times, the reason I pick a film at a festival comes down to the director or the writer or the actors in it, and so that becomes what I remember about it as I'm looking at the schedule. Once I've seen a film, it becomes easier to talk about the movie, but you have to make a ton of choices at any festival, and that particular trick is the easiest way to keep the movies straight.

That's my long-winded way of saying I kicked off this year's Toronto International Film Festival with the new Jarmusch.

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<p>One of these is a space beast, and one of these is a CG dog.</p>

One of these is a space beast, and one of these is a CG dog.

Credit: Universal Pictures

Review: Vin Diesel takes 'Riddick' back to his simple, brutal roots

Did you like 'Pitch Black'? Well, I've got good news for you.

One of the words I use frequently when describing things, particularly things I like, is "pulp," and this summer, when I was at the San Diego Comic-Con, I found myself in a conversation with a reader who wasn't sure what I meant by that. It was a reminder that just because I love something or use something as a reference, it's not automatically something that everyone in my audience is going to understand or connect to, and I can't just leave it like that. The point of using a specific term like that is to give you some context for something, and truth be told, "pulp" is something that really doesn't occupy much of a space in modern pop culture. When I use that term to describe some pumped-up slice of 21st-century whiz bang, it's sort of like listening to your granddad describe a "Super Mario Bros." game by making references to Jack Benny's radio show.

My love of pulp developed gradually, as I followed the things I love back through their cultural evolution to the place where they began. Growing up as a film fan who was shaped in some part by "Star Wars" and "Raiders Of The Lost Ark," it seemed inevitable that eventually I would find my way back to what was a huge, significant movement in pop fiction for a good chunk of the start of the 20th century. From the moment I first read one of the original "Doc Savage" stories, I was hooked. What I adore about pulp is the simplicity of it and the way it's all about wringing variations out of a formula. Bad guys and good guys are painted in big broad strokes, essentially unchanging in their natures, and the conflicts they find themselves in are defined by very simple-to-understand stakes. If you've read one "Doc Savage" story, you could argue that you've read every "Doc Savage" story, but the pleasure comes in seeing what is done within that familiar framework each time.

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<p>I will miss Mel Gibson's take on Max, but George Miller is the essential ingredient as far as I'm concerned.</p>

I will miss Mel Gibson's take on Max, but George Miller is the essential ingredient as far as I'm concerned.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Reshoots mean George Miller's new 'Mad Max' is delayed again

George Miller is one of those filmmakers we should trust by now, right?

So I know I was on vacation, but I wasn't cut off from civilization. I was looking at Twitter occasionally, reading a few e-mails at the end of the night. As a result, I'm still catching up on stuff that evidently was discussing, and I felt like one story in particular deserved a second look, because I'm not sure why it seems to have been almost completely shrugged off.

Isn't anyone else curious what's taking so much time with "Fury Road"?

Maybe it's just me. I've been hearing talk about this film for a decade now, and when it comes to George Miller, there are few film fans who are more passionate about him. I think Miller is all-time-pantheon good at what he does, and I think it's a shame he hasn't been treated with a little more reverence. He should be. He is a straight-up kinetic genius, a whiz when it comes to cranking up the tension in a sequence. There is a chase that takes place in "Babe: Pig In The City" that is every bit as thrilling and sincere as the big chase near the end of "Mad Max 2," aka "The Road Warrior," and only Miller could treat both of those scenes they way he did. Only he would stage them and shoot them the way he does. There's no one else who has the same eye that Miller has. I don't understand the magic trick in "Lorenzo's Oil," where he makes it feel just as urgent to have someone read something in a book as it is to break past Lord Humungous and his horde.

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<p>Winona Ryder and Michael Cera are just two of the people who made appearances on this season of 'Drunk History'</p>

Winona Ryder and Michael Cera are just two of the people who made appearances on this season of 'Drunk History'

Credit: Comedy Central

If you're not watching Comedy Central's 'Drunk History,' you're doing it wrong

Derek Waters seems to have created a perfect comedy series

Normally I leave the TV coverage to the more-than-capable care of Dan Fienberg, Alan Sepinwall, and Liane Starr, but today I feel obligated to make special mention of a show that I think has been crushing it, week in and week out.

After all, isn't that the point of having a platform like this? When I see "Drunk History" on Comedy Central getting better week after week, I want to make sure people are tuning in so I can get more episodes in the future. I was familiar with the short films that Derek Waters created for the website "Funny or Die," and I think it's a fiendishly simple premise for a recurrent comedy piece. The idea, if you haven't seen the show, is exactly what it sounds like. Waters asks funny people to explain a historical incident while they are busy getting as drunk as they can possibly be.

At the same time, we see a recreation by actors in costume, and when they speak, they are perfectly in-synch with the storyteller, complete with drunken hesitation, belching, vomiting and more. And watching actors play that dialogue, perfectly timed, I think it's incredibly funny, a beautiful next level to a joke that is already funny.

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<p>He must be a director. Look at his beard.</p>

He must be a director. Look at his beard.

Credit: Comedy Central

Jon Stewart will bring 'Rosewater' footage to Toronto Film Festival's market

Buyers are about to get their first peek at the 'Daily Show' anchor's debut feature

Early tomorrow afternoon, I'll be on a plane on my way to Toronto for Toronto International Film Festival, the fifth time since joining HitFix. One of the things I love most about this job is being able to attend festivals I've been hearing about and reading about for years, and one of the festivals I love most is the one that happens in the first part of September each year.

Sundance is all about the weather. South By Southwest is all about the crowds. Cannes is all about the mystique. Fantastic Fest is all about the social side of being a film fan. And then there's Toronto… and honestly, for me, Toronto is the one that is all about the movies. So many movies. Hundreds more than anyone could even begin to see in the nine days that the festival runs.

It's easy for me to forget that Toronto also has an international film market that is part of the festival. At Cannes, the commerce is right up front, and you can't visit the festival without taking at least one stroll around the insane carnival atmosphere of the marketplace. I have never even considered attending the one at Toronto, but I may see just how far my press badge will let me go in trying to catch a glimpse when Jon Stewart shows footage to international buyers for the first time.

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<p>Yes, Zac, we are talking to you.</p>

Yes, Zac, we are talking to you.

Credit: Universal Pictures

Rogen and Efron make a strong impression in first filthy funny trailer for 'Neighbors'

This one's pulling no punches even in the first first peek

It wasn't that long ago that I drove to an unassuming street just off the 10 freeway in Los Angeles and followed the directions to the two houses being used for what was still at that point being called "Townies."

By this point, I feel comfortable on a set that's run by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, or Nicholas Stoller, and when you throw all three of them into the mix, you've got my attention. I ended up talking to Stoller, Goldberg, and Rogen, as well as screenwriters Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien, and it was apparent that they all had one clear goal in mind: make a stunningly dirty and wildly funny film.

If you're unfamiliar with the film, it deals with Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne), a young couple who have just gone through two of the most stressful experiences that you can face in normal daily life. They just had a baby, and they just bought a house. Piling those one on top of the other means that they're stretched about as thin as they can be, and then within days of them closing the deal on their house, they get new neighbors, and it turns out to be a fraternity, run by Teddy (Zac Efron), Scoonie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and Pete (Dave Franco).

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<p>'The Wind Rises' seems at first glance to be a departure for Miyazaki in terms of subject matter.</p>

'The Wind Rises' seems at first glance to be a departure for Miyazaki in terms of subject matter.

Credit: Studio Ghibli

Miyazaki is said to be announcing his retirement at a press conference next week

Will 'The Wind Rises' be the last feature from this gentle genius?

Miyazaki-san is going out on his own terms, when he chooses to, and he seems like he's been building to this decision for a while now.

There were rumors before about him wrapping up his film career, but each time, the rumors were dispelled when he eventually went back to work, and in the last few years, he's managed to keep his voice and his spirit intact in his films, something that not every filmmaker can manage. I came to his work mid-career, when "Princess Mononoke" was announced for US release and Neil Gaiman was hired to write the adaptation script for the English dub. I was at Ain't It Cool and I was given the chance to meet Hayao Miyazaki to discuss that film and his earlier work… none of which I'd seen by that point. I ended up going to UCLA because they were showing a marathon of his films, and I saw "Kiki's Deliver Service," "Castle In The Sky," "Nausicaa In TheValley of Wind," "Porco Rosso," "My Neigbor Totoro," and "The Castle Of Cagliostro," and immediately, I was head over heels, smitten with what I'd seen. The interview we did was one of my favorites of my entire career so far, and he ended up drawing a very happy Totoro for me, something I still treasure.

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