<p>Paul Walker pushes himself in some interesting ways in the new film 'Hours,' which premiered last night at the SXSW&nbsp;film festival.</p>

Paul Walker pushes himself in some interesting ways in the new film 'Hours,' which premiered last night at the SXSW film festival.

Credit: The Safran Company

Review: Paul Walker struggles to save his daughter in tense and tiny 'Hours'

HitFix
B-
Readers
A
A genre writer takes control of his career with this indie thriller

AUSTIN - Eric Heisserer has had a tough career to judge as a screenwriter. His produced credits so far are "Final Destination 5," "A Nightmare On Elm Street," and "The Thing," and I would genuinely have a hard time finding much good to say about any of the three. I would have an equally hard time blaming much about the films on him, because I am keenly aware of just how insignificant a part of the machinery you are as a writer when you're working on franchise films and high-stakes remakes for the studios. The key decisions on all three of those movies were made by people way above Heisserer's pay grade.

Heisserer published a short story called "Hours" on a site called Popcorn Fiction, and if you're a regular reader of this blog, then you may recognize that site's name. I published two stories on the site as well, and I assume the same thing I liked about it is what drew Heisserer to it. The site is owned by Derek Haas, a working screenwriter, and while Popcorn Fiction is happy to publish a writer's story, they don't demand any ownership of the material, nor do they retain any rights over it if you choose to do something with it in another media. It's a great place to showcase personal work that you might otherwise never get in front of an audience, and for Heisserer, it was a chance to publish something very different than the work he's known for already. Not long after he put it up, he took it back down because the story was optioned and was set to be developed into a feature.

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<p>Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson shine in Joe Swanberg's new film 'Drinking Buddies'</p>

Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson shine in Joe Swanberg's new film 'Drinking Buddies'

Credit: Burn Later Productions

Review: Olivia Wilde and 'New Girl' star Jake Johnson shine in 'Drinking Buddies'

HitFix
A-
Readers
A+
Joe Swanberg hits a career high with his latest film

AUSTIN - The easy temptation would be to say that Joe Swanberg has made some sort of major jump from the films that he has made in the past to his new film, "Drinking Buddies," which made its debut tonight at the Paramount Theater, part of this year's SXSW film festival. I don't think that's true, though. It's an evolution, definitely, but I don't think it's a radical shift so much as it's another small step forward, resulting in what may well be his most accessible and enjoyable film to date.

Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson star as Kate and Luke, friends who both work at a micro-brewery.  He's one of the brewers, and she's involved in actually getting the beer picked up by distributors around the country. They are good friends at work and after work as well, and the whole opening 20 minutes of the film, Swanberg does a tremendous job of capturing the rhythm of a long, boozy night out at the bar with a bunch of friends, and it's only once the night wraps up that we see both of them go home to their respective partners. Luke's in a longtime relationship with Jill, Anna Kendrick's character, and Kate's been dating Chris (Ron Livingston) for almost a year. Even so, there are strong obvious signs of attraction between Kate and Luke, and for a while, it looks like the film is going to be about some boozy transgression that ruins everything.

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<p>Jane Levy is definitely not having a good day.</p>

Jane Levy is definitely not having a good day.

Credit: Sony Pictures

Review: 'Evil Dead' reboot is uber-bloody, but is that enough?

HitFix
B-
Readers
A-
Sam Raimi, Bruce campbell, and Robert Tapert return to their original triumph

AUSTIN - Okay, now it feels like an Austin film festival.

It seems fitting that as Sam Raimi does a victory lap around Hollywood this weekend to celebrate the mammoth opening for "Oz The Great and Powerful," his original partners-in-crime Bob Tapert and Bruce Campbell are in Austin, where they premiered the new "Evil Dead" for the first time tonight.

Fede Alvarez made a short film a few years ago called "Panic Attack," and that ended up landing him an overall deal with Ghost House Pictures, the company that Tapert and Raimi started to produce genre movies. The film he first tried to develop with them fell apart, so they asked him if there was anything else he might be interested in doing, and he pitched them his take on the classic that launched all of them in the first place.  It was a bold move, especially considering how often Raimi and Campbell continued to talk about the possibility of making an "Evil Dead 4" that would return Ash, their iconic main character, to the big screen.

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<p>Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi and Jim&nbsp;Carrey star in the new comedy 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,' the opening night film at this year's SXSW&nbsp;film festival</p>

Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi and Jim Carrey star in the new comedy 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,' the opening night film at this year's SXSW film festival

Credit: Warner Bros

Review: Steve Carell's 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone' is more trick than magic

HitFix
C
Readers
F
Some big laughs are lost in a narrative muddle

AUSTIN - I am fascinated by the world of stage magic. Always have been. It was hard not to become interested when I was growing up in the '70s because it was the age of the big prime time magic specials. During that era, there were two guys who always seemed to be in the lead, the ones who were turning out the most theatrical and the most entertaining specials, Doug Henning and David Copperfield. The idea that there was a rivalry between them over who was the best magician was part of what kept my friends and I so engaged from special to special, from year to year.

In recent years, I've been far less interested in the magic you see on TV, and part of that is because of the almost anti-theatricality that guys like David Blaine and Kriss Angel depend on for their performance personas. It feels to me like magic has evolved into something I don't particularly enjoy, or at least it does until I go to a place like the Magic Castle in LA and see somebody doing close-up magic that once again blows my mind and rekindles my sense of wonder. Intellectually, I understand how most tricks work, and I know misdirection is being used to help steer the illusions, but when someone pulls it off, there will always be that delicious feeling that something truly remarkable has just happened right in front of my eyes.

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<p>Rachel Weisz is all the pretty.</p>

Rachel Weisz is all the pretty.

Credit: HitFix

Rachel Weisz discusses why she did a rare blockbuster role in 'Oz The Great and Powerful'

The third witch discusses her role in Sam Raimi's newest film

One of the things that is an undeniable pleasure about "Oz The Great and Powerful" is that Sam Raimi ended up casting three beautiful and talented ladies as the witches, and each of them brings a very different energy to the picture.

I've already run my interviews with Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams, and I've saved Rachel Weisz for last. I think Weisz is a classic beauty, and I love the way she's chosen roles over the years. She's not someone who seems like they're busy chasing the perfect career move or the giant blockbuster role. It still seems surreal when I see her show up in something like "The Bourne Legacy" or "Oz" because of how rarely she seems drawn to this type of material.

That was one of the things I discussed with her when we sat down to talk, and I think there's something very appropriate about her playing Evanora, older sister to Kunis's Theodora in the movie.  They certainly look like they share a joint heritage, but more than that, I think Weisz has an authority that makes her a convincing choice to rule the kingdom of Oz while waiting for the arrival of the Wizard who is supposed to take the throne. She never telegraphs Evanora's intentions, and even once she begins to reveal her true agenda, she never ends up playing the obvious choice.

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<p>Warwick Davis is, quite simply, one of the nicest guys in this business, and it's great to hear him telling new stories about the making of 'Willow'</p>

Warwick Davis is, quite simply, one of the nicest guys in this business, and it's great to hear him telling new stories about the making of 'Willow'

Credit: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Exclusive: Warwick Davis on horseback riding in 'Willow' and how Val Kilmer helped him

As the Lucas/Howard fantasy gets the deluxe Blu-ray treatment, we've got a sneak peek

I remember when "Willow" was first announced. I was working at a movie theater, and in those pre-Internet days, there were posters that would arrive and be the first indication that a movie even existed. Sure, I read "Starlog" and "Fangoria" and whatever issues of "Variety" I could get my hands on, and I did my best to be as tuned in as possible to what was happening in movies, but it was a lot harder to come by early information.  As a result, when we opened the poster tubes on day and pulled out a gorgeous but mysterious teaser poster that consisted of red-orange clouds and a simple title treatment for "Willow" with the tagline "Forget all you know… or think you know," all we really had to go on was "From the creator of 'Star Wars'" at the top and "From the director of 'Cocoon'" at the bottom.

Almost immediately, the speculation began, and more than one person guessed that this was finally the new "Star Wars" film, a mere five years after the release of "Return Of The Jedi."  In those days, we still believed that Lucas was going to continue making the films in a fairly timely manner, and even once other publicity materials started showing up, it took me a while to really believe that "Willow" was its own thing.

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<p>If sunshine could act, it would probably be Michelle Williams.</p>

If sunshine could act, it would probably be Michelle Williams.

Credit: HitFix

Michelle Williams explains why there's some Marilyn Monroe in her Glinda in 'Oz The Great and Powerful'

We also discuss the film's unusual ending and why that mattered to her

One of the greatest things about "Oz The Great and Powerful," for me anyway, is seeing Michelle Williams play a role where she spends a good deal of time actually smiling.

If you knew her primarily from "Dawson's Creek" in the early days, it would have been very hard to predict that she would eventually end up as one of the most acclaimed and interesting actresses working. The last decade or so has seen her deliver one great performance after another, though, and sitting down to talk to her about playing Glinda the good witch in "Oz" was a a genuine pleasure.

Before we started rolling, we talked a bit about Sarah Polley's new documentary "Stories We Tell" and how seeing it changed my perceptions of "Take This Waltz," the film that Polley made with Williams.  She seemed delighted that I knew "Waltz" and loved it, and it was obvious as we spoke that she is a huge fan of Polley's work.

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<p>If you don't join us for the special Q&amp;A&nbsp;screening of 'You're Next' at SXSW, you're going to have to explain yourself to Sharni Vinson, and I&nbsp;don't think she's going to take it well.</p>

If you don't join us for the special Q&A screening of 'You're Next' at SXSW, you're going to have to explain yourself to Sharni Vinson, and I don't think she's going to take it well.

Credit: Lionsgate

Join me Sunday night at SXSW for a Q&A with the cast and crew of 'You're Next'

The fiendishly clever thriller kicks off its 2013 release plans with a special screening

I am on the ground in Austin and getting ready for the start of SXSW, the annual orgy of movies and music and comedy and barbecue that remains one of the most purely social film festivals I've ever attended.

SXSW has its own identity, something I consider essential in a film festival.  It is in some ways more mainstream than Sundance, but in other ways, even more ferociously independent.  This festival has no problem opening with movies like "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone," which I'll review tomorrow night, or the new "Evil Dead," which I'll also review tomorrow.  But they also program micro-budget indies and personal visions, and it's that collision between those two worlds that makes it such an interesting and dynamic film event.

On Sunday night, "You're Next" will be playing here, and if you don't remember the title, it's a fiendish little horror film that I saw and thoroughly enjoyed at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. Lionsgate bought the movie, and they've been slowly planning their release strategy ever since. This festival is the kick-off of their build towards this year's release of the movie, and the Sunday night screening is a big night for them.

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<p>Mila Kunis isn't quite this drop-dead gorgeous in much of her screen time during 'Oz The Great and Powerful,' but she seems to have enjoyed her transformation.</p>

Mila Kunis isn't quite this drop-dead gorgeous in much of her screen time during 'Oz The Great and Powerful,' but she seems to have enjoyed her transformation.

Credit: HitFix

Mila Kunis talks about heartbreak and going green in 'Oz The Great and Powerful'

She describes the emotional arc of a wicked witch in Sam Raimi's new film

I blew it. I am perfectly willing to admit that I missed a golden opportunity when I recently sat down with Mila Kunis to talk about her work in "Oz The Great And Powerful," but I didn't realize it until after the fact.

Honestly, I thought my interview went pretty well in the room, until I saw her holding that shaky English kid's hand. The thing is, she has always come across as completely unimpressed by press and interviews and the whole dog-and-pony show that comes with filmmaking. I met her originally on the Hawaiian set for "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," and she could not have been less formal about the entire thing. She wasn't even working that night. She just came to the set from where she'd been swimming all day, and she hadn't taken the time to go get made up or to try to play it up as "Mila Kunis, Movie Star." She was charming precisely because she didn't seem to be trying to impress anyone.

When we spoke for different films over the years at junkets and press days, I always enjoyed seeing how close she was with her parents, who were a frequent presence, and how she frequently would poke fun at the process even as she took part in it.  I'm honestly not surprised by that interview that went viral this week. It looks like business as usual for her, and I certainly thought she was both personable and on-message when we spoke.

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<p>The weird part is that this is pretty much how Tony Vespe always dresses, not just in the new film 'Grow Up, Tony Phillips'</p>

The weird part is that this is pretty much how Tony Vespe always dresses, not just in the new film 'Grow Up, Tony Phillips'

Credit: Arcanum Pictures

Exclusive: SXSW trailer debut for 'Grow Up, Tony Phillips' by Emily Hagins

A new trailer for a coming of age story by a filmmaker who just came of age

It's an oddly personal run to South By Southwest for me this year. There's a documentary playing which uses me as a talking head interview, and there's also a film playing that was made largely by people I've known for many years now.  It's that second film that I'm most excited about, if only because I believe in Emily Hagins as a filmmaker, and I have a feeling she's been building to "Grow Up, Tony Phillips" for a while now.

When I met Emily, she was a little girl.  She attended Alamo Drafthouse events with her mother, Megan, and she was a voracious film fan even at a very early age.  It was apparent early on that she had dreams of being a filmmaker, but unlike many kids, she actually did something about it. She directed her first film, "Pathogen," when she was only 14, and that process was documented in the film "Zombie Girl." That movie has a certain degree of charm, but it's very rough. It really wasn't until her last film, "My Sucky Teen Romance," that I think her voice really started to come into focus, and this new film marks a big jump for her in terms of the type of cast she's directing and maturity.

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