<p>Andy Serkis will be back to give Caesar a soul again, but it looks like they may need a new director for 'Dawn of The Planet of The Apes'</p>

Andy Serkis will be back to give Caesar a soul again, but it looks like they may need a new director for 'Dawn of The Planet of The Apes'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Rupert Wyatt may drop out of directing 'Dawn Of The Planet of The Apes'

And if he does, he may be shooting his own career in the foot

Rupert Wyatt might want to take a breath and rethink things before he officially leaves the director's chair on "Dawn Of The Planet of The Apes."

Wyatt is very talented, no doubt about it.  His first film, "The Escapist," is stylish and full of good performances, and he managed to turn "Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes" into an unlikely hit even under enormous pressure from the studio.  The Fox development system is hard to navigate even for filmmakers who have made dozens of movies, but for someone like Wyatt, especially on a franchise as overall important to a studio's long-term strategy as the "Apes" series is for Fox.

It's important to remember how many major missteps they made over the years trying to get the series off the ground again.  There was Tim Burton's nigh-unwatchable attempt in 2001, and before that, over a decade of revolving-door development with directors like James Cameron and Oliver Stone taking a shot at the material.  Considering the way the original film series essentially helped to create the modern movie franchise model, it was pretty much a given that Fox would want to eventually get back into the business of making the movies.

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<p>Sheri Moon Zombie does strong work as the lead in Rob Zombie's new film 'The Lords Of Salem'</p>

Sheri Moon Zombie does strong work as the lead in Rob Zombie's new film 'The Lords Of Salem'

Credit: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Review: Rob Zombie's 'Lords Of Salem' surprises and scares at midnight

HitFix
B-
Readers
A+
Rebounding from the 'Halloween' remake, Zombie delivers his strongest film yet

If you had told me before the beginning of this year's Toronto Film Festival that I would prefer Rob Zombie's film to Terrence Malick's film, I would have laughed in your face.

And I would have been wrong.

One thing that is important to remember when looking at ratings on my reviews is that each film exists in a vacuum.  The letter grade I give has to do with how well I feel the filmmakers have accomplished their goal with the film.  At the end of the year, my top ten favorite list might not be the list of the films that had the highest letter grades for the year because I love flawed films sometimes despite their flaws, and I've seen technically "perfect" movies that didn't do much for me on an emotional basis.  So while I think Malick's film is perhaps much more accomplished on a technical level (there's no arguing with the luminous quality of Emmanuel Lubezki's photography), it left me cold in many ways, and that has to count for something.  Beyond that, it feels to me like Malick is starting to settle into his style to the point where it's almost becoming a straightjacket for him.

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<p>Tom Holland and Naomi Watts struggle to keep each other alive in Juan Antonio Bayona's new drama 'The Impossible'</p>

Tom Holland and Naomi Watts struggle to keep each other alive in Juan Antonio Bayona's new drama 'The Impossible'

Credit: Lionsgate/Summit

Review: Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts struggle to survive 'The Impossible'

HitFix
B+
Readers
A-
A remarkable recreation of a real disaster leaves our reviewer shaken

One of the hardest experiences of the Toronto Film Festival for me was an afternoon screening of "The Impossible," a remarkably well-made movie about an English family living in Japan who head to Thailand for the Christmas holidays, where they are caught in a sudden tsunami that is devastating, terrifying, an awesome display of nature's greatest wrath.  The family is separated and the majority of the film is made up of their efforts to reunite in the middle of a mind-boggling crisis.

"The Impossible" is by Juan Antonio Bayona, working from a script by Sergio Sanchez, and it is an impressive, muscular production that more than pays off the promise of "The Orphanage."  I liked that film, but didn't love it.  I admire the way it's made more than the particular details of the story.  It's fine.  It's solid.  Bayona and Sanchez both have aimed higher in their second collaboration, and "The Impossible" is so aggressive about what it's doing that it shook me up.  I had a near-physical reaction to some of the film's most difficult imagery, and there's a lot of it.  This is not an easy film to digest.  I would compare it to "Black Hawk Down" in that there's not a lot of larger dramatic plotting going on in addition to the survival tale.  The whole point is to put the audience in danger, to make us feel what these characters feel in a very immersive and physical manner.  Survival is the story here, as well as the reunification of the family.  It is hard to imagine anyone arguing against the skill on display in the way the film is brought to life.

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<p>Tom Rothman, seen here at this summer's AFI&nbsp;tribute to Shirley Maclaine, is leaving 20th Century Fox after over a decade in the studio's top job.</p>

Tom Rothman, seen here at this summer's AFI tribute to Shirley Maclaine, is leaving 20th Century Fox after over a decade in the studio's top job.

Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP Photo

An era ends at Fox as Tom Rothman prepares to leave the studio

We look at his legacy, both good and bad, and ponder the future

From the moment we heard the first rumblings of his leaving to the moment the press release confirming it appeared in the inbox was a matter of just over an hour, and now we can confirm that Tom Rothman will be leaving 20th Century Fox at the end of the year.

Jim Gianopulos will serve as Chairman and CEO moving forward, and that ensures a certain degree of continuity, since Gianopulos has been working with Rothman for well over a decade, and he's been part of some of the key decision making in that time.  I first met Jim in 1991, and I'm excited to see what happens as he begins to assert more of his own personality.  He was one of my regular customers at Dave's Video way back at that point, and he had a huge appetite for big Hollywood entertainment, a great knowledge of the classics, and beyond that, always seemed to be genuinely excited by the business.  It should be interesting to see what sort of films he's going to make now that he's at the helm.

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<p>And this is one of the more plausible and subtle moments in all of 'Resident Evil:&nbsp;Retribution'</p>

And this is one of the more plausible and subtle moments in all of 'Resident Evil: Retribution'

Credit: Screen Gems

Review: 'Resident Evil: Retribution' may finally kill this undead franchise

HitFix
F
Readers
B
At least it will if there's any justice in the world

I don't get it.

At this point, the "Resident Evil" film franchise is for fans only, and no casual viewers need apply.  The continuity from film to film seems to pick up mere seconds after the previous movie ends, and in the case of this latest effort, "Resident Evil: Retribution," it's a movie that seems to exist entirely as a phrase between two commas, a resolution of one cliffhanger, a ton of empty exposition, and another cliffhanger for the inevitable "Resident Evil: Boss Fight" or whatever the hell they'll call the next one.  If you haven't been keeping up with the films, the opening of this one will be a case of a prolonged image that looks "cool" but that is utterly baffling on any sort of storytelling level.

Seems par for the course in this film, though.  The opening titles play over a looooong series of shots of things runnings backwards in slow motion, with Milla Jovovich coming up from underwater, into the air, landing on a tanker ship that is under attack, explosions contracting into themselves, bodies flying up onto their feet as bullets race out of them.  It's all staged on a scale that is impressive to observe, and as this massive sequence finally builds to include what seem to be hundreds of airships racing away from the tanker, then pausing and reversing and beginning the attack in forward motion at full speed, it's such a strange, pointless double-back that you could stop the film there and just embrace it as a perfect example of what to expect from the film as a whole.

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<p>Trust me... within 30 seconds of this moment in 'To The Wonder,' I guarantee Rachel McAdams is spinning and walking through a field. </p>

Trust me... within 30 seconds of this moment in 'To The Wonder,' I guarantee Rachel McAdams is spinning and walking through a field.

Credit: FilmNation

Review: Terrence Malick's 'To The Wonder' looks great but says little

HitFix
C+
Readers
B+
The director's second film in two years is starting to look pretty familiar

One thing is increasingly clear:  Terrence Malick is a man on a very specific aesthetic mission.

When I was at Cannes in the summer of 2011, there was no film that was more heavily discussed or anticipated before it screened than "The Tree Of Life."  I felt like I was lucky to be there for the film, and there was a sense that everyone had made it their top priority for the festival.  The discussions afterwards were intense and ongoing all week, and I dare say no other film was covered quite as extensively during that fest.

Here in Toronto this week, though, I've gotten none of that surrounding the debut of "To The Wonder," Malick's new movie, and in the few conversations I've had with other people, it seems like the notion that he's got two more films coming in the next year or so and another major ongoing one in development has made him "just another filmmaker" as opposed to the figurative Sasquatch of Cinema that he was for so long.  I'm thrilled he's suddenly found this new productivity and that he's got a producing team in place who are able to help him realize all of this newfound creative energy, but it does mean that it's less of an event now.  There's a reason the world rarely freaks out at the news that there's a Woody Allen film coming out.  Something that happens every eleven months or so is not particularly noteworthy, no matter what the final film turns out to be.

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Woody Harrelson seems very excited about what Francis Lawrence brings to 'The Hunger Games' sequel
Woody Harrelson seems very excited about what Francis Lawrence brings to 'The Hunger Games' sequel
Credit: HitFix

Watch: Woody Harrelson on how the cast is handling a new director on 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'

Francis Lawrence is in charge now, and that seems just fine with Haymitch

I feel like I've done something on the magnitude of a thousand interviews in the last week.  I'm sure it's actually only something like ten or twelve, but when you're juggling those with a full festival screenings schedule, it can seem overwhelming.

One thing that makes it worthwhile, though, is when you check in with someone who has always been fun in interviews, and that's a fair description of Woody Harrelson.  Every single time I've chatted with him, it's been fun.  There was one night in a wings restaurant when he showed up unannounced and joined us, and he was as sharp and funny and immediately friendly as you could have hoped, and then at press day after press day, he shows up with the right attitude about these things.  Yes, we're all there doing a job, but no, it doesn't have to be like pulling teeth.  If you talk to him like a real person, he'll do the same, and he's one of my favorite people to bump into on a press day.

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<p>Ben Affleck both directs and heads the large ensemble cast of the riveting 'Argo'</p>

Ben Affleck both directs and heads the large ensemble cast of the riveting 'Argo'

Credit: Warner Bros.

Review: Ben Affleck's 'Argo' tells a transfixing true-life story

HitFix
A-
Readers
A-
A great ensemble cast tears into an excellent script

I think the thing I like most about Ben Affleck these days is that he didn't wait for someone else to rescue his career.  He took control and he rescued himself.

"Argo" is the latest film from Affleck as a director, and I think it's a huge leap forward for him.  I liked "Gone Baby Gone" more than I liked "The Town," which I thought was well-made but not a particularly great script.  This time out, Affleck is working with a wonderful piece of material, telling a captivating true story, and he's put together an ensemble that any actor would be thrilled to be part of, all in service of a film that absolutely feels like it could make awards-giving groups happy while also serving as a cracking piece of entertainment.  Those two things don't always go hand in hand, and Affleck deserves credit for taking what could easily have been a dry historical moment and turning it into as tense a thriller as you'll see in a theater all year.

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<p>Joss Whedon regulars Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker pitch woo in 'Much Ado About Nothing' to charming effect</p>

Joss Whedon regulars Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker pitch woo in 'Much Ado About Nothing' to charming effect

Credit: Bellwether Pictures

Review: Joss Whedon's 'Much Ado About Nothing' is light and funny modern spin on the Bard

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
A cast of familiar faces should please Whedon's fans enormously

Joss Whedon is having one of those years that most filmmakers only dream of having, and the real winner is the audience.

First, the film that he co-wrote and produced, "Cabin In The Woods," was finally released after it sat on a shelf for two years because of financial problems at MGM, and it would have been easy for that film to have gotten permanently lost.  instead, it was met with open arms by genre fans, and it seems like it is well on its way to its rightful place as a cult classic.  Then "The Avengers" conquered the summer and finally gave him a monster box-office hit he can call his own, an important step if he's going to have an sort of career longevity working on the bigscreen.  And now, finally, we've got "Much Ado About Nothing," a micro-budget personal take on Shakespeare's play, cast largely with actors who will seem very familiar to people already fans of Whedon's work.

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<p>Joaquin Phoenix is astonishing in 'The Master' even when the film can't live up to his performance</p>

Joaquin Phoenix is astonishing in 'The Master' even when the film can't live up to his performance

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: 'The Master' features searing performances around a hollow center

HitFix
B-
Readers
B-
An actor's showcase with an oddly thin script does not resonate

There are few filmmakers working whose output has been as consistently exciting and rewarding as Paul Thomas Anderson, and there are few films I have anticipated with as much confidence this year as "The Master."

So you'll understand if it unnerves me a bit to find that I don't love it.

I respect it and even admire it, but for the first time, I find myself struggling to connect on that extra level that we reserve for the films that matter most to us.  "The Master" is, as was rumored, a fictionalized look at the dynamics that existed in the early days of Scientology, but simply viewing it through that prism, looking for the parallels and trying to parse Anderson's stance on the house that Hubbard built, would be a simplistic way to approach it.  Instead, I think the film is really trying to grapple with the way broken or damaged people reach for salvation and balance and the extremes they will suffer in the futile hope that someone else will give them the answers, which is certainly fertile ground for drama.

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