<p>She looks like this, she wrote a great script, and she nails the performance. I'm not sure if I love or hate Rashida Jones at this point.</p>

She looks like this, she wrote a great script, and she nails the performance. I'm not sure if I love or hate Rashida Jones at this point.

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Rashida Jones on Lily Allen, friends and lovers, and 'Celeste & Jesse Forever'

The co-screenwriter gives us a glimpse at why the movie is so smart

Rashida Jones was already annoyingly cool to begin with.  The daughter of Peggy Lipton and Quincy Jones?  Awesome.  Gorgeous?  Definitely.  Tremendously funny on shows like "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation"?  Yep.  So now she's also written a movie that turns out to be smart and funny and wise about relationships?  Good lord, Rashida, is there anything you can't do?

When we sat down during a recent press day for "Celeste and Jesse Forever," we covered a fair amount of ground in just a few minutes.  We talked about the very real widow that seems to be represented in the way her film, co-written with Will McCormack and directed by Lee Toland Krieger, looks at the difficulties that come from trying to stay friends with someone after you've failed at romantic intimacy, but which also looks at just how hard it is to maintain any friendship after a certain age or even make new friends.

She's also very aware of the way people react to her past work.  I talked to her about my wife's ongoing reaction to her role on "The Office" several seasons ago, and she seems like she's heard that reaction before.

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<p>Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, and Sam Rockwell are only three of the 'Seven Psychopaths,' but Walken's so crazy he should count twice, right?</p>

Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, and Sam Rockwell are only three of the 'Seven Psychopaths,' but Walken's so crazy he should count twice, right?

Credit: CBS Films

Toronto announces Midnight Madness line-up including 'Seven Psychopaths'

Two 3D movies, Rob Zombie, and Barry Levinson? What a year

I was already excited for Toronto.  The Midnight Madness selection this year just pushes that excitement into a low-grade sustained mania that is going to make August seem very, very slow no matter what.

With this morning's announcement of the Midnight Madness line-up, I now have a pretty good picture of my September firmly in place.  Even the film I've already seen from the line-up has gone through a serious post-production process since the Sundance premiere, and I'm excited to see how "John Dies At The End" has come together.

It's a very diverse schedule this year, and I remain impressed with the breadth of what Colin Geddes programs each year.  He's determined to give audiences a wild ten-day ride that they can't predict, and looking at this year's slate, I'm guessing it will be another amazing experience.  In today's press release, Geddes said, "Audiences clamouring for this highly anticipated lineup can expect wild rides and crazy adventures into the most chimerical and wicked worlds imaginable.”

He went on to add, “Expect everything from outrageous horror comedies to mock-doc eco- apocalypse thrillers, featuring trans-dimensional bugs, lewd Catholic priests, meat monsters and dog-napping psychopaths that will animate the Ryerson Theatre when the clock chimes 12.”

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<p>Someone's having a good year, but then again, when you're Matthew McConaughey, I think you're probably always having a good year.</p>

Someone's having a good year, but then again, when you're Matthew McConaughey, I think you're probably always having a good year.

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Matthew McConaughey makes psychosis seem charming in 'Killer Joe'

An actor reinvents himself midstream, and we talk to him about why hes doing it

At the end of our interview, I had a chance to talk to Matthew McConaughey for a few moments with the camera off, and I told him how I tend to judge his movies first and foremost on the inclusion of a whole-hearted "Alright, alright, alright."  When I hear that, I know I'm in for something special, and hearing it in "Magic Mike" earlier this summer almost made me applaud in the theater.

"I only use it when I feel it's appropriate," he said.  "Sometimes I only manage to work in an 'alright,' and I have to be content with that.  But going back to 'Dazed and Confused,' that has always been something that feels right for certain characters, and I do… I like to break it out."

He must be walking around the house repeating it over and over and over this year, then, because McConaughey is having one of the very best years he's ever had as an actor.  His work in Richard Linklater's "Bernie" earlier this year not only reunited him with a director he loves, but it also gave him a great eccentric supporting role to play. 

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<p>I'm sure it's different if you grew up on it, but I look at this, imagine people talking about 'seriously' adapting it, and I laugh and laugh and laugh.</p>

I'm sure it's different if you grew up on it, but I look at this, imagine people talking about 'seriously' adapting it, and I laugh and laugh and laugh.

Credit: Filmation Animation

Jon M. Chu continues his '80s nostalgia tour as director of 'Masters Of The Universe'

With his 'G.I. Joe' still struggling towards release, it seems like a gamble to us

When I was on the set of "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," I had a chance to talk to Jon M. Chu about his approach to the sequel and to the world of "G.I. Joe" in general.  While that set visit remains embargoed, probably forever thanks to the post-production convulsions the film is going through, I think it's safe to report that Chu struck me as an '80s kid through and through, sincere about his love of everything involved in a "G.I. Joe" movie.

It's also probably safe to say that any kid who grew up with "G.I. Joe" as a regular part of his diet also was well aware of "He-Man" and "Transformers," the other two corners in the '80s afternoon cartoon pyramid.  I was too old for all three, but it seems that they marked the kids who watched them deeply, and at this point, it goes beyond nostalgia.  It's just part of their pop culture DNA, and so it makes sense that you'd want an '80s kid to come in to direct "Masters Of The Universe" for Sony and Escape Artist.  You want someone who's going to take this seriously, who has a love of the characters and the world already firmly in place, and who can find the right tone for what could easily be straight-up ridiculous.

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<p>Bryan Cranston's hair may be real now, but we had a great conversation about the power of Cohaagen's wig in the new 'Total Recall' remake</p>

Bryan Cranston's hair may be real now, but we had a great conversation about the power of Cohaagen's wig in the new 'Total Recall' remake

Credit: Hitfix

Watch: Bryan Cranston describes wig acting in 'Total Recall'

One of the most in-demand actors in Hollywood also happens to be one of the nicest

When I sat down to speak with Bryan Cranston on Friday, I told him that, based on the comments I hear from everyone else who does this same video interview circuit, he may well be one of the most universally liked interview subjects out there today.

And why not?  Here's a guy who was a working actor for decades who is finally having that moment where he is getting near-universal praise for his work and who is in demand in a way that few actors ever experience, and he seems genuinely grateful for the experience and, beyond that, aware of just how unusual it is.  When you sit down with Cranston, you can count on a real interview.  You can count on real answers.  You can count on a guy who wants to be in that chair, who actually thinks about what he's going to say instead of just spitting out a stock answer.

Cranston was at the press day to talk about his work as Cohaagen, the main antagonist in the remake of "Total Recall" that opens on Friday.  In the Paul Verhoeven film, the role was played by Ronny Cox, and I love that Cranston goes out of his way to talk about his regard for Cox and his work in the film.  That's one actor paying lovely tribute to another actor that he obviously thinks highly of, and it's just one more reason to like Cranston.

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<p>Contrary to popular belief, it is not a good thing when Liam Neeson gets his hands on you.</p>

Contrary to popular belief, it is not a good thing when Liam Neeson gets his hands on you.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Liam Neeson continues his killing spree in full domestic 'Taken 2' trailer

A clever conceit allows for a bigger body count in the sequel

When "Mission: Impossible 3" was released, the thing I enjoyed most about it was the way it took a convention of the series and spun an entire bad guy plot out of that.  In almost every episode of "Mission: Impossible," the team would grab some low-level nobody, knock him out, tie him up, and use their magic elastic masks to steal the guy's face.  Hunt's mistake in the movie was doing that to Philip Seymour Hoffman, who decided to pay him back.  It would be like a "Star Trek" film where the bad guy was some anonymous red shirt who was pissed off because Kirk left him for dead on an alien planet.

When I look at the trailer for "Taken 2," it feels like the same sort of interesting riff on the conventions of the genre, and I really like the set-up.  In the first "Taken," Liam Neeson killed about 10,000 dudes who were all part of the same criminal organization.  It's pretty standard action movie behavior, but what seems new is the idea that those guys actually mattered to someone, and so in this film, we see them strike back at him.  It's very personal, and unlike a sequel like "Die Hard 2," where pure coincidence is the only thing that brings John McClane back into the action, this is very much a reaction to what John Taken (or whatever the hell Liam Neeson's name was in the first film) did.

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<p>Karl Urban gets his kill on in a scene from 'Dredd 3D,' which will have its gala premiere at this year's Fantastic Fest</p>

Karl Urban gets his kill on in a scene from 'Dredd 3D,' which will have its gala premiere at this year's Fantastic Fest

Credit: Lionsgate

First wave of Fantastic Fest 2012 titles features 'Dredd' premiere

Strong revival programming also features heavily in this batch of titles

It's the most wonderful tiiiiiime of the year.

Sure, most people sing that phrase as part of a Christmas carol, but for me, September is the month when I get all my presents, and once again, it's looking like it's going to be a month overstuffed with pleasure.

Last week, we heard the first batch of titles that were announced for the Toronto International Film Festival, an amazing overabundance of movies I am absolutely dying to see.  That's what Toronto normally is for me, a collection of things I've already heard about that I'm eager to finally lay eyes on, while Fantastic Fest tends to be the opposite.  That's more about me discovering films I've never heard of and would otherwise never see, and I simply trust that the programming team, which has done an amazing job each and every year so far, is going to once again lay out a buffet of amazing treats that I'm going to savor.

This morning, we've got the official announcement of the first wave of titles, and while I don't recognize many of them, it sounds like a really weird batch of titles.  Sure, they announced that "Frankenweenie" would open the fest recently, but there's a lot of truly low-budget and obscure titles mixed into some amazing revival titles in this announcement.  In other words, it sounds like Fantastic Fest.

Have I mentioned that I can't wait?

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<p>'You're going to make a prequel to WHAT? Ahahahaha...&quot;</p>

'You're going to make a prequel to WHAT? Ahahahaha..."

Credit: Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. reportedly exploring the idea of a 'Shining' prequel

So... who wants to step into Kubrick's shoes?

For the last few years, we've been hearing about "Doctor Sleep," a sequel to "The Shining" that Stephen King has been working on, with a January 2013 release date still rumored for it.  The idea that Dan Torrence is now middle-aged sort of makes me want to jump off a building, but it makes perfect story sense that King would want to return to the character and check in on him.  After all, he had to have been marked by the extraordinary events of "The Shining," and he wasn't exactly a normal kid to begin with.

What I'm not as sold on upon first hearing about it is a potential sequel to "The Shining."  I guess the Overlook Hotel has been around for a long time, and terrible things have certainly happened there over the years, but I'm wondering why "prequel" continues to be the go-to default position for studios looking to squeeze a little extra life out of something.  By now, I think even the most accepting audiences have realized that most prequels are creative dead-ends where there's very little chance for dramatic engagement precisely because we already know what comes afterwards.

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<p>Yep. &nbsp;That about sums it up.</p>

Yep.  That about sums it up.

Credit: Drafthouse Films

Review: Outrageous 'Klown' delivers shocking laughs and surprising heart

HitFix
B+
Readers
B-
The latest release from Drafthouse Films pushes all sorts of boundaries

At some point, someone will write the history of this modern "comedy of the uncomfortable," and when they do, I hope they devote an entire chapter to "Klown."

It's been strange watching Drafthouse Films come into focus as a distributor simply because of how long I've known Tim League, and how clearly we're seeing his tastes reflected in the film that they're picking up for release.  The reason I'm enjoying their work as distributors is the same reason I enjoy their work as exhibitors.  They have a fearlessness that I admire, and any company that would put films like "Four Lions," "Bullhead," and "Klown" is a company that I'm willing to trust implicitly.

"Klown" is a feature film version of a Danish comedy series by Mikkel Norgaard, Casper Christensen, and Frank Hvam, and while I've never seen the series, that didn't affect my ability to enjoy the film completely.  It's self-contained and works as a stand-alone story.  I'm curious to see the show now, especially since it looks like Drafthouse Films is going to be distributing the series on DVD in the US.  The film tells the story of Casper and Frank, friends who have a canoe trip planned, and Casper views the trip as an excuse to get laid, with a stop along the way planned for a one-in-a-lifetime brothel that is run by a friend of theirs. 

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<p>Emile Hirsch realizes he's in over his head once he hires 'Killer Joe'</p>

Emile Hirsch realizes he's in over his head once he hires 'Killer Joe'

Credit: Voltage Pictures

Review: McConaughey is electric in Friedkin's dark and wicked 'Killer Joe'

Playwright Tracy Letts gives the 'Exorcist' director a script with teeth

William Friedkin's career is marked by some all-time highs and some bewildering lows, and in recent years, he seems to have swung back to some sort of new fertility as a storyteller, energized perhaps by his collaboration with playwright Tracy Letts.  Their first collision on film was "Bug," a deranged little character drama featuring Michael Shannon and Ashley Judd, both chewing the edges of the frame with abandon as they slid into madness together.  Now they've cooked up the very dark, often funny, ultimately very upsetting film "Killer Joe," which begins a limited release roll-out this weekend with dates in New York.

Like "Bug," this started life as a theater piece, and I can see how easily it could be staged in a small theater.  "Killer Joe" stretches its legs more than "Bug" ever did, with most of that film set in or around the same tiny claustrophobic motel room.  Here, we've got Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, and Thomas Haden Church as brother, sister, and father respectively.  Chris (Hirsch) is in trouble, in very serious debt to the very serious Digger Soames (Marc Macaulay), and he needs to come up with $6000.  He decides to kill his mother since she's got a life insurance policy that will pay $50,000 to Dottie (Temple) when she dies.  Their father Ansel (Church), long since divorced from their mother, puts up a brief verbal struggle before pitching in to help plan things so he can get a cut, and his new wife Sharla (Gina Gershon) also wants a cut, but none of them actually want to do the act.  Instead, Chris decides to hire a hit man to make sure it gets done right.  He heard the name of one, a cop who does jobs on the side, and he arranges for him and his father to meet with this mysterious assassin, this Killer Joe.

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