<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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<p>Richard Ayoade, Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill blow some stuff up in 'The Watch'</p>

Richard Ayoade, Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill blow some stuff up in 'The Watch'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: Stiller, Hill, and Vaughn earn real laughs in 'The Watch' but the film falls short

HitFix
C+
Readers
n/a
A good cast goes a long way in uneven science-fiction comedy

There is a particular type of comedy film that seems to be best represented by "Ghostbusters," the special-effect high-concept comedy.  And aside from "Ghostbusters," there are very few of these films which manage to find the perfect balance between the various elements at work in them.  Even Ivan Reitman tried to do it again with "Evolution" and fell short, so it seems like a tough challenge to take on for any filmmaker.

Even so, Akiva Schaffer's new movie "The Watch" makes a valiant run at it, and for a little while, the film coasts on the charms of the central quartet of actors who come together around Evan (Ben Stiller), a Costco manager who has an unnerving amount of community spirit.  When he founds a neighborhood watch group to help solve the murder of a security guard at his store, he ends up with three eccentric new friends.  Bob is a perfect Vince Vaughn role, a sweetheart of a guy who has a strained relationship with his teenage daughter because of his overprotective nature.  Franklin (Jonah Hill) is a way-too-intense twenty-something who tried to become a cop but was rejected.  Finally, there's Jamarcus, played by Richard Ayoade, best known to American audiences from his role in "The IT Crowd."  Together, they spend a fair amount of the film screwing around and bonding over nonsense.  They are a joke to everyone else in the neighborhood, and for a while, the film just sort of ambles along, shaggy and silly and fun.

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<p>Tom Hanks plays many characters in 'Cloud Atlas,' including this survivor in a far-flung future, and the new mega-trailer for the film gives us our first good look at the movie</p>

Tom Hanks plays many characters in 'Cloud Atlas,' including this survivor in a far-flung future, and the new mega-trailer for the film gives us our first good look at the movie

Credit: Warner Bros.

'Cloud Atlas' unleashes a six-minute long trailer with plenty of Tom Hanks and Halle Berry

If there was any question what the year's most ambitious film is, there's not now

This year, while I was at the Cannes Film Festival, there was one movie that I was in an absolute frenzy to see, even though it wasn't actually playing as part of the festival.  I kept hearing mention of marketplace screenings that were held for international distributors, and I did everything I could to sneak into one of them.

And why wouldn't I be interested?  After all, it's based on a great novel by David Mitchell, it's directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, and it's got a big sprawling cast that includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, and Ben Whishaw.  There are very few big studio movies I'm more interested in or excited about than "Cloud Atlas," so it was crushing to have to leave Cannes admitting defeat, the film still resolutely unseen by me.

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