<p>Donald Sutherland arrived at the press day for 'Hunger Games' wearing an eyepatch and full of passion for the film adaptation of the popular novels.</p>

Donald Sutherland arrived at the press day for 'Hunger Games' wearing an eyepatch and full of passion for the film adaptation of the popular novels.

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Donald Sutherland enjoys the chess behind 'The Hunger Games'

Veteran actor talks about waking young people up to social conscience

Donald Sutherland is a titan, and it is a genuine pleasure to get a chance to engage him in conversation.

Sure, I wish it had been in circumstances other than the sort of forced five-minute intimacy of a press junket, but for a guy like this, you take what's offered.  His career has been filled with so many remarkable and eccentric high points that it's hard to even know where to start complimenting him or how to even dig into his body of work.

His presence as President Snow in "The Hunger Games" is crucial.  Although Snow plays a key role in the trilogy as a whole, he's really not a figure of any weight in the first book.  In adapting it, Gary Ross has built Snow into the film organically, and I think he is an important part of the film as a whole.  He has to be.  If you're going to really make the final film pay off, you need to introduce Snow as early as possible.

It also helps that they cast Sutherland, because he's a smart actor who brings this real weight of experience to the table.  I think one of the things that made him such a popular presence in films is that laser-sharp intelligence of his.  He was the perfect Hawkeye in "M*A*S*H*" because it seemed impossible that he could ever lose any verbal joust.  He's drawn from the tradition of a Groucho Marx or a Bugs Bunny.  He not only enjoys the contest that good repartee can be, he is also unquestionably great at it.

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<p>That's a whooooooole lot of charisma in just one room at the recent press day for 'The Hunger Games'</p>

That's a whooooooole lot of charisma in just one room at the recent press day for 'The Hunger Games'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: A 'Hunger Games' Free-for-all with Harrelson, Banks and Kravitz

A spirited conversation with some of the major supporting players from the film

It's a rule of on-camera interviews that you don't really want to sit down with more than two people at the same time.  Groups of three can be hard, even when all three people are ready and willing, because of the logistics of it.  You're talking about four to six minutes with four people in a conversation.  That's a sprint, no matter what, and it worries me walking into a room.

I feel like I've interviewed Elizabeth Banks many times now, and she's one of the most unassuming, easygoing people you can sit down with.  I get the sense she understands how fundamentally silly this process can be, and she always appears to be having fun with it.  I talked to her about "Hunger Games" when we met for "Man On The Ledge," and when I sat down with Woody Harrelson for "Rampart," I couldn't resist a little bit of talk about Haymitch, his character in this film.

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<p>Johnny Knoxville and Patton Oswalt co-star in the uneven but funny 'Nature Calls' at SXSW</p>

Johnny Knoxville and Patton Oswalt co-star in the uneven but funny 'Nature Calls' at SXSW

Credit: Big Beach Films

Review: Patton Oswalt and Johnny Knoxville deliver sporadic laughs in uneven 'Nature Calls'

HitFix
C+
Readers
n/a
Todd Rohal's new movie suggests the director likes things shaggy

Todd Rohal had an unnaturally long period of time pass between the production of his first film, "The Guatemalan Handshake," and his second, "The Catechism Cataclysm."  Five years between movies can seem like a lifetime for a filmmaker, so it was nice to see that after "Catechism" played the festival circuit last year, just now arriving on home video, Rohal's already got a new film ready and it premiered here on Saturday afternoon.  He has definitely picked up the pace, and I'm glad he's managed to shake that awful inertia that can be really tough on a filmmaker, so I feel kind of bad when I say that my main criticism for Rohal right now would be "please slow down."

Both of these recent films, "Catechism" and "Nature," are built on strong simple ideas that easily could have been used in a big-budget mainstream comedy.  They're both driven by character-driven comedy and blatant absurdity, and there's definitely a consistent voice from film to film.  I like his sensibilities and there are many things in both of the films that made me laugh.  But both films also strike me as deeply undercooked in some essential way, like we're watching a rough assembly instead of a finished edit.  They are shaggy to the point of sloppy, and I feel like one more pass at each of the scripts might have teased the great ideas into an actual great execution.

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<p>Ethan Hawke should probably know better in the appropriately-titled 'Sinister'</p>

Ethan Hawke should probably know better in the appropriately-titled 'Sinister'

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Review: Ethan Hawke takes a horrifying ride in SXSW secret screening of 'Sinister'

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
Effective and simple horror film delivers on smart scares

I'm starting to get a little confused about which festival I'm attending, because while everything I see in Austin this week says "SXSW," it's got a distinctly "Fantastic Fest" vibe going on.

I have a feeling part of that's just been the choices I made about what to see and when.  I've been at most of the midnights, and so far, my days have been occupied largely with things other than movies, like yesterday's live-chat with Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard or the panel I moderated for "Holliston," a crazy new sitcom for FEARnet starring Joe Lynch and Adam Green.

But it seems significant that "The Cabin In The Woods" was the opening night movie, and it seems right that the Secret Screening turned out to be Scott Derrickson's new film "Sinister," starring Ethan Hawke and not set for release until later this year.  The film has local ties in the form of co-screenwriter C. Robert Cargill who worked at Ain't It Cool with me as "Massawyrm," and it almost felt like a cast and crew screening when the film played at midnight on Saturday, even with technical delays that had the film starting a full hour late.

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<p>Think of how much more successful Jennifer Lawrence would be if only she'd been born attractive.</p>

Think of how much more successful Jennifer Lawrence would be if only she'd been born attractive.

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Jennifer Lawrence talks about Katniss, archery, pressure and 'The Hunger Games'

The star of the spring's most anticipated film talks about tuning out expectations

Jennifer Lawrence is not yet a movie star by the classic definition.  She is not yet enough to guarantee a film an opening weekend.  I suspect all of that is about to change soon, and once the "Hunger Games" films are all in release, she's going to be able to choose the career she wants.  And while she might not be a "movie star" yet, it really is just a matter of time.

Right now, I'm not sure even she is fully able to define what the ideal career would look like.  She seems to me from the times we've spoken to be torn between a desire to vanish into her work and an awareness of the way this industry works and what it takes to build a career.  She is, in my opinion, ready for the public to catch up to how talented she is, and if "The Hunger Games" is the project that introduces her to a larger audience, then that's a good thing.

On the day I did my interviews for the film, I had my six-year-old with me because we had to drive over to the press day directly after his baseball practice.  When we walked into the room where Lawrence was waiting, she said hello to him, and then they launched into a long discussion of Little League and how she used to play and what position he plays, and the whole time, I was laughing about how there are grown men who would give a kidney to just casually shoot the breeze with Lawrence for a few minutes.

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<p>Drew McWeeny, Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon talk 'Cabin in the Woods'</p>

Drew McWeeny, Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon talk 'Cabin in the Woods'

Epix HD, Lionsgate and HitFix present a live-chat with Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard

Drew McWeeny moderates a special discussion with the makers of 'Cabin In The Woods'

10:30 AM, I had to be downtown at the San Jacinto Ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel, where I would be moderating a special discussion with Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, the creators behind the new movie "The Cabin In The Woods" at noon local time.  Since I'm not on either coast, I'm almost constantly confused about the time in other places right now.  It didn't help that the night before, I'd seen a midnight movie that started an hour late and thanks to Daylight Savings time, I'd also lost an hour to the time change.

This is our archived version of the final interview, and I'll confess that this was an exciting interview for me.  Somehow, even after all the time I've been writing online, I'd never met Whedon.  The entire reason Hercules The Strong ever went to work for Ain't It Cool News is because when I met him, we started talking about our mutual adoration of the TV show "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," which was still in early days at that point.  I was on the set of "Serenity," but it was more about observation and listening to a presentation by Whedon.  I would hardly consider it a meeting of any kind.  I've liked much of his work, and I've certainly written my fair share about him over the years.

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<p>But they're sweet kids.&nbsp; Really.</p>

But they're sweet kids.  Really.

Credit: Funeral Kings LLC/SXSW

Review: 'Funeral Kings' is a confident coming-of-age debut from McManus Brothers

HitFix
B+
Readers
A
This lovely little film should find a distributor here this week

Coming of age stories depend upon authenticity if they are to have any power whatsoever.  I've certainly seen enough phony versions of a young man's first steps into a larger world to know when something rings true and when it doesn't.  The strength of "Funeral Kings," the debut feature of Kevin and Matthew McManus, is that it evokes a sustained emotional state that perfectly captures life at a certain age, straining against everyone else's definition of you, in a way that suggests these are filmmakers worth watching.

Charlie (Alex Maizus) and Andy (Dylan Hartigan) and Felix (Charles Kwame Odei) are friends, all going to the same Catholic middle school.  They're good kids, altar boys, but at 14, they're ready to be 30 years old, and they're pushing it in every way they can.  From the rowdy energy of the opening title sequence to the defiant smile that lights up the final frames, "Funeral Kings" is confident and controlled and, with an unabashed vulgarity underscoring everything, about as pure a piece of movie memory as I can name.  It's just one random week in the lives of these kids, and what happens when Bobby (Brandon Waltz) drops off a padlocked trunk with Andy to hide and a new kid named David (Jordan Puzzo) moves to town.  Each of them seems to be just on the verge of really figuring out who they are, and it's not easy for them.  Felix is lucky… he's got an older brother, and he's pretty much ready to make the jump to manhood with someone watching him every step of the way.  The other guys don't really have that, and they're floundering.  Charlie in particular seems to be cursed with a baby face and a hair-trigger temper.  He gets embarrassed easily, and he reacts badly when he does.

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<p>I'm guessing they didn't realize how short-term a commitment 'Til death do us part' was going to be in the world of '[REC] 3'</p>

I'm guessing they didn't realize how short-term a commitment 'Til death do us part' was going to be in the world of '[REC] 3'

Credit: Magnet Releasing

Review: '[REC] 3' delivers gore and thrills and unexpected laughs at midnight

HitFix
B
Readers
A+
SXSW's first round of midnight shows featured a much-anticipated horror sequel

I have always found the idea of a horror franchise to be somewhat backwards.

Horror frequently relies on the unknown to scare us.  There is an involuntary element to what happens when a great scare delivers.  The more often we see a monster and the more close-up we get with it, the less chance there is it's going to scare us.  Most horror franchises revolve around the constant resurrection/destruction cycle, bringing their boogeymen back from the dead at the start, then making sure he is defeated again by the end.

It bores me.  I don't understand people who watch something like "Halloween 5," unless maybe that's their version of comfort food.  Familiar.  Comforting.  Utterly without any chance of actually scaring you.  I'd rather be off-balance in a horror film, uncomfortable, trying to get my bearings.

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<p>Joss Whedon posed for a photo with a fan in 2010, but there was a little more to it, as we learned later.</p>

Joss Whedon posed for a photo with a fan in 2010, but there was a little more to it, as we learned later.

Credit: Jake Lasker/HITFIX

One Thing I Love Today: The story behind that Joss Whedon photo

Why does my Twitter icon feature people who aren't me?

I changed my Twitter icon a while ago, and recently updated my profiles on pretty much any social media network that requires an icon so that I'm using the same image everywhere.  What's funny is that because most icons are small, people don't seem to really "see" the icon, and it's only when someone takes a closer look that I get the question "What the heck is that photo, and where did it come from?"

First, I claim no ownership of the image.  It was taken by Jake Lasker, who I don't know except from Twitter, where he first contacted me.

The backstory as he explained it to me was that he took this photo at Comic-Con 2010.  He saw Joss Whedon walking along and asked him if he would stop for the picture.  It was one of those quick random encounters, and Lasker walked away happy because he got to meet someone whose work meant so much to him.

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<p>They may not be having a good time, but you will in 'Cabin In The Woods'</p>

They may not be having a good time, but you will in 'Cabin In The Woods'

Credit: Lionsgate

Review: 'Cabin In The Woods' kicks off SXSW with a blast of wild inventive horror fun

HitFix
A
Readers
A
Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard may have broken the genre forever

Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard are very clever.

Clever does not always translate, though, to creating something that engages an audience and that works as a film experience, particularly when you're talking about something that is, at heart, a meta-textual game about the very nature of horror films.

Don't let that worry you.  "Cabin In The Woods" is, first and foremost, a wildly entertaining movie that plays off of our collective familiarity with horror tropes, and it delivers the sort of experience that absolutely demands that you see it in a movie theater with as many friends as you can gather.  It is fun, it is thrilling and it is smart.  If you want an absolutely clean experience without having any of the film's surprises spoiled for you, see it opening weekend and read nothing between now and then, not even the rest of this review.  Just rest assured that this is the film that finally translates what Whedon has always done so well on television into a movie that I think works completely on its own terms.

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