<p>Damien Echols, one of the subjects of the excellent new documentary 'West Of Memphis,' had a moment on the red carpet that you have to see to believe</p>

Damien Echols, one of the subjects of the excellent new documentary 'West Of Memphis,' had a moment on the red carpet that you have to see to believe

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Want to see the best photo from Sundance 2012?

The 'West Of Memphis' premiere results in a truly amazing moment caught on film

The other day, as I was working at the Yarrow Hotel, I ran into Chris Pizzello.  Chris is an AP photographer, and we feature his work here on HitFix on a regular basis.  I've been seeing his name go by for years now when I'm editing stories, but this was the first time I ended up actually running into any of the AP guys, and it was great to put face to name finally.

He was busy uploading some photos to the AP site, and as we started talking about the festival, he showed me a photo which seemed to have him almost giddy.

I can see why.

If you've been following the story of the West Memphis Three since the first "Paradise Lost" was released in 1996, then the photo that Pizzello took would have been unthinkable for most of the past fifteen years.  Impossible.  Absolutely absurd to even mention.

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<p>Is it just me, or does everyone always look cooler in snow gear?&nbsp; It's definitely true of Joel Edgerton and Teresa Palmer, here to support their film 'Wish You Were Here'</p>

Is it just me, or does everyone always look cooler in snow gear?  It's definitely true of Joel Edgerton and Teresa Palmer, here to support their film 'Wish You Were Here'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Joel Edgerton and Teresa Palmer discuss 'Wish You Were Here'

A relaxed chat with two of the stars from this year's Sundance opening night movie

While we've got Team HitFix here, we're trying to do as many interviews as we can.  We've got our awesome video team of Alex Dorn and Michiel Thomas with us on-site, and we've kept them running.  On Saturday morning, we all met at the Bing Bar on Main Street, and I sat down with the filmmakers behind the film "Wish You Were Here."

This was the opening night movie that I reviewed, and I wanted to discuss the movie with the cast.  I've interviewed Joel Edgerton before, most recently for "Warrior," so there was a slight comfort level there, and Teresa Palmer joined him for our chat, which is never a bad thing.

I like that Palmer gets to play Australian in the film, and it is that national identity for the film itself that I thought was most interesting and worth discussion.  Australian cinema has had a number of different ebbs and flows over the years, and it feels to me like Blue-Tongue Films, a production collective that includes Edgerton, his brother Nash, and director Kieran Darcy-Smith, is one of the companies that is part of this new moment that's happening. 

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<p>Sean Penn did not actually ingest Robert Smith for 'This Must Be The Place'.. it just looks like he did.</p>

Sean Penn did not actually ingest Robert Smith for 'This Must Be The Place'.. it just looks like he did.

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: 'This Must Be The Place' makes 'I Am Sam' look like 'Dead Man Walking'

Sean Penn goes so gloriously off the rails that you have to see it to believe it

Just so we're clear, I have enormous respect for Sean Penn.

I've been a fan since the early days of "Taps" and "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" and "Bad Boys," and watching the choices he's made over the years, both in front of the camera and occasionally behind it as well, I've remained impressed by his talent.

Like many truly gifted people, though, he is capable of spectacular flame outs when they push themselves, and Penn has had his share of terrible moments onscreen.  He's been let down by directors sometimes, but he's also made some big crazy choices that haven't paid off in the end, and I think it's only when you are capable of greatness that you are also capable of doing something almost unspeakably bad.

I am still wrestling with "This Must Be The Place," a new film he stars in for director Paolo Sorrentino, because it is a narrative disaster, but a fascinating disaster.  The movie's so bad in so many ways, and yet I was riveted by the display I saw unfolding.  This is the sort of bad movie that is almost a textbook study.  I want to spend time with it and try to really pull apart how many things just plain misfire, starting with the core concept of the picture.

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<p>'The Pact' was the opening midnight movie for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival</p>

'The Pact' was the opening midnight movie for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival

Credit: Preferred Content

Review: 'The Pact' kicks off Sundance midnights with a thud

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A horror film for people who have never seen horror films, this one does not work

When we bring the entire team to Sundance or Toronto or any other festival, we try to each pick one part of the festival to cover.  That doesn't mean we're restricted to only one section, but that's our general focus.  For me, any time a festival has a Midnight Movies section, I'll be the one covering that.  Sundance is no exception, and tonight, I was at one of the two midnight screenings.  They showed "Tim & Eric's Billion $ Movie" at the Library, and I'll catch up with that in a few days.  They also screened "The Pact" at the Egyptian, and that's where I was.

I may have chosen poorly.

Last year, Nicholas McCarthy was here with a short film, also called "The Pact," and it appears someone who saw the film decided to give McCarthy the chance to expand it to feature-length.  I just saw the short film for the first time on Thursday, and I liked the short.  I thought it was stylish and effective, and it demonstrated a clear ability on the part of McCarthy to craft chilling suspense and strong visuals.  The short starred Jewel Staite and Sam Ball as a brother and sister who are called back to the house they grew up in to deal with the death of their mother.  In the short, it's obvious that these two didn't get along with Mom while she was alive, and it seems that although she's dead, she lingers on in spirit form.

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<p>Amanda Hobbs, sister to one of the murdered boys in the Robin Hood Hills case, displays some of the tattoos she's gotten to remember her brother in Amy Berg's affecting 'West Of Memphis'</p>

Amanda Hobbs, sister to one of the murdered boys in the Robin Hood Hills case, displays some of the tattoos she's gotten to remember her brother in Amy Berg's affecting 'West Of Memphis'

Credit: Wingnut Films

Review: 'West Of Memphis' offers a fresh and vital take on the West Memphis 3 story

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Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh lend superstar clout to an essential documentary

Like many people, I have watched the Berlinger/Sinofsky "Paradise Lost" documentaries as they've been made and aired over the years, and I had my sense of righteous indignation poked and prodded by the filmmakers in regards to the case of the West Memphis Three.  I've donated money to their legal defense on three separate occasions, and I have found myself emotionally invested in their eventual release to a degree that surprise s me, considering these are not people I know or am connected to in any way.

Several years ago, I first heard that Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh had become interested in the case, and that they were becoming involved in a very direct way.  At the time, there was no talk of a new documentary of the topic, but instead it sounded like they were working to prove who the guilty party was, hoping that would help free Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jesse Misskelly.  I was told that Fran and Peter weren't interested in having their names connected to the matter in public, but that they were simply doing this out of a sense of moral obligation.  I filed it away as "interesting information I can't do anything with" and didn't really think about it again.

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<p>&nbsp;Hello and welcome, won't you step into my world?</p>

 Hello and welcome, won't you step into my world?

Kicking off a new kind of video diary for Sundance 2012

Reviews and interviews are fine, but what's Sundance really like?

Just as we drove into Park City on Wednesday afternoon, the first flakes of snow were starting to fall, and now, as I prepare to get a few hours sleep on a very, very early Friday morning, we've seen that snow and a fair amount of sleet pile up quickly.  And if there's snow, then as far as this Los Angeles resident is concerned, it is time for Sundance.

Now that my year is built around film festivals, I'm starting to really enjoy the way each festival has its own clear identity.  Sundance is not SXSW which is not Cannes which is not Toronto which clearly is not Fantastic Fest.  Those five festivals give me milestones by which to measure my year now, and so for me, Sundance means the film year is starting from a clean slate, and my first impressions of what sort of year in movies lies ahead start here.  This is where I test the wind, read the tea leaves, and dig in for the first real challenge on each new calendar.

I've come to grow quite fond of Sundance overall.  I like their mix of films, I like the way they break things down and the different categories, and I like the taste they show as programmers.  As with most film festivals, what they program is entirely dependent on what's ready, what's available, and how things time out, and what Sundance has going for it is that it's such a major milestone for filmmakers to show something here that people will intentionally set their post-production schedules on movies around the submission dates for Sundance. 

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<p>Do ya like planes?&nbsp; Because if not, 'Red Tails' may not be for you.</p>

Do ya like planes?  Because if not, 'Red Tails' may not be for you.

Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Review: 'Red Tails' flies high during combat, but can't win the whole war

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George Lucas finally finishes a long-time dream project to mixed results

Anyone who watched "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" probably has a pretty good idea of what they can expect from the long-rumored George Lucas production of "Red Tails" now that it's actually opening in theaters.

The story of the Tuskeegee Airmen is a significant one, and worth telling.  HBO took a shot at it a while ago, and Lucas has been trying to get his version made for what feels like decades now.  I admire the intent, because a film like this and a story like this can be inspirational and connect young African-American audiences to a history they may not know about.  If that's the only thing the film accomplishes, then I'm sure Lucas will count it as a success, and I do hope parents take their kids to see it.

I also hope it is the start of a conversation, and not the entire thing.

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<p>Joel Edgerton stars in the dramatic thriller 'Wish You Were Here,' the opening night film of the Sundance Film Festival</p>

Joel Edgerton stars in the dramatic thriller 'Wish You Were Here,' the opening night film of the Sundance Film Festival

Credit: Blue-Tongue Films

Review: 'Wish You Were Here' sends Joel Edgerton on a nightmare vacation

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Australian drama offers some solid performances but uneven narrative

At heart, "Wish You Were Here" is an effective piece about the way secrets can serve as a cancer in a marriage.  It's well-performed across the board, it's incredibly well-shot, and I think much of it works in terms of tone and mood.  There are some major plot issues that you have to forgive, though, and it might be enough to derail the experience for some viewers.

Directed by Kieran Darcy-Smith, "Wish You Were Here" fractures time to tell the story of a group of Australians who take a trip to Cambodia.  During the trip, one of them vanishes, and the rest of them return home to deal with the emotional fallout.  Not everyone is working with the same information, though, and little by little, the truth comes out, with some devastating fallout.  Dave Flannery (Joel Edgerton) and his wife Alice (Felicity Price, who also co-wrote the film) are parents, and they step back into this life they've built, with their four-year-old and their five-year-old and another one on the way.  Alice's sister Steph (Teresa Palmer) was the one who was dating Jeremy (Antony Starr), the guy who disappeared, and she's the one who seems to be most directly affected at first.  Gradually, though, Dave and Alice are forced to deal with something unspoken, something that threatens their family, and that's the real driving force in the film.

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<p>The brutal rape of Lisbeth Salander is one of the key scenes in 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,' but what do we lose or gain from the nonstop depiction of such an act in our culture?</p>

The brutal rape of Lisbeth Salander is one of the key scenes in 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,' but what do we lose or gain from the nonstop depiction of such an act in our culture?

Credit: Music Box Films

The Bigger Picture: What happens when we find 'The Line' as viewers?

A viewing of a post-apocalyptic exploitation film sets off an unexpected reaction

This was originally supposed to be a review of the Xavier Gens film "The Divide."

That will not be happening.

Over the course of my life, I'd wager I've seen at least 10,000 movies.  Maybe more.  I've had years where I've mainlined as many as 500 movies, many of them older catalog titles.  I have a voracious appetite for all types of movies, both high art and low.  I love smart sophisticated movies, I love experimental films, and I love genre junk.  I love any movie that offers me a genuine experience of some sort, where there's something that moves me or that I recognize as true and well-observed or where someone just plain surprises me.  I am open to pretty much anything when I sit down to a new film.

But at the age of 41, at about 94 minutes into "The Divide," I reached a breaking point, and I realized that I am pretty much incapable of sitting through one more cheap, pointless, exploitative rape in a movie.

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<p>Channing Tatum is kicking off his best year on film so far with Steven Soderbergh's 'Haywire,' and he seems to be enjoying it all.</p>

Channing Tatum is kicking off his best year on film so far with Steven Soderbergh's 'Haywire,' and he seems to be enjoying it all.

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Channing Tatum enjoyed getting worked over in 'Haywire'

His future's looking brighter than ever based on the films he's in this year

Now that I've seen both "21 Jump Street" and "Haywire," I am officially prepared to say that 2012 is the year Channing Tatum turned the corner.

I've known people who are fans of his work since "A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints," and I've certainly seen most of his films up to this point.  I've always felt like he was tough to cast just right, and whatever his most vocal supporters saw in that work, I wasn't seeing it.  I thought he showed signs of life in things like "Stop-Loss" or his supporting freakshow role in "The Dilemma," but he still wasn't connecting for me across the board.

Now, with this one-two punch, I'm seeing a much looser, funnier, alive presence onscreen, and I think the same is true of our interview when we sat down to talk about "Haywire."  I'm not sure what happened, but it can't just be that the material is better.  It's like something opened up inside of him, and suddenly he's able to project whatever that new energy and joy is, and it's really apparent in the work.

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