<p>Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, and Dane DaHaan star as three teens who come into contact with something that leaves them struggling with new and dangerous powers in the riveting genre-bender 'Chronicle'</p>

Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, and Dane DaHaan star as three teens who come into contact with something that leaves them struggling with new and dangerous powers in the riveting genre-bender 'Chronicle'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: Smart and angry 'Chronicle' pushes superhero genre past the breaking point

HitFix
B+
Readers
C
And frankly, it's about time someone did it

My first reaction to "Chronicle" would be to wildly overreact simply because it does so much so well and with such confidence.

It is, at heart, though, a modest accomplishment, and that's entirely by design.  This is not a franchise kickstarter, a giant broad-appeal down-the-middle genre movie that was designed to sell lunchboxes and Happy Meals.  Whatever this film is, whatever its pleasures or achievements, it feels personal and intentionally scaled, and it absolutely hits the target for which it aims.  A male "Carrie" for the 21st century, a skeptical, heartbroken reaction to the nonstop horseshit of the "chosen one" myth that has been force fed a generation ad nauseam, "Chronicle" is lean and scary and sad, and director Josh Trank and writer Max Landis have ample reason to be proud of what they've done.

Hollywood's nonstop attempt to wring cash from superhero tropes was on full display in the trailers I saw in front of the movie tonight.  "The Avengers" and "The Dark Knight Rises" look to be sure-fire monster hits this summer, and both will cost an arm and a leg getting there.  There was lots of CG firepower on display in trailers for "Battleship" and "John Carter" and "Men In Black 3."  All of it looked and felt familiar, and no doubt will look and feel familiar when I see the finished films as well.  That's what Hollywood does best right now… familiar.

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<p>Whatever they've done to Riddick (Vin Diesel), the side of his head has certainly seen better days.</p>

Whatever they've done to Riddick (Vin Diesel), the side of his head has certainly seen better days.

Credit: Vin Diesel

Vin Diesel's busy posting more 'Riddick' photos on his Facebook page

David Twohy's untitled sequel continues shooting in Canada

That's not the most spoiler-oriented photo of all time, but just seeing Vin Diesel looking like he's back in full Riddick mode makes me happy.

When I saw "Pitch Black" for the first time, USA Films wasn't sure what to do with it.  They were trying to position themselves as a serious studio, making Oscar-worthy films, big and important, and a movie like "Pitch Black" seemed to confuse them a bit in terms of marketing and positioning.  Harry Knowles and I were shown the film in the company's Beverly Hills screening room, with no one else in the theater, and by the end of it, we were both ecstatic.  That first movie is just good old fashioned pulp science fiction without a pretentious bone in its body, a modestly-scaled monster movie that set up a really interesting anti-hero in the form of the big broody Vin Diesel, who was really only known to us at that point as the dude Spielberg ordered written into "Saving Private Ryan" and the voice of "The Iron Giant."

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<p>Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) prepare for the fight of their lives in 'The Hunger Games'</p>

Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) prepare for the fight of their lives in 'The Hunger Games'

Credit: Lionsgate

Want to attend the 'Hunger Games' premiere? HitFix can make that happen

We've got the full details on the Twitter sweepstakes and how to enter

Considering the amount of attention that's been paid to every single step of the production of the upcoming film adaptation of "The Hunger Games," it seems hard to believe that the film is finally set to have its world premiere at the Nokia Live in Los Angeles on March 12.

Even harder to believe?  HitFix has got a chance for you to win two tickets to the premiere, and all you need are Twitter and Facebooks accounts.

It's going to be a genuinely exciting evening, if only because of the enormous expectations that people have for the film.  I keep reading comparisons between this and "Twilight," and aside from the possible commercial potential, I can't see any similarity.  For one thing, the "Hunger Games" books are actually well-written and engrossing, with characters who make real choices based on something other than the disturbing pathology of the author.  These also deal with much larger ideas than just "who will the main character boink?", which makes it much easier to endorse the idea of this adaptation.  While Gary Ross has never made anything like these movies, his passion for the material is encouraging, and his casting has been interesting to watch as it came together.

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<p>Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are set to rock SXSW&nbsp;in the very funny '21 Jump Street'</p>

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are set to rock SXSW in the very funny '21 Jump Street'

Credit: Sony Pictures

SXSW announces its full feature line-up for 2012 including '21 Jump Street'

We look at each section and pick some early stand-outs

Since joining HitFix, my film year has been defined by the festivals I attend, and of all those festivals, the one that continues to evolve and grow the most is SXSW.  I can't wait for this year's, and I felt that way even before I saw this year's full line-up of features.

One of the things I love about the festival is the way they embrace both the lowest of low-fi films as well as big mainstream Hollywood fare, and somehow, they all seem to fit together thanks to the way the programming comes together each year.  I can't think of any other festival that would have made "Macgruber" a centerpiece film, and they're also the same place that featured both "Kill List" and "Attack The Block" at midnight.  They have diverse taste, and they are inclusive in a way few festivals manage.

Also… it's Austin.  And I loves me some Austin.

This year's line-up looks fantastic, so why don't we take a look at it, section by section?  As we go through, I'm going to bold the titles that I'm planning to see at this point, keeping in mind that the easiest way to make the Festival Gods laugh at you is making a plan of any kind.  I'll also have some wrap-up thoughts at the end of the piece, especially regarding some of the titles I've already seen.

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<p>Genesis Rodriguez and Jamie Bell practically steal 'Man On A Ledge' out from under everyone else, making this a heist movie within a heist movie.</p>

Genesis Rodriguez and Jamie Bell practically steal 'Man On A Ledge' out from under everyone else, making this a heist movie within a heist movie.

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Review: 'Man On A Ledge' offers some mild charms amidst a sea of improbability

HitFix
C+
Readers
n/a
The supporting cast steals the film while the script can't quite deliver

January movies have traditionally been thought of as leftovers, movies that weren't strong enough to compete the holiday season that's just ended that aren't good enough to be moved to a more competitive month.  These are the orphans, the films that studios are nervous about.  They may be packed with movie stars, but for the most part, if you see a movie set for January, you can count on it being a lesser product overall.

That's slowly changing, though, and a film like "Man On A Ledge" is a good example of a more ambitious type of January film, a movie that has some solid star power and an interesting premise and some worthwhile moments. It's not great, but it's better than its release date might indicate.  It's loaded with improbabilities, but there's an energy to the way the story is told and the cast certainly seems to be enjoying the game they're playing.

Asger Leth is the director of the film, and he comes to this from a very odd background.  His film "Ghosts Of Cite Solieil" was a harrowing documentary about a "secret Army" in Haiti, and the nerve it took to capture that footage was impressive.  His father is Jorgen Leth, the filmmaker who was so gleefully tortured by Lars Von Trier in "The Five Obstructions," and Asger was part of that picture as well. 

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<p>Clarke Peters is joined by newcomers Jules Brown and Toni Lysaith in the newest Spike Lee joint, 'Red Hook Summer'</p>

Clarke Peters is joined by newcomers Jules Brown and Toni Lysaith in the newest Spike Lee joint, 'Red Hook Summer'

Credit: 40 Acres And A Mule

Review: 'Red Hook Summer' will feel pleasantly familiar to Spike Lee's fans

HitFix
B-
Readers
n/a
Controversial director's latest is shaggy and uneven but filled with heart and joy

Even when I don't love a Spike Lee movie, I'm always happy to go see a new Spike Lee movie, and hope springs eternal.

I didn't make it to the premiere of "Red Hook Summer" at the Eccles, and when I saw some truly venomous reactions to the film appear on Twitter afterwards, I got worried.  There are Lee films that I adore without reservation, like "Do The Right Thing" or "The 25th Hour" or "He Got Game," and there are Lee films where I enjoy them but recognize they're uneven like "Clockers" or "Bamboozled" or "Mo Better Blues."  But there are also some Spike Lee movies that I think just plain don't work on any level, movies I don't think I'll ever see again like "Girl 6" or "She Hate Me" or even "Summer Of Sam."  The last few years, since "Miracle At St. Anna," it's felt like Spike was in retreat to some degree, focusing on things like sports documentaries or the wildly entertaining PBS production of "Passing Strange."  I walked into "Red Hook Summer" with no idea which Spike Lee I'd be seeing.

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<p>I sort of wish they would make this place into 'Jesus Organic Pizza' permanently.</p>

I sort of wish they would make this place into 'Jesus Organic Pizza' permanently.

Credit: HitFix

Sundance Diary Part Three: Bing Bars and Jesus Pizza

Tim League of Alamo Drafthouse fame is one of the familiar faces we ran into

Okay, gentlemen, here's the scenario.  You're standing in a room, and you're surrounded by Alison Brie, Emily Blunt, Teresa Palmer, Christina Hendricks, and Lizzy Kaplan, and it is absolutely imperative that you remain cool.  Could you?

These are the moments where you realize that you should never, ever complain about this job.

The place was the Bing Bar, where many of the publicity teams who are here this year have arranged for interviews to take place, and over the weekend, we were there to shoot chats for both "Wish You Were Here" and "Your Sister's Sister" at the same time, which is when the above scenario unfolded.  In addition to the assortment of some of the lovely ladies above, there were any number of familiar faces milling about.  Joel Edgerton and Martin Starr and Ice-T and his wife Coco and Mark Duplass, and everyone was catching up and talking about what they were in town to support, an open bar lubricating the day's conversations thoroughly and continuously.

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<p>Immediately after this photo was taken, Paul&nbsp;Giamatti's beard attained sentience, tore free from his face, and ate director Don Coscarelli.</p>

Immediately after this photo was taken, Paul Giamatti's beard attained sentience, tore free from his face, and ate director Don Coscarelli.

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Paul Giamatti and Don Coscarelli conspire to bring 'John Dies At The End' to screen

We sit down with one of the great character actors working and an iconic horror director

The first time I heard Paul Giamatti talk about Don Coscarelli was on the set of "Shoot 'Em Up." 

At the time, Giamatti had just recently started talking to Coscarelli about starring in "Bubba Nosferatu," the sequel to "Bubba Ho-Tep," and as soon as I steered the conversation to the idea of the sequel, Giamatti lit up.  He told me about his first exposure to "Phantasm" when he was in his early teens, and by the end of the conversation, I realized that Giamatti was a full-blown horror nerd, and I liked him much more as a result.

No doubt he's a great actor, but there's something special about monster kids, people who grew up mainlining "Famous Monsters" and Saturday afternoon creature features and Godzilla movies, and there's a shared language that exists when we meet.  Giamatti stayed attached to "Bubba Nosferatu" even after Bruce Campbell decided he wasn't willing to star in it, and so it should come as little surprise that he jumped at a chance to finally work with Coscarelli as both producer and actor on the new film "John Dies At The End."

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<p>Helen Hunt and John Hawkes are exceptional in the new drama 'The Surrogate,' one of the biggest acquisition titles of Sundance 2012</p>

Helen Hunt and John Hawkes are exceptional in the new drama 'The Surrogate,' one of the biggest acquisition titles of Sundance 2012

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Review: 'The Surrogate' gives John Hawkes career-best role opposite Helen Hunt

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
A smart adult movie about sexuality in America? Seems too good to be true

I have a dream that someday American filmmakers will finally grow up and stop being so insanely conservative about dealing with all stripes of human sexuality on film.

When we still live in a culture where a movie as ultimately restrained as "Shame" gets slapped with an NC-17, it's obvious that, on an institutional level, we are prudes.  It's ridiculous, too.  How many films do we see each year about mayhem and murder and violence and war and all manner of human horrors?  Those are all considered acceptable, and it almost feels like the more indulgent we are towards brutality, the more afraid we are to deal with sexuality in a mature manner.  Yet which subject plays a larger ongoing role in the daily lives of more people?

With "The Surrogate," writer/director Ben Lewin has taken the true story of Mark O'Brien and crafted a smart, heartfelt story about the way a lifelong polio patient, crippled and twisted by the disease, finally begins to explore his own sexuality in his late 30s, with the help of a sexual surrogate.  It is a fairly straightforward character drama distinguished by exceptional work from actor John Hawkes and strong supporting turns by William H. Macy, Moon Bloodgood, and Helen Hunt.  It is also worth paying attention to the largely clear-eyed and sophisticated approach it takes to the subject matter, including some fairly frank scenes between Hawkes and Hunt that are impressive and even moving.

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<p>Sam Worthington kept it casual at the press day for his new thriller 'Man On A Ledge'</p>

Sam Worthington kept it casual at the press day for his new thriller 'Man On A Ledge'

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Watch: Sam Worthington stands up for 'Man On A Ledge'

The 'Avatar' star discusses his latest thriller

I ran an excerpt from my conversation with Sam Worthington not long after I sat down with him to discuss his new film "Man On The Ledge," and we ran that one bit because he was talking specifically about his next film, "Wrath Of The Titans."

We spoke far longer about "Man," though, and I find Worthington's evolution as a leading man very interesting.  By the time most audiences saw him for the first time, he'd already been given several huge roles in "Avatar" and "Clash Of The Titans."  That seems to be a newer phenomenon, when someone gets anointed a movie star before they've really been seen by audiences, and it doesn't always work.

In Worthington's case, I see exactly why he was cast in those big roles, and I can also see why some audiences just haven't warmed to him.  He's not terribly interested in being a giant movie star, and I get the feeling that some of the attention has been difficult for Worthington.  In every conversation we've had so far, it strikes me that he really wants to just get better at his craft, pushing himself whenever possible.  In "Man On The Ledge," he's playing a normal guy, and he can't really hide behind giant CGI effects or a high concept.

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