<p>Val Kilmer and Elle Fanning ask each other how they ended up in a movie as terrible as Francis Ford Coppola's new 'Twixt'</p>

Val Kilmer and Elle Fanning ask each other how they ended up in a movie as terrible as Francis Ford Coppola's new 'Twixt'

Credit: American Zoetrope

Review: Francis Ford Coppola firebombs Toronto with awful, witless 'Twixt'

HitFix
D
Readers
n/a
Val Kilmer and Bruce Dern compete for title of Biggest Ham

Francis Ford Coppola has produced some of the finest movies of all time, and when he is gone, there is no doubt in my mind that his work will live on.  As long as people are watching movies, they will be watching "The Conversation" and his "Godfather" films and "Apocalypse Now."  No doubt about it.

Having said that, his latest film "Twixt" is so bad that it feels like a practical joke.  It's so bad that I can't believe anyone who has ever seen "The Conversation" made this film, much less the person who actually made it.

I am still having trouble processing what I sat through at the film's first press screening at the Toronto International Film Festival.  I've seen plenty of bad films by good filmmakers, and even in those bad films, I can still see the identity of the filmmaker.  I can still see their fingerprints on the work.  With films I haven't liked this week like "A Dangerous Method" or "Wuthering Heights," I can still have a conversation about how the filmmaker's craft is evident in what they do, and ultimately, my reactions boil down to how I feel about choices they made.  I may not like those choices, but I can see the reasoning behind them.

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<p>Jason Segel prepares to follow a sign to help his brother, played by Ed Helms, in the magical new film 'Jeff, Who Lives At Home'</p>

Jason Segel prepares to follow a sign to help his brother, played by Ed Helms, in the magical new film 'Jeff, Who Lives At Home'

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Review: Jason Segel and Ed Helms follow the signs in 'Jeff, Who Lives At Home'

HitFix
A
Readers
B+
The Duplass Brothers go mainstream with their voice intact

The Duplass Brothers have somehow managed the nearly impossible trick of moving from the no-budget indie world of their first feature, "The Puffy Chair," to making movies with well-known movie stars without having to trade any of their independence and without subverting their voice at all.  Their new film, "Jeff, Who Lives At Home," is the most accessible thing they've made, and it's also a bit of a marvel, a film without a single hint of cynicism in it.

Jeff is played by Jason Segel, and he's a 30 year old still living with his mother Sharon (Susan Sarandon).  His older brother Pat (Ed Helms) is married to Linda (Judy Greer), and they're struggling with some pretty fundamental communication issues.  They all live in Baton Rouge, and the easy version of this film would treat Jeff and his decidedly arrested adulthood as the source of the joke.  Instead, the opening scene sets the stage for everything that follows, as Jeff dictates a long monologue into a recorder about the importance of the movie "Signs" in his life.  He explains how the structure of the film and the way it eventually draws all of its story threads together changed the way he views the world, and now he's open to the voice of the universe, no matter how mysterious its method of communication.

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<p>Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen struggle to find their way through the tangles of marriage in the lovely 'Take This Waltz'</p>

Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen struggle to find their way through the tangles of marriage in the lovely 'Take This Waltz'

Credit: Joe's Daughter/Mongrel Media

Review: Michelle Williams is heartbreaking in sensational 'Take This Waltz'

HitFix
A
Readers
B
Seth Rogen also gives one of his best performances in Sarah Polley's new film

Earlier today, I was at the press day for "50/50," shooting video interviews with the cast, and one of the people working at the event was a local.  As we were talking about movies I'd seen at the fest, I mentioned Sarah Polley and "Take This Waltz," and immediately, she got defensive, before I even offered an opinion on the film.  "Sarah Polley is one of our treasures," she said, a good Canadian protecting one of her own.  Thing is, no one need to protect Polley, because she's carving out one hell of a career, and there's nothing to be defensive about.

We have very few women writing and directing personal work on a regular basis these days, and if you look at the percentages of women to men in those jobs, it's truly upsetting.  I love all of my boy movies, certainly, and I know when a filmmaker is playing right to my interests or my worldview.  I don't just go to the movies to have my perspective endlessly reinforced, though.  I want to be challenged.  I want to be knocked out of my comfort zone.  I want to hear a voice I haven't heard before.  I want to understand the world through other people's eyes.

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<p>George Clooney finds himself looking for understanding and forgiveness when his family is struck by a tragedy in Alexander Payne's new film 'The Descendants'</p>

George Clooney finds himself looking for understanding and forgiveness when his family is struck by a tragedy in Alexander Payne's new film 'The Descendants'

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Review: George Clooney anchors great ensemble in emotional 'The Descendants'

HitFix
A
Readers
A-
Alexander Paynes scores again with another story of a man in crisis

Alexander Payne had one of the most promising starts of any of the filmmakers in the Class of '99, as I like to call them, and "Election" is one of those films that I find always rewarding to revisit.  "Sideways" and "About Schmidt" are both strong, mature pieces of work, and they both demonstrate a clear sense of voice as well as a very strong sense of place.  Locations play a major part in his work, helping to define who these people are and giving them a proper landscape in which to play out their issues.

And, yes, like his earlier films, "The Descendents" captures a character in crisis, someone facing a major life-changing event and having to redefine themselves as a result.  And while it does not carry the same satiric sting that some of his work is noted for, I think it's warm and human and beautifully made, and it is one more triumph in a long list of recent triumphs for George Clooney as a movie star and an actor both.

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<p>If you found this guy walking around your house, I'm going to guess that night would not end well.</p>

If you found this guy walking around your house, I'm going to guess that night would not end well.

Credit: HenWay Films/Snoot Films

Review: Is midnight movie 'You're Next' the new 'Scream'?

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
Some smart distributor stands to make a lot of money with low-budget thriller

It's one thing to make a film that plays to a horror audience, but it's much harder to make a film that can satisfy the hardcore genre fans while also playing to a broader audience that doesn't necessarily know and love the genre.  When a filmmaker does that, they've got something special, something that distributors spend their year looking for.  With the right trailer, "You're Next" could easily be that sort of breakout for the right distributor.  It's a small film with a big hook, and it's very smart about the way it tweaks the audience as they take the ride.

Director Adam Wingard has been working on the fringes of the fringes for a while now.  His movie "Pop Skull" is about as far from commercial formula as you can possibly imagine.  I like Wingard's voice as a filmmaker precisely because it felt like he had to make these movies, like they were personal and essential to him and there was no thought at all of tailoring them for an audience.  With his last film, though, working with screenwriter Simon Barrett, it felt like a different skill set snapped into focus, and "A Horrible Way To Die," while still difficult and dark and dangerous, felt more like a "real" movie than anything he'd done before.

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<p>How does a man make a living being punched in the face and still end up looking like this?&nbsp; It's not fair, I&nbsp;tells ya.</p>

How does a man make a living being punched in the face and still end up looking like this?  It's not fair, I tells ya.

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Sugar Ray Leonard discusses robot boxing on set of 'Real Steel"

The boxing legend helped Shawn Levy teach machines to fight

Sugar Ray Leonard has been a legend as long as I've been conscious of pop culture.  One of the reasons I am constantly amazed that I am paid actual money to do what I do is because so much of what I do involves satisfying deeply personal desires.  The fact that I get paid is almost incidental.

When I was growing up in the '70s, boxing was very different in terms of the way it was handled by the media, and Sugar Ray Leonard was a superstar.  When I was first told that he was involved in "Real Steel," that was the first reason I was willing to go to the set.  I wanted to see what it meant to have someone like Leonard involved in a big-budget movie where CGI robots beat the crap out of each other.  What I saw on-set was an ambitious new step in performance capture technology, and I ended up sitting down with Leonard to talk about his role in that process.

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<p>Carey Mulligan and Michael Fassbender in one of the few light moments in Steve McQueen's powerful new 'Shame'</p>

Carey Mulligan and Michael Fassbender in one of the few light moments in Steve McQueen's powerful new 'Shame'

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Review: Michael Fassbender gives amazing performance in piercing 'Shame'

HitFix
A
Readers
A
Carey Mulligan also lays herself bare in mesmerizing sex addiction film

Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender are building a body of work together that is demanding, intellectually rigorous, and deeply felt, and if they continue, I feel like it will be a privilege to watch what they produce as collaborators.  Their new film "Shame" is incredibly potent, a disturbing and visceral film about the ways we cope with the things that drive us, and the ways we destroy ourselves for who we are.  It is one of the year's very best films, and a major artistic accomplishment.

Much of what drives the characters in the film is unspoken, and yet "Shame" manages to communicate volumes with its silence.  McQueen is a master of subtext, and from the very beginning of the film, he's asking you to pay close attention, to connect the dots, and if you are willing to do that, it's a wrenching experience.  I love that the film doesn't explain everything to you, because it's all in there.  It is also a formally impressive piece of film craft, and I think McQueen is one of those guys we need to watch closely.  He's building these films to endure, and they are rewarding because of just how much he's layered into them.

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<p>Paul Williams was iconic in the '70s, but has faded from public life since, and the new documentary 'Paul Williams Still Alive' examines where he is today</p>

Paul Williams was iconic in the '70s, but has faded from public life since, and the new documentary 'Paul Williams Still Alive' examines where he is today

Credit: 3W Films

Review: 'Paul Williams Still Alive' offers affectionate, insightful look at '70s icon

HitFix
A
Readers
A+
Documentary is often very funny, but with real emotional edge

Paul Williams was at his most famous when I was still a little kid.  I remember seeing him on variety shows, in "Smokey & The Bandit," as an orangutan in one of the "Planet Of The Apes" sequels, and above all, I remember his omnipresence as a singer/songwriter.  Even if I didn't know those were his songs at the time, my childhood was largely underscored by the work of Paul Williams. 

As I've gotten older, I've learned a great appreciation for his body of work, and there are some high points that mean quite a bit to me.  I think "Phantom Of The Paradise" is fantastic, and the songs in that film are almost always on my iPod when I travel.  His song for the original "Muppet Movie," the heartbreaking "The Rainbow Connection," is one of the first songs I learned to play on the piano as a kid.  And well before its critical rehabilitation began, I was a huge fan of the work he did for "Ishtar," a hilarious goof on the very art of songwriting.

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<p>'The Oranges' makes good use of its ensemble cast and wins some big laughs as a result</p>

'The Oranges' makes good use of its ensemble cast and wins some big laughs as a result

Credit: Likely Story/Olympus Pictures

Review: Hugh Laurie and Leighton Meester headline sharp suburban comedy 'The Oranges'

HitFix
B+
Readers
A+
Great ensemble cast finds big laughs in 'American Beauty' country

The notion of suburban malaise is nothing new, and it's been well-mined in plenty of novels and movies and TV shows already.  Wisely, "The Oranges" is not trying to blow the lid off the notion that marriages sometimes crumble or that suburbia frequently hides secrets behind its white picket fences. 

Instead, the script by Jay Reiss and Ian Helfer is a no-apologies comedy, and it gives the large ensemble cast some juicy material to play, allowing them to really run wild.  Director Julian Farino, making his feature debut, has a great sense of character and timing, and the result is a movie that some distributor is going to make good money with, as long as they cut the right trailer.

After all, look at their cast.  You've got Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Allison Janney, Leighton Meester, Alia Shawkat, and Adam Brody, and they're all very good in the film.  It's a true ensemble comedy, too.  Shawkat's character Vanessa is the narrator of the film and the daughter of David (Laurie) and Paige (Keener).  They live across the street from their best friends, Carol (Janney) and Terry (Platt), and their kids all grew up together.  They do everything as a group, and at the start of the film, Vanessa talks about how she has two families.  She used to be just as tight with Nina, the daughter of Carol and Terry, but Nina wanted to see the world, and as soon as she could leave West Orange, New Jersey, she did, and she never looked back.  Vanessa is one of those people who wants a career and a life, but is held back by fear and inertia, and so her resentment of Nina is very specific.  It's not just that they fell out as friends; Nina is living the life Vanessa wanted, but could never really manage.

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 First Look: 'Attack the Block' home video release and box art

First Look: 'Attack the Block' home video release and box art

Joe Cornish's inventive alien invasion can now be see by even more people

Sony announced the DVD and Blu-Ray release of the little movie that could, "Attack the Block." and were nice enough to send HitFix a first look at the box and some details about the extras as well as a good idea on how they're going to market it.

 

The inner city Alien invasion movie features a group of rough and tumble teenagers who find themselves deending their housing project from an invasion of jet black aliens, as well as maneuvering their way around other dangers such as drug dealers and the police.

 

In an interesting departure from the early days (March of this year) in which the thick working class london accents and slang of the main characters was thought to be a major barrier to releasing the film in the US, it now looks as if they are embracing said accent as an asset instead of a liability.

 

From the press release:

 

“It’s an alien invasion, bruv – believe it” and it’s coming to you from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.  “Trust, fam!” 

 

Awesome.

 

Click through for DVD details and box art.

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