<p>These hoodies are the only hope for humanity during an alien invasion in the amazing new movie 'Attack The Block,' one of the highlights of this year's SXSW&nbsp;festival</p>

These hoodies are the only hope for humanity during an alien invasion in the amazing new movie 'Attack The Block,' one of the highlights of this year's SXSW festival

Credit: Optimum Releasing

Review: Midnight movie 'Attack The Block' is an instant genre classic

Joe Cornish steers a largely unknown cast to complete triumph

AUSTIN - Joe Cornish is a name that may not be familiar to genre audiences around the world, but all of that is set to change with the release of his remarkable new film "Attack The Block," a spirited mix of teen gang drama, SF monster movie, and hero's journey, told in a dense vernacular and shot with the style of early vintage Carpenter.  It is entirely successful, and it announces Cornish as someone worthy of attention and a long filmography.

Cornish, for those unfamiliar with his work, is probably best-known so far for his work on "The Adam and Joe Show" in the UK, but later this year, he'll have a credit as the co-writer (with Edgar Wright) of "The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn," and he and Wright are also still working on their "Ant-Man" script as well.  None of the work he's had produced in the past could have really prepared viewers for "Attack The Block," though.  It's one of those films that feels like the work of a seasoned veteran, someone who had learned how to finesse their vision onto the bigscreen.  It's confident, it manages to blend genre with ease, and it coheres beautifully.

The film features a few familiar faces for fans of UK films.  Jodie Whittaker was Peter O'Toole's focus in "Venus," and she's also been seen in films like "Good" and "St. Trinian's," while co-star Luke Treadaway has shown up in "Heartless" and "Clash Of The Titans."  Probably the best-known cast-member is Nick Frost, but don't go into "Attack The Block" expecting anything like his earlier films or roles.  This movie's far more interested in the largely unknown cast that is front and center, a bunch of inner-city kids growing up in UK public housing blocks.  They are a convenient demon for the press, the English equivalent to the South Central LA kids of the '90s, bad guys by virtue of where they live and how they look. 

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<p>Kristen Wiig is ready for her moment in the spotlight in the very funny, very wry new film 'Bridesmaids</p>

Kristen Wiig is ready for her moment in the spotlight in the very funny, very wry new film 'Bridesmaids

Credit: Universal

Kristen Wiig stars in hilarious, heartbreaking 'Bridesmaids'

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Paul Feig makes a wonderful sophomore picture that is better than it should be

Kristen Wiig is very hard to explain in terms of comedic persona.

With many comics, you can sum them up somehow.  That's one of the basic things that seems to be essential with our great comedy stars.  We need to be able to easily understand them.  You go all the way back to Keaton and Chaplin, they worked in broad iconography.  They communicated with everything, their clothing, their physicality.  They were easily summed up, and then in each new situation, it was just about watching what they would do.  Keaton goes to war.  Chaplin during the Gold Rush.  Keaton gets a train.  Chaplin and a kid.  Easy on the surface to grasp, and then within that, there is room to do so much more.

With Wiig, I don't get any single easy definition or summation, and that's what keeps her interesting.  From the very start of "Bridesmaids," one of the primary things i enjoyed was simply seeing how Wiig handles herself in each new situation, as her life keeps punching her right in the face in the most painful ways.  It is a very funny film, but there's a sincerity to the sadness that elevates the material, and which to me seems like the sort of film Paul Feig should be making in the first place.

Feig, of course, is the guy who created "Freaks and Geeks," and he's a whip-smart comedy writer.  Read his books.  Thank me later.  His first film, "Unaccompanied Minors," seems to make him visibly uncomfortable when mentioned, but he's being too hard on himself.  He made a small-scale studio comedy on a budget, with a script he didn't write, and he got himself in the game.  "Bridesmaids" was written by Kristen Wiig and her Groundlings partner Annie Mumolo, and it was produced by Judd Apatow and Barry Mandel, and I think the entire thing manages to feel very personal while still possessing a big immediate commercial appeal.  This could easily catch fire with audiences both male and female, and it could be a real launching pad for Wiig as the center of her own films.

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<p>Paul (Seth Rogen) and Graeme (Simon Pegg) react to just one of the many, many things that goes wrong on their wild road trip in the new SF&nbsp;comedy 'Paul'</p>

Paul (Seth Rogen) and Graeme (Simon Pegg) react to just one of the many, many things that goes wrong on their wild road trip in the new SF comedy 'Paul'

Credit: Universal Pictures

Review: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost comedy 'Paul' offers broad Sci-Fi fan laughs

Kristen Wiig shines in supporting role adding heart and character to comedy

AUSTIN - It's strange to be in Austin and to keep running into Edgar Wright, Nick Frost, and Simon Pegg, and to realize that they're not all here for the same movie.

"Paul," which Universal will release on March 18, is a SF road comedy starring Frost and Pegg as two friends who travel to America for the San Diego Comic-Con.  Afterwards, they hit the road in a rented RV, and while they're visiting the various UFO-related sites in the west, they find themselves on a desert highway in the middle of the night where they witness a terrible car accident.  The only thing to survive the accident is a small grey alien who introduces himself as Paul, voiced by Seth Rogen.  He needs a ride to a rendezvous point because it's time for him to leave our planet and head home, and the only two people who can help him are Clive (Frost) and Graeme (Pegg).

The film uses the basic language of shared SF fandom as a starting point, and before I get to what I like about "Paul," let me offer up a few things I didn't.  There are "Family Guy"-style on-the-nose reference jokes in several major moments in the film, and for my personal taste, all of them fell flat.  When a character shoots his CB radio to end a conversation and actually says, "Boring conversation anyway," or when a country-western version of the Cantina theme is playing as someone walks into a bar or when a particular line of dialogue is used to punctuate a punch, each and every time I felt embarrassed, not included.  I don't need the specific and pointed direct references to other movies to enjoy what I'm watching.  In Joe Cornish's "Attack The Block," there are certainly many other movies that are mixed up in the formula, but there's no moment in the film where it stops to specifically turn and wink and nudge your ribs and say, "Hey, I saw 'Star Wars'!"  It's too much for me, and I think I've become burned out on direct film references in other movies.  Then again, I didn't mind it in "Rango" because of the way they were repurposed to be jokes on the mere act of recognition, turning meaning inside out in many cases.

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<p>Michelle Monaghan and Jake Gyllenhaal co-star in the slick, satisfying SF&nbsp;ride 'Source Code'</p>

Michelle Monaghan and Jake Gyllenhaal co-star in the slick, satisfying SF ride 'Source Code'

Credit: Summit Entertainment

SXSW review: Jake Gyllenhaal stars in lively, entertaining SF 'Source Code'

The first night of SXSW delivers a major popcorn pleasure from the director of 'Moon'

AUSTIN - When I saw "Moon" at the Sundance Film Festival, at the very first screening of the film, I thought it was okay.  Not great.  Okay.

I've come to like it more upon revisiting it, but I think of it as a very good first film, someone's announcement more than a totally successful film.  I like Rockwell in it, and that's enough to recommend the film.  And it absolutely made me curious to see what Duncan Jones might do next.  Even if I didn't love the film, I really admired the filmmaking and the ambition.

"Source Code," his second film, deserves to launch him into the ranks of filmmakers who are trusted with big idea popcorn material, smarter than average and populist in its appeal.  It is a slick movie, a "Twilight Zone" style high concept with an ethical question built into it.  Several of them, actually.  And the cast absolutely nails the tone of the material, seeming to confirm that Jones has good taste in actors and he knows how to create a space for them to do great work.  It helps, of course, if you've got actors like Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan, both appealing and demonstrating a real, easy chemistry, essential when you're trying to take this kind of material and invest it with big heart.

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<p>The young cast of 'Super 8' is going to face down a threat that is only hinted at in the new trailer for the JJ&nbsp;Abrams film</p>

The young cast of 'Super 8' is going to face down a threat that is only hinted at in the new trailer for the JJ Abrams film

Credit: Paramount

Watch: Astonishing new trailer for JJ Abrams' 'Super 8' teases, sets up the story

Vintage Spielberg attitude makes this feel very special, indeed.

I've been on the road since early on Wednesday, and I apologize for how light the blog's been on content during that time.  I spent most of Wednesday and much of Thursday in a place without any internet or phone, which made it impossible to write anything up or post anything.

And then tonight, as I landed in Austin, a real-life disaster movie began to unfold on the opposite side of the world, and like many of you, I've been watching this horrifying footage from Japan unfold, and I'm once again reminded just how powerful nature really is.  When I hear people talk about how mankind is going to destroy the earth, I just shrug it off because when the earth really does decide to get rid of us, it will be effortless.  Nature is still so incredibly powerful, and we are still able to do so little in the face of a natural disaster, and all we can do right now is hope that the people in the path of these quakes and these waves and all the other things resulting from this are as okay as possible.

It almost feels wrong to have post movie news right now, but then again, movies are often our escape when the real world is too tough for us, and so I'll do this anyway.  Especially since what I'm posting is kind of awesome, and highly anticipated by many of you.

Paramount has just released the full-length trailer for "Super 8," the new film from director JJ Abrams, and it is a stunner.  You get a good sense of general plot from this film, and it looks like there's a little bit of "Close Encounters" in there, some "Jaws," and a whole lot of small-town Spielberg as well.  It's the story of a group of young friends who get together to make monster movies on super-8 film back tine '70s, when a train derails in their town, releasing something dangerous into their community. 

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<p>Aaron Eckhart of 'Battle Los Angeles'</p>

Aaron Eckhart of 'Battle Los Angeles'

Review: 'Battle: Los Angeles' delivers kinetic thrills as long as no one's talking

Strong visual style and interesting approach almost overcomes weak script

Alien invasion movies have been done many ways, by many filmmakers, and there's very little you can do that is genuinely innovative.  In the case of "Battle: Los Angeles," the solution appears to be strip it down, soup it up, and let it rip, and in the film's best moments, the approach works for them very well.

Aaron Eckhart stars as Staff Sgt. Nantz, a career military man who is assigned to a unit of marines when a meteor shower turns out to be something far more intentional and malicious.  The film actually opens with the Marines in a helicopter, en route to their landing zone, explosions all around them, the invasion of Earth already at full tilt.  I wish the film didn't back up after that opening to give us 20 minutes of exposition we don't need, and you can almost hear the studio notes during those sequences. 

"Well, we need to give Nantz some personal stakes.  Let's explain who he is and establish why this mission is important to him, and let's meet some of those Marines and show who they are and make sure our audience knows them all before the heavy action kicks in."  The thing is, all of that is covered on the fly during the action, so the early explanatory stuff feels redundant, and the film would seem much more unconventional and bold if they just dropped us into the situation, sink or swim, fight or flight, and let us figure it all out as things unfold.

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<p>Michelle Rodriguez laughs at thoughts of punching Tim League in the face as we discuss her new film opening this weekend, 'Battle:&nbsp;Los Angeles'</p>

Michelle Rodriguez laughs at thoughts of punching Tim League in the face as we discuss her new film opening this weekend, 'Battle: Los Angeles'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Michelle Rodriguez and Michael Pena enthuse about 'Battle: Los Angeles' invasion

Plus Bridget Moynihan gives us the scoop on what she learned at vet school

Last year, one of the highlights of the ten days or so I spent at Fantastic Fest was the evening of the Fantastic Feuds.  If you haven't read about them, it's a series of debates/boxing matches, and the main event this year was between Michelle Rodriguez, the scrappy star of "Girl Fight" and "Avatar," and Tim League, the founder/owner of the Alamo Drafthouse.  Tim spent months smack-talking "Avatar," and Michelle showed up to make him eat his words.

You see that look on Michelle's face in the photo that we ran with the story?  That's the look she got on her face the moment I walked into the room for our interview and told her that Tim was ready for a rematch.  He's not.  He's never indicated to me that he wants to get back in the ring with her.  But I'm not above stirring the pot a little to get an interview off on the right foot, and in this case, as soon as I got her laughing, Michelle was a delight.

I find it funny that she's always cast as such a flinty-eyed hardass in movies, because she comes across completely different in person.  She's warm, she's funny, she seems predisposed to laughter.  One day, some filmmaker's going to capture that side of her on film and we're going to see a whole new career open up for her.  I can't wait to see that happen, and while our chat was typically short, it was a pure pleasure.

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<p>This behind-the-scenes photo from Quentin Tarantino's 'Death Proof' shows just one of the many amazing images Buddy Joe Hooker has been part of creating during his decades in the business, which will be celebrated at this year's ActionFest</p>

This behind-the-scenes photo from Quentin Tarantino's 'Death Proof' shows just one of the many amazing images Buddy Joe Hooker has been part of creating during his decades in the business, which will be celebrated at this year's ActionFest

Credit: The Weinstein Comany

Biff! Bam! Whack! ActionFest is back, and we've got your first details

The first guests and films have been announced for this year's festival

Last year, I attended the first-ever ActionFest in Asheville, NC.  It was one of those things that just sort of fell together perfectly.  A long-time friend of mine was the festival director and wanted to put together a jury he felt comfortable with, and when he called to invite me, it was about three weeks after my parents retired to Asheville after living most of my adult life in Tampa, FL.  Complete coincidence that it all worked out that way, but when someone asks if you want to go sit on a film jury with Chuck Norris and visit your parents at the same time, you say yes.

And while any festival in its first year is going to suffer from certain birth pangs, there was a lot to like about the event.  The films shown were good, and the people present were great, and overall, it was a heck of a good four days.  And Asheville is a beautiful city, especially in April as the spring kicks in.

So, yes, I'll be returning to Asheville in April this year for the second edition of ActionFest, and I'm excited.  It sounds to me like the plans are coming together well, and I'm pleased to be involved with several of the events over the course of the weekend.  I love the idea of a festival that celebrates action movies and the stuntmen and filmmakers who make that action happen onscreen.  It's unusual for stuntmen to ever get their chance to stand in the spotlight, and we're going to be celebrating them in a major way this year.

Don't take my word for it, though.  Instead, you should check out this press release that went out today, which outlines the first wave of announced titles, and then let me know how it sounds to you:

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<p>That's Medusa... ain't she beautiful?</p>

That's Medusa... ain't she beautiful?

Credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories

Exclusive: Your first look at the one-sheet for 'Bellflower'

Plus some details on their SXSW screening plans

Have I mentioned yet that I love "Bellflower"?

Just describing the film to someone makes me happy.  I've been doing my best to make sure other critics show up for the movie when it plays SXSW next week, and I know I'll be seeing it again at least once during the festival.

I'm excited to hear that that Evan Glodell is going to be bringing Medusa with him to the festival.  And who or what is Medusa, you may ask?  Well, I'll let the press release from the filmmakers explain that for you:

"Visionary filmmaker Evan Glodell will be celebrating his SXSW 2011 premiere of Oscilloscope Laboratories’ BELLFLOWER this weekend by unveiling his hand-crafted, road ready and apocalypse-equipped car - Medusa.  This unforgettable machine creates some of the film’s most high-octane moments amidst the romance cum revenge-fantasy tale of Woodrow’s journey of love, betrayal and vengeance.  

Glodell, a former engineering student, constructed Medusa to be a real-life road monster.  Unlike the Batmobile, Glodell’s Medusa is the real deal - no CGI or special camera tricks needed…the extraordinary features you see in the film are the same features you will see when you meet Medusa in person!  

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<p>I don't think you can call the studio who made this movie 'chickenshit,' and I&nbsp;think risks like this, as much as I love them, are the exact reason Universal may have to play it safe in days ahead.</p>

I don't think you can call the studio who made this movie 'chickenshit,' and I think risks like this, as much as I love them, are the exact reason Universal may have to play it safe in days ahead.

Credit: Universal

Is it fair to blame Universal for the state of the industry today?

As they shut down 'At The Mountains Of Madness,' what does it say about our business?

I just got off the phone with Harry Knowles a little while ago, and the good part of our conversation was hearing how spirited he seems on the eve of his release from the hospital after an extended stay as part of his recovery from major, potentially life-changing back surgery.

We had a major disagreement as we were talking, though, over something he just published in which he called out Universal as being "chickenshit" because they aren't going to make "At The Mountains Of Madness."  That disagreement spilled over onto Twitter, and I think the easiest thing to do is explain myself clearly here because the situation Universal is in serves as a microcosm of where the entire industry is right now, and I can understand why it freaks Harry out and upsets him.  It should.  Things have probably never been worse, and to some extent, it's our fault.

Believe me... I ache to see that film.  When you describe that movie to me, it sounds like something that someone put together especially to appeal to me.  A $150 million horror film adapted from the work of H.P. Lovecraft without any compromise, produced by James Cameron, starring Ron Perlman and Tom Cruise, directed by Guillermo Del Toro?  And I've read drafts of the script over time by Matthew Robbins and Guillermo, and they're awesome.  If you don't know the book or if you're not familiar with Lovecraft, it's a sprawling tale of an expedition to the Arctic in search of signs of a lost civilization that predates man, and what happens when the people searching find something alive, something not remotely dead, something that is ready to reclaim the Earth as its own.

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