<p>Sally Menke was Oscar-nominated for her work editing last year's 'Inglorious Basterds' for director Quentin Tarantino</p>

Sally Menke was Oscar-nominated for her work editing last year's 'Inglorious Basterds' for director Quentin Tarantino

Credit: Universal/The Weinstein Company

Sally Menke, Oscar-nominated editor of 'Pulp Fiction,' dies in Los Angeles at 56

A look back at a brilliant career and a beloved collaborator

Sally Menke may have cut her first feature in 1983, but it was with the release of 1992's "Reservoir Dogs" that her star really began to climb.  Little wonder, then, that the rest of her professional life was largely defined by the work she did as the editor of every single film Quentin Tarantino directed, including his segment of "Four Rooms."  Menke was an important collaborator for QT, as big a part of his voice as his distinctive screenplays or his eye for casting.

Sadly, Menke passed away unexpectedly in Los Angeles yesterday, and according to published reports, her body was found around 2:00 AM in Beachwood Canyon, one of the neighborhoods near the Hollywood sign.  The police are still investigating the cause of the death, but early indications make it seem like yesterday's brutal heat wave in Southern California may have had something to do with it.  She was hiking with a friend yesterday morning, but the friend gave up on the hike and went back, while Menke and her dog continued the hike.  When police found her body, they also found the dog, who appeared to be unharmed.

A death like this is doubly upsetting because it's so inexplicable.  Menke was only 56 years old, and for her to pass away like this is incomprehensible.  Beyond the sorrow of losing a valued friend, the people closest to Menke have got to be reeling from the bizarre random nature of this.  I can only imagine the impact it's had on Tarantino, who has always treated the time he spent fine-tuning his films with Menke has one of the most important parts of his process.  Menke's always had an adventurous touch as a cutter that reflects the best qualities of Quentin's work as a writer, and she had impeccable taste in terms of rhythm and pace. 

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<p>Danny McBride returns as Kenny Powers as the second season of 'Eastbound and Down' premieres tonight on HBO</p>

Danny McBride returns as Kenny Powers as the second season of 'Eastbound and Down' premieres tonight on HBO

Credit: HBO

Jody Hill discusses the return of Kenny Powers in 'Eastbound And Down' season two

Cult comedy director discusses bringing back TV's baddest bad boy

Jody Hill, alone with his frequent collaborators Danny McBride, Ben Best, and David Gordon Green, has spent the last few years building a body of work that represents a very particular world view.  His sense of humor is a deadly weapon, and he wields it like a drunken samurai.

I love both "The Foot Fist Way" and "Observe and Report," but my favorite thing he's been part of so far is the HBO series, "East Bound and Down."  The story of Kenny Powers, a former Major League pitcher who returned home in shame, "EB&D" is a raucous, demented ode to the way our culture gives celebrities permission to indulge their own worst natures.

HBO sent over the first two episodes of season two of the show and then set a time for a quick conversation with Hill about this season's episodes.  I told him my first thought watching the episodes was a simple These guys are deranged.

Hill laughed as he said, "I'd be disappointed if you said anything less."

The first episode of the season is a totally unhinged detour for the show featuring a guest turn by Deep Roy that has to be seen to be believed.  "It's almost like the first one is a pilot again where we've just like, 'Okay, here are none of the characters that you know and love.  Just when you thought that this was an easy show to swallow, here's something that's totally going to make you change the channel.'"  He laughed again as he pictured people's reactions to the episode's excesses.  "I just hope people dig the new setting.  We waned to try something that hasn't been done in TV, so we figured changing everything completely is the way to go."

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<p>Is that Katie Featherston back for 'Paranormal Activity 2'?&nbsp; And why is there a baby in the crib in the reflection?&nbsp; This doesn't look like a romantic comedy to me!</p>

Is that Katie Featherston back for 'Paranormal Activity 2'?  And why is there a baby in the crib in the reflection?  This doesn't look like a romantic comedy to me!

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Watch: An exclusive 'Paranormal Activity 2' clip shows up at Fantastic Fest

As the sequel readies for release, here's a sneak peek

I have no idea what to expect from "Paranormal Activity 2."

I liked the first one.  Hell, I reviewed the first one two years before it played theaters, and strongly advocated for the studio to put it out and not just remake it.  I love indie horror.  I love when something homegrown becomes a phenomenon.  I was delighted to see the film blow up last year into a genuine hit.

This new one was made with the same people in charge, but with a different director, and with an entirely different level of expectations attached to the end result.  Can you surprise an audience in a horror sequel?  Seems tough, because now they have some idea of what the rules are, of what you will and won't do.  Now the audience is ready for you, and that can be deadly for a horror film.  You don't ever want the audience to be ahead of you, just waiting for you to get around to something.  It's the opposite of fear.

So I like that I haven't seen a ton of footage from the sequel yet, and that I'm not even really sure what story they're telling.  Is that the same house?  Is that Katie Featherston in the footage from the new film?  And director Tod Williams isn't gonna hurt that baby... is he?

While I'm here at Fantastic Fest, I'm staying with friends, the way I always do in Austin, and a package actually showed up at their house for me, despite me not being listed as being here, and no one having my friend's address.  Inside was a simple yellow envelope, and inside that, a flash drive.

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<p>Min-sik Choi is one of the stars of 'I Saw The Devil,' the new film from Ji-Woon Kim, one of the most acclaimed Korean directors working today.</p>

Min-sik Choi is one of the stars of 'I Saw The Devil,' the new film from Ji-Woon Kim, one of the most acclaimed Korean directors working today.

Credit: Peppermint & Company, Ltd.

Fantastic Fest: First secret screening is amazing Korean killer thriller 'I Saw The Devil'

Director of 'The Good The Bad The Weird' returns with harrowing battle of wills

You know Fantastic Fest is really underway when one of the secret screenings has already happened.  There are always several peppered throughout the schedule, and the one on Friday night turned out to be the new Korean film "I Saw The Devil," which I had picked as one of my three favorite films from this year's Toronto International Film Festival.  I'm thrilled it played here, because it means I get to talk about the film with all my friends now, and I'm eager for that conversation to also include the general viewing public as soon as possible.

If you are a serial killer, can I offer a little advice?

Based on the evidence of the remarkable "I Saw The Devil," I would say it is a good rule of thumb that you should not brutally murder the fiance of a top secret agent for South Korea, because if you do, he is going to make you suffer.  And suffer.  And suffer.

And then Kim Ji-Woon will make a movie about it, and it will be awesome.

That's because everything Kim Ji-Woon makes seems to be awesome.  I didn't realize it at first, because his films have never been the "OMG, stop the presses!" moments of their respective years, but have instead just been consistently great.  "A Tale Of Two Sisters" is a meticulously built horror film, where what you aren't told is just as important as what you are told, a brain-bender more than a gross-out.  "A Bittersweet Life" seems at first glance to be a John Woo style story of men and honor and guns and the like, but he makes the genre feel brand new, like he invented it.  And then "The Good The Bad And The Weird" seemed to be a reinvention of the filmmaker as a Spielberg-like purveyor of set-pieces and spectacle, a spaghetti western that could easily play to fans of giant Hollywood films like the "Pirates Of The Caribbean" movies.  He seems to be capable of pretty much whatever he sets out to do.

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<p>Rebecca De Mornay would like to nurture you reeeeeal hard in 'Mother's Day,' which screened as part of Fantastic Fest 2010</p>

Rebecca De Mornay would like to nurture you reeeeeal hard in 'Mother's Day,' which screened as part of Fantastic Fest 2010

Credit: Rat Entertainment

Fantastic Fest: 'Mother's Day' is unfocused, but with great performances

This is one horror remake that is definitely better than the original

The original "Mother's Day" was made in 1980, one of the earliest Troma films, and I think it's a disgusting movie.  I love exploitation, but having said that, I still have very strong feelings about what does or doesn't work, and what I will or won't tolerate in a film.  The script by Charles Kaufman and Warren Leight (who has gone on to be an acclaimed playwright and screenwriter with nothing else that looks like "Mother's Day" on his resume) is about a group of women who go camping only to get attacked and abducted by some crazy brothers operating under order from their mom.  It is, to say the least, a profoundly rapey movie, and it works hard to mix horror and humor and, to my mind, fails equally at both.

But there is a good idea in the way the dynamic works between mother and sons in the original film, and that one idea seems to be all the groundwork that was needed for Scott Milam and Darren Lynn Bousman to build what is essentially a whole new film, using the original "Mother's Day" as a mere jumping-off point.  That's the smartest way to approach this material, and Scott Milam deserves credit for cracking the new way into the film.  Now it's the story of Ike (Patrick Flueger), Addley (Warren Kole), and Johnny (Matt O'Leary), three brother who rob banks together.  When a job goes wrong and Johnny gets shot, they head for their family home, hoping they can go to ground and hide out.  What they don't realize is that their family home isn't theirs anymore.  It's been sold to Daniel (Frankl Grillo) and Beth (Jaime King), who have been in the house for a few months now.  They're having a party with friends when the boys break in, and the misunderstanding turns into an extended night of hell for everyone involved.

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<p>Robert De Niro and Edward Norton turn in remarkable performances in the quiet, blistering 'Stone'</p>

Robert De Niro and Edward Norton turn in remarkable performances in the quiet, blistering 'Stone'

Credit: Overture Films

Fantastic Fest: De Niro, Norton, and Jovovich smolder in 'Stone'

Robert De Niro and Edward Norton star in one of the films that played both fests

It's been a long time since I cared about Robert De Niro's work in a movie, mainly because it feels like it's been a long time since he cared.

I don't mean De Niro's a hack, and I'm not trying to be insulting.  It's just that there was a time when De Niro's name meant something more than just "very good actor."  He was one of the most driven performers on the planet, a guy who would resculpt himself, physically and spiritually, from role to role.  I grew up in awe of De Niro, and I'll never forget the thrill that came with each new role.  Somewhere along the way, though, two things happened that changed my feelings about him as an actor and that altered the way the industry viewed him in general.  First, someone told him he was funny.  The truth is that he was much, much funnier before Hollywood realized he was funny.  The second thing is that he just seemed to settle into one general De Niro look, one basic character that he plays from film to film.  For the longest time, there was no "real" De Niro, and now, it seems that's all there is.

Walking into "Stone," I was very curious based on an interview I did at SXSW this year with Edward Norton.  He talked about the experience on this film as one of his favorites, and in particular, he talked about how great De Niro was in his role.  I wasn't fond of the last film Norton and director John Curran made together, "The Painted Veil," but I was willing to give this one a shot just based on Norton's extreme enthusiasm for it.

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<p>Someone just got surprised in the delightful-and-hard-to-describe 'Golden Slumber'</p>

Someone just got surprised in the delightful-and-hard-to-describe 'Golden Slumber'

Credit: Toho

Fantastic Fest: 'Golden Slumber' is the fest's first great movie

The director of 'Fish Story' returns with another remarkable film

I confess a near-total ignorance towards the work of Yoshihiro Nakamura before I saw "Fish Story" at last year's Fantastic Fest.  That movie made it to #17 on my list of favorite movies last year, and it's one of those little gems that I know I never would have seen if I did not attend film festivals.

It's a shame, too, because Nakamura is a major talent, a guy with an incredible ability to handle scale on both a large and a small level.  His films feel like they are important, like the world of the movie is teetering on some sort of major cataclysmic shift, and yet his real signature as an artist is the way he sells the little details of his stories.  He's got a wry, wicked sense of humor, and with his last film, he told the story of how one punk rock record saved the world from destruction.  Here, it's more a case of the entire world turning on one guy, and him scrambling to save his own life.  I'd call it Hitchcockian, and there's certainly some element of the "wrong man" model here, but the script, adapted by Kotaro Isaka from his own novel, is not content to just run its characters through familiar genre beats.  Instead, it tries to tell a much bigger story about old friendships and conspiracy theory and innocence and guilt and celebrity and love, and while I'm not sure the film ever quite connects all the dots, there is so much here, and so much of it is so good, that "Golden Slumber" is automatically going on the list of films I need to see again this year, just to wrap my head around it completely.

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<p>The Guardians prepare for battle in the animated adventure film 'Legend&nbsp;Of The Guardians:&nbsp;The Owls Of Ga'Hoole'</p>

The Guardians prepare for battle in the animated adventure film 'Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga'Hoole'

Credit: Warner Bros.

Review: Zack Snyder makes 'Star Wars' with owls with dynamic 'Legend Of The Guardians'

Film will appeal mainly to young fans, but delivers real visual fireworks

I can only imagine the man-hours that went into deciding the final configuration of the title "Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga'Hoole," and in the end, no matter what order you put all that information in, the two things that really pop are "Guardians" and "Ga'Hoole."  And in Zack Snyder's finished film, the Guardians of Ga'Hoole are indeed fairly memorable, a major part of the film's appeal.  This is an interesting film for Snyder, and I suspect it will open up a whole run of animated films of all ratings by the filmmaker, because he has taken to the medium with uncommon grace.  Not every live-action director automatically makes a good animation director, and vice-versa.  They're very different skill-sets, and I'm not sure most live-action directors even understand how different the process is.

Snyder, though, is such a visual artist to begin with, and he puts his signature on this film from the very first shot, when the company logos are still onscreen, and a feather comes loose from the owl that flies by, and for a moment, that lone feather speedramps down to slow motion, hanging there, somewhere between the screen and the audience thanks to the crystal clear 3D, before time speeds up again and the logos continue.  For a guy who has such clearly defined visual tics and fetishes, Snyder has a good sense of humor about it.  He seems well aware of what he's known for, and he revels in it.  In some ways, this film is the ultimate Zack Snyder film so far, even without any nudity or gore, because it's the first time he's told a straight rendering of what he's said before is his favorite story.

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<p>Zack Snyder sits down to discuss his new animated&nbsp; adventure, 'Legend Of The Guardians:&nbsp;The Owls Of Ga'Hoole'</p>

Zack Snyder sits down to discuss his new animated  adventure, 'Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga'Hoole'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Zack Snyder talks about directing 'Legend of The Guardians,' his first animated film

Plus he discusses the challenges of directing an owl to act

Zack Snyder is one of those guys who does his best to make the promotional process on each of his films as painless as possible for all involved.  When you work with the studios on things like interviews and set visits, I think some people assume it's fun and a party and non-stop wonderful, but like anything, for those of us who do it every day, it's a job, and there's a fatigue that can set in on both sides of an interview.

With Snyder, every single time you talk to him, the enthusiasm is the same, the energy is the same, and the desire to entertain and dazzle is front and center.  He enjoys what he does, but more than that, he wants you to enjoy what he does, and he works tirelessly to try to make everything he's involved with into something burnished and perfect.

When I was on the set of "Sucker Punch" in Vancouver, Snyder was working to direct this film at the same time, working with teams around the world to bring it all to life and then to bring it together, and I found myself amazed that he could split his focus so effectively..

Last Monday, in Los Angeles, I was the last person in the room for each of the interviews I did at the "Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga'Hoole" press junket.  I was scheduled for 5:00 in the afternoon, and as soon as I did each interview, the person would stand up and leave to go home.  Ryan Kwanten first, then Zack Snyder, and then Jim Sturgess.  Catching Snyder on his way out the door meant he was in an even looser mood than normal, and the resulting conversation was a good one, no matter how brief.

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Ryan Kwanten

Watch: Ryan Kwanten basks in the mythology of 'True Bood' and 'Ga'Hoole'

Dedicated fans 'are a blessing and a curse'

The new animated film from director Zack Snyder, "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" was produced by Australian company Village Roadshow, and the gorgeous lush landscapes in the film are modeled on Tasmania, so it's unsurprising that many members of the cast hail from down under as well. Aussies include Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush, and Ryan Kwanten. Most people know the blond Kwanten from the HBO series "True Blood," in which he plays Jason Stackhouse, a well meaning if not altogether bright Loisiana boy.

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