<p>Now that's a nightmare, and a lot of people are going to share it after they see James Wan's 'Insidious,' a creepy, powerful new ghost story</p>

Now that's a nightmare, and a lot of people are going to share it after they see James Wan's 'Insidious,' a creepy, powerful new ghost story

Credit: Sony Pictures Worldwide

Toronto: Midnight Madness rocked by 'Insidious,' new horror film from 'Saw' creators,

Our reviewer thinks Sony made the right move by buying it

Before the movie began tonight at the Tuesday night edition of Midnight Madness at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, director James Wan said of his new film "Insidious" that he wants the movie to be "the 'Poltergeist' for this generation."

I leaned over to Scott Weinberg and Erik Childress and whispered, "Big words."  I admire anyone who aims high, but saying it right before you're about to screen your film to a midnight audience who has turned out for the new film from the team behind "Saw" is borderline hubris.

And even so, James Wan and Leigh Wannell pulled it off.  "Insidious" is nothing less than an instant addition to the horror canon, an exuberant haunted house ride that throws some great narrative twists at the audience while always doing one thing consistently:  actually scaring the audience.  It is uncommonly good, and Wan's best film by a wide margin.  I am not surprised to see Sony pick up "Insidious" immediately so they can make a ton of money with it.  More importantly, I hope they distribute it as a big mainstream title because i want the widest possible audience to have a shot at seeing a film that reminded me tonight that there is always room for a new riff on an old idea if it's done right.

"Insidious" deals with a family (mom, dad, two sons and a baby girl) moving into a new house, and as soon as you see the house, you know where things are going.  Or at least you think you do.  The film takes its time establishing character and mood, but right from the very first shot of the film, Wan is playing with you. 

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<p>Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan co-star in Mark Romanek's 'Never Let Me Go,' opening today in limited release</p>

Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan co-star in Mark Romanek's 'Never Let Me Go,' opening today in limited release

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Video Interview: Carey Mulligan discusses 'Never Let Me Go' in Toronto

The young star discusses her busy fall season and her latest work

Carey Mulligan is almost unnaturally poised considering how much expectation has been heaped on her since last year's "An Education" made its debut at Sundance 2009.  She turned around and, on the basis of the heat around her performance in that film, booked a couple of high profile jobs that are just now making their way to theaters.

First up?  This weekend's "Never Let Me Go," which is opening in limited release first.  You can read the Motion/Captured review of the film here.

On Sunday, Carey Mulligan was part of the big Fox Searchlight press day, and we sat down with her to discuss her work in Mark Romanek's movie, her work with Oliver Stone in "Wall Street 2," and how you go about playing the sort of character she plays in "Never Let Me Go."

She was charming, sharp, polished.  As expected.  And even as the afternoon wore on, even when she was on break, she seemed relaxed, ready for the interviews, open and sincere.  Toronto can be a punishing schedule for everyone involved in the film festival… publicists, talent, journalists, audiences.. and to see someone with so much staked on these movies handle it with such poise… especially someone so young… is a humbling thing.

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<p>Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost, and Nev Schulman are the filmmakers behind 'Catfish'</p>

Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost, and Nev Schulman are the filmmakers behind 'Catfish'

Credit: Rogue Pictures

Video Interview: The makers of 'Catfish' discuss the reality of their much-discussed new movie

We don't spoil the secret, but we still dig deep

I'll have my review for "Catfish" up soon, but I'm still chewing on the movie.  It feels to me like I went to a very good magic show, and at the end of it, I was talking to the magician and complimented him on his tricks and he started insisting that there were no tricks and that it was all real magic.  I don't mind a magic show when the magician acknowledges the sleight of hand.  That's just good fun, but when he insists it's 100% real, I start looking for the seams in the trick.  I can't help myself.

Still, I like the film as an experience, and I was pleased to sit down with Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost, and Nev Schulman, the filmmakers whose collaboration is being released this Friday by Rogue Pictures, so I could discuss the film with them.  Hopefully, you'll enjoy this conversation, where we talk around the film's big secret in such a way that anyone who hasn't figured out the general nature of it from the publicity won't have the film spoiled for them here.

Here's the official synopsis of the film from Rogue, which is about as much as you should know before you go in:

"In late 2007, filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost sensed a story unfolding as they began to film the life of Ariel's brother, Nev.  They had no idea that their project would lead to the most exhilarating and unsettling months of their lives.  A reality thriller that is a shocking product of our times, 'Catfish' is a riveting story of love, deception, and grace within a labyrinth of online intrigue."

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<p>Rooney Mara is poised for superstardom if the public loves her in the role of Lisbeth Salander as much as David Fincher does.</p>

Rooney Mara is poised for superstardom if the public loves her in the role of Lisbeth Salander as much as David Fincher does.

Credit: AP Images

EXCLUSIVE: David Fincher explains why Rooney Mara is 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo'

Plus the director answers more questions on 'The Social Network'

Earlier this week, HitFix ran an early reaction to David Fincher's "The Social Network," and right after I saw that film, I was invited to send a few question to him via e-mail.  He was already out of the country preparing to start work on "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," and we were told that he would get answers back to us as quickly as possible.

Today's the day.

I tried to avoid a few major spoilers, and I had to ask him about one performance in particular.  We'll lead with that question, actually, because it deals with both his new film and his next one, and it addresses one of the biggest questions of the last month.

I wrote:  Rooney Mara's role in the film is pivotal, although brief.  What experience on this film led to you bringing her back in for "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"?  The moment where I felt like I saw a flash of Lisbeth was her final encounter with Mark when she destroys him quietly.  Did you have her in mind immediately, or was it a gradual realization?  

Fincher's reply:  "We read her and, not surprisingly, loved all of the things about her that we'd initially loved for Erica.  She's smart and capable and works really hard.  She is ridiculously photogenic in a very interesting way -- she can be plain, or she can be exquisite in a matter of moments -- and she's a great listener.  Lisbeth is a very tough role to cast -- the audience needs to project into a mystery, so we needed a mystery for them to fill."

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<p>Josh Hartnett delivers some hurt in Guy Moshe's wild 'Bunraku'</p>

Josh Hartnett delivers some hurt in Guy Moshe's wild 'Bunraku'

Credit: Picturesque/Ram Bergman Productions/Snoot

Toronto: Josh Hartnett, Woody Harrelson, Gackt star in 'Bunraku,' a martial-arts fantasia

Crazy action film delivers high style and big archetypes

No, I didn't know what the word meant, either.

Evidently, bunraku is a type of Japanese puppet theater, which makes sense after you've seen the film, but I'm not sure that title really communicates just how oddball an experience Guy Moshe's made for his debut feature.  "Bunraku" was one of the films that is playing the Toronto International Film Festival as part of the Midnight Madness programming, and it was a great crowd, ready and willing to lose themselves in the bizarre world the film creates.

It's set in the future, after we've finally used the nuclear option and set civilization back significantly.  Mankind has decided to eliminate guns from the equation altogether.  If you want to settle something with someone, you need to use fists or knives.  The story "Bunraku" tells is a familiar one, which is sort of the point of the movie.  As much as this is a pretty pop-up picture book world, it's also a story about the act of myth-making.  It doesn't connect all the interesting material it introduces, but it's ambitious, and it's got an original sense of style.  It's worth noting that Alex McDowell (the amazing production designer behind films like "The Crow" and "Watchmen" and "Fight Club" and "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas" is one of the film's producers, since production design is front and center in this movie.  When I say that, I mean that the world is almost this living breathing thing around the characters, and that shouldn't be dismissed. 

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<p>Bryce Dallas Howard and Matt Damon co-star in Clint Eastwood's new film 'Hereafter,' premiering at the Toronto Film Festival this weekend</p>

Bryce Dallas Howard and Matt Damon co-star in Clint Eastwood's new film 'Hereafter,' premiering at the Toronto Film Festival this weekend

Credit: Warner Bros.

Toronto: Matt Damon stars in undercooked 'Hereafter' for Clint Eastwood

Supernatural-themed drama fails to pulls its various elements together

So far, I've gone relatively light on the public screenings here at the Toronto International Film Festival, but when you get an invitation to the world premiere of Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter," you go.  Especially if it's a film written by Peter Morgan and starring Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard, and if you hear it has something to do with the supernatural.

And certainly, that does describe the film to an extent.  All those things are true.  It's an incredibly well-pedigreed movie.  Morgan's a sturdy writer… whatever story he sets out to tell, he's a nuts-and-bolts kind of a guy, great with dialogue and small moments and human observation.  There's a reason he's busy all the time right now.  "Hereafter" is an original screenplay by him, not adapted from the stage, and I think maybe the intermediary step helps Morgan.  He's able to workshop material, hear it in front of audiences, adjust and adapt, and then polish it up when it gets turned into a movie.  With "Hereafter," there are some things to like, but as a whole, it's a failed triptych, a formal experiment with an unsatisfactory final result.

It's been vogue now since "Pulp Fiction" to do the three stories that intertwine of pay off each other in surprising ways, and it's hard to get it right.  There are films like "Babel" that pull it off and that bring the three stories together in a way that illuminates each one, and there are films that flub it, that never gel into something that feels like a single piece of art.  At their clumsiest, they feel like Frankenstein's monsters, parts, but no sum.

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<p>Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake both do riveting work in David Fincher's new film, 'The Social Network'</p>

Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake both do riveting work in David Fincher's new film, 'The Social Network'

Credit: Sony Pictures

Early reaction: David Fincher's 'The Social Network' deserves a 'like'

A short mini-review of one of the year's most anticipated films

I recently had an opportunity to see the final cut of David Fincher's new film, "The Social Network," and although a full-scale review is still embargoed, I've been given the go-ahead to at least share a few initial thoughts with you today.

"The Social Network" represents the very best of both Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher, a combination I never would have expected to see.  Sorkin has always been such a humanist, and Fincher has always seemed to me to be (in the best possible way) an emotional terrorist.  Together, what they've crafted is emotionally intense, surprisingly funny, and genuinely significant.  This is an astounding film about one of the most important seismic shifts in communication in the modern age, and the way innovation and ethics are not often related.

It's also a simple story about the artistic process, and the way it almost always returns to the same root:  the drive for validation.  That last image of Zuckerberg in the film... it's haunting.  It almost redeems him.

Almost.

I'll be honest... I wasn't expecting to be hit emotionally the way I was.  I was part of a company that I believed I had a stake in, and something happened where several of the partners played a restructuring game with the stock.  I did my best to move on without becoming bitter or litigious, and I thought I'd set all of that behind me.  The moment where Eduardo realizes what's happened to him, though, pretty much punched a fresh hole in me, and I spent a few days after seeing the movie struggling to deal with a profound fresh anger over the entire situation.  The movie perfectly nails the dynamic in these situations, and I can see why Sony has fallen in love with Andrew Garfield.

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<p>Emma Stone gives a star-making performance in the breezy, charming 'Easy A'</p>

Emma Stone gives a star-making performance in the breezy, charming 'Easy A'

Credit: Screen Gems

Toronto: Smart and funny 'Easy A' makes a star of Emma Stone

Great supporting cast and a clever conceit lay great groundwork

Hello, Emma Stone.  How's it feel to be a g.d. movie star?

Because that's exactly what she is by the time the closing credits roll on the charming, breezy "Easy A."  The movie exists on the smart end of the teen movie spectrum, where films like "Sixteen Candles" and "Mean Girls" exist, and it's a combination of many factors that elevates the material.  Will Gluck, working from a script by Bert V. Royal, throws in dozens of affectionate nods to other teen movie classics (and not-so-classics) as a way of acknowledging the conventions of the genre.  This isn't some deconstructionist piece, though, determined to burn the genre to the ground.  It is a teen comedy, unabashedly, but self-aware enough to make it all seem fresh.

Stone plays Olive, a girl who has been raised by her razor-sharp-and-funny parents (played with relish by Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci) to be a razor-sharp-and-funny girl who has a real sense of herself.  She's so well-adjusted that my one question about the film is how she lets herself end up in such an awkward and unpleasant situation.

It starts with one little lie that she tells to her friend Rhiannon (Aly Michalka) because she's tired of being asked about dating and boys and sex.  She lies to her and makes a claim about an older boyfriend at a local community college.  The lie escalates until Olive confesses that they actually had sex over the weekend.  What was meant to be a private boast turns public, though, thanks to Marianne (Amanda Bynes), a Bible-loving cheerleader who spends all her time talking about what Jesus wants while decidedly not turning the other cheek. 

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<p>Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee co-star in 'Let Me In,' an American version of an acclaimed recent Swedish film</p>

Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee co-star in 'Let Me In,' an American version of an acclaimed recent Swedish film

Credit: Overture Films

Toronto: 'Let Me In' is exceptional, with two brilliant young leads at their best

A case where a second shot at material yields even richer rewards

There is no one who feels more protective of "Let The Right One In" than I do.

The joke, of course, is that I imagine most fans of the film feel that way.  When I saw the movie at Fantastic Fest in September of '08, that was already nine full months after it started its life on the festival circuit, and if you go back and look at the reviews that came out of festival after festival, including Tribeca in April and Seattle in May, people were buzzing about this special, beautiful, hushed little gem of a vampire movie.  It got a theatrical release of sorts here in October of that year, but it never broke out of the "well-reviewed subtitled movie that no one sees" boneyard.  Whatever fan base it has, it has earned honestly through word of mouth and reviews, and everyone I've ever spoken with about the film seems to love it in that protective way that film fans sometimes adopt for delicate movies you don't want anyone to abuse. 

I think a lot of that has to do with the enormous empathy that the film generates for Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) and Eli (Lina Leandersson), kids who were cast after an open search turned them up, non-professionals who gave these amazing, non-affected performances.  I know that when I saw the film originally, I felt so bad for these kids that it excused everything they do in it.  I thought they did work that was magic.  Once in a lifetime.

There is good reason to be skeptical of "Let Me In," which was adapted by writer/director Matt Reeves from John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel and from Lindqvist's own adaptation of the book which was used for the Swedish film, "Lat Den Ratte Komma In."  I was skeptical all the way up to the moment the screening actually began, and I got pulled in by the quiet precision of this film by Matt Reeves.  I believe this is every bit as valid a take on Lindqvist's novel as the film by Tomas Alfredson was.  That may offend some purists, but Matt Reeves approached this material with a keen eye and a sharp wit.  He basically stripped it all the way down, cutting out most of our glimpses of the community around these children, reducing parents to out of focus background figures, stranding Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Abby (Chloe Moretz) in a universe where they must make impossible moral choices on their own.

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<p>James Franco stars in the only publicity photo released so far for Danny Boyle's new film, '127 Hours'</p>

James Franco stars in the only publicity photo released so far for Danny Boyle's new film, '127 Hours'

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Toronto: James Franco dazzles in Danny Boyle's demanding '127 Hours'

True-life story makes for one of the year's best films

Danny Boyle has reached a point in his career where he makes it all look easy.

"127 Hours," based on the true story of Aron Ralston, is a difficult piece of material to turn into a compelling theatrical experience, no matter how much the idea of his story might engage people automatically.  Ralston was a canyon climber, an outdoorsman who loved to push himself by driving to remote locations alone and exploring.  During one such expedition, he slipped on a loose rock, fell into a canyon, and the rock fell on him, pinning his arm to the wall.  He was forced to spend 127 hours there until his eventual fate, and the film traces that experience.

So, yes… to answer the obvious question, much of the film is just James Franco by himself at the bottom of the canyon.  But even saying that, it doesn't really explain the experience, and that's because the script by Boyle and Simon Beaufoy is very smart, very emotionally direct, and the ways they open up the by-nature claustrophobic situation are all in service of allowing us to share Aron's experience in some small way.  James Franco is a big part of why it works, and to explain why I think "127 Hours" is so special, I sort of have to drag another film into the conversation by comparison.

I'm not a fan of "Buried," which Lionsgate will release on September 24, and when I saw it at Sundance, I remarked on how I respect the effort even if I don't like the end result.  That's the movie that is almost entirely set inside a coffin where Ryan Reynolds has been buried alive, and as hard as Reynolds and the director work, I just didn't buy it.  It's a lot of energy in service of a script that never really made me believe the premise or the peril. 

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