<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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<p>Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, and Michael Douglas all star in Oliver Stone's sequel 'Wall Street:&nbsp;Money Never Sleeps'</p>

Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, and Michael Douglas all star in Oliver Stone's sequel 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: Michael Douglas schools Shia LaBeouf in 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps'

Oliver Stone revisits past glory with flying colors

 I'm an old school Oliver Stone fan.  I was a freak about Oliver Stone the screenwriter before he ever started directing.  Movies like "Midnight Express" and "Scarface" and "Year Of The Dragon" and "Conan The Barbarian" all had his name on them, and as someone who wanted to write movies and who was blown away by the rabid energy of his work, I started paying close attention to his career.  I became manic about his work in '86 when he released "Salvador" and "Platoon" back to back, and I dug both "Wall Street" and "Talk Radio" when they were released.  It was the run of movies from "Born On The Fourth Of July" in 1989 to "Nixon" in 1995 where I think he was at his best.  Since then, he's been making interesting failures, eminently watchable films like "U Turn" and "Any Given Sunday" and "Alexander" and "W.", movies that are engaging enough conceptually but that fall apart under closer inspection, movies that just don't work on that all-cylinders-firing level that his best work does.  It's his fault, really.  You can't make "Born On The Fourth" and "The Doors" and "JFK" and "Natural Born Killers" back to back without setting up some lofty expectations.

Stone has long been hounded by his own habits and history, and his work has been a fairly naked attempt to grapple with his own identity as reflected back in America's narrative.  When he made "Wall Street," he was nailing down a type that was very much of a moment, the product of Reagan's America, and Gordon Gekko felt like something coughed up from the zeitgeist.  Someone had to make a movie about Gordon Gekko, and it took Oliver Stone to capture his voice.  When I first heard talk about a sequel to the film that wasn't even written by Stone, I was skeptical.  It sounded to me like an empty exercise, an attempt by Stone to return to commercial relevance by rehashing a past victory.  The script by Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff is a smart update to the character, though, and they use the return of Gekko as an excuse to look at where we are now as a result of this last run on the American people by the various financial institutions.

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<p>Errol Morris is in Toronto with a new documentary called 'Tabloid'</p>

Errol Morris is in Toronto with a new documentary called 'Tabloid'

Credit: Errol Morris

Toronto: New Errol Morris documentary 'Tabloid' is compelling fun

The true-life story of Joyce McKinney proves perfect movie fodder

I love Errol Morris.  I don't love every one of his movies… a few of them are tough sits, movies I can't imagine watching a second time… but I think he's a tremendous character and a valuable voice in the world of documentary film.  He's been doing it right for as long as I've been watching movies, and his latest film, "Tabloid," is one of the most entertaining he's made in recent memory.

Right around the time I discovered Siskel and Ebert on television, they discovered Errol Morris and "Gates Of Heaven," and they started talking about him like he had invented fire.  I didn't get a chance to see his films until 1985, when I got hold of "Gates Of Heaven" and "Vernon, Florida" on home video.  As soon as I saw those two movies, I was smitten.  He is an expert at finding the exact right crazy person to talk to and pointing a camera at them and letting them talk and tell their own stories in their own words.  It is amazing how entertaining people are if you let them find and express their own voice, when you don't lead them.  Reality TV turns everyone into plastic-faced freaks, hyper-aware of the camera.  Morris has a gift for making people forget there's a camera, so they talk past it, directly to him.  The result is that it feels like they're talking directly to us, and it's very intimate.

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<p>Werner Herzog on location in France for his 3D documentary 'Caves Of Forgotten Dreams'</p>

Werner Herzog on location in France for his 3D documentary 'Caves Of Forgotten Dreams'

Credit: IFC Films

Toronto: Werner Herzog's 3D documentary 'Caves Of Forgotten Dreams' comes up empty

Is this more than just historic images?

You will find few more vocal fans of "Grizzly Man" than me.  I think Werner Herzog is one of the great wild men of cinema, frequently drawn to a challenge in the world of film simple to be the one who conquers it.  My first exposure to him was when I saw "Burden Of Dreams," the documentary about the making of "Fitzcarraldo," and watching this crazy German man try to push a boat up a mountain in the middle of the jungle, I immediately fell for him.  I love filmmakers like this, guys who seem touched by madness, and whose madness often leads to images of pure transcendent beauty.  Herzog could retire tomorrow and rest easy in the knowledge that he's a legend.

Instead, he continues to push himself in new ways, and conquering 3D seems to be his latest goal.  I'm not sure I'd say he conquered it (I have some issues with the process, at least based on our screening), but it is indeed an interesting step to try to use it to convey some experience that 99.9% of us will never have access to.  I will most likely never visit the Chauvet Cave near the Ardeche River in southern France.  It sounds amazing, this prehistoric spot that was miraculously preserved for 20,000 years before it was uncovered in 1994, and Herzog took a crew (with heavy restrictions in place) into the cave to capture the hundreds of paintings that were discovered there.

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