<p>&nbsp;Edward Norton in 'The Incredible Hulk'</p>

 Edward Norton in 'The Incredible Hulk'

Credit: Universal Pictures

Edward Norton puts Hulk's fate in the hands of the fans at SXSW

The actor speaks frankly about what it will take to make Bruce Banner live again

Louis Leterrier and Edward Norton's take on "The Incredible Hulk" came after Ang Lee's mega-budget daddy-issue take on the character flamed out both critically and commercially, and there was a chance for Leterrier and Norton to completely redeem one of Marvel's most iconic properties with their film.  Internal editorial struggles hobbled the release version of the film, though, and whatever you think of the final movie, it's not what the star thought he was making as he worked on it.

As a result, his continued involvement in the Marvel Universe has been a question mark that has plagued fandom now for a few years, especially as Marvel has started taking more and more concrete steps towards the endgame of "The Avengers."  Even when the question came up about whether or not Edward Norton would represent the Hulk part of the "Avenger" equation during a recent Marvel set visit, it was neatly sidestepped by Kevin Feige.

When I sat down with Tim Blake Nelson and Edward Norton to discuss their new collaboration "Leaves Of Grass," we had a free-ranging conversation that was terribly enjoyable, and it was only when we stood up to leave that I finally broached the "Hulk" subject with Norton.  Part of me suspected that he would dodge the query or defer it, which is why I left it to the end.  Surprisingly, Norton seemed more than willing to discuss it, and his answers were to-the-point and more optimistic than I would have imagined.

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<p>&nbsp;<span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 11px; color: rgb(62, 62, 62); ">Will Forte rocks that look in the SNL adaptation 'MacGruber,' which had its world premiere at SXSW last night.</span></p>

 Will Forte rocks that look in the SNL adaptation 'MacGruber,' which had its world premiere at SXSW last night.

Credit: Universal Pictures

SXSW: 'MacGruber' turns up the silly on a day of SXSW escapism

Ryan Phillipe emerges as the film's unlikely MVP

There is a long tradition of characters that have sprung to life as characters on "Saturday Night Live" making the jump from sketch form to feature film, and it's yielded all sorts of results over the years.  "The Blues Brothers" and "Wayne's World" could be said to represent one end of the scale, with "It's Pat" and "The Ladies Man" at the other end.  The demands of narrative long-form storytelling are totally different, in terms of how you build a character, than the expectations in a six-minute sketch with a recurring punchline.  Some characters just can't make that jump.

"MacGruber" seems at first glance to be nearly impossible to adapt.  After all, this is a character known for blowing himself up at the end of each sketch he appears in.  There's no larger, richer world suggested during a "MacGruber" sketch.  It's fairly one note.  Then again, you know what else was fairly one note?  '80s macho action films.  And the great conceit of Jorma Taccone's film version of "MacGruber" is that it plays like a crappy Rambo sequel.  It's uncanny timing, since this year's biggest trend seems to be the fetishistic resurrection of '80s action, with "The Losers" and "The A-Team" and "The Expendables" all coming soon.  And here, before any of them, Taccone pretty much nails what they're all chasing, sending it up even as he embraces it fully.  The result is a film that's easy to watch and consistently funny, even if it is as substantial as a merengue.

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<p>The Kashmere High School Show Band, shown here in their prime, is the subject of the amazing new documentary 'Thunder Soul'</p>

The Kashmere High School Show Band, shown here in their prime, is the subject of the amazing new documentary 'Thunder Soul'

Credit: Snoot Entertainment

SXSW: Documentary 'Thunder Soul' funks up the Paramount

A true-life story that inspires equal parts tears and smiles

One of the reasons I go to documentaries in the first place is to meet characters I would otherwise never meet, and to travel to places I would otherwise never go, and to learn stories that might otherwise be marginalized by history.  More than with narrative films, I like walking into documentaries knowing nothing, because that journey of discovery can be part of the experience.

I'm casually friendly with Keith Calder, one of the producers of this film, but for the last two years, any time he mentioned the film, I tuned it out.  It's hard when you're friendly with people, because if you don't like something of theirs, some of them take it very personally.  In Keith's case, I have yet to really respond to something he's been attached to.  "All The Boys Love Mandy Lane" is okay, but not overwhelmingly successful, and "The Wackness" left me fairly cold.  I like the attempt of "Battle For Terra" more than the execution.  And so walking into "Thunder Soul," I was prepared to have to have that conversation again.

Instead, I owe Keith Calder a hug for bringing the story of the Kashmere Stage Band to the screen, because this is one of the most joyous experiences I've had in the theater so far this year.  I have never heard of the Kashmere Stage Band before.  I love funk music, though, so the soundtrack to this film is half the reason I am head over heels.  Who is the Kashmere Stage Band?  In the '70s, they were the school band for Kashmere High School, and they were award-winners, world-travelers, and one of the single best funk units working in the world.  They accomplished this under the supervisory eye of Conrad "Prof" Johnson, and the film deals with two eras in Johnson's life.

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<p>John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill clash over their love for Marisa Tomei in 'Cyrus,' which played SXSW&nbsp;on Saturday night.</p>

John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill clash over their love for Marisa Tomei in 'Cyrus,' which played SXSW on Saturday night.

Credit: Fox Searchlight

SXSW: Saturday the 13th - 'Cyrus,' George Lucas, 'Dirty Pictures,' and 'Thunder Soul'

Plus 'The Freebie' and 'Mars' for a Duplass hat trick and a tricky 'Monsters' arrives at midnight

Saturday started three hours after Friday ended for me.  I filed my last story at 5:30, went upstairs, crashed out, then got up at 8:30, got ready, and drove downtown so I could talk to Matt Reeves about his upcoming adaptation of Let The Right One In.  Then I had to hoof it to the Paramount around the corner from the site of the interview so I could see "Thunder Soul," a documentary that absolutely cleaned my clock.  Leveled me.  It's a very, very special film I'll review separately.  Suffice it to say, starting a day like that is unfair to anything else you'll see that day, because it's just that kind of good.

I was thinking of staying for "Barry MUNDAY" at the same venue, but I needed to go get something to eat and try to write a bit before the next interview at 3:45.  Instead, I'll see the film on Tuesday now.  I'm not staying downtown, so it's a good half-hour in the car to get back to where I'm staying.  That's an hour in the car at least.  I got a few ideas down on paper, but nothing ready to publish at all.  And then I went to talk to Edward Norton and Tim Blake Nelson about their film, "Leaves Of Grass."  And after that, I went to the Alamo South Lamar for "The People Vs. George Lucas," which had a line up and running almost two hours beforehand.  By the time I got there, it was eighty-five minutes till the start of the film, and a line was already fairly serious.  By showtime, the line was much too long for everyone to get in, so the Alamo announced that the TBA "secret" film for later that night would be, instead, a second showing of "The People Vs. George Lucas" for everyone who didn't get in to the first show..  Finally, I went to a midnight screening of "Monsters," another film programmed by Tim League and the rest of the team behind Fantastic Fest.  I love that they've got their own little sidebar now during SXSW, and I hope it leads to even more people returning in the fall for what I consider one of the greatest events of the year.

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<p>Chloe Moretz and Mark Strong both make strong impressions as Hit Girl and Frank&nbsp;D'Amico in Matthew Vaughn's explosive film version of the Mark Millar/John Romita Jr. comic 'Kick-Ass&quot; on the opening night of SXSW 2010.</p>

Chloe Moretz and Mark Strong both make strong impressions as Hit Girl and Frank D'Amico in Matthew Vaughn's explosive film version of the Mark Millar/John Romita Jr. comic 'Kick-Ass" on the opening night of SXSW 2010.

Credit: Lionsgate/MARV

'Kick-Ass' Kicks Ass At SXSW Opening Night Premiere

Superhero action-comedy explodes in front of the first night audience

If you read my recap of the tumultuous opening day of SXSW, or if you've read my BNAT review of the rough cut of this film with the temp score still in place, then you might guess that I'm probably going to give the finished film a good review.

The thing is, I wasn't really expecting the reaction I had to it tonight.  I was on set for some of this one.  A good chunk of it actually.  And I've known Matthew Vaughn for a while now.  This was pretty open book filmmaking as far as process was concerned, and they were kind enough to let me publish those pieces a while ago.  I thought I knew the film after seeing it in December, but I really didn't.  I had a surface read on the movie.  I liked certain things about it, but I didn't really look at those things closely.

This time around, I'm more certain that the film is a sort of a genre classic, a movie that both is the thing it's riffing on, and that still manages to make cogent conversation of the conventions of the genre so far on film.  "Kick-Ass" benefits enormously from the casting, and not in one role or two roles, but across the board.  Matthew Vaughn put together a lovely ensemble from top to bottom, and what they each contribute to the film is one of the specific pleasures of it... each one a different flavor.

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<p>A sneak peek at the Robert Rodriguez/Nimrod Antal revitalization of a favorite monster movie series, &quot;Predators,&quot; was a cornerstone the opening night line-up at this year's SXSW&nbsp;Film&nbsp;Festival.</p>

A sneak peek at the Robert Rodriguez/Nimrod Antal revitalization of a favorite monster movie series, "Predators," was a cornerstone the opening night line-up at this year's SXSW Film Festival.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

SXSW: Friday the 12th - 'Kick-Ass,' Twin Ed Nortons, hillbilly slashers, and Predators

The opening night of SXSW makes a splash with sneak previews and world premieres

Welcome to Austin, TX.  Or welcome back, rather.  It's my home away from home at this point, the place where I've spent so much of the last 15 years.  And it's familiar by now, so when I arrive, I know where I'm going.  Thursday was picking up the rental car, getting a first dinner with people, and writing up my reviews for "Green Zone" and "Remember Me" as well as that Greengrass interview.  Friday was a morning of faxing papers and trying to meet deadlines for insurance stuff, things that don't care if you're at a festival, like a busted brake light on my rental car that makes me nervous I'm going to get hassled by over-zealous SXSW-crazed law enforcement.  I'd hate to miss a screening because of some ridiculous technical glitch with the rental car.

That's almost what happened anyway.  I got a later start than I wanted dealing with all of this, then went to the South Lamar Alamo, so I could leave my car there, catch the shuttle to the Paramount, then shuttle back over for a double-feature to close the night.

Might even have been a plan.  Except the shuttle never came.  So eventually, I had to hop in the rental and drive over to the Paramount anyway.  By the time I found parking and walked over, it was 6:30, and the film was set to start at 7:00.  At that point, there was a line around the back end of the theater.  I walked around to the front of the lines to see which of them I was supposed to be in at that point with my gold film badge.  As I did, cars began to pull up to the front of the theater, filled with the cast and the crew of the film, and the back doors of the first car opened.  Producer Tarquin Pack and producer/writer/director Matthew Vaughn got out.  And as they did, they looked over, saw me, and walked over to say hello.  We'd talked after the screening of the film in December at Butt-Numb-A-Thon, and I've been eagerly waiting to see the finished film since.

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<p>Emilie de Ravin and Robert Pattinson co-star in Allen Coulter's romantic drama 'Remember Me,' opening today in theaters</p>

Emilie de Ravin and Robert Pattinson co-star in Allen Coulter's romantic drama 'Remember Me,' opening today in theaters

Credit: Summit Entertainment

The M/C Review: 'Remember Me' surprises in ways both good and bad

A weak script betrays solid work from alumni of 'Lost,' 'The Sopranos' and, of course, 'Twilight'

I've been rough on the "Twilight" films in print so far, and that new trailer for "Eclipse" looks like a whole lot of the same, but just because someone's in one of those films, or involved in one of those films, I'm not the sort of person who would dismiss them entirely.  Kristen Stewart has absolutely had other worthwhile moments on film in movies like "Into The Wild," "Adventureland,' and the upcoming "The Runaways."  It would be silly to judge her entirely on the work she does as Bella Swan.

The same is true of her co-star Robert Pattinson, who has a rabid fanbase, but who so far has yet to prove he can draw an audience outside of "Twilight," and who I've never seen in a big enough role to judge one way or another.

The good news for his fans is that Pattinson is a real actor, an interesting guy capable of making some really intriguing choices on film, and if he can survive the "Twilight" series without developing a hatred of stardom, then he may well evolve into someone of real merit and weight.  He is charismatic and charming in much of "Remember Me," and he works overtime to bring an emotional honesty to the role he plays.  He creates a solid onscreen rapport with his co-star Emilie de Ravin, and he really throws himself into his big scenes.

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<p>Matt Damon plays a more flesh-and-blood hero than Jason Bourne in the new Paul&nbsp;Greengrass action-thriller &quot;Green Zone&quot;</p>

Matt Damon plays a more flesh-and-blood hero than Jason Bourne in the new Paul Greengrass action-thriller "Green Zone"

Credit: Universal Pictures

The M/C Review: 'Green Zone' is ambitious but overcautious

The film wants to throw punches, but pulls almost every one

If you go to the theater this weekend looking for "Green Zone" to work as an action-thriller, you'll absolutely leave happy.  Paul Greengrass brings a master's touch to the chaos and the fury of the Iraqi stage in the days after the American invasion, illustrating how the frustrating search for WMDs leads Captain Roy Miller (Matt Damon) to operate as a one-man wrecking crew, determined to learn the truth at any cost.  It is genuinely thrilling, something I'd think would be a pre-requisite for the genre, but so often, we settle for busy instead of exciting, noisy instead of compelling.  Greengrass is amazing in terms of how he builds a set piece, and from the opening to the closing, the film is never less than engaging and involving.

It is also frustrating in the sense that Greengrass and his screenwriter Brian Helgeland are looking to make some real-world points about the way the world swallowed a lie, and by turning everyone into composites, by refusing to make a movie that points fingers and names real names, it gets to pretend outrage without having to suffer any real consequence.  It is almost timid in the way it scores its political points, something I wouldn't have expected.  If that derails the film for you... if you can't get over the idea that Greengrass is more interested in the emotional experience than any sort of factual name-calling... then "Green Zone" could easily be a film that just plain doesn't work for you.  That would not surprise me at all.

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<p>Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon work on a scene with director Paul Greengrass on the set of the new action-thriller &quot;Green Zone'</p>

Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon work on a scene with director Paul Greengrass on the set of the new action-thriller "Green Zone'

Credit: Universal Pictures

The M/C Interview: Paul Greengrass takes us inside the 'Green Zone'

We discuss his philosophy on shooting an action scene

I can't really claim to know Paul Greengrass, but we've had a few encounters over the years, and I think he's a provocative and fascinating filmmaker, a guy who is pursuing a personal style in a major mainstream way.  Talking to him is an exercise in being overwhelmed.  Even the person who does my transcriptions after my interviews was a little taken aback.  It's a delight to have this sort of conversation with a filmmaker this smart, though.  I love that he's this passionate about what he does, and even if he's moved on now from the Bourne series, I'm sure that whatever he does in the future is just as worth your attention as his new film, "Green Zone," is.

I hope you dig this as much as I enjoyed doing this.

Paul Greengrass:  Hello?

Drew:  Hello, Mr. Greengrass.  How are you, sir?
 
Paul:  I’m very, very good.  How are you?
 
Drew:  Very good to speak with you again.
 
Paul:  And you.  We spoke after "Ultimatum," didn’t we?
 
Drew:  After "Ultimatum," and then I saw you at the early, early screening of "Green Zone" last year.
 
Paul:  Oh, right.
 
Drew:  I have to say, it’s interesting for all the time that’s passed between, it still very much feels like the same film I saw at that point.  And it…
 
Paul:  Is that a bad thing?
 
Drew:  Not at all.  I really enjoyed it the first time and it just feels like you really squeezed it.  Like it just got tighter and…
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<p>Greg Kinnear and Amy Ryan have a dangerous relationship in the new Paul Greengrass political thriller 'Green Zone'</p>

Greg Kinnear and Amy Ryan have a dangerous relationship in the new Paul Greengrass political thriller 'Green Zone'

Credit: Universal Pictures

The M/C Interview: Greg Kinnear and Amy Ryan conspire on 'Green Zone'

Two short interviews with the cast of the new Greengrass thriller

As part of the press day for the new Paul Greengrass film "Green Zone," I scheduled phone interviews with both Greg Kinnear and Amy Ryan.  Their roles in the film aren't huge, but they are pivotal and important, and they are connected.  I like both actors a lot, yet this represents the first time speaking to either of them, so it was a good opportunity.

First up was Kinnear, and we jumped right into it:

Greg Kinnear:  Hi, Drew.

Drew McWeeny:  Hello, Mr. Kinnear.  How are you?

Greg:  Fine.  How’re you doing?

Drew:  Good.  So is it a compliment to say that you are absolutely detestable in this film?

Greg:  Oh, thank you!

Drew:  It’s a really tricky role to play, I would think, because you are positively hissable the way Paul positions you in the movie, but you play this guy as an incredibly efficient political animal.

Greg:  Yeah.

Drew:  In getting ready to do this, who do you look at as role models?  How do you get ready to play somebody like this?

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