<p>Scoot McNairy considers the road home in a scene from 'Monsters,' a micro-budget film from first-time director Gareth Edwards.</p>

Scoot McNairy considers the road home in a scene from 'Monsters,' a micro-budget film from first-time director Gareth Edwards.

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

SXSW: 'Monsters' offers up a new view on classic giant monster movies

Magnolia picks up the SXSW midnight movie, and could have a hit on their hands

Gareth Edwards is a very smart guy with a keen eye for composition, and I'm guessing when we look back at 2010 in film, his name will be one of the names that helps define the year.

"Monsters" played SXSW this year as part of the Fantastic Fest at midnight line-up, and with a title like that, it was easy for the festival to fill the theater every time they played the movie.  Going into the film, though, I knew nothing about it aside from the title.  Someone in line told me that they'd heard it was "the first mumblecore horror film," which sent a chill down my spine and not in a good way.  I'm not a fan of mumblecore as a genre or even as a descriptive word.  I think it's an excuse for people to make films that are damn close to anti-audience, like a dare.  I love small-scale character drama, but there's a fine line between effective and personal and deadly dull whining.  Having seen "Monsters," I can see why someone would describe the film that way, but I disagree.  I think it sells short of what Edwards has accomplished, and I worry that it would scare off people who would end up really liking the movie.

Right now, there are a number of companies chasing the success of last year's "Paranormal Activity" and "District 9," realizing that the idea of what you can do on film and how much you can make certain films for has changed.  Paramount's got a new division that wants to make ten movies for a total of a million dollars.  I hope they take a look at "Monsters" and reach out to more people like Gareth Edwards, who has been working for a while in the FX community.  Makes sense, because while there are some inventive and ambitious special effects in the film, there's a handmade feel to it all that is a big part of its charm.  Edwards pretty much ran this all as a one-man show.  He wrote and directed, he shot the film himself, and he did all of his own FX work, on a budget of $7000.  This is what independent filmmaking in the 21st century is going to look like.  The most impressive thing about that is how you can sit in the theater and never once question how much the film cost.  It's a "real" movie.  And thankfully, Edwards chose not to make a "found footage" movie, something which I'm personally very tired of, and a cheap solution to a budget issue.  His film has a documentary feel to it that comes from how it was shot, but the camera isn't an actual character in the film.

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<p>&nbsp;Bryan Singer</p>

 Bryan Singer

Credit: Matt Sayles/AP

EXCLUSIVE: Bryan Singer directing 'X-Men: First Class'? Not so fast...

Fox has reasons to play hardball with Warner Bros, but can they pull it off?

HitFix has exclusively learned, from multiple sources, that Bryan Singer may not be directing "X-Men: First Class" despite recent press reports to the contrary, and that 20th Century Fox is actively searching for directors to step in and helm the film, with discussions with at least two other filmmakers as recently as last week.

The filmmakers that they're approaching now about directing "X-Men: First Class" are good names, guys who either have real experience in the comic book movie medium or who have heavy credibility with fan audiences.  Names that would make fanboys happy from the first moment they're announced.  I'm curious to see who else they meet with in the next few weeks now that their first few choices have passed.  Those meetings, exclusively reported by HitFix, make it seem like no matter what public face they're putting on things, Fox is making plans as if Singer will not be free.

This is particularly interesting if you consider the timing of the interview with Geoff Boucher of The Los Angeles Times, who sat down with Lauren Shuler Donner and Bryan Singer for a story that's running in this weekend's Calendar section.  Much has been made of the "confirmation" in the story that Singer's directing "X-Men: First Class."  Here's the section of the story that is the most interesting:

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<p>Forest Whitaker, Jude Law, and Liev Schreiber star in the SF/thriller 'Repo Men,' opening in theaters everywhere this weekend.</p>

Forest Whitaker, Jude Law, and Liev Schreiber star in the SF/thriller 'Repo Men,' opening in theaters everywhere this weekend.

Credit: Universal Pictures

The M/C Review: 'Repo Men' comes close to its lofty goals

Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, and Liev Schreiber have great chemistry in offbeat effort

The best science-fiction, like the best horror, manages to be about more than one thing, using the outrageous to illustrate the universal.  "Repo Men" doesn't quite hit all of its targets, but it hits enough of them to count as a welcome and even exciting new SF vision.  Jude Law and Forest Whitaker have surprisingly rich chemistry in the film, and despite one major storytelling stumble, it's soulful enough to linger.

Law stars as Remy, a repo man working for The Union, the company that makes the artificial organs that have revolutionized health care in the future.  The organs are obscenely overpriced, and patients are cornered into buying, sometimes going black market.  It's a genuinely interesting industry to imagine and explore, and Miguel Sapotchnik's taken as many cues from the reality of modern New York and Tokyo as from the futurescapes of "Brazil" or "Blade Runner" in bringing his vision to the screen.  Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner, working from Garcia's novel, have played fast and free with structure on the film, and as a result, it feels like you end up watching two or three different movies.

The first movie's probably the most fun, with Remy and Jake (Forest Whitaker) working the job.  It's matter-of-fact, observational, all character and chemistry.  Law etches Remy as a charismatic cad, a guy who can't admit to himself how much he enjoys the hunt.  He's good at it, and a part of him enjoys the pain he causes someone else.  He's a thug, born and raised, and his job is his excuse to keep that up, to indulge it with approval.  That's the bond he shares with Jake, since he's the exact same way.  And as long as that's the movie, it's just plain dark bloody fun.  Liev Schreiber plays Frank, their boss at The Union, and he's an absolutely ruthless salesman, well-oiled and unburdened by any vestige of humanity.  He's sensational in the part.  It's one of those roles that exists like a gift to an actor, a supporting role that gets a high percentage of the good lines in the movie.

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<p>Director Matt Reeves, seen here on the set of 'Cloverfield' with Lizzy Kaplan, has just finished his new film 'Let Me In'.</p>

Director Matt Reeves, seen here on the set of 'Cloverfield' with Lizzy Kaplan, has just finished his new film 'Let Me In'.

Credit: Paramount

SXSW: Matt Reeves discusses his 'Let The Right One In' remake

Director discusses working with Hit Girl on 'Let Me In' and more

Matt Reeves has an unenviable task ahead of him with the release of "Let Me In," his adaptation of John Lindqvist's novel Let The Right One In.  Obviously that was filmed (well) just two years ago, and the original was embraced by critics around the world.  I don't think it's fair to call what Reeves is doing a "remake," though.  He appears to be treating the novel like new source material and building his own take on the story.

He was here in Austin to participate on Scott Weinberg's big giant blow-out horror panel, and as a result, a group of reporters got a little face time with him on the morning of that panel.  Early.  And this is the conversation Reeves and I had as a result:

Matt Reeves:  How are you?

Drew McWeeny:  I am good.  I’m on festival time, which means three hours of sleep here, two hours of sleep there.

Matt:  Are you seeing a lot of interesting things, or..?
 
Drew:  Well, "Kick-Ass" last night.
 
Matt:  How was that?  I haven’t seen it.
 
Drew:  We saw the rough cut in December when it was all temp-tracked and when Matthew still had the Superman theme on it and some stuff he was desperate to get.  I think he lost the fight with Warner Brothers, though.
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<p>Jude Law (L)&nbsp;and Forest Whitaker (R)&nbsp;share a laugh with director Miguel Sapochnik on the set of 'Repo Men,&quot; due in theaters on Friday.</p>

Jude Law (L) and Forest Whitaker (R) share a laugh with director Miguel Sapochnik on the set of 'Repo Men," due in theaters on Friday.

Credit: Universal Pictures

The M/C Interview: 'Repo Men' director Miguel Sapochnik talks Verhoeven, music and more

A few days ago, as I was walking from the convention center here in Austin back to my car, I ran into a friend on the street who was here with Miguel Sapochnik, director of "Repo Men."  Because I had just interviewed Sapochnik, I felt comfortable insisting that he check out that night's screening of "A Serbian Film," still by far the most interesting thing I've seen at SXSW this year.

Sapochnik impresses me as a hearty movie fan, a guy with a keen taste for the outrageous, and I think his movie reflects those sensibilities quite strongly.  I enjoyed our brief chat on the phone, which you can read in full below:

Drew McWeeny:  I wanted to talk about where this film began for you, because I know what the novel is, but your film feels like it’s got its own voice, and I can’t help but feel that there is a touch of a Verhoven to it.

Miguel Sapochnik:  That's a fair statement.
 
Drew:  And I mean that in the best possible way.  I think Verhoven is one of the few guys who really knows how to make extreme graphic material both funny and shocking at the same time.  And it’s not a trick many people can pull off, and I think your film walks that line very well.
 
Miguel:  Well, thank you.  I was… listen, "Robocop" was a huge influence in my life when I was growing up watching movies, and it was a guilty pleasure in some respects.  Interestingly, my upbringing was kind of Schwarzenegger and Tarkovsky.  And my dad was the one who used to push Tarkovsky on me, so secretly I would watch Schwarzenegger.  "Robocop" was a rare movie that he loved because it walked that line.  And Monty Python was like that as well.  You know... there was also Terry Gilliam and "Brazil" and "Clockwork Orange" and obviously "Blade Runner".  All those are the kind of movies that influenced this film.  But definitely the intent was to kind of entertain and at the same time have an underlying social comment that didn’t really hit people over the head with giving its point but was there if you choose to take a closer look.
 
Drew:  Well, it’s an ambitious film and looking at your background, it seems like you must have had quite a pitch to get Universal to commit to you on a picture of this size.  Can you talk about the process of how you chased the material and ended up in the director’s chair?
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<p>Judy Greer and Patrick Wilson co-star in the charming romantic comedy 'Barry Munday,' which just had its premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in&nbsp;Austin.</p>

Judy Greer and Patrick Wilson co-star in the charming romantic comedy 'Barry Munday,' which just had its premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin.

Credit: Stick 'N' Stone Productions

SXSW: 'Barry Munday' could easily be the festival's breakout hit

A comedy about life's left turns features Patrick Wilson and Judy Greer in fantastic lead roles

Here's a film that has no distribution, and so far, that seems to have generated very little press buzz at the festival, but if the right company steps in, "Barry Munday" feels like a "Juno"-sized hit just waiting to happen, a crowd-pleaser with a big heart, sincere and silly and featuring a career-changing performance from Patrick Wilson.  I have a feeling I have not heard the last of "Barry Munday."

There are few experiences that compare to walking into a festival film with no knowledge of what you're about to see, then reeling out the other end feeling like you've got a secret you want to share with everyone.  "Barry Munday" is based on a novel called Life Is A Strange Place by Frank Turner Hollon, and it's got a denseness of character that makes it feel like a book.  That's one of the things that helps when adapting from a novel... you get so much to draw from, and adaptation is a reductive process, gradually carving away all the things you don't want to get to the particular thing you do.  The shift in title, from a general description of theme to a specific character's name, signals the intent of writer/director Chris D'Arienzo quite clearly.  This is a man on a journey towards some sort of place in the world, and in playing the role, Patrick Wilson does more onscreen in this one film to convince me of his genuine gift as a performer than he's been allowed to do in his last five movies combined.  Which is not to say I've thought he was a bad actor before this... it's just that you don't often find a role like Barry Munday.

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<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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