<p>Jena Malone, Abbie Cornish, and Vanessa Hudgens all work towards an escape in Zack Snyder's new film 'Sucker Punch'</p>

Jena Malone, Abbie Cornish, and Vanessa Hudgens all work towards an escape in Zack Snyder's new film 'Sucker Punch'

Credit: Warner Bros/Legendary

Review: Zack Snyder's 'Sucker Punch' swings and misses with big images and muddled ideas

Major narrative decisions by Snyder the writer leave the director high and dry

From the very first frames of the film, "Sucker Punch" rejects reality.  There is a naked theatricality to the staging of the first few images, and then writer/director Zack Snyder drops us into the worst night in the young life of Baby Doll (Emily Browning).  It's a specific decision, as is practically everything in every frame of the film, and it's one of many choices where I think Snyder the writer may have let down Snyder the director in ways that make the film a grand fascinating almost, a near-miss, an ambitious just-this-close.

The story the film tells is fairly straightforward, but the way the story is told is anything but.  Baby Doll had a younger sister until one awful night after their mother died when their stepfather (the suitably toadlike Gerard Plunkett) went crazy and terrible things happened.  Baby Doll is taken to an asylum for women, a gothic mental hospital where she's basically handed off to Blue (Oscar Isaac) with a payment that guarantees that in a few days, a specialist will show up to give her a lobotomy, taking any secrets she might have out along with the grey matter.  Baby Doll can't handle what she sees going on around her, and she has a break with reality.  To her, it's not an asylum.  It's a brothel.  And it's not run-down and disgusting, it's opulent and lush.  The other girls aren't mental patients, they are girls pressed into dancing (and more) for rich clients in an elaborate theater.  Dr. Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino) isn't a psychiatrist trying to reach the girls through therapy, but is instead the madame, teaching these girls how to dance for their lives, literally.  And Blue isn't just an abusive orderly who will do anything for money, he's actually a pimp, the man in charge, and the main obstacle between Baby Doll and freedom.

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<p>Zack Snyder can't help but smile when he talks about his new film, 'Sucker Punch,' the culmination of a longtime dream project</p>

Zack Snyder can't help but smile when he talks about his new film, 'Sucker Punch,' the culmination of a longtime dream project

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Zack Snyder talks about bringing his dreams to life in 'Sucker Punch'

Plus hear what he has to say about Superman punching people

As long as I've been talking to Zack Snyder, "Sucker Punch" has been bouncing around in there somewhere, a constant concern of his.  When we first sat down to talk, he was in post-production on "300," and he talked about how there were things he wanted to do that were original, something he was writing, and at the same time, he also had "Watchmen" sitting in his office, an active concern for Warner Bros.

He moved from "300" directly into that adaptation of one of the sacred texts of the comic world, and it was something that Warner Bros. really wanted to make.  The train was moving, and he hopped on.  And even so, even as he did his third adaptation in a row of existing material, he was still working on developing his original idea, and it was only after he delivered that film that he finally took the plunge.

Now here we are, and "Sucker Punch" arrives in theaters on Friday, and sitting down to talk to him about the movie, it feels like he's graduating from school all over again.  This is a film he had to make before he moves forward in the rest of his career, a dare he posed for himself years ago, and whatever you think of the finished film, the ambition on display is outsized, an artist betting on his own sensibilities without a safety net.  It was great to hear him talk about what he's actually done as opposed to the hypothetical of what he might do or could do or wanted to do.  This is the moment where audiences finally see Zack Snyder without anyone else's sensibilities grafted onto what he does, and it'll be interesting to see what happens.

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<p>Captain America's looking just plain cool if you ask me.</p>

Captain America's looking just plain cool if you ask me.

Credit: Marvel Studios/Paramount

New trailer for 'Captain America' makes the First Avenger look like a real hero

Our best look so far seems mighty promising

Okay… I'm in.

I was already interested, certainly, but that new trailer for "Captain America: The First Avenger" is incredibly persuasive and stylized and charming.  There's something great about the way Joe Johnston's creating the world of the '40s, and about the way he makes Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) into a puny weakling in the early parts of the film.

And once it kicks in?  It looks like an adventure movie, pure and simple, and as logical a choice as that seems to be, I'm amazed how few adventure movies there are in the superhero genre.  Angst is the main order of business, with revenge and daddy issues and taking over the world as major motivators.  This is much more of a straightforward "here's your mission" adventure film, and it is something I've wanted to see for a while now.

Stanley Tucci looks like a hoot as Professor Erskine, the guy in charge of the Super Soldier Program, and he's got the best line in the trailer, about the way it takes a weak man to understand the value of strength and power.  Tommy Lee Jones is Col. Phillips, the perfect military face for WWII.  I like that Bucky (Sebastian Stan) is the guy who looks older and bigger and like the "real" soldier.  It's a very different take than the Bucky and Cap relationship I grew up reading about, which was more of a traditional Batman and Robin hero and sidekick thing.

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<p>Emma Roberts pauses to pose with a horror legend</p>

Emma Roberts pauses to pose with a horror legend

Credit: Dimension

Watch: Old friends and new frights in 3 clips from 'Scream 4'

Kevin Williamson's trademark patter is back with vengeance

Can you believe that the first "Scream" came out way back in 1996? That was before most people had cell phones, the internet, or knew what the word 'meta' meant. But the film stood out for the sharp and comic writing by Kevin Williamson, and the fact that as self referential and funny as it was, it delivered plenty of scares.

Folks who love the series will be happy to see the old "Scream" magic alive and well within these 3 clips. Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette are back as Sidney, Sheriff Dewey (no longer a Deputy) and Gale Weathers respectively, and watching them is like seeing old friends from school. You didn't especially keep up with them, but you're happy to see them again anyway and you'll definitely accept their friend request on facebook... (to torture an analogy.) Clips embedded after the jump

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<p>Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor co-starred in a memorable and, yes, ridiculously beautiful, version of 'Cat On A Hot Tin Roof'</p>

Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor co-starred in a memorable and, yes, ridiculously beautiful, version of 'Cat On A Hot Tin Roof'

Credit: MGM/UA Home Video

A personal remembrance of the great Elizabeth Taylor and a look at why she mattered

From 'Lassie' to 'The Flintstones,' it was a wild ride for one of Hollywood's greats

When I was working as a tour guide on the Universal Studios lot in Hollywood, it was during the time they were shooting "The Flintstones," and our tour ended up getting lots of looks at the sets for the film, the props for the film, and even, on occasion, the stars of the film.  It was a guaranteed reaction every time we got a look at Fred Flintstone's car with the holes in the bottom for his feet to go through, and between tours, several of us would brazenly walk onto the various soundstages, hoping to see Henson Company dinosaurs.

One afternoon, as we were walking across the lot, I spotted the cast trailers, and wanted a friend to take a picture of me with Elizabeth Taylor's door.  That's all.  Just the door.  I figured it would be a funny picture, and I could talk about how many other doors that door had been married to and how hard it was to get it to pose for the photo and on and on.  Dumb jokes, all of which were going through my head as I walked up the first few steps of her trailer so I could pose.

That's when the door to the trailer swung open from inside and I found myself looking directly into the most famous pair of violet eyes in film history.  She may have been just past 60 at that point, but she didn't miss a beat.  She sized me up, then turned to her assistant and said, "I'm almost sure I didn't order this."

They do not make broads like that anymore.

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<p>Duncan Jones, director of 'Moon,' joined forces with 'Donnie Darko' star Jake Gyllenhaall for a trippy new time-travel thriller called 'Source Code,' and we sat down with them at SXSW&nbsp;to discuss the film.</p>

Duncan Jones, director of 'Moon,' joined forces with 'Donnie Darko' star Jake Gyllenhaall for a trippy new time-travel thriller called 'Source Code,' and we sat down with them at SXSW to discuss the film.

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal and Duncan Jones on their new sci-fi thriller 'Source Code'

The star and director of this weekend's trippy time-travel tale talk about how it works

Duncan Jones is a bright, unaffected guy who seems determined to make science-fiction movies he wants to see.  I met him once, briefly, while he was working with the great Paul Hirsch to edit his new movie "Source Code" in Los Angeles.

Jake Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, I've been interviewing for the past decade now, ever since I talked to him for the first time at Sundance '01, where he was representing "Donnie Darko" along with his sister Maggie.

Together, the two of them seem quite proud of their twisty little thriller, a sort of sci-fi riff on the Hitchcock everyman movie, in which a regular guy finds himself in a crazy situation and has to puzzle his way out of it somehow.  The movie opened the SXSW Film Festival this year, and the audience seemed to have a blast with it.  Makes sense, because it's a movie that really works overtime to engage the audience and to entertain, but without empty thrills.

"Source Code" offers some significant creative challenges for the filmmakers and the performers, and I knew I wanted to talk to them about how they carefully constructed something that pays off in such rich and interesting ways, and how you build a character arc eight minutes at a time.

I think we were careful to avoid any significant spoilers in our conversation, but it's not really a film that's built around one big twist, so it's not the sort of thing that I think we could accidentally trip over in a discussion.  Instead, the film relies on the way it carefully and continually tweaks your expectations and your ideas about what you're watching and who these characters are.  The way the film pays off isn't one big firecracker out of nowhere, but is instead about the careful build-up to an eventual release that makes perfect emotional sense.  I like that the science in the film is far less important in terms of how it works than what it does to these people.  Those are the science-fiction stories I like the most, the ones that press us to examine our own humanity and the boundaries of it.

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<p>Johnny Depp, seen here signing autographs for fans at the Tokyo premiere of 'The Tourist,' is still working on his remake of 'The Thin Man'</p>

Johnny Depp, seen here signing autographs for fans at the Tokyo premiere of 'The Tourist,' is still working on his remake of 'The Thin Man'

Credit: AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi

Johnny Depp's 'Thin Man' remake gets the writer of 'Bad Boys 2' attached

Jerry Stahl could end up being a really strong choice

Hiring Jerry Stahl to write "The Thin Man" is, frankly, one of those might-be-a-masterstroke ideas that makes me reassess my original reaction to an announcement.

I love "The Thin Man" movies.  I love the Dashiell Hammett novel, which is totally different from really any of his Continental Op stories.  I have always thought Nick and Nora Charles are the greatest example of movie marriage of all time, and I find myself able to rematch any of the movies any time, something that's true of very few film franchises.

If you're not familiar with "The Thin Man," it tells the story of Nick Charles, a former police detective who married Nora, a society girl whose family money allowed Nick to retire and live a debauched life.  He's older than her, and one of the things that the first movie clearly demonstrates is that Nora is fascinated by Nick's former life, by the way he knows everyone from the lowest criminal to the highest elected official, and by the idea of him solving a crime.  It's a turn-on for her to see him in action, and all Nick wants to do is keep drinking, keep relaxing, and keep loving Mrs. Charles up as much as possible.  When a family friend disappears, his daughter draws Nick out of retirement, reluctantly, a drink in one hand the entire time, and the result is a great mystery with some of the best rapid-fire smart dialogue of its era.

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<p>Robert Pattinson does his best Tetsuo for photographers at this year's Golden&nbsp;Globes.</p>

Robert Pattinson does his best Tetsuo for photographers at this year's Golden Globes.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Robert Pattinson and Chris Pine top wishlist for live-action 'Akira' remake

Would Warner really reteam Prof. X and Magneto this soon?

I'm still unconvinced about "Akira" as a live-action property.

I'm convinced that hiring Steve Kloves to come in as a screenwriter on pretty much anything is a good idea, so the news that the studio is moving forward with casting how that he's done with his rewrite of the script suggests that he managed to crack what has been a difficult task for everyone assigned to it so far.

I've read Gary Whitta's first couple of passes at the project, and I've heard about the plans Albert Hughes has for the film, and it sounds to me like a really strange and risky project.  Little surprise.  The Katsuhiro Otomo manga and the 1988 film based on it are both surreal, dense, and even as a fan, I'd hardly call them ironclad examples of how to write a compelling narrative.  They are dreamy, filled with big memorable images that frequently seem to work more as experience than story.  I love the movie, but I am also weirded out by it each time I revisit it.  Like "Godzilla," the prior incarnations of "Akira" have been built out of the mythology and psychology of a country that actually knows what it's like to have nuclear bombs dropped on it, and the scar that leaves on a national psyche comes out in these films in fascinating and organic ways.  Moving the setting to "New Manhattan" does the same thing that happened when they remade the Argentinian film "Nine Queens" as "Criminal" in the US:  they can tell the same surface story, but the subtext vanishes because of geography, robbing the original of much of its meaning.

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<p>Conan O'Brien captured what he calls one of the high points of his professional career in the new documentary 'Conan O'Brien Can't Stop'</p>

Conan O'Brien captured what he calls one of the high points of his professional career in the new documentary 'Conan O'Brien Can't Stop'

Credit: Pariah Films

Review: 'Conan O'Brien Can't Stop' is intimate, hilarious portrait of an artist in flux

Rodman Flender's documentary rocks SXSW audiences

Like many people, I dig Conan O'Brien but didn't always make time to actually watch him, either on "Late Night" or once he moved over to "The Tonight Show."  In theory, I appreciated that he was the host of the most-famous franchise in late night talk show history, and I thought it was appropriate, but I don't watch much TV of any type at this point, and certainly I don't feel the need to watch something which is largely about publicity, since I get plenty of that through my job every day.

When the entire flap about Jay Leno and Conan erupted last year, it was remarkable how vocal Team Coco got, especially considering the overall lackluster ratings that his "Tonight Show" had.  That's why I think many people were like me… fans in theory, if not in practice.  And in the end, that cost him the show.  It was ugly and awkward and public, and if he had become bitter and retreated from show business for a while, no one would have blamed him.

Instead, he turned his anger into a live tour and kept himself busy until he could go back on the air with his new show, "Conan," and thanks to director Rodman Flender, audiences will get a look at that time between the TV shows in the new documentary "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop," which had its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival.

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<p>Jay (Neil Maskell) and Gal (Michael Smiley)&nbsp;may have made some very bad decisions leading to this moment in a tunnel in Ben Wheatley's fascinating and terrifying 'Kill List' </p>

Jay (Neil Maskell) and Gal (Michael Smiley) may have made some very bad decisions leading to this moment in a tunnel in Ben Wheatley's fascinating and terrifying 'Kill List'

Credit: IFC Midnight

Review: Ben Wheatley's 'Kill List' is creepy, potent genre ride

The director of cult hit 'Down Terrace' does it again

I reviewed "Down Terrace" late in the game, after it had already won some awards at Fantastic Fest, and I felt like I was the last one to realize just how impressive Ben Wheatley's film was.  Of course, considering the size of the film's eventual release and how much of a blip on the radar it made, that's not true.  Most people still aren't familiar with that jet-black look at the way crime can twist a family, but they should be.  And this past week at SXSW, I got a chance to see Wheatley's new film as part of the amazing SXFantastic line-up, which starts out as a crime film, but which becomes something much stranger by the time it's through.

"Kill List" became one of the big acquisitions stories out of SXSW this year, and I know why.  It's the sort of film that you'll have a strong reaction to one way or another, and you could cut a hell of a trailer for it.  The problem is that you don't want to even hint at the way the film twists and turns, and so you've got to be very careful about it.  Even writing a review of the film, I feel obligated to warn you that it's the sort of thing that plays better if you know very little about it.  I will endeavor to leave you at the end of this review with very little concrete information while still imparting my reactions, which isn't easy.

The film, which he co-wrote with Amy Jump, is about Jay (Neil Maskell), a hitman who has been out of work for eight months following a major cock-up on his last job.  He's trying to play it off like he just doesn't feel like going back, but the inertia is starting to really wear on his wife Shel (MyAnna Buring).  When Gal (Michael Smiley) brings his girlfriend to dinner with Shel and Jay, Gal's got an agenda in mind, and when he sees the toll that Jay's unemployment is taking on their marriage, he takes the opportunity to pitch Jay on a job.  Jay might not be ready, but it seems like an easy assignment.  Three names, and once the list is done, there's a big payday waiting.

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