<p>Paul Bettany during our recent sit-down at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles to discuss the new film 'Legion'</p>

Paul Bettany during our recent sit-down at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles to discuss the new film 'Legion'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Paul Bettany and Dennis Quaid discuss 'Legion'

We also discuss 'Master and Commander' and 'The Right Stuff' with the stars

The more interviews I do in a year, the more I hear from other reporters about stars who are supposedly difficult on-camera, tough to get anything out of.  And on occasion, that's true.  I think a lot of it is where you talk, the mood they're in, who was in the room before you, and any number of other factors.

For example, at the "Legion" junket, some jackass was walking into the rooms dressed in a cheesy angel robe with a tinsel halo on his head, screeching at the actors in a weird falsetto, absolutely poisoning the mood.  I saw the same thing at the "Jennifer's Body" press day in Toronto, where some guy threw a glass of water on himself while talking to Megan Fox, then tried to take his shirt off.  These idiots don't realize that someone else who has a job to do has to walk in there after them and try to have a real conversation, and that's already difficult when you've got six minutes total.

When I was on the set of "Inkheart," Paul Bettany sat with us during lunch, and while he was soft-spoken and somewhat quiet, I didn't think it was a problem.  It just seemed like he was busy with his own process, and we were a distraction.  That's fair when you're on a set... different actors need different things from their environment, and journalists have to respect that when they're the ones who are intruding on the work.  But at a junket, the actor's whole job is to speak about their work all day, and try to convey some sort of excitement, and in this environment, I thought Bettany was actually really easy to talk to, a whole different level of energy evident from the moment we sat down.

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<p>Park City's going to be the center of the indie film universe for the next ten days, and HitFix will be on the scene to bring you all the news and reviews.</p>

Park City's going to be the center of the indie film universe for the next ten days, and HitFix will be on the scene to bring you all the news and reviews.

Credit: Sundance Film Festival

Sundance 2010: Park City... I'm Still Only In Park City...

What can you expect in the week ahead?

We have descended on Park City en masse, and this year, we come to conquer.

Last year, HitFix had been up and running for about a month when we flew to Sundance, and I was still getting my bearings, having just left Ain't It Cool after a decade or so.  I hadn't been to Sundance in almost that long, and so I had to adjust to both a new outlet and re-establishing myself with publicists, and I had to relearn the Sundance system all over again.

This year, I feel like I've got a head start on everything, and I'm looking forward to covering as much as possible for you guys, starting opening day and maintaining a constant pace until the evening of the 28th, when I'm flying back to LA.  In addition to me, Greg Ellwood, Dan Fienberg, Melinda Newman, and Katie Hasty are all here in Salt Lake City as well, which means we'll be bringing you a fairly diverse line-up of interviews, reviews, and reactions as the week unfolds.

I'm all about the midnight line-up this year with films like "Splice," "Buried," "Frozen," and "Tucker & Dale VS Evil" already scheduled, and I'm trying to hit a wide range of things including documentaries like "Smash His Camera" and "Teenage Paparazzo," international titles like "Vegetarian" and "Bran Nue Dae," and premieres like "Cyrus" and "The Killer Inside Me."  I'm set to talk to folks like Spike Jonze, the Duplass Brothers, Michael Winterbottom and even Gaspar Noe, and I'm going to work to get you those conversations as soon as possible after they happen.

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<p>Linas Phillips, keeping it classy by the side of the road in 'Bass Ackwards,' one of the films playing at this year's Sundance Film Festival.</p>

Linas Phillips, keeping it classy by the side of the road in 'Bass Ackwards,' one of the films playing at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Credit: Furnace Films

Sundance 2010: We've got an exclusive clip from 'Bass Ackwards' for you

Your first look at a film that's trying a unique distribution plan post-festival

One of the first films I watched for this year's festival was last night, a very small film called "Bass Ackwards."  Directed by Linas Phillips and also starring him, "Bass Ackwards" is the story of a guy named Linas who finds himself at a crossroads, disappointed by where his life has led him, and he makes a strategic decision to retreat.  Taking a cross-country trip, he heads back to where his mom and dad live, with the intention of moving in with them so he can figure out what to do next.

There's a girl, but "Bass Ackwards" isn't a love story.

There's a guy who takes the trip with him, but "Bass Ackwards" isn't a buddy film.

The movie is soft-spoken and introspective, but it's not really a mumblecore movie.

Basically, "Bass Ackwards" is what I think of as the very model of a Sundance movie.  Slight, delicate, and personal, it's a film that is never going to set the box-office on fire, but it'll do very well in a festival environment, and I think it'll play beautifully at home.

We've got an exclusive clip for you today, and it's a scene that takes place fairly early in the movie.  Linas has ended up employed at a llama farm.  He's still not sure what to do with his life, but when he discovers an old VW bus that the owner of the farm is willing to let him have, he decides on the spot that he's going to make the trip that takes up the rest of the film's running time.  The clip really shows off the gorgeous photography that is one of the film's strongest suits, so you may want to click here for a larger version, or just check out the embed below:

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<p>Jack Black and Meg White rock Canada in 'The White Stripes - Under Great White Northern Lights,' set to play this year's SXSW&nbsp;festival.</p>

Jack Black and Meg White rock Canada in 'The White Stripes - Under Great White Northern Lights,' set to play this year's SXSW festival.

Credit: Three Foot Giant

SXSW News: The White Stripes are bringing their 'Northern Lights'

They'll also be releasing a live album on March 16

Just before Toronto this year, I saw a great documentary about The White Stripes on a Canadian tour, and I was bummed the film didn't get more buzz coming out of the festival.

I think it was just a case of it not being quite the right fit for Toronto.  I have a feeling it's going to do much better with the music-savvy crowd at SXSW this year.

I reviewed the film from Toronto, and the more I've thought about it, the more I liked it.  Jack White is one of the last great press-loving rock stars, and his persona in both this film and "It Might Get Loud" was hilarious and impressive.

If you didn't read my earlier review, you can check it out here.

And then take a look at the press release sent out by SXSW to me this afternoon:

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<p>Spider-Man has cast his Webb on a new director. &nbsp;GET&nbsp;IT?&nbsp;GET&nbsp;IT?</p>

Spider-Man has cast his Webb on a new director.  GET IT? GET IT?

Credit: Sony Pictures

Confirmed: Get ready for 500 Days of 'Spider-Man'

Marc Webb has signed a deal for a trilogy of new 'Spidey' films for Sony

6:40 PM PT

[Editor's note: Sony Pictures announced Marc Webb would helm the three new "Spider-Man" pictures this afternoon, confirming rumors going around Hollywood the last week. The official press lease is as follows:

CULVER CITY, Calif., January , 2010 – Marc Webb, the director of the Golden Globe nominated Best Picture (500) Days of Summer,  will direct the next chapter in the Spider-Man franchise, set to hit theaters summer 2012, it was jointly announced today by Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios.

Written by James Vanderbilt, Webb will work closely with producers Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin in developing the project, which will begin production later this year.

Commenting on the announcement, Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Matt Tolmach, president of Columbia Pictures, said, “At its core, Spider-Man is a small, intimate human story about an everyday teenager that takes place in an epic super-human world. The key for us as we sought a new director was to identify filmmakers who could give sharp focus to Peter Parker’s life. We wanted someone who could capture the awe of being in Peter’s shoes so the audience could experience his sense of discovery while giving real heart to the emotion, anxiety, and recklessness of that age and coupling all of that with the adrenaline of Spider-Man’s adventure. We believe Marc Webb is the perfect choice to bring us on that journey.”

Arad and Ziskin added jointly, “Over the years, the Spider-Man comics have been told with bold and creative new writers and artists who have re-calibrated the way audiences see Peter Parker. Marc Webb will do for the new direction of the films what so many visionary storytellers have done with the comic books. He is an incredibly talented filmmaker and we look forward to working closely with him on this new adventure.”

Webb said, “This is a dream come true and I couldn't be more aware of the challenge, responsibility, or opportunity. Sam Raimi's virtuoso rendering of  Spider-Man is a humbling precedent to follow and build upon.  The first three films are beloved for good reason.  But I think the Spider-Man mythology transcends not only generations but directors as well.  I am signing on not to ‘take over’ from Sam.  That would be impossible.  Not to mention arrogant.  I'm here because there's an opportunity for ideas, stories, and histories that will add a new dimension, canvas, and creative voice to Spider-Man.”

Stan Lee, co-creator of Spider-Man, added, “I’m excited that Sony has chosen a director with a real penchant and understanding for the character.  This is a brave, bold direction for the franchise, and I can’t wait to see what Marc comes up with next.”

Added Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, “The idea of re-imagining the on-screen story for one of the world’s most iconic superheros is sure to deliver an exciting new dimension to Spider-Man fans everywhere.  There are volumes of comics and material available to inspire fresh and compelling takes on Peter Parker and his journey as Spidey and we look forward to seeing this come alive onscreen.”

Marc Webb has won acclaim with his film debut (500) Days of Summer. He has several MTV VMAs™ including 2009's Best Director award for Green Day's "21 Guns," 2006 Best Rock Video for AFI’s “Miss Murder,” and Best Group Video for The All-American Rejects’ “Move Along.” The Music Video Production Association honored him in 2006 as the Director of the Year for his work with Weezer, AAR, and My Chemical Romance. 

In addition to two Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture (musical or comedy), his first feature film, (500) Days of Summer, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, has been nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Feature.  Webb was also awarded the Spotlight Award, which honors outstanding directorial debuts, by the National Board of Review.

More updates on this story from HitFix and Drew as warranted.]

4:00 PM PT

Well, that was quick.

There was a virtual parade of filmmakers through the Sony offices last week, but it looks like one of the first rumored names is the one that stuck, and The Vulture broke the news just now that Marc Webb has signed on to direct not one, but a trilogy of new "Spider-Man" films.

I'm not buying any of the casting rumors out there.  Every one of the candidates I've heard rumored are just plain too old, like today's rumor at IESB that Jim Sturgess was offered the part.  First, they're still trying to get that stage musical version off the ground with Sturgess starring this fall, and there's no way he's doing both at the same time, but beyond that, I know Amy Pascal has a wicked crush on Sturgess and wants to make him a movie star, but the whole point of this "Spider-Man" reboot is to take him back to high school, and that's what you have to keep in mind with the casting.

Webb's an interesting choice, and he brings a strong skill set to the film.  He's got a breezy pop style as a filmmaker, and he's good with actors.  One of the things that I've heard as I've talked to people this week about the Jamie Vanderbilt scripts for "Spider-Man 5" and "Spider-Man 6" is that he was very true to the notion that Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson both present credible romantic interests, and Parker isn't tied down to one person from the very start. 

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<p>Harrison Ford cracks a smile during our interview at the Four Seasons to discuss his new film, 'Extraordinary Measures.'</p>

Harrison Ford cracks a smile during our interview at the Four Seasons to discuss his new film, 'Extraordinary Measures.'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Harrison Ford discusses 'Extraordinary Measures'

Plus we compare bullwhip scars with the 'Indy' star

I was of mixed opinion when I was offered a chance to sit down and talk to Harrison Ford last week.

The eleven-year-old version of me started screaming "HOLY CRAP! IT'S INDIANA JONES! IT'S HAN SOLO!"  And I can't help but listen to that inner voice sometimes... that's what keeps me honest as a film fan.  The reason I love movies is at least in part because of those formative years, and Harrison Ford was the first movie star I ever felt belonged to my generation.

But as an adult, and as a journalist, I've heard that Ford is a tough interview, to put it lightly.  And I've watched several really strong interviewers come up short when talking to him.  I just get a feeling it's not a process he enjoys on any level, and that he does it when he absolutely has to.  That is not the best circumstance to sit down and have any sort of real conversation with anyone, especially when they're herding you through, six minutes at a time.

Still, in the end, I decided I had to try, and I figured I had a good way to open the conversation with him to try and get some sort of reaction.  A few years ago, Paramount sent out real bullwhips to a number of online writers as promo for "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."  As a kid, I'd learned to use one of those whips pretty well, and I figured I'd show off at a party I was throwing.  Sure enough, I got a great sound on my third attempt, a deafening CRRRRACK! 

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<p>Tom Cruise and&nbsp;Jason Robards in one of the many crescnedos from PT&nbsp;Anderson's gorgeous 'Magnolia,' which makes its BluRay debut this week.</p>

Tom Cruise and Jason Robards in one of the many crescnedos from PT Anderson's gorgeous 'Magnolia,' which makes its BluRay debut this week.

Credit: Warner Home Video

DVD & Games Forecast: PT Anderson goes Blu with 'Boogie Nights' and 'Magnolia'

Plus Gervais's 'Lying' and season five of 'Weeds'

Welcome to the DVD & Games Forecast.

This is a seriously slim week of new releases.  There are a few highlights, but for the most part, it'll be a quick column.


"Weeds: The Complete Season Five" (BluRay/DVD)

There are a lot of television shows I find engaging and worth watching from start to finish, but for some reason, I've fallen out of the habit of actually watching them while they air.  I prefer to pick things up as DVD or BluRay box sets and watch them in big gulps, and the option to do so has reset my viewing habits almost completely.  I think "Lost" is the last series I feel the urge to really watch the moment it airs, and once that goes off, I'm not sure I'll ever get the habit back.  "Weeds" is a show that has evolved radically over the course of its five years on the air, and the one thing that consistently keeps me coming back is Mary Louise Parker, who puts the mmmmmmmm in MILF.  I never thought she was particularly ravishing when she was younger in films like "Grand Canyon," but these days, there is a world-weariness that she wears like armor that is practically intoxicating.  Maybe it's my own age showing, but I find it compelling the way Nancy Botwin, her character on the show, is desperately trying to stay afloat, and the lengths she'll go to for her kids and her survival.  The show's tone swings wildly between absurd comedy and bleak drama, and there are times it pulls it off beautifully and times it doesn't quite manage, but the show always has reach, and I like that they're willing to shift location, shift major characters, and shift focus as each season progresses.  So often, TV is about maintaining a status quo, creating the illusion of real characters while making sure to keep them carefully locked in place.  "Weeds" has literally burned the entire series to the ground, and I get the feeling they'd do it again if they felt like they had to, and so I look forward to whatever season five has to offer when I finally catch up with it this week.

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<p>D.C. Pierson and Charlie Huston both tackle the idea of the effect of sleeplessness, but in very different ways, in their new novels that are about hit bookstores.</p>

D.C. Pierson and Charlie Huston both tackle the idea of the effect of sleeplessness, but in very different ways, in their new novels that are about hit bookstores.

Credit: Ben Axelrad/Ray Coco Smith

The M/C Bookshelf: D.C Pierson and Charlie Huston both have insomnia

Reviews of two new novels that deal with the impact of sleeplessness

As long as I can remember, sleep's been an issue for me, and as I get older, the problem only gets worse.

In the next month, two very strong novels will be arriving in stores, both using the idea of sleeplessness as a major thematic idea or plot point.  Aside from that, though, the books are radically different, and they diverse ways they each approach the personal and or societal fallout from sleeplessness are fascinating to me.

D.C. Pierson is a member of DERRICK Comedy, and one of the stars of the painfully funny "Mystery Team," which I reviewed last year at Sundance.  I've linked many times from the Morning Read to D.C.'s blog about moving to Los Angeles, and I've gotten to know him a little bit over the course of the year, but even so, I was surprised by how evocative and unique his first novel is.  The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep And Never Had To tells the story of Darren, a shy teen who spends most of his time drawing and making notes about an epic SF story he created.  One day, he meets Eric, a similarly awkward and lonely teen, and at first their friendship hinges on their mutual creative impulses as Eric becomes involved in Darren's idea.  Gradually, though, they find themselves bound by a secret when Eric reveals to Darren that he never sleeps.  Ever.  Not at all.  No naps.  No dozing off.  No nothing.  It's hard for Darren to believe at first, but once he believes, he becomes fixated on figuring out why Eric never sleeps, treating it almost like a superpower.

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<p>Arrom Sashinebber stars in 'Last Action Hero,' a self-referential cartoon of a movie about '80s action films.&nbsp; So how does it play to someone who's never seen an '80s action film?</p>

Arrom Sashinebber stars in 'Last Action Hero,' a self-referential cartoon of a movie about '80s action films.  So how does it play to someone who's never seen an '80s action film?

Credit: SPHE

Film Nerd 2.0 'Last Action Hero' introduces Toshi to Armer Shirtzganoma

How does a meta-parody of '80s films play for someone was born in 2005?

Whenever anything's sent to the house, it inevitably has to be vetted by my two sons, Toshi and Allen, who serve as the welcoming committee for anyone who comes to the door, including each and every UPS, FexEx, or delivery guy.

So when an envelope showed up at the start of the week containing BluRays of several Sony catalog releases, I was the last person in the house to know about it.  I was walking out to the garage to get something to drink when I spotted Toshi sitting on the couch in the playroom, a BluRay laid out on the cushion next to him, studying the cover like it might unlock the secrets of the universe for him.

"Whatcha got there, buddy?"  He's just on the verge of reading words right now, so he loves to sound things out and he hates it when someone gives him the answer before he asks for it, so I've learned to let him tell me in his own way.

"L-A-S-T A-C-T-I-O-N H-E-R-O."

"And what does that spell?"

He screwed his face up, studied the cover closely.  "Ummmmm... superhero, maybe?"

I took a seat next to him and pointed at each word as I sounded it out.  "You got part of it right.  Here, try it with me, okay?  Last..."


"... Action..."


"... Hero."

"Right! Action superhero!"  Bolstered by his confidence that he'd cracked the code, he jumped off the couch and started throwing punches and kicks at the giant stuffed Mario in the corner of the playroom.

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<p>Ben Foster finds himself the least crazy part of a film for the first time ever in the SF/horror movie 'Pandorum,' available soon on BluRay and DVD</p>

Ben Foster finds himself the least crazy part of a film for the first time ever in the SF/horror movie 'Pandorum,' available soon on BluRay and DVD

Credit: Overture Films

QuickFix: 'Pandorum' offers up perfunctory scares

Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster headline this sci-fi horror hybrid

When I reviewed Christian Alvert's debut feature "Antibodies" back in 2005, I thought it was an impressive first film, and I hoped that it would lead to a strong feature career.  Hollywood and international financing being what they are, it's taken four years for Alvert to release a second film, and his third one "Case 39" is still sitting on a shelf right now.  It's not what I hoped would happen, but I'm well aware of how hard it can be for even the most talented filmmakers to get their work in front of people.

He co-wrote the script for "Pandorum," his SF/horror film, and it's an interesting if not entirely successful attempt to blend the two genres.  One of my complaints about most supposed science-fiction films is that they aren't.  They use the genre for its surface trappings, and that's it.  Here, Alvert and his co-writer Travis Milloy are playing with some genuine SF ideas, and the horror grows out of what's gone wrong with an experiment in off-world colonization.  As a result, this is one of the few hybrids of the two genres that I've ever seen where I think both genres are given the same attention.

Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster star in the film as crew members onboard a deep space ship called the Elysium, woken from suspended animation for what they think is going to be a routine shift.  They quickly learn that something has gone terribly wrong onboard the ship, though, which is a huge problem since they may well represent the last hope for humanity.  In the future of the film, our planet was choked to death by overpopulation and environmental abuse, and the Elysium was created as a 60,000 person Ark that is carrying samples to a new planet so we can start over.  When Foster and Quaid can't get hold of anyone else onboard the ship, and when they find that there are major system failures in almost every part of the ship, they set out to solve the mystery of what happened.  Even worse, there are signs that they may be suffering from a form of deep-space dementia called Pandorum, which is going to make solving that mystery next to impossible.

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