<p>Matt Damon plays Mark Whitacre, one of the strangest characters you'll meet in a theater this fall, in Steven Soderbergh's 'The Informant!'</p>

Matt Damon plays Mark Whitacre, one of the strangest characters you'll meet in a theater this fall, in Steven Soderbergh's 'The Informant!'

Credit: AP Photo/Warner Bros., Claudette Barius

Toronto: The Motion/Captured Review - 'The Informant!'

Steven Soderbergh and Matt Damon team up to hilarious results

True-life stories rarely make great movies.

Oh, sure, you can probably read me a list of big important Oscar-winning based-on-a-true-story movies without even trying, and I'll happily admit there are exceptions to the rule, but I stand by my basic position.  Typically, "true" movies are about Important Things, or they feature Great Performances, and most of the time when I hear that a film is a dramatic retelling of real events or a biography of a real person, the end result strikes me as antiseptic, dull.

The problem, of course, is reverence towards one's subject.  If you're Richard Attenborough and you're making a movie about Gandhi, you're going to err on the side of respect every time, and why wouldn't you?  These real-life figures cast enormous cultural shadows, and trying to dramatize their lives has got to be like swimming in handcuffs.

If you ask me, Steven Soderbergh hit that particular creative wall at about 150 miles per hour with "Che," his two-part 600-hour biopic about Che Guevara.  I can respect the level of committment from Benecio Del Toro and admire the filmmaking, but I can still readily admit that the movie is inert, a seemingly endless montage of bearded dudes introducing themselves to each other in the jungle.

[more after the jump]

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<p>It's a lovely city.&nbsp; Let's hope it's gentle with me for the next week.</p>

It's a lovely city.  Let's hope it's gentle with me for the next week.

TIFF 2009: Off To Toronto

And I ain't got no steenkin' badges!

This should be interesting.

The last time I went to a film festival without a badge was Sundance 2001, and after two days onsite, that changed.  I'm not sure I can expect the same sort of miracle from the Toronto International Film Festival, but that's not going to deter me.

In a little over an hour, I'm out the door, on the way to the airport, and then on a red-eye overnight to Toronto, where I'll arrive tomorrow morning around 9:30 AM.  I'm hoping to kick off the festival with "The Invention Of Lying" and wrap it up next Wednesday with... well, we'll see when we get there.

In the meantime, I've got films like "Up In The Air," "The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus," "Ondine," "A Serious Man," and "The Men Who Stare At Goats" to see, along with the films I have no idea about yet, which always end up being a favorite part of any festival experience.

I'll be here to share it all with you in the days ahead, and I'll have some more reviews for you tomorrow, before the festival gets started, just to clear the decks.

See you soon...

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<p>Alex O'Loughlin offers Kate Beckinsale a bit o' the good stuff in an early scene from 'Whiteout,' a new thriller opening this weekend</p>

Alex O'Loughlin offers Kate Beckinsale a bit o' the good stuff in an early scene from 'Whiteout,' a new thriller opening this weekend

Credit: AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures

The Motion/Captured Interview(s): Kate Beckinsale, Alex O'Loughlin discuss 'Whiteout'

Gabriel Macht also joins discussion of new thriller set in Antarctica

I'll have a review of "Whiteout" when it opens, but suffice it to say it's not going to redefine the thriller genre for anyone. 

It's got a solid ensemble cast, though, and when we were invited to participate in the press day, I was happy to do it because (A) I like Kate Beckinsale's work a lot, and I wanted to talk about some of her smaller films with her and (B) I was curious to see who the heck Alex O'Loughlin was.

Ever since we started HitFix, I have been amazed at the traffic that floods the site every time we run anything about this Australian actor.  Amazed, since I've never seen him in anything, and I feel like I have a pretty good handle on who's working at any given point.  How could this guy mobilize such a passionate fan army while staying totally off my radar up until now?

They flew us to Antarctica to conduct the interviews and forced us to do our introductions standing outside.  Thankfully, I'm isulated by pizza and cheese fries, so I was able to brave the sub-zero temperatures clad only in a blazer:

[more after the jump]

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<p><span style="font-size: x-small;">Two of the hard-to-tell-apart doll people discuss the glowy plot pointy thing one of them holds in his hand in Shane Acker's '9'</span></p>

Two of the hard-to-tell-apart doll people discuss the glowy plot pointy thing one of them holds in his hand in Shane Acker's '9'

Credit: Focus Features

The Motion/Captured Review: Shane Acker's '9' dazzles visually

But on almost every other level, this one's a bust

I'm not going to belabor the point.

Shane Acker's "9" is a visual accomplishment.  No doubt about it.  He's got a great kinetic eye, and real taste as a visual stylist.  He's built a gorgeous ruin of a world here, and his stitchpunk doll people are really haunting.

If that's all you want or need from the film, it certainly delivers.  In an admirable, exciting way.

Now stop reading.

Because the fact that the film is such a confident visual experience is what irritates me the most.  It makes it feel like more of a blown opportunity. 

"9" is the story of a stitchpunk doll person wakes up on a worktable.  An old man is dead there and the doll person, the number "9" stamped on his back, goes out to solve the world.

I think the script lets the film's visual work down in every way, and in the end, what's on the page is so weak that I was left admiring the surface of the film rather than enjoying the substance of it.  And I checked out finally.  The film is all exposition.  Which makes sense, because Acker tried to include as little conversation as possible.  So when he does finally let the characters, talk, each conversation is a variation on this:

"We should go."

"Go?"

"Go."

[more after the jump]

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<p>Promotional artwork that will be used to help sell 'Rambo V' at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival</p>

Promotional artwork that will be used to help sell 'Rambo V' at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival

Credit: NuImage

'Rambo 5' hunts a new kind of prey as story details are revealed

Stallone finally adapts 'Hunter' for the bigscreen

Leave it to Harry to sort out what's up with Sylvester Stallone and the future of Rambo.

Last week, I ran a short news item about "Rambo 5" moving forward, and I ran the description that the trades had about the film involving Rambo working the Mexican/American border.  Seemed like a decent fit, considering the way Stallone has always bent the films to whatever the current geopolitical atmosphere is.

Turns out, that description was completely wrong.

For years now, Stallone has owned the rights to a book called "Hunter," a novel by James Byron Huggins.  The main character in that book essentially read like Rambo anyway, so learning that Stallone has adapted the book to literally be a new Rambo movie is not terribly surprising.  It is a major shift for the franchise, though, taking it away from any grounding in reality and pushing it into the SF/action genre for the first time.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Samwise (Sean Astin) thank heaven that the New Line/Tolkien Trust lawsuit has been settled</p>

Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Samwise (Sean Astin) thank heaven that the New Line/Tolkien Trust lawsuit has been settled

Credit: New Line

'Lord Of The Rings' lawsuit finally settled

What does this mean for the property?

Short answer?  Here comes "The Hobbit."

Although pre-production and development have never slowed down on Guillermo Del Toro's "The Hobbit," there was a legal roadblock in place that could have derailed the film, and as of this weekend, that roadblock has been removed.

The lawsuit between The Tolkien Trust and New Line Cinema and HarperCollins Publishers has been settled, with the terms of that settlement being confidential.  Really, this has always been about who got what slice of the profit pie, so the final terms don't matter to anyone but the involved parties.

I'm just glad this was wrapped up now, rather than dragging on and getting ugly.  Money can screw up even the biggest "duh," and this was certainly a case where a lot of money, both past and future, was on the line.

Here's the full press release from this morning:

[more after the jump]

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<p>The Beatles are reborn in a whole new interactive way with the release today of gaming juggernaut "The Beatles: Rock Band" and the release of new remastered CDs</p>

The Beatles are reborn in a whole new interactive way with the release today of gaming juggernaut "The Beatles: Rock Band" and the release of new remastered CDs

Credit: AP Photo/MTV Games

Home Entertainment Forecast: 'Beatles: Rock Band' conquers the world

Plus over 30 new titles on BluRay and DVD in stores today

Welcome to the Home Entertainment Forecast for September 8, 2009.

It's a huge week.  No other way to put it. 

I'll never really write about everything, because no one does.  You guys want me to be a filter at some level.  That's why you read this blog in addition to whatever else you read.  You can find great sources that just list everything coming without any information or opinion, but that's not what this is. 

In writing this column, covering each week's home entertainment, I'm considering hours spent.  Games, movies, TV on DVD... on BluRay or regular DVD... you've only got so much time and money to spend, and both are precious.  So when you've got this much product flooding shelves in one week, it's particularly important to help filter through what's new.

THE BEST OF THE BUNCH

I've never owned or played one of the "Guitar Hero" or "Rock Band" games, and it's not a philosophical thing.  I was at a friend's house one time and I tried two songs.  And that's it.  That was over a year ago, and I thought it was okay.  Nothing I needed to do again.

Yet I'm rabid at the idea of getting "The Beatles: Rock Band" in the house.  I want to play.  I want to own it.  I want to master it.  I am practically hypnotized at the idea of it.  If I drop $250 on the whole peripherals bundle package for the PS3, my wife will punch me in the face while I sleep.  There's no way.  Perhaps Santa will have mercy on me this year. 

[more after the jump]

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<p>The Gunstar, the iconic ship from 'The Last Starfighter,' out now in a 25th anniversary BluRay edition from Universal</p>

The Gunstar, the iconic ship from 'The Last Starfighter,' out now in a 25th anniversary BluRay edition from Universal

Credit: Universal Home Video

Film Nerd 2.0: 'The Last Starfighter' on BluRay

Toshi dips a toe into the '80s and likes what he sees

Welcome to Film Nerd 2.0, the first column in an ongoing series about the way I'm experiencing geek media with my oldest son. 

I don't really have an overall agenda with what I will show him or when, and I think that's important.  I've been asked several times if he's seen "Star Wars" yet.  Nope.  Or the "Harry Potter" series.  Or "Lord Of The Rings."  Or "Back To The Future."  Or many things.  He's four, so I don't think those are quite appropriate yet.  Not necessarily because they're more explicit than what he has seen already, but more because they require a level of understanding of narrative I don't think he's got yet.

Right now, he's about big broad strokes.  One of the reasons I think "Star Trek" connected is because it's not afraid to go broad in the way it defines and illustrates the relationships between those characters.  As far as what to show him next, I'm not trying to program him.  I'm trying, instead, to let him tell me what's next, what he's ready for.  A good example is the way we chose this first film.

Universal sent over the BluRay for review, and it was sitting on top of a stack on my desk when Toshi walked in.

He saw the cover of the movie and he immediately grabbed it.  Held it closer for further inspection.

"Daddy... what's this one?"

[more after the jump]

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<p>Gina Carano takes aim at a mainstream Hollywood career with a starring role in Steven Soderbergh's 'Knock Out'</p>

Gina Carano takes aim at a mainstream Hollywood career with a starring role in Steven Soderbergh's 'Knock Out'

Steven Soderbergh goes for the 'Knock Out'

Hires female MMA star... is he making his own 'Bourne' for girls?

This is going to be a heavily trafficked genre next year.

Zack Snyder's gearing up on "Sucker Punch," his crazy all-girl uber-violent "Alice In Wonderland in a mental institution" action film.  And now Steven Soderbergh, making a lovely recovery after the indignity of the public implosion of "Moneyball," is set to make "Knock Out," a film that's being described as a spy film along the lines of "La Femme Nikita" or "The Bourne Identity."  And to star?

He's picked Gina Carano.  Mixed Martial Arts star.  Badass and photogenic as hell.

GOOD CHOICE.

I like Soderbergh's desire to cast untested mainstream leads.  I think especially in an action film, you've got a lot of room to do that.  You're looking for credibility more than you're looking for a movie star just acting like a movie star.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Ricky Gervais laughing, something he almost never does, on-set for 'The Invention Of Lying'</p>

Ricky Gervais laughing, something he almost never does, on-set for 'The Invention Of Lying'

Credit: Giles Keyte/Warner Bros

The Motion/Captured Interview: Ricky Gervais, one on one

In which we finally speak with him on-set for 'The Invention Of Lying'

That picture is appropriate.

I saw Ricky Gervais for the first time as I walked into the living room of the house where they were shooting "The Invention Of Lying," just outside Boston in a fairly upscale neighborhood near a university.

I mean, I'd seen Ricky Gervais before, obviously, in a whole lot of things.  I didn't see "The Office" until it hit American DVD, and then as soon as I saw it and devoured it, I was a fan.  I have seen some backlash set in, particularly among some of the UK film nerds, but I don't buy it.  Ricky Gervais is a funny man.  That's a simple truth.  Consistently, fiendishly funny.

If they were casting Mr. Mxyzptlk, I'd nominate him.  He strikes me as a guy who takes great joy out of the comic torment of others and, without hesitation, himself.  He's precise in the comic persona he's created and how he plays it, and watching him work for a day, in take after take, I have a fair idea of why he has succeeded the way he has so far.  He's got a clear vision of what "Ricky Gervais" is, no doubt from all the years when he was not doing what he wanted to do.  And he's been canny about building "Ricky Gervais," piece by piece.  The live shows while he's doing movies, the successive tours, the way he's managed the "Office" brand with Merchant, their upcoming reuinion project, "Cemetary Junction," which marks their feature film debut together.

And there in the midst of it, "The Invention Of Lying."

[more after the jump]

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