<p>Daniel Bruhl seems to be a lot quicker with a smile than the real Niki Lauda.</p>

Daniel Bruhl seems to be a lot quicker with a smile than the real Niki Lauda.

Credit: HitFix

Daniel Bruhl talks about the freedom of playing the blunt Niki Lauda in 'Rush'

Sometimes being an a-hole is liberating

TORONTO - When "Inglourious Basterds" came out a few years ago, most of the attention was focused on what became a break-out role for Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa, and I understand. It was exciting to see that kind of performance from a guy no one outside of Germany had ever heard of, and it earned him completely justified praise from all quarters.

The problem was, though, that the film featured a host of damn fine performances, and because of all the immediate buzz about Waltz, some of those other actors didn't get the praise they should have. I was impressed by the work Daniel Bruhl did in the film as a young German sharpshooter who essentially becomes the German version of Audie Murphy, a sudden media figure, a propaganda celebrity. It's great work, and it seemed to verify that the funny, moving performance Bruhl gave in "Goodbye, Lenin!" was no accident.

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<p>Jesse Eisenberg meets his exact duplicate in Richard Ayoade's willfully strange 'The Double'</p>

Jesse Eisenberg meets his exact duplicate in Richard Ayoade's willfully strange 'The Double'

Credit: Film 4

Review: Richard Ayoade's uneven 'The Double' makes strong use of twice the Jesse Eisenberg

HitFix
C+
Readers
n/a
Someone is a big fan of Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil'

TORONTO - It can be difficult understanding who someone is when you're simply looking at roles they've played in films or on television, because so often, actors simply book whatever jobs are available, and they aren't really responsible for the content of many of the films on their filmographies. Once someone starts to write and direct, you get a much more defined picture of who they are, and in the case of Richard Ayoade, I'm delighted that he turned out to be every bit as eclectic and sharp and funny as I would have hoped.

His first feature, "Submarine," is a small beautiful piece about teenage heartbreak, and it really hit me hard at Sundance in 2010. Well-observed, perfectly cast, it certainly felt like the work of someone who must have viewed "Rushmore" as a landmark in some way, but it also had enough specific voice of its own that I didn't mind that I could clearly sense his influences. Now, with his latest feature, "The Double," Ayoade appears to be making a public declaration of his love for Terry Gilliam's "Brazil," as seen through the filter of one of Fyodor Dostoevsky's most famous works. The script, written by Ayoade and Avi Korine, wrings every bit of uncomfortable humor possible from the piece, and it is willfully, proudly surreal.

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<p>Chris Hemsworth studied behind-the-scenes footage from period news broadcasts to find insights into who James Hunt was in his private moments.</p>

Chris Hemsworth studied behind-the-scenes footage from period news broadcasts to find insights into who James Hunt was in his private moments.

Credit: HitFix

Chris Hemsworth discusses the pressure to get the details right to play James Hunt in Ron Howard's 'Rush'

We discuss going from comic book notions of good and bad to the ambiguity of life

One of the problems with biopics that purport to cover the entire life of a famous or notable person is the aging issue. People change over time, sure, but how they age, how they look as kids, as young adults, as old people, is something you either have to address using make-up or other visual trickery or by casting different people to play the character at different stages in life. Both approaches have the appeal, and both also have major drawbacks. It's a decision every filmmaker doing a birth-to-death biopic has to address at some point.

That's only one reason that I prefer films like "Rush" that take an interesting moment or a compelling story from someone's life story and tell that as a movie, so there is a finite period of time you're dealing with and the actor you hire can focus on building a real performance, not just juggling wigs and prosthetics. In "Rush," the story being told covers a short, intense period of time in which James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and rival Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) battled for the F1 world champion title, and that story was what drew Peter Morgan in as a writer. I'm sure they could have made a movie about either man and then just played this out as part of that larger story, but why? By keeping the focus fairly tight, "Rush" really tells you everything you need to know about either of the men. There's no way a film that addressed more of their lives chronologically could pay off in the same ways "Rush" does by putting both characters under the microscope during this particular moment of their careers.

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<p>Ron Howard should be smiling considering how strong the reaction to 'Rush' has been from everyone who saw it at the Toronto Film Festival.</p>

Ron Howard should be smiling considering how strong the reaction to 'Rush' has been from everyone who saw it at the Toronto Film Festival.

Credit: HitFix

Ron Howard talks about how he refused to make anyone a villain in his vibrant new film 'Rush'

The veteran filmmaker talks about how he approached the true-life story

TORONTO - The last time Ron Howard and I spoke was in a screening room after a rough-cut screening of "How The Grinch Stole Christmas," and to say that it was a very different vibe than when we sat down to talk about "Rush" would be an understatement. "Rush" is one of the best things he's done as a director, and one of the things that makes it so exciting is the way it eschews Hollywood formula in its attempt to tell the complicated story of the relationship between James Hunt and Niki Lauda.

In the film, Chris Hemsworth stars as James Hunt, and Daniel Bruhl gives a complicated performance as Lauda, a difficult man to like under the best of circumstances. In the easy Hollywood version of the film, you make Hunt the good guy, you make Lauda the bad guy, and you play the season as the story of how the Rock Star beat the Rat. Screenwriter Peter Morgan was so drawn to the story that he wrote it on spec, and he didn't take that easy path with the characters. Instead, both men are shown to have strengths and weaknesses, and the entire season is suspenseful because there's no one we're rooting for in favor of someone else. It becomes a story about the way your worst enemy can drive you to be a better person because of what it ignites in you.

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<p>AJ&nbsp;Bowen starts to realize that perhaps a cult living in a Central American jungle is not the safest place to walk into with a camera.</p>

AJ Bowen starts to realize that perhaps a cult living in a Central American jungle is not the safest place to walk into with a camera.

Credit: Arcade Pictures

Review: Ti West's creepy 'The Sacrament' plunges viewers into the heart of a suicide cult

HitFix
C+
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How does the master of the indie slow-burn handle such potent material?

TORONTO - By the time I publish this review, there's a strong chance Magnolia will have closed their deal to pick up Ti West's new film "The Sacrament" for release, and if they do, I think that's a great match for the release model that they seem to be perfecting over there.

It would be unfair and reductive to simply call "The Sacrament" a horror film. Sure, Ti has made a name for himself as a master of the slow-burn with "The House Of The Devil" and "The Innkeepers," but even those films are totally different in terms of tone and style, and I think West deserves credit for the way he stretches in each new film. He is not repeating himself, something that already makes him stand apart from many guys who work in genre these days.

His new film is told from the point of view of a team of journalists from VICE who decide to join Patrick (Kentucker Audley), one of their photographers, as he heads into the jungle to see his sister Caroline (Amy Seimetz), who joined a community for sober living. Originally located in Mississippi, they left the United States, and he hasn't really heard from her since. Sam (AJ Bowen) and cameraman Jake (Joe Swanberg) accompany Patrick, and from the moment they arrive at the isolated camp, there is a sense of dread that West expertly draws out.

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<p>It's nice to know after 'The Master' that this guy is still in there somewhere.</p>

It's nice to know after 'The Master' that this guy is still in there somewhere.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Spike Jonze shows clips from new film 'Her' and looks back at his career at special TIFF Q&A

Director Kelly Reichardt makes a great moderator for a spirited afternoon

TORONTO - Normally during a film festival, it would be impossible to get me to take time out of my schedule to see sequences from an unreleased film and watch a Q&A with a filmmaker, but then again, not everyone is Spike Jonze.

The last time we spoke was at Sundance a few years ago, when he was in town to promote his short film about a robot who falls in love, "I'm Here." Based on the trailer for his new feature film, "Her," it looks like he may have had further thoughts along a similar line, and the promise of hearing a great conversation about his process and what got him back behind the camera for the first time since "Where The Wild Things Are" was too much for me to pass up.

The TIFF Bell Lightbox is a perfect venue for this sort of event. The rooms are fairly good-sized screening rooms, but they manage to create a feeling of intimacy when it comes to the Q&A part of things.

Kelly Reichardt was the moderator for the Q&A, which is a really lovely combination of filmmakers to take the stage. If you don't know Reichart's work, it wouldn't shock me. Her films are modest gems, beautifully nuanced and observational, not really built to compete for hype in a world of superhero movies and endless sequels. I can easily imagine Jonze as a big fan of films like "Wendy and Lucy," "Old Joy," and "Meek's Cutoff."

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<p>If you do win tickets to the premiere, remember to dress like this.</p>

If you do win tickets to the premiere, remember to dress like this.

Credit: Lionsgate

Want to win a pair of tickets to the premiere of 'Hunger Games: Catching Fire'? HitFix can help

We've got the full details on the Twitter sweepstakes and how you can enter

I've been so caught up in all things Toronto this week that it's easy to forget we're about to kick off the fall movie season, which seems particularly busy this year. I'm looking forward to what feels like dozens of new movies, and one of the titles I am enormously curious about is "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire."

Francis Lawrence is directing the new film, and so far, the footage we've seen feels like they've definitely revamped some of what they're doing with the new film while also building off of what Gary Ross did in the the first one. When the first film premiered, we gave you a chance to win tickets to the premiere, and Lionsgate reached out to us to give you that same chance for the new movie, which will take place in Los Angeles on November 18, 2013. Travel will not be provided to Los Angeles or venue.

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<p>Graham Skipper watches dailies from Vanessa Leigh's big scene in the film and has the same reaction everyone else did last night in the theater.</p>

Graham Skipper watches dailies from Vanessa Leigh's big scene in the film and has the same reaction everyone else did last night in the theater.

Credit: Channel 83 Productions

Review: 'Almost Human' brings alien probes to the Ryerson for Midnight Madness

HitFix
B-
Readers
n/a
A perfect homage to '80s DIY-horror rocks the late night crowd

TORONTO - Joe Begos is a time traveler.

Oh, sure, he'll deny it, and he'll try to claim that "Almost Human" is a new film that he made with creative partner Josh Ethier and an enthusiastic cast including Graham Skipper and Vanessa Leigh, and he'll say that he shot it on a Red 4K camera and that his DI artist helped create a 16mm look for the thing, and he'll say it's a loving tribute to the DIY indie slasher films of the '80s, but I know the truth. This film was made in 1987 and then somehow Begos fell into a wormhole, got transported to the present day with his finished movie, and now he's passing it off with this elaborate cover story. I mean… which is more likely? My version, or the notion that this talented bunch of loonies pulled off this straight-faced an homage down to the smallest detail?

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<p>Tiger doesn't even have to look at you to dole out punishment.</p>

Tiger doesn't even have to look at you to dole out punishment.

Credit: RADiUS-TWC

Review: Keanu Reeves leaves a mark with the heartfelt martial arts film 'Man Of Tai Chi'

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
Only one word fits for this one: 'Whoa'

TORONTO - For the last two days, every time I've mentioned to someone that I planned to see the film "Man Of Tai Chi," which marks the directorial debut of Keanu Reeves, the reaction has been the same. Rolled eyes, some sort of joke, and a general attitude that there's no way they would end up joining me for the screening. At the screening tonight at the Ryerson, there was only one other journalist there that I recognized, despite this being the premiere with Reeves in attendance.

Your loss.

Shot in China, with a Chinese cast, and with the entire thing shot in Chinese with English subtitles, "Man Of Tai Chi" is a no-apologies martial arts film, a movie that features wall to wall fights that are shot and choreographed with such an obvious love for the genre and for the poetry of fighting that I was won over almost immediately. Chen Lin-Hu stars as Tiger Hu Chen, a modest student of Tai Chi master Yang (Yu Hai). Tiger works as a delivery guy for a Fed Ex-like company, and he trains for a tournament where he hopes to prove that Tai Chi is not just for exercise, but is a real martial art capable of defeating anything else. Even in the early training sequences, it's obvious that Tiger is impatient to learn, which is at direct odds with the teachings of his master. Even when they're in the midst of a practice fight, Tiger is always moving too fast, his master urging him to slow down, to find a meditative place within himself.

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<p>Derek Lee's trip to&nbsp;Europe didn't turn out quite like he hoped.</p>

Derek Lee's trip to Europe didn't turn out quite like he hoped.

Credit: CBS Films

Review: Slick and scary 'Afflicted' wrings new life from a classic premise

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
I know I said I was done with found-footage films, but...

TORONTO - One of the things that makes the 25th anniversary of Midnight Madness at the Toronto International Film Festival so worthy of celebration is the number of careers that have been launched from that stage in the Ryerson. I've seen it happen several times over the last few years, and I'm fairly sure I saw it happen again on Monday night, when "Afflicted" was screened.

It's a safe bet that Derek Lee and Clif Prowse, who co-wrote, co-directed, and co-starred in the film, are big fans of the John Landis classic "An American Werewolf In London." I've seen a lot of people try to capture the particular alchemy that makes the Landis film such an intoxicating kick over the years, and I've seen most of those attempts fall completely flat. To their credit, "Afflicted" doesn't play like a film that has been specifically engineered to follow that model, but more like a movie made by people who have completely absorbed that film and who understand what they love about it. Like "Werewolf," the film "Afflicted" follows two young men who are traveling in Europe together, only to encounter trouble that leaves one of them dead and the other one in a severely altered state. Both films use humor and horror expertly, never undermining one in favor of the other. And both films build something fresh from one of the most basic of the horror tropes.

Oh… and did I mention it's a found footage movie?

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