<p>The Black Widow and Nightwing clean up pretty well, all things considered.</p>

The Black Widow and Nightwing clean up pretty well, all things considered.

Credit: HitFix

Gordon-Levitt and Johansson on the difference between superhero franchises and indie films

Is the process really any different for actors in the end?

There are certain faces that seemed to be ubiquitous at film festivals this year, and when one of those belongs to Scarlett Johansson, you will not catch me complaining about the situation.

I saw "Don Jon" at SXSW this year, and it is an uncommonly perceptive directorial debut by Joseph Gordon Levitt. He stars in the film which he also wrote, but it is the way he nails certain observations about the way everyone has their own fantasy they depend on to get them through that impressed me most. It is a very observant point that I would expect from an older writer.

In addition to making a number of smaller films this year that feed certain artistic needs for each of them, JGL and ScarJo both have experience now being part of these giant megafranchise superhero films that are the bread and butter of the Hollywood system at the moment. While Christopher Nolan's final Batman film was more divisive than the first two, I think one of the things that seemed to really speak to people was the work that Joseph Gordon Levitt did as a Gotham City police officer who didn't need a mask and a cave and a limitless arsenal to stand up and do what he believed was right. He was a moral compass in the film in a way I found really surprising, and I think he helped ground that last film.

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<p>'Midway the journey of this life, I became lost in a dark forest and had to use a giant bladed weapon to cut some generic ghost-demon-thingies in half'</p>

'Midway the journey of this life, I became lost in a dark forest and had to use a giant bladed weapon to cut some generic ghost-demon-thingies in half'

Credit: Electronic Arts

Fede Alvarez nears a deal to direct film based on 'Dante's Inferno' video game

Is the 'Evil Dead' director already losing momentum?

If we need a reminder about the place that video games hold in pop culture right now, just look at last night's midnight launch of "Grand Theft Auto V," which was just as big a moment as any of this summer's movie launches. The big titles remain big, and there is a fierce brand loyalty among gamers that has yet to be truly tested by Hollywood. They keep trying, but they keep getting it wrong, and I suspect there's plenty more of that in the future.

A perfect example would be the news today that Fede Alvarez, who directed this spring's "Evil Dead," is in talks now to sign on as the director of "Dante's Inferno." The game, released by Electronic Arts, is a shameless mash-up of "Devil May Cry" and "God Of War," and executed with all the subtlety of a fart in a microphone. Trust me… no one aside from the people who stand to make money off of it is asking for a movie version of "Dante's Inferno." The idea that there was a bidding war for the film rights, and the idea that Universal considers themselves the winners of that bidding war… baffling.

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<p>Anna Faris and Bill Hader return to the roles they played in the first 'Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs' for the very silly sequel.</p>

Anna Faris and Bill Hader return to the roles they played in the first 'Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs' for the very silly sequel.

Credit: HitFix

Bill Hader and Anna Faris get silly discussing their return for 'Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2'

It's safe to call the pair of them 'animated' in this interview

The first "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs" was a delightful surprise. I have since made note of the fact that I should never underestimate Chris Miller and Phil Lord, a mistake I've made enough times now to identify it as a mistake. Those guys are busy with "The LEGO Movie" these days, and they're gearing up on "22 Jump Street" as well, and if you saw last night's premiere of "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," they directed that as well.

That didn't leave a lot of time for them to make a sequel to the movie that pretty much launched them as feature directors, so Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn stepped up to direct the sequel, which is more ambitious on a story level, as well as much, much stranger. Considering what a margin for failure there was on the first film, I found myself wondering if they could pull off a sequel. When I sat down to talk to Bill Hader and Anna Faris, it was a huge relief to be able to have enjoyed the sequel as much as I did. It's a different movie, but it builds on the pleasures of the first movie in very smart and enormously silly ways.

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<p>I like it when Arnold plays to his age instead of trying to disguise it, and I can't wait to see how Cameron pictures him for 'Avatar 2'</p>

I like it when Arnold plays to his age instead of trying to disguise it, and I can't wait to see how Cameron pictures him for 'Avatar 2'

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Report: Arnold Schwarzenegger joining Cameron for bad guy role in 'Avatar 2'

It would be a welcome reunion, and opens up some interesting possibilities

Let's say El Mayimbe is correct. Let's say James Cameron has officially told Arnold Schwarzenegger to get ready to spend a year in New Zealand to shoot his role in the "Avatar" sequels as a bad guy in charge of leading Earth's forces back to Pandora to kick some Navi ass. Let's say the deal is done, the dates are set, and it's happening. If we accept all of that as a given, then I'd say this is about as exciting as casting news gets.

I have not been flipping out over the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to film after his time spent working in California state government. I liked "The Last Stand," sure, but I think he was the single most embarrassing thing about "The Expendables 2." I like many of the films he has starred in over the years, but I don't think he is the same person or the same actor today that he was in the '80s, and I don't think you can just step back in and pick up where you left off after a certain point in life. Arnold is older. He's physically different. He's gone through some pretty major life changes in that time. Why would we want him to try to be the same person he was 20 or even 30 years ago? I'd rather see him work with Cameron in some new way.

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<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+
Readers
n/a
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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