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<p>Willem Dafoe (middle)&nbsp;and Andrew Stanton (right)&nbsp;on the set of &quot;John&nbsp;Carter&quot;</p>

Willem Dafoe (middle) and Andrew Stanton (right) on the set of "John Carter"

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

‘John Carter’ star Willem Dafoe talks performance capture and Oscar

The actor reflects on the hot button medium following his recent experience

Disney’s “John Carter” opened this weekend and, thus far, seems to be maintaining a slightly stronger presence at the box office than was originally anticipated. Andrew Stanton's film won Friday night with $9.8 million, though Universal’s “The Lorax” is predicted to overtake it by today’s end.

Adapted from Edgar Rice Burroughs's “A Princess of Mars” (initially published in 1917), the first in the author's sci-fi/fantasy series about the planet “Barsoom” (Mars), the film follows an embittered Civil War veteran on his unlikely journey to the planet, where he is, once again, drafted into a conflict not of his making.

Established character actor Willem Dafoe signed on to don a performance capture suit and stilts in order to portray Tars Tarkas (the 9-foot-tall leader of the alien warrior race the Tharks) in the film after having worked with helmer Stanton on “Finding Nemo” and was intrigued by the idea of doing something he had never done, or seen, previously.

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<p>Danny Strong (between HBO's Len Amato and &quot;Game Change&quot; director Jay Roach)</p>
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Danny Strong (between HBO's Len Amato and "Game Change" director Jay Roach)

Credit: Evan Agostini/AP

HitFix Interview: Writer Danny Strong discusses HBO's 'Game Change'

'Buffy' and 'Gilmore Girls' acting veteran talks Sarah Palin and more
When "Recount" premiered on HBO in 2008, a large subset of TV fans found themselves excited about Kevin Spacey and Denis Leary and the rest of the top-notch cast, but what was truly intriguing was that the acclaimed movie was written by Jonathan from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and Doyle from "Gilmore Girls."
 
A few years later, we may still think of Danny Strong from those roles and from an arc on "Mad Men," but that "Recount" Emmy nomination (and WGA Award win) has helped solidify his position as one of Hollywood's busiest screenwriters. He's writing "The Butler" for "Precious" director Lee Daniels and he just signed on to adapt Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol" for the big screen.
 
At the moment, Strong is attracting attention for his script for "Game Change," an HBO adaptation of John Heilemann and Mark Halperin's bestseller that has prompted outrage from Team Sarah Palin weeks before anybody in the former Vice Presidential nominees camp even saw the movie.
 
For "Game Change," Strong took an already exhaustively researched book and went off on a research mission of his own, interviewing all of the people associated with the McCain/Palin 2008 campaign, or at least the people willing to accept his interview requests.
 
I spoke with Strong after interviewing "Game Change" director Jay Roach, so I think I was able to tailor them as complimentary, rather than overlapping, interviews. Yes, the controversy came up again, but Strong mostly talks about why the Palin story attracted him, how well he feels like he understands the former Alaska Governor and why he's excited about working on a Tom Hanks blockbuster.
 
Click through for the full interview...
 
 
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<p>I'm guessing they didn't realize how short-term a commitment 'Til death do us part' was going to be in the world of '[REC] 3'</p>

I'm guessing they didn't realize how short-term a commitment 'Til death do us part' was going to be in the world of '[REC] 3'

Credit: Magnet Releasing

Review: '[REC] 3' delivers gore and thrills and unexpected laughs at midnight

SXSW's first round of midnight shows featured a much-anticipated horror sequel

I have always found the idea of a horror franchise to be somewhat backwards.

Horror frequently relies on the unknown to scare us.  There is an involuntary element to what happens when a great scare delivers.  The more often we see a monster and the more close-up we get with it, the less chance there is it's going to scare us.  Most horror franchises revolve around the constant resurrection/destruction cycle, bringing their boogeymen back from the dead at the start, then making sure he is defeated again by the end.

It bores me.  I don't understand people who watch something like "Halloween 5," unless maybe that's their version of comfort food.  Familiar.  Comforting.  Utterly without any chance of actually scaring you.  I'd rather be off-balance in a horror film, uncomfortable, trying to get my bearings.

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<p>Bill Courtney (left)&nbsp;in&nbsp;&quot;Undefeated&quot;</p>

Bill Courtney (left) in "Undefeated"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Oscar-winning doc 'Undefeated' does gangbusters in Memphis

The home town contributed 25% of last weekend's overall gross

Here's a box office story antidote to all those depressing sentiments regarding the $100 million write-off that is "John Carter."

As Austin's South by Southwest Film Festival forges ahead this week, it's worth remembering that last month's Oscar-winning documentary feature, "Undefeated," started it's long journey there almost exactly a year ago. Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin's inspirational look at an embattled high school football program bowed at the fest on March 13 of last year, was later acquired by The Weinstein Company, and finally saw a theatrical release on February 17, just a week before the Academy Awards.

However, it wasn't until March 2, last weekend, that it finally found its way to Memphis, Tennessee, the film's setting, as it splashed onto a screen at the Malco Paradiso Theatre. And what a splash it made.

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<p>Magic Johnson, still healthy and happy, is the subject of ESPN's &quot;The Announcement.&quot;</p>

Magic Johnson, still healthy and happy, is the subject of ESPN's "The Announcement."

Credit: ESPN

Review: Magic Johnson, HIV, and ESPN's 'The Announcement'

Documentary tells a compelling story, but hamstrung by narration

I watched and reviewed almost all of ESPN's "30 for 30" films, but since the documentary series relaunched last year under the simpler ESPN Films banner, I have to admit I've lost track. I have DVDs of all of them, but "Fab Five" and "Catching Hell" were the only ones I actually found time for, unfortunately.

This weekend's "The Announcement" (tomorrow at 9 p.m.), though, deals with one of my favorite athletes of all time, and with the story that literally made me watch ESPN for the first time ever, so there was no way I was going to miss it.

And though, like several of the original "30 for 30" films, it gets hamstrung in spots by a particular filmmaking choice, the story itself is so strong, as are the recollections of the people who went through it, that I very much recommend watching.

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<p>Bill of &quot;Survivor: One World&quot;</p>
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Bill of "Survivor: One World"

Credit: CBS

HitFix Interview: Bill Posley talks 'Survivor: One World'

Latest castoff talks Colton, Tarzan and giving up Immunity
A big part of how "Survivor" has remained a relatively vigorous franchise after some 23-plus seasons and over 350 episodes is that somehow, despite a formula which is only tweaked in tiny ways each installment, human beings are unpredictable and can always be counted upon to do ridiculous and unprecedented things.
 
Take, for example, this week's episode of "Survivor: One World."
 
After starting the season in dominant form, the Men proceeded to lose three straight challenges and even host Jeff Probst was suspecting that momentum had swung to the Women. Then, the Men routed the Women in the episode's Immunity Challenge. It was a humiliating defeat and ended with Probst haranguing the women for their flippant attitude about defeat.
 
The Men had the upper hand again, right?
 
Wrong. 
 
Evil Mastermind Colton was so fed up -- fairly inexplicably so -- with stand-up comic Bill Posley that he convinced the Tribe that there was sufficient cancer within their group that rather than waiting until their next Immunity defeat, they'd be better off handing Immunity to the Women and going to Tribal Council. 
 
What followed was one of the most explosive and absurd Tribal Councils in the game's history, an onslaught of name-calling, speechifying and derision that touched on race, class and sexuality in the oddest of ways.
 
You'd be better off just reading my recap to try getting a feeling for it. 
 
Bill ended up as the victim in Colton's maneuver, but he also came away looking like possibly the only sensible person on a Tribe of worms and lunatics. 
 
That perception is likely to be reenforced by Bill's exit interview, though even after asking the question multiple times, I'm still left with the burning question: Why did he go along with the Tribal Council plan in the first place?
 
Click through for Bill's answer to that question and more...
 
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<p>Bruce Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt</p>
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Bruce Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt

Credit: Evan Agostini/AP

Will Bruce Springsteen 'Wreck' Adele's time at No.1 on the Billboard 200?

'Wrecking Ball' and '21' are too close to call going into the weekend

Will Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” have the momentum to knock Adele’s  “21” out of the top spot on the Billboard 200?  With a few days left until the charts close on Sunday night, it’s too early to tell marking the first time in several weeks that “21” has had a true challenger.

They both are on track to sell between 210,000 and 220,000, according to Hits Daily Double. That mean “Wrecking Ball” should come in almost exactly with the same numbers as Springsteen’s last studio set,  2009’s “Working On a Dream,” which debuted at No. 1 and sold 224,000 copies.

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<p>Joss Whedon posed for a photo with a fan in 2010, but there was a little more to it, as we learned later.</p>

Joss Whedon posed for a photo with a fan in 2010, but there was a little more to it, as we learned later.

Credit: Jake Lasker/HITFIX

One Thing I Love Today: The story behind that Joss Whedon photo

Why does my Twitter icon feature people who aren't me?

I changed my Twitter icon a while ago, and recently updated my profiles on pretty much any social media network that requires an icon so that I'm using the same image everywhere.  What's funny is that because most icons are small, people don't seem to really "see" the icon, and it's only when someone takes a closer look that I get the question "What the heck is that photo, and where did it come from?"

First, I claim no ownership of the image.  It was taken by Jake Lasker, who I don't know except from Twitter, where he first contacted me.

The backstory as he explained it to me was that he took this photo at Comic-Con 2010.  He saw Joss Whedon walking along and asked him if he would stop for the picture.  It was one of those quick random encounters, and Lasker walked away happy because he got to meet someone whose work meant so much to him.

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<p>They may not be having a good time, but you will in 'Cabin In The Woods'</p>

They may not be having a good time, but you will in 'Cabin In The Woods'

Credit: Lionsgate

Review: 'Cabin In The Woods' kicks off SXSW with a blast of wild inventive horror fun

Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard may have broken the genre forever

Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard are very clever.

Clever does not always translate, though, to creating something that engages an audience and that works as a film experience, particularly when you're talking about something that is, at heart, a meta-textual game about the very nature of horror films.

Don't let that worry you.  "Cabin In The Woods" is, first and foremost, a wildly entertaining movie that plays off of our collective familiarity with horror tropes, and it delivers the sort of experience that absolutely demands that you see it in a movie theater with as many friends as you can gather.  It is fun, it is thrilling and it is smart.  If you want an absolutely clean experience without having any of the film's surprises spoiled for you, see it opening weekend and read nothing between now and then, not even the rest of this review.  Just rest assured that this is the film that finally translates what Whedon has always done so well on television into a movie that I think works completely on its own terms.

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"The Real Skinny"

 "The Real Skinny"

Credit: TLC

Watch: The formerly fat get excess skin removed on 'The Real Skinny'

The stories are moving but the footage isn't pretty

Now that we have a fleet of TV shows about very large people trying to become much smaller people, it seems that this had to happen -- a show about excess skin removal after extreme weight loss. Despite the playful title, "The Real Skinny" (premieres Mon. March 12 on TLC) is about real people, many of them traumatized by excess hanging skin, undergoing drastic surgery. It's often moving, but you might be forgiven for thinking about Hannibal Lecter when you see gobs of flesh being sliced and diced. Watch a clip from the show below. 

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<p>A scene from &quot;John&nbsp;Carter&quot;</p>

A scene from "John Carter"

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'John Carter'

The film opens today

Well, the blockbuster movie season is upon us. Though I guess it's left to be seen how many blocks "John Carter" will really bust. I haven't seen the film yet, so I have nothing to offer. I've heard some good things but mostly I've been warned off a few dozen times. I'll saddle up to it in due time, but for now, I imagine many of you will be hitting the multiplex this weekend to have a look for yourselves. When/if you do, head on back here and give us your take.

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<p>I'll bet Chris Hemsworth wishes he had a magic hammer right about now as bad things start happening in 'Cabin In The Woods'</p>

I'll bet Chris Hemsworth wishes he had a magic hammer right about now as bad things start happening in 'Cabin In The Woods'

Credit: Lionsgate

SXSW - Day One: A preview of what to expect from us during the festival

Music docs, crazy midnights, and experimental voices abound

It's come up so quick this year that I'm having trouble believing that South By Southwest is finally underway today.

I'm here for the entire film portion of the festival, and for those who haven't been here, you may not realize that SXSW is not just about movies.  There is also a major Interactive conference, and an amazing Music festival.  Interactive runs concurrently with film, and Music starts just as Film is ending.  The net result of all of this is that Austin is absolutely, no question, 100% bananas for the next 15 days or so.

I'm here for Film, though, and unless I can wrangle my way into the show Fiona Apple is playing, all of my events are Film oriented, and I thought before we get going, it would be good to look ahead at what you can expect from our coverage.

For example, TONIGHT kicks off the festival for me.  I'm going to see a Norwegian dark fairy tale called "Thale," then the premiere of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's genre-bending "Cabin In The Woods" serves as the centerpiece premiere, and then it's off to the South Lamar Alamo for a midnight screening of "[REC] 3," the latest chapter in the dark and disturbing Spanish horror franchise.

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