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<p>Julianne Moore in &quot;Game Change&quot;</p>

Julianne Moore in "Game Change"

Credit: HBO

Julianne Moore owns Jay Roach's 'Game Change' as Sarah Palin

The actress gives one of her finest performances to date in the HBO adaptation

So I was out most of the day and had to come into Jay Roach's "Game Change," which premiered this evening on HBO, somewhere in the middle. No way I was gonna wait and watch it all in one fell swoop. I've been eager to see this and, particularly, Julianne Moore's performance as Sarah Palin, for some time now. When it was over, I waited an hour, caught the first half and here we are. Full disclosure.

And make no mistake, Moore OWNS this film. But not in the way you'd have expected. Sure, any actress tasked with portraying a lightning rod like Palin is going to get a lot of scrutiny and consideration, and the performance is bound to play up broad elements because, well, Palin can be a broad character.

But Moore hits the deep fissures of fear and mortal terror, emotional overload and, ultimately, unbridled narcissism expertly -- at times, profoundly. It's one of her finest performances. And while I won't say I was brought too far into empathetic territory, I was happy with the textured consideration that really gives you a reason to maintain issue with who Palin is, deep down: an egomaniac.

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<p>But they're sweet kids.&nbsp; Really.</p>

But they're sweet kids.  Really.

Credit: Funeral Kings LLC/SXSW

Review: 'Funeral Kings' is a confident coming-of-age debut from McManus Brothers

This lovely little film should find a distributor here this week

Coming of age stories depend upon authenticity if they are to have any power whatsoever.  I've certainly seen enough phony versions of a young man's first steps into a larger world to know when something rings true and when it doesn't.  The strength of "Funeral Kings," the debut feature of Kevin and Matthew McManus, is that it evokes a sustained emotional state that perfectly captures life at a certain age, straining against everyone else's definition of you, in a way that suggests these are filmmakers worth watching.

Charlie (Alex Maizus) and Andy (Dylan Hartigan) and Felix (Charles Kwame Odei) are friends, all going to the same Catholic middle school.  They're good kids, altar boys, but at 14, they're ready to be 30 years old, and they're pushing it in every way they can.  From the rowdy energy of the opening title sequence to the defiant smile that lights up the final frames, "Funeral Kings" is confident and controlled and, with an unabashed vulgarity underscoring everything, about as pure a piece of movie memory as I can name.  It's just one random week in the lives of these kids, and what happens when Bobby (Brandon Waltz) drops off a padlocked trunk with Andy to hide and a new kid named David (Jordan Puzzo) moves to town.  Each of them seems to be just on the verge of really figuring out who they are, and it's not easy for them.  Felix is lucky… he's got an older brother, and he's pretty much ready to make the jump to manhood with someone watching him every step of the way.  The other guys don't really have that, and they're floundering.  Charlie in particular seems to be cursed with a baby face and a hair-trigger temper.  He gets embarrassed easily, and he reacts badly when he does.

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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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