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<p>Director Pablo Larrain (center) and stars Alfredo Castro and Gael Garcia Bernal arrives for the Cannes premiere of &quot;No.&quot;</p>

Director Pablo Larrain (center) and stars Alfredo Castro and Gael Garcia Bernal arrives for the Cannes premiere of "No."

Credit: AP Photo/Francois Mori

Sony Classics says yes to 'No' at Cannes

Festival standout finds home with top foreign-language distributor

In the mid-Cannes checkup piece I posted yesterday, I wrote that the festival sidebars (Un Certain Regard, Directors' Fortnight and Critics' Week, plus a handful of stray special selections) haven't produced much in the way of a word-of-mouth sensation. The clear exception I noted was Chilean director Pablo Larrain's "No" -- my own favourite film of the festival thus far -- which I saw on the third day of the festival and was far from alone in admiring. (When even self-confessed sidebar sceptic Jeff Wells has checked it out and is singing its praises, you know word has officially got round.)

So I'm thrilled to hear that the positive buzz for "No" has paid off handsomely in the distribution racket, as the US rights to the film have been picked up by arthouse major Sony Pictures Classics, whose record of shepherding foreign-language fare Stateside currently stands second to none. (For starters, they've been behind five of the last six winners of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.) That's a major profile boost for Larrain, whose last two films, "Tony Manero" and "Post Mortem" (with which "No" forms a thematically-linked trilogy), were distributed in the US by the far lower-profile outfit Kino Lorber. ("Post Mortem" hit theaters only last month on a highly limited release.)

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<p>Britt Daniel of Spoon</p>

Britt Daniel of Spoon

Credit: AP Photo

Spoon's Britt Daniel forms Divine Fits with members of Wolf Parade and New Bomb Turks

New group will release album on Merge later this year

Get ready for another indie rock supergroup.

Spoon's Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade's Dan Boeckner and former New Bomb Turks drummer Sam Brown are joining forces to become Divine Fits.

The group's as yet untitled debut album will be released later this year on Merge Records, longtime home to Spoon, Arcade Fire, New Pornographers, Fucked Up and numerous other bands. Post-punk production guru Nick Launay (Gang of Four, PiL, Kate Bush) recorded the album.

There's little information available about the album or any touring plans. Keep up-to-date at the band's web site here. Divine Fits should have an interesting sound, since all three band members' other projects have been distinctively different; Spoon purveys sparse, soulful pop while New Bomb Turks played upbeat punk-pop and Wolf Parade eyed '80s new wave as inspiration and often featured keyboards and dancier sounds.

Spoon's last studio album, "Transference," hit No. 4 on the Billboard 200 in 2010. Wolf Parade, whose last album was also released in 2010, recently announced that they're on hiatus. The New Bomb Turks, meanwhile, haven't played together since 2005.

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<p>Hugh Laurie in the &quot;House&quot;&nbsp;series finale.</p>

Hugh Laurie in the "House" series finale.

Credit: FOX

Series finale review: 'House' - 'Everybody Dies'

House confronts his greatest foe — himself — and solves one final problem

A review of the "House" series finale coming up just as soon as I say that Pascal's Wager is facile...

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<p>Public Image Ltd.</p>

Public Image Ltd.

Credit: Paul Heartfield

Interview: John Lydon on PiL, Sex Pistols, Green Day and the Olympics

Johnny Rotten's Public Image Ltd. 20-year return, Jah Wobble and lousy surfing

John Lydon -- aka Johnny Rotten -- speaks in stanzas, with grand pauses. He’d finish a thought, I’d give him a few seconds, I’d start to speak but then he’d start in on another thought on the same subject, sometimes in third person. He was full of sharp declarations and axioms like they were print-ready for badges and t-shirts. Perhaps its because many were badges and t-shirts.  

It’s been 20 years since Lydon’s Public Image Ltd. has released new music, but the frontman contends that PiL was never really gone. Listeners can hear the band’s influence in contemporary artists today, and that his parade of rotating members have gone on to initiate other bands bearing PiL’s mark. You should and could say the same about the Sex Pistols, Johnny Rotten’s other heavily influential band. Along with guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook, the group has performed on and off as the Sex Pistols live, and this month the “God Save the Queen” single is getting a vinyl reissue and the Pistols’ album “Never Mind the Bollocks” will drop as a 35th anniversary reissue.
PiL’s resurgence started in 2009 when guitarist Lu Edmonds, and drummer Bruce Smith and new blood Scott Firth on bass hit the road. They circled up, ultimately, at Steve Winwood’s studio in Cotswolds, England and bashed out “This is PiL,” out next Tuesday (May 29) via PiL's own label with distro from Redeye. The entire album is available to stream, and has been for two months.
Last month, Johnny Rotten was on the phone from California, his adoptive home for more than two decades. Despite what I was warned, there wasn’t too much sass, barely any spit and the 56-year-old was willing to talk about just about anything, from his contentious relationship to ex-bassist Jah Wobble, to the passing of his step-daughter Ari Up (of the Slits) to his money troubles in starting another PiL album again.
Despite past troubles, Lydon seemed at peace in many ways. He was also in a good mood. We spoke for 50 minutes, fits and starts and all. When he picked up the phone, I think I heard the toilet flush.
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<p>Brad Pitt in &quot;Killing Them Softly.&quot;</p>

Brad Pitt in "Killing Them Softly."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: Stylish, strutting 'Killing Them Softly' too tough for subtext

Andrew Dominik's latest brings latter-day capitalist concerns to 1970s homage

CANNES - "I like to kill them softly," Brad Pitt rumbles midway through Andrew Dominik's efficiently blood-dampened thriller, his thumb and forefinger taking a rare vacation from the trigger to indulge in some hitman-Zen chin-stroking. "From a distance, too far away for feelings." It's the most immediately quotable line in a screenplay knotted with knowingly flavorful dialogue, and not just because it inadvertently supplies the film with its title, changed late in the game from "Cogan's Trade" -- the well-regarded 1974 pulp novel by George V. Higgins at its source. 

Rather, it's the line that most neatly encapsulates the poised pop poetry and, thanks especially to its eventual eponymic status, the on-the-nose emphases of "Killing Them Softly" as a whole, its musical connotations handily underlining the film's scuffed-suede 1970s textures into the bargain. (Make no mistake: Dominik may have ostensibly updated Higgins's story to the present -- or rather, the not-yet-unpacked period of 2008 -- but his melancholic-chic tone here, modulated to just the desired degree of rawness, is all Roberta Flack and no Lauryn Hill.) What it doesn't evoke, however, is the filmmaking itself. Nothing in this coldly enjoyable and relentlessly classy genre trip is killed softly at all: not the broken-bone crunch of the sound design, not the uproariously ripe work of its dream supporting ensemble and certainly not Dominik's bewilderingly literal makeover of Higgins's genre runaround into a portentous essay on capitalist failings in cusp-of-Obama America.  

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<p>Rick Baker, even after all his ups and downs with modern Hollywood, still seems to be in touch with that little kid who first fell in love with monster make-up all those years ago.</p>

Rick Baker, even after all his ups and downs with modern Hollywood, still seems to be in touch with that little kid who first fell in love with monster make-up all those years ago.

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Rick Baker discusses his work on 'Men In Black 3' and much more

We take a little time with one of Hollywood's living legends

Rick Baker is one of my heroes, artistically speaking.

I fell in love with his work when I was young, and for most of my life, I've been watching his creations come to life onscreen and I've felt lucky to be witnessing them.  When I saw "An American Werewolf In London" in 1981, the way he (along with John Landis and David Naughton) made a transformation from man to beast feel like a tactile, physical process involving heat and pain seemed miraculous.  He has made the fantastic seem not only possible but absolutely probable for his whole career, and he has a shelf full of Academy Awards to show for it.

However, he's also seen the industry change around him, and whereas he was once the hot new alternative to the special effects of a bygone era, today computer effects have shifted the landscape around Rick to the point that he is now the one considered quaint and old-fashioned by Hollywood.  It's not true, of course, and I would strongly urge filmmakers to reconsider their push to do everything with ones and zeros instead of creating something tangible.  I've seen things he created thirty years ago that still exist, that you can still touch with your own hands, and that could, with just a little bit of touch-up work, still be put in front of a camera and filmed.

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<p>This, surprisingly, was not Edward Norton's reaction when I brought up 'The Avengers'</p>

This, surprisingly, was not Edward Norton's reaction when I brought up 'The Avengers'

Credit: Universal/Marvel

Edward Norton explains why he still hasn't seen 'The Avengers'

What does a past-tense Hulk think of 'The Other Guy'?

CANNES - "It just isn't very important to me."

While that may look dismissive in print, that's not the way it came across when I asked Edward Norton about "The Avengers" and the new Hulk in town during our time chatting at the "Moonrise Kingdom" press day.

In fact, far from it.  I spent most of our conversation focused on his work with Wes Anderson in the new film, but I knew that I had to ask him if he'd seen Joss Whedon's film yet and, if so, what he thought of it.  After all, we were the ones who broke the story when Norton first learned he might not be returning for a second go-round as Bruce Banner and his big green alter-ego.  I felt like a quick comment from him would be the exact right button to put on things at the end of the entire process.  If you don't remember, you can follow the story as it developed here, here, here, here and here.

Even so, the moment I asked, I felt a pang of remorse.  I realized that I wasn't sure how fresh that wound was, or how Norton felt about the entire situation, and I feel like it's taken a while for him to get comfortable with me in interviews.  He is a fiercely intelligent guy, and justifiably serious about his craft.  He does not seem to love the press, but when treated with respect, he seems more than willing to have a real conversation about what he does and about film in general.  As soon as the question was out of my mouth, it felt like I had crossed a line and pushed him into an uncomfortable conversational corner, but he handled it with grace.

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Album Review: John Mayer's 'Born and Raised' rears its graceful head
Credit: Columbia Records

Album Review: John Mayer's 'Born and Raised' rears its graceful head

New set shows not only growth, but that he's growing up

That sound you hear on John Mayer’s “Born and Raised” is an artist entering a new phase of his career, and, more importantly, his life.

The highly personal set, out Tuesday, May 22, is a stripped-down collection of tunes, mainly recorded as a four-piece, that has plenty to say, but is in absolutely no rush to make its point.

Whether it’s that life slapped Mayer around a bit lately after opening his mouth a few too many times about his love life, his having to deal with ongoing vocal issues, or producer Don Was’s relaxed approach —most likely a combo of all three — the multiple Grammy winner sounds more inviting than he has in years.

Gone is the condescension of “Daughters” or the lofty idealism of “Waiting on the World To Change.” They’ve been replaced with a much more appealing seeker who has way more questions than answers these days. Even his guitar playing, as elegant and nuanced as always, never veers into the showy. He has a certain Eric Clapton/George Harrison-esque ease on confessional first single, “Shadow Days.”

The tracks are all mid-tempo (which is the album’s one weakness: too many songs of the same speed), but each one has its own personality. On the lovely “A Face To Call Home,” on which he’s aided by Sara Watkins, he yearns to jump ahead and start a life with someone that he’s still in the “getting-to-know-you” stage: “I am an architect of days that haven’t happened yet/I can’t believe a month is all it’s been.”  That first line is a killer: who hasn’t let their thoughts jump way ahead? "Something Like Olivia" has a sweet wistfulness as he longs for his buddy's girl.

Watkins is not the only well-placed guest: most fitting are David Crosby and Graham Nash who wrap their vocals around the title track; a tune the sounds straight out of an album from The Band with its country leanings and Greg Leisz on lap steel. Trumpeter Chris Botti adds a tasty flourish to the opening of the fantastical (and intriguingly titled) “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, Jan. 1967”

The set closes with the bluesy, fun “Fool To Love You,” which has the same shambolic feel of “Who Says” from  2009’s “Battle Studies’,” although the subject matter is different. As he heads into a doomed relationship, you can hear the rueful smile on his face as he sings, “I’ll be as happy as a broken man can be.”

There are no signs of any of the vocal issues that have plagued Mayer, causing him to temporarily halt work on this album and then, later, to cancel his tour when the vocal granuloma returned. He has always had an instantly recognizable raspy voice and any weary, weathered vocals evident on these tracks is no doubt intentional rather than from any voice problems. 

If the world came a little too easily for Mayer in his 20s, as he closes in on 35, he’s realized that life has a way of coming back around to slap the stuffing out of you at some point and that’s when the true tests begin.

“Born and Raised” is John Mayer with a side of humility and it suits him well.

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<p>Michael Haneke and the cast of &quot;Amour&quot; arrive for the film's Cannes premiere.</p>

Michael Haneke and the cast of "Amour" arrive for the film's Cannes premiere.

Credit: AP Photo/Francois Mori

Queuin' in the rain: Cannes 2012 hits the halfway mark

13 out of 22 Competition films have already been unveiled

It's generally a sign of a lukewarm film festival when the principal point of conversation across the Croisette is not which A-list auteur just set the Competition afire, which out-of-competition sleeper is one to watch for future months, or even the surreal sight of ill-fated US "X Factor" judge Cheryl Cole walking the red carpet for, of all things, the new Michael Haneke movie, but the rather more mundane topic of the weather.

Admittedly, it's quite some weather: where festivalgoers can usually count on catching a bit of a tan as they queue up in balmy Mediterranean conditions for the day's hot ticket, this year we'll merely settle for staying dry. It is, according to those in the know, the wettest Cannes on record -- which makes the prospect of sitting in a dark room watching even the most gruelling festival fare a more appealing prospect than usual. If you can get into the room in the first place, that is. Whether it's down to increased accreditation numbers or this year's Hollywood-heavy lineup, the festival feels more crowded this year than in either of the previous years I've attended -- a reality that hit yesterday as I was turned away from three consecutive screenings, as the white- and pink-badged elite filled the theaters before the lowlier classes could get a look-in. 

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<p>Reggie Watts in Hot Chip's &quot;Night and Day&quot;</p>

Reggie Watts in Hot Chip's "Night and Day"

Watch: Hot Chip, Peter Serafinowicz and Reggie Watts combine for 'Night and Day'

So a supermodel, a comedian and a dance band walk into the galaxy...

If the Hot Chip video for banger "Night and Day" were a movie, I'd watch the hell out of it.

The clip was directed by actor Peter Serafinowicz and utilizes polar-opposite recruits Reggie Watts and supermodel Lara Stone to man the spaceship. Their combination is well til it ends well. (Read my obsessive interview with comedian/musican Watts here.)

And precisely occurs on this ship? What is their mission? I don't know, but now my mission is to abduct the choreographer, in order to learn step-by-step Gaga style. What genius it took to make hooded robes out of actual hoodies and for a sexy ritual dance for a half-man-sized egg god, the eye of the yin and yang...divine, intergalactic styling.

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<p>From Sigur Ros' &quot;Eg anda&quot;</p>

From Sigur Ros' "Eg anda"

Watch: Sigur Rós new track 'Ég anda' shows you what to do if you choke

One of eight music videos commissioned for the new album 'Valtari'

Sigur Rós don't want you to choke and die. They have a video to help you through such a problem, were it to occur.

The music video  to "Ég anda," directed by Ragnar Kjartansson, is the first of eight commissioned clips to accompany each of the songs off of Sigur Ros' new album "Valtari." Kjartansson recruited some real characters for this, who waver between Wes Andersonian deadpan to cartoonish ecstasy in this step-by-step instructional vid.

The band ask from each of their filmmakers/artists to create a video of whatever comes to mind when the creators hear their songs. This one apparently made Kjartansson gag (ba-dum-bum-bum).

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<p>Joaquin Phoenix in 'The Master' appears to be just one of the things worth being excited about in Paul Thomas Anderson's new film, one of three previewed tonight by The Weinstein Company.</p>

Joaquin Phoenix in 'The Master' appears to be just one of the things worth being excited about in Paul Thomas Anderson's new film, one of three previewed tonight by The Weinstein Company.

Credit: The Weinstein Company

The Weinsteins unveil early peeks at 'Django,' 'The Master,' and 'Silver Linings' at Cannes

The rest of the year should be nothing but roses for The Weinstein Company

CANNES - The invitation arrived yesterday afternoon, and it immediately got my attention since the giant banner on the front of the Majestic Hotel has been driving me crazy all week long.  It's very simple, just the Saul Bass-style chain design and the title "Django Unchained," but that's enough at this point.  I'm always excited by a new Quentin Tarantino film, but this one in particular tackles subject matter that I find intriguing, and I'm dying to see how it actually plays onscreen.

It was an easy decision to make.  Instead of seeing a new film tonight, I put on a suit and headed over to the Majestic, where The Weinstein Company threw a cocktail reception designed to showcase footage from three of the films they are releasing later this year.  Each of them is from an exciting filmmaker, and two of them are among the most highly-anticipated properties in production at the moment.  Earlier this afternoon, the first clip from Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" arrived online, and I posted a short reaction to that.  I was curious to see if they would show us anything different, and after about a half-hour of drinks and finger food, they ushered us into an adjoining room, where they had set up chairs and a large screen.

Harvey Weinstein walked to the front of the room and, without any preamble, just began speaking.  "Hi, everyone.  When I was 13 years old, I had a bar mitzvah, and a film was shot, but only two minutes were shown.  Marty Scorsese found it, and I got you here under false pretenses. We're going to watch the one-hour version which was lovingly restored by all the directors I've ever argued with over the years. There are no scenes of me in any of it."

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