Latest Blog Posts

<p>Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) gives Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) some last-minute advice before she has to face the challenge of 'The Hunger Games'</p>

Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) gives Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) some last-minute advice before she has to face the challenge of 'The Hunger Games'

Credit: Lionsgate

Review: 'The Hunger Games' is thrilling, emotional, deeply-felt blockbuster filmmaking

The popular books make a successful jump to the bigscreen

Gary Ross was, to say the least, an unconventional choice when it came to helming the adaptation of the popular young adult novels "The Hunger Games," written by Suzanne Collins.  Ross has established himself as a particular kind of filmmaker with his work on films like "Dave," "Big," "Pleasantville," and "Seabiscuit."  He's not the guy you think of for world-building science-fiction or big action.  Yet when we look back at these films in the future, one of the smartest choices they could have made was giving this first film to Ross, because he's made something very special, concerned primarily with the human heart of the story instead of the spectacle.

The books by Collins are solid and interesting, and while they didn't inspire the same rabid fandom in me that they appear to have inspired in some, I can understand the excitement.  Ultimately, "The Hunger Games" is a series about personal responsibility and finding one's place in the world, and it is interested in more than just who's going to kiss who.  Each of the books is built differently, which already makes it more interesting than many ongoing series.

Read Full Post
<p>Kid Cudi </p>

Kid Cudi

Catching up on 'The Hunger Games': new tracks from Taylor Swift and Kid Cudi

Only a few more days until the soundtrack comes out

We took our eye off “Hunger Games” ball for a second this week and we missed the two latest tracks from the March 20 soundtrack.

Check out this rhythmic, spare haunting track from Kid Cudi, “The Ruler & The Killer.” It’s Cudi, a drum, a fuzzy guitar and a lot of menace. It’s sinister and dark, as Cudi warns “You don’t talk, you’ll say nothing, okay,” as the song builds and builds.

[More after the jump...]

Read Full Post
<p>(from left) Megalyn Echikunwoke, Greta Gerwig and Analeigh Tipton in &quot;Damsels in Distress.&quot;</p>

(from left) Megalyn Echikunwoke, Greta Gerwig and Analeigh Tipton in "Damsels in Distress."

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Whit Stillman comes out of hiding

His delightful comeback feature 'Damsels in Distress' opens April 6

While I expect to maintain a long and happy friendship with all the films in my Top 10 of 2011, there's one title I'm pretty confident I'll revisit more often than the others. I've already seen Whit Stillman's deliciously off-kilter campus comedy "Damsels in Distress" twice, and still I'm itching for a revisit when it lands in theaters next month. Verbatim quoting of vast chunks of its hilarious, verbally lacy script seems an inevitability; apologies in advance to those who have to be around me.

I'm intrigued to see how the film plays when it finally surfaces outside the festival ghetto. My two viewings of the film, at the Venice and London fests, couldn't have been more atmospherically opposed. At Venice, where it premiered as the closing film (my review), it was warmly greeted at the press screening by a riotously cackling crowd of critics who couldn't have been more game for Stillman's breezy humor after a festival dominated by grim-faced fare.

Read Full Post
<p>Jack White</p>

Jack White

SXSW Music Day 3, Friday: Jack White, 50 Cent, Big K.R.I.T., Lucero

Here's your easy schedule: Dwellers, El-P, Lucero, The Mynabirds, The Men and more

Pop some aspirin and call that girl that gave you her number (time's running out!): SXSW Music programming heads into its second day, Thursday, March 15.

Below I've outlined some more artists to watch, Some shows will overlap, some are a haul, but... you paid extra for the SXSW Teleport, didn't you? Check out shows from

Thank you again to Unofficial SXSW, for having a nearly-perfect accuracy and navigable scheduling interface.

Day shows sometimes require badges or RSVP -- check the links where applicable. Badges for most of the night shows.

1 p.m.: Fat Tony at (Formerly) TOPS (Mess with Texas)
Southern rapper from Houston keeps it weird

1:30 p.m.: The Men at Barbarella (MFG/Guns in the Sun)
They ruined my hearing earlier this week

2 p.m.: Reptar at Stage on Sixth (Paste/Sennheiser)
Vagrants fizz bang buzz punk boom

2:15: Davinci at Beauty Ballroom (Iheartcomix)
Smooth psych-rap all over the map

2:30: Strand of Oaks at Home Slice Pizza
Slow-burning folk blow-out

2:54: 2:54 at Fader Fort (you read that time AND name right)
Fat Possum's newest signee

3 p.m.: Revival Tour (Chuck Ragan, Dan Andriano, Cory Branan, Nathaniel Rateliff, Audre Mae, Tim Barry) at Ballroom G in Convention Center
All these songwriters are better than you

4 p.m.: J Roddy Walston and the Business at Jo's Coffee at the San Jose
Rock 'n' Roll and whiskey and blood and sex

4:40: Tiger Waves at Dogwood (Sweet Tea Pumpkin Pie)
Fine, here's your damn Austin band. Shoegaze, jangle, deep.

5 p.m. Andy Rourke at the IFC House
Dude's from the Smiths. You never played in the Smiths, DID YOU?

5:30: Southerly at Side Bar (Mostly Harmless)
Rightly playing a showcase called Mostly Harmless. Only some dark-hearted harm.

5:30 Big K.R.I.T. at Stubb's (SPIN)
Not so good at the set times, but this is about the hour you'll get drunk and have the good kind of headache

6:15: Bad Weather California at Side Bar
Definitely tell you something that they signed to Akron/Family's new label

7 p.m. Dwellers at Headhunter's Patio
Heavy, dark, metal-lovin'

7 p.m.: Doors for the Shady 2.0 at Austin Music Hall
If you're there for 50 Cent, just start parkin' now.

9:30: The Mynabirds at Lamberts
Saddle Creek's melody

10 p.m.: Grupo Fantasma at Copa
Latin gone haywire but still sounds like a party

10:25: Carter Tanton at Lamberts
Made the soundtrack to your life and you didn't even know it

10:30: El-P at 1100 Warehouse
Hip-hop vet bowing new tunes and you can stay after for…

10:35 Kurt Braunohler at Esther Follies
Dammit is this man funny.

11 p.m.: Spank Rock at 1100 Warehouse
Urban dance that will just make you feel naughty

11:30: Lucero at Bar 69
Drinking music with a country soul

11:45 p.m. Jack White at The Stage on Sixth
Solo and loving it

12 a.m. midnight: Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds
Blue-eyed soul with a songbird of a singer

12:40: The Pierces at Stubb's
Want some sugar in your bourbon?

1 a.m.: Cloud Nothings at ND
Have been getting big buzz all week for their stellar live show

1 a.m.: Whiskey Shivers at Maggie Mae's
String band on speed

Read Full Post
Watch: Katy Perry heads into combat in 'Part of Me' video sneak peak

Watch: Katy Perry heads into combat in 'Part of Me' video sneak peak

Love is a battlefield in new clip

Katy Perry is headed into battle: a love battle that is. In this very quick teaser for the video for “Part Of Me,” she is in full combat mode: complete with camouflage war paint.  As Pat Benatar infamously sang, "Love is a Battlefield." 

The song, which Perry debuted on the Grammys is not, we repeat, is not, she swears, about ex-husband Russell Brand, despite the fact that it would seem to fit their parting perfectly. It was actually written before she even met Brand.

[More after the jump...]

Read Full Post
Look: Justin Bieber unveils cover art for new single, 'Boyfriend'

Look: Justin Bieber unveils cover art for new single, 'Boyfriend'

The fans get to decide

Justin Bieber’s new single, “Boyfriend,” co-written with Mike Posner, doesn’t come out until March 26, but the teen idol has his fans in a frenzy about the track already.

Friday morning, Bieber teased that he would tweet the single cover art, but instead, posted two potential covers and is letting his fans decide. The song will be the first single off his new album, “Believe.”  The cover that gets the most tweets over the weekend wins. Mind you, to the non-Belieber, there is not that much difference in the covers: he has on the same shirt in both, he’s leaning toward his right, but in one he’s running his fingers through what looks like a new hair-do and in the other, he’s staring off longingly (no doubt, he’s waiting for you, girl.... ). Either way, if he’s finally ditched the side bangs for good now that he’s 18, we applaud the Bieb.

And big props to Bieber for signing the on-line petition to get the MPAA to change the rating for "Bully" from R. If he gets his fans involved, we bet it will make the difference.


Which one do you like better?

Follow Melinda Newman on Twitter @HitFixMelinda

Read Full Post
<p>Jack Black in &quot;Bernie&quot;</p>

Jack Black in "Bernie"

Credit: Millennium Entertainment

SXSW: 'Funeral Kings,' 'Bernie,' 'Paul Williams: Still Alive'

Festival entries fluctuate from pointless to purely entertaining to provocative

AUSTIN, Texas - As with any big film festival, the variety of choices that attendees have at South by Southwest seems endless. But at the Austin festival, the general cinephilia of the locals seeps into the programming, and as a result, its schedule is populated with a truly eclectic and unusual range of movies.

Having barely survived the first weekend of SXSW – which not only included a gauntlet of screenings and interviews but a Daylight-Savings changeover that resulted in the loss of an hour of sleep – things relievedly slowed down a bit on Monday, and I was able to attend screenings of several films that were each noteworthy for different reasons.

Read Full Post
<p>&nbsp;Haley Reinhart</p>

 Haley Reinhart

Credit: AP Photo

Listen: 'American Idol's' Haley Reinhart streams first single

When can you get her debut album?

“American Idol” contestant Haley Reinhart will drop her debut album, “Listen Up!” on May 22 on 19/Interscope.

The jazzy singer’s first single “Free,” will be for sale on March 20, but you can stream it for free now on her Facebook page. (You have to go to her page to hear it. There's a slowed down, demo version on youtube, but it's not as strong as the final track).

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;Marley&quot; director Kevin&nbsp;Macdonald at the 2012 South by&nbsp;Southwest Film&nbsp;Festival</p>

"Marley" director Kevin Macdonald at the 2012 South by Southwest Film Festival

Credit: AP Photo/Jack Plunkett

Interview: Kevin Macdonald on getting behind the icon of Bob 'Marley'

The filmmaker takes on the Rasta legend in his fifth feature doc to date

AUSTIN, Texas - Depending on when you started paying attention to him, Kevin Macdonald is either a documentarian who ventured into fiction work or a fiction filmmaker who digressed into documentaries. After the success of “The Last King of Scotland,” however, he’s been impossible to ignore in any cinematic context and has repeatedly moved back and forth between the two disciplines as his career continues to deepen and develop.

His latest film is “Marley,” an epic biography of the life of iconic reggae singer Bob Marley. In Contention sat down with Macdonald at the South by Southwest film festival, where he discussed the challenges of examining such a ubiquitous figure honestly, reflected on the different directions his filmography has taken in recent years and offered a few thoughts about how he filters failure and success in an industry that looks at him as incisively as he does his subjects.

Read Full Post
<p>Bruce Springsteen with Alejandro Escovedo and Joe Ely</p>

Bruce Springsteen with Alejandro Escovedo and Joe Ely

Credit: AP Photo

Arcade Fire, Jimmy Cliff, Tom Morello join Bruce Springsteen onstage at SXSW

The Boss' keynote address, stage-diving, populism and... rap?

AUSTIN -- For a man with so many famous friends, it's a wonder that Bruce Springsteen hasn't taken advantage of the talent saturation at the South By Southwest Music Conference before. The Boss not only delivered the festival's keynote address Thursday day, but performed for just shy of two-and-a-half hours with his E Street Band at night, along with a few pals from his collection. Arcade Fire, Alejandro Escovedo, Jimmy Cliff, Tom Morello, Joe Ely, Eric Burdon and more all took the stage at ACL Live, most notably and abundantly on the Boss' frequent cover and closer "This Land Is Your Land."

This Austin stop was only his second on the newly launched "Wrecking Ball" tour, but alone was a companion piece to Springsteen's keynote speech from earlier in the day. At the convention center, the songwriter articulated his own artistic journey as he unfurled a general genealogy of American popular music, in delectable poetry, in bits of song and -- at times -- sexually charged metaphor. At 62, he still expressed some teenaged glee and wonderment of SXSW's abundance and the dizzying multitude of subgenres for every palate. He advised, "Rumble, young bands, rumble... stay hungry. Stay alive. When you walk on stage tonight to bring the noise, treat it like it's all we have. And then remember, it's only rock n roll."

And he spoke of how just about every one of his songs, including those on "Wrecking Ball," were really just revamped versions of The Animals' "We Gotta Get Out of This Place."

And wouldn't you know it, The Animals' Eric Burdon showed up, to perform just that.

Read Full Post
<p>James Marsden as Criss and Dean Winters as Dennis on &quot;30 Rock.&quot;</p>

James Marsden as Criss and Dean Winters as Dennis on "30 Rock."

Credit: NBC

'30 Rock' - 'St. Patrick's Day': Duffy man

Dennis and Criss meet, Hazel struggles to manage Tracy and Jenna, and Jack plays a game

A quick review of last night's "30 Rock" coming up just as soon as my yak has smallpox...

Read Full Post
<p>Mark Kelly and Steve Zissis co-star in 'The&nbsp;Do-Deca Pentathalon,' an early film by the Duplass Brothers that has finally been finished and readied for release.</p>

Mark Kelly and Steve Zissis co-star in 'The Do-Deca Pentathalon,' an early film by the Duplass Brothers that has finally been finished and readied for release.

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Review: Long-delayed 'Do-Deca Pentathalon' captures developing Duplass voice

The missing link from 'The Puffy Chair' to 'Cyrus' finally finds its way onscreen

It's not quite accurate to call this the "new" film from the Duplass Brothers. 

That's actually "Jeff, Who Lives At Home."  Or "Kevin," a documentary that they also recently finished.

What happened here is that before "Cyrus," the Duplass Brothers directed this film about what happens when two brothers let something fester, unfinished, and then they ran out of money and time to finish it, and so it festered, unfinished.  And now, finally, they've gone back and completed it, and the result is a charming, low-key look at brotherly competition and the ways it can twist an already complicated dynamic into something sour and painful.

Read Full Post