Latest Blog Posts

<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.

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<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).

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<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.

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<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.

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<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...

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<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.

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<p>Gary Ross should be feeling good about his adaptation of the hit series 'The Hunger Games'</p>

Gary Ross should be feeling good about his adaptation of the hit series 'The Hunger Games'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Gary Ross talks about his low-fi sober-minded adaptation of 'The Hunger Games'

How did he approach bringing the hit book series to life?

It's strange to think that, including "The Hunger Games," Gary Ross has only directed three films.

Those three films cover a lot of ground, too.  "Pleasantville" is very different than "Seabiscuit," and neither one of them would prepare you for what he's done with "The Hunger Games."  I'm going to guess he was not the first person on the list that Lionsgate put together when they bought the book and started talking about turning it into a film.  I'm not sure what I've been expecting.  I read the books last year, and since then, I've watched all the casting announcements and we've run the photos and the trailers, and honestly, none of it really told me what to expect from the film.

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"The Vampire Diaries"

 "The Vampire Diaries"

Credit: CW

Recap: 'The Vampire Diaries' - '1912'

It's a flashback episode as Damon and Stefan search for a serial killer

While we've been waiting a few weeks for a new episode of "The Vampire Diaries," tonight's episode is one centered upon a slow story build and, at the end, a few unexpected developments, which is probably about as much as we can handle after a CW-induced dry spell. More importantly, we're treated to flashbacks to 1912, which means retro hair, a flip-flop in Salvatore characteristics (Damon, so sensitive!) and just a little more backstory to keep things interesting. And while some of the seemingly urgent plotlines of recent episodes are back burnered (Rebekah seems to be the only one nervous about that white oak tree), it hardly matters when there's a serial killer loose in Mystic Falls.

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<p>Mark and Jay Duplass are justifiably proud of their new film, 'Jeff Who Lives At Home'</p>

Mark and Jay Duplass are justifiably proud of their new film, 'Jeff Who Lives At Home'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Jay and Mark Duplass on 'Jeff Who Lives At Home' and working with Susan Sarandon

Comedy filmmakers seem to be getting better with each new film

At this point, I'm starting to suspect there are more than two Duplass brothers.

It's really the only way to explain their almost absurd level of productivity recently.  Since "Cyrus" played Sundance, it seems that there is always something coming out with either Mark Duplass starring or written by them or directed by them, and it's been a good run for the two of them.

I quite liked "The Puffy Chair," their early film, but when they made the jump to working with casts that are better-known, they also seemed to hone their craft in a way that is surprisingly at home in the mainstream.  Their new film, "Jeff, Who Lives At Home," is my favorite thing they've done, and so of course when asked if I wanted to sit down with them to talk about the movie, the answer was a very easy "yes."

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<p>Jason Isaacs in &quot;Awake.&quot;</p>

Jason Isaacs in "Awake."

Credit: NBC

'Awake' - 'Guilty': I am a cop! Looking for my son!

Can answers in the red world save a life in the green world?

A quick review of tonight's "Awake" coming up just as soon as I take a few sleeping pills...

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"Project Runway All Stars"

 "Project Runway All Stars"

Credit: Lifetime Television

Recap: 'Project Runway All Stars' - 'Finale'

It's down to Mondo, Michael and Austin, but will Mondo's bad mood cost him?

The finale begins! Although it's a little disappointing that not a single woman made it to the end and at least one designer seems determined to make "sexy" outfits that only look good on skinny 15-year-old boys and professional models, I'm still interested to see what this episode holds. I'm hoping that someone can slip Mondo some antidepressants or maybe a bottle of vodka, because if his bad mood doesn't lift soon it's going to be awfully hard to root for him. Funny or not, for the last few episodes he's really been a pain in the ass.  

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<p>Johnny Depp in &quot;Dark&nbsp;Shadows&quot;</p>

Johnny Depp in "Dark Shadows"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Trailer for Tim Burton's 'Dark Shadows' promises funnier vampires than 'True Blood' and 'Twilight'

Is this gonna be kinda awesome?

I was just talking about Tim Burton. The singular filmmaker's work has been on a bit of a "meh" slope in recent years, and "Dark Shadows" was really starting to look like just another obvious piece of material for him to play around with before moving on to the next. But judging by the recently released trailer, the film might just have its share of inspired moments.

I never saw the 1960s television series being re-booted and sent up here, so I have not loyalties or expectations, even. But it seems to me a good time for a film like this amid these vampire-obsessed pop culture days, or at least one without the names Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer on it.

Johnny Depp has the starring role as blood-sucker Barnabas Collins. Joining him will be Michelle Pfeiffer (in her first collaboration with Burton since "Batman Returns"), Eva Green, Chloë Grace Moretz, Helena Bonham Carter (of course), Jackie Earle Haley and Christopher Lee, among others.

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