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Watch: John Lasseter talks 'Brave,' Steve Jobs and Marvel prospects

Watch: John Lasseter talks 'Brave,' Steve Jobs and Marvel prospects

Pixar chief talks about the studio's storyteller-driven focus
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - At the dinner that opened the recent press junket for "Brave" in Edinburgh, John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studio, made a huge sartorial sacrifice on behalf of his companies' newest venture. 
Lasseter stood up and greeted a room of press and luminaries from the film without the Hawaii shirts that have been his trademark for years. Befitting the bagpipers that led us into the hall, the haggis on the menu and, of course, "Brave" itself, Lasseter was fully decked out in a kilt. 
Less than 12 hours later, sitting at the Balmoral Hotel, Lasseter was back in his Hawaiian finery for interviews. After all, he's been chatting with reporters in Hawaiian shirts through 12 Pixar films and by any imaginable standard, the Hawaiian shirts and Pixar have done pretty well together. 
As has been mentioned previously, "Brave" is the 13th Pixar feature and the first toplined by a female character. In our conversation, Lasseter discusses that milestone, talks about the tribute to the late Steve Jobs that comes at the top of the closing credits and talks in a quick circle around my question about a Pixar/Marvel team-up.
By now, you've had the chance to watch my interviews with the charming Kelly Macdonald and the spirited Kevin McKidd. plus my interesting and energetic chat with director Mark Andrews and producer Katherine Sarafian. I'm thinking my humiliating archery video will go up on Saturday.
"Brave" opens on Friday, June 22.


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<p>A scene from &quot;The Imposter.&quot;&nbsp;</p>

A scene from "The Imposter." 

Credit: Film4/Indomina Releasing

Edinburgh Film Festival: 'The Imposter,' 'Home for the Weekend'

One of the world's oldest film festivals kicked off its 65th edition yesterday

EDINBURGH - Once touted as the UK’s answer to Sundance, particularly when positioned against the more glamorous autumnal offerings of the newly shortened London Film Festival, the Edinburgh Film Festival has quietly gone into reboot mode in its 65th year. Actually, that irritatingly fashionable verb may be better replaced with “rebuild”: after the commercial and PR debacle of last year’s edition, whereby last-minute switches in management and a particularly granola programme had some prophesying the death of the world’s oldest continually-running film festival, newly appointed director Chris Fujiwara was handed awfully little with which to work.

Wisely, he’s decided not to bite off more than he can chew. This year’s Edinburgh lineup is unapologetically small in scale—even compared to recent years, when the festival could still filch the odd Cannes title, the selections here feel modest—but there are pleasing flashes of daring and eccentricity in the programming that at least suggest some renewed curatorial conviction: a Gregory LaCava retrospective, for example, wouldn’t have happened last year.

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<p>Elijah Wood and Robin Williams in &quot;Wilfred.&quot;</p>

Elijah Wood and Robin Williams in "Wilfred."

Credit: FX

Season premiere review: 'Wilfred' - 'Progress'

Robin Williams tries to help Ryan deal with his issues

FX decided to bring "Wilfred" back a week in advance of the rest of its Thursday premieres, and I have a review of tonight's episode coming up just as soon as someone gets this Tic-Tac from under my wheel...

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 'American Idol's' Casey Abrams on hanging with Scotty McCreery and his best buddy

'American Idol's' Casey Abrams on hanging with Scotty McCreery and his best buddy

What's behind his chemistry with Haley Reinhart?

When Casey Abrams appeared on “American Idol” in season 10, he was unlike any other contestant the show had seen: Bushy-bearded and thumping on his upright bass, he cast an immediately memorable figure.

In the year since, he’s been hard at work on his post- “Idol” debut. "Casey Abrams," out June 26, is a sunny mix of pop and jazz that feels perfect for a summer day from first single, “Simple Life,” to album closer, “Hit The Road Jack,” a remake of the Ray Charles standard with his “Idol”-mate Haley Reinhart.

Abrams calls from a sweltering New York, while on a promotional tour for the album. Despite the temperature, the 21-year old jokes that he may go out into the city streets and open his guitar case and see what he can earn. “I’ve never actually tried busking before,” he says. But first, he answers our questions about Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery, crafting a pop song, and his best buddy, Rocky.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>'Four score and seven years ago, I stuck an axe in your head. GET&nbsp;IT?!'</p>

'Four score and seven years ago, I stuck an axe in your head. GET IT?!'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' is the year's weirdest kick

It's hard to believe it exists, or that it could be done any better

Steven Spielberg… Daniel Day-Lewis… you gentlemen have your work cut out for you.  Fair warning.

Common sense may tell you otherwise, but the rumors are true.  There is indeed a movie called "Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter."  It is a real thing that really exists.  I have seen it.  And even now, almost two days later, I find it hard to believe that really happened.  Timur Bekmambetov has made a fever dream that plays like the supercharged imagination of a 21st Century XBOX junkie raised on 20th Century pop culture, jacked up on Mountain Dew and ADD medications, asleep during a lecture about Abe Lincoln in history class, dreaming this crazy alternate history and getting some real biography mixed up with the most hilariously insane gore and action you'll see in any studio effort this summer.  It is deranged.  And I am here to testify that I laughed from beginning to end and had more fun than should be allowed in public.

It's the sort of film that I want to own because there are about five scenes I want to slow down and take apart just to figure out what Bekmambetov actually did.  He is a madman.  He has a remarkable sense of how to destroy time so he can capture some hyperexaggerated burst of violence.  He has a great knack for geography and composition that has never been better indulged than it is here, and all the technical acumen he's been picking up on his last few films, including "Wanted," pay off here with a liquid reality that he is in complete control of, start to finish, in a way that is truly impressive.

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Interview: Metric on 'Synthetica,' sci-fi, indie labels and 'Twilight' soundtracks

Jimmy Shaw talks about independent freedoms and Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil'


Metric's previous album "Fantasies" was a game-changer for the band, and for independent rock artists in general. The Canadian band proved you don't need a major label deal in order to get a song on commercial rock radio, and with optimal placement on a "Twilight Saga" soundtrack as well as on Muse's 2010 tour bill, Metric was playing substantial venues with substantial returns on selling their album. And furthermore, it's (sadly) unique for female-fronted rock bands to achieve as much.
On "Synthetica," the band continues to blend its brand of pop with rock, and with a literal vengeance. "If you imagine a nightmarishly fake version of me as a pop star, that's her," singer Emily Haines says of her "Synthetica" persona. "And this record was about me saying, I'm going to give more to the music than ever, but there's no way I'm going to turn into someone like that."  
Haines' voice as strong as ever, pushing through hard synth lines and looping guitarwork, engineered by Metric guitarist and producer Jimmy Shaw. "Synthetica" was released last week and bowed at No. 12 on the Billboard 200, a band high-water mark helped by the band's own label deal meshed with Mom + Pop.

Below is my interview with Shaw, on purposeful dichotomies, sci-fi and "Twilight" soundtracks.
HitFix: Your album’s been out for a week. Do you read your own press? Do you allow for criticism to affect the way that you operate?
Jimmy Shaw: I do my best and not let that stuff get into my head at all because if I did, then basically all my musical ideas would be like a collaboration of all the people that had criticisms of what I was doing, you know?  And it starts to actually not become your voice at all. It starts to become your voice of compromise, and your voice of being scared of being torn down.  Ultimately, as much as I want people to like the music that I make, I’d rather have it stay true to exactly what I want to do than sort of shape it and twist it depending on what random people have said to me over the years, you know?
This album is at least partly concept-driven. There’s a lot of pop elements to it, but there’s also kind of a revolt against pop and to that kind of material. Was there a conscious effort to kind of make a record about that --  that lyrically kind of went around and kind of spoke to what it is to be in the rock and pop sphere right now?
It wasn’t a conscious effort, but there was something that happened halfway through the record. We didn’t go into the thing with a concept in place on any level at all. It was about halfway through it that we started realizing the sort of theme going on that was really about duplicity of all sorts of things, and the dichotomy between one side and the other of all different things in life, of technology and organics, and synthesis and natural surroundings, and truth and dishonesty, all sorts of things. And really looking at the examination of where do you stand in between all these different things. As we started to notice that becoming more and more of a common thread, we sort of went with it more and more.
Yeah, I was thinking of the differences between digital and analog, which is kind of a line in the sand for a lot of producers and bands, too. 
Are you guy sci-fi dorks? Do you like science fiction? Is that a theme for you?
I mean, I don’t really read science fiction, but then again to be honest I don’t really read very much. I like – it’s not like I’m really into the themes of it but I like the way that certain things, parts of it, make me feel. For me, the aesthetics is slightly more in line with like retro future. I’m not totally into, like, the current Star Trek; do you know what I mean? That’s really not my bag at all, but I really f*cking love “Blade Runner,” like that shit blows my mind. The opening scene of “Blade Runner.” And the movie “Brazil” is one of my favorite things of all time, it’s that kind of weird way they used to see the future before the future actually arrived, and it really doesn’t even look that different. It’s just that we all have iPhones.
This deal with Mom + Pop; this is the first time you guys have worked with them. They don’t sign just anybody – artists have to have their own act together -- but you guys obviously don’t sign with just anybody either.
That’s true.
It seems like this would’ve been a really long negotiation process. Can you tell me a little bit about what it is to work with Mom + Pop, and what you get out of it, instead of doing your own thing? Because you guys kind of set a benchmark as to what you can do as an independent artist.
Yeah, well the thing that’s interesting about it is that it really is just an extension of us just doing it on our own. When we set up a sort of worldwide situation for the release of Fantasies,  we were going into America and doing it completely on our own. We literally had no one on the ground in the U.S., no one working the record actually lived in the U.S. and it’s the biggest territory in the world, so that became a real challenge. It became really difficult and it became just sort of like one sort of unnecessary battle that we were fighting the entire time.
Thankfully, we fought that battle pretty well and we had more success on that record than we had previously, but there were elements of it that we were just, like, dude. We were battling the wrong battles and our energy could’ve been going into different places. Then Mom + Pop came on board halfway through “Fantasies” and we did the deal about six months in and they sort of jumped on board and kept working with that record all the way to the end. They came to us and recognized that the reason that they were talking to us in the first place is that we obviously knew how to guide our own path. We knew how to steer our ship and we know what we’re doing and we know what we want to do, and we know what we don’t want to do. 
They came on board fully willing to not try and replace that, which is what the label does with musicians so often. It’s like, “Okay, great, so now you’ve written a couple of songs, I’m going to tell you how to run your career at this point,” and most of the time they just run it into the ground. For them there was like a real mutual respect in a way. It was like they respected everything we’ve done and how we were doing it, and they didn’t want to f*ck with our process.
The relationship is really clear, you know? I don’t want to sound like I was skeptical, but frankly I’m shocked at how much we’re in line with each other right now, and things are running symbiotically. Everyone seems to be having the same ideas of everything. We’re all thinking the same thing, and it’s kind of great.
I was wondering if you guys think you’re going to be in that final “Twilight Saga” soundtrack?
I highly doubt it because I don’t think they use so many bands twice, but you never really know. You never know.
Are you guys in talks or have confirmed anything with any other movie, any other movie soundtrack? Because you do have this sound that lends itself so well to film.
Yeah, I agree with that, but not right now. I mean, literally, as it stands right now, I have about 12 days off for the rest of the year, so there’s a – I actually hope something really awesome doesn’t come in because, I mean, I have to have to turn it down.
And you have worked on Emily’s solo stuff before; are there any other plans for anybody in the band to do another solo thing after this whole record cycle? 
I suppose there’s always the possibility. Again, it’s kind of hard to see right now because there’s so much Metric in the near future, that you never really know what you feel like when you come out of that. I did not – I didn’t expect after touring “Fantasies” for two years that I would feel energized and inspired to go in to the studio and start making a record really the next day.
That surprises me, too.
You know? And I did. So it’s hard to know. Sometimes the turn of events will be like, “Oh my God, I’ve got to get away from these f*cking people for two years.” Or it could be the exact opposite, and be like “Let’s go get a house in the country.”


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<p>&nbsp;Green Day</p>

 Green Day

Watch: Green Day unveils album cover for 'Dos!'

Trailer for second album in trilogy reveals pop guitar sound

Green Day’s “Uno,” “Dos,” and “Tres” albums are going to come in rapid succession so it makes sense that we’d get the teasers for the three sets in similar fashion.

Last Thursday, we got the trailer and cover art for “Uno!,” which featured lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong grinning blithely with red Xs over his eyes in front of a green swirling background. Today, we get the teaser and the cover for “Dos!,” which features Mike Dirnt in a similar fashion, though he looks a little frightened. (Can you guess which member will be on the cover of “Tres?” We bet that you can). The three albums will be released two months apart, starting with “Uno!,” which streets on Sept. 25.  "Dos!" comes out Nov. 11.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy in &quot;The Newsroom.&quot;</p>

Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy in "The Newsroom."

Credit: HBO

'The Newsroom' star Jeff Daniels on cable news, movies vs. TV, and working with Aaron Sorkin

What made the movie veteran want to do a series for the first time?
Jeff Daniels hasn't led a predictable career. He's done blockbusters ("Speed") and indies ("The Squid and the Whale"), has done highbrow ("The Purple Rose of Cairo") and lowbrow ("Dumb & Dumber"), mature Oscar winners ("Terms of Endearment")  and unapologetic kiddie fare ("101 Dalmations"). The one thing he hasn’t done much of until now is television. He did a few episodic guest appearances as a new actor, did a voice cameo on "Frasier" once, and has done a couple of historical TV-movie and miniseries projects for cable, but has largely kept himself on the big screen.
That changes on Sunday night at 10 on HBO, when Daniels takes the lead role in Aaron Sorkin's new drama "The Newsroom."He plays Will McAvoy, a cable news anchor whose reputation is built on not expressing an opinion or offending anyone — until one day he just can't take it anymore and explodes with a long, loud and very public monologue about everything that's gone wrong with America and the news media that covers it. After that, Will is encouraged by new producer (and ex-girlfriend) Mackenzie MacHale (Emily Mortimer) to take a more substantive, opinionated take on the news, ratings be damned.
I spoke with Daniels about what his own take on the news media, the adjustments that come with doing television, and what it was like to be a rookie actor standing on a cliff in Hawaii with Jack Lord.
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<p>&quot;Wilfred&quot;&nbsp;stars Jason Gann and Elijah Wood.</p>

"Wilfred" stars Jason Gann and Elijah Wood.

Credit: FX

Reminder: 'Wilfred' is back tonight at 10:30

FX is airing a 'sneak preview' of the man-and-dog comedy a week before other Thursday premieres

I had no plans to write anything in advance of the return of FX's "Wilfred" tonight at 10:30, since I already have a review of the first episode ready to go at 11. But then I realized that, like me, many of you may be surprised to realize that A)FX is airing a new "Wilfred" episode a week before its other heavily-promoted premieres ("Anger Management," "Louie," Russell Brand's talk show), and B)FX is airing this new episode outside of the usual 10 p.m. "Wilfred" timeslot. 

I go into some speculation as to why that is in my review of the episode — which FX is referring to as a "sneak preview," even though, story-wise, it picks up after the events of last season's finale, and before the events of next week's episode — but for those of you who don't follow me on Twitter but like the show, consider this a public service to reduce the number of "But I didn't know it was back yet!" comments tonight.

Here's a trailer for this "sneak preview" — which I've been reminded is already up on Hulu (but please refrain from any plot-specific comments until tonight's post goes up) — including a glimpse of guest star Robin Williams:

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<p>Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in &quot;Game of Thrones.&quot;</p>

Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in "Game of Thrones."

Credit: HBO

If I had an Emmy ballot 2012: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Performances from 'Game of Thrones,' 'Breaking Bad,' 'Mad Men' and more

Time for part 4 of our look at the Emmy nominations process for 2012. As always, Fienberg and I are going to approach things in two ways. I'll pretend that I have an Emmy ballot and make my picks for the six actors or shows I would put on my ballot, while Dan will rank the potential nominees from most likely to least. And, as always, we are working off of the actual Emmy ballot, so we can't consider people who didn't submit themselves, nor can we reassign anyone to a more suitable or easier category.

Having covered the drama supporting actors last time, we move onto Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Dan's predictions are here, and my preferences are coming right up...

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<p>'Citizen Kane' was one of the most famous battlegrounds ever chosen by Andrew Sarris in his ongoing feud with Pauline Kael, just one of the highlights of his amazing career in print.</p>

'Citizen Kane' was one of the most famous battlegrounds ever chosen by Andrew Sarris in his ongoing feud with Pauline Kael, just one of the highlights of his amazing career in print.

Credit: Warner Home Video

Andrew Sarris is gone, but film criticism is alive and well

A remembrance of one of the best critics ever and his legacy

With the news today that Andrew Sarris has passed away, it seems like a fair moment to reflect on the state of film criticism in general.  After all, it was Andrew Sarris and Pauline Kael who I would argue made film criticism into a free-standing art form worth practicing with the work they did during the '60s and '70s.  I grew up reading both of them, and while I wouldn't say either of them had a direct influence on my voice, they both taught me that it is important to have a voice and to understand why you react the way you do to a movie.

Here's the thing… I don't think real criticism should serve as a consumer reports piece, because I don't think it can.  I don't believe I can tell you whether or not a movie is worth your time and money.  Instead, what I can do is try to describe a film, examine how it accomplishes its goals or doesn't, and set it into a context regarding genre, subject matter, thematic content, or filmmaker's career.  My job, if I do it properly, is to write a piece that stands as a separate experience from the film itself, something that should read the same a decade from now as it does this week.  Anyone who presumes to be able to tell their entire readership "You will like this" or "You will hate this" does not think very much of their readership.  I know that you guys have a wide range of perspectives, and no two of us have identical taste.  Sarris, like Kael, was one of those critics whose work remains a pleasure to read now because he was willing to dig deep into a piece of material, and his command of language allowed him to craft compelling reads, week after week, piece after piece.

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Watch: Mark Andrews and Katherine Sarafian explain why 'Brave' is no Disney fairy tale

Watch: Mark Andrews and Katherine Sarafian explain why 'Brave' is no Disney fairy tale

Director and producer also discuss Merida's hair and voice
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - Pixar's "Brave" arrives with prominent Disney billing, but it is, in many ways, an inversion of the studio's classic animation formula.
There are no talking animals or cute sidekicks. Nobody bursts into song. 
Arrow-slinging heroine Merida, is technically something of a princess, but she isn't a Disney princess waiting for her prince to come. She's in no hurry to wed, however regal her suitors may be. 
Merdia is also, somewhat remarkably, the first female character to topline a Pixar film. Somehow, Pixar branched into male rats, male fish and male robots before human females.
"Brave" director Mark Andrews and producer and Pixar lifer Katherine Sarafian emphasized that they didn't let Merida's trailblazing status impact their conception of the character. She's a Pixar character primarily, rather than a boundar-breaking young woman and then a Pixar character.
In a wide-reaching interview, conducted at Edinburgh's Balmoral Hotel earlier this month, I chatted with Andrews and Sarafian about approaching "Brave" as the Anti-Disney Disney film, about the "labor of love" that was Merida's ultra-complex hair and about what leading lady Kelly Macdonald brought Merida. 
By now, you've had the chance to watch my interviews with the charming Kelly Macdonald and the spirited Kevin McKidd. Stay tuned tomorrow for my chat with Pixar head honcho John Lasseter. And maybe Friday or Saturday will be a good time for that embarrassing archery video.

"Brave" opens on Friday, June 22. 

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