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<p>Amanda Hobbs, sister to one of the murdered boys in the Robin Hood Hills case, displays some of the tattoos she's gotten to remember her brother in Amy Berg's affecting 'West Of Memphis'</p>

Amanda Hobbs, sister to one of the murdered boys in the Robin Hood Hills case, displays some of the tattoos she's gotten to remember her brother in Amy Berg's affecting 'West Of Memphis'

Credit: Wingnut Films

Review: 'West Of Memphis' offers a fresh and vital take on the West Memphis 3 story

Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh lend superstar clout to an essential documentary

Like many people, I have watched the Berlinger/Sinofsky "Paradise Lost" documentaries as they've been made and aired over the years, and I had my sense of righteous indignation poked and prodded by the filmmakers in regards to the case of the West Memphis Three.  I've donated money to their legal defense on three separate occasions, and I have found myself emotionally invested in their eventual release to a degree that surprise s me, considering these are not people I know or am connected to in any way.

Several years ago, I first heard that Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh had become interested in the case, and that they were becoming involved in a very direct way.  At the time, there was no talk of a new documentary of the topic, but instead it sounded like they were working to prove who the guilty party was, hoping that would help free Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jesse Misskelly.  I was told that Fran and Peter weren't interested in having their names connected to the matter in public, but that they were simply doing this out of a sense of moral obligation.  I filed it away as "interesting information I can't do anything with" and didn't really think about it again.

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<p>Dominic Bogart in &quot;I Am Not a Hipster&quot;</p>

Dominic Bogart in "I Am Not a Hipster"

Credit: Sundance

Sundance: On the pent-up agony of 'Wuthering Heights' and 'I Am Not a Hipster'

Two films tackle internal torment from drastically different angles

PARK CITY - I really wanted Amy Berg's "West of Memphis" to happen at 8:30 this morning, but nothing doing. I hear it's a nice distillation of the Robin Hood Hills story for those who haven't seen the Berlinger/Sinofsky "Paradise Lost" series, but nothing about it seems to be blowing too many skirts up so I guess it wasn't such a fatal miss.

Instead I got a late start with a 3pm press screening of Andrea Arnold's "Wuthering Heights" at the Holiday Village, my first Sundance flick. And it was a good one.

Look, Emily Brontë's novel is a bad love story full of deplorable characters. It's a brutal vision of love (which, this combined with "Fish Tank" makes Arnold a fascinating person to analyze on that subject) and it's wrought even more brutally here.

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<p>John Noble and Joshua Jackson of &quot;Fringe&quot;</p>
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John Noble and Joshua Jackson of "Fringe"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'Fringe' - 'Enemy of My Enemy'

Jones is back, in an episode that would have been a series highlight in another universe
Producing a television show is a tricky thing. There are so many ways to go wrong that it’s a miracle when anything goes right. Starting around the halfway point of Season 1, and stretching through the penultimate episode of Season 3, “Fringe” did almost everything right. Moreover, they did it in a way that gave the illusion that television is in fact quite easy to pull off. Nothing could be further from the truth, and not for a single second would I ever retroactively take back anything positive I had to say about those two and a half years. But this fourth season is a prime example of how quickly a show can go off the rails.
 
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<p>&quot;The Invisible War&quot;</p>
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"The Invisible War"

Credit: Sundance

Sundance Review: Kirby Dick's 'The Invisible War'

It's hard to remain unmoved by this polemic about sexual assaults in the military
A lot of the time, I sit down for Sundance documentaries just itching for a dose of righteous indignation.
 
I suspect I'm not alone.
 
But too often, even documentaries with the best of intentions deliver only partially or else fail to deliver at all.
 
You read the description of the documentary in the Sundance guide and the topic/thesis is one that you agree with passionately, but then you watch in misery as one thing after another goes wrong. The filmmaker stretches their point beyond its breaking point, or comes up short of a full treatise. The filmmaker properly targets a problem, but has no interest in even hinting at a solution. The filmmaker loses faith in the inherent power of the subject matter and resorts to manipulative editing or overbearing music to jerk the audience around like a puppet. Or the filmmaker is so condescending or full of contempt for the alternative viewpoint that their actual point gets lost in facile name-calling.
 
You'd think it'd be easy to make a film that stirs the emotions of a Sundance audience that's often easily moved, but I've found that it's far simpler to stumble and squander good will. 
 
That why I'm able to resist criticizing Kirby Dick's "The Invisible War" for not being especially artistically adventurous.
 
Yes, "The Invisible War" is a reasonably straightforward talking head-driven documentary, opened up mainly with stock footage and a couple scenes taking the characters on the road. Dick ("Sick" "This Film Is Not Yet Rated"), an Oscar and Emmy nominee, has made several previous films that more aggressively challenge viewers in terms of formalism or, more frequently, audience identification with off-kilter characters or circumstances. 
 
What Dick has done with "The Invisible War" is make an audience-mobilizing documentary that hits you in the gut in the opening minutes and doesn't let up, but also avoids a great majority of easy pratfalls. "The Invisible War" doesn't overstay its welcome at 90 minutes, nor does it ever lose confidence in the ability of its subjects to be powerful on their own, without anybody putting their thumb on the scale. It finds a way to be ideologically pragmatic, without ever sacrificing its laser focus, and unrelentingly outraged, without forgetting the need to include a call to action.
 
And perhaps most importantly, "The Invisible War" may depress you and make you cry, but it'll also probably leave you inspired. It's a portrait of courage as much as victimhood. 
 
[More after the break...]
 
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<p>&nbsp;Quvenzhan&eacute; Wallis in &quot;Beasts of the Southern Wild.&quot;</p>

 Quvenzhané Wallis in "Beasts of the Southern Wild."

Review: 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' is a cinematic wonder

Story issues aside director Behn Zeitlin shows true talent

PARK CITY - It's rare that a first-time feature filmmaker delivers something truly memorable with their debut - even at a festival such as Sundance - but Benh Zeitlin has done just that with "Beasts of the Southern Wild" which premiered Friday on the first full day of the festival.

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<p>Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski)&nbsp;gets loose on &quot;Chuck.&quot;</p>

Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) gets loose on "Chuck."

Credit: NBC

'Chuck' - 'Chuck vs. the Bullet Train': Eternal sunshine of the Sarah mind

Sarah suffers Intersect side effects, while Jeffster have to show their heroic sides

A review of tonight's "Chuck" — the last episode before next week's two-hour finale — coming up just as soon as I think better when I'm blowing up avocados...

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<p>John Cooper, Keri Putnam and Robert Redford</p>
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John Cooper, Keri Putnam and Robert Redford

Credit: Danny Moloshok/AP

Robert Redford and the Sundance braintrust discuss the 2012 Festival

John Cooper and Keri Putnam also share their thoughts on the state of indie film
PARK CITY - The 2012 Sundance Film Festival kicked off on Thursday (January 19) with Robert Redford and his team's traditional opening press conference. 
 
As you may have already heard. Redford kicked things off on a gloomy note, referring to "the hard times we're living in," calling said times "dark and grim." Redford continued, of course, by emphasizing that the Sundance Film Festival isn't going to be dark and grim and that, as Festival Director John Cooper explained, "the independent film community is very healthy."
 
After the press conference, I attended a series of roundtable interviews with Redford, Cooper and Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam to discuss, in more depth, The State of Sundance, 2012.
 
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Mac Miller
Mac Miller

Watch: Cobra Starship and Mac Miller raise their 'Middle Finger' in new video

Tune from 'Night Shades' gets official release

Two weeks ago, we posted about Cobra Starship/Mac Miller’s “Middle Finger” getting an official release.

The song, which appears on Cobra Starship’s “Night Shades” album, had taken on a little life of its own. Now, we have the official video.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>&nbsp;Hello and welcome, won't you step into my world?</p>

 Hello and welcome, won't you step into my world?

Kicking off a new kind of video diary for Sundance 2012

Reviews and interviews are fine, but what's Sundance really like?

Just as we drove into Park City on Wednesday afternoon, the first flakes of snow were starting to fall, and now, as I prepare to get a few hours sleep on a very, very early Friday morning, we've seen that snow and a fair amount of sleet pile up quickly.  And if there's snow, then as far as this Los Angeles resident is concerned, it is time for Sundance.

Now that my year is built around film festivals, I'm starting to really enjoy the way each festival has its own clear identity.  Sundance is not SXSW which is not Cannes which is not Toronto which clearly is not Fantastic Fest.  Those five festivals give me milestones by which to measure my year now, and so for me, Sundance means the film year is starting from a clean slate, and my first impressions of what sort of year in movies lies ahead start here.  This is where I test the wind, read the tea leaves, and dig in for the first real challenge on each new calendar.

I've come to grow quite fond of Sundance overall.  I like their mix of films, I like the way they break things down and the different categories, and I like the taste they show as programmers.  As with most film festivals, what they program is entirely dependent on what's ready, what's available, and how things time out, and what Sundance has going for it is that it's such a major milestone for filmmakers to show something here that people will intentionally set their post-production schedules on movies around the submission dates for Sundance. 

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<p>Spice Girls in 2008</p>

Spice Girls in 2008

Credit: AP Photo

Are the Spice Girls reuniting for the London Olympics?

What's the latest on their new musical?

The London Olympics will not get a Pink Floyd reunion, but could they get The Spice Girls if it’s what they want, really, really want?

The fivesome are rumored to be weighing a reunion for this summer’s Olympics, according to RadarOnline. The hold out  is Posh Spice, aka Victoria Beckham, who has a new baby and is loving life in Los Angeles with hubby David Beckham, who just signed a new two-year deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team.  They last toured four years ago.

Radar also reports that the group is moving ahead with its musical, Viva Forever, written by “Ab Fab’s” Jennifer Saunders.

Though there was also a rampant speculation that Pink Floyd would perform at the opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games, David Gilmour has denied the story.

The 2012 summer Olympics run July 27-Aug. 12.

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<p>A scene from&nbsp;&quot;Harry&nbsp;Potter and the&nbsp;Deathly&nbsp;Hallows:&nbsp;Part 2&quot;</p>

A scene from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Could a bake-off snafu keep 'Harry Potter' from a visual effects nomination?

The strong contender hit a snag in last night's visual effects presentation

For a while now, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" has looked like a very solid bet for a Best Visual Effects nomination. Though the only nomination for the franchise in the field prior to last year's for part one of the finale came for 2004's "The Prisoner of Azkaban," the effects have steadily become more refined and the expansion to five nominees last year made the door a little wider.

But an unfortunate snafu at last night's visual effects bake-off -- a lengthy branch-specific event that features reel screenings of effects work on the seven visual effects finalists and presentations from the supervisors involved -- could keep the wizard and his denouement out of the equation.

If you don't follow Variety's David Cohen on Twitter, you should, because he's dug in when it comes to the world of visual effects and reports comprehensively from the bake-off every year. His coverage last night was fascinating to read for the various insights into the process of this and that effects job, but it became particularly interesting when the effects reel for "The Deathly Hallows: Part 2" turned out to not be the effects reel at all: it was the makeup reel.

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<p>Carrie Underwood at the 2012 CMAs.</p>

Carrie Underwood at the 2012 CMAs.

Credit: AP Photo

'American Idols' Carrie Underwood and Steven Tyler come together for 'Crossroads'

A special edition airs the night before the Super Bowl

American Idol” comes to the Super Bowl this year as Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood and current judge Steven Tyler will team for a special Super Bowl edition of CMT’s “Crossroads.”

The concert will be part of the Pepsi Super Bowl Fan Jam that takes place  on Feb. 4, the eve of the big game,  in Indianapolis.

While we can’t quite see Tyler singing “Jesus Take the Wheel,” the twosome will trade stories and songs in the performance, which will premiere at 11 p.m. Feb. 4 on CMT.  The show will be taped live earlier that day.

Underwood and Tyler performed together at last year’s Academy of Country Music Awards on a mash-up of “Undo It” and “Walk This Way.” Aerosmith also has a history with the Super Bowl, having played the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXV.

Past  “Crossroads” pairings include Taylor Swift and Def Leppard, John Mayer and Keith Urban, and Sting and Vince Gill.


 

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