(Welcome to Cannes Check, your annual guide through the 20 films in Competition at this month's Cannes Film Festival, which kicks off on May 15. Taking on a different selection every day, we'll be examining what they're about, who's involved and what their chances are of snagging an award from Steven Spielberg's jury. We're going through the list by director and in alphabetical order -- next up, Roman Polanski with "Venus in Fur.")
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The drama "Resurrection" won't be coming to ABC until midseason, probably after another one-hour has expired, but this show suggests people (if not shows) can come back to life. Think "Ghost Whisperer," but with undead dead people. But not zombies. Just watch the clip.
Karl Urban and Simon Pegg are both valuable parts of the chemistry that drives the new "Star Trek" series.
Pegg was someone I already knew I liked enormously before "Star Trek" arrived, and it's interesting to see how JJ Abrams has turned Pegg into comic relief in two different franchises. The Scotty from these movies is a very different person than the Scotty we saw Doohan play for all those years. I have trouble imagining Doohan sprinting around a hangar trying to figure out how to open a door or getting sucked through a water pipe system. Pegg, though, is down for pretty much anything they throw at him, and he works his ass off to entertain in the new film.
Urban, on the other hand, is a guy who hadn't really come into focus for me until "Star Trek." I didn't dislike him or his work, but he didn't make the strongest impression as an actor, and I had trouble figuring out if he had much of a personality. Whoever first thought to have him read for Bones deserves a bonus, though, because he is perfect in the role. So far, I'd argue he's the greatest underutilized asset that the series has, and if they continue with more movies, I pray they give Urban more to do. He deserves it.
"So You Think You Can Dance" returns for a tenth season, and aren't you glad? Apparently producer and judge Nigel Lythgoe is still stumping for a separate results episode each week, but for now I'm just happy to see some really great dancing back on television. Yes, thanks to Zendaya and Kellie Pickler we've definitely gotten some of that on "Dancing with the Stars," but "So You Think You Can Dance" raises the bar to a completely different level. Even better, that bar seems to be extraordinarily high this year. Judging from these Hollywood auditions, this might be a season in which anyone could be deserving of the win -- yes, that makes it harder for us to decide for whom to vote, but it should be a lot of fun to watch.
"New Girl" was one of my favorite comedies on TV in 2012 (as I've said, if I had to make my top 10 list even a week later, it would've made the cut). It was actually even better in 2013, as a romance that I once was dreading when the show began hinting at it instead became the magnetic center of a series that had been satisfying but often uneven. I reviewed the season finale here, and I spoke with "New Girl" creator Liz Meriwether about how the show really found itself thanks to the Jess/Nick relationship, whether she feels they've solved Winston yet, what she'd like to do in season 3, and more, all coming up just as soon as the plan is to drop a badger on a priest...
"New Girl" just concluded what's been a terrific second season. I spoke to creator Liz Meriwether about the finale, and about some big decisions along the way, and I have a quick review of the finale coming up just as soon as we make some pasta and really listen to my Coldplay bootleg from Rotterdam...
Natalie Maines released a new album today called "Mother," a mix of rock 'n' roll downers and uppers and some covers. "Without You," originally by Eddie Vedder, has Maines' voice at its core, laying bare some of those emotions that we haven't really tended to in the six years since the Dixie Chicks went on hiatus.
The video, out today too, is even more tame than the take, with a performance shots, some studio goofs, some hugs and fans and a few fashion shots that highlight her beautiful new 'do and her self-aware isolation.
(Watch the video exclusively at EW.)
OK, so let's unpackage the latter a little bit: this is Maines' first solo rodeo, which makes an exceptional job of highlighting her vocals. Even before the 'Chicks, Maines leaned rock and R&B, even as she performed in other country groups. Her choices on "Mother" -- including selections from Jeff Buckley, Pink Floyd and her album producer Ben Harper -- here reflect an appreciation for range and drama, and yet the collection is mostly harmless.
Harmless, which is a word that many would never apply to Natalie Maines. It was 10 years ago that Maines criticized the then-president George W. Bush and protested the Iraq war; in the years that followed, she and her cohorts Emily Robison and Martie Maguire as the Dixie Chicks wore those political leaning and rejecting the rejectors with documentary "Shut Up and Sing." Maines refused to "back down" with acclaimed "Taking the Long Way" with its prominent 2006 single "Not Ready to Make Nice."
"It's a sad sad story when a mother will teach her daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger," reads the lyrics to that song, which then points its way back to Maines and her new "Mother." The title and Pink Floyd's "The Wall" cover weren't selected out of total coincidence: in a way, it's yet another political statement. The Roger Waters tune is ultimately 1) about a rock star and his (single) mom 2) about overprotection and isolation and 3) exercises a skepticism on government and the governing majority.
These are all things Maines knows too well. What I find more interesting is that Maines sings "Mother" as a mother (of two) and a rock star, giving it a woman's sense of ownership and ideal. Single mothers in the '70s and Maines as a country singer with a liberal bent share difficulties as pariahs -- and also happen to be alienated females with a fast-tracked coming-of-age.
As the backlash of the Dixie Chicks continued throughout the 2000s, I had no doubt that some of it was fueled by their gender in the country marketplace. "Dixie Sluts" and "Ditzy Chicks" became choice insults from the era, for example, and they shielded attacks on their abilities as mothers and wives. Country killed Maines' country career, but on her new album Maines herself has scrapped country for rock, notably on songs penned by mostly men (though Maines co-writes, a Patty Griffin song is included and Maguire and Robison collaborate momentarily), in a male-dominated genre. Even though some songs can be interpreted mostly genderless, Maines again finds herself in a platform position not in spite of her gender, but because of it.
I find her voice and her "voice" powerful, even though "Mother" on the whole isn't a terribly strong record. Just like when she and the Dixie Chicks stirred up country homogeneity, I'm just glad she's there.
The Dixie Chicks have been on hiatus from the studio for six years and from the road for three. Maguire and Robison continue to record under Court Yard Hounds and plan a new release this summer.
"Back in the Game" comes to ABC Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. this fall, and is probably most notable for featuring James Caan in his most grizzled form. But really, the story is about Terry Gannon Jr. (Maggie Lawson). She was an All Star softball player until life threw her a few curve balls -- a baby, a lost college scholarship and a loser for a husband.