With today's announcement of the Directors' Fortnight lineup, the slate for next month's Cannes Film Festival is officially complete. (Bar any stray late additions, of which there are usually a couple.) And the Fortnight programmers haven't made it any easier to plan one's viewing in an already stacked festival, serving up a selection rich in unexpected names and welcome genre diversions.
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Focus Features doesn't have a new film every weekend this summer, so they have time to pay attention to each film fully, and they've sent out a new batch of pictures to preview the two films they are releasing.
First up, there's Edgar Wright's "The World's End," which we couldn't be more excited about. The reteaming of Wright, Nick Frost, and Simon Pegg is irresistible to us, and with a cast that also includes Paddy Considine and Martin Freeman, it looks like it's going to be something special. Right now, we know very little about the plot and it seems like that's by design. Edgar Wright has played mum about almost everything regarding the film, so all we know for sure is that the film deals with a group of old friends who are reunited to participate in a pub crawl on a night where some very strange things happen in London.
Simon Pegg's look in the film is pretty outrageous, and it's interesting seeing how everyone else looks clean-cut and settled and happy. I hope that more than anything, this is another examination of the strange ways that friendships among men work. It is a thematic vein that has proven quite rich for Wright in the past.
For Fitz & The Tantrums’ second album, “More Than Just A Dream,” the Los Angeles band incorporates many of the sounds of the ‘80s, especially on first single, “Out Of My League,” so it’s entirely fitting, if not particularly scintillating, that the video for “League” looks like something from that era.
[More after the jump...]
When actor Matthew McConaughey was doing the awards circuit press rounds last year for his Independent Spirit Award-winning work in "Magic Mike," he was strikingly thin. The reason for the physical transformation was his role in Jean-Marc Vallée's upcoming "Dallas Buyers Club," which has just found a home at Focus Features.
The singles on Phoenix’s new album “Bankrupt!” aren’t there like they were on breakout “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” but that doesn’t make this new album inferior to the previous. In fact, the French dance-rockers have a much deeper and dimensional coherence to sound than ever before, making this effort seem much more complete as an album, and not just a vehicle for hits.
At this point, I think of Don Cheadle as Rhodey, Tony Stark's good friend, and I have to be reminded that he didn't actually play the part in the first film. That's a testament to just how naturally Cheadle stepped into the role when Terrence Howard negotiated himself right out of the sequels, and I think things ultimately worked out the way they were supposed to work out.
When I sat down to talk to Cheadle at the press day for "Iron Man 3" last weekend, I mentioned to him that I drive by the donut shop from "Boogie Nights" at least four times a week just because of where I live in the Valley. "Ever get the urge to rob it?" he asked me with a smile.
It hasn't been a great month for poor Dr. Bailey (Chandra Wilson) on "Grey's Anatomy." At first, things seemed to be looking up for the feisty, hard-charging (if pint-sized) doctor. After landing funding for her genome mapping project, she was starting to ease into the new, doctor-run structure of Seattle Grace. But last week her luck took a miserable turn when it seemed that she, not a clueless newbie, was responsible for spreading an aggressive infection among her patients -- one which turned lethal. This week, the CDC will be investigating and a shocked and humiliated Bailey will be in the hot seat. I spoke to Wilson about what we can expect for Typhoid Bailey, whether or not this storyline is based in reality, and why Bailey's marriage isn't as backburnered as it seems to be.
Here's what I'll tell you: I'd much rather watch videos like David Guetta, Ne-Yo and Akon's bizzaro "Play Hard" than a thousand others that feature girls in bikinis gyrating on a motorcylce and featured artists standing around trying to figure out what to do with their hands.
In this music video, there's a loose theme of blue-collar living in a primarily Latino population, and then there's spasms of camera work, dance segments, a rodeo, unibrows, twerking, impossible boots, a beauty pageant and toy cars. I can't explain much beyond "surreal," like Quentin Dupieux was given the car keys and told "Drive... there's a pile of stock characters in the back." Guetta, Ne-Yo and Akon (hilariously) all show up at different points, with Guetta giddily clapping at the end.
Tom Jones has, thankfully, never faded away since his sexy, swinging success of the ‘60s, and every decade or so, he has a resurgence.
In 1989, hipsters embraced Jones through his kicky remake of Prince’s “Kiss” with The Art of Noise. Then in 1999, he scored a dance hit with “Sexbomb.”
This latest wave, though somewhat lower profile, started in 2008 with “24 Hours,” his first album of all new material in the U.S. in 15 years. He covered such wildly divergent material as Bruce Springsteen’s “The Hitter,” and “Sugar Daddy” (written by Bono and The Edge), as well as performed a number of his own compositions.
That whet people’s appetites for 2010’s “Praise & Blame,” his first pairing with producer Ethan Johns (Kings of Leon, Ray LaMontagne). Unlike “24 Hours,” which had a little silliness along with depth, “Praise & Blame” aimed to give Jones a certain gravitas afforded folks like Johnny Cash with his Rick Rubin/American Recordings set. And it worked. The collection of gospel covers received wildly enthusiastic reviews. The song reached No. 2 on the U.K. Albums Chart.
So the pump was primed for another set between the sympatico Jones and Johns and they have delivered in a big way with “Spirit in the Room,” out today (23).
While the pair have broadened the parameters —these songs are more about the human spirit and the human condition than religious tunes, though there’s plenty of spirituality here— the guidelines remain the same: let Jones’ voice fully carry the album because, at 72, he still can. His vocals are vital and robust here. Surround him with songs that will be familiar to some and new to others, but none were such big hits (with the possible exception of Mickey Newbury’s ‘60s hit, “Just Dropped in”) that the originals will loom large.
In almost all cases, Johns has opted to give Jones’ voice as little accompaniment as possible because it’s still so rich and supple that it never needs a place to hide. The one place that differs is on The Low Anthem’s gorgeous “Charlie Darwin.” The original features layered gossamer vocals. Instead, Johns adds a choir that gives the song an even more otherworldly feel.
Jones drops all the schmaltz —to be fair, he hasn’t relied on that in a long time— and lays his sins bare, especially on a scarily menacing remake of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Soul of a Man.” He takes Tom Waits’ deliciously devilish “Bad As Me” and turns up the heat as he relishes in finding someone who shares his same demons. Just listen to his cackle.
Conversely, there are songs of great tenderness, including his cover of Bob Dylan's “When The Deal Goes Down, “ rendered as an accordion-and optigan-bolstered waltz so smooth and genteel you could practically ice skate to it.
Not only does Johns have a sure hand as producer, his guitar work here—on slide and electric— adds a Spaghetti Western feel to many of the tracks, giving them a cinematic feel, especially on Joe Henry’s swampy and haunting “All Blues Hail Mary.”
Some artists just get better and better with age and just as Jones has let his naturally gray hair shine through over the last few years instead of dying it black, there seems to be the same kind of authenticity in his songs. He pours every one of his 72 years’ worth of experience and pain and hurt and joy into these songs.
It's a popular trope in science fiction to ask at what level of artificiality does a person stop being a person. If you have a prosthetic leg, you're still you, but if you're down to only a few original organs — or if your brain gets put into a robot body — is that still the case?
I've found myself thinking of those questions, oddly, while watching some recent episodes of "Duck Dynasty." The reality show about a Louisiana family who sell duck hunting merchandise is a monster hit, drawing ratings — last week's episode attracted 8.6 million viewers and a whopping 3.9 rating among adults 18-49 — that puts it in the same neighborhood as the most popular shows on the broadcast networks. NBC would kill to have a sitcom do 2/3 as well as "Duck Dynasty." In fact, the only comedies on any networks doing those kinds of numbers are "Big Bang Theory," "Modern Family" and "Two and a Half Men."
Welcome to Cannes Check, your annual guide through the 19 films in Competition at next 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 -- meaning actress-turned-director Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi is first up with "A Villa in Italy."
Michael Bay is one of the few overtly, blatantly, unapologetically amoral filmmakers working in mainstream Hollywood.
I think a lot of what passes as moral material in mainstream cinema is phony, grafted on without sincerity. When someone learns something about themselves in a movie, more often than not, it's complete bullshit. I have always preferred films that challenge me to have my own reaction to something, that trust me to navigate my own way through a work. I don't mind the big broad strokes of filmmakers working in archetype. I'm all for great bad guys and perfect good guys, as long as it's done well, but I'm equally okay with just watching sociopathic dummies screw up terrible plans.
Good thing, too, because "Pain and Gain" fits that bill exactly. Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely deserve credit for writing what feels like a tailor-made Michael Bay movie. Mark Wahlberg stars as Daniel Lugo, a guy who is the perfect customer for the self-help market. He wants to be a success. He wants to be famous. He wants to be a big man in his community. He wants every bit of the American Dream, and he doesn't want to work for it. He expects it. He believes he has a right to it.