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<p>Ben Kingsley may surprise even the most ardent of 'Iron Man' fans with his version of the villainous The Mandarin</p>

Ben Kingsley may surprise even the most ardent of 'Iron Man' fans with his version of the villainous The Mandarin

Credit: Marvel Studios

Ben Kingsley ladles on the menace in a new 'Iron Man 3' Mandarin character poster

The Mandarin isn't what he was, and he may not be what he seems

If The Mandarin is going to work as the villain in "Iron Man 3," he's going to have to be a fairly radical reinvention of the character that has traditionally appeared in the pages of the Marvel comics.  It goes beyond the obvious issue of him being a sort of oddly dated "Yellow Menace" character, and it's more about the fact that villainy in the 21st century looks very different because the world itself has changed.

Ben Kingsley's take on The Mandarin is, before anything else, media-savvy.  He's a television terrorist, a guy whose every accessory, whose look and voice and mannerisms are all created, calculated, part of an image that he's trying to project. He is a brilliant tactician, but that's not just about military strength or being able to reach out and, oh, I don't know… blow Tony Stark's house right off the side of the mountain where it sits.  His strength comes from his complete lack of fear, his determination to use every single tool available to reshape the world to his will.

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<p>Kendrick Lamar in &quot;Poetic Justice&quot;</p>

Kendrick Lamar in "Poetic Justice"

Watch: Kendrick Lamar and Drake combine for ill-fated 'Poetic Justice' video

World's deepest sleeper

The world's deepest sleeper has been identified, and she is laying half-clothed next to Drake in Kendrick Lamar's music video for "Poetic Justice."

The latter Compton MC's cut is off of his -- ahem -- critically acclaimed "good kid, m.A.A.d. city," featuring an ill-fated L.A. love story, with a violent rush ending with a bang. Lamar dials his buddy Drizzy, who picks up the phone in the bedroom. He is clothed, with the lights on, rapping on the phone, as his lady dozes next to him. Considering Drake's irresistibility, she is the Olympic champion of Sleeping.

No Janet Jackson to be found anywhere, though. Bummer.

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<p>John Fogerty</p>

John Fogerty


John Fogerty previews new duets album with Foo Fighters, Jennifer Hudson and more

During intimate showcase, Fogerty reveals stories behind 'Wrote A Song For Everyone'

Declaring  that it “may be the best thing I’ve ever done,” John Fogerty hosted  an intimate playback of his forthcoming duets album, “Wrote A Song For Everyone,” Thursday  (Feb. 20) afternoon for about three dozen journalists and radio programmers.

The set, out May 28 (Fogerty’s 68th birthday), features the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer performing Creedence Clearwater Revival and solo songs with Foo Fighters, Jennifer Hudson, Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, My Morning Jacket, Brad Paisley, Kid Rock and Bob Seger among others.

Nestled among the classics are two new songs, “Mystic Highway” and “Train Of Fools.”

Seated on the state of the premiere Los Angeles singer/songwriter club Hotel Cafe, Fogerty went through each song with journalist David Wild, talking about either the song’s creation or the new recording.

The idea for the collaboration came from Fogerty’s wife of nearly 22 years, Julie. “She said why don’t we get a bunch of your friends you really like and sing a bunch of your songs, and I thought, ‘Christmas!’” He cringed at the thought of calling it the obvious, such as “Duets,” and, once again, Julie came to the rescue and suggested “Wrote A Song For Everyone,” the title of a  song from 1969’s CCR album,  “Green River.”

The album kicks off with a full-throttled version of  “Fortunate Son” with Foo Fighter Dave Grohl and Fogerty trading guitar solos.  Miranda Lambert, who performs “Travelin’ Band” in her show, joined him for “Wrote A Song For Everyone.” Fogerty heard Lambert’s voice on the radio before he knew who she was. “I didn’t know who she was... I just knew I loved that voice,” he says. Lambert responded “hell, yeah,” when asked. After recording their parts, Lambert told him she thought the song needed a “face-melting guitar solo.”  “I thought ‘I’ll do a solo like Tom Morello’  went through my mind for a nano-second. Then I thought, ‘No, we’ll get Tom Morello’.” And so they did.

 In addition to Lambert, the album emphasizes the deep country roots that have always run through CCR and his solo music by such pairings as Keith Urban, Zac Brown Band, Brad Paisley and Alan Jackson.  Among the top tracks is “Hot Rod Heart,” a guitar shoot-out with Paisley that leaves the listener breathless. “Brad is probably one of the greatest guitarists who ever lived,” Fogerty says.  “Brad is my idol as far as playing Telecaster.”

Zac Brown Band turns “Bad Moon Rising” into a jubilant, fiddle-fueled outing, and is one of only two tracks recorded without Fogerty in the studio at the same time as the guest the artist. The other Fogerty’s pairing with Kid Rock for a funked up “Born on the Bayou.”

One of the most striking tunes is “Long As I Can See The Light” with My Morning Jacket, where Fogerty  let the jam band do its thing. “I was the observant ringmaster,” he says. Jim James delivers an inspired vocal on the track that sounds like CCR crossed with The Band.

The most touching song on the album is “Someday Never Comes,” a tune Fogerty wrote about having to tell his young children about his divorce from his first wife, which is also informed by his memory of his father having the same talk with him when his parents divorced. Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith takes a tender approach to the vocals, with Fogerty as the older wiser voice. Then Taylor and his brother Griffin sing the last verse.

The best blend of both artists’ styles is on “Who’ll Stop  the Rain” with Bob Seger. Seger originally planned to follow the original, but when the two were in the studio, Fogerty overheard Seger playing the tune on acoustic guitar and singing softly and encouraged him to follow that path.  The song feels like a mash-up of “Rain,”  “Night Moves,” and Seger’s cover of Rodney Crowell’s “Shame on the Moon.”

The album closes with a complete reinvention of “Proud Mary” featuring Jennifer Hudson on vocals. She planned to replicate Tina Turner’s version, and she starts the tune that way, but then it kicks into a New Orleans-style, Zydeco-leaning re-imaging of the tune with horns and accordion. Also featured on the track, which was recording in New Orleans, are Allen Toussaint and the Rebirth Brass Band.

Fogerty closed the event the way it started with "Fortunate Song," this time playing it solo, seated on a stool with his fuzzy guitar filling every corner of the small club.

With the right push, it’s easy to see the album taking on a life of its own, like Lionel Richie’s similarly-themed “Tuskegee.”  Country radio should gravitate toward the Zac Brown Band track and rock radio could grab “Fortunate Son.”

1. Fortunate Son (with Foo Fighters)
2. Almost Saturday Night (with Keith Urban)
3. Lodi (with Shane Fogerty and Tyler Fogerty)
4. Mystic Highway (John Fogerty solo)
5. Wrote a Song for Everyone (with Miranda Lambert feat. Tom Morello)
6. Bad Moon Rising (with Zac Brown Band)
7. Long As I Can See the Light (with My Morning Jacket)
8. Born on the Bayou (with Kid Rock)
9. Train of Fools (John Fogerty solo)
10. Someday Never Comes (with Dawes)
11. Who'll Stop the Rain (with Bob Seger)
12. Hot Rod Heart (with Brad Paisley)
13. Have You Ever Seen the Rain (with Alan Jackson)
14. Proud Mary (with Jennifer Hudson feat. Allen Toussaint and the Rebirth Brass Band)


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<p>Anne Hathaway's seat placard in the Dolby&nbsp;Theatre</p>

Anne Hathaway's seat placard in the Dolby Theatre

Credit: AP Photo

Closing thoughts as we gear up for the Oscars

It's almost over

I think we've covered it, yeah? The season has been recounted, the big expected outcome has been laid out, we've consoled you if that outcome is troublesome and we've offered up our guesses on what to expect otherwise (including our unique crafts category analysis). The season, in so many words, is nearing its end.

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<p>Michael Moore hosts the Academy's &quot;Oscar Celebrates: Docs&quot; panel.</p>

Michael Moore hosts the Academy's "Oscar Celebrates: Docs" panel.

AMPAS and Michael Moore showcase this year's Oscar docs

Check out the Moore-hosted panel discussion with all the nominees

As Kris has mentioned before, it's a shame that "Searching for Sugar Man" appears to be cruising to such an easy win in the Best Documentary Feature race. That's not because the film, an engaging audience favorite that has won nearly ever major precursor in sight, wouldn't be a respectable Oscar winner, but because the standard of the competition this year merits a bit more of a fight. Someone who hasn't seen any of the films this year might simply look at how little the wealth has been spread and assume that "Sugar Man" stands inarguably apart from the field, and that simply isn't the case.

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<p>Nate Silver</p>

Nate Silver

Credit: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Nate Silver predicts 'Argo,' Spielberg, Lawrence for Oscar glory

But he admits his method is a little problematic

There are three ways to predict the Oscars. The first is to go strictly on facts, stats and precedents. The second is to use a mixture of sentiment and psychological projection. The third, and best, combines a bit of both with good old-fashioned gut instinct.

Statistician extraordinaire Nate Silver, unsurprisingly, opts for the first method. His election-style Oscar predictions are based purely on how nominees have fared in previous awards: a system that poses some problems this year, when the Academy's earlier-than-usual deadline for nominations voting resulted in less correlation than usual with several major precursors -- the Actors' and Directors' Guilds in particular. (Stat geeks love to tell us, or example, that Marcia Gay Harden is only person in the 19-year history of the SAG Awards to win the Oscar without a Guild nod -- but there's a strong possibility that number could triple on Sunday.)

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<p>The &quot;Silver Linings Playbook&quot;&nbsp;team won't have much to cry about after the Independent Spirit Awards Saturday afternoon.</p>

The "Silver Linings Playbook" team won't have much to cry about after the Independent Spirit Awards Saturday afternoon.

Credit: The Weinstein Company

2013 Independent Spirit Awards predictions: 'Silver Linings Playbook' will shine

'Perks of Being a Wallflower' or 'Sound of My Voice' for best first feature?

First rule about the Independent Spirit Awards:  box office wins 99% of the time.  Second rule about the Independent Spirit Awards: the voting membership is more mainstream than you'd think.  Of course, these are rules that have really come into play over the past five years or so, but important to keep in mind when trying to predict the winners of the 2013 Film Independent Spirit Awards.

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<p>Peeta Meelark and Katniss Everdeen will hit the road to visit every District in Panem so we can all help them celebrate their controversial win in the 74th annual Hunger Games</p>

Peeta Meelark and Katniss Everdeen will hit the road to visit every District in Panem so we can all help them celebrate their controversial win in the 74th annual Hunger Games

Credit: Lionsgate

Exclusive: 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Victory Tour poster immortalizes Peeta and Katniss

The victors hit the road to celebrate their controversial win

If you're a fan of the Hunger Games each year, then you're probably still just as stunned as I was by the way the 74th annual games wrapped up.  I'll admit, at first I was upset by the idea that they had thrown out the rules and changed things just to give Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Meelark a happy ending, but the more I've thought about it, the more I think they deserved to win.

After all, the Games are about out-thinking your opponents just as much as it's a physical challenge, and it was just plain strategically brilliant for Katniss to make the move she did.  It was the only way either of them was really going to "win," and it forced the Capitol to really decide what they want.  Is the point of the Games to crush every player, no matter what, or is it to give us a new hero every year, someone to remind us of the best of what we can be and do?  If that's the goal, then this year is the bonus plan, because I think both of these players are worth our admiration.

We here at HitFix are pleased that the Capitol reached out to us to help premiere this Victory Tour poster, and I don't know about you, but when Katniss and Peeta make their stop in my district, I'll definitely turn out to see them live and in person.  It's strange… I know they're still part of the system, and nothing has really changed, but there's something about the way they pulled off their win that has given me something akin to real hope for the first time in a long time.

I wonder if that makes President Snow nervous at all.  Because it should.

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<p>Jamie Foxx in &quot;Django Unchained&quot;</p>

Jamie Foxx in "Django Unchained"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Picture

Is 'Argo' set to complete its big sweep?

(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale today, February 22.)

And here we are, the final category after two-and-a-half weeks of the 2013 Oscar Guide. I hope you've enjoyed the entries, which you can click back through in the dedicated section below this post. The Best Picture field proved, in its second year of featuring a slate that could include between five and 10 nominees, to be a full one. Nine films were nominated again, and they ran the gamut from foreign languages to political thrillers, big-scale musicals to epic fantasies, scruffy indies to prestige biopics and romantic comedies.

In the end, one film stood out and showed dominance at a time when it appeared to be at its weakest. Whether that perceived weakness was ultimately a source of sympathy is up for debate, but it asserted its dominance nevertheless. And in this, a year when the stats can absolutely go out the window given the shifting of the Academy's calendar and its introduction of online balloting, "history" was going to be made. And so it shall, no matter what happens.

The nominees are…

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Oscar Talk: Ep. 107 -- Final stabs in the dark

Oscar Talk: Ep. 107 -- Final stabs in the dark

Last guesses with the 85th annual around the corner

Welcome to Oscar Talk.

In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.

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<p>George Clooney accepting his Best Supporting Actor Oscar at the 2005 Academy Awards.</p>

George Clooney accepting his Best Supporting Actor Oscar at the 2005 Academy Awards.

Credit: AMPAS

The elite Oscar club George Clooney is set to join

How many Oscar-winning actors also boast wins in other categories?

Amid all the fuss over Ben Affleck in the run-up to Sunday's Academy Awards -- with his path from surprise omission to probable vindication, all in the space of a few weeks, likely to be the lasting narrative of this year's Oscars -- there's been markedly little attention paid to his nominated co-producers. That wouldn't normally be very surprising: producers, by and large, don't tend to be as photogenic or as headline-friendly as the Ben Afflecks of this world. But it's slightly different when one of the co-producers in question in George Clooney.

Clooney has been a typically urbane, but graciously quiet, presence on the campaign trail for "Argo" all season long: it's Affleck's film, after all, and he's been selling the hell out of it, so there's no call for his fellow A-list star to switch on the jazz hands.

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<p>Daniel Craig in &quot;Skyfall.&quot;</p>

Daniel Craig in "Skyfall."

Credit: Sony Pictures

Roundup: The greatest hits of Roger Deakins

Also: Does the Academy still have a blockbuster blind spot?

I'm not sure "Skyfall" represents the best work in the field -- though I prefer it to the presumed frontrunner in the category -- but it's hard not to root for Roger Deakins in the Best Cinematography race on Sunday. The British DP's perennial bridesmaid status at the Oscars has grown into a widely publicized sticking point, and Vulture has further highlighted the debt with a great piece on 10 key shots from his career, and how he got them. (Hey, that sounds not unlike one of our favorite annual features.) For "Skyfall," they've selected Bond's arrival at the Macao gambling palace for scrutiny. Deakins explains the difficulties of faking mass candlelight, and brushes off talk of how he excels in the digital department: "Whether or not it's film or digital, much more of my career has been about choosing the location, getting an idea of the look of something, and choosing the practical kinds of lighting and the positions of the windows, anything that enables you to get the look you want." [Vulture

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