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<p>Rick Ross</p>

Rick Ross

Credit: AP Photo

Listen to Rick Ross' song for Quentin Tarantino's 'Django Unchained'

Whistle... oh no!

I think some artists thrive when they're given constraints, like writing for a film. I think of RZA with his various soundtracks, like his own "Man with the Iron Fists," or latter-day Trent Reznor who hasn't wholly succeeded with How to Destroy Angels but can write the hell out of a score for "The Social Network" or "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

Rick Ross is an interesting choice for Quentin Tarantino as promo season for "Django Unchained" goes into hyperdrive. Tarantino hasn't shocked with his musical choices before. And part of me wanted to be shocked at how Ross could be under constraints.

The trailer, with the Bawse, was pretty dope. This song "100 Black Coffins," on the whole, is kind of a dud.

The chorus has a strong center and a good delivery, with the whistling and the ominous beat (which I feel should be credited to producer and movie star Jamie Foxx). But outside of that, Ross sounds a bit lost when he can't be dropping watch brand names and various metaphor for T-and-A, forcing that verse in about Django and his strife against his bawse.

But the imagery of a hundred black bibles ("so we can send em all to hell") is good enough to sell a movie.

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<p>Abbie and Ryan of &quot;The Amazing Race&quot;</p>

Abbie and Ryan of "The Amazing Race"

Credit: CBS

Interview: Abbie & Ryan talk 'The Amazing Race'

Frankfurt and U-Turn talk with the latest eliminated team
In order to make it home for Sunday night's installment of "The Amazing Race," I had to make a tight flight connection at a German airport, sweating it out through international customs and racing across terminals to catch my Lufthansa plane. 
 
In that respect, I understand what "Amazing Race" contestants Abbie Ginsberg and Ryan Danz were going through.
 
The key difference: I made it to my gate and my plane departed successfully, which allowed me to watch Abbie & Ryan struggle in a German airport for the second time in three weeks, as travel inconveniences and a U-Turn by chums James & Jaymes led to their elimination.
 
Two other differences: I was making my connection in Munich and Abbie & Ryan were in Frankfurt, while I was returning from a vacation and they were racing for $2 million.
 
By virtue of winning the season's opening "Amazing Race" Leg, the competitive dating duo had a chance to be the first "Amazing Race" team to double the show's standard $1 million prize. And, for several Legs, it looked like they might dominate the course, finishing first or second in five of the first six Legs before the two travel disasters eventually did them in.
 
In their "Amazing Race" exit interview, Abbie & Ryan talk about the free coffee at the Frankfurt airport, the reason for their frustration at Jaymes & James' U-Turn decision and their ongoing confidence that they were dominating the controllable elements of the Race.
 
Click through for the full conversation
 
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<p>Nicole Kidman at the world premiere of &quot;The Paperboy&quot;&nbsp;at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival last May.</p>

Nicole Kidman at the world premiere of "The Paperboy" at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival last May.

Credit: AP Photo

Nicole Kidman calls from France to revisit 'The Paperboy' and proclaim her love for 'Amour'

And yeah, 'The Others' is pretty good too

When Lee Daniels’ “The Paperboy” debuted at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival last May, the reviews were hardly glowing.  The Twitterverse was full of salacious tweets of crude acts by an Oscar winning actress and snarked about over-the-top Southern campiness – all out of context, of course.  Even In Contention’s own Guy Lodge seemed torn over the film seemingly want to like it, but only rewarding it with a B- (and that was one of the more initial positive reviews).  In fact, so few of my peers seemed to champion it (and those who didn’t like it hated it), that I tossed it in the back of my mind as a disappointing misfire for Daniels.  Financier Millennium Entertainment decision to distribute the picture themselves seemed to be the final nail in the coffin.  If no mini-major was going to take the time to acquire a “sexy melodrama” starring a mostly shirtless Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack and Matthew McConaughey it wasn’t worth rushing to see, right?

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<p>Jake Gyllenhaal at the LA premiere of &quot;End of Watch&quot;</p>

Jake Gyllenhaal at the LA premiere of "End of Watch"

Credit: AP Photo/Todd Williamson

Jake Gyllenhaal on building character with language off Broadway and in 'End of Watch'

The dark horse awards contender counts his latest film as a turning point

NEW YORK -- I'm running a little late as I make it over to the Laura Pels Theater on 46th Street. When I get there, a tiny crowd surrounds Jake Gyllenhaal, bearded and maned for his performance in the off-Broadway play "If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet." He's almost unrecognizable, which goes a long way toward explaining why the crowd is tiny. He's gracious, all smiles, answering questions.

Later, backstage at the theater, he recalls what it was about the piece that made him finally break his long hiatus from the stage. Written by Nick Payne, the George Devine Award-winning play features Gyllenhaal (in his New York theater debut) as Terry, a loafer uncle to an affection-starved, overweight teenage girl. It's a quartet piece but Gyllenhaal shines, largely because of his character's idiosyncratic nature. That nature was founded in the play's dialogue, which Gyllenhaal says was like trying to unlock a Rubik's Cube.

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<p>Ang Lee and Jake Gyllenhaal on the set of &quot;Brokeback Mountain&quot;</p>

Ang Lee and Jake Gyllenhaal on the set of "Brokeback Mountain"

Credit: Focus Features

Jake Gyllenhaal recalls lessons learned from Ang Lee, Sam Mendes, David O. Russell and more

The young actor already has a wealth of collaborations behind him

One of the striking things you note immediately about Jake Gyllenhaal's portfolio of work is the caliber of filmmakers he's worked with. As a supplement to our feature interview with the star of the off-Broadway production "If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet" and the screen's "End of Watch," we asked Gyllenhaal if he could recall what he's taken from the experience of working with a handful of these esteemed craftsmen -- three of whom feature in the Oscar race this year.

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Oscar Talk: Ep. 97 -- 'Les Misérables' and 'Zero Dark Thirty' enter the season

Oscar Talk: Ep. 97 -- 'Les Misérables' and 'Zero Dark Thirty' enter the season

Also: The Gothams and Spirits speak up for indies and a survey of the doc features

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>I cannot explain why JCVD's wearing white paint all over his bald head in this scene, but I'm sure it has nothing to do with Col. Kurtz.</p>

I cannot explain why JCVD's wearing white paint all over his bald head in this scene, but I'm sure it has nothing to do with Col. Kurtz.

Credit: Magnet Releasing

Review: Loopy and brutal 'Universal Soldier 4' should make fans Van Damme happy

I am so so sorry for that headline, but I would do it again in a heartbeat

I was going to write a formal review of "Universal Soldier 4: Day Of Reckoning," and then I put it in the player tonight and the following happened on Twitter:

"Okay, 'Universal Soldier 4,' here's your chance. Thrill me.

I will say that it's a good sign that the first face I see in the film is Scott Adkins. That guy is awesome.

So far, Adkins seems to be doing nice work playing a sensitive father dealing with a personal trauma. When does he kick someone's spine out?

I'll say this much for 'Universal Soldier 4': I'm 40 minutes in and I have no idea what the hell is going on.

I am compelled to keep watching if only for the freaky Jean Claude Van Brando thing they're going for. #thehorror #thehorror

Scott Adkins just got superpowers. Not sure why, but Scott Adkins with superpowers means I keep watching.

Two, two, two times the Adkins! Two, two, two times the confusion!

I love that Adkins is in 'Zero Dark 30," but watching this, I wonder why they didn't send him after Bin Laden alone. Woulda been easier.

Another way they could have improved 'Zero Dark 30'? Jean Claude Bin Laden.

John Hyams loves 'Blade Runner,' 'Apocalypse Now,' and dudes kicking holy hell out of other dudes."


Technically, I feel like I could leave it at that and we'd be good.  That is a very accurate moment-to-moment summary of how odd it is to sit through the film, but I do have a little more to say about it.  When I say I had no idea what was going on, that's not hyperbole.  There were stretches where I was baffled by the things people were doing or the way they were behaving or just the simplest of exchanges between them. 

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<p>Tina Fey and James Marsden in &quot;30 Rock.&quot;</p>

Tina Fey and James Marsden in "30 Rock."

Credit: NBC

Morning TV Round-Up: '30 Rock' & 'The Office'

Liz and Criss want to get married, while Dunder-Mifflin builds a house of complaint cards

It's morning round-up time, with thoughts on last night's "30 Rock" and "The Office" coming up just as soon as I talk on my Bluetooth to a guy at the octopus auction...

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<p>A scene from &quot;Lincoln.&quot;</p>

A scene from "Lincoln."

Credit: Touchstone Pictures

Roundup: Why this year's Oscar race is so money

Also: The playwrights in the writing race, and dressing 'Hitchcock'

We may still be in the early stages, but one of the clear narratives of this awards season has been in place for some time now: after several straight years of independent productions ruling the roost, studio fare looks set to dominate this year's Oscars, with "Argo," "Lincoln," "Life of Pi" and (we presume) "Les Mis" all riding a wave of mainstream prestige combined with multiplex appeal. Pamela McClintock examines the situation and wonders if, after recent triumphs for limited performers like "The Artist" and "The Hurt Locker," this could be the year box office once more becomes a Best Picture prerequisite, and "event pics for adults" once more become a recognized Hollywood commodity. [Hollywood Reporter]

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Heather Morris, Dianna Agron and Naya Rivera on "Glee"

Heather Morris, Dianna Agron and Naya Rivera on "Glee"

Credit: Fox

'Glee' recap: 'Thanksgiving'

Nothing to be thankful for here

"I just feel like every time we go home just makes me sad and like we're not moving forward, you know?"

Yeah, I know, Rachel. Because that's how I feel watching anything on "Glee" involving the current McKinley High crew. Sure, there are new faces, but the spectacle of bland characters dominating episodes with their bad storylines is certainly sad and definitely not moving forward.

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<p>Bryce Dallas Howard's &quot;when you find me&quot;</p>

Bryce Dallas Howard's "when you find me"

Credit: Freestyle Picture Company

Ron Howard and daughter Bryce among 11 finalists for live action short Oscar

Will star wattage win out in the category as it has in the past?

The Academy has announced that 11 films will advance in the race for Best Live Action Short Film at the 85th annual Academy Awards. A tie in the balloting resulted in 11 films as opposed to the usual 10. The press release notes that 125 films had originally qualified in the category.

Check out the full list of films below.

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"Project Runway All Stars"

 "Project Runway All Stars"

Credit: Lifetime

'Project Runway' recap: 'You're Got Male'

It's an androgyny challenge, but some designers can't swing both ways

So, another week, another oddball challenge. But whatever could it be? The designers gasp in appreciation when Carolyn Murphy walks out wearing a vest without a shirt. Wow, I guess. Anyway, her outfit is a hint. The challenge is androgyny! They must each design an androgynous outfit that is also avant-garde. I am so excited I can barely speak! No Michael Kors rip-offs this week, but something that might (gasp) actually go down a runway in Milan or Paris, right? I'm thinking Commes des Garcons, the "Project Runway" edition. Of course, not all of our designers like avant-garde or androgyny. Laura Katheen is horrified, and so is Ivy. You know who isn't? Josh. Yeah, no shocker there. 

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