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<p>The view from the official festival headquarters, The Standard Hotel.</p>

The view from the official festival headquarters, The Standard Hotel.

Credit: Guy Lodge

Checking in at the Miami International Film Festival

The fest kicked off last night with Sundance hit 'Twenty Feet from Stardom'

MIAMI - As thrilling as it is to be in the thick of the action at such superfests as Cannes or Sundance, I may well enjoy the smaller, less flashy film festival circuit even more --  as well as affording you a chance to catch up on previous festival hits you may have missed, the more off-the-beaten-track, locally-flavored programming often yields gems you'd never find otherwise. (And I won't lie: with less stress around covering this or that major auteur premiere comes more time to take in some local color. Hey, even cinephiles like seeing the off-screen world on occasion.) 

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<p>The &quot;Walking Dead&quot; cast at PaleyFest 2013</p>

The "Walking Dead" cast at PaleyFest 2013

Credit: Kevin Parry for Paley Center for Media

20 things we learned from the 'Walking Dead' PaleyFest Panel

Find out about Carl's evolution, Rick's tipping point, Death Dinners and more
BEVERLY HILLS - Friday (March 1) night's panel for "The Walking Dead" was one of this year's only PaleyFest panels that wasn't live-streamed to the world. The reason? Fathom Events and the Paley Center are bringing the panel to movie theaters next Thursday night.
 
In order to make sure that theater-goers get value for their ticket bucks, the "Walking Dead" panel was short on footage and long on talk. The audience at the Saban Theatre got to see the first 10 minutes of Sunday's episode and some behind-the-scenes DVD extras, but a solid 80+ minutes was spent on Q&A, with moderator Chris Hardwick orchestrating the bulk of that discussion.
 
That's far more Q&A time than you get at typical PaleyFest panels, which sometimes can yield well under an hour of conversation from the stage. From an audience standpoint, that's terrific. From a blogger's standpoint, that's a challenge, because I have to synthesize all of that information down to some bite-sized highlights. 
 
That's why if you click through, you'll get 20 Things We Learned from the "Walking Dead" PaleyFest, featuring facts, quotes and other tidbits. If you aren't caught up on "Walking Dead" or you're thinking of paying to see the panel theatrically, turn back!
 
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<p>Hope Driskill of &quot;Survivor: Caramoan&quot;</p>

Hope Driskill of "Survivor: Caramoan"

Credit: CBS

Interview: Hope Driskill talks 'Survivor: Caramoan'

So why didn't Hope just write Eddie's name down?
Another week, another "Survivor: Caramoan" exit interview with a member of the Fans tribe shocked that they were sent packing while aggressively belligerent Shamar remains.
 
This week's victim was Hope Driskill, who follows in the footsteps of alliance-mate Allie, who went home last week. 
 
Of course, with Hope there was a catch. The majority alliance, worried that Reynold might attempt to give Hope his Immunity Idol, decided to split votes between Hope and Eddie. Shamar, not a fan of Eddie, sat in the water and hinted strongly that Hope might want to split with her alliance and write Eddie's name down. Had Hope done that, Eddie would have been eliminated after one Tribal Council vote, instead of a tie that went against Hope in the revote. 
 
Hope's decision was one of several things that I found confusing in Wednesday's episode, so we covered a lot of that in this week's exit interview.
 
Click through for the full conversation...
 
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<p>Bruno Mars</p>

Bruno Mars

Credit: Patrick Seeger/AP

Bruno Mars takes 'Unorthodox Jukebox' to top of Billboard 200... finally

How does Thom Yorke's Atoms for Peace do?

Bruno Mars lands his first No. 1 album next week with a huge assist from Amazon. “Unorthodox Jukebox” reaches the summit in its 12th week on the chart in large part assisted by a promotion with the online retailer that offered the album for $1.99 on Tuesday.

Billboard no longer allows sales from  deeply discounted albums to count in the album’s first four weeks of release (following Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”), but after that, a lower price point counts.  Therefore, chartwatchers will see Mars’ “Jukebox” swap places with Mumford & Sons’ “Babel,” which likely falls to No. 2.

However, with a few days before the chart closes, “Babel” is neck and neck with three other titles, including two debuts, all of which are targeted to sell between 35,000-40,000.

Predictions are that after “Babel,” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “The Heist” will leap from No. 16 to No. 3. Then comes Hillsong United’s “Zion” at No. 4 Not familiar with Hillsong United? It is the choir affiliated with Australian Pentacostal Hillsong Church. Coming in at No. 5 will likely be “Amok,” the debut release from Thom Yorke’s Atoms For Peace.”

Former No. 1 “All That Echoes” from Josh Groban slips to No. 6, but like the earlier titles, it’s too early in the chart week to call, as “Echoes,” “Now 45” and “Billboard #1s: 70s” are all slated to sell between 27,000-30,000 copies to name the No. 6-8 spots.

Rihanna’s “Unapologetic”  and The Lumineers’ self-titled set are also in a dead heat for No. 9 and No. 10, which each poised to sell between 25,000-28,000.
 

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<p>Madeleine Peyroux</p>

Madeleine Peyroux

This Week in New Music: Autechre, The Mavericks, Madeleine Peyroux and more

Mount Moriah, Woodpigeon, Cave Singers, Ivan & Alyosha and other music due

Check out new music from this week and next, from Ivan Alyosha, Brooke Waggoner, the Cave Singers, the Mavericks, Autechre, Mount Moriah, Woodpigeon, Madeleine Peyroux and more.

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"Downton Abbey"

 "Downton Abbey"

Credit: PBS

Is another key character leaving 'Downton Abbey'?

The PBS show is also going to feature someone very different next season

So, fast on the heels of Sybil and Matthew's exit, another character is leaving the hallowed halls of "Downton Abbey." Of course, don't click through unless you're prepared for yes, a spoiler. So, remember, here's your SPOILER ALERT!

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<p>Mike McCready</p>

Mike McCready

Pearl Jam and Guns N' Roses members form new rock supergroup

Mike McCready, Duff McKagen and Screaming Trees' Martin also roped a Killing Joke

Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready has formed a new group with former Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan and ex-Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin.

The unnamed band is working on a set that will incorporate a revolving number of vocalists, among them Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman.

McCready and Martin, who were in the mid-90s’ side-project Mad Season, began writing with McKagan,  and “we took some of those old Mad Season demos from that [unreleased] second ‘Disinformation’ record,” McCready tells Billboard. “We’re talking to Jaz...and I’ve been trying to find some singer to work on some of that stuff.” McCready plans to release the project on his own Hockeytalkter Records.

Mad Season’s 1995 album, “Above,” which also featured the late Layne Staley, will be reissued on April 2 with a new participation from R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and new lyrics from former Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan.

Additionally, McCready is prepping to go back into the studio with Pearl Jam.

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<p>Pedro Almod&oacute;var on the set of &quot;I'm&nbsp;So Excited&quot;</p>

Pedro Almodóvar on the set of "I'm So Excited"

Credit: Sony Classics

Seatbacks and tray tables up as the trailer for Pedro Almodóvar's 'I'm So Excited' hits

Film is set for June 28 arrival, with a potential layover in Cannes

We mentioned a few weeks ago that Sony Classics has lined up release dates for its summer slate, consisting of Richard Linklater's Sundance hit "Before Midnight," Woody Allen's latest, "Blue Jasmine," and Pedro Almodóvar's "I'm So Excited." The latter in particular looks to be a wild romp akin to the director's earlier work.

We might expect to see the film, which hits theaters on June 28, at the Cannes Film Festival. Almodóvar's last film, "The Skin I Live In," premiered on the Croisette and news of his latest emanated from the fest in 2012.

A new trailer has been released, courtesy of Total Film. Take a look below.

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<p>Travis Fimmel is the leader of the &quot;Vikings.&quot;</p>

Travis Fimmel is the leader of the "Vikings."

Credit: History

Review: History's 'Vikings' a bloody good time

Travis Fimmel and Gabriel Byrne come from the land of the ice and snow
There are more ambitious dramas on television right now, but few that deliver as consistently on what is promised than “Vikings” (Sunday at 10 p.m.), History’s first scripted drama series. The show is exactly what you might expect from the title — unless, that is, you’re from Minnesota and expecting a fictionalized account of the career of the Purple People Eaters, or perhaps a dramatization of the sex boat scandal — presented with plenty of style.
 
So there are many tall men with axes and shields and interesting beards. There are longboats and debates over whether any lands exist to the west of Scandinavia — making our westward-looking hero, Ragnar (Travis Fimmel), a bold thinker for his era — and battles on green hills and sandy beaches. There’s abundant pillaging, talk of Valhalla and how to get there.
 
It’s called “Vikings.” It’s about Vikings. And it’s quite good in the early going.
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<p>Empire readers love &quot;The Avengers.&quot; Don't look so surprised, fellas.</p>

Empire readers love "The Avengers." Don't look so surprised, fellas.

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

'Skyfall,' 'The Avengers,' 'The Hobbit' lead nominations for Jameson Empire Awards

But what films were Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway nominated for?

While two-thirds of this year's Best Picture Oscar nominees grossed over $100 million, there are still those who think blockbuster cinema is shortchanged by the Academy -- franchise films, in particular, struggle to get much respect beyond the technical categories, however well-executed. We can argue back and forth about the rights and wrongs of that, but for more populist-minded viewers, the Jameson Empire Awards should come as a relief.

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<p>Nicholas Hoult is front and center as the star of 'Jack The Giant Slayer'</p>

Nicholas Hoult is front and center as the star of 'Jack The Giant Slayer'

Credit: Warner Bros

Review: Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, This 'Giant Slayer' is not much fun

it's a swing and a miss

I try not to pay too much attention to the reactions of others before I write a review, but sometimes it's hard to avoid.  I saw Devin Faraci refer to the film as "an atrocity" on Twitter, and I saw Harry Knowles argue that Devin's the wrong audience and that it's a kid's film so Devin's reaction isn't fair.  I've seen more reactions as negative as Devin's, and something I read actually compared the film to "The Princess Bride," which strikes me as something akin to blasphemy.  

I was surprised by the vehemence of Devin's reaction, but equally disappointed that Harry seems to dismiss some very real issues with the film by simply excusing it as a kid's film.  I think the frustrations I have stem from seeing things in the movie that suggest they could have pulled this one off.  I think they got more right than wrong, but it's unable to come together as a cohesive experience, and I'd love to know how the choices were made that ultimately make it feel like it missed the target.

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Ewan McGregor compares his 'Jack the Giant Slayer' character to Hong Kong Phooey

Ewan McGregor compares his 'Jack the Giant Slayer' character to Hong Kong Phooey

And Stanley Tucci talks about villainy
RICHMOND, ENGLAND - File under "When perfectly fine questions go bad," but not really.
 
In "Jack the Giant Slayer," the characters played by Ewan McGregor and Stanley Tucci bump heads several times. 
 
At one point in their climactic showdown, Tucci's weaselly Roderick looks at McGregor's noble Elmont and sneers, "You thought you were the hero of this story? Don't you know that we ALL think that?"
 
I liked that line, so when I sat down with McGregor and Tucci at Hampton Court Palace outside of London, I decided to start the interview by asking how each of their characters would explain that they're the real heroes of "Jack the Giant Slayer."
 
Ultimately, both men gave very good answers, but both answers began with, "I don't think my character *would* say that."
 
An interview that begins with a long and semi-awkward pause actually became a lot of fun, especially when McGregor describes the unlikely inspirations for his character, including "a Cockney Errol Flynn."
 
You can also check out my interviews with director Bryan Singer and "Jack the Giant Slayer" stars Nicholas Hoult & Eleanor Tomlinson, as well as this video of me singing in front of Hampton Court Palace
 
"Jack the Giant Slayer" opens on Friday, March 1.
 
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