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<p>Tye&nbsp;Sheridan and&nbsp;Matthew McConaughey in &quot;Mud&quot;</p>

Tye Sheridan and Matthew McConaughey in "Mud"

Credit: Roadside Attractions

Jeff Nichols goes three-for-three with masterful, meaningful 'Mud'

Director's latest has a lot on its mind with magnetic performances throughout

Director Jeff Nichols has built upon each film he's given us since his striking 2007 debut "Shotgun Stories." 2011's "Take Shelter" added deeper atmospheric considerations to an already adept handling of character relationships on screen in ways few artists this early in their careers seem to manage. "Mud," screening tonight at the Sundance Film Festival, is a masterful combination of both stews that rings a storybook note owing as much to Gary Paulsen as to Mark Twain, and with more on its mind than perhaps anything the director has offered so far.

The project's early film school seeds are a good reason for that thoughtfulness, springing from the mind of a young man stung by a failed relationship who set out to work through ideas of romance and the complexities of love so many years ago (stay tuned for an interview expanding on that later in the fest). But Nichols roots the enterprise in a world of Southern lore that speaks to an undercurrent of magical realism in his film; boats in trees, a unique community of river dwellers, it is a singular sense of place. And from the coming-of-age point of view of a young man, surely a surrogate for the director's former self, that atmosphere finds ample thematic footholds.

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Watch: Jennifer Hudson talks Sundance's 'Mister and Pete,' Grammys and Alicia Keys collab
Credit: HitFix

Watch: Jennifer Hudson talks Sundance's 'Mister and Pete,' Grammys and Alicia Keys collab

Tattoos and heroin addiction: This Oscar-award winner steps into new skin

When you think tattoos and heroin addiction, the name Jennifer Hudson comes to mind, right? 1_vm0lhv06

Fans of the Oscar-winning singer and actress have never seen her in such a state, but they will in "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete," a film that has harder edges than its cutely rhyming title implies. Hudson plays a wayward mother to a child on the cusp of his teenaged years in New York.

"I've never had a drink before, I've never been drunk, unsober, in my entire life… I would never get a tattoo! It could not have been the furthest thing from myself," she told me on the "Mister and Pete" red carpet last night (Jan. 17).

The film's directed by George Tillman, Jr. ("Notorious," "Barber Shop") who has an affinity for casting and working with musicians as actors in his films. So it's little surprise that Hudson has some musical co-workers, including Jordin Sparks and the executive producer of the film, Alicia Keys.

Keys also wrote the score to "Mister and Pete," so is there any room for Hudson's Grammy Award-winning vocals in the film? And is the door open on a collaboration with Keys in the future.

"God no," she said in accordance with the former. As for the latter, there's a hint of things to come...

Hudson also saw a lot of high action at the Grammy Awards last year, as she was tapped in to sing a tribute to Whitney Houston only a day after the singer died at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Thankfully, Hudson said, she'll be watching the ceremony "from my couch" this year.

Watch the full video for all the good news on Hudson and "Mister and Pete."


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<p>Martin&nbsp;Freeman in &quot;The&nbsp;Hobbit:&nbsp;An Unexpected Journey&quot;</p>

Martin Freeman in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

'Argo,' 'Life of Pi,' 'The Hobbit' and 'Skyfall' lead with MPSE nominations

'Zero Dark Thirty' passed over

This year's Oscar nominees for Best Sound Editing were "Argo," "Django Unchained," "Life of Pi," "Skyfall" and "Zero Dark Thirty." Though intriguingly, even with inflated categories including eight nominees, Kathryn Bigelow's bin Laden manhunt effort failed to receive a notice in the Motion Picture Sound Editors' (MPSE) Golden Reel Awards nominations, revealed today.

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<p>Ben Affleck with his Golden Globe for Best Director.</p>

Ben Affleck with his Golden Globe for Best Director.

Credit: AP Photo/Jordan Strauss

Roundup: A write-in vote for Ben Affleck?

Also: Cinema in the Obama era, and the dark side of the festival circuit

The history of write-in votes -- which is to say, votes for a name not on the official list of nominees -- at the Academy Awards is a short but interesting one. In 1934, the fuss over Bette Davis's omission from the Best Actress lineup (for "Of Human Bondage") was enough to land her in third place on write-in votes; the next year, unnominated cinematographer Hal Mohr actually won for "A Midsummer Night's Dream." "Write-in voting has been banned almost ever since," notes Scott Feinberg. "It would require not only a signoff by the Academy’s board of governors, but also a major revamping of the already troubled online voting system." Feinberg argues that, in light of Ben Affleck's surprising non-nomination (determined by only 6% of the Academy membership) and subsequent precursor success, this would be the perfect year to reintroduce the process. [The Race]

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<p>Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer and Jane Krakowski in &quot;30 Rock.&quot;</p>

Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer and Jane Krakowski in "30 Rock."

Credit: NBC

Review: '30 Rock' - 'Florida'

While Jack and Liz go to Colleen's house, Tracy and Jenna run 'TGS' into the ground

A review of last night's "30 Rock" coming up just as soon as I shake a jar of coins while praising Jimmy Carter...   

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<p>Cherien Dabis in &quot;May in the Summer.&quot;</p>

Cherien Dabis in "May in the Summer."

Credit: Sundance Film Festival

Review: Exotic locale for a familiar family melodrama in 'May in the Summer'

Cherien Dabis's film kicks off the U.S. Dramatic competition at Sundance

PARK CITY - If the wedding really is, as certain excitable liberal types will tell you, a fusty tradition increasingly headed for social obsolescence, the movies will hear none of it. Whether in broad Hollywood comedy or finely etched indies, screenwriters seem continually drawn to the tidy structural tension and compressed human emotions brought about by impending nuptials -- as airtight a dramatic excuse as any to combine characters who wouldn't, or shouldn't, ordinarily spend much time together.

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<p>Lisa Fischer in a moment from &quot;Twenty Feet From Stardom.&quot;</p>

Lisa Fischer in a moment from "Twenty Feet From Stardom."

Review: Spectacular 'Twenty Feet From Stardom' showcases music's unheralded voices

A superb doc that not only educates, but completely entertains

PARK CITY - They are the voices in the chorus. That extra kick that turns a solid song into a massive hit. They are the background singers who transformed the music industry in the '60s and '70s often to the detriment of their own solo careers. Finally, these legendary artists step into the spotlight in Morgan Neville's entertaining and enlightening documentary "Twenty Feet From Stardom" which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on Thursday night.

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<p>Michael Cera takes a psychedelic trip to Chile in the subtle, affecting 'Crystal Fairy &amp;&nbsp;The Magic Cactus And 2012,' one of the opening night films at the 2013 Sundance Film&nbsp;Festival</p>

Michael Cera takes a psychedelic trip to Chile in the subtle, affecting 'Crystal Fairy & The Magic Cactus And 2012,' one of the opening night films at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival

Credit: Sundance Film Festival

Review: Michael Cera stars in the gentle, sincere mescaline-soaked road trip 'Crystal Fairy'

Sundance opens in a minor key that offers some subtle but genuine insights

PARK CITY - Movies about drug experiences are, in general, a very strange type of film.  They are either movies like the Oliver Stone school of thought, where a filmmaker uses every technique and effect possible to try to reproduce the sensation of being on a drug, visually and aurally, or they are films where we are watching characters deal with the sensations, more external experiences, and in art as in life, it can be incredibly dull to watch someone else drink or smoke or trip.

"Crystal Fairy & The Magic Cactus And 2012" tells the story of a young American named Jamie who is living in Chile for a while, desperate for experience, open to pretty much anything he can get his hand on.  Michael Cera is perfectly cast in the role, and this is a lovely, nuanced turn from him.  As the film opens, he's at a party with his friend Champa, played by Juan Andrea Silva, and Jamie's one of those guys who has decided that taking drugs is his thing.  He's read Aldous Huxley.  He's read some Terrence McKenna.  He's ready to have his heroic experiences, and so he's pretty much always saying yes.  He smokes some weed, tries some coke, drinks whatever's being served, and he and Champa are planning a trip to the beach, where they are going to prepare some San Pedro cactus and take a mescaline trip.  There's a sort of young-man's urgency to the way Jamie tries things.  He's looking for that moment where taking these drugs is more than a diversion, where it actually changes him.  He wants to be transformed.  He's ready to be the person who can speak about these things with authority instead of the person reading about the ones who have already done it.

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<p>&quot;Who Is Dayani Cristal?&quot;</p>

"Who Is Dayani Cristal?"

Credit: Sundance

Sundance Review: 'Who Is Dayani Cristal?' strands Gael Garcia Bernal in the desert

Beautifully shot border documentary has key structural flaws
From Rory Kennedy's documentary short "The Fence" to Cary Fukunaga's bracing-yet-lyrical "Sin Nombre," the border experience and America's immigration failures have been reliable Sundance staples in recent years, so it was fitting to have Marc Silver and Gael Garcia Bernal's "Who Is Dayani Cristal?" kicking off the 2013 Festival on Thursday (January 17) night.
"Who Is Dayani Cristal?" takes the familiar backdrop and attempts to present it in a complicated way, creating a well-intentioned documentary that makes admirable intellectual sense on paper, but becomes an occasional semiotic nightmare in execution. 
On one hand, had this been yet another straight-ahead story about "The Corridor of Death" in the Arizona desert across the Mexican border, I'd have probably complained at its lack of inspiration. On the other hand, if the inspiration becomes frustrating and obfuscating more than illuminating... Well, that's a struggle. 
More after the break on "Who Is Dayani Cristal?," which is playing in the World Documentary Competition at Sundance...
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"The Vampire Diaries"

 "The Vampire Diaries"

Credit: The CW

'The Vampire Diaries' recap: 'After School Special'

Shocking information is revealed in Mystic Falls

Before we get started, I'm assuming all of you have read about the "Vampire Diaries" spin-off? If not, just skip the following paragraph. I can't really say there are spoilers, because we know very little about the show. But if you watch "The Vampire Diaries," it's hard not to come to certain conclusions about how it might impact the original, no pun intended.

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"Project Runway All Stars"

 "Project Runway All Stars"

Credit: Lifetime

'Project Runway: All Stars' recap: Finale: Go Big or Go Home'

Anthony Ryan, Emilio and Uli battle for the title of All-Star winner

Before we start, a heads-up -- I will be interviewing the winner, whoever that may be, tomorrow morning. So keep your eyes peeled! Will post as soon as I'm able, promise. 

Uli, Emilio and Anthony Ryan are our final three, and they'll have to create a mini-collection for a runway show. And they have to create a theme, music, all that stuff. But they have $3,000 and have the night to think about it. Enjoy the sleeplessness, finalists! 

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<p>DJ&nbsp;Qualls, Dan Bakkedahl and Jim Jefferies in &quot;Legit.&quot;</p>

DJ Qualls, Dan Bakkedahl and Jim Jefferies in "Legit."

Credit: FX

'Legit' - 'Pilot': DJ Qualls takes another road trip

What did everybody think of the new FX comedy with Jim Jefferies?

I published my review of FX's "Legit" yesterday. Now it's your turn. What did everybody else think of the new comedy? If you were previously a Jim Jefferies fan, did this feel true to his stand-up persona? If he's new to you, what did you think of the guy? Did you like the visit to the whorehouse or find the whole thing uncomfortable? Did this show make better use of Mumford and Sons' "The Cave" then "Lone Star" did a couple of years ago? (UPDATE: Never mind on that; they dumped "The Cave" at last minute for a fun. song instead.) And will you watch again?

Have at it.

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