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<p>Aniella Arena is the star of Matteo Garrone's biting look at the madness of our modern media age, 'Reality'</p>

Aniella Arena is the star of Matteo Garrone's biting look at the madness of our modern media age, 'Reality'

Credit: Fandango Portobello

Review: Garrone's 'Reality' a biting satiricial Job story for the age of reality TV

Another strong entry from the director of the acclaimed 'Gomorrah'

CANNES - Matteo Garrone made an international splash with his film "Gomorrah" in 2008, an unblinking look at the modern Mafia in Italy, and deservedly so.  The film had a remarkable sense of time and place, and there was an unvarnished honesty to it that stripped away decades of cinema's romanticism of organized crime.  This morning, his new film "Reality" made its debut, and it is a wildly different type of film, a biting social satire about the modern age and its media-driven obsession with fame.  It is a Job story, at times quite funny, at other times painful, but always shot with a precise, masterful eye, and impeccably performed by the entire ensemble.

"Big Brother" is a global phenomenon at this point, and it seems based on the reading I've done that it is bigger in several countries than it is in the US.  Domestically, it's a solid ratings performer, but in some places, it seems like it is a pop culture juggernaut.  In "Reality," Garrone looks at the pervasive influence of the show and the way it drives one poor bastard in particular completely mad, and the way the film is structured, it makes its points clearly and with a brute force wit.  It helps that Aniello Arena, who stars as Luciano, has a great movie face and a lovely soulful quality that shines through even in the film's strangest or darkest moments.  Garrone makes this an experiential movie, almost all of it absorbed from Luciano's perspective, and he is a captivating lead.

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<p>Kodi Smit-McPhee voices Norman in Laika Studios' new stop-motion animated feature &quot;ParaNorman&quot;</p>

Kodi Smit-McPhee voices Norman in Laika Studios' new stop-motion animated feature "ParaNorman"

Credit: Focus Features

'ParaNorman' hopes to take stop-motion animation to scary new heights

A visit to Laika studios and the magic of a 3D printer

PORTLAND, OR - In just a few weeks, Focus Features and Laika Studios' "Paranorman" will finally be finished.  Directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell will turn in a final print and mix and then anxiously wait for audience and critical reaction on Aug. 17.

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<p>Britten (Jason Isaacs)&nbsp;gets himself into a jam on &quot;Awake.&quot;</p>

Britten (Jason Isaacs) gets himself into a jam on "Awake."

Credit: NBC

'Awake' - 'Two Birds': What's red and green and mad all over?

Britten investigates the conspiracy in both worlds in the series' penultimate episode

A quick review of tonight's "Awake" coming up just as soon as I know how to spell "tulip"...

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<p>Evil Abed (Danny Pudi)&nbsp;made his return in the &quot;Community&quot;&nbsp;season finale.</p>

Evil Abed (Danny Pudi) made his return in the "Community" season finale.

Credit: NBC

Season finale review: 'Community': Cruel cruel cruel

The study group enters a video game, pulls off a caper and achieves emotional closure in a three-episode night

A review of tonight's three season-ending "Community" episodes coming up just as soon as I read the novelization of "The Chronicles of Riddick"...

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<p>Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts in &quot;Rust and Bone.&quot;</p>

Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts in "Rust and Bone."

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Review: 'Rust and Bone' and 'After the Battle'

Audiard's latest an aggressively moving study of broken hearts and bodies

CANNES - As a general rule, it should be a bit further into Cannes, when the combination of punishing onscreen themes and depleted reserves of sleep have battered down all defences, that I have my first involuntary cry of the festival. And as a general rule, it should be several lifetimes before the instigator of such a reaction is Katy Perry's plastic empowerment anthem "Firework," with a wheelchair-bound young woman playing conductor to its ersatz emotional swell.

"Rust and Bone" (B+) a remarkable exercise in brute sentimentality and unwashed romance from French genre artisan Jacques Audiard, is not a film with much use for general rules: awash with aesthetic and narrative decisions that scratch at the boundaries of human empathy and simple good taste, it's the rare Croisette provocation that invites polarized responses by flirting with convention, even cliché, rather than transgression. In no other context could the Wonderbread pop stylings of Ms. Perry sound more subversive. 

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Watch: 'American Idol's' Kris Allen talks getting personal on 'Thank You Camellia'

Watch: 'American Idol's' Kris Allen talks getting personal on 'Thank You Camellia'

Plus, the two keys to keeping his marriage going

“American Idol’s” season eight winner Kris Allen returns with his sophomore set, “Thank You Camellia” on Tuesday, May 21.

The album is chockful of tunes the singer/songwriter crafted about his journey, with many of them expressing the optimism contained in first single “The Vision of Love.”  (see his thoughts about that song here)

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Phillip, Jessica and Joshua of &quot;American Idol&quot;</p>

Phillip, Jessica and Joshua of "American Idol"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' Top 3 Results - Who makes The Finals?

Will Jessica, Phillip or Joshua be heading home? Well, yes. One of them.

I couldn't make a prediction.

At least not in the picture accompanying this recap.

Since the season began, each week I've been putting a picture with my Thursday recaps of one singer I was certain wasn't going home and every week I'e been right. That's not saying all that much, but still... 

This week, though, I can't do it. Either Jessica Sanchez, Phillip Phillips or Joshua Ledet is going home and I don't have a clue who it will be. So I made a handy triptych. I'm confident one of those three singers will be voted out.

Yup. See that limb? I'm way out on it.

Click through for the full recap of the unpredictable (or unpredicted) results...

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<p>&nbsp;Van Halen</p>

 Van Halen

Credit: AP Photo

Van Halen cancels 30 dates on summer tour

The veteran band gives no explanation

Was it only a matter of time? Van Halen has cancelled more than 30 concert dates, including gigs in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Memphis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Detroit.

The last date on the tour, which reunited the Van Halen brother, Alex and Eddie, with original lead singer David Lee Roth, will pull up wheels on the June 26 gig in New Orleans. No word on rescheduling the gigs or how fans can get refunds has been offered.

Pollstar originally reported the news following stories about individual cancelled gigs in Salt Lake City and El Paso, Texas appeared in those cities’ newspapers.  Rolling Stone picked up the story and added that the concert promoter, Live Nation, declined to comment, but sources told Rolling Stone that infighting between the band (i.e. between the Van Halen(s) and Roth) were brutal.  They “hate each other... band is arguing like mad,” the source told Rolling Stone.

Hey, it’s a relief to hear (though it's unconfirmed) that infighting rather than that Eddie Van Halen’s health is causing the cancellations, but it’s a shame that grown men in their 50s and 60s can’t figure out a way to make it on stage every night (for which they are paid millions of dollars over the course of the tour, by the way). If Aerosmith can do it, why can’t Van Halen?

It would also appear that the old lack of ticket sales would not be an issue. The tour was selling very well in most markets, if not completely selling out arenas.

The band was supporting its first new album with Roth in more than two decades, “A Different Kind of Truth,” which came out in February.

Hitfix attended Van Halen's warm-up gig in Los Angeles and found the on-stage chemistry engaging and there were no hints of problems. Is this nothing that separate buses or planes can’t fix?



 

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<p>The first image from Warner Brothers' &quot;Beautiful Creatures&quot;</p>

The first image from Warner Brothers' "Beautiful Creatures"

Credit: Warner Brothers

Warner Brothers wants to send two fans to the 'Beautiful Creatures' set

Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's novel is being filmed in New Orleans
If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that two weeks ago, I spent a day on the set of Warner Brothers' adaptation of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's "Beautiful Creatures" in and around New Orleans.
 
Most of that set visit is, of course, under embargo and I can't say much more than I tweeted: Emmy Rossum brought us melon water. The young folks in the cast -- including Rossum, Alden Ehrehreich, Zoey Deutch and Thomas Mann -- are friendly, pretty and well-spoken and the more mature folks in the cast -- Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson, Viola Davis -- are on a level you might not expect for a film based on books that can be found in the Teen Occult Romance section at your local Barnes & Noble. 
 
But enough about *my* set visit for now. I've read the first book in the "Beautiful Creatures" series and I could start on the second book at any time, but that just means that I'm a reporter who likes to do his homework. I know that the books have passionate devotees. 
 
And the most dedicated of "Beautiful Creatures" readers would probably be mighty excited about the chance to do for pleasure what I already did on a professional level: Visit the set. 
 
So this seemed like a good place to mention that Warner Brothers has launched a video submission contest for TWO fans (and guests) to fly to New Orleans, visit the set and interview Garcia & Stohl. And you won't have long to wait, because the visit is on Tuesday, May 29. Yup. Time is short. 
 
All you have to do is create a 1-2 minute video explaining why you're the biggest fan of the books and why you'd want to see Lena and Ethan and the rest of the Gatlin County world brought to life. Easy, right?
 
But PLEASE, don't send them to me. I'm just mentioning the existence of this contest and teasing that I'll have set visit content someday. I have NOTHING to do with watching contest entries or determining a winner. 
 
Warner Brothers has set up a contest website HERE
 
And there's more information at the "Beautiful Creatures" Facebook page.
 
Enough plugging.
 
Back to my TV upfronts coverage...
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<p>The xx</p>

The xx

Listen: The xx perform new songs live in London

Mercury Prize winners prepping new effort with first fresh shows

The xx just kicked off a tour in time for festival season, and are bringing new songs with them.

Below, in a surprisingly well-recorded video at Chats Palace in London, a show-goer captured the Mercury Prize-winning band perform a fresh track, title still unknown, earlier this week. The thing only goes for about 2:15, but it's got that chilly guitar riff and big bass thuds that make the kids crazy.

The setlist from their Electrowerkz gig this week indicates that half of the songs played at the gig were actually new.

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<p>Bobby Brown performs with New Edition days after Whitney Houston's death in February</p>

Bobby Brown performs with New Edition days after Whitney Houston's death in February

Credit: AP Photo

Watch: Bobby Brown debuts farewell song to Whitney Houston, 'Don't Let Me Die'

UPDATE: Rep denies song is about Whitney... but still, the timing?

When Whitney Houston died in February, Sony "accidentally" spiked the price of the singer's albums. Celebrities seemingly re-engaged with the media just to be part of the dialogue on her death, to their own benefit. I've seen press releases for tribute groups who are "touring" in order to "celebrate" her legacy, a predictably profitable time in their careers. Cover songs were made in tribute and sold on iTunes.

Whitney's mom Cissy is putting out her first album of gospel songs in a decade and Lifetime is cobbling together a reality series based on the Houston family, which include the participation of Whitney's teenaged daughter Bobbi Kristina. And Houston's ex-husband Bobby Brown is putting out a new set, "Being Bobby Brown," on June 5. It's his first studio full-length since 1997.

Not every artistic expression made in the name of dead entertainers is made in the name of profit. It just comes off as very complicated, especially in the passing's immediate wake.

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<p>&nbsp;Donna Summer</p>

 Donna Summer

Credit: AP Photo

An Appreciation of Donna Summer: Queen of pop, not just disco

Her glorious musical explosions fueled the clubs and the charts

“Last Dance” was a tough song to dance to. The Donna Summer smash started slow, so if a boy asked you do dance to it, the request felt way more significant than if he asked you to dance to a fast song. But then it transitioned into a fast song, so you and your partner had to know how to navigate the switch from slow to fast.  And if you weren’t fond enough of each other to actually slow dance together through the opening you just had to awkwardly sway separately through that part until the fast part came in.

I was never very good at that.

Dancing to that song with a boy whose name I’ve long since forgotten was one of my first memories this morning when I heard of Summer’s passing from cancer. She was 63.  My second was that her music had informed much of my teen years.

The five-time Grammy winner got labeled Queen of Disco during the late ‘70s, but a more appropriate title would have been Queen of Pop. Between May 1978 and January 1980, she scored eight Top 5 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including four No. 1s —the first female to do so in that short time span.  The musical style may have been disco (now, of course, rebranded dance) and born out of the clubs, but the truth is no one had to step into a disco to hear a Summer song during her heyday. Her music played in the supermarket just as much as in the clubs...and she dominated radio.

During that time, I was solely into Top 40. While I was keyed into music like nothing else in my life from the time I was four or so, in my mid-teens, my tastes were dictated by Top 40 radio. My parents are probably the last generation to not be influenced musically by the birth of rock in the ‘50s, and my older sister, while also a music fan, didn’t start straying outside of the pop lines until she went to college, like me.

So while the cool kids —of which I never have been one— were already getting into the Clash, the Ramones, and other punk acts (all of whom I came to love later), I was totally in my Top 40 bubble and Donna Summer was a big part of that bubble.

Summer’s hits were glorious explosions that often started slow and then burst into beat-driven fireworks propelled by her stellar, powerhouse voice (underrated by critics at the time, who were too busy hating on disco to truly acknowledge her talent). Listen to the notes she sustains on “Dim All The Lights” or how she goes toe to toe with Barbra Streisand on “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)” and holds her own with one of the greatest voices of all time. That’s a great voice, born from her gospel background, no matter what genre you want to pigeonhole her into (watch for the encomiums coming the next few days stressing just that from writers who denounced her the first time around).

If there was ever an artist who seemed to wrestle with her fame, her talent and her audience, it was Summer. As a born-again Christian, she later denounced her first hit, 1975’s orgasmic “Love To Love You Baby.” She told Vanity Fair that she looked at the song as a “joke”: “I originally recorded ‘Love to Love You Baby’ on a dare from [producer] Giorgio [Moroder]  that I couldn’t be sexy. It was a joke that worked. All that orgasmic stuff … I thought they were kidding—I desperately tried to get them to get someone else to sing the song. Then I made them turn the lights off, get some candles, have some atmosphere. I was going closer and closer to the floor and finally I was lying on the floor.”

History has looked back on Summer as a pioneer, as someone who helped usher in a new musical format that, although hated by critics, delighted millions of fans and also was the first genre to be embraced by the gay community and claimed as their own —though they were always delighted to share with the world at large. (Summer was later accused of voicing anti-gay comments, which she denied making).

She has been up for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but did not receive enough votes to make it into the Hall— yet. That’s likely to change in coming years. Listen to “I Feel Love,” which is basically Kraftwerk crossed with disco, and tell me why she doesn’t deserve inclusion. Plus, the songs have worn far better than they should have. There will never be a time now or 20 years from now or beyond when “Bad Girls” or “Hot Stuff” doesn’t pack a dance floor. If you're still not convinced she was beyond disco, that's a pretty crunchy guitar solo in "Hot Stuff" for a disco song, isn't it?

I still find myself listening to Summer as a great pick-me up on occasion and her songs never fail to bring a smile to my face. “Heaven Knows” will always remind me of riding around with my boyfriend in high school in his black Cutlass Supreme (with red interior). When one of my best friends was going through a divorce a few years ago, we packed up her apartment to Summer’s greatest hits, dancing around, filling boxes, and waiting for the movers, often as tears streamed down her face.

If you’re too young to remember her in real time, check her out with an open mind and open ears. And don’t forget your disco whistle.

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