<p>Edward Norton (left) in &quot;Moonrise Kingdom.&quot;</p>

Edward Norton (left) in "Moonrise Kingdom."

Credit: Focus Features

Cannes Check: Wes Anderson's 'Moonrise Kingdom'

We kick off our series of Competition previews with the festival opener

I'm not sure I'm ready for it, but yesterday's full lineup announcement brought home the fact that this year's Cannes Film Festival is less than a month away. It scarcely feels like a year ago that the likes of "The Artist," "The Tree of Life" and "Drive" entered our lives, but here we are, ready to welcome next batch of potential crossover hits, treasured obscurities and inevitable disappointments.

With that, welcome to our Cannes Check series, in which I'll individually preview each of the 22 titles in Competition. (Much as I'd love to give similar treatment to Un Certain Regard and other festival strands, I am but one man.) Same as last year, I'll be covering one film a day, in alphabetical order of the director's surname. Tidily enough, that means we're kicking off with the film that itself will be raising the curtain on this year's festival -- Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom."

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<p>Quvenzhan&eacute; Wallis in &quot;Beasts of the Southern&nbsp;Wild&quot;</p>

Quvenzhané Wallis in "Beasts of the Southern Wild"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

'Beasts of the Southern Wild' director to be honored by San Francisco fest

Cannes's lone Sundance holdover gets an early kudo in the Bay Area

After catching Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild" at Sundance, I kept finding that the film was sticking with me. I wasn't particularly enchanted while actually watching it, for some reason, probably because soaking up the richness of the voice and the uniqueness of the world was at the fore, but as I drifted away from it, it kept calling me back. I'm eager to see it again and I'm happy Fox Searchlight continued down a path of un-Searchlight-like acquisitions by picking it up in Park City.

The film was the only Sundance holdover announced as part of the 2012 Cannes film festival line-up this morning, following in the footsteps of films like "Precious," "Blue Valentine," "Martha Marcy May Marlene" and "Take Shelter" before it. It's a natural pick and I'll be curious to see how European festival audiences take to it. Could it signal even louder a potential awards trajectory? Maybe, maybe not. The truth is I don't know how much of a chance a film like that could have in awards season, but it will certainly be a healthy contender with programs like the Gotham and Independent Spirit Awards, and potentially plenty of love on the critics awards circuit. (Surely young Quvenzhané Wallis will get her share of debut performance love.)

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<p>Levon Helm on the set of &quot;The Right Stuff&quot;</p>

Levon Helm on the set of "The Right Stuff"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Remembering Levon Helm in 'The Right Stuff'

The musician and actor's unfortunate passing sparks an old memory

I didn't know until I got an AP brief yesterday that musician and actor Levon Helm was so on the ropes in his 16-year battle with throat cancer. Today, the inevitable announcement: Helm has left us. He was 71.

Of course, most know Helm from his tenure as the drummer/sometime vocalist of The Band (immortalized forever by Martin Scorsese's documentary of their swan song performance, "The Last Waltz"). But Helm also had a steady-enough acting career, beginning in 1980 with a significant part in Michael Apted's "Coal Miner's Daughter."

Indeed, when I think of Helm, it's rarely "The Weight" or "Up on Cripple Creek" that leaps to mind. It's actually his work opposite Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager's right-hand man, pilot Jack Ridley, in Philip Kaufman's "The Right Stuff" that registers first.

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<p>Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy in &quot;Lawless.&quot;</p>

Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy in "Lawless."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Cannes lineup heavy on U.S. fare as Twi-hards prepare to mob fest

Cronenberg, Salles, Daniels, Hillcoat, Dominik and Nichols all in Competition

What do Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Zac Efron and Shia LaBeouf all have in common? Speak up, I can't hear you above all that high-pitched screaming. If what you're trying to say is that they're all set to walk the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival next month as their new films premiere in Competition, then you'd be right. Cue every Cannes-bound journalist throwing a set of earplugs into their luggage.

Of course, it's not as if those august Cannes selectors have acquiesced to the Twilight generation. All of them are appearing in the kind of grown-up, semi-arthouse fare that is par for the course at Cannes: Pattinson in David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis," Stewart in Walter Salles's "On the Road," Efron in Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy," LaBeouf in John Hillcoat's "Lawless" (formerly "The Wettest County in the World").

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<p>Robert Pattinson in David Cronenberg's &quot;Cosmopolis&quot;</p>

Robert Pattinson in David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis"

Credit: Alfama Films/Prospero Pictures

Robert Pattinson leaves 'Twilight' for Cronenberg in the first 'Cosmopolis' trailer

The film is confirmed as an official Cannes selection

Some time tomorrow the line-up of films for the 65th annual Cannes International Film Festival will be unveiled. Guy will have plenty to say on that as he'll be covering things from the Croisette yet again, but while speculation about this or that has kept the guessing game lively, we know a few things.

Earlier today it was revealed that a nearly four-and-a-half hour cut of Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America" will debut at the fest. And ahead of the official announcement, the first trailer for David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method" follow-up "Cosmopolis," adapted from the Don DeLillo novel, reveals that it is an official selection for this year's program.

I was personally no fan of Cronenberg's last film, which hit the fall festival circuit. At all. But with this trailer it looks like he's back in the pocket I like. I mean, it's about a rich dude (Robert Pattinson) taking his limo across town to get a haircut.

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<p>Channing Tatum in&nbsp;&quot;Magic Mike&quot;</p>

Channing Tatum in "Magic Mike"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The trailer for Soderbergh's 'Magic Mike' with Channing Tatum promises unexpected rom com

This is not the movie I envisioned, which isn't a bad thing

When I first came to understand that with his latest film, “Magic Mike,” director Steven Soderbergh was embarking on a journey to capture the essence of Channing Tatum’s real life experience as a male stripper in Florida, I was, quite simply, delighted. The whole endeavor sounded just absurd enough to be, well, magically delicious.

I happen to be a huge fan of the bizarre bits of life that exist all around us and I enjoy how Soderbergh finds the elements of the extraordinary, unique and strange that are real and present and builds films around them. He did so with MMA fighter Gina Carano in “Haywire” and with porn star Sasha Grey in “The Girlfriend Experiment” quite recently.

When he decided to move forward with a film that explored the singular world of male stripping I believe I was envisioning whatever the Steven Soderbergh version of a broad comedy is, strange and expansive encounters between eccentric and shirtless men. The film follows Tatum's titular character as he guides and mentors an upstart (Alex Pettyfer, who viewers may or may not know from such offerings as “I Am Number Four” and “Beastly”) through the go-go world of bachelorette parties and, well…more bachelorette parties, we imagine.

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<p>Alfred Hitchcock (left)&nbsp;and Anthony&nbsp;Hopkins as the famed director</p>

Alfred Hitchcock (left) and Anthony Hopkins as the famed director

Credit: People.com

Anthony Hopkins cuts a mean profile as Alfred 'Hitchcock'

"Good evening."

Principle photography on Sacha Gervasi's Alfred Hitchcok biopic creatively titled "Hitchcock" began last Friday in Los Angeles. The film will star Anthony Hopkins as Hitch with Helen Mirren as his wife Alma Reville.

Well, I guess it's not a true "biopic." Based on the book "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho" by Stephen Rebello, the film will tell the behind-the-scenes story of Hitchcock's brilliant thriller. James D'Arcy has been tapped to play "Psycho" star Anthony Perkins while Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel will play actresses Janet Leigh and Vera Miles, respectively.

Really, I prefer this kind of a glimpse at a person. The "greatest hits" approach to biopics is tired and rarely profound, but slices of someone's life such as this can be plumbed thematically to give a rich portrait of who they were. The chance to slow down and focus rather than breeze through the highlights for a quick fix more akin to an Encyclopedia entry than a film isn't appreciated nearly enough.

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<p>A scene from &quot;Once Upon a Time in America.&quot;</p>

A scene from "Once Upon a Time in America."

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

269-minute 'redux cut' of Sergio Leone's 'Once Upon a Time in America' to premiere at Cannes

'Thérèse D.,' the late Claude Miller's final film, will close the festival

Tomorrow, at last, will bring the months of Cannes speculation to an end, as artistic director Thierry Frémaux announces this year's official festival lineup. Anybody with at least half an ear to the ground has some idea what to expect: Walter Salles's "On the Road" and Michael Haneke's "Love" (predictably picked up yesterday by Sony Pictures Classics) are among the inevitabilities, but we can hope for a few wild cards too. Last year shook up the formula slightly by adding two debut features to the Competition lineup: reaction was mixed (and neither film won a thing), but will Frémaux  and company take a similar chance this year?

Whatever aces they may have up their sleeves, the festival may well have stolen tomorrow's thunder with one of today's announcements. The news that an extended, 269-minute "redux cut' of Sergio Leone's compromised 1984 masterpiece (no, I don't use that term lightly) "Once Upon a Time in America" is to premiere on the Croisette this year rather dwarfs the Competition conversation. Indeed, it'll be a remarkable lineup indeed if any one of the contemporary selections tops the restoration of Leone's gangster saga, which premiered at the same festival 28 years ago.

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Marilyn Burns in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre"
Marilyn Burns in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre"
Credit: Bryanston Distributing

'Cabin in the Woods' inspires a look back at the scare that imprinted

You never forget your first

This past weekend, the deconstructed slasher flick “The Cabin in the Woods” opened in theaters. From the mind of Joss Whedon and his co-writer/director Drew Goddard, the film sets up multiple horror archetypes and then soundly and with a great sense of humor and affection for the genre breaks them down. As a woman who was once deeply enamored of the scary story, the release has called to mind what was, for me, the first moment that a chiller set itself deeply and irrevocably into my psyche.

There are horror films that I have found beautiful, poetic and masterfully crafted and still others that have simply opened a previously unknown gate of fear in me. But it is the sequence in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” described below that forever remains the first time a scene delved into my id and burned itself onto my conscious mind.

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<p>Lena Dunham walks the red carpet at the premiere of HBO's &quot;Girls&quot;.</p>

Lena Dunham walks the red carpet at the premiere of HBO's "Girls".

Credit: AP Photo/Starpix, Dave Allocca

‘Girls’ just want to change the needle on a tired media record

Stop telling us we’re fat

I am increasingly disheartened and disturbed by what appears to be an unstoppable uptick in open misogyny. I’ve touched on this previously in a piece on Women and Oscar, but the subtle and not so subtle flames of gender bias are currently increasing rather than abating.

The female sex seems to be taking two steps back in Congress, in the workplace (where, for many, equal pay is still a longed-for dream rather than a well-established reality) and of course, in the media, where appearance is both target and weapon of choice. We are circling the same drain ad nauseum and ad infinitum in this arena where even women endowed with close to physical perfection are repeatedly subjected to our scathing societal eye.

Just this past week the release of "Titanic 3D" has reignited criticism of Kate Winslet's perfectly natural and gorgeous body in that film. Though many have been supportive, the Twitterverse, as ever, was at the ready with scathing remarks. Perhaps in an effort to preemptively defend against the onslaught she faced at 22 when she made the film, the actress castigated herself upon viewing the 3D version. "The second it came up I literally went, 'Make it stop, make it stop, turn it off. I'm blocking it off,'" the actress said to ABC News."Do I really sound like that? Did I really look like that?'"

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