<p>Hushpuppy afloat in her Daddy's boat in the big wide world of The Bathtub in the remarkable 'Beasts&nbsp;of the Southern Wild'</p>

Hushpuppy afloat in her Daddy's boat in the big wide world of The Bathtub in the remarkable 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Review: 'Beasts Of The Southern Wild' a haunting, beautiful American fairy tale

HitFix
A-
Readers
B+
Sundance sensation lives up to the hype at its Cannes debut

CANNES - Fiercely original, richly imagined, and blessed with one of the great child performances, "Beasts Of The Southern Wild" may have made its premiere at Sundance this year, but it was embraced wholeheartedly by crowds at Friday's Cannes Film Festival, and for good reason.  Horribly beautiful and deeply felt, the film is a spectacular example of how much more important imagination is than budget, and it may be the first great new fairy tale on film since "City Of Lost Children."

How do you even begin to capture something as delicate, ethereal, and feral as the performance of Quvenzhane Wallis, who stars as Hushpuppy, the film's main character and narrator?  It's one thing to imagine a world of washed-out beauty like The Bathtub, but it's quite another to make it such a tangible and well-realized place that it feels like you just stumbled across it and set up cameras there.  Director Benh Zeitlin and his entire crew deserve accolades for finding a way to create such a carefully detailed world on what looks like a very tight budget, and for sticking to an ambition that feels totally uncompromised in execution.  It would be impressive enough if it was just a case of great art design, but then to populate the world with this iconic, fascinating people struggling to survive in a world that wants them to disappear is nothing less than humbling to behold.

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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

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
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>Matthias Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard struggle towards uneasy peace in 'Rust and Bone,' Jacques Audiard's competition selection at this year's Cannes Film&nbsp;Festival</p>

Matthias Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard struggle towards uneasy peace in 'Rust and Bone,' Jacques Audiard's competition selection at this year's Cannes Film Festival

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Review: Marion Cottilard and Matthias Schoenaerts devastate in Audiard's 'Rust and Bone'

HitFix
A
Readers
A+
A beautiful piece about the scars that define us lands early knockout blow at Cannes

CANNES - We all pick up scars as we move through life, some visible, others not, and it is how we deal with these physical and emotional traumas that defines who we are.

Jacques Audiard has been steadily putting out small films of enormous power for the past decade or so, and I first tuned into his work with "Read My Lips" in 2001.  "The Beat That My Heart Skipped" came next, and for many people, "A Prophet" was the moment they realized just how strong a clear a voice he has as a filmmaker.  Because of that film's international success, there was much expectation focused on the 8:30 AM screening of his new film today at Cannes, and based on the trailer I'd seen for it, I walked in expecting one film.  Instead, I got something much richer, more prickly, and more deeply felt than I expected, and I am once again convinced that Audiard is a major voice, an artist of note, and a gifted humanist filmmaker.

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<p>Menna Chalaby and Bassem Samra star in 'After The Battle,' one of the films in competition at this year's Cannes Film&nbsp;Festival</p>

Menna Chalaby and Bassem Samra star in 'After The Battle,' one of the films in competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival

Credit: Cannes

Review: Awkward and angry 'After The Battle' fails to fully capture Arab Spring

HitFix
C
Readers
n/a
Sincere in its intentions, the film never manages more than polemic

CANNES -Well-intentioned, unfortunately, is not enough for a film to work.  If it were, then most films would be great and that's simply not the case. 

Yousry Nasrallah's new film, "After The Battle," has huge ambition, and on that level, I can certainly empathize with the film's goals.  Set during the Arab Spring of last year, the film tells the story of Reem (Menna Chalaby), an Egyptian woman who works in television commercials, who is incredibly passionate about the possibility of a new democracy in Egypt.  She's tired of dealing with the way women are treated in Egyptian society, and she believes that the revolution has a chance to change things.  Her beliefs are challenged when she meets Mahmoud (Bassem Samra), a horseman who was part of the "Battle of the Camels," where armed camel and horse riders swept into Tahrir square to attack anyone who was staging anti-Mubarak demonstrations.  Very quickly, the protestors turned the horsemen away, attacking and injuring many of them, including Mahmoud, whose image ends up on YouTube, a symbol of the way the country is rejecting old values.

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<p>Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward play Sam and Suzy, the young lovers whose plan to run away together sets off a metaphorical storm in a small island community in 'Moonrise Kingdom,' the new film from Wes Anderson.</p>

Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward play Sam and Suzy, the young lovers whose plan to run away together sets off a metaphorical storm in a small island community in 'Moonrise Kingdom,' the new film from Wes Anderson.

Credit: Focus Features

Review: Wes Anderson's 'Moonrise Kingdom' opens Cannes with heart and style

HitFix
A
Readers
B+
A warm, heartfelt look at first love and community, 'Moonrise' is Anderson at his best

CANNES - By now, if you are at all familiar with the work of Wes Anderson, you have no doubt come to some opinion about his general aesthetic choices.  He has a very particular sensibility in his work, and it has evolved over time, although his harshest critics might claim it has ossified.  I like his voice, his approach to character, and his compositional sense, and in general, I find Anderson's films to be enjoyable because I know what I'm getting when I sit down to one.  All that changes is the story he's telling, and in the case of "Moonrise Kingdom," I think he's at his very best, energized by the subject matter and blessed with a cast that came ready to play.

"Moonrise" takes place in the days before a historic storm that sweeps through a small island community in 1965, as Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), two 12-year-olds, run away together, sure that they have no place in their respective families and desperate for a connection that means something.  Their decision ends up sending shockwaves through the community around them, including Suzy's parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), Sam's scoutmaster (Edward Norton), and the sheriff of the island (Bruce Willis).  Like much of Anderson's work, the film is often very funny, but there is a deep longing that underlines everything we see, and in the end, I was moved by what he's saying here, and by the work of his entire cast.

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<p>Nope.&nbsp; Don't know what it's doing or why, and frankly, I reached a point where I just didn't care.</p>

Nope.  Don't know what it's doing or why, and frankly, I reached a point where I just didn't care.

Credit: Universal Pictures

Review: Ridiculous and giddy, 'Battleship' is way more miss than hit

HitFix
C-
Readers
C-
Befuddling in concept, frustrating in execution, this is why people hate summer movies

"Battleship" is, in a word, ridiculous.

Even sitting down to write about the film, I feel ridiculous. It's a movie in name only, a simulation of a movie, and it is by far the strangest thing that Peter Berg has ever put his name on.  I do not see the director of "The Rundown" or "Friday Night Lights" in this film at all.  That's not to say it is without any personal touches, but they feel more like him distracting himself from the absurdity of the material than a real connection to what he's making, and the result is a wannabe-blockbuster that should be studied in film schools as a perfect example of what happens when commerce becomes more important than concept.

Written by a computer program that Universal cleverly named "Erich and Jon Hoeber," I'm still not even sure what the actual premise of the movie is.  I can tell you what happens in it, but plot is not premise.  I cannot imagine the meetings in which grown, rational people sat around planning this film, because nothing about it makes sense.  You would think someone involved in signing $250 million worth of checks would have at some point spoken up and said, "Is it okay that none of this is even remotely coherent?"  Evidently, it's fine, because the film almost seems to delight in the specific form of nonsense that it offers up, and there's not a hint of shame to the enterprise.  It is blissfully, cheerfully stupid, and it doesn't remotely care about reality.

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<p>Debbie Reynolds is just one of the memorable movie mothers we discuss on this special Mother's Day edition of 'The Motion/Captured Podcast'</p>

Debbie Reynolds is just one of the memorable movie mothers we discuss on this special Mother's Day edition of 'The Motion/Captured Podcast'

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Listen: The MCP starts Year 3 with Movie God, Darren Bousman, and movie Moms

It's hard to believe, but we're actually back on the air

It has been a while.

I could offer up excuses, but the truth is that things just plain got away from Scott Swan and me, and there's no other way to put it.  Our best intentions were repeatedly frustrated by real-life obstacles, and we let them build up week after week.

The only reason we finally sat down to do this again is because you have all been so vocal about wanting a new podcast, and I take your feedback seriously.

This week, we decided to talk about Mother's day and the long tradition of mothers in movies.  We also brought back Movie God, the game that broke me in our final episode of Season Two, and we welcomed Patrick Morgan, known to AICN readers as Henchman Mongo, to help us kick off this year's version of the game.

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<p>I&nbsp;could try to come up with a witty justification for why I chose this image to represent season two of 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer,' but who would I fool?</p>

I could try to come up with a witty justification for why I chose this image to represent season two of 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer,' but who would I fool?

Credit: Mutant Enemy/20th Century Fox Home Video

Listen: 'The Buffy Project' tackles season two as the show grows up

FEARnet critic Scott Weinberg returns for round two

I hate starting any article with an apology, but here we go.

In the first episode of our "Buffy Project" podcast, we were plagued by my oncoming illness and some ugly technical issues.  It sounded about as bad as it could.

This time, I managed to figure out how to route my Skype through my Garage Band on my laptop and record Scott Weinberg directly so we sounded closer in terms of quality.  Everything worked like clockwork, and the whole time I recorded, I watched to make sure levels looked good.

So I have no idea how, when we finished, only half of the podcast recorded.

I would imagine that Scott is probably going to stake me the next time he sees me, and I don't blame him.  We talked for about 50 minutes this time about season two, one of the best seasons of the show, and certainly one of the most important in terms of the overall growth of the series.  It was loose and fun and exactly what I hoped it would be when we first discussed doing these podcasts.

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<p>Beck, voiced by Elijah Wood, appears to be the lead character in Disney XD's new 'TRON:&nbsp;Uprising,' an animated spinoff from the live-action franchise</p>

Beck, voiced by Elijah Wood, appears to be the lead character in Disney XD's new 'TRON: Uprising,' an animated spinoff from the live-action franchise

Credit: Disney XD

Watch the entire pilot for Disney's 'TRON: Uprising' now

For fans, is this a welcome addition or a needless redundancy?

Sorry if you don't live in the US, because this one's region-gated, I believe.

I'm not a big fan of the "TRON" mythology. I tried. I like the original film for what it represents, an adventurous move on the part of Disney, and I like the ambition of the sequel. I like the effort. I like the attempt. I just don't think either film is very good, ultimately. They look cool. They seem to offer up a pretty amazing potential. But so far, dramatically, I'm not feeling it. I don't connect to the goofy earnest nature of the original, and I really don't understand the second one's choices.

Having said that, I think that fandom is all about opening yourself up to something, and the only way to really fully enjoy something is to embrace the story being told or the world. Because I can't really get my head around the reality "TRON" tries to create, I can't go where they want to go story-wise.  There are plenty of you out there who do like it and buy into it and dig what they've set up that I'm curious if you enjoy new versions or expansions of that.

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<p>Aladeen does this so often it's practically a tic at this point.</p>

Aladeen does this so often it's practically a tic at this point.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Review: 'The Dictator' marks a significant shift in style for Sacha Baron Cohen

HitFix
B+
Readers
B
With no real-life victims, this is a different kind of comedy for Cohen

Sacha Baron Cohen has spent the last few weeks in constant salesman mode, appearing on talk shows and in public as Admiral General Aladeen, the main character in his new film "The Dictator," and while this is standard operating procedure for Cohen when he's got a film coming out, it may be a miscalculation this time.  I think "The Dictator" is funny, frequently very funny, but it's a very different film than "Borat" or "Bruno," and this whole living-in-character thing may be sending the wrong message to audiences.

As I observed in my early report on the film from CinemaCon in Las Vegas
, it's important to note that this is a scripted comedy where everyone in the film is in on the joke.  This is a far more standard comedy than Cohen's earlier films, and it's an important jump for Cohen to make as a performer.  I'm on the record as a fan of both "Borat" and "Bruno," and I think they're remarkable as examples of performance art.  Those movies have victims, though, and that's something you just have to accept if you're going to watch them.  Cohen created these characters that he would then drop into reality to see what happened when people bounced off of them, and much of the point was to draw people out, to expose their feelings about foreigners or gays or to explore racial tensions.  They are impressive and even dangerous at times, and they felt necessary when they were made.

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