<p>Jessica Chastain and Brad Pitt star in Terrence Malick's epoch-spanning 'Tree Of Life'</p>

Jessica Chastain and Brad Pitt star in Terrence Malick's epoch-spanning 'Tree Of Life'

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Review: Terrence Malick's 'Tree Of Life' reaches for greatness, falls short

A beautiful but oddly hollow experience ultimately disappoints

This is what happens when we turn our filmmakers into religious figures.

I can barely express how much I adore the first three films by Terrence Malick.  I saw "Badlands" for the first time in college, and it was one of those lightning bolt moments for me.  I love everything about that film, about his aesthetic sense, about the performances by Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek.  I think of that movie, and I think of a dozen little moments, about the use of score, about that stunningly gorgeous light that the entire film is bathed in.  "Days Of Heaven" is one I love even more, and that Blu-ray has been played at least three times since I got it.  It's a remarkable film, a simple story but a rich and wonderful slice of history captured as if by magic.  Again, it's the performances I come back to in that one.  Brooke Adams, Richard Gere, and Sam Shepard are all at their very best, and young Linda Manz is so strange, such an unusual narrator, that I find myself wanting to put the film on right now just to hear her voice again.  For the longest time, that's all there was, those two movies, and then we finally got a third film out of him, his adaptation of the James Jones novel "The Thin Red Line," which managed to start life as a fairly straight adaption only to become something totally different in the editing room.  That year, many people tried to pit "Saving Private Ryan" against "Thin Red Line," but aside from being set during WWII, the two films couldn't be more different.  Malick's God's-eye view of men at wartime is a piercing character study and confirmed that even after almost 20 years away from filmmaking, he still maintained a rigid control of every element of what you saw onscreen.

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<p>Trust me... this image is a lot happier than 'The Kid With The Bike' as a whole.</p>

Trust me... this image is a lot happier than 'The Kid With The Bike' as a whole.

Credit: Wild Bunch

Review: The Dardenne Bros' 'The Kid With The Bike' packs a quiet punch

A gentle tale of survival has raw emotional edge

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are among the most awarded filmmakers to ever play Cannes.  They've won the Palm D'Or twice, and their films are almost always received here as the word of God. I'm a fan of their work, and in particular quite like "The Son" and "The Child."  They make movies that sound like they could be sentimental goo when you read a description, but when you see how they handle the material, there is always a smart, simple reserve that makes the films feel like more than just the synopsis.  It's little wonder they are so beloved here, since their movies basically feel like the perfect representation of what Cannes looks for in filmmakers.  Elegant, spare, emotional, and human, all of which are words I'd use to describe their latest, "The Kid With The Bike."

Cecile de France was last seen in the US in Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter," and she was sorely misused in that film.  Here, though, she's perfectly cast as Samantha, a woman who meets a young boy named Cyril (Thomas Doret) during a turbulent point in his life.  It's one of those emotional scenarios that plays out with a certain undeniable nightmare logic and power for the first 45 minutes or so.  Cyril has been sent to spend his weeks at a boarding school by his father, and as a weekend approaches, Cyril starts trying to call home and contact dad, only to learn that his father has moved without telling him.  He's convinced that can't be the case because his dad would never leave without at least bringing him his bike, and for a while, Cyril acts out, dangerously out of control and angry.

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<p>Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush set sail in search of a decent film and come up dry in 'Pirates Of The Caribbean:&nbsp;On Stranger&nbsp;Tides'</p>

Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush set sail in search of a decent film and come up dry in 'Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides'

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Review: 'Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides' finally scuttles the series

Bad action? Jack Sparrow done wrong? It's all here and more.

It is evidently not a popular opinion to have enjoyed the first three "Pirates Of The Caribbean" films, despite their having made over a billion dollars each worldwide.  If you were to listen to Johnny Depp in his recent "Entertainment Weekly" cover story, the films are evidently no good, and the series needed an overhaul moving forward.  Personally, I don't buy that.  I think the first film is still the one that gets everything right, but the second and third films have many, many things to recommend.  If they commit any one sin above all others, it is that they are overstuffed.  There is simply too much going on.  There's enough material in there for three or four films, and Gore Verbinski seemed to be determined to please you or to pummel you into submission, whichever came first.

If you did not like the second and third film, might I suggest that you skip the new film entirely, and even if you did like the sequels, I'm going to warn you that this latest edition in the franchise, "PIrates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," is a near-total creative disaster.  Since Rob Marshall is directing this time instead of Verbinski, I think it's pretty clear who was keeping the series afloat, and Verbinski's work has never looked better than it does by the end of this new film, which is marred by a leaden pace, a complete inability to stage an action scene, and a wildly misconceived move of Captain Jack Sparrow from drunken clown commenting on the action to the main engine of the movie.

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<p>Stephanie Sigman finds herself desperate to survive a conflict she never chose in the riveting drug trafficking thriller 'Miss Bala'</p>

Stephanie Sigman finds herself desperate to survive a conflict she never chose in the riveting drug trafficking thriller 'Miss Bala'

Credit: Fox International

Review: 'Miss Bala' and 'Trabalhar Cansa' bring Latin American flavor to Cannes

What's the difference between a filmmaker and someone who made a film?

To my mind, there is a very distinct difference between a filmmaker and someone who has managed to make a film.  One is a natural gift, and the other is a result of sheer force of will.  I respect the hard work and determination it takes to wrestle anything up onto the screen, but I happily acknowledge that some people are just born with a voice that asserts itself when they are behind the camera.  That's when they really come to life.

I'm trying to see a variety of titles here at the festival, not just focusing on the big names.  Sure, we'll have reviews of "The Tree Of Life" and "Melancholia" right after they screen, no doubt about it.  I'm here to be part of those conversations and to give you the very first account of the highest-profile movies playing at this, the highest-profile film festival in the world.  But while I'm here, I should try to take a chance at least once a day.  After all, even if I don't know anything about a movie I'm walking into, it is playing at Cannes, so that's sort of an implied endorsement, right?

I've seen four of the films from the Un Certain Regard program at the festival, two competition titles, and the out of competition films "Midnight In Paris" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."  Not bad.  If I had to guess about the programming directive behind Un Certain Regard based only on what I've seen, my guess would be that it's all about films with a strong emphasis on voice.

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<p>Mia Wasikowska makes dying look good opposite Henry Hopper in&nbsp;Gus Van Sant's 'Restless'</p>

Mia Wasikowska makes dying look good opposite Henry Hopper in Gus Van Sant's 'Restless'

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Review: Mia Wasikowska is luminous in Gus Van Sant's sweet 'Restless'

Lovely film about grief and sorrow packs a gentle punch

In the first season of HBO's "In Treatment," Mia Wasikowska gave a performance as Sophie, a potential Olympic gymnast who sabotaged her own chances, that immediately put her on my radar as a brilliant, gifted, intuitive actor.  Since then, she's done solid work but hasn't really had a role as good, something where she could show off just how special her abilities really are.

Thank god, then, for Gus Van Sant's "Restless."

Van Sant, no stranger to the Cannes Film Festival, has always been something of a chameleon in his filmmaking voice, and I'm not really sure "Restless" has an easy comparison in his filmography.  It is sweet, simple, eccentric, and gentle.  It is a film about grief, but it is anything but depressing.  There is a lyrical quality to it that caught me off-guard, and in the end, I surrendered myself to its charms completely.

Enoch Brae (Henry Hopper) is adrift in grief at the beginning of the film, unable to process the death of his parents, and he has begun attending funerals and memorial services for strangers as a hobby.  At one of them, he catches the eye of Annabel Cotton (Wasikowska), who finds herself immediately drawn to this strange young man.  Both of them seem inordinately young in many ways, emotional children, and they seem to immediately recognize one another as kindred spirits.  When Enoch realizes that Annabel is dying, diagnosed with a brain tumor that will kill her inside three months, he is forced to finally deal with all of his feelings about life, death, and being left behind.

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Watch: Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne steal scenes in 'Bridesmaids'

Watch: Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne steal scenes in 'Bridesmaids'

One of the summer's breakout stars talks about her work

Melissa McCarthy positively steals the oxygen from "Bridesmaids" at times, and yet somehow, her performance never overwhelms the movie.

That is not an easy balance to strike in a film, and I've seen any number of comedies where you have a great supporting performance that unbalances the movie, and even if you really enjoy the work, that seems like a problem to me.  As much as I'm a fan of anyone who can come in and rip it up and really destroy an audience, I'm a bigger fan of someone who can find a way to carve out their own space in a film while still serving the greater good.

Melissa McCarthy is evidently more iconic for TV viewers than film viewers, and maybe if I'd been a "Gilmore Girls" viewer, I would have already known just how good she can be.  Instead, I feel like I'm just catching up on this well-kept secret, and I think movie audiences are going to embrace her in this role in a major way.  Hell, I'll go ahead and say it right now… Universal should consider giving us a Megan movie at some point.

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<p>Maggie Q, ladies and gentlemen, appreciates good 3D</p>

Maggie Q, ladies and gentlemen, appreciates good 3D

Watch: Maggie Q talks 'Priest,' and the fate of 'Nikita'

Action star anchors a crazy genre mash-up of vampires priests and cowboys

I had the opportunity to sit down with  "Nikita" star Maggie Q to talk about her upcoming action/monster/western movie "Priest" which opens tomorrow. A funny and energetic woman, especially for the dreadful after-lunch time slot I had scheduled with her. I walked in and almost tripped over her german shepherd Caesar who was peacefully dozing on the floor. I guess when you're a star's pet you get used to people.

Taking place in a post apocalyptic world, "Priest" follows the quest of a rogue priest (Paul Bettany) who embarks on an odyssey to rescue his niece from the clutches of a horde of vampire monsters. Maggie Q plays a priestess from Bettany's order who is sent after him by their church with orders to capture and bring him back. The movie has a lot going on, to say the least, but is a fun ride once you're on board.

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<p>You better believe we're going to keep talking about 'Attack The Block' until it's finally in theaters</p>

You better believe we're going to keep talking about 'Attack The Block' until it's finally in theaters

Credit: Screen Gems

25 screenings of 'Attack The Block' in 25 cities? Here's how you can attend

HitFix is pleased to offer you a chance at tickets to one of the year's most fun films

One of the most important tips I got before coming to Cannes this year was from James Rocchi, who told me to buy my membership to the American Pavilion early.  I had no idea what that even meant, but I did what he said, and so far, it's been a life-saver.  Turns out, there's an entire village of pavilions set up behind the Grand Palais, the headquarters for the festival, and each country has one.  The membership I bought allows me to use the wi-fi and crash at the AmPav between films, and it's really the only way I'm able to post stories in a timely manner while I'm here.

Like with many festivals, volunteers appear to be a huge part of keeping things working here, and the AmPav uses young students who seem to work for vouchers that get them into marketplace and festival screenings.  Yesterday, while I was working on a story, a volunteer in his early 20s ran into the AmPav and grabbed two of the other guys by the shoulders.  "Ohmygod! You have to come with me right now!"  The volunteer coordinator said they were both working and asked why he wanted them to leave with him.  "Because I got tickets to 'Attack The Block' and it's about to start!"  She looked at all three of them, and I think she could sense the impending mutiny because she just shrugged and told them they could make their hours up later.  They bolted before she even finished her sentence, and she turned to another volunteer, confused.

"What the hell is 'Attack the Block'?"

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<p>Tilda Swinton is the star of 'We Need To Talk About Kevin,' an emotionally devastating new film from the director of 'Morvern&nbsp;Callar'</p>

Tilda Swinton is the star of 'We Need To Talk About Kevin,' an emotionally devastating new film from the director of 'Morvern Callar'

Credit: BBC Films

Review: Tilda Swinton dazzles in devastating 'We Need To Talk About Kevin'

Director Lynne Ramsay makes an amazing return to film after eight years off

 

When I think of my children… and we're not even talking about times when I'm with them or when we're doing things together… but just when I think of them, I am gripped by such a powerful emotion that calling it "love" seems to do it injustice. 

When I was in the delivery room and the doctors handed me my first son for the first time, I wept at the flood of feelings that hit me.  Until that moment, I did not know the meaning of the term "unconditional love," and I would argue that no love between adults is ever truly unconditional.  We meet someone, we learn about them, and we develop these relationships through time and experience and attraction.  But with your own children, there is something innate that kicks in immediately, a desire to protect and nurture and inspire. 

Having kids has been the single greatest thing for me as a person because it taught me how to truly, completely put someone else before me.  I would do anything for my children.  My own happiness is secondary to theirs.  I can't imagine my life with them on any other terms.  Like I said… I didn't choose this.  It just happened the moment they were born.

And what if it didn't?

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<p>Happy to be out of the desert and back at the Four Seasons</p>

Happy to be out of the desert and back at the Four Seasons

Watch: Cam Gigandet and Lily Collins confess what they did in 'Priest'

The two young stars of the film play Western movie archetypes

The post-apocalyptic world of 'Priest' is made of many elements from different genre's that I'm guessing a  lot of M/C readers will may happily identify. It mixes a little 'Mad Max' with a little "Matrix," for vehicles and fight action, then sprinkles a little of Orwell's "1984" for foreboding mood, then brings it all together with spaghetti-western archetypes for characters and a lot of the set dressing.

Lily Collins and Cam Gigandet play two of these western movie regulars. Lily Collins plays Lucy Pace, the farm girl who's ready see the world, but is unfortunately kidnapped by vampires before she can do so. Cam Gigandet plays Hicks (get it?), the small town sheriff in love with Lucy and determined to rescue her. Hicks is good with a gun, but no match for the vampires, so he enlists the help a social drifter, Paul Bettany's Priest to help him track her down.

Although they share little screen time, as Lucy is kidnapped early in the first reel, the two actors were paired for interviews and I had the chance to sit down with them and talk about the film.

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