British actor Timothy Spall has been tipped as an early Oscars contender after wowing critics at the Cannes International Film Festival with his portrayal of 19th century painter J.m.w. Turner in director Mike Leigh's new biopic. Mr. Turner, which documents the British artist's rise to prominence from the mid-1820s, premiered at the annual French festival on Thursday (15May14) and it opened to rave reviews, with The Hollywood Reporter's Leslie Felperin feting the Harry Potter star for his "masterful performance", branding the role one he was "born to play".
Awarding the film five out of five stars, The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw writes, "Every scene in this film is expertly managed; every comic line and funny moment adroitly presented and every performance given with intelligence and love. It is another triumph for Mike Leigh and for Timothy Spall."
Time Out's Dave Calhoun also gave Mr. Turner top marks, declaring it "an extraordinary film, all at once strange, entertaining, thoughtful and exciting", while The Telegraph's Robbie Collin hailed Spall for giving what is probably "the finest performance of his career", and Variety's Scott Foundas predicts the "exquisitely detailed, brilliantly-acted biopic" is "a natural awards contender".
The high praise for Mr. Turner, Leigh's first feature film in four years, has made the movie a hot favourite to win Cannes' prestigious Palme d'Or award, which will be handed out later this month (May14). Other movies in competition include Ken Loache's Jimmy's Hall, David Cronenberg's Map to the Stars and The Homesman, directed by actor Tommy Lee Jones.
Sofia Coppola, Willem Dafoe and Mexican actor/director Gael Garcia Bernal will be among the all-star panel judging the competition at next month's (May14) Cannes Film Festival in France. The trio will join jury president, and former Palme d'Or winner, Jane Campion, actresses Carole Bouquet, Leila Hatami and Jeon Do-yeon and director Nicolas Winding Refn at the 67th annual movie spectacular, which begins on 14 May (14).
There are 18 films in competition this year, including Mike Leigh's Mr. Turner, Ken Loach's Jimmy's Hall, and films from acclaimed directors Jean-Luc Godard, David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan.
Men in Black star Tommy Lee Jones also has a film in contention - his new western The Homesman, in which he stars opposite Hilary Swank and mother and daughter Meryl Streep and Mamie Gummer, is up for the 2014 Palme d'Or honour.
British directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach will go head-to-head in the competition at this year's (14) Cannes Film Festival in France. Leigh's film Mr. Turner and Loach's Jimmy's Hall will both compete, along with other movies including David Cronenberg's Map to the Stars, featuring Robert Pattinson, and The Homesman, directed by actor Tommy Lee Jones. The event runs from 14 May (14) to 25 May (14).
Veteran rocker Peter Frampton and blues star Buddy Guy were inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Tennessee on Tuesday night (28Jan14). The British guitarist was one of 12 stars awarded medals at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium ahead of a celebratory concert, and there were also posthumous honours for Roy Orbison and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Also inducted during Tuesday's ceremony were Randy Bachman from Bachman Turner Overdrive, country singer Barbara Mandrell, country musician Jimmy Capps, and guitarists Corki Casey O'Dell, Velma Smith and Will Lee.
Posthumous inductions went to Vaughan and his blues rock band Double Trouble and pedal steel guitarist Ben Keith.
Speaking after the induction ceremony, Bachman says, "I don't like the word rock star or superstar. I am a guitar player, a songwriter who got lucky because I stayed at it and didn't give up, long enough that people noticed me."
Orbison received the Iconic Riff Award posthumously for his song Oh, Pretty Woman.
A radio comedy featuring the voice of British star Benedict Cumberbatch has scored two nominations for the 2014 BBC Audio Drama Awards. Cabin Pressure will compete for the titles of Best Scripted Comedy and Best Scripted Comedy (Studio Audience) at the third annual London prizegiving on 26 January (14).
Other highlights among the nominees include Doctor Who: Dark Eyes, which is shortlisted for Best Online or Non-Broadcast Audio drama, and Simon Russell Beale, who has landed a nod for Best Actor in an Audio Drama for his work in Copenhagen.
The veteran thespian will be up against Lee Ross (King David) and Joseph Millson (The Real George Orwell: Jura), while Carly Bawden (The Color of Milk), Christine Bottomley (My Boy) and Marcia Warren (Tony and Rose) will fight for the Best Actress trophy.
Among the nominees for the Best Supporting Actor categories are Shaun Dooley (The Gothic Imagination: Frankenstein), Geoffrey Bretton (Imaginary Boys) and Eastenders soap star Lacey Turner (The One About the Social Worker).
Give Martin Freeman an empty room and he'll give you comedy. The best parts of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey — an admittedly mishandled movie in large — involved his subdued grimaces, his Chaplinian waddling, and the way he carried himself with equal parts neurosis and snark in every scene. If there is one primary misstep of An Unexpected Journey's terrifically improved sequel, The Desolation of Smaug, it is the spiritual absence of Bilbo Baggins.
Freeman's good-natured but disgruntled Hobbit takes a backseat to the Dwarf team in this chapter of Peter Jackon's three-part saga, distributing the heavy lifting among the front lines of the bearded mooks. Thankfully, we're not shafted with too much "Thorin's destiny" backstory, instead focusing on the trek forward, through far more interesting terrain than we got last time around. The Dwarves voyage through a trippy woodland that'll conjur fond memories of The Legend of Zelda's unnavigable forest levels and inside the borders of Lake-town, a man-occupied working class monarchy that is more vivid and living than any place we have seen yet in the series. And while Unexpected Journey's goblin caverns might have been cool to look at, none of the quests in Desolation feel nearly as close to a tangential detour. Every step the Dwarves take is one that beckons us closer to the central, increasingly engaging story.
Desolation is not entirely without its curiosities. While Gandalf's mission to meet the Necromancer serves to connect the Hobbit trilogy to the Lord of the Rings movies, the occasional cuts over to the wizard's pursuits are primarily distracting and just a bit dull. Although we're happy to welcome the Elf race back into our Middle-earth adventures, it's easy to imagine a version of this story that didn't involve side characters like Legolas and Kate... I mean, Tauriel... and still felt whole (perhaps even more cohesive). The latter's love affair with hot Dwarf Kili seems like a last minute addition to the canon, and one not built on anything beyond the cinematic rule that two sexually compatible attractive people should probably have something brewing alongside all the action.
But the most egregious of crimes committed by Desolation is, unquestionably, the shafting of Bilbo Baggins to secondary status. Yes, he proves himself a savior to his fellow travelers four times in the film, but long stretches of action go by without so much as a word from the wide-eyed burglar. When he finally takes center stage in his theatrical face-off with Smaug — an exercise in double-talk reminiscent of Oedipus outsmarting the Sphinx — the film picks up with a new, cool energy, with a chilling fun laced around the impending doom of their back-and-forth. We've been waiting since the first frames of Unexpected to see how the dragon material will pay off, and it does in spades... albeit in the final third of Desolation, but with equal parts gravitas and fun, to reunite us with our Tolkien passions once more.
Benedict Cumberbatch's dragon doesn't do much to subvert expectation — he's slithering, sadistic, vain, manipulative, and vaguely Londonian. But tradition feels good here. Smaug's half hour spent toying with the mousey Bilbo (who does get a chance to showcase his aptitude at small-scale physical comedy here) is terrific in every way.
Its Hobbit problem aside, Desolation proves itself worthy of Bilbo's past proclamation. "I'm going on an adventure!" more than pays off here, in the form of mystifying boat rides, edge-of-your-seat efforts in dragon slaying, and the most joyful action set piece we've seen in years. Twelve Dwarves, twelve barrels, and one roaring river amounts for enough fun to warrant your trip to the theater for this latest outing into Middle-earth.
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Much like the somber melodies that float throughout its 105-minute runtime, Inside Llewyn Davis will remain lodged in your head weeks after you and the film first meet. With Oscar Isaac's "Fare thee we-e-ell..." ringing daintily in your ears, you'll shuffle out from the grasp of the Coen Brothers' wonderland of gray, but you won't soon be able to relieve yourself of what is arguable the pair's best film yet. Llewyn's is a story so outstandingly simple — he's a man who's s**t out of luck, and not especially deserving of any. He wakes up, loses his friend's cat, plays some music, and wishes things were better. And yet his is the Coens' most invigorating and deftly human tale yet.
Llewyn Davis makes the bold, but practical, choice of never insisting that we love its hero. He's effectively a jackass, justifying all the waste he has incurred with the rudeness he showers on the majority of those in his acquaintance. But Llewyn Davis isn't the villain here, either. The villain is the industry, and all the uphill battles inherent to its machinations. The villain isn't Llewyn's substantially more successful contacts — an old pal Jim (Justin Timberlake) and new fellow couch-surfer Troy (Stark Sands), but the listening public that prefers their saccharine pop to his dreary drips of misery. The villain isn't Llewyn's resentful old flame Jean (Carey Mulligan), no matter how many volatile admonitions she might shoot his way, but the act of God surrounding their unwitting adherence to one another. And it's not even the cantankerous and foul Roland Turner (a delightfully hammy John Goodman), but the endless, frigid open road of which each man is a prisoner (if the film has one flaw, it's that this segment carries on just a bit too long, but that might very well be the point). The villain is the cold.
Call it all a raw deal. But the real dynamism isn't in the challenges that happen outside Llewyn Davis, but in the determined toxicity brewing inside as he meets each and every one.
But this isn't the Coen Brothers' Murphy's Law comedy A Serious Man — we don't watch a chaotic pileup of every imaginable trick that the devil can manage to pull. Llewyn is steady throughout, not burying Llewyn deeper but keeping him on the ground, with the fruit-bearing branches forever out of his reach. In its narrative, Llewyn Davis is as close to natural life as any of the filmmakers' works to date. Perfectly exhibited in a late scene involving a trip to Akron, Llewyn isn't a cinematic construct, but the sort of person we know, so painfully, that we are very likely to be... on our bad days.
Still, working in such a terrific harmony with the grounded feel of Llewyn himself, we have that Coen whimsy in their delivery of 1960s New York City — rather, a magic kingdom painted in the stellar form of a 1960s New York City. And not the New York City we're given by the likes of Martin Scorsese or Woody Allen. Closer, maybe, to Spike Lee or Sydney Lumet, but still a terrain unique to moviegoers. A New York that's always recovering from a hostile rain, and always promising another 'round the bend. One that flickers like a dying bulb, with its million odd beleaguered moths buzzing around it against the pull of logic. There is something so incredibly alive about the Coens' crying city; this hazy dream world's partnership with half-dead, anchored-to-earth portrait like Llewyn is the product of such sophisticated imagination at play.
And to cap this review of one of the best features 2013 has given us, it's only appropriate to return to the element in which its identity is really cemented: the music. Without the tunes bobbing through the story, we'd still likely find something terrific in Llewyn Davis. But the music, as beautiful as it is, is the reason for the story. As we watch Isaac's hopeless sad sack drag himself through Manhattan's winter, past the helping hands of friends and into the grimaces of strangers, as we struggle with our own handfuls of nihilistic skepticism that any of this yarn is worth the agony (or that our attention to its meandering nature is worth the price of a ticket), we are given the rare treat of an answer. Of course it's all for something. Of course it's all about something. It's about that beautiful, beautiful music.
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British actor Aiden Turner has been arrested for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend at their home in Los Angeles. The former All My Children star stands accused of hurling a remote control at his partner's face following an argument on Monday night (25Nov13), leaving her with a small cut and a black eye.
He was taken into custody on a felony domestic violence charge, but sources tell TMZ.com the case is likely to be downgraded to a misdemeanour because the injuries were minor.
The 36 year old separated from his wife Megan Marshall, mother of his baby daughter Ciella, in 2010 after four years of marriage.
Ol' Dirty Bastard's widow has hit back at allegations she is to blame for the last-minute cancellation of a New York documentary screening about the late rapper, insisting organisers had known about her objections well in advance. Friends and fans of the tragic star, real name Russell Jones, had gathered at the Brooklyn Historic Academy of Music last week (15Nov13) to view Dirty: Platinum Edition, which was shot by the star's cousin, Stephon Turner, but the screening was halted moments before it was due to be unveiled after organiser Chris Kanik was served with a cease and desist order from estate lawyers, preventing him from airing the film.
However, Icelene Jones, who controls the Wu-Tang Clan star's estate, claims the event could have been axed at least two weeks earlier - as she had already made her feelings about the documentary known.
She tells XXL magazine, "It (the ban) wasn't a last minute thing. The communication has been very clear. The letter (cease and desist) didn't go out the day of; this is something that's been going back and forth for a while. And that's what they tried to make it seem like - like Icelene Jones messed up everybody's good time and stopped everybody from seeing the film."
Jones' manager, Melissa Jacobs, reveals estate officials had asked for money "up front" for permission to use ODB's likeness in the film, but Kanik refused, insisting they were motivated by "greed".
Jacobs adds, "We are the estate of Russell Jones, we have been appointed by the courts. You're using his birthday, you're using his picture, you're promoting this event... Then when we ask for compensation he's trying to make it sound like we're asking for something we're not entitled to have."
Ol' Dirty Bastard passed away in 2004 from a drug overdose.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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