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<p>&quot;Push and Shove&quot;</p>

"Push and Shove"

Credit: Interscope Records

Album Review: No Doubt returns in fine form on 'Push And Shove'

SoCal band finds inspiration in looking back

The earth may have orbited the sun 11 times since the last No Doubt album, but it’s hard to tell any time has passed in the Southern California band’s world on its new album, “Push And Shove," out Sept. 25.

No Doubt’s last studio album,  “Rock Steady,” came out in 2001—before the world had heard from Kanye West, Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga.  There have been seismic changes in the way that rap and rock and pop have intersected since then, not to mention how music is delivered. And yet, the four members of No Doubt seem to have been largely hermetically sealed in a time capsule for the last decade.  If anything, on “Push And Shove,” the band looks back at the synth-drenched ‘80s for inspiration, rather than to any of today’s hitmakers.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. By the time “Rock Steady” came out, No Doubt had done a wonderful (and tremendously) successful job of blending rock, pop and ska, while lead singer Gwen Stefani had perfected the alternately wounded bird/rising Phoenix trope that made her so appealing.

Marriage and motherhood have not quelled many of  Stefani’s doubts, even if she can confidently boast in the horn-laden, rollicking “Looking Hot,” we are free to stare at her “ragamuffin...and take a picture please.”

The passage of time has given the band added musical confidence. No Doubt has always had a muscularity— bolstered primarily by Tony Kanal’s funky bass playing and Adrian Young’s robust drumming— that anchors its otherwise fairly lightweight melodies and lyrics. It is now accompanied by a pleasing certitude that replaces an earlier brashness.

Throughout the Mark "Spike" Stent-produced “Push And Shove,” the band skips through different beats and tempos with a firm hand that less assured acts could not pull off and that, at times, threaten to give the listener whiplash.  First single, reggae-tinged “Settle Down” time shifts throughout, but it has nothing on the title track, which breaks down into a dub step section—in one of the few concessions to current musical trends. The song, a collaboration with Major Lazer, then transforms to running in slow-motion, as if dragging through tar. It then speeds up for a rapid-fire rap from Jamaican rapper Busy Signal (He's this album's Bounty Hunter."). “Push  & Shove” is a bit busy and overly ambitious, but No Doubt somehow pulls it off.

Underneath it all, Stefani is a throwback to girl group singers of yore —even if her vulnerability often comes with an armor veneer— and No Doubt is a pure pop band. A three-song arc midway through the album focuses solely on those aspects.

On the poppy “Gravity,” a love song presumably to husband Gavin Rossdale, Stefani ruminates on how lucky they are that their relationship has gravity that tethers the two of them together.  “We’re in orbit/so we’re safe. Don’t let go/don’t ever let me float away,” she sings as laser effects torpedo through the song. It’s totally possible to imagine Belinda Carlisle singing this song 25 years ago, especially given the lighthearted, synth bridge.

For the peppy, sweet “Undercover,” those doubts creep back in. “I want to look down deep inside you and I want to come in but I can’t do it/I’m so scared of what I might find there.”

Things go from bad to worse on acoustic ballad “Undone,” the album’s most striking track.
The protagonist has fallen apart. “Just when it was getting good/why does it have to end/I don’t understand,” she sings as she pleads for her lover not to leave her behind.

The good times have returned by the boppy “Heaven” and the wistful “Dreaming the Same Dream,” both of which sound like outtakes from a Madonna album circa 1985. 

“Push And Shove” is a solid, consistent album that isn’t afraid to embrace the multitude of styles that No Doubt has built its 20-year  career upon. It’s the sound of a band that is very comfortable in its own skin, but still wants to challenge itself. At the same time, "Push & Shove" has nothing that seems as forward thinking or as career defining as “Just A Girl,” “Spiderwebs” or “Hey Baby," though with a little wind beneath its wings, "Undone" could be this decade's equivalent of "Don't Speak."

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<p>Josh Radnor and Thomas Lennon in the &quot;How I&nbsp;Met Your Mother&quot;&nbsp;season premiere.</p>

Josh Radnor and Thomas Lennon in the "How I Met Your Mother" season premiere.

Credit: FOX

Season premiere review: 'How I Met Your Mother' - 'Farhampton'

It's the long-running sitcom's final season — or is it?

A review of the "How I Met Your Mother" season premiere coming up just as soon as I replace you with a tiger...

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<p>Hugh Jackman would love for you to make a joke about him singing and dancing at the Tonys. &nbsp;Go ahead. He's waiting.</p>

Hugh Jackman would love for you to make a joke about him singing and dancing at the Tonys.  Go ahead. He's waiting.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Hugh Jackman looks lean and mean in first official photo from 'The Wolverine'

Not much of a surprise, but a nice indicator that Jackman's ready to go

At this point, Hugh Jackman has been playing Wolverine longer than any motion picture actor has continuously played any superhero character.  So far, at least as far as the big screen is concerned, Jackman is Wolverine.  Period.

He's currently hard at work shooting "The Wolverine," the sixth film in which he'll play the character, and Fox finally released an official still of him on-set in the movie, which James Mangold is directing.  I'm at Fantastic Fest in Austin this week, so of course in a setting where I'm surrounded by film geeks of all stripes, I asked around to see what people thought of the image.

Even now, this many years after he first played the character, I'm amazed how some people still get worked up about how different Jackman is from the typical renderings of the character in the comics.  He's taller, he's leaner, and honestly, he doesn't really look like him.  But Jackman's made the character his with the choices he's made, and he's absolutely willing to transform himself each time he returns to play the part, getting crazy ripped each time.

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Watch: Zach Gilford discusses 'The Mob Doctor' and his own medical skills

Watch: Zach Gilford discusses 'The Mob Doctor' and his own medical skills

'Friday Night Lights' vet discusses the challenges of looking at pilot scripts
I did not call Zach Gilford "Matt Saracen" or "QB-1" when we sat down two weeks ago to chat about the actor's new FOX series "Mob Doctor."
 
I did, however, work "Friday Night Lights" into my very first question with Gilford, who plays Brett Robinson on the Monday drama, which airs its second episode tonight.
 
In the conversation, Gilford discusses the uncertainty of choosing pilot scripts, his hope that his "Mob Doctor" character won't just be The Nice Guy Boyfriend and whether his own Chicago roots drew him to this project.
 
I also learned what skills Gilford has acquired from his recent run of TV doctor roles. You may be surprised to discover his not-so-hidden medical talent.
 
Check out the conversation.
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"The Real Housewives of New Jersey"

 "The Real Housewives of New Jersey"

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey' finale is one fine mess

Whether or not Melissa's a stripper, Teresa's the one who's exposed

So, the finale of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" kind of called to mind a drunken argument outside a college bar, which would be more amusing if any of these people ever a) went to college or b) were in their early 20s, when such abject stupidity seems to come with the territory.

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 150

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 150

Dan and Alan talk Emmys, 'Vegas,' 'Neighbors,' 'Mindy Project' and 'Ben and Kate'

The

Happy Monday, Boys & Girls!
 
It's time for the first of two installments of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast this week.
 
Today, we spend a long time debriefing from Sunday's Emmy Awards telecast, with its mixture of surprising and predictable awards. And then we review the premieres of "Ben and Kate," "The Mindy Project," "Vegas" and "Neighbors."
 
That takes us through Wednesday's new show premieres. We'll pick back up again on Thursday with reviews of a handful more new shows, plus thoughts on new seasons of "Dexter" and Emmy-winning "Homeland."
 
But here's today's breakdown:
Emmys (00:01:10 - 00:38:20)
"Ben and Kate" (00:38:45 - 00:45:20)
"The Mindy Project" (00:45:30 - 00:52:30)
"Vegas" (00:52:30 - 01:02:00)
"The Neighbors" (01:02:05 - 01:14:00)
 

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.] 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

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Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 150: Emmys, 'Vegas,' 'The Mindy Project' & more

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 150: Emmys, 'Vegas,' 'The Mindy Project' & more

Dan and Alan also review 'Ben and Kate' and 'The Neighbors'

The

The TV season is here! The TV season is here! Of course, new shows have been debuting for a couple of weeks now, but there's still plenty to talk about in the first of this week's two Firewall & Iceberg Podcast episodes, starting with all the Emmy results and then moving onto new show reviews. We should be back on Thursday to talk "Last Resort" and the rest of the week.

The line-up: 

Emmys (00:01:10 - 00:38:20)
"Ben and Kate" (00:38:45 - 00:45:20)
"The Mindy Project" (00:45:30 - 00:52:30)
"Vegas" (00:52:30 - 01:02:00)
"The Neighbors" (01:02:05 - 01:14:00)
 
As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. Or you can always follow our RSS Feed, download the MP3 file or stream it on Dan's blog.
 
And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.
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<p>Iranian director Asghar Farhadi won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year for &quot;A Separation.&quot;</p>

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year for "A Separation."

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

Iran under pressure to boycott this year's foreign Oscar race

One year after winning for 'A Separation,' the country may not compete this time

The win for "A Separation" in the Best Foreign Language Film category at last February's Academy Awards marked a major breakthrough -- and not just because it marked the first time in donkey's years that the critics' favorite actually took home the prize. More significantly, Asghar Farhadi's searing marital drama made Iran the first Middle Eastern country the win this mostly Eurocentric award. 

Not that all of Farhadi's compatriots appreciated the gesture. The Iranian government has been famously suppressive of its more outspoken artists -- notably in the case of filmmaker Jafar Panahi, placed under house arrest and banned from producing films for 20 years for "making propaganda against the system" -- and "A Separation" had its own share own hurdles to overcome. Initially banned while still in production due to Farhadi's past criticisms of the administration, the film was used by certain factions as a political pawn after its success: Javad Shamaghdari, head of the government's cinema agency, labelled the film's Oscar win an anti-Zionist victory, much to the dismay of its makers.

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<p>Looks a little familiar, no?</p>

Looks a little familiar, no?

Credit: Universal Pictures

'Les Misérables' poster harkens back to Broadway art with young Cosette

Tom Hooper's film is set for release on Christmas Day

Someone asked me today what looks like a Best Picture winner in these early days, with many things seen, a few still to come. With so many having marks against them it's difficult to get a gauge on what could be "the one," and of course, it's silly to be mulling something like that over when the season has so many more secrets to tell. But my knee-jerk reaction was Tom Hooper's "Les Misérables."

Why? Well, it's in the enviable position of still being a bit of a mystery, for starters. Hooper, of course, is coming off his big win for "The King's Speech" in 2010, which made him a commodity in Hollywood. The campaign is taking flight, the early notes revolving around the live singing employed by the film (which, frankly, from a sound mixing standpoint, makes it immediately more interesting in the musical realm than most). But more to the point, there's a lot of tangible thematic resilience in the story that could find the right stride in today's world. Well, let's just say there's a case to be made on that score by a smart campaign, anyway.

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<p>Not too shabby.</p>

Not too shabby.

Credit: AP Photo

Oscar Bait: Tom Hanks sports his 'Saving Mr. Banks' Walt Disney stache at the Emmys

Kicking off a misguided new feature with John Lee Hancock's in-production biopic

I've been hearing more and more about John Lee Hancock's forthcoming "Saving Mr. Banks" ever since Tom Hanks was signed on to play Walt Disney in the film and, therefore, the screenplay review community gobbled it up and dissected it and word got out that it had a heck of a lot of potential. Apparently it's pretty damn good, and it presents a grand opportunity for Hanks, a five-time Oscar nominee who hasn't been recognized by the Academy since 2000's "Cast Away."

Hanks was on hand at the Emmys last night, to collect his trophy for Outstanding Mini-Series or Movie as a producer of HBO's "Game Change." (He's won five of those now, by the way, for "The Pacific," "John Adams," "Band of Brothers" and "From the Earth to the Moon," in addition.) He showed up sporting, it would appear, the mustache he's rocking out as Disney in the new film, and it got me thinking of a spit-ball sort of column we could throw up every once in a while to place unnecessary pressure on upcoming films and performances that, on paper, look like they could be awards contenders. This certainly seems like one of them.

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Brandon Routh

 Brandon Routh

Credit: CBS

HitFix Interview: Brandon Routh talks playing straight and gay on 'Partners'

The former Superman plays a vegan nurse on new show

Superman is coming to TV… sort of. Brandon Routh, who starred in 2006's "Superman Returns" as the Man of Steel, is taking a comedic turn as Wyatt, the boyfriend of Michael Urie's high-strung character Louis on "Partners." The show, which premieres Sept. 24 (CBS, 8:30 p.m.), comes from "Will & Grace" creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, follows the bromance between straight man (literally) Joe and his best friend Louis. Routh's character, a vegan nurse, is the calm to Louis' storm, though in the pilot that seems to mean delivering unintentional punchlines. I spoke to Routh at the TCA press tour this summer about playing a vegan nurse who may or may not have been raised Amish, playing it straight (and gay) and why he never gets sick of "Superman" questions.

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<p>David Krumholtz and Michael Urie in &quot;Partners.&quot;</p>

David Krumholtz and Michael Urie in "Partners."

Credit: CBS

Review: CBS' 'Partners' a tale of best friends gone bad

The 'Will & Grace' guys don't realize how unpleasant one of their stand-ins is

One of the cardinal rules of writing is "write what you know," and one of the easiest ways to do that is to infuse some of your personality into one or more of the characters you write. It's a very old TV tradition to have main characters based on one of the writers, from Rob Petrie on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (modeled on Carl Reiner, who was even going to play him at one stage of development) to Andy Sipowicz on "NYPD Blue" (whose demons were shared by David Milch) to Jess Day on "New Girl" (who even wears the same glasses as Liz Meriwether). If the show works, the creator even gets extra credit for being similar to a character the audience has grown to love.

But when an autobiographical show or character doesn't work? Then you have something really ugly, like "Love & War" (where, legend has it, creator Diane English had to fire Susan Dey for being woefully unfunny as a character  English had based on herself), or like CBS' new "Partners."

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