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<p>I can see why you'd want someone very serious to handle this film.</p>

I can see why you'd want someone very serious to handle this film.

Credit: Marvel Studios/Disney

James Gunn skirts faux controversy as 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' closes in on cast

Comments from two years ago suddenly ignite some online indignation

Hey, guys, I don't want to speak out of turn, but I have a sneaking suspicion that James Gunn, who is writing and directing "Guardians Of The Galaxy" for Marvel, likes really, really dirty jokes.

I can't prove it, but it's just one of those feelings I get.  Maybe it's because I've seen his Troma movies.  Or because I've watched his "PG Porn" shorts or because I saw "Super," his deranged little riff on the superhero film, or because he is pretty much a non-stop blast of filthy and funny on Twitter.  If you've seen "Slither," then I think you've got the basic idea, which is that there is no line James Gunn is unafraid to cross for no other reason that It amuses him.

The first thing I heard today about "Guardians" was that they're about to start screen-testing guys for the lead, and it's a cool short list of guys who could all bring something different to the part.  I like Joel Edgerton a lot, but don't know Jack Huston at all.  I haven't watched "Boardwalk Empire" yet, and if he's in something else I've seen, I don't recognize the name.  Jim Sturgess was really good in "Cloud Atlas," and I'll have my full review of Eddie Redmayne in "Les Miserables" soon.  The name that mosts interests me on this list is Lee Pace, who was really good in "Twilght: Breaking Dawn, Part 2."  Yes, I know I just put the phrase "really good" in the same sentence as the title of that film, but Pace shows up and it's like he's just stepped in from another much more fun version of the franchise.  He could be a great unexpected choice for Peter Quill, who is half-human, half-alien, and the leader of the Guardians.

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<p>Milos Forman with Woody Harrelson and Courtney Love on the set of &quot;The People Vs. Larry Flynt.&quot;</p>

Milos Forman with Woody Harrelson and Courtney Love on the set of "The People Vs. Larry Flynt."

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Milos Forman wins Lifetime Achievement Award from DGA

The two-time Oscar winner is the 34th recipient of the Guild's top honor

There's something to be said for not handing out lifetime achievement awards on an annual basis: when someone gets one, it's because a voting body genuinely thinks an artist's career merits the effort that goes such a tribute, and not just because they have a space to fill and that person's number has come up.

The Directors' Guild of America has been particularly stingy with their own top honor of late: the last recipient was Norman Jewison in 2010, and that came four years after the previous presentation, to Clint Eastwood. This year, the DGA has decided it's in a generous mood again, and the beneficiary is a worthy one: 80-year-old Czech-born master Milos Forman.

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<p>Tate Stevens of &quot;The X Factor&quot;</p>

Tate Stevens of "The X Factor"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' Top 8 - Performances

Like tentacles on an octopus, the eight perform

I was out of the continent last week and, thus, missed both Wednesday and Thursday installments of "The X Factor." 

Somehow, the roar of buzz failed to inform me that Beatrice Miller and Arin Ray were sent home until now. I'm not shocked. Beatrice was incredibly talented, but her insecurities were worsening as the glare of the spotlight grew brighter. This show wasn't helpful to her. I think we'll see her again in a few years, but it's not an insult to say some people shouldn't be forced to become stars at 13. And as for Arin, he was only an OK version of an archetype that doesn't do all that well on FOX singing competition shows. 

So it goes.

We've got performances from the Top 8 coming up tonight. I have no clue how the time will be filled beyond that. Lots of Khloe Kardashian-Odom reading cue-cards?

Let's find out!

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<p>Pete's torch is extinguished on &quot;Survivor: Philippines&quot;</p>

Pete's torch is extinguished on "Survivor: Philippines"

Credit: CBS

Interview: Pete Yurkowski talks 'Survivor: Philippines'

Was his strategy of 'creating chaos' worthwhile in the end?
I wasn't around to recap last Wednesday night's eventful episode of "Survivor: Philippines," but due to the Thanksgiving holiday, I was still able to have my weekly exit interview and chat with Pete Yurkowski about his torch-snuffing.
 
In one of those reversals of fortune that happen three or four times every "Survivor" season, Pete went from atop a seemingly powerful majority alliance to out-of-the-game over a two-episode span. First he helped minimize the Tandang domination by voting against long-time rival RC, then he lost a tenuous ally when Mike Skupin flipped on Artis. And finally Pete was forced to beg for Skupin's support when it became clear that primary target Abi's Immunity Idol made him the next player on the block.
 
Pete's attempts to convince other players that Malcolm, holding an Idol himself, would be better blindside fodder amounted to nothing when host Jeff Probst spent a full Tribal Council dwelling on the collective antipathy towards Abi.  
 
In a conversation marked by long pauses and frequent dodges, Pete discussed his relationship with Abi, his dislike of Skupin and whether or not his own attempts to generate random chaos ended up doing more harm than good. 
 
Click through for the full Q&A...
 
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<p>Oh, Rinko...</p>

Oh, Rinko...

Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP Photo

Guillermo Del Toro's giant-monsters-and-robots movie 'Pacific Rim' kicks off viral campaign

The first hints of the huge world the director is building are revealed

Looks like Warner Bros. decided it's time to start telling the general public that "Pacific Rim" is on the way, and not a moment too soon.

I'm as sold as sold gets when it comes to this giant summer movie directed by Guillermo Del Toro.  If you want backstory, go check out my write-up from this summer's Comic-Con presentation for the film.  I'm looking forward to sharing my impressions from a set visit I did as well, but for now, it's time for Warner to kick off what looks like a dense set of viral marketing materials that are all landing today in different places.

I think Wired has a pretty great one, and if you want to know what makes Del Toro's approach to this material special, I think a close-up examination of a blueprint for one of the film's Jaegers is a good place to start.  I love that all of the Jaegers have names, that they're not just generic robots.  These things have character, each one driven by a team of neurally-linked pilots who are put through hell during the combat we'll see in the film.  The film imagines how the world might respond if giant monsters started to pour forth out of some hole in the middle of the ocean, and the response the film suggests is the Jaegers, giant robots that each country contributes to a sort of general world defense organization called the Pan Pacific Defense Corps

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<p>(L-R)&nbsp;John&nbsp;Krasinski, Gus Van&nbsp;Sant and Matt Damon on the set of &quot;Promised Land&quot;</p>

(L-R) John Krasinski, Gus Van Sant and Matt Damon on the set of "Promised Land"

Credit: Focus Features

Matt Damon, John Krasinski and Gus Van Sant call 'Promised Land' their attempt at Capra

'It's a pro-community movie.'

NEW YORK -- Focus Features is rallying the discussion around its late-season arrival "Promised Land" with a press day on Monday and an intimate luncheon this afternoon at Aquavit on 59th. Stars/screenwriters Matt Damon and John Krasinski were on hand, as well as director Gus Van Sant.

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<p>Robert Zemeckis</p>

Robert Zemeckis

Credit: AP Photo

'Flight' director Robert Zemeckis to be honored by Palm Springs Festival

Helen Hunt and Naomi Watts also receiving awards

Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis will need to make some more room on his award shelf.

The 24th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival will present Zemeckis with the Director of the Year Award for "Flight."

The Awards Gala will be held Saturday, January 5, at the Palm Springs Convention Center.

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<p>Vic Mackey has just one more thing to say about my book.</p>

Vic Mackey has just one more thing to say about my book.

Credit: FX

More 'The Revolution Was Televised' link-blogging

More reviews and interviews about my new book

As promised on Monday, when I linked to the "Lost" excerpt on Grantland, this is a big week of press for my book, "The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever." Don't want to overwhelm you all with posts on it — and risk turning into Jay Sherman — but every now and then I'll assemble all the recent links in case you want to read/listen to more about the project:

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<p>Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens in &quot;Justified.&quot;</p>

Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens in "Justified."

Credit: FX

FX sets January premieres for 'Justified,' 'Archer,' 'Anger Management' & more

'Legit,' 'Totally Biased' and 'The Americans' also to be part of channel's winter lineup

Raylan Givens, Sterling Archer and whatever fake last name Charlie Sheen is using this week will all be back on FX in January. And "Justified," "Archer" and "Anger Management" will be joined by new shows "Legit" and, eventually, "The Americans."

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<p>Rihanna on her Germany stop during the 777 Tour</p>

Rihanna on her Germany stop during the 777 Tour

Credit: AP Photo

Rihanna Recovery: Seven Things I Learned on the 777 Tour

A look back at a whirlwind week with the pop superstar

It’s been a week since Rihanna’s 777 Tour ended and it looks like everyone got what they wanted:  Rihanna’s seventh studio album, “Unapologetic,” entered the U.S. charts at No. 1 this week, giving the pop superstar her first chart topper.  The 150 journalists/bloggers embedded on the plane with her got a lifetime of bragging rights that they survived a chaotic week with the disappearing diva.

I covered the tour for MSN.com and I am a 777 survivor. By now, anyone who had any interest in Rihanna has already heard the tales of her relentless tardiness, as well as the streaker and the revolt on the flight from Berlin to London after we had no Rihanna sighting for five days. We also rebelled because we were exhausted: every flight was delayed anywhere from four to six hours. Rihanna must be the only artist in the world that can turn a 7-hour flight from London to New Rok into a 16-hour door-to-door ordeal Perhaps united by our trauma, one of the journalists on the trip started a Facebook page for all of us that has now been joined by members of her team, some of the fans who were on the plane with us, and even some of the amazing Delta flight crew who manned the charter for the week.

With a little hindsight and a lot of sleep, here are my final observations about Rihanna gleaned from the experience.

1. Rihanna has that undefinable quality that makes her a star. After spending a week with her, I still can’t put my finger on it, it’s just there. She doesn’t write her own songs, she isn’t a particularly scintillating performer, but there is something compelling about her that draws people into her orbit. They are obsessed not just with her music, but her attitude, fashion choices and lifestyle. I’m not sure she has staying power like Madonna and some of her antics don’t wear well, but for the moment, Rihanna’s star continues to ascend. What that says about the current state of pop music is a topic for another post.

2. Rihanna is constitutionally incapable of going on stage, or seeming anywhere, on time. Even when she had several hundred people waiting, Rihanna went on between 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours after the doors opened for each concert. Yes, only amateurs believe an act is going on around the time the doors open, but these were all private shows for concert winners, so going on an hour after doors opened seemed enough of a wait. As I can attest, crowds start to get a little surly after the four-hour mark has passed. Even when she had a inviolable curfew, she couldn’t do it: In Paris, she had to cut 20 minutes out of her hour-long show because she couldn’t get her ass on stage in time to do the full hour before the curfew. She was an hour late for a tree-lighting ceremony in London.

3. She is very good with her fans: As contradictory to No. 2 as that may seem, she has a connection with the Rihanna Navy that feels real and genuine. After we took off from Los Angeles on Nov. 14 and headed to the first show in Mexico City, she passed through the plane twice to say hi and she personally invited a number of the 30 or so contest winners on the plane. Plus, as we waited for our bags in Toronto --Rihanna included-- she was unfailingly polite to folks who wanted a photo--until her security crew put a halt to that.

4. Nothing good can come of seeing an act seven times in seven days:
  With the exception of one or two songs, Rihanna’s set was the same every night, including most of the “ad libs.” This next part is a little bit cruel, I admit. Before performing “What’s My Name,” she’d say, “What did you say? Did somebody call my name?” I swear to you that neither I, nor any of my colleagues, ever heard anyone call out her name. We started asking each other, “What did you say? Did somebody call my name?” as a joke and the night of the revolt, some folks said it very loudly, certainly loudly enough for Rihanna to hear way up in her first class cabin.  She dropped the song from the set list for the rest of the promo tour. Coincidence?

5. She wears well: “Unapologetic” is her seventh album in seven years and in that time, she has pumped out an unending stream of well-crafted singles, more than 20 of which have gone into the top 10. There seems to be absolutely no burn-out at radio on Rihanna, which is remarkable. There is no other artist active today who can churn out singles at such a rate and have the same level of success. Each song does its thing and then gets out of the way for the next.  Radio fatigue is bound to set in at some point, but there’s no sign of that.

6. Touring is hard: Yes, the scrubs were back in coach and that meant that for the four red-eye flights we were vertical, while Rihanna was horizontal. And, yes, this kind of touring is extreme, but the truth is even when you’re on a charter flight and you’re staying at five-star hotels, there’s a certain amount of wear and tear that starts almost immediately, as well as a bunker mentality. Nuno Bettencourt, Rihanna’s guitarist, said that touring by bus was much easier than what we were doing and I’m sure it is given that there is less schlepping, but it’s still exhausting.

7. Rihanna may be headed for trouble: This is solely subjective and I’m not basing this on anything other than my own observations. The label tried to get her to hold press conferences (as the journalists had been promised) on the plane, the manager supposedly tried to cajole her and we got nothing but two quick ones at the beginning and end. The journalists were bussed to the club early every night and just parked there, often waiting for hours, because the label admitted they had no idea what time she’d actually go on... When you have that much power and that much seemingly disregard for everyone else around you and you are only 24, that is a bad combo platter. Since the tour ended, Rihanna has given interviews saying she couldn’t party on the plane with us because she needed sleep. She didn’t need sleep when she was hitting parties at 3:30 a.m. Plus, and I cannot stress this enough, we did not need to “party” with Rihanna, we needed access and quotes. She could have accomplished that with a five-minute press conference each flight. She can blame her lack of time spent with the press on whatever she wants, but it was a bit like inviting guests over for dinner and then other than saying hi, ignoring them the rest of the evening. She may be “Unapologetic,” but much of the press is still waiting for an apology.

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<p>Taylor Swift</p>

Taylor Swift

Credit: AP Photo

Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Springsteen: Grammy predictions for record of the year

Who will get a coveted nomination on Dec. 5?

The Grammy for record of the year is among the most coveted trophies handed out at the annual music glad-handing awards. On Dec. 5, the five contenders for that category will be announced along with the nominees for the other 2,385 awards handed out on Feb. 10 at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards.

Over the years, the nominations have often reflected what were the biggest pop hits of the year with seemingly no separation between commercial and artistic values.

 However, there’s often an oddball, tastemakers' choice thrown in that no one can predict, such as Bon Iver’s “Holocene” this past year. The voters can also feel motivated by much more than the music. For example, in 1986, “We Are The World” won record of the year as a way for the industry to pat itself on the back for doing something good. In 2007, the Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready To Make Nice” snagged the golden gramophone because the voters wanted to show their support for the trio after country radio had tossed them aside for lead singer Natalie Maines’ negative comment about then-President Bush.

To be eligible a song must have been released between Oct. 1, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2012. That means that Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know,” an otherwise sure bet, should not be eligible since it was released in July 2011. Similarly, fun.’s “We Are Young” went to radio in September 2011, as did Rihanna’s “We Found Love.”  We’ll see how closely these rules are observed.

People often, understandably, confuse record of the year with song of the year. Record of the year goes to the artist, producer, recording engineer and/or mixer, whereas song of the year's sole recipient is the songwriter. Therefore, when thinking about record of the year contenders, it helps to think about the totality of the song’s sound, the production elements, the performance, etc., more than just the lyrics and melody.

Here are 11 songs that are contenders for the five slots, listed in alphabetical order by song title. These are not what I necessarily consider the best tunes, but they are what I think the voters will put forth.


“Burn It Down,” Linkin Park”:
Is it time to recognize Linkin Park in this category or will their start as a nu-metal band always haunt them? This track fused everything the band does: rock, hip-hop, electronica. It’s probably the least likely on the list, but it’s worth considering.

“Call Me Maybe,” Carly Rae Jepsen: This song was so much more than a hit single, it was a pop culture touchstone that spawned a life of its own through the dozens of remakes. While some folks never warmed to it, it’s punchy, sweet appeal is undeniable.

“Gold On the Ceiling,”  The Black Keys:
There aren’t a lot of clear-cut alternative contenders this year, but this retro, thumping track was a stand-out that was inescapable, not only from radio play, but from usage  for televised sporting events ranging from the NCAA basketball tournament to the 2012 Olympics.

“I Will Wait,” Mumford & Sons:
It’s certainly not the best track on “Babel,” but the rambunctious, albeit somewhat plodding, first single feels authentically rootsy and even though they’re only on their second album, Mumford & Sons feel like Grammy favorites.

“Mercy,” Kanye West Big Sean, Pusha T, 2 Chainz:
It may be hindered by its use of a sample, Super Beagle’s “Dust A Sound Boy,” but this in-your-face rap tune insinuated its way to the top of the hip-hop charts this year. Still, not so sure the Grammys are ready to reward a song that references “ass steak”...or Sarah Palin.

“Payphone,” Maroon 5 featuring Wiz Khalifa:
It was locked out of the top spot on the Billboard 200 and voters may go for follow-up “One More Night,” which did reach the summit, but for my money, this is the far better record of the two with a much catchier melody and stronger performance by Adam Levine.

“Some Nights,” fun.: Fun.’s second biggest single, following “We Are Young,” is a smorgasbord of a song with lots going on and yet the gorgeous pop production never feels cluttered and none of the elements ever clash with each other. It’s a very well made record, as well as being tremendously catchy.

“Thinkin’ Bout You,” Frank Ocean: He’s more likely to win best new artist or album of the year for the stunning “Channel Orange,” but this swirling, sexy slow jam definitely deserves recognition.

“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” Taylor Swift:
She’s been nominated once before here for “You Belong With Me.” “Red,” the album on which “Never, Ever” is featured, will be eligible for album of the year next year, but the Grammys want to pay attention to Swift this year, especially given that she is one of the few artists who still sells boatloads of records. Plus, this stompy pop song ushered in a new, rockier era in Swift’s sound.

“We Take Care Of Our Own,” Bruce Springsteen: He’s won 15 Grammys, and been nominated in this category three times before, but he has never taken home a statue for record of the year. He’s not this year either, but he may make it into the elite five with this impassioned, political rocker that details how we’d like to believe we act as a country.

“Where Have You Been,” Rihanna: Her monster hit, “We Found Love,” shouldn’t be eligible, so this stands in as a worthy candidate.  She reunites with “Love’s” Calvin Harris on this electro-pop, dance banger that lifts off like a rocket. 

What are your picks? See my predictions for best new artist here.

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<p>Hannah Simone and Zooey Deschanel in &quot;New Girl.&quot;</p>

Hannah Simone and Zooey Deschanel in "New Girl."

Credit: FOX

Review: 'New Girl' - 'Eggs'

In an outstanding episode, Jess and Cece have a fertility scare, Nick tries to finish his book and Schmidt has a sex problem

A review of last night's "New Girl" coming up just as soon as I eat my way out of a sandwich house...

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