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<p>Muse's &quot;The 2nd Law&quot;</p>

Muse's "The 2nd Law"

Album Review: Muse holds nothing back on 'The 2nd Law'

Ambitious studio set aims big

Some bands hide their pretensions of grandiosity. Muse would not be one of those bands. Like Queen, the British rockers have a flare for the dramatic and their guitars seem to be perpetually set on stun.

On the group’s sixth studio album, “The 2nd Law,” lead singer Matt Bellamy and the band take the listener on a journey surrounded with prog-rock power chords, shrieking vocals and lyrics filled with heavy portent. And that’s just on the album opener, the Led Zeppelin-influenced “Supremacy.”

Muse’s overwrought flamboyance has helped make it one of the most popular touring bands of the last several years. But what works well with 18,000 fervent followers with raised arms in an arena can just sound like too much excess in the confines of an album. With its operatic chants and message about vengeance, explosive first single (and Olympics theme) “Survival” felt more like a parody  than a true anthem. The band toned down the theatrics for second single, the synth-poppy “Madness” and was rewarded with a No. 1 tune on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart.

While the album’s volume and thrust is set to 11 the majority of the time, there are moments of loveliness and surprise on “The 2nd Law.” (The album takes its title from The Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states a object that keeps growing cannot sustain expansion and will eventually dissolve...or something like that)

“Panic Station” has a sprightly Franz Ferdinand-like bounce that will delight fans of the band’s pop side. The first part of “Animal” features a strong  jazz-meet-Rush guitar lead by Bellamy that pierces through the song. On jaunty “Big Freeze,” Bellamy recalls David Bowie on “Heroes.”

“Explorers”  is Muse at its most majestic Queen-like, as Bellamy channels Freddie Mercury as he chants “Free me from this was a mistake, prisoning ourselves.” Plus, the lulling piano end will remind any Queen fan of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

For a band that wears so many of its influences on its sleeve, Muse still ends up coming up with its own brand of explosive rock that draws on metal, pop, and, at times here, even funk. Bellamy’s clear, powerhouse vocals tie it all together.

 But when Muse gets too inside its own geek-boy mythology, it is severely testing the limits of all but its most devoted fans. On the two-song closing “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” and “The 2nd Law: Isolated System” suite, the noise level ratchets up as a voice actually reads the thermodynamic law.” The cacophony gives way to a “Tubular Bells”-type second movement before the voices come back, filled with doom about an economic collapse (based on the same theory as the law).

“The 2nd Law” will likely have Muse fans salivating over the group’s continued bombastic musical salvos, while non-believers will have plenty more to hold against the band.


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<p>Matt Reeves, seen here with Chloe Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee on the set of 'Let Me In,' is finalizing his deal to direct the sequel 'Dawn Of The Planet of The Apes'</p>

Matt Reeves, seen here with Chloe Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee on the set of 'Let Me In,' is finalizing his deal to direct the sequel 'Dawn Of The Planet of The Apes'

Credit: Summit Entertainment

'Cloverfield' director Matt Reeves reportedly set for 'Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes'

This could be a win-win for both filmmaker and studio

This is about as good a choice as anyone could have hoped for, and I am completely and utterly excited about "Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes" now.

Matt Reeves is one of those filmmakers who is going to have a long and interesting career, a smart guy who makes smart choices, and signing on to replace Rupert Wyatt for the second film in the newly-rebooted "Apes" franchise is a very smart choice.  The first film was plagued by bad buzz pretty much all the way up to the moment it was actually released, and then it turned out to be so much smarter and more interesting than expected.  Andy Serkis is already set to return to star again as Caesar, the ape whose evolution kicked off an uprising at the end of the first film, and the script for the sequel was written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, who co-wrote the first one, with newer revisions being handled by the uber-smart Scott Burns, whose work with Soderbergh has been so compelling so far.

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<p>Seth&nbsp;MacFarlane presenting at the Emmys</p>

Seth MacFarlane presenting at the Emmys

Credit: John Shearer/Invision/AP, file

Seth MacFarlane to host the 85th annual Academy Awards

The 'Ted' director brings a fresh spark to the show

If you saw the Seth MacFarlane-hosted season premiere of Saturday Night Live a few weeks back, you likely got a little taste of what to expect at the Oscars this year. The Academy has announced that MacFarlane will emcee the 85th edition of the film awards ceremony, hot off a hit summer movie in "Ted" and, of course, years of success with television's "Family Guy."

"It's truly an overwhelming privilege to be asked to host the Oscars," said MacFarlane via press release. "My thoughts upon hearing the news were, one, I will do my utmost to live up to the high standards set forth by my predecessors; and two, I hope they don't find out I hosted the Charlie Sheen Roast."

Newly minted Academy president Hawk Koch added, "Seth is unbelievably talented. We couldn't be happier with the creative team we've assembled. With Craig [Zadan], Neil [Meron], and now Seth, we're off to a great start." It should also be noted, this will be MacFarlane's first appearance on the Oscar stage.

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<p>Bradley&nbsp;Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in&nbsp;&quot;Silver Linings Playbook&quot;</p>

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Off the Carpet: Out of proportion

Best Picture hopefuls look to sustain early season buzz

Here's what I think happens. A film is seen. It's genuinely loved. Like minds attract and in the intimate atmosphere of a film festival, the love grows. But with the love comes a desire for others to love, too. So the selling starts. The passion takes hold. And soon, even defenders of the film are damaging it, taking defensive positions, not allowing it to breathe freely and make its way unsuspectingly to fresh eyes like it did theirs.

This, I think, happens every year. And I'm not above it. A number of films are getting the advocacy treatment early on, siphoning precious gas needed to run the course. And favorites are being chosen, aggressively, by those fortunate enough to get the early, taste-making look. But fans of "Argo" won't concede the film's thinner-than-most thematic structure while knocking "Life of Pi" or "Silver Linings Playbook." Fans of "Silver Linings Playbook" won't concede its formulaic rom-com tendencies while knocking "Argo" or "Life of Pi." And fans of "Life of Pi" won't concede its clunky framing and extraneous elements while knocking "Argo" or "Silver Linings Playbook."

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<p>David Chase crossed from TV to film with &quot;Not Fade Away,&quot; but Andrew O'Hehir thinks his old medium might be the more relevant one.</p>

David Chase crossed from TV to film with "Not Fade Away," but Andrew O'Hehir thinks his old medium might be the more relevant one.

Credit: Paramount Vantage

Roundup: Calling time on film culture

Plus: Awards for Spain's Oscar submission, and the Reel Geezers return

As if you ever thought otherwise, film critics are not an easily satisfied people, but we seem particularly agitated lately. In the past two weeks, we've had David Denby decrying the state of American filmmaking, Stephanie Zacharek questioning her colleagues' notions of importance, and now Andrew O'Hehir has jumped in to declare film culture dead. While conceding that plenty of good films are being made today, he wonders whether anyone outside of specialised cinephile circles really notices or cares anymore, as TV grows in water-cooler status: "I’m looking in the mirror and thinking about the purpose of what I do, which is supposed to be communicating with people, sharing ideas and generating discussion." Are film critics still doing that? And does it matter if that's becoming a more intimate, but equally impassioned conversation? I say yes and no. [Salon]  

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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' reunion goes off the rails

There are tears, threats, secrets revealed and nasty comments a-plenty

Um, wow. That's really about all I can muster after watching the first part of the three part "The Real Housewives of Jersey Shore" reunion, which is so far beyond crazy that I almost expected it to end in a spray of bullets or a cult suicide. With everyone so completely past sane, the unfortunate side effect is that there's almost no one to side with without feeling a little crazy yourself. Let's face it -- when Teresa seems relatively balanced, you know the situation is dire.

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Credit: ABC

Recap: 'Revenge' has new couples, new betrayals and one wild twist

It's time for summer vacation in the Hamptons, and Emily is on the warpath
It may be autumn in the real world, but it's summer in the Hamptons -- at least, the "Revenge" version of the Hamptons, where the weather's wonderful and the people are all manner of messed up. And what have our delightful schemers been up to? Well, there was some grieving for Grayson matriarch Victoria (Madeleine Stowe), of course, whose plane blew up as she was on her way to rat our her ex-husband, Conrad. Our vengeful protagonist Emily (Emily VanCamp) ran off to Japan to brush up on her secret scary ninja training in case the white-haired man pops up again, which is more likely than not. Nolan (Gabriel Mann) learned to box, Charlotte kicked drugs and her brother Daniel became a drunk. Really, it was all very relaxing season of self-improvement, despair and decadence. It's important to rest up for all the scheming ahead.
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<p>Steve Zahn and John Boutte in &quot;Trem&eacute;.&quot;&nbsp;</p>

Steve Zahn and John Boutte in "Tremé." 

Credit: HBO

Review: 'Tremé' - 'Saints'

What's life for if you have to do without the thing you love most?

A few quick thoughts on tonight's "Tremé" coming up just as soon as I set a date to set a date...

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<p>Claire Danes in the &quot;Homeland&quot;&nbsp;season premiere.</p>

Claire Danes in the "Homeland" season premiere.

Credit: Showtime

Season premiere review: 'Homeland' - 'The Smile'

The Emmy-winning drama returns with Carrie and Brody in very different places

"Homeland" is back for a new season, and I have a review of the premiere — plus a few thoughts from producers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon — coming up just as soon as I love Julia Roberts...

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<p>Rachael Taylor in &quot;666 Park Avenue.&quot;</p>

Rachael Taylor in "666 Park Avenue."

Credit: ABC

Series premiere review: '666 Park Avenue'

What did everybody think of the new ABC drama?

"666 Park Avenue" is one of this week's new shows I didn't write a review of. As I said on Thursday's podcast, campy gothic horror/soap opera isn't generally my kind of show, and this one's not so well-done to transcend my disinterest. Of course, I'm also not a fan of either "Once Upon a Time" or "Revenge," the two ABC shows this one is kind of mashing up, but I know many of you are. (And FWIW, Fienberg liked "666 Park," while Liane was mixed.)

So for those of you who tuned into "666 Park," what did you think? Were Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams chewing up enough scenery for you? Did you like Rachael Taylor and Dave Annable, or find them too naive to care about?  Did you find the show creepy or just goofy? And will you watch again?

Have at it.

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<p>Jaymes and James of &quot;The Amazing Race&quot;</p>

Jaymes and James of "The Amazing Race"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'The Amazing Race' Premiere - 'Double Your Money'

Which team earned the chance to hypothetically win $2 million?
If you're a regular reader of my "Amazing Race" recaps, I bet you think you can predict the first thing I'm going to say about Sunday (September 30) night's premiere.
I want to talk about the fact that Team Monster Truck -- Rob & Kelley -- seems to be using rollaboard luggage rather than traditional backpacks. My knowledge of "Amazing Race" isn't as encyclopedic as for some of the shows I recap, but I can't remember this ever being done previously. Was there a rule change? Or do Rob and/or Kelley have back problems of some sort that require a luggage alternative? It's not like backpacks with wheels are a new invention. Is the theory that rollies are actually slower than backpacks? They obviously are slower when you're in a crowded area and you have to navigate quickly. But they're easier if you happen to be weaker. 
These are the questions I pondered as I saw Team Monster Truck navigating around the Bund in Shanghai. It struck me as weird. And so I wanted to bring it up.
[Buddy Andy from RealityBlurred notes that flight attendants Jodi & Christie from S. 14 had rollaboards.]
Bet you didn't expect that to be the first thing discussed in my recap tonight.
I bet you expected me to go on my traditional jeremiad about how it's absolutely asinine to premiere seasons of "The Amazing Race" or "Survivor" with hour-long episodes. 
And guess what? It's true, darnit!
Normally, I just use my premiere week recaps to go through each of the teams, listing the teams that I'm liking and the teams I'm disliking, which tends to be a good way for me to keep the teams straight in my head and break down the initial impressions they left. 
Guess what? After one hour? I'm really not liking or disliking anybody. I'm impressed by Monster Truck Rob and his eating prowess (more on that in a bit). It's absolutely impossible not to be impressed by Amy with her two artificial legs. I've decided that Nadiya is The Annoy Twin. I find Beekman Boys Josh and Brent to be amusing, but they're professional reality show stars, so of course they are. But, in the balance after one hour, I have no rooting interest, positive or negative, towards any team. And that's the kind of thing you avoid by doing an extended premiere for competition series that have to introduce 22 new people. Look at "Survivor," which premiered its Philippines season with a 90-minute episode. After 90 minutes, I had vague awareness of all 18 contestants (albeit a group that included three returning players and two pseudo-stars). 
After 60 minutes tonight? Whatever. 
And what's worse: Of the 11 "Amazing Race" teams this season, at least four of the teams are same-gender pairings in which I will NEVER be able to properly distinguish between players, at least not on my tiny Slingbox screen. Team White Lion and Team Sri Lankan Twins were always going to be a struggle. If Natalie wears her hair down and Naiya always wears a scrunchie, I might occasionally make a correct ID. Ditto if James (he of White Lion and Megadeath) always wears dark shades and Abba (formerly "Mark") wears clear glasses. James and Abba aren't brothers and they don't look that much alike, but in the "Amazing Race" chaos (and, again, on my Slingbox), there're close enough. 
I have the same issue with Team Chippendale. Jaymes (blonde and scruffy) and James (brunette and scruffy) have similar stature and different features, but recognizing those differences while also retaining which is "James" and which is "Jaymes" is a lost cause.
And finally, Caitlin and Brittany? One played soccer and one played volleyball, but otherwise? they're both tall, slender blondes with REALLY white teeth. Staring at headshots for a couple seconds, I think Brittany is the one I find cuter, but that's not useful on the fly.
[More after the break...
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<p>Jennifer Carpenter and Michael C. Hall in &quot;Dexter.&quot;</p>

Jennifer Carpenter and Michael C. Hall in "Dexter."

Credit: Showtime

Season premiere review: 'Dexter' - 'Are You?'

What did everybody think of the Showtime drama's return?

I posted my review of the new season of "Dexteryesterday. Now it's your turn. Given the unhappiness so many "Dexter" fans had with the last season (if not the last two, or even three of the last four), were you satisfied enough with how the show dealt with the Deb/Dexter cliffhanger to put those bad feelings aside? Or are you always going to feel skeptical about the show from here until the end? Is anyone done with the show now, and/or has anyone been roped back in after giving up, like I was? Have at it.

My Sunday plate's too full to put "Dexter" back into the rotation, but I'll definitely be back to discuss the season after the finale, and possibly once or twice in between if something notable happens.

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