Latest Blog Posts

<p>Danai Gurira of &quot;The Walking Dead&quot;</p>

Danai Gurira of "The Walking Dead"

Credit: AMC

Interview: 'Walking Dead' star Danai Gurira discusses becoming Michonne

New co-star chats about secrecy and swordwork
To "Walking Dead" fans versed solely in the hit AMC drama, she's merely the katana-wielding stranger introduced saving Laurie Holden's Andrea in the second season finale.
 
To fans of the comic series, though, she's Michonne, one of the franchise's most beloved characters. 
 
Played by Danai Gurira, Michonne will be a key part of the third "Walking Dead" season, which premieres on Sunday (October 14) night. But don't worry. This interview spoils very little about Michonne. Instead, Gurira and I discussed her extensive physical training for the role, as well as the challenges of coming to regular television after cutting her teeth in theater and independent films like "The Visitor."
 
We also talked about our shared background in Grinnell, Iowa where both of our fathers were on the faculty at the same time more than 30 years ago. I left that part out of the transcript. Apologies. There's still plenty here.
 
Click through for the full interview... And for more pre-premiere "Walking Dead" coverage, check out my interview with producers Robert Kirkman & Glen Mazzara.
 
 
 
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<p>Denzel&nbsp;Washington in &quot;Flight&quot;</p>

Denzel Washington in "Flight"

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Zemeckis's 'Flight' features Denzel Washington at his best in a powerful character study

The two-time Oscar winner gives a complex performance in the NYFF closer

NEW YORK -- The modest similarities between Robert Zemeckis's last live action film, 2000's "Cast Away," and his latest, "Flight," are interesting. Both begin with a plane crash that changes a man's life, a man who goes on a journey of finding himself and restarting his life anew. Both are films about rebirth. One chooses a tale of a company guy stranded on a desert island to convey the theme. The other chooses that of a pilot caught up in a malfeasance nightmare.

Each commits to film one of the most harrowing plane crashes ever seen*, but while Tom Hanks's time-obsessed protagonist in "Cast Away" learns to take his time through life, Denzel Washington's addiction-afflicted hero in "Flight" learns to admit his problem to the one person he's still fooling: himself.

And that's what the film is about. It may have elements of action filmmaking and courtroom drama, but it is, ultimately, a character study about the sickness of addiction. It captures the embarrassment, the denial, the rage and, crucially, the chronic fallibility that comes with it. The screenplay, from writer John Gatins, pulses with an authenticity that suggests personal experience, but married to a narrative that all but asks whether impairment might have sparked the inspiration to save a hundred lives in a bold way, it becomes something more complex.

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<p>Christina Applegate prepares to host &quot;Saturday Night Live&quot;</p>

Christina Applegate prepares to host "Saturday Night Live"

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' - Christina Applegate and Passion Pit

Could 'SNL' bounce back after a weak episode?
The good news? There’s little place for “Saturday Night Live” to go but up after last week’s Daniel Craig-hosted debacle. The fault lay not with Craig but the way the show used him. Rather than using his stoic persona to comic ends, the show bent over backwards to portray him as a wacky guy. It didn’t work, and the show (as well as its audience) suffered as a result. Hopefully, “SNL” has more of an idea what to do with tonight’s host, Christina Applegate. A gifted comic actress, Applegate last hosted the show in 1993 during the middle of her run on “Married…With Children”. Since then, she’s dealt with a dead babysitter, Ron Burgundy’s jazz flute, and countless other fictional conundrums. Along for the ride with her tonight is musical guest Passion Pit.
 
As always, I’ll be grading each sketch in real time. As always, you shouldn’t worry too much about the grades. As always, most of you will violently overreact. It’s just a thing that happens round these parts each Saturday night. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!
 
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<p>Taylor Swift</p>

Taylor Swift

Credit: AP

Music Power Rankings: Taylor Swift and One Direction top the list

Vets Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones make the cut too

1. Taylor Swift:  Billboard rejiggers its genre singles charts to incorporate download sales and streaming, along side radio play. The move catapults Swift to the top two slots on the Hot Country Songs chart. The loser? Carrie Underwood, whose song “Blown Away” gets blown out of the potential top spot by Swift.

2. Ke$ha: The “Tik Tok” singer is writing her memoirs, which will be illustrated. Does the book come with a box of crayons? 

3. Yekaterina Samutsevich: The Pussy Riot member is freed from prison. One down, two to go.

4. One Direction: Not only is the boy band the first U.K. band to ever debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with its first release, now they hold the record for the highest bow on Billboard’s Hot 100 by a U.K. group as “Live While We’re Young” comes on at No. 3.  Is it me or is that just crazy?

5. Rolling Stones: The veteran rockers show they still have it 50 years down the line with new single, “Doom & Gloom.”

6. Aerosmith:
Steven Tyler causes a few tremors when he says the group will consider self-releasing future projects  “IF THE BAND STAYS TOGETHER.”  Huh? These guys will never, ever be done with each other.

7. Drake:
He gets paid $3 million in royalties from Pandora. That’s a nice chunk of change, even though we're sure he'll find some reason to moan about it.

8. Mumford & Sons:
They handily stay No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for a second straight week, smacking down fellow British band Muse.

9. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis:  Seattle rapper Macklemore and producer Lewis will be a secret no more as their new set, “The Heist,” will be the highest debut next week over such legends as Kiss and Barbra Streisand.

10. Led Zeppelin:
The group reunites, but only for a screening of “Celebration,” the film of their 2007 concert. And no, they still aren’t reuniting again. Don’t be a schmuck.



 

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<p>Matthias Schoenaerts, Marion Cotillard and Jacques Audiard hit the red carpet for tonight's gala screening of &quot;Rust and Bone.&quot;</p>

Matthias Schoenaerts, Marion Cotillard and Jacques Audiard hit the red carpet for tonight's gala screening of "Rust and Bone."

Credit: AP Photo/Miles Willis

London fest prioritizes the people over the premieres

'Frankenweenie,' 'Rust & Bone,' 'The Hunt' among the festival's hits so far

LONDON - At no other festival I've attended is the faintly absurd bubble we film critics live in made more apparent than the BFI London Film Festival -- a buffet far more concerned with serving the public the best world cinema has to offer, whether or not another festival got to it first, than with providing media outlets with grabby exclusives and world premieres.

For me and many of my colleagues, a Cannes-premiered film like "Rust and Bone" is already old news, despite not having officially opened yet; for London cineastes in the real world, tonight's gala screening, with Marion Cotillard in attendance, is an eagerly anticipated event. That is as it should be: one of the things I love about my hometown festival is that it re-sparks thoughts and conversations about such films in a much more lively public context.

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<p>Ack! Zombie!</p>

Ack! Zombie!

Credit: AMC

Interview: 'Walking Dead' producers Glen Mazzara and Robert Kirkman tease Season 3

Scribes talk Michone, The Governor, The Prison, Annoying Carl and more
The second season of AMC's "The Walking Dead" began with the high drama of missing children and a zombie herd descending on a gridlocked highway graveyard. The season ended with two regular characters dead, dissension in the human ranks, waves of zombies pouring down and a tantalizing glimpse of an institutional facility. 
 
The introduction of The Prison, coupled with a katana-weilding first appearance by Danai Gurira's Michonne and the announced casting of David Morrissey as The Governor has sufficiently whet appetites for Season 3, especially among fans of Robert Kirkman's "Walking Dead" comic book.
 
Last week, I went to a pre-season "Walking Dead" junket in Beverly Hills attended by basically every cast member, major and minor. Trying to keep the interview tally under control, I targeted new faces Morrissey and Gurira, as well as four of the show's producers.
 
Up first, is my 20-plus minute chat with Kirkman and showrunner Glen Mazzara. Keeping spoilers to a minimum, we discussed the tone and structure of Season 3, while the producers also addresses some fan criticisms from the second season, including what some felt was a slow middle and the trouble-prone adventures of Young Carl.
 
This interview covers a lot of ground, so let's just jump into it. Like I said, spoilers are minimal, but probably not entirely absent. You've been warned...
 
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"The Real Housewives of New Jersey"

 "The Real Housewives of New Jersey"

Credit: Bravo

Reality TV Roundup: 'Housewives' battle, a 'Survivor' kvetches and more

It's been a busy week, so get all your reality news here, now

Welcome to Reality TV Roundup -- a quick look at some of the reality TV-centric stories that have recently popped up across the fine, old Interwebs. Click away, my couch potato friends. But before you do...? ?

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! One more time: SPOILER ALERT. If you watch any competition shows, the latest elimination for each show is probably revealed in the text below. The hope is that, if you missed this week's program and would rather clear out your DVR than watch the episode, you can get a quick hit here. But don't come crying to me if you find out something you didn't want to know. You've been warned. Also note: lots of non-competition reality info lurks below, too. 
 
NON-COMPETITION REALITY TV SHOWS
 
THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW JERSEY
If you thought the first part of the season reunion was ugly, you clearly haven't watched the second part, which redefined ugly
 
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<p>Russell Swan of &quot;Survivor: Philippines&quot;</p>

Russell Swan of "Survivor: Philippines"

Credit: CBS

Interview: Russell Swan talks 'Survivor: Philippines'

Disheartened after his second time, Russell explains the compulsion to return
I got on the phone with "Survivor: Philippines" bootee Russell Swan expecting to talking about all of the usual exit interview things. 
 
While I knew the frustration that he'd obviously felt having his torch snuffed in Wednesday's episode, I still figured I'd talk with Russell about the mistake of taking a leadership role after vowing he wouldn't, about the decisions to vote out Zane and Angie and Roxy and whether any move could have reversed his tribe's ill fortune and about the last day at camp being lied to be both Denise and Malcolm.
 
As you can tell from Russell's first response to my first question, that wasn't the kind of interview he was really prepared to do, so we went off in a very different direction. 
 
I've done a lot of these interviews, but this one is, to me, one of the best insights into the mind of a "Survivor" player, particularly the mind of a repeat "Survivor" player. The last answer, especially in light of Russell's post-"Survivor" condition, is definitely the most enlightening.
 
Check out the full interview...
 
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<p>Mumford &amp; Sons' &quot;Babel&quot;</p>

Mumford & Sons' "Babel"

Can Mumford & Sons fight off seven newcomers on the Billboard 200?

Kiss, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, MGK and Barbra Streisand all debut

It’s another busy week on the Billboard 200 as seven titles are poised to bow in the Top 10 next week.

None of the septet of debuts will prove strong enough to knock Mumford & Sons’ “Babel” out of the pinnacle. The title is projected to sell up to 110,000 copies, according to Hits Daily Double,  for its third week at the top.

After “Babel” comes four new titles, including two from legendary veterans: Rapper and DJ combo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s debut album, “The Heist,” will bow at No. 2, besting rockers KISS, whose new set “Monster” will come in at No. 3 with sales of up to 70,000. Bad Boy rapper MGK (aka Machine Gun Kelly) comes in at No. 5 with “Lace Up.”  Barbra Streisand lands at No. 5 with “Release Me,” a collection of 11 previously unreleased tunes.

Pink’s former No. 1, “The Truth About Love” is at No. 6, but then we return to more debuts. Coheed & Cambria’s  “Afterman: Ascension” comes in at No. 6. Duking it out for No. 7 are  four albums, including two more debuts: newcomers  All Time Low’s “Don’t Panic” and British singer/songwriter Ellie Goulding’s “Halcyon” are in dead heats with returning albums “Kaleidoscope Dream” from Miguel and “The 2nd Law” from Muse. Each title is on target to sell between 30,000 and 35,000 copies.

http://www.hitsdailydouble.com/news/rumormill.cgi

 

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<p>Ren&eacute;e Fleming</p>

Renée Fleming

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Exclusive: Renée Fleming to perform original song 'Still Dream' from 'Rise of the Guardians'

The song was written by composer Alexandre Desplat and screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire

The Best Original Song race is starting to fill out. We've added a few more to our contenders page in recent days, including tracks from "Celeste & Jesse Forever" and "West of Memphis," but today comes the news that DreamWorks Animation's "Rise of the Guardians" will feature a tune from acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming

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<p>Anna Torv of &quot;Fringe&quot;</p>

Anna Torv of "Fringe"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'Fringe' - 'The Recordist'

The show takes a step back as the rebels seek to take a step forward
After a strong second outing, this week’s “Fringe” faltered as it set out on the first of what promises to be several outings dedicated to the scavenger hunt established in “In Absentia”. Well, if all outings are as poorly executed as this one, I think we might be second-guessing the show’s decision to go down this route. It’s more likely that “The Recordist” will be an outlier rather than standard operating procedure over the final ten episodes of the series. But who knows? I didn’t expect last week to knock my socks off, and I didn’t expect this episode to bore me to near tears. Surprises are fun. Until they aren’t.
 
Tonight’s episode opens on Astrid lasering the wall of amber in Walter’s former laboratory. Inside they find the third of a still-unknown number of tapes, since Walter went so far as to leave the video evidence of his plan against The Observers out-of-sequence. The tape reveals coordinates in a wooded area of Northern Pennsylvania. What do our heroes have to do there? No one knows, but the Bishop Boys, Olivia, and Etta head out anyways and leave Astrid behind to slowly piece together the rest of the damaged message. Had the episode been stronger overall, I wouldn’t have constantly wondered, “Why didn’t they simply wait until they had the tape deciphered before leaving in the first place?” I understand that time is nominally of the essence, but it certainly seemed like the five of them had full run of the place without fear of Observer detection.
 
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<p>Philip Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton in &quot;Strike Back.&quot;</p>

Philip Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton in "Strike Back."

Credit: Cinemax

Season finale review: 'Strike Back'

Things get personal for Scott and Stonebridge as they race to stop Knox's nukes

"Strike Back" just wrapped up its second Cinemax season (and third overall), and I have a quick review of the season coming up just as soon as I shoot you with both hands tied behind my back...

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