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<p>The &quot;human&quot; cast of &quot;The Neighbors&quot;</p>

The "human" cast of "The Neighbors"

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'

It's unclear why ABC thinks this alien dud is worthy of the post-'Modern Family' slot

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show: "The Neighbors" (ABC) [I want to add a "u" to the title, British-style.]
The Pitch: "You know what would be weird?" "What?" "If you moved into a gated community made up entirely of aliens." "I'm with you so far. Give me more." "Well, that's about it." "Sold."
Quick Response: If you're doing what is effectively a one-joke premise, it's an absolute imperative that every subjoke within that single joke lands before fatigue sets in. In "The Neighbors," a one-joke premise if ever there was one, every joke is delivered with an obviousness so thudding it's like you're being beaten about the head with a baseball bat by Reggie Jackson. Reggie Jackson is the name of one of the aliens. Because they take their Earth names from sports figures. But he's Asian. So it's funny. And an Asian kid named Reggie Jackson is as inherently hilarious as a British woman named Jackie Joyner Kersee. Because the actual Jackie Joyner Kersee isn't British. There are actually only four or five jokes in the "Neighbors" pilot, but they get repeated in five or six permutations apiece until you get it. Aliens are chauvinistic. Aliens cry green goo from their ears. Etc. The new humans in the neighborhood think that because the aliens are weird, they must be European. Oy, the hilarity. And every time somebody does something strange, one of the humans have to point at the strange thing they're doing and say, "You're doing something strange, with that strange thing you're doing" and the response is always, "Oh, this is the way we...something-or-other on our planet" Whatever. And somewhere somebody made the mistake of thinking that because the alien-stars are all dead-pan and laconic, the humans got to all be broad and grating. I'd tell Jami Gertz to turn her performance down by two or three notches and Lenny Venito to turn his performance down by as many notches as he has available. It's a single-cam show, but the human family is stuck doing multi-cam mugging. The biggest problem, one that's at least theoretically fixable, is that none of it means anything. The aliens aren't satirizing anything. The humans aren't satirizing anything. The depiction of the suburbs is too broad and amorphous to satirize anything. It's an alien-suburban comedy that has nothing to say about life in 2012. Or 1984. Or any time. Give me a failed satire that has targets any day. It's one thing to want to be timeless and to not want your show to be stuck with any specific point of view or temporal framework. I don't believe that's effective, since I believe that specificity always makes things better and, in fact, more universal. But being timelessly unfunny is just about the worst thing you can be. Heck, even "Work It" tried to be about the human condition in 2011 [or 2008, or whenever somebody read that "mancession" article].
Desire To Watch Again: Desire? None. This is a disconcertingly and sadly unfunny show that really gives no indication of approaches it could take that would be improvements. But I have a willingness to watch it again. ABC has given "The Neighbors" an undeserved gift time slot and I'm sure to stick around after "Modern Family" to watch at least a couple more episodes.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries

 

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<p>Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, and Aaron Johnson face death and love together in Oliver Stone's adaptation of Don Winslow's novel 'Savages'</p>

Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, and Aaron Johnson face death and love together in Oliver Stone's adaptation of Don Winslow's novel 'Savages'

Credit: Universal Pictures

Review: Oliver Stone turns Johnson, Kitsch, and Lively into 'Savages'

Is this really his best film since 'Nixon' 17 years ago?

A few weeks ago, I published a piece about the book "Savages" by Don Winslow, the inspiration for Oliver Stone's new film that arrives in theaters next week, and I said in that piece that I hoped his sensibilities would mesh with the material in a way that provoked great work from this long-dormant giant.

While I don't think "Savages" represents the very best that Stone has ever committed to film, I also think he's a different guy, looking at something that he would have shot one way in 1995, and he's reacting to it in a different way.  Stone reveals himself in the one major choice where the film is different than the book, and in what has to be the most shocking thing Stone could add to his repertoire, he's gone every so slightly gooey.  He loves these dumb, lucky, beautiful kids, and he's rooting for them every step of the way.

Stone hasn't always loved the losers he has immortalized, but he has been fascinated by them.  When you look at "Salvador" or "Platoon" or "Born On The Fourth Of July" or "JFK," these lead characters are men who are pushed to some moral breaking point, some character defining extreme, and they all crumble before they rebound, if they rebound at all.  Jim Garrison is the "hero" of Stone's "JFK," which is sort of radical in the very notion because Garrison's legacy is a whole lot of failure and conjecture, a rabbit hole of crazy that may well obfuscate some genuine truth that he helped uncover as well.  Who knows?  Who can know at this point?  Stone loves Garrison and sees him as a hero not because he accomplished anything but because, no matter what anyone else or common sense said, he tried.  And that, more than anything, is what Stone respects and idealizes.  That determination in the face of everything.

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<p>Billy Burke of &quot;Revolution&quot;</p>

Billy Burke of "Revolution"

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'

With J.J. Abrams producing, Eric Kripke writing and Jon Favreau directing, how could it fail?

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show:"Revolution" (NBC)
The Pitch:"Remember when all of the networks were trying to do mythology-rich shows like 'Lost,' but they all failed? This is like those shows, only since there are fewer of them now and since we know how 'Lost' turned out, maybe this one won't fail."
Quick Response:Perhaps because it was directed by Jon Favreau -- not that that's any excuse, since it was written by Eric Kripke and produced by J.J. Abrams, both TV veterans -- "Revolution" has the deliberate build of a 125-minute movie, only it stops at the 44-minute mark. That means that you spend a lot of time exposition-izing and then just when things get fun... BAM. See you next week. And the exposition-izing is odd, because in some ways, "Revolution" is astoundingly efficient. The set-up for premise is insanely swift, with the core energy outage taking place within the opening two minutes. From there, we're given 30 minutes of world-building that ideally either needed to take more time -- so it had actual context and we cared about the characters -- or less time -- because a lot of stuff happened, but it doesn't mean anything. And I couldn't tell you which I'd prefer. On one hand, there's a roadtrip to Chicago -- impressively overgrown with foliage only 15 years after The Blackout -- that could have been spaced over three or four episodes and actually meant something, but the pilot doesn't really kick into gear until we get to Chicago and meet Billy Burke's character, a sword-weilding Han Solo equivalent. It's a huge cast, but after 44 minutes, I only had a desire to see Burke and, predictably, badass Sheriff of Nottingham-esque Giancarlo Esposito. I guess I could watch more of leading lady Tracy Spiridakos, who's very much cut from the J.J. Abrams Leading Lady Mold. She's pretty and kinda sells a few emotional moments. So you've got those three actors, some interesting production values and some really big mysteries that aren't actually mysterious, but since I don't know the answers, I have to count them as mysteries. [Oh and yes, there's an annoying teenage son. You know you were curious.]
Desire To Watch Again: The pacing is weird. The mysteries are beyond "Jericho"-esque. The cast is too big and too full of forgettable people. But I like that things go a bit nutty in the last act and I like Burke, Esposito and Spiridakos. The bottom line for any pilot is always less "Do I like the show?" and more "Do I want to watch the next episode?" In the case of "Revolution," the answer is "Yes, I kinda do." This is one of those Two Roads Diverged In a Yellow Wood pilots. The path that they take in Episode 2 will make all the difference.

 

All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries

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<p>Adam Levine of Maroon 5</p>

Adam Levine of Maroon 5

Credit: Matt Sayles/AP

Linkin Park and Maroon 5 duke it out for No. 1 on the Billboard 200 next week

What happens with Justin Bieber's 'Believe?'

Though it’s close, it looks like Linkin Park’s “Living Things” will beat Maroon 5’s “Overexposed” to debut at the Billboard 200 summit next week.

With a few days left until Sunday’s chart close, “Living Things” is on target to sell between 230,000 and 250,000, while “Overexposed” will sell up to 220,000, according to Hits Daily Double.

Two other newcomers are poised to bow in the Top 10: “MMG Presents Vol. 2,” the rap compilation from Maybach Music Group, at No. 4 with sales of around 90,000, and an ailing R. Kelly’s “Write Me Back” at No. 6, with sales of 68,000.

This week’s No. 1, Justin Bieber’s “Believe” drops by nearly two thirds in sales, but still surpasses the 100,000 mark, moving up to 140,000 copies for No. 3. Rounding out the top 5, Kenny Chesney’s “Welcome To the Fishbowl” should sell around 70,000.

In the bottom half of the Top 10, in addition to Kelly, Adele’s “21”  hangs out at No. 7  (this week marked her first time out of the Top 5 since the album came out 71 weeks ago). One Direction’s “Up All Night” will be at No. 8, Usher’s former No. 1, “Looking 4 Myself” at No. 9 and the “Rock of Ages” soundtrack at No. 10.

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<p>Divine Fits</p>

Divine Fits

Song Of The Day: Divine Fits is 'Nice,' combining Spoon with Wolf Parade

Supergroup puts Britt Daniel, Dan Boekner and New Bomb Turks' Sam Brown

I wasn't sure how I felt about the first offering from the Divine Fits -- the trio-combo of Britt Daniel (Spoon), Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade) and Sam Brown (New Bomb Turks) -- but now I think their forthcoming full-length might be rather nice.

"Would That Not Be Nice" definitely scratches the Spoon itch, after the new-wavey minor discotheque of initial offering "My Love Is Real." That latter tune will be up for purchase as a single on July 31 with exclusive non-album B-side "I Was Born In A Laundromat." My Love Is... Clean?

The new, as-yet-untitled album from Divine Fits was produced by Nick Launay (Public Image Ltd., Killing Joke, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and will be dropped "later this year" via Merge.

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<p>After years of plugging away (and a hit series, to boot), Bryan Cranston finally gets his Academy invite.</p>

After years of plugging away (and a hit series, to boot), Bryan Cranston finally gets his Academy invite.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Bryan Cranston, Stephen King, Kristen Wiig among Academy invitees this year

Terrence Malick, the Dardennes and Wong Kar Wai get directors branch invites

The Academy has announced its annual list of new invites, always a fun thing to browse through and say, "Damn, it's about time," or, "Jesus, really?" So let's see.

Actors of note that were brought in include all of last year's non-member nominees and/or winners: Bérénice Bejo, Demián Bichir, Jessica Chastain, Jean Dujardin, Jonah Hill, Melissa McCarthy, Janet McTeer and Octavia Spencer, welcome aboard. Other notables include Tom Berenger (26 years after "Platoon" -- I guess "Inception" brought up his stock), Bryan Cranston, Matthew McConaughey (nice), Sam Rockwell, Andy Serkis and Michelle Yeoh. 

The Dardenne brothers finally got an invite from the directors branch, which is quite lovely, as did last year's Best Foreign Language Film winner Asghar Farhadi (who was also invited to the writers branch -- ditto Michel Hazanavicius).

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<p>Lady Antebellum</p>

Lady Antebellum

Watch: Lady Antebellum lights things on fire in 'Wanted You More' video

There's nothing but pain and heartache where we're going

Though the three members of Lady Antebellum are now happily married, they easily dial into those feelings of unrequited love on “Wanted You More.”

The song’s dramatic video is filled with dark shadows, a grey palette, nude headless bodies, tree stumps, and a magical butterfly, but mainly faces full of longing and angst. We’re still not sure about the burning piano. It’s a little bit of the apocalypse in an otherwise moody, but non-climactic clip that seems a little out of place with the color scheme if nothing else.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>A.R. Rahman</p>

A.R. Rahman

Credit: AP Photo

Oscar winner A.R. Rahman on the challenges of scoring 'People Like Us'

'Slumdog Millionaire' composer found himself walking a fine line

Though he’s scored more than 100 movies spanning a multitude of genres, Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman found himself charting new territory when it came to writing the music for Dreamworks’ “People Like Us,”  a drama about a man who discovers he has a sister he never knew about.

“The movie takes me away from what I’ve been doing for 20 years,” says  Rahman, who, though already wildly popular in his native India for decades, finally broke through in the U.S. following the tremendous success of 2008 “Slumdog Millionaire” and the film’s end title song, “Jai Ho,” which was accompanied by a Bollywood dance number.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Yeah, that definitely looks like a Fantastic Fest crowd.</p>

Yeah, that definitely looks like a Fantastic Fest crowd.

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Fantastic Fest 2012 kicks off their programming with Tim Burton's 'Frankenweenie'

Plus get your first look at this year's poster

Is it okay if I just pretend Comic-Con is already over and start focusing on Fantastic Fest instead?

With the announcement today that Fantastic Fest 2012 will kick off with their opening night premiere of Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie," I think it's time to officially start getting excited.  I've heard some of the other titles that are confirmed or rumored for this year's line-up, and it's looking like Fantastic Fest is packed this year.  There will be both big and small premieres, and the line-up could end up being one of the strongest since the festival began.

I'm amazed at the way Tim League and his programming team have turned Fantastic Fest into a major part of the film year.  League takes chances, and more often than not, they pay off.  At a time when the home video market is supposedly retracting, getting even smaller, League is just starting to build out a library of his own curated titles with the Drafthouse Films Blu-rays and DVDs.  He started a distribution company when no one else would step up and release "Four Lions," and he's already managed to help one foreign title, "Bullhead," get an Oscar nomination while also helping coordinate the first title that Drafthouse Films has been involved in from start to finish.  During SXSW this year, we figured out that he was also opening four new businesses, and of course, he's also juggling the pressures of new fatherhood.

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<p>Alex Rodriguez, Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer in &quot;Magic Mike.&quot;</p>

Alex Rodriguez, Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer in "Magic Mike."

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'Magic Mike'

Steven Soderbergh's male-stripper comedy hits theaters today

With Steven Soderbergh evidently in brisk entertainer mode, Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey both coming into career form and a raunchy, lickety-split trailer doused in Rihanna, I walked into "Magic Mike" last night expecting some summery fun. Even I, however, was surprised to be greeted with top-drawer Soderbergh: a grown-up, disarmingly classical riff on Hollywood backstage-musical tropes, sure to remain one of the year's smartest studio films. Tatum, in case "21 Jump Street" hadn't underlined the point, has rare star quality; Alex Pettyfer, who hadn't threatened such promise until now, is a revelation. And could Oscar attention await McConaughey's delightfully skeezy supporting turn, or Reid Carolin's lithe original script? Who knows? If you're planning on catching it this weekend, be sure to share your thoughts below, and your rating above.

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<p>Alice Krige and Garret Dillahunt in &quot;Deadwood.&quot;</p>

Alice Krige and Garret Dillahunt in "Deadwood."

Credit: HBO

'Deadwood' Rewind: Season 2, Episode 6: 'Something Very Expensive' (Veterans edition)

Anger rolls downhill in a violent episode for Wolcott, Cy, Seth and Joanie

We're into week 5 of our summer trip back through David Milch's epic revisionist Western "Deadwood." As always with this project, we're going to have two parallel discussions going at once: identical reviews, but one where the comments section is just for people who are new to the series and don't want to be spoiled on anything past the events of the episode being discussed, and one for people who know "Deadwood" backwards and forwards, and want to be able to discuss it all at once. This is the veteran-friendly version; click here for the newbie-safe one.

A review of episode 6, "Something Very Expensive," coming up just as soon as I think of Leon in a dress...

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<p>Alice Krige and Garret Dillahunt in &quot;Deadwood.&quot;</p>

Alice Krige and Garret Dillahunt in "Deadwood."

Credit: HBO

'Deadwood' Rewind: Season 2, Episode 6: 'Something Very Expensive' (Newbies edition)

Anger rolls downhill in a violent episode for Wolcott, Cy, Seth and Joanie

We're into week 5 of our summer trip back through David Milch's epic revisionist Western "Deadwood." As always with this project, we're going to have two parallel discussions going at once: identical reviews, but one where the comments section is just for people who are new to the series and don't want to be spoiled on anything past the events of the episode being discussed, and one for people who know "Deadwood" backwards and forwards, and want to be able to discuss it all at once. This is the newbie-safe version; click here for the veteran-friendly one.

A review of episode 6, "Something Very Expensive," coming up just as soon as I think of Leon in a dress...

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