Latest Blog Posts

<p>Kanye West at the 2012 BET&nbsp;Awards</p>

Kanye West at the 2012 BET Awards

Credit: AP Photo

Listen: Kanye West and Pusha T drop 'New God Flow' in full

Should this show up on the G.O.O.D. Music comp?

Kanye West gave us a little taste of "New God Flow" the other night at the BET Awards. His verse was missing the (literal) beat, for sure, but it was also lacking the track's other voice, Pusha T.

The track's lifted up with the Ghostface Killah sample from "Mighty Healthy" and sunk with Ye's penchance for a little (OK, a lot) of darkness. I love the production, and it's fitting for the GOOD crew.

But the combo feels forced. Pusha seems to be lofting some disses at Young Money and rapping about his prowess at pushing dope, while Kanye's legitimizing his "God"-like status from a different planet, where Biggie Smalls, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rodney King meet. He talks about the issues of his hometown Chicago. They're not the easiest, "coolest" rhymes compared to Pusha, but there's a level above the normal rap game.

We might not hear this one around as much as "Mercy," but it's another angle on the "G.O.O.D." Music compilation, if it does indeed end up on it.

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<p>Tim McGraw</p>

Tim McGraw

Credit: AP Photo

Listen: Tim McGraw's new single, 'Truck Yeah'

Does it get any better than the horrible title suggests?

Tim McGraw’s new single, “Truck Yeah,” lost me at the very first line: “Got Lil Wayne poppin on my iPod.”  If you’re “Hillbilly proud” or have a “little redneck blood,” as the lyrics spout, shouldn’t you be cranking Hank, Merle, or Waylon?

McGraw’s 20-year career has careened all over the place from the truly horrific early hit, “Indian Outlaw,” to the sassy sexiness of “I Like It, I Love It” and “Real Good Man”  to the deeply poignant “Angry All The Time,” “Red Rag Top” or “My Next 30 Years.”   This song barely rates above “Indian Outlaw.” And I say this as a big McGraw fan.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Anna Paquin in &quot;Margaret&quot;</p>

Anna Paquin in "Margaret"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

'Margaret': an interactive study guide to the poem that inspired the film

The home entertainment marketing blitz brings things full circle

"Little kids grow up discovering the world that's shown to them, and then when you become a teenager, it kind of shrinks a little bit. I think when you get past that point, one of the important things is that you see there is more to the world than yourself. Elaine May had seen an early cut of the film and she said to me, 'Only a teenager could think that she could have that much affect on the world,' which I thought was very interesting and apt and kind of touching and sad."

That was Kenneth Lonergan last year discussing not only his embattled film "Margaret" in a nutshell, but the impact Gerard Manley Hopkins's poem "Spring and Fall" had on him when conceiving the film during our lengthy interview at the height of #teammargaret. And with the DVD/Blu-ray release of the film right around the corner, things are coming full circle in the home video marketing as Fox and the folks at ThinkJam have cooked up an interactive study guide to explain all of the intricacies and connections of the film's plot to the poem.

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<p>Tom Cruise sure is well-dressed as 'Jack Reacher'</p>

Tom Cruise sure is well-dressed as 'Jack Reacher'

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Tom Cruise kicks butt and drives real fast, but is he 'Jack Reacher'?

The first trailer raises many questions about how they're handing the Lee Childs character

One of things I was sorry to have missed at CinemaCon this spring was the Paramount presentation for "Jack Reacher," if only because I wanted to see for myself what's being done with one of my favorite ongoing characters in current fiction.

After all, I've written several times already about my hesitations involving Tom Cruise playing the role of Jack Reacher.  First and foremost, he's just plain physically wrong for the character as he exists in the books.  Reacher is an ape, a huge guy, well over six feet tall, and in almost every book that Lee Child has written about him, there's at least one moment where Reacher's size plays a part in the handling of a situation.  I spent at least a year stumping for Dwayne Johnson to play the part, and I think Joseph Manganiello would also have made a logical and interesting choice.

But let's set aside questions of scale.  Can Tom Cruise step in and play the character anyway?  Based on the trailer that Paramount released today, I think that question no longer matters, because whatever the movie is… and it could end up being a lot of fun… it's not the Jack Reacher that exists on the page.  Two minutes of footage proved conclusively that they've refigured the character so much that it's just not the same thing anymore.  This is "Tom Cruise, moral crusader with a hot car," and I have ever confidence the film will be entertaining.

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<p>Christina Hendricks and Jon Hamm in &quot;Mad Men.&quot;</p>

Christina Hendricks and Jon Hamm in "Mad Men."

Credit: AMC

If I had an Emmy ballot 2012: Outstanding Drama Series

What shows join "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men" on Alan's final list?

And now we've come to the end of our trip through this year's Emmy nominations ballot. Actual ballots were due last Thursday, but the point of this exercise isn't about trying to influence the vote, but simply talking about whom Dan expects to be nominated (ranking potential nominees from most likely to least), and whom I would pick if I had a ballot. And, as always, we are working off of the actual Emmy ballot, so we can't consider shows that didn't submit themselves, nor can we reassign one to a more suitable or easier category.

Our last category is Outstanding Drama Series. Dan's predictions are here, and my picks are coming right up...

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<p>Michael&nbsp;Curtiz accepts his Oscar for Best Director of &quot;Casablanca&quot;&nbsp;at the 16th annual Academy Awards.</p>

Michael Curtiz accepts his Oscar for Best Director of "Casablanca" at the 16th annual Academy Awards.

Credit: AMPAS

Michael Curtiz's 'Casablanca' Oscar and original 'Metropolis' poster hit the auction block

Got any money burning a hole in your Caymans account?

Attention movie memorabilia collectors with massive wallets. There are a pair of items on the auction block that you might be interested in.

First up, the Best Director Oscar Michael Curtiz won for "Casablanca" in 1942. Actually, the auction for this one at Nate D. Sanders apparently closed already but I never heard anything else about it after the initial  news (which I've been meaning to mention for a few days now). It was expected to fetch upwards of $3 million. Wowsers. And apparently David Copperfied previously owned it, having paid $230,000 for it in 2003. Um, my guess is he made a profit when he sold it to whoever owned it prior to last week's auction.

That's a pretty key piece of Academy history, indeed, of film history. I'd say it's on the top tier, with things like Orson Welles's "Citizen Kane" prize and the like. But again, no word yet on who the winning bidder may have been.

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<p>Andy Griffith</p>

Andy Griffith

Credit: AP Photo

Reflections on growing up with Andy Griffith in North Carolina

What he meant to this girl from Raleigh

I grew up in Raleigh, N.C., or The Big City, as it was referred to on “The Andy Griffith Show.”  

When I heard of Andy Griffith’s death this morning, it felt like I’d lost an uncle. I never met him, but for anyone in North Carolina who was raised watching “The Andy Griffith Show” whether in real time or in its continual reruns, Griffith was the closest thing we had to a human god who wasn’t famous for throwing a ball or was named Billy Graham. (Read Alan Sepinwall's fine appreciation here).

 Though Griffith played Andy Taylor, the sheriff of Mayberry, and I’m quite sure his jurisdiction did not extend beyond the city limits, it felt like his avuncular, benevolent presence watched over all of us.  Not only did the widowed father take care of his boy, Opie (with the help of Aunt Bee, or “Aint” Bee, as everyone on the show pronounced it), he saw to it that none of Mayberry’s fine denizens came to any harm.

Mayberry may have been a fictional town that stood in for Griffith’s real hometown of Mt. Airy, N.C., but it felt very real. “The Andy Griffith Show” was the first television series that I had knowledge of being set in North Carolina and every time someone mentioned Raleigh in an episode, this little girl’s heart would swell with pride that all over the country people were hearing the name of my home town. I felt like it put us on the map. Plus, Raleigh was seen as a thriving metropolis and destination on the show: Deputy Barney Fife frequently talked about coming to Raleigh on vacation, staying at the YMCA, and taking in a picture show.

Nothing ever happened in Mayberry that Andy couldn’t fix within an half-hour episode, whether it was someone stealing Aunt Bee’s pie recipe or Opie lying or Otis needing to sleep one off in the drunk tank...again. And heaven help those big city folks (usually from the North, if I recall correctly) who came through Mayberry thinking they could pull one over on the local rubes. Well, Andy would sit right down and set them straight with his sly, homespun wisdom. He’d send those city slickers packing. No pie for them.

Even better was when someone would come through Mayberry (an inordinate number of cars seemed to breakdown there), who just happened to have superior musical skills, like Flatt & Scruggs or The Dillards (as The Darlings). There was always time to sit and pick for a spell, often with Andy on guitar.

Yes, it was an idealized version of southern country life, but it didn’t feel that farfetched, perhaps because Griffith knew the area so well and threw in so many aspects of his own childhood. Even though there were broad characterizations, Griffith never made fun of his own and understood the difference between a stereotype and a caricature. Oh sure, it was fine for Floyd the Barber to poke fun at service station attendants Gomer or Goober, but they’d circle the wagons right fast if an outsider tried to do so.  My father traveled the state a great deal for work when I was growing up. I occasionally accompanied him to smalls towns just like Mayberry  where nobody knew a stranger, everybody was your friend and there was always a cold soft drink (usually a Sun Drop in a glass bottle) waiting for Walt’s daughter.

I never saw an episode of “Matlock,” Griffith’s detective series from the ‘80s and ‘90s, and I don’t remember him at all as the federal prosecutor in the made-for-TV movie “Fatal Vision,” which told the story of Jeffrey McDonald, a Green Beret stationed at Ft. Bragg accused of killing his wife and children (As a kid growing up 75 minutes from Ft. Bragg and having a father who served in the National Guard there, the memories of those deaths,  McDonald’s assertion that a bunch of “hippies” killed his family, and the subsequent trials in Raleigh are my equivalent of the Manson murders). He remained Andy Taylor to me.

I had grown up and long left North Carolina before I discovered Elia Kazan’s “A Face in the Crowd” in the mid-to-late ‘90s. Released in 1957, it starred Griffith, in his first movie role, as Lonesome Rhodes, one of the most craven, charismatic characters ever committed to the big or small screen. I watched the movie slackjawed, incredulous that Sheriff Taylor could be so duplicitous, evil, and, dare I admit it, sexy. Griffith brilliantly plays an Arkansas ne’er-do-well discovered singing in jail by a radio producer, played by Patricia Neal. He becomes a national folk hero, seemingly speaking truth to power, all the while hiding his nearly sociopathic ambitions. If there had been true justice, the role would have catapulted Griffith to the ranks of a top movie star. I don’t know why it didn’t, but if it had, we never would have gotten Sheriff Taylor. (Note: TCM will run “A Face in the Crowd” in a daylong salute to Griffith on July 18).

For a long time, I thought that Mayberry was only special to people from North Carolina, but I came to realize that what Griffith had created resonated with most southern folks and almost anyone from a small town; He  was seen as a national treasure and we were happy to share him.  Country music embraced the values that Sheriff Taylor stood for and considered Griffith one of their own.  “The Andy Griffith” show was immortalized in a number of country songs and in 2008 Griffith starred in Brad Paisley’s stirring video for  “Waitin’ on a Woman.” Paisley talks about working with Griffith here  and his death in this touching LA Times piece. (Griffith himself won a Grammy for his gospel recordings in 1996).

North Carolinians loved Griffith for representing them so well and for never abandoning them. He came back to live in N.C. more than 20 years ago and seemed to love his later years there, lending his voice and name to causes he supported. In 2002, TV Land donated a statue of Griffith to Pullen Park, the local Raleigh park my mom took me and my older sister, Jeannie, to when we were little to ride the train and the merry-go-round. It’s a statue of Griffith as Sheriff Taylor with Opie as they head for their fishing hole, just like in the show’s credits. My friend Debbie and I went to see it on one of my trips back home several years ago and it brought back a rush of childhood memories. I have no doubt that today that statue is covered in flowers and is serving as a meeting place for Griffith’s fans, just like Strawberry Fields served for John Lennon’s fans. I don’t know if Gov. Perdue has called for the N.C. flag to be flown at half-mast in Griffith’s honor, but it feels appropriate if she has. Griffith may be gone, but Andy Taylor will live forever.  I’m heading to Raleigh later this week. A trip to the statue, and maybe even a drive by the YMCA, may be in order. 

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<p>Tom Cruise in &quot;Jack&nbsp;Reacher,&quot;&nbsp;opening later this year</p>

Tom Cruise in "Jack Reacher," opening later this year

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Top 10 Tom Cruise performances

A salute to the actor on his 50th birthday

Movie star Tom Cruise has been, somewhat quietly, passing through one of the high-water marks of his career as of late. In December, "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" became his biggest box office success to date, which is saying something in a career that has included such blockbuster fare as "Top Gun," "Minority Report" and "War of the Worlds," not to mention three previous entries in the franchise; he managed to be just one of very few elements of "Rock of Ages," currently in theaters, to come away unscathed; and, oh yeah, he's turning 50 today.

Cruise has been in the news a lot this week as a result of his (naturally very public) divorce from Katie Holmes. But I'll save the melodrama regarding what the "real" story is behind all of that for those overly interested. It's unfortunate that this planned piece of commentary ended up coinciding with one of Cruise's personal low points, but so be it. As noted in The New York Times yesterday (beat me to the punch), he always bounces back.

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<p>Even in publicity photos, Andy Griffith wound up playing straight man to co-star Don Knotts.</p>

Even in publicity photos, Andy Griffith wound up playing straight man to co-star Don Knotts.

Credit: CBS

Andy Griffith: Appreciating the late, great sincere TV icon

The star of 'The Andy Griffith Show' and 'Matlock' died today
Andy Griffith, who died today at the age of 86, was one of the great television stars of all time not because of his skill with a joke (though he was splendid as both comedian and straight man), nor because of his dramatic chops (though his performance in the 1957 movie "A Face in the Crowd" is seared in the memory of anyone who saw it), but simply because audiences found something innately decent and trustworthy about him. Whether as small-town sheriff Andy Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show" or a crafty aging lawyer on "Matlock," Griffith was someone viewers wanted on their side.
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<p>Emilie Dequenne and Tahar Rahim in &quot;Our Children.&quot;</p>

Emilie Dequenne and Tahar Rahim in "Our Children."

Credit: Versus Production/Peccadillo Pictures

Karlovy Vary: 'Our Children' wows as temperatures rise

Émilie Dequenne is astonishing in Cannes critics' hit

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic - I don’t why it didn’t occur to me that a film festival located high in the Czech mountains in the middle of summer would be on the warm side, but it didn’t – it’s been a humid few days of filmgoing here at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, even when some films haven’t packed much heat. Handily enough, the air conditioning throughout the festival center apparently chose this weekend to go on the blink, introducing a sauna-like atmosphere to certain screening rooms that, in the words of a glass-half-full Czech critic I overheard yesterday, “intensifies the experience.”

The experience was only moderately de-intensified this evening with an electrical storm that did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the numerous al fresco beer drinkers at this cheerfully youth-populated festival. “The weather here is Karlovy Varied,” remarked a British writer-director, who’d probably rather not be credited with that line, as we joined them. The festival itself may want to reappropriate it for advertising purposes. My viewing list from the last two days has been nothing if not Karlovy varied: it spans, among others, a blissful big-screen return visit to Jean-Pierre Melville’s “Le Samouraï,” a Finnish-Portuguese western inspired by the work of Henry David Thoreau and an erotic Dutch character study understandably – if not quite accurately – described by several critics as a female-focused “Shame.”   

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Watch: The full Adam Lambert + Queen concert from Kiev
Credit: AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

Watch: The full Adam Lambert + Queen concert from Kiev

How does he compare with Freddie Mercury?

Adam Lambert opened his first of four dates as frontman for Queen Saturday in Kiev, Ukraine and you can watch the full two-hour set below.

Yes, it’s as big, glam, and over the top as you’d expect.

[More after the jump...]

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Watch: Florence + the Machine road trip on 'Breaking Down' video
Credit: Island Records

Watch: Florence + the Machine road trip on 'Breaking Down' video

Retro feel suits the song perfectly

Just in time for 4th of July, Florence + The Machine deliver a video that feels a bit like a celebration of the U.S.

The gauzy clip for “Breaking Down” unspools like old home movies: a mixture of scenes shot on the road and stock footage. It opens as a patriotic pinwheel (note to self: go buy Sparklers) spins over a Los Angeles road sign. What follows is Florence Welch hanging out in a pool circa a ‘60s housewife. We travel to New Orleans and Las Vegas as the tune (the most mainstream track on “Ceremonials”) plays on. Our travels bring us back to Los Angeles and the Hollywood Bowl.

[More after the jump...]

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