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<p>Rachel Weisz and Jeremy Renner co-star in this weekend's 'The Bourne Legacy'</p>

Rachel Weisz and Jeremy Renner co-star in this weekend's 'The Bourne Legacy'

Credit: Universal Studios

Review: 'The Bourne Legacy' features nice work but feels like treading water

Good performances still can't rescue the film from complete adequacy

Hollywood is obsessed with franchise building, often disregarding logic and narrative coherence in an effort to keep squeezing cash out of a property long after any natural storytelling momentum has disappeared.

The longer the series wears on, the less the "Bourne" films have anything to do with Robert Ludlum's original novel.  That's fine, of course.  The filmmakers are under no obligation to do straight adaptations, and at this point, it feels like they've created something that stands alone, inspired by Ludlum's ideas but only loosely connected to the world he built.  At this point, Tony and Dan Gilroy are the primary architects of this series, and while the overall action aesthetic of the series has influenced most of the mainstream action movies being made these days, what they're doing narratively is sort of unique, and worth closer examination.

Matt Damon's performance as Jason Bourne was a major part of the appeal of the first three films in the series, and he made even the most implausible parts of the films feel possible.  Losing a movie star for a sequel can be disastrous, but thankfully, Gilroy's laid enough groundwork over the course of the series that the switch they make this time to Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) as the new focus of the film feels quite natural.  Cross is part of a parallel program to the one that created Bourne, and he's a generation or two down the line.  Unlike Bourne, Cross is well aware of what he is and how he was created and why, and at the start of the film, he's out in the field, training in the most rugged terrain possible.  This film overlaps with "The Bourne Ultimatum" in terms of chronology, and it is because of Jason Bourne's actions that the people in charge of Aaron Cross and the other members of his program decide that they have no choice but to burn everything to the ground and leave no evidence.

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Watch: Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and Kevin Hart in MTV VMA promo

Watch: Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and Kevin Hart in MTV VMA promo

Are KKK jokes ever funny?

It will be Kevin, Kim, and Kanye at MTV’s Video Music Awards on Sept. 6.

Comedian Kevin Hart, who delivered a monologue on last year’s awards show will get full hosting duties this year, and if the little video MTV released on its website today is any indication, he’s courting the controversy with plenty of KKK jokes, which, quite frankly, are never funny... or, at least, these aren't.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Carly Rae Jepsen</p>

Carly Rae Jepsen

Credit: AP Photo

Carly Rae Jepsen fends off Phillip Phillips to set a record atop the Billboard Hot 100

How much longer can 'Call Me Maybe' stay at No. 1?

Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” definitely becomes the biggest hit of 2012 as the song spends its ninth week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, bypassing Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know’s” eight weeks at the summit. Now we bet Lady Gaga Is really coming after her!

Gotye can still claim some bragging rights: “Somebody,” which is No. 6 this week, passes the 6 million download mark, making it the first song this year to surpass the 6 million tally.

“Maybe,” from Jepsen’s debut album “Kiss,” out Sept. 18,  is one of two tunes from the singer on the Hot 100: her duet with Owl City,” Good Time,” is at No. 14.

Jepsen, a former “Canadian Idol” contestant, is not the only former “Idol” with a big week:  this year’s “American Idol” winner, Phillip Phillips, sees his coronation single, “Home” soar 84-9 following the usage of the song by NBC during the Summer Olympics.

Phillips’ tune is the only new title in the Top 10 this week: Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” rises 5-2, Flo Rida’s “Whistle” blows up one spot to No. 3, Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake” falls two spots to No. 4, while Maroon 5’s “Payphone” also slips two places to No. 5.

Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been,” David Guetta’s “Titanium” featuring Sia, and Pink’s “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” all stay in their same spots at last week: No. 7, No. 8 and No. 10, respectively.

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<p>If Ben Affleck does end up starring in 'Justice League' as well as directing it, I hope he wears this exact same costume.</p>

If Ben Affleck does end up starring in 'Justice League' as well as directing it, I hope he wears this exact same costume.

Credit: Focus Features

Warner Bros reportedly approaches Ben Affleck to direct 'Justice League'

The first possible filmmaker mentioned raises new questions about superhero film

Warner Bros. has got some extreme pressure on them right now to get one film right, and I would argue there are no higher stakes for any film or any studio in town than there are for "Justice League".

We've heard reports about Will Beall, screenwriter of "Gangster Squad," working on a new take on the script, and reports seem to indicate a fair amount of excitement about his take on the material within the studio.  Now it looks like they're approaching a director, and we probably shouldn't be surprised by the name since they've been quite open about their affection for the work of Ben Affleck, with his new film "Argo" preparing to hit the festival circuit prior to its release later this year.

While I'm not sure I get the "only directing films he stars in" thing from the Variety article, since "Gone Baby Gone" was critically acclaimed, kicked off his directing career, and featured nary a shot of his face.  Besides, I have trouble believing that after "Hollywoodland" and "Daredevil," Affleck is in any hurry to put on any superhero costume again.  Still, the notion of Afflect both directing and starring in a "Justice League" film is intriguing.  One of the things I like about Affleck's sensibilities as a director is that he has a very realistic approach to the stories he tells.  "Justice League" could use that, especially since it's going to be a tricky balancing act bringing together Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, The Green lantern, and more for the film.

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<p>Rick Ross</p>

Rick Ross

Credit: AP Photo

Rick Ross has a big bow on the Billboard 200 with 'God Forgives, I Don't'

What are the Bee Gees doing in the top 10 for the first time in 3 decades?

Rick Ross makes his fourth trip to the summit of the Billboard 200 as “God Forgives, I Don’t” bows at No. 1 with sales o f 218,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

In this era of overall declining album sales, Ross is one of the few artists who has seen his opening week sales grow increasingly larger.  As Billboard notes, Ross got a hand from Amazon, which priced the title at $5, deeply discounting it, but still pricing it above the $3.99 cut-off SoundScan requires to could as a sale.

The only other debut in the Top 10 belongs to Joss Stone with “The Soul Sessions, Vol. 2,” which sells 24,000. Check out our review here.

Zac Brown Band’s “Uncaged,” which logged two weeks at No. 1, slips to No. 2 with sales of 39,000.  Justin Bieber’s “Believe” soars 6-3, while One Direction’s “Up All Night” jumps 7-4.

Amazon factors into some other albums we see on the chart in the Top 10:The Bee Gees’ “Number Ones” reenters the chart at No. 5 based on a 99 cent promotion by the retailer (SoundScan allows deeply discounted album sales to count more than six weeks after release). The title sells 32,000 copies, up a whopping 3,049% from the previous week.  It also means the Bee Gees are back in the Top 10 for the first time since 1983.

On the bottom half of the Top 10, Nas’s “Life is Good” drops 2-6, “Kidz Bop 22” drops 5-7, Adele’s 21 moves up one spot to No. 8 as does Maroon 5’s “Overexposed” to No. 9.

Overall album sales were 5.24 million units, up 7% from last week, but down 8% compared with the same week in 2011.  Year-to-date sales are down 3%.

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<p>Britney Spears</p>

Britney Spears

Credit: AP Photo

Is Britney Spears headed to L.A. Reid's label? Is she jumping RCA's ship?

Superstar reportedly has one album left on her current label deal

Are Britney Spears and her fellow “X Factor” judge L.A. Reid about to make beautiful music together?

According to The Hollywood Reporter,
Spears’ contract with RCA will be up after one more album and among those courting the pop princess is Reid, who is head of Sony's Epic Records.

Also in the picture is Barry Weiss, who now heads Island Def Jam. Weiss is the former head of Jive (which was absorbed into RCA as part of the BMG/Sony merger), who oversaw Spears’ career from the start.

The Reporter piece says both execs are eager to sign Spears for a sum of $3 million-to-$5 million/album.

We contacted RCA, who declined to comment on the story. Weiss told THR that he would “love to be reunited with [Spears].”  While Reid may have proximity on his side and the lure of making shiny new promises to an artist who may be looking for a change, Weiss has an advantage in that he’s proven to Spears what he can do. For that matter, what's to stop "X Factor" judge, creator Simon Cowell from stepping in and trying to sign her to his Sony imprint, Syco? He's certainly done just fine with One Direction and Susan Boyle.

Then again, we’re likely talking a few years from now since Spears still has to fulfill her contract with RCA first, and the landscape can change between now and when negotiations begin in earnest. These are the kinds of stories that make great copy, and get the rumor mill going, but we’ll have to wait  to see how it all shakes out. What is undeniable is that Spears, through all her ups and downs, had remained a viable, worldwide album seller (if not as strong as she was in her heyday) so it’s no surprise that any label would love to see her on its roster.


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"Here Comes Honey Boo Boo"

"Here Comes Honey Boo Boo"

Credit: TLC

Review: 'Here Comes Honey Boo Boo' is weirdly watchable

A family of rednecks aims for a possibly unreachable goal

Watching "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" (TLC, premieres Wed. 10 p.m. ET) brought up a range of emotions for me, not dissimilar to the roller coaster one goes through while watching a Terence Malick movie or perhaps when reading "Ulysses." Okay, maybe more like watching a NASCAR race or "Hillbilly Handfishin'." But still, "HCHBB" isn't the horrifying, non-stop slow-mo car wreck I expected. Sure, it has moments of nausea-inducing horror, but I was able to watch the whole thing without shrieking, which I'm pretty sure my colleague Dan didn't think was a remote possibility. Stranger still, there is something honestly charming and, yes, poignant about the show. And no, I am not mistaking poignancy for a craving for pork rinds.

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 143

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 143

Dan and Alan talk 'Go On,' 'Animal Practice,' 'Hell on Wheels' and Olympics


Happy Wednesday, Boys & Girls!
As promised, here's a mid-week bonus installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
We came in under an hour on this one and it's fairly straight-forward: We review NBC's "Go On" and "Animal Practice," chat about the start of the second season of AMC's "Hell on Wheels" and we use one piece of Listener Mail as our opening to chat about NBC's Olympics coverage a bit.
Here's the breakdown:
"Go On" (00:01:30 - 00:15:30)
"Hell on Wheels" (00:15:30 - 00:25:40)
"Animal Practice" (00:25:45 - 00:38:25)
The Olympics (00:38:25 - 00:55:00)

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.] 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

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Daniel Day-Lewis transformed in new promo still for Spielberg's 'Lincoln'

Daniel Day-Lewis transformed in new promo still for Spielberg's 'Lincoln'

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones also star

Next time you dig a penny out your pocket at the store, you may find Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis suddenly crossing your mind.

In this newly-released photo from Steven Speilberg's upcoming Oscar hopeful "Lincoln," the actor looks to be the spitting image of the 16th U.S. president who helped reunite a fractured America -- and rocked one of history's greatest beards.

Take a look here:


Lewis has picked up two best actor Academy Awards (for "My Left Foot" and "There Will be Blood"), and Touchstone Pictures are no doubt hoping he'll be the one to best this awards season. 

Instead of attempting to cover his entire career, the film will wisely focus on just the last act of Lincoln's life, tracing his momentous presidency through the Civil War and abolition, and ultimately leading to his death at the hands of assassin John Wilkes Booth. Day-Lewis' Honest Abe will therefore be starting the film with the weight of the world already on his shoulders.

“Our movie is really about a working leader who must make tough decisions and get things done in the face of overwhelming opposition,” Spielberg said in a press release.

Oscar winner Sally Field ("Norma Rae," "Places in the Heart") plays First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, while "The Dark Knight Rises'" Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays their eldest son, Robert.

Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn and Jackie Earle Haley also star in the highly-anticipated film .

"Lincoln" opens November 9.

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Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 143: 'Go On,' 'Animal Practice' & 'Hell on Wheels'

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 143: 'Go On,' 'Animal Practice' & 'Hell on Wheels'

Dan and Alan also discuss NBC's Olympics coverage


Time for the second Firewall & Iceberg Podcast of the week, as Dan and I look ahead to the first new shows of the 2012-13 network TV season, check back in on AMC's "Hell on Wheels" as it begins its second season, and talk a little bit about the most-watched — if not always best-liked — TV show of the summer.

The line-up: 

"Go On" (00:01:30 - 00:15:30)
"Hell on Wheels" (00:15:30 - 00:25:40)
"Animal Practice" (00:25:45 - 00:38:25)
The Olympics (00:38:25 - 00:55:00)
As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. Or you can always follow our RSS Feed, download the MP3 file or stream it on Dan's blog.
And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.
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<p>Jimmy Fallon on &quot;The Today Show&quot;&nbsp;in&nbsp;London</p>

Jimmy Fallon on "The Today Show" in London

Credit: NBC

Jimmy Fallon: 'I won't be hosting the Oscars.'

Who do YOU think should get the gig?

I didn't bother weighing in on last week's scuttlebutt that Jimmy Fallon was in talks to host the 85th annual Academy Awards, mostly because I was on the road in Texas, but also because I just couldn't see it happening. While ABC may not have veto rights on the Academy bringing in two NBC stars (the other being "Saturday Night Live" producer Lorne Michaels) for its Oscarcast, I still don't know that you'd want to ruffle the relationship all that much.

Also, with Hawk Koch newly minted as AMPAS president, it's unlikely he'd want to carry on something brought in by exiting president Tom Sherak. Surely he'll have his own ideas. I suppose it's still possible Michaels could produce (along with former AMPAS president Sid Ganis, who the LA Times reported last week was also in the mix), but one giant commercial for "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" always seemed to me like it would be a bit of a stretch (not to mention a bad creative approach, at least in my opinion).

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<p>&quot;Vertigo&quot; topped Sight &amp; Sound's critics' poll, but did it feature in my Top 10?</p>

"Vertigo" topped Sight & Sound's critics' poll, but did it feature in my Top 10?

Credit: Paramount Pictures

The Lists: My top 10 films of all time

How I voted in Sight & Sound's decennial critics' poll

For a week now, Sight & Sound's decennial critics' poll of the Greatest Films Of All Time, the results of which are awaited by cinephiles with all the eagerness of over-sugared rugrats on Christmas morning, has provided ample discussion fodder for the film-focused blogosphere.

The Top 100's seemingly inexhaustible avenues for statistical breakdowns (How many Asian films? How many post-1968 films? Which directors received the most votes collectively? Which films fell the farthest from their 2002 placing?) are still being explored, the number-crunchers matched in enthusiasm -- or lack thereof -- only by the sniping commentators inevitably displeased with the results. Why is the list so old? Why is it so stodgy? Why is it so white? Why is it so male? Why are my own subjective favorites not accounted for? Many talk of the list as if it's compiled by some unified committee with a patent agenda against cinema from many of our lifetimes, an aggressive boner for silent cinema and a vindictive urge to take Orson Welles down a peg or two.   

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