Latest Blog Posts

<p>The &quot;Sparkle&quot; ladies: Tika Sumpter, <span class="il">Jordin</span> Sparks and Carmen Ejogo</p>

The "Sparkle" ladies: Tika Sumpter, Jordin Sparks and Carmen Ejogo

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Jordin Sparks and her 'Sparkle' co-stars reveal their top Whitney Houston memories

What did Houston say to Sparks that made her cry?

In “Sparkle,” Tika Sumpter, Jordin Sparks, and Carmen Ejogo play sisters— and daughters of Whitney Houston’s character. The trio embarks on a musical journey during which their sibling bond deepens and they each find out some truths about each other.

Sumpter, Sparks, and Ejogo found that playing sisters came easily to them, especially as they bonded during the recording of the cast album. “You know that it’s real when somebody can deal with your attitude or not,” Sumpter joked. “When somebody’s like ‘What is wrong with you’. You’re like, ‘Look, this is how I feel right now,’ and they accept you.”

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Christina Aguilera</p>

Christina Aguilera

Credit: AP Photo

What Christina Aguilera really thinks about Britney Spears joining her as a talent show coach

Plus, other nuggets about Season 3 of 'The Voice'

Christina Aguilera had welcoming words to the talent reality show world for her fellow former Mousketeer Britney Spears.

At a press conference for “The Voice” Sunday at producer Mark Burnett’s Malibu mansion,  Aguilera, who is a judge alongside Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, and Cee Lo Green, was asked how she felt about Spears joining “The X Factor,” since the pop queens‘ careers have somewhat paralleled each other and they have known each other since they were tweens.

“I came up with Britney. [We were in the] Mickey Mouse Club. We were very close, and our paths have always crossed and, interestingly, they will continue to cross,” Aguilera said. “I welcome her to this family of fun and entertainment and finding new talent as well....I don’t know what [advice] she’s going to offer specifically, but I know she’s a pro...I think she’s going to give great advice.”’

Without being asked specifically about fellow diva Mariah Carey, who is joining the judges panel for “American Idol,”  she said in general, “I welcome these very talented women. In this business, especially in my genre of pop.. women [get] compared to each other and it’s women against women and this and that and I’m not down for that at this point in my life. I have no patience for it. C’mon, the more the merrier.”

The biggest change for Season 3 of “The Voice,” which debuts in September, is the addition of The Steal. “We go from blind auditions to the battles, this year, there’s much more at stake,” Burnett said. “When [the coaches] have their battles and select one person to stay with them and one person to leave, the other coach can buzz in and steal that person that coach has sent home.”

Each coach can steal up to two contestants from other teams. Each team will leave the Battle Round with 10 contestants. That number will drop to five in the Knock Out Round.

Levine admitted that if a dropped contestant is not picked by another coach during the Battle Round, it is adding insult to injury.  “It’s pretty debilitating getting let go and then, essentially, it’s three other people not necessarily wanting to keep you,” he said. “That’s just like getting kicked in the balls and punched in the face at the same time.”

With “The Voice” expanding to two cycles per year, Burnett acknowledged that it will be tough to keep the coaches, all of whom have very active careers. Adding that the initial coaches have their “chairs for life,” Burnett said the producers will never replace one of the existing judges permanently, but the judges may rotate out for a season to tour or fulfill other career duties, and then come back. While Green, who pushed back his Las Vegas residency to film Season 3 said he “hoped” he’d be back for Season 4 this spring, none of the other judges committed on whether they planned to return, but Aguilera hinted that there may be a point when she takes a sabbatical.

“For me, personally, we’re not speaking about anybody going or leaving or the details of that, I just know that I can only be so great as a coach if I keep on re-inspiring myself by going out, making albums... and gaining new stories and experiences on the road so that I can share with my team and bring it back.”

Aguilera mentioned that she is getting ready to drop “Your Body,” the first single from her forthcoming album. According to Pop Crush, she will debut the song on “The Voice.”

As if to illustrate the point, Levine left this morning for a three-week South America tour with his band Maroon 5, but will be back in time for the start of Season 3’s live shows.


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<p>David Giuntoli and Bitsie Tulloch in &quot;Grimm.&quot;</p>

David Giuntoli and Bitsie Tulloch in "Grimm."

Credit: NBC

Review: NBC's 'Grimm' returns, improved, for season 2

Deeper mythology and a more balanced ensemble highlight the growth curve

In today's podcast, Fienberg and I revisited NBC's "Grimm," which begins its second season tonight at 10. (NBC is airing a episodes on Mondays for the next few weeks in the hopes of hanging onto their Olympic audience for as long as possible.)

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<p>Ang Lee's &quot;Life of Pi.&quot;</p>

Ang Lee's "Life of Pi."

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Ang Lee's 'Life of Pi' will open the 50th New York Film Festival

Awards potential will be on display Sept. 28

After a slew of major premieres were announced for both the Venice Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival last month, critics and media have been wondering what high profile release was left for the coveted opening night of the New York Film Festival.  Additionally, as its the 50th edition of NYFF, the Film Society of Lincoln Center would not want a second rate picture opening the celebrated festival.  Happily, 20th Century Fox and Ang Lee have come to the rescue.

The Film Society announced today that Lee's adaptation of Yann Martel's popular novel "Life of Pi" will open the festival on Sept. 28.  The Fox release is currently scheduled to open nationwide on Nov. 21.

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 144

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 144

Dan and Alan talk 'Grimm,' 'Copper,' 'Boss,' 'Strike Back' and more


Happy Monday, Boys and Girls!
In this week's busy installment of The Firewall & Iceberg podcast, we discuss the returns of "Grimm," "Boss" and "Strike Back," plus the premiere of BBC America's "Copper." We also get to "Breaking Bad."
In the podcast, I forgot to apologize to Terrell Owens for my inaccurate memories of his last season in the NFL, which was more statistically respectable than I remembered. Then again, the last time y'all insisted I needed to apologize to an NFL wide receiver it was Kenny Britt, when I had the nerve to doubt his reliability as an NFL No. 1 wide receiver. I stand by that ongoing skepticism, which isn't based on Britt's talent, so much as his difficulties staying healthy and his inability to stay unarrested.
But anyway... Back to this week's podcast... If you have questions for us, next week would be a good week to ask, since we're definitely gonna have time for Listener Mail...
Today's breakdown:
"Grimm" (00:00:50 - 00:14:20)
"Boss" (00:14:25 - 00:26:05)
"Strike Back" (00:26:05 - 00:35:20)
"Copper" (00:35:20 - 00:50:00)
"Breaking Bad" (00:50:25 - 01:10:00)

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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Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 144: 'Grimm,' 'Boss,' 'Strike Back' & 'Copper'

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 144: 'Grimm,' 'Boss,' 'Strike Back' & 'Copper'

Dan and Alan also discuss a thrilling 'Breaking Bad'


It's a busy Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, as Dan and I talk about the returns of "Grimm," "Boss" and "Strike Back," the debut of BBC America's "Copper," and get into the teeth of a tense "Breaking Bad" episode.

The line-up: 

"Grimm" (00:00:50 - 00:14:20)
"Boss" (00:14:25 - 00:26:05)
"Strike Back" (00:26:05 - 00:35:20)
"Copper" (00:35:20 - 00:50:00)
"Breaking Bad" (00:50:25 - 01:10:00)
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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"Dancing with the Stars"

"Dancing with the Stars"

Credit: ABC

"Dancing with the Stars: All Stars" announces the star/pro pairings

Look for fan favorites Cheryl, Maksim, Kym and Chelsie

“Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars” is gearing up for a big debut (Mon. Sept. 24, 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC), so fans will be pleased to see their favorite pros returning to the show along with the all-star celebs. Here are the star-studded pairings:

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<p>Axl Rose</p>

Axl Rose

Guns N' Roses have an appetite for a Las Vegas residency starting Oct. 31

Where can you catch Axl and the other guys in Sin City?

Following in the footsteps of Santana and Motley Crue, Guns N’ Roses will take up residency at The Joint, the 4000-seat venue at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

The Axl Rose-led group will play 12 shows between Oct. 31 and Nov. 24 in the cleverly titled “Appetite For Democracy” outing (Get it? The music spans from “Appetite for Destruction” to “Chinese Democracy.” Plus, it’s election year).

 A little editorial note: So this is  basically a glorified run of dates at one venue smaller than what they usually play. Just like “exclusive” has seen its meaning totally diluted over the years, “residency” is now being used whenever an artist plays in Vegas for more than a few nights. We yearn for the days when “residency” still meant that the artist play, leave, and then come back and play some more, leave, come back, rinse and repeat, for a period of two years or so, like Elton or Celine at Caesars or Garth Brooks at The Wynn.

Anyway, we digress. Guns N’ Rose, which, in addition to Rose, is now guitarists DJ Ashba, Richard Fortus, and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal; bassist Tommy Stinson, keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman and drummer Frank Ferrer.

The outfit tried a trial run over New Year’s Eve when it played two shows at The Joint and clearly is now coming back for Halloween and the run up to Thanksgiving.

Tickets go on sale Aug. 17 and start at $45.


      Wednesday, Oct. 31
         Friday, Nov. 2
      Saturday, Nov. 3
         Wednesday, Nov. 7
         Friday, Nov. 9
        Saturday, Nov. 10
        Wednesday, Nov. 14
       Saturday, Nov. 17
        Sunday, Nov. 18
         Wednesday, Nov. 21
         Friday, Nov. 23
         Saturday, Nov. 24

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"Here Comes Honey Boo Boo"

"Here Comes Honey Boo Boo"

Credit: TLC

Watch: 'Here Comes Honey Boo Boo' goes extreme couponing

The family could be perfect for both hoarding and couponing shows

It's the ultimate smash-up: The latest episode of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" (Wed. 10 p.m. on TLC) features elements of both "Extreme Couponing" and "Hoarding: Buried Alive" as the family clears shelves of processed foods. We see TLC crossovers ahead! Though it's their way of saving money for Honey Boo Boo's pageant expenses, it certainly isn't helping their diet plans any. Watch the grocery store fun below.

What do you think of Honey Boo Boo's family? 

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<p>Jeff Daniels and David Krumholtz on &quot;The Newsroom.&quot;</p>

Jeff Daniels and David Krumholtz on "The Newsroom."

Credit: HBO

Review: 'The Newsroom' - 'The Blackout Part 1: Tragedy Porn'

The Casey Anthony trial and Mac's ex-boyfriend complicate Will's mission

A quick review of last night's "The Newsroom" coming up just as soon as I take the battery out of my cell phone...

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<p>Early concept designs for Vanellope voiced by Sara Silverman in Rich Moore's new animated feature &quot;Wreck-It Ralph.&quot;</p>

Early concept designs for Vanellope voiced by Sara Silverman in Rich Moore's new animated feature "Wreck-It Ralph."

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

'Wreck-It Ralph' director Rich Moore on bringing blue Sarah Silverman into the Disney world

It's another competive year for best animated feature

You can easily say that landing a best picture nomination is the toughest fight any studio will endure during awards season.  Even with the relatively new 5-10 nomination system and no matter who get the "frontrunner" label, it's a battle to get a nod let alone win.  That will likely be the case again this year, but one other category is also completely up for grabs, best animated feature.

Usually, picking the animated picture nominees is pretty easy.  Throw in a Pixar flick, a DreamWorks Animated feature, Hayao Miyazaki's latest, a major stop-motion production and whatever been hot on the art house circuit ("Persepolis," "The Triplets of Belleville") and you pretty much have your field.  And unless it's terrible (cough, "Cars 2"), the Pixar nominee is likely going to win. 

Looking at 2012's crop of animated films most industry observers will tell you even the nominees are completely up in the air.  Candidates include Pixar's "Brave," Focus Features' "ParaNorman," Walt Disney Studios' "Frankenweenie," Sony Pictures Animation's "Hotel Transylvania," Universal Pictures' "The Lorax," 20th Century Fox's "Ice Age: Continental Drift" (highly unlikely) as well as DreamWorks Animation's "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" and the studio's bigger player, "Rise of the Guardians."  Additionally, there are a number of lesser known independent animated films that have debuted on the festival circuit such as "Ernest & Célestine" that could make the field.  However, one film Walt Disney Studios is very high on this year and is hoping will crack the animated five is "Wreck-it-Ralph."

Directed by Rich Moore ("Futurama," "The Simpsons"), "Ralph" is a video game character voiced by John C. Reilly who is tired of being the bad guy in his classic 1980's arcade game. When he doesn't return to his game as scheduled and starts visiting the worlds of other games he turns the entire structure of his arcade upside down.  The film also features "30 Rock's" Jack McBrayer as the "good" guy in Ralph's game, Fix-it-Felix and Sarah Silverman as Vanellope von Schweetz, an aberration program in a candy world game.  "Ralph" also features a slew of cameos from well known video game characters over the decades including Q-bert and Sonic the Hedgehog (just to name a few). It's been described as a "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" for video games and it's honestly not a bad comparison.

Unlike some of their counterparts, Disney hasn't been afraid to show extended clips and scenes from "Ralph" since the D23 convention back in August of 2011.  They also previewed even more footage at Comic-Con 2012 this past July.  To say they are bullish on the commercial prospects for "Ralph" is an understatement. 

As "Ralph" is opening in a little over two months, Awards Campaign recently took some time to chat with Moore about his feature film debut and bringing the often un-translatable video game characters to a Disney animated film.

Many times directors for Disney films have been working at the studio for awhile, but you don't have that sort of typical history with them.  You came from the outside.  How did you get involved with this project and end up directing this picture?

Rich Moore: When Disney and Pixar merged I got a call from John Lasseter, who’s an old friend, and Andrew Stanton. Andrew’s a classmate of mine and John I’ve known for a long, long time.  He said, 'Look, we’ve merged with Disney and we would love for you to come in and pitch some ideas, develop some ideas that could become a movie that you direct at Disney.'

So, I started at Disney in 2008 and John likes to hear multiple ideas when a director pitches to them.  So I was kind of preparing ideas for him and someone had mentioned that at the studio there was in different iterations a movie idea for like a video game story, like the secret life of video game characters.  I thought, 'That’s kind of cool, you know?'  And I think like two or three other directors had kind of had a try at it at a story involving video games and didn’t have a lot of luck with it.  So, the idea was kind of off the shelf.  Without looking at the takes that the other directors had gone for I just went with the simple idea of, 'O.K., what is it like to be a video game character?' Because it seemed like the life of or the world of video games looked very rich and it seemed that it would be interesting to set a story in the world of video games.For awhile I thought that I was kind of hitting a dead end because I’d see all video game characters do is the same job day in and day out and that it would make a really boring movie just to watch a guy doing his job.  At that point, I thought, 'Well that’s a pretty good situation.'  If you had a character who didn’t like his job in a game it seems like a really good conflict to put a character up against.  The idea came out of that.  It was one of the ideas that I pitched at John on that day.  And it was the one that he kind of looked at and said, 'Well, I loved this.  So let’s kind of move forward with this.'

And had you been a fan of video games previously?  Was it something that was actively part of your life?

Rich Moore: Oh, God, yeah.  I think I was probably part of the first generation, you know, of little kids that had video games, you know, available to them.  You know, I can remember playing Pong like in a pizza place and I can remember then from there it came like Space Wars and stuff like that.  Asteroids and Pac-Man.  So, I spent a lot of time in arcades as a teenager and then if there was a home system I had it.  Especially as a young adult.  And then when I had kids it was like we played a lot of Mario Cart around our house.  As a kid I loved animation, Star Wars, video games and comedy.  Those were my big things.  So, it’s definitely been a part of my life for a long time.

I know that like the producers of 'Roger Rabbit' you went to different video game publishers to get the rights to use some of their characters in the movie.

Rich Moore: Right.

How did you work it out with the publishers? Were you having to change the script based on their requests?  Were there big changes when maybe one company would let you use their character and another company wouldn’t?  Or did most of them come on board?

Rich Moore: Nine times out of ten they were pretty receptive. Maybe just a little change where it’s like, 'O.K. You can use Pac-Man  but he just has to kind of eat. He’s always kind of eating.  He can’t tell a joke that’s out of character from the Pac-Man that you know him from the game.' If there were any kind of stipulations they were pretty minor.  You know, things that we could definitely kind of work with with the owners of the characters but then were just times when they would say 'Well, no, we don’t own full rights on these characters so we can’t really give you permission to use them or we’ve licensed that character for something else, so it’s not available to you.' And when we hit a wall like that then we were just like, 'Well that’s obviously kind of a dead end so you might as well just kind of try something else.'  But the companies like Nintendo and Sega, Atari, and some of them are owned by different groups now.  Some are just kind of big blanket ownership of other places but they were all really pretty fair and nice to work with.

And are there any characters that we haven’t seen in the trailers or that you’re not revealing until the movie comes out?  Any secret cameos or Easter eggs?

Rich Moore: Yeah.  I mean, there’s a lot.  There’s quite a few. I don’t know if it’s the tip of the iceberg, but I mean there are still a lot that you guys haven’t seen that are outside of the trailer.  It’s like when we hit the Sugar Rush [game world], there’s other types of cameos and appearances and stuff that are more kind of tailored to the Sugar Rush world. There’s like a whole other layer of different kinds of video game theme things that kind of come in and out of the movie that I think there’s still a lot of surprises still, you know.  Like, I guess I should put it that way.  We haven’t just blown it all like in our teaser trailer.

One of the things that’s so intriguing about the film is John C. Reilly's involvement. But at some point he was obviously going to get a chance to do a film for Disney or Pixar, DreamWorks or something.  However, and I’m sure you get this question often, where did the idea of Sarah Silverman joining the cast come from? 

Rich Moore: I’m a huge fan of hers.  I think she is one of my favorites and I’ve been a fan for a long time. When we started working on the Sugar Rush world we thought, 'How can we make it not what people are expecting? We're building this candy world and the audience will come in with some expectations of what that’s like.'  [Sarah] was just like the first person I thought of.  I was a big fan of her autobiography that she wrote and I had her reading it [on a] books on tape on my iPod that I would listen to all the time.  Just the way that she would tell the stories about her as a kid.  And I just thought Sara playing like herself as a kid in a candy world is just like gold.  So that was something that we kind of hit on really, really early in developing the movie.  And I thought, you know, there’s a lot of people too that their minds are just kind of blown about Sarah Silverman in a Disney movie.  It’s like, 'How is that possible?' Sarah’s the first one to kind of point out well Eddie Murphy has been in a Disney movie and a DreamWorks movie and he had a career as a pretty kind of blue comedian.  So, hey look, if Eddie Murphy can make the jump it’s like, 'Why not?'  I’m just so in love with her and with all the other actors.  They bring so much to their roles.  I mean, John was like, 'I have not done animation because I don’t like the way that process sounds.'  So, I said to him, 'We can make it work however, whatever works best for us. If it works better to have you and Jack [McBrayer] working together [and] playing off of one another we’ll make that happen.  If you want to we can set it up [so you and] Sarah can do your scenes together.  It doesn’t have to take place in a vacuum.' I went to John because I knew that he was going to bring another layer to Ralph that we weren’t going to think of.  It was important to me to create an environment for him where he was comfortable doing that.  So and that’s why having actors record together isn’t necessarily normal for an animated film, but it was way worth it for this.

You've mentioned how this was a three-year process. At what point did you go and design the actual Fix-It-Felix game in the movie?  And to do that did you go to video game developers or did you do it just with animators?

Rich Moore: It's funny, over three years you can have things moving along [in the production] almost on separate rails [and this was one of them].  We went to a lot of different game studios just to kind of pick their brains and talk to them,  And then once we kind of did our research and once we did our homework we were able to kind of make really great design decisions and story decisions and feel like it comes out of a game, if that makes sense.

Did you create a real version of the game you can play on somebody’s computer?  How far did you go with it?

Rich Moore: We created like an arcade cabinet that is like the Fix-It Felix game, as it would have appeared like in 1982.  It’s playable. It is, I think, a really amazing version of a game from that era where it really feels like it came from that time period.  We’ve had them around our lounge here at work for a little while and people are just amazed when they play it.

Where are you currently with the film itself?  Are you done?  Are you almost done?

Rich Moore: We are in the home stretch.  I think we just have like a tiny little bit still to animate.  We’re still doing effects animation.  We’re scoring it right now.  We’re probably about a month and a half off to being completely finished.

"Wreck-it-Ralph" opens nationwide and in 3D on Nov. 2.

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Deborah Ann Woll in 'True Blood'

Everything's changing for Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) on "True Blood"

Credit: John P. Johnson/HBO

'True Blood' recap: Someone says goodbye in 'Gone, Gone, Gone'

Eric makes a choice between Godric and Lilith and there's a whole lotta stakin' goin' on

Here's something different: an unusually focused hour of "True Blood" that connected the dots between (almost) all of its various storylines.

No Ifrit. No hate group. No wolf pack. While the result was still of a piece with the disappointing season overall, it was less of a headache than usual. So let's get this over with, quick...

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