Latest Blog Posts

<p>Edie Falco and Bobby Cannavale in &quot;Nurse Jackie.&quot;</p>

Edie Falco and Bobby Cannavale in "Nurse Jackie."

Credit: Showtime

Season finale review: 'Nurse Jackie' - 'Handle Your Scandal'

A consequence-heavy season comes to a strong conclusion

A review of the "Nurse Jackie" season finale coming up just as soon as security comes to escort me from the building...

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<p>Few film series have the iconic weight of the James Bond series, but today we explain a more personal reason for this year-long exploration of every film in the franchise.</p>

Few film series have the iconic weight of the James Bond series, but today we explain a more personal reason for this year-long exploration of every film in the franchise.

Credit: EON/MGM/UA

James Bond Declassified: Father's Day Dossier

A look back, a look ahead, and when you can read the rest of the series

It is the 50th anniversary of James Bond's first theatrical feature film this year.

That alone would be justification enough to write my special series in which we review each and every film in the official James Bond franchise so far, but I must confess a more personal motivation at work here.

1977 was a big year for me in terms of figuring out my tastes as a filmgoer.  It was obviously the year that "Star Wars" was released, and that film was like a lightning bolt someone fired directly into the top of my head.  It was also the year that "Smokey and the Bandit" was released, and in some ways, that film was like my dad's "Star Wars," a movie that seemed to be almost specifically engineered for his pleasure.  It made a huge impression on me, seeing him laugh like that, seeing how completely he handed himself over to it.  My dad is cut from that same sort of pure cowboy cloth as Sam Elliott, and growing up, his stoicism was one of the things that defined my idea of manhood.  Watching him laugh so hard he cried was uncommon, but it did happen on occasion, and I made careful note of what did it to him.

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<p>Carly Rae Jepsen</p>

Carly Rae Jepsen

Credit: Jonathan Short/AP

Music Power Rankings: Carly Rae Jepsen definitely tops the list

Madonna, Usher, and Adam Levine also make this week's tally

1. Carly Rae Jepsen: “Call Me Maybe” finally goes to No. 1 on the Hot 100 after selling more than 3.3. million downloads.. Definitely the song of the summer.

2. Usher:
His new album, “Looking 4 Myself” will find its way to No. 1 next week and is receiving some of the best reviews of his career. An artist starts what looks to be a brilliant new chapter.

3. Madonna: It may not have been elegant or classy, but she certainly got our attention not once, but twice, this week by flashing her nip and flashing her G-string in concert. Hey Madge, leave the antics to those who don’t have talent and a gazillion Top 40 hits to draw upon.

4. Adam Levine First “American Horror Story” and now “Can A Song Save Your Life.” The Maroon 5 frontman/”The Voice” judge lands his first leading role in a motion picture, starring alongside Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo. Someone wants more than just Grammy  Awards.

5. John Janick: The mastermind behind the Fueled By Ramen label (home to fun., Cobra Starship, Gym Class Heroes, Paramore and more)  jumps from WMG to Interscope president/COO in one of the biggest label coups in recent years.

6. Rebecca Ferguson: The “X Factor U.K.” runner up is on Simon Cowell’s label and she’s managed by the same folks who handle One Direction. Plus she can really sing. Go ahead and get onboard now.

7. EMI/UMG merger:
After it seemed like a relatively sure bet, all bets are off as the European Commission steps up its scrutiny and Senate Judiciary Antitrust hearings announced their dockets of witnesses for June 21’s hearings.

8. Long Live Rock: After a relatively fallow period, rock is surging with new releases from Neil Young, Linkin Park, and the Offspring this month. Coming soon: Muse, Green Day, No Doubt, Aerosmith and many more.

9. The Beach Boys:
As incredulous as it sounds, the boys of summer score their best chart debut ever in their 50 year career as “That’s Why God Made the Radio” bows at No. 3. Surf’s Up, boys.

10. Frances W. Preston: Though not known widely outside the music industry, the former BMI head, who died this week at 83, was a pioneer in every sense of the word: the first female corporate executive in Tennessee was a songwriter’s best friend. Goodbye to one of the last trailblazers.

 

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<p>Will Forte is in two of this weekend's new movies, and we spoke to him about working with Adam Sandler on the very raunchy 'That's My Boy'</p>

Will Forte is in two of this weekend's new movies, and we spoke to him about working with Adam Sandler on the very raunchy 'That's My Boy'

Credit: HitFix

'That's My Boy' stars Will Forte, Ciara, and Leighton Meester get dirty for Adam Sandler

We interview the eclectic supporting cast of the new Happy Madison comedy

By now, it's starting to look like "That's My Boy" is taking a bit of a hit at the box-office this weekend, a shock after the almost unassailable commercial strength of his movies over the last decade or so.  After all, when something like "Grown-Ups" can make a Scrooge McDuck-sized pile of cash, it's not like the viewing public is exactly discerning when it comes to Adam Sandler's films.

So what happened with "That's My Boy"?  Although our own Geoff Berkshire wrote the official HitFix review, I'd just add that the film reminds me of Sandler's early comedy albums and his first few films in the way it feels unfettered, like anything goes.  The R-rating seems to have allowed Sandler and his crew to try some things they haven't tried before, and, yes, the results are crude and often breathtakingly crass, but I'd rather see Sandler lay it all out there like this than sleepwalk through a vacation video with his millionaire buddies.

You've got to get everyone on board if you're going to make a movie as completely deranged as "That's My Boy," from Sandler to the supporting cast to Sean Anders, the director of the film, who also made "Sex Drive" a few years ago.  I've run several interviews this week with cast members, including Sandler and Andy Samberg, but this last interview we've got for you tonight is actually three of them put together.

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<p>Quvenzhan&eacute; Wallis in &quot;Beasts of the Southern Wild&quot;</p>

Quvenzhané Wallis in "Beasts of the Southern Wild"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Quvenzhané Wallis: One of Oscar's better stories waiting to happen

You'll be hearing about the 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' star a lot this season

Every Oscar season needs a pulse of emotion that feels less put-on, that doesn't have that whiff of campaign or construct. Something that organically pops from the fabric of the form can be galvanizing, and though nothing can exist so pure for too long, the recognition of a tempest in the calm before it strikes means something.

Quvenzhané Wallis is that tempest for 2012. And though we've been intimating as much since the film bowed at Sundance, it bears repeating: get ready to hear a lot more about this 8-year-old natural.

Wallis was five when director Benh Zeitlin went searching through over 4,000 young ladies for the lead role of Hushpuppy in his festival sensation "Beasts of the Southern Wild." She was six when she delivered the performance in the film, one that is likely to be a formidable contender on the awards circuit this season, a road that could well end with her nabbing the record for the youngest Best Actress nominee in history.

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<p>Usher</p>

Usher

Credit: Chris Pizzello/AP

Usher will find himself at No. 1 on next week's Billboard 200

What happens to Adele?

Usher’s “Looking 4 Myself” should handily come in at No. 1 on next week's Billboard 200 as it’s poised to be the only title that will surpass the 100,000 mark.

The R&B superstar’s album is one of five new releases that will come into the Top 10. Rush’s “Clockwork Angels” will just miss the 100,000, as it is projected to come in at No 2 with sales of 90,000-95,000, according to Hits Daily Double.

British singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran’s “+” will land at No. 4 with a tally of between 45,000-50,000. Country singer Josh Turner’s “Punching Bag” will land at No. 6 with 40,000-45,000 and rapper Waka Flocka Flame’s “Triple F Life” looks good at No. 8, with sales of up to 32,000.

The rest of the Top 10 shakes out with Adele’s “21” falling from No 1 to No. 3, One Direction’s “Up All Night” will be at No. 5 (unless it can’t head off a charge by Turner). Alan Jackson’s “Thirty Miles West” goes from No. 2 to No. 7. John Mayer’s former No. 1, “Born and Raised” goes to No. 9 and Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away” lands at No. 10.



 

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<p>Tim Burton exams some puppet hands on the set of &quot;Frankenweenie.&quot;</p>

Tim Burton exams some puppet hands on the set of "Frankenweenie."

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Tim Burton takes you on a tour of the sets of 'Frankenweenie'

Bringing a black and white passion project to life

LONDON - Some directors are enthusiastic about working with actors.  Others get an adrenaline rush from difficult shots and exotic locales.  And there is even a select group that find the most exciting part of the filmmaking process to be the decisions made in the editing room.  Tim Burton may enjoy all aspects of making movies, but he admits there is a special joy he gets on a stop-motion animated film just from the "props and things that people are making." 

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<p>Peter Buck (2008)</p>

Peter Buck (2008)

Listen: R.E.M.'s Peter Buck goes solo on '10 Million BC'

Boggy garage rocker arrives ahead of as-yet-untitled solo set

Since R.E.M. split, it sounds like guitarist Peter Buck has been spending time in the garage.

The rocker is stepping out solo with a new album and now has "10 Million BC" to show for it. The boggy, Jon Spencer-styled track made its bow on WFMU this week, with Buck's collaborator in The Baseball Project, Steve Wynn, introducing it.

"10 Million BC" is from Buck's forthcoming, as-yet-untitled effort, with no word yet when to expect a whole package -- a package which may be released on vinyl-only.

R.E.M. called it quits last September. And I've really enjoyed Michael Stipe's cameos on "Colbert."

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<p>Whitney Houston in 2010</p>

Whitney Houston in 2010

Review: Grammy doc 'A Death in the Family' looks at Whitney Houston's passing

What happens when a superstar dies 24 hours before the big show?

Earlier this week, The Recording Academy debuted “A Death in the Family: The Show Must Go On.”  The 26-minute documentary details how the 54th annual Grammy Awards put together a tribute to Whitney Houston for the telecast 24 hours following her death.

I was out of town and couldn’t attend the June 11 premiere and Q&A in Hollywood, but the short film is available for viewing on Grammy.com and will also be part of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.

The documentary is decidedly and deliberately non-showy: small talking heads often appear in a corner of a shot of an artist performing before expanding to the full screen. There’s a certain low-tech, news story approach to the whole enterprise.

The piece doesn’t go into any of the back story behind’s Houston’s death, instead staying focused on its mission: What happens when one of music’s top names dies 24 hours before the Grammys? With the show locked, how quickly can everything change and how does a show pay homage without seeming exploitative? Producer Ken Ehrlich, show writer David Wild, exec producer Terry Lickona, and Recording Academy head Neil Portnow are among those detailing how the Feb. 12 telecast was updated practically minute-by-minute following Houston’s death. Host LL Cool J also chronicles how he approached Houston’s death and his highly unusual decision to insert a prayer in his opening monologue.

Everyone speaks totally with one voice, as if there was never any debate at all as to how to honor Whitney, while taking care not to turn the program into the Houston show. That could be because they don’t want to show any possible dissension or  there was never any discussion at all over how to honor Houston after Ehrlich thought of  having Jennifer Hudson, who did a remarkable job, pay tribute or because the train had already left the station so there was no time for discussion, just execution.

The doc’s title is a bit of a misnomer: Houston’s death didn’t happen in a vacuum with the rest of the show totally locked and loaded: With less than 48 hours to go, Paul McCartney decided that he wanted to change his show closer from “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” to the much smarter “Abbey Road” medley that includes “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and “The End.” Not only was the Beatle changing his tune, literally, he now wanted Dave Grohl, Joe Walsh and Bruce Springsteen to join him. It would have been interesting to know how the producers dealt with the extra time needed for both Houston's tribute and the longer McCartney number.

While the emotional appeal of calling the documentary “ A Death in the Family”  is understandable, the documentary is just as much about the McCartney performance as the Houston addition. Plus, the McCartney portion provides some of the most glowing commentary. Where else will you hear Springsteen raving like a fan boy about playing with McCartney, the fulfillment of a wish he’s had since 1964? Or hear Grohl say he felt like he was standing next to Mt. Rushmore as he looked over at McCartney, Walsh and Springsteen?

The documentary works well on face value, but it has a very important additional role here that has nothing to do with educating the Grammy-watching public: The Grammys are using the film as a way to reach out to Emmy voters, and it is none too subtle.  Part of Portnow’s main role in the film is to brag about the team that produces the show and really stress the exceptional way the Grammys, every year, not just this one, come together.

Remarkably, the Grammys have never won an Emmy for best program, as Gold Derby points out, and if it’s going to happen, this is the time. Not only did the Grammys score their second highest ratings ever, drawing 39 million viewers,  they tied this year’s Oscar ratings and beat the 2011 Oscars, even though the Oscars are traditionally considered the much “bigger” show and the Grammys have always suffered a little in the Academy Awards’ shadow.

In case all the talking heads haven’t made their points persuasively enough, the documentary ends, as Springsteen’s Grammy-opening number “We Take Care Of Own” plays, with a montage of the 20 or so extremely diverse performances that took place during the 3-hour telecast...as if to say to voters, “C’mon. Is there really any other show that deals with as much technical switch-ups as we do? Really?” It’s as subtle as a sledge hammer, but very effective and impressive.

Whether you want to view “A Death in the Family” as a documentary or as a marketing tool, it’s a compelling look behind the curtain of how the “biggest night in music,” as the Grammys have self-proclaimed their evening to be, comes together under unbelievably challenging circumstances...even when “one of their own,” as LL Cool J called Houston, doesn’t die on the eve of the show.

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<p>Julianne Hough with Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin in &quot;Rock of Ages&quot;</p>

Julianne Hough with Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin in "Rock of Ages"

Julianne Hough on her favorite scenes in 'Rock of Ages' and Mary J. Blige

What does she find 'nerve wracking' about her next movie?

Julianne Hough wasn’t born until 1988, a year after “Rock of Ages” takes place, but she seems the perfect choice to play the naive, hopeful Sherrie Christian in the movie, which opens today.

With her all-American looks and her sweet voice, Hough personifies the girl who arrives on a bus from the midwest and with a gee-whiz, can-do attitude chases her dreams along the Sunset Strip.

The movie, unlike the play, tells its story through Sherrie’s eyes as she experiences all of Hollywood’s excesses for the first time. Though Hough, who was introduced to audiences through “Dancing With the Stars,” has appeared in other movies, such as “Burlesque” and “Footloose,” “Rock Of Ages” was the first to pair her with such megastars as Tom Cruise, Mary J. Blige, Catherine Zeta Jones and Alec Baldwin.

Playing the ingenue who temporarily captures the attentions of Stacee Jaxx (played by Cruise) was a blast, Hough says, who jokes that she didn’t have to act when her character is starstruck by Jaxx.  However, as much as she loved playing opposite Cruise, her favorite scenes took place in the strip club, and with her love interest, Drew, played by Diego Boneta. “We had so many fun scenes,” she says. “All the strip club stuff was fun. I really love the love montage we did because that was Drew and Sherrie falling in love. They were all these short little scenes and they were setting the tone of the movie. That was the most fun for me.”

Though she is an extraordinary dancer, Hough says she was in awe of the talents displayed by the “pole specialists” in the movie. “ They’ve got some ripped bodies, that’s for sure,” she says.  

Hough also enjoyed developing a friendship with Blige, who plays the strip club proprietor who takes Sherrie under her wing.  She was struck by Blige’s humility as the Grammy-winning singer continues, like Hough, to develop her acting skills. “She’s one of the most influential women in music and yet she doesn’t know it,” Hough says. “I’d be like, ‘That’s amazing!,” and she’d be like, ‘Really? You really thought that was okay? I’m not sure about it.’  The fact that she’s that humble and she’s who she is is just a testament how there are so many people in this world we put in pedestals and they’re just human beings, you know.”

With each new movie, Hough, who is also signed to Mercury Nashville as a recording artist,  says her faith in her abilities grows. “I just keep getting more confident and more secure,” she says. “Also, because I learn so much from each movie and a lot of technical things: how a movie is made and the process, so I know how to use my stamina, you know what I mean, and be top energy all day long. That’s a hard part.”

Hough went straight from promoting “Rock of Ages” to filming “Safe Haven,” a romantic drama starring Josh Duhamel based on the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name. It will be one of Hough’s first non-singing roles. She admits she’s nervous about not having singing and dancing to fall back on, but also excited. “I love having a challenge and I think that’s what makes me better as a performer, as an actress, or whatever I may be pursuing, but I think the most nerve wracking part is I’m literally having to leave the press tour of ‘Rock of Ages’ to start shooting right away. I’ve always had a lot of prep time for movies so... that will be a little different, but I love different. I get bored if I’m doing the same thing long.”

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<p>Jonah&nbsp;Hill at the Academy's Nominees Luncheon in February</p>

Jonah Hill at the Academy's Nominees Luncheon in February

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

'Moneyball,' '21 Jump Street' star Jonah Hill joins the cast of Tarantino's 'Django Unchained'

The Oscar nominee further looks to diversify his output

Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" is still shooting, believe it or not, despite that Christmas Day release looming six months away. Two lengthy back-to-back shoots for Leonardo DiCaprio. That guy's gonna need a vacation.

Today comes news of further casting on the western romp, as Jonah Hill has joined the ensemble, according to a report at Deadline. Apparently Hill was in the mix for a larger role in the film at one point in time, but couldn't commit due to scheduling. It seems they've found room for him after all.

Hill has stepped up his profile plenty in the last few years. He's successfully jerked himself from the pigeonhole of broad comedy (though he'll continue to be in plenty of those, including this year's "The Watch"). An Oscar nomination for his performance in Bennett Miller's "Moneyball" certainly pushes that point.

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<p>Woody Allen and Penelope Cruz at the &quot;To Rome With Love&quot;&nbsp;premiere in Rome this past April.</p>

Woody Allen and Penelope Cruz at the "To Rome With Love" premiere in Rome this past April.

Credit: AP Photo

Woody Allen and Penelope Cruz bring 'To Rome With Love' to LA Film Fest

A big night for the downtown fest

LOS ANGELES - The LA Film Festival has always done an admirable job of bringing in major films for its opening or closing night galas.  Last year Richard Linklater's "Bernie" had its world premiere to kick off the 2011 edition of the festival and the year before eventual Oscar best picture nominee "The Kids Are All Right" inaugurated the event's move to LA Live (with riot police surrounding the after party following the Lakers NBA Championship win to boot).  2012 got off to a memorable start Thursday night with the U.S. premiere of Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love" and a surprise introduction from the legendary filmmaker himself.

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