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<p>Olivia Munn in &quot;The Newsroom.&quot;</p>

Olivia Munn in "The Newsroom."

Credit: HBO

Review: 'The Newsroom' - 'News Night 2.0'

Mackenzie unveils a new philosophy for the show, and Will discusses immigration

A review of tonight's "The Newsroom" coming up just as soon as I am the integrity...

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Joe Manganiello on 'True Blood'
Between "Magic Mike" and finally hooking up with Sookie, it was a big weekend for Joe Manganiello
Credit: HBO

'True Blood' recap: Sookie hooks up in 'We'll Meet Again'

Also, Jason and Andy visit fairy land and Pam and Eric reunite

After last week's commendably focused episode, "True Blood" returned to its usual scattershot ways this week in an all-over-the-place installment. It was a hour heavy on vampire blood ties (the ways in which vampires consider themselves "family" were stressed throughout) but low on real thrills or surprises.

If it wasn't for Kristin Bauer van Straten's continued excellence as a suddenly dramatically dominant Pam, this week would've been a total wash. But let's break it down:

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<p>Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller of &quot;Elementary&quot;</p>

Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller of "Elementary"

Credit: CBS

Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'

Time to get over those 'Sherlock' comparisons and just move on

[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: "Elementary" (CBS)
The Pitch: "You know that British series 'Sherlock'? We want capitalize on its success by doing something completely different and using a different name." "Wouldn't it be easier to say that you just wanted to become the latest in a long line of people to adapt Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes character and his auspices?" "Sure. But some people are so lazy that they'll invariably say we're ripping off 'Sherlock' even if the similarities are barely even superficial." "Why don't you just do your own thing?" "Fiiiiiiine."
Quick Response: I'm going to get really pissed off in a couple months when critics and audiences alike are incapable of viewing "Elementary" as its own thing and insist upon comparing it to "Sherlock," either because it's not as good or implying that Rob Doherty and company ripped off the British hit. And let's get this out of the way: "Elementary" isn't as good as "Sherlock." See? That was an easy and painless comparison. "Sherlock" is one of the best things on TV. "Elementary" isn't. Very few things are. "Elementary," though, has the makings of a far better-than-average CBS procedural that takes Arthur Conan Doyle's famous and endlessly adapted character and handles him in a way that has ZERO similarities to the interpretation by Steven Moffat and company. NOTHING. This is a different text that should be allowed to rise or fall on its own and I feel like it rises to its own -- lower, but acceptable if not held directly next to it -- level. Jonny Lee Miller, channeling back to his "Trainspotting" days, is a Sherlock Holmes who's like Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes only insofar as they both come from the same source material. It's a different performance and a very interesting and compelling performance from Miller. There's an interesting sense of Holmes' addictive personality and an awareness of the curse of his intellect. And Miller's doing his own accent, which is nice. Miller's much more interesting when he's playing at least partially damaged, so this should work. Lucy Liu's Watson isn't as immediately vivid, but Doherty's script makes some effort to investigate how it might behoove Holmes to have a female partner, or at least how it might impact his methodology. It's not exactly there yet, but there are kernels. At least in the pilot, there are no kernels of Unfulfilled Sexual Tension. Will that come eventually? Yes. Sigh. But it's not set up in the pilot. Whew. In Doyle's Holmes stories and in "Sherlock," he solves a case per installment. That's the CBS procedural model as well. So it's not ill-suited. Was I interested in the procedural case? No. Was I interested in Holmes' approach to the case? Sometimes. Pilot director Michael Cuesta has given the show a very good look that's both distinctive, but no so distinctive as to be off-brand for CBS. And Aidan Quinn is, as always, just there. He may as well be playing his "Prime Suspect" character for all I know. I think that Michael Emerson's "Person of Interest" character would get along very well with Sherlock Holmes and that "Elementary" should be complimentary pairing with its lead-in. I liked this pilot much more than I liked the "PoI" pilot. But, then again, I really disliked the "PoI" pilot. So, who knows what that really means.
Desire To Watch Again: Reasonable. I wouldn't have thought I was a huge Jonny Lee Miller fan, but I watched every episode of "Smith," every episode of "Eli Stone" and his full arc on "Dexter." This'll probably land a DVR slot along with "Scandal" in the 10 p.m. hour on Thursdays and my sense is that, at the very least, it could be a OK laundry-folding drama along the lines of "Castle," which also features a more-than-slightly Holmes-ian main character.

Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
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>&quot;Arrow&quot;</p>

"Arrow"

Credit: WBTV/The CW

Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'

DC Comics property gets a solid treatment from The CW

[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: "Arrow" (The CW)
The Pitch: "Remember 'Smallville'? We still have corporate ties to DC. Let's leverage a brand!" "But the guy who was the Green Arrow is already on another of our pilots." "No worries. There's more than one stud muffin on the pastry shelf."
Quick Response: Actually, "Arrow" is less like "Smallville," either in tone or in depiction of its central character, and more like "Nikita," only with a mask and a bow-and-arrow. Directed by David Nutter, the "Arrow" pilot is short on comic book whimsy and long on real-world grounding and muscularity. The entire dark-and-steely aesthetic is, again, much more "Nikita" than "Smallville," and Nutter can always be counted upon to get good production values. Leading Man Stephen Amell has the requisite physicality and his cheekbones are just another facet of the show's intended look. There is a definite decline in his effectiveness when he talks -- ditch the voiceover! -- but his woodenness is far from crippling, except for in scenes with Katie Cassidy, when the conversations are so flat and affectless as to drain all forward momentum. Nobody's going to care about that. Amell's in VERY good shape, you believe he can kick butt and The CW's core demo is going to be appreciative that while his character has scarring over 20 percent of his body, none of that scarring is on the pretty parts. The rest of the supporting cast is full of people I like, including Willa Holland -- Kaitlin Cooper's all grows up! -- Showkiller Paul Blackthorne, Colin Salmon and Susanna Thompson. I also appreciated the efficiency of the origin story (premise-setting efficiency is a hallmark of many of the year's better pilots) and although the core narrative thrust is perhaps a bit too "Revenge"-y for its own good, it seems fruitful enough to carry the show for a while. I mean, "Revenge" could use more people shooting arrows at people. Other than the aforementioned plank-like (and problematically chemistry-free) scenes between Amell and Cassidy (who's fine in her other scenes), the "Arrow" pilot chugs along at a good pace throughout, spiked here and there by well-executed fight and action scenes.
Desire To Watch Again: "Arrow" doesn't break far from a certain branch of CW formula, but it delivers on its goals quite proficiently. I'm not going to say this is inspired TV, but there isn't a lot like it and there's at least an off chance it could draw male viewers in addition to The CW's core. Given that I've stuck with "Nikita" for two full seasons and I don't especially like it, I'll definitely give "Arrow" some additional episodes.

Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
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>Justin Bieber can fly. That's why he's No.1.&nbsp;</p>

Justin Bieber can fly. That's why he's No.1. 

Credit: Chris Young/AP

Justin Bieber reigns over this week's Music Power Rankings

Adele, Bruce Springsteen and The Flaming Lips share the spotlight

1. Justin Bieber: The 18-year old’s “Believe” bows at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with the largest weekly sales for a new album so far in 2012. While that’s great news for him, if 373,000 is the most the industry can muster for an artist who is keyed in to social media 24/7, cue “Taps.”

2. Adele: British singer/songwriter and singlehanded album sales savior announces her first pregnancy.  Music industry cries like a baby at the thought of her disappearing for awhile.

3. Eminem: A judge rules that FBT Productions, the producers behind many of his hits, may proceed with their lawsuit against Universal Music Group, which the judge accuses of trying to “bamboozle” the court by not revealing key revenues. The landmark case will determine if downloads count as licenses or sales. The determination could mean that Universal- and other labels-- will owe artists millions in back royalties. It’s not sexy, but it is a huge case.

4. Bruce Springsteen: He’s named MusiCare’s Person of the Year, following in the footsteps of Neil Young, Barbra Streisand and Paul McCartney. We can’t wait to hear Carly Rae Jepsen’s version of “Candy’s Room” at the tribute dinner.

5. Flaming Lips: The set the Guinness World Record for most live shows in 24 hours in different cities. Wayne Coyne & Co. played eight shows across Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. The band’s comment on the feat: “Zzzzzzzz.”

6. M83: French electronic act gets the call to score “Oblivion,” the new sci-fi Tom Cruise movie helmed by “Tron: Legacy” director Joseph Kosinski. Insert favorite Cruise/Holmes joke you’ve heard this weekend here, but it must include the movie title.

7. Chris Brown/Drake:
Yeah, we know it’s not going to happen, but isn’t there part of you that would have loved for the two fighting artists to have taken celebrity boxing promoter Damon Feldman up on his $1 million offer to go at it in the ring.  And, by the way, never say never. We’re sure “The Partridge Family’s” Danny Bonaduce and “The Brady Bunch’s” Barry Williams never thought that’s where their careers were headed in the ‘70s.

8. Swedish House Mafia:
The groundbreaking superstar DJing trio announced this the current tour will be its last. As their said in their statement: “We came, we raved, we loved.”

9. Rolling Stones: Shephard Fairey designs the legendary band’s 50th anniversary.  Only advice from Mick: Don’t touch the tongue.

10. Sony: While the EMI/Universal recorded music merger gets reviewed under a microscope, the Federal Trade Commission approves Sony’s $.2.2 billion purchase of EMI’s music publishing assets. The combined company vaults to the world’s largest publisher.

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<p>David Nordstrom and Megan Boone in &quot;Leave Me Like You Found Me.&quot;</p>

David Nordstrom and Megan Boone in "Leave Me Like You Found Me."

Credit: Adele Romanski

Taking the waters at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival

Czech fest opens with Irish music bio 'Good Vibrations'

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic - "All of this... for some movies?" The line -- spoken by a fellow critic, mind -- was tinged not with contempt, but genuine astonishment. We were standing on the humming, uplit terrace of the Grand Hotel Pupp, the largest and swankiest of many large and swanky hotels in the sequestered Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary, gazing out at the bewilderingly lavish party not much laid as frosted on for the opening night of the town's 47th annual film festival.

Inside, several hundred champagne-marinated guests filled the hotel's five vast banquet rooms, straying only a gentle distance from a vast buffet -- of which a five-foot tuna laid on ice and getting surgically sashimi'ed was a mere sideshow. Somewhere downstairs, Helen Mirren -- honored for her contribution to European cinema at the festival's opening ceremony earlier in the evening -- and assorted Czech politicos lived it up in a presumably gilded VIP lounge: perhaps their tuna was even larger, their pancake station a queue-free affair. (Yes, all film festivals from here on out should have a pancake station.) I have yet to see a festival bash even half as shiny; it made the charmingly beery ceilidhs of the Edinburgh Film Festival last week look wattle-and-daub-esque by comparison.

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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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