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<p>Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris share a laugh during the press day for 'Ruby Sparks'</p>

Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris share a laugh during the press day for 'Ruby Sparks'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton discuss bringing 'Ruby Sparks' to life

Plus we ask about the decision on how to explain the film's magic

I never spoke to directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris when they were making the rounds to support their first film, "Little Miss Sunshine."  I was aware of them from their music video work, and I enjoyed "Sunshine," but at that point, our paths just never ended up crossing.

This time, I made sure to set time aside so we could discuss their new film, "Ruby Sparks," which opens tomorrow in limited release.  I wanted to talk to them about the way pressure to match their first film's remarkable success played into the length of time it took them to decide on a follow-up.  I wanted to talk to them about working with Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan, and how they defined the different relationships they had with Kazan as a writer and as an actor.  And I absolutely wanted to talk to them about one of the key choices made in the film, one that may throw some viewers.

It's also always interesting to see what the dynamic is, even in conversation, between co-directors.  It's still not a common relationship, and Dayton and Faris are very unusual anyway, since most of the co-directors working are brothers or long-time writing partners.  In conversation, there's such a connected back and forth between them that I have to assume that bleeds into their professional dynamic as well.

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"The New Normal"

"The New Normal"

Credit: NBC

Press Tour 2012: 'New Normal' creator Ryan Murphy doesn't mind controversy

The 'Glee' mastermind thinks Million Moms protesters can be won over

When Andrew Rannells, star of the new NBC show "The New Normal" joked to a journalist at press tour, "Who are you going to offend this time?" he could have posed the question to show creator Ryan Murphy. The show about a gay couple hiring a surrogate to bear them a child has become the focus of a ban by One Million Moms. "I obviously have been through this before," sighed Murphy, who also created "Glee" and "American Horror Story." 

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<p>Alicia Keys</p>

Alicia Keys

Credit: RCA

Watch: Alicia Keys' lyric video for 'New Day'

Someone's going to have clean all that up...

Nothing says “New Day” like tagging and spray paint. For Alicia Keys, it actually is true.

The lyric video for her new single, “New Day,” features taggers spraying the song’s lyrics throughout various New York City walls. Lyrics also appear on the spray cans themselves. It’s a clever concept and the urban motif works well since Keys is so associated with New York and given the tune’s militant, rat-a-tap beat that is the farthest thing from bucolic.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>98 Degrees</p>

98 Degrees

98 Degrees hits the 'Today' stage for first TV performance in 10 years

Which other boy bands are we missing?

This is clearly the season of the boy band. Following Kevin Richardson’s decision to make Backstreet Boys whole again by rejoining the band, now we get official word that the 98 Degrees reunion is on.

As you know, it had been rumored to be on and then off again a few times already and seemed to somewhat pivot around when Nick Lachey’s baby with wife Vanessa Minnillo Lachey, was due. However, all that seems to be worked out. The group’s official coming out party will be Aug. 17, when the quartet makes its first television appearance in a decade on The Today Show’s summer concert series.

The next day, as members Nick and Drew Lachey had previously announced, the group will perform at the MixTape Festival in Hershey, Pa, alongside Kelly Clarkson, The Fray, LL Cool J, and other boy bands The Wanted and NKOTBSB (the collective composed of New Kids on The Block and Backstreet Boys).  Little baby Lachey, who is due in late summer/early fall, better not make an early appearance!

The group, whose biggest hits were “Because Of You,” “I Do” and “The Hardest Thing,”  is also in the studio working on a new album, its first since  2000. Although contemporaries of BSB, 98 Degrees never quite reached the same level of fervor, despite scoring two multi-platinum albums.

While NKOTBSB have done well on tour, including selling out Boston’s Fenway Park last summer (mainly due to the NKOTB’s hometown ties) and receiving favorable reviews, radio has not shown the same nostalgic devotion for these acts as have their fans. Any new music has arrived with little fanfare, despite the acts’ trademark harmonies remaining in tact. While fans, who now probably have daughters who are loving One Direction and The Wanted just as their moms loves BSB or NKOTB did, are happy to relive their youth by going to the concert, they don't particularly care about new music.

By the way, if you’re Team BSB instead of Team 98 Degrees, BSB will be on “Good Morning America” on Aug. 31.

Any boy band you'd like to see reunite? 

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<p>Every opportunity I have to run this Darkness promotional photo, I&nbsp;will</p>

Every opportunity I have to run this Darkness promotional photo, I will

Credit: Wind-Up

Listen: The Darkness drop Radiohead cover on heels of 'Hot' single

'Everybody Have a Good Time': a bear in a bikini, hot girls in glasses, a Tommy gun

Finally. Cock-rockers The Darkness have released the studio version of their Radiohead cover "Street Spirit (Fade Out)." The prophecies have been fulfilled, the earth can now enter a period of raining frogs, the seven horsemen and all the trimmings of the 2012 apocalypse.

There are natural limitations to hair metal revisited, but the English band delivers in stripes on this track, particularly since "The Bends" original last for about 4:15 and this one clocks in (in my mind) at about 35 seconds, more or less. Tenacious D may have cornered the market on tongue-cheeking '80s hard-rock, but the Darkness are straight-up making out with it.

Listen to Darkness' version of "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" here.

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<p>From &quot;Give It Away&quot;</p>

From "Give It Away"

Watch: Andrew Bird's 'Give It Away' is a bummer birthday party

Piñata man is in the wrong line of work

Andrew Bird's music video for "Give It Away" features a Piñata Man who "plays" children's birthday parties. Piñata Man is obviously in the wrong line of work.

I'm sure this is a metaphor for something. Something. Also, it wasn't just your mom who was nuts growing up.

"Give It Away" is off of "Break It Yourself," a title which seems to have some bearings on piñatas everywhere. The album was released earlier this year.

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<p>Christopher Nolan on the set of &quot;The&nbsp;Dark&nbsp;Knight&quot;</p>

Christopher Nolan on the set of "The Dark Knight"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Lists: Top 10 things Christopher Nolan got right with his Batman trilogy

How the franchise nailed the mythos

"The Dark Knight Rises" is here and lists are wildly en vogue this week. Lots of picking it apart here, sticking up for it there, etc. It's turned out to be an unexpectedly divisive film, and after a second look yesterday, I certainly still have my issues. But I should be clear: I'm really appreciative of what Christopher Nolan has given us.

People will twist themselves into pretzels to discuss the zeitgeist elements of the new film and drawing over-inflated political parallels, etc., but I think most Batman fans -- even those like me who were disappointed by "The Dark Knight Rises" -- can agree on one thing. We're glad there is a series of films built around this character that we can be proud of.

So while we will surely be talking about the new film for a number of months to come -- perhaps into the awards season, perhaps not -- I personally feel like I've had my say. And I'd rather leave it on a positive note.

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<p>Because when I think of film festivals, the first thing that comes to mind is Bruce Willis and machine guns.</p>

Because when I think of film festivals, the first thing that comes to mind is Bruce Willis and machine guns.

Credit: Sony Pictures

Malick and the Wachowskis and 'Looper'? Oh, my, the Toronto 2012 Fest looks great

How many great films can one festival fit into ten days of programming?

I am almost embarrassed about how excited I am for this year's Toronto International Film Festival.

Then again, when you look at the list of movies playing this year, announced this morning by the fest, it is overstuffed with potentially excellent films, and the one problem I have right now is figuring out how I'm going to see everything I want to see.  Sometimes, festivals can kick the crap out of you no matter how well you plan, and I've certainly had festivals where I felt like the schedule beat me.  I think I had a pretty great Toronto last year, and I think it may be one of the best examples of what I want to do at a festival, and part of that is just because I've gotten comfortable in the city finally and I feel at ease when I'm there and working. In addition, the people who actually put on the festival have always made me feel, as both journalist and audience member, like I was welcome, like they can't wait to share the films they've programmed.

This year, it looks like they have every reason to be proud of the festival they're putting together, with a huge buffet of films that represent a pretty spectacular who's who in filmmaking around the world right now.

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<p>Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover</p>

Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover

Watch: Childish Gambino's 'Fire Fly' vid is a sci-fi adventure

Donald Glover: now with more lens flare

One could say that the now-canceled TV show "Firefly" was simply ahead of its time. Childish Gambino's track "Fire Fly" makes a similar argument for why it's taking the rapper so long to be appreciated among peers.

The music video for the song is a little combination of both. The narrative features an underdog that very much looks like Donald Glover, put on the trail to intergalactic travel. But a more traditional action plot unravels, there's conflict, and dude even gets to kiss The Girl. Queue the lens flare.

"I used to get called 'Oreo' and 'faggot' / I used to get more laughs when I got laughed at / Oh you got a mixtape? That's fantastic," he raps. "It's hard to make Hov the footsteps you followin' / Especially when your n*ggas look like Carlton... No live shows, cause I can't find sponsors / For the only black kid at a Sufjan concert... Now I'm firefly like a burning kite / And you'sa fake f*ck like a Fleshlight."

Perhaps a "Revenge of the Nerds" plotline would be more befitting, but space travel also fulfills that "Living well..." adage.

"Firefly" is off of Gambino's "Camp," out last year, and he has a new mixtape "Royalty" out now, too. The actor/rapper's show "Community" is making buzz at the TCAs today, especially after NBC said its seeking broader comedies than it. Read all about it on HitFix.

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<p>Sofia Vergara and Julie Bowen are among the &quot;Modern Family&quot;&nbsp;actors demanding a significant pay raise.</p>

Sofia Vergara and Julie Bowen are among the "Modern Family" actors demanding a significant pay raise.

Credit: ABC

'Modern Family' contract dispute leads to lawsuit, canceled table read

Can this be resolved before ABC comes to press tour on Friday?

Because the summer press tour takes place right around the time network shows are resuming production for the next season, there's been something of a tradition of contract disputes playing out right as the network in question is about to arrive at the tour. One of my first tours involved the cast of "Friends" uniting to negotiate a better deal, with every reporter too busy covering the salary impasse to pay any attention to the new shows NBC was trying to promote. In the mid-'00s, CBS fired "CSI" cast holdouts George Eads and Jorja Fox midway through the tour, eventually welcoming them back — at their previous salaries — after enough time had passed for them to learn their lessons.

These issues tend to crop up around hit shows — the cast of "Happy Endings," great as they are, don't have a ton of leverage — and this summer's dispute involves one of the biggest hits anywhere in television: "Modern Family."

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<p>Rob Thomas</p>

Rob Thomas


Matchbox 20's Rob Thomas joins 'The Voice' as mentor with Team Cee Lo Green

Who should be Team Christina Aguilera's mentor?

Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas has joined “The Voice” as a mentor for Season 3. Thomas will work with Cee Lo Green’s team.

His participation leaves Christina Aguilera as the only judge yet to announce a mentor: Mary J. Blige recently signed on with Team Adam Levine and Michael Buble is with Team Blake Shelton. I’d love to see Aguilera bring in someone like Bruno Mars or Taio Cruz. Each of the mentors brings a different vocal perspective to the show and they contrast nicely with the judge they've been paired with.

Thomas told Us Weekly, which broke the news, that he “loves the idea that I may be in the room with a future superstar that the world has yet to discover.” 

He probably also loves how “The Voice” helped bring Maroon 5 and Adam Levine back to the top of the charts with their smash “Moves Like Jagger” featuring Aguilera. Levine has used his “The Voice” stint as a launchpad to get into acting as well, including an upcoming role in “American Horror Story” and in the movie "Can A Song Save Your Life."  Matchbox 20’s first full album of new material, “North,” comes out Sept. 4. The new season of “The Voice” premieres Sept. 10 on NBC. Nice timing, right?  The group has already released “She’s So Mean,” the first single from the set, which I reviewed here.

Thomas is a funny, smart guy who is going to be a great asset to the show. He’d been hinting in recent tweets that he had something big coming up and I was hoping that he was going to be named an “American Idol” judge, but this may be a better move for now since it allows him to get his feet wet and see how he likes the reality show world. Still, it would have been a kick to see Thomas, who is very low-key, and newly-announced "AI" judge Mariah Carey bounce of each other. I assessed Carey's strengths and weaknesses as a judge here.

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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

Tech Support: Ben Richardson on photographing 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'

Finding the film's visual vocabulary with young Quvenzhané Wallis as his muse

LOS ANGELES - Cinematographer Ben Richardson was living in the Czech Republic in 2003 working on an animated film with a friend when he moved into a building full of interesting, creative filmmaker types, a salon of sorts for like-minded film enthusiasts. One of those enthusiasts was director Benh Zeitlin, who was hard at work on his own animated endeavor. They hit it off over their love of animator Jan Švankmajer and a collaboration was born.

"I’d always wanted to be a filmmaker," Richardson says, "but I had kind of concluded that I really wanted just to explore something unique. And animation is a great way to do something ambitious on an incredibly low budget. The only thing you really need is time and perseverance. You don't need a lot of materials or equipment, you know, lighting-wise. You just need a sensitivity to light."

Eventually his passion for animation bridged a gap to a passion for photography. He had played with dark rooms when he was younger and took classes in school, but he was mostly taken by theater at a younger age. Soon, though, he started to fall in love with the role of the camera in filmmaking and the way it related to the actors.

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