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<p>You can add 'being punched by Liam Neeson' to my official list of phobias now.</p>

You can add 'being punched by Liam Neeson' to my official list of phobias now.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: Underwhelming 'Taken 2' fulfills the sequel law of diminishing returns

Liam Neeson still kicks ass with aplomb but the thrill is gone

At this point, it's safe to say "True Lies 2" is never going to happen, no matter how much Tom Arnold wishes it would.

The sad thing about that is there was a perfectly natural sequel built into the DNA of the first film, and even better, they cast is just right by accident.  When Eliza Dushku played the daughter of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis in the first film, that was before "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," and Dushku was still very young.  In the years since, she's grown into a credible action lead, thanks in large part to her years of working with Joss Whedon as the morally compromised Faith.  The first film dealt with the way spouses keep secrets within a marriage and how much stronger you are as a duo when you're able to finally see each other clearly without any lies to separate you.  The sequel could easily have been about that moment when a child finally starts to see their parents as people instead of just "parents," and how that adjustment can be difficult.  Putting Dushku in the middle of a spy caper with her parents could have paid off beautifully and actually expanded on the original's ideas thematically.

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<p>Ne-Yo at the iHeartRadio festival in September</p>

Ne-Yo at the iHeartRadio festival in September

Credit: AP Photo

Listen: Ne-Yo and Wiz Khalifa combine for 'Don't Make Em Like You'

Just what kind of woman does Ne-Yo want anyway?

Ne-Yo has dropped another ode to the ladies that can conduct themselves like decent human beings, this time with rapper Wiz Khalifa. "Don't Make Em Like You" has the R&B crooner tipping his hat to girls who aren't stumblebum drunk as they leave the club, and he likes you "just the way you are."

It has Khalifa on Cloud Nine, and he devotes his verses to his future wife and baby's mother Amber Rose. Instead all the puffery about puffing, the notorious stoner just leaves the green behind and suffices with a good high giggle at the end of the guest spot.

As for Ne-Yo, dude's got a mixed history of exactly what makes up a good woman. His hit "Miss Independent" likes a girl who can pay her own bills and "doesn't need you." "Let Me Love You (Until You Love Yourself)" on the flip side has the singer falling for someone with poor self-esteem, with the desire to fix her right up. Furthermore, he helped write "Pretty Girl Rock," Keri Hilson's awful failure in girl-power which sets its focus on women's looks and abilities to compete with one another.

Here, 32-year-old Ne-Yo just seems to be beyond the artifice. I'd extrapolate more, but I'm frequently distracted by the overbearing turntable noises and thudding refrain.

Happy to see Wiz in love, though.

The track can be found on Ne-Yo's next album "R.E.D.", due on Nov. 6

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<p>&quot;CeeLo's Magic Moment&quot;</p>

"CeeLo's Magic Moment"

Credit: Atlantic

Watch: CeeLo's 'Silent Night' features bounding Santa babes

What's the holidays without crass winking?

CeeLo Green is among the many pop singers with Christmas efforts coming to town, but the video-makers behind the video for his "Silent Night" can't help but to think of their own, erm, chimneys.

The slo-motion clip features a few Santas and their apparent helpers, who are in their underwear.

The song has a gospel choir and Green impeccable tone. I'm not sure what the audio has to do with the visual, but it helps explaining that this debuted on Maxim. Baby Jesus must be confounded by Los Angeles.

"CeeLo's Magic Moment" will be out in stores on Oct. 30, and will feature cameos from covers-addict Rod Stewart, Green's "The Voice" co-host Christina Aguilera, the Muppets and a capella fever dream Straight No Chaser.

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Handicapping the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees. Who gets in and who doesn't?

Public Enemy is a sure bet, but after that it gets murkier

This year’s crop of nominees for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is staggering eclectic and definitely stretches the traditional definition of rock and roll by a wide margin.

As we reported yesterday when the nominations were announced, such diverse acts as Motown girl group the Marvelettes are vying for a spot alongside Rush, Public Enemy and Donna Summer.

Below, I give a quick assessment to each act's chances, and boldly (and somewhat impulsively) declare yes or no on which artists will be inducted in the class of 2013. Only five acts go in each year, so many artists who are deserving will have to come back again later.

Rush: Finally!  The Canadian power trio has long been one of the Rock Hall’s most glaring omissions...along with virtually any other act that borders anywhere near prog rock. They’re tremendously successful, tremendously influential, and still going strong. Now that they have finally crossed the threshold to getting nominated, I predict that like Guns N’ Roses, who got in the first time, so will Rush. There is so much pent-up demand for this one.  YES

Deep Purple:
Like Rush, Deep Purple has been long neglected when it comes to attention from the Rock Hall, who has tended not to give heavy metal its due. How else can you explain Judas Priest and Iron Maiden also being roundly ignored. They should be in for “Smoke On The Water” alone. Plus, given how many former members there are, it would be a blast to see who actually shows up at the induction. Sadly, it’s too late for co-founder Jon Lord, who died earlier this year. NO

Public Enemy: Closest thing to a sure bet this year. Chuck D and company represent political rap that has had broad social impact far beyond the music. YES

N.W.A.: One of the most seminal gangsta rap acts, N.W.A., like PE,  produced music that spoke to the history of the times. They will definitely be rewarded down the line, but not this year. NO

Heart:  As I’ve previously written about Ann and Nancy Wilson, regarding their long omission, If they had testicles, they would have been in the first year they were eligible.  Having said that, Ann and Nancy Wilson have more balls than 99% of the rockers out there. Ann’s voice hasn’t diminished a bit--it can still peel the paint from the walls. YES

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts:  Jett is a true believer. Her influence on rock, in general, and on female rockers, specifically, is undeniable. In fact, her earlier band The Runaways deserve to be as well.  Dave Grohl called playing with her one of the highlights of his life. ‘Nuff said. However, in a year where she is up against Heart, it feels more like their year. NO

Randy Newman:  Newman’s singular, often witty, take on our  modern times filtered through his uniquely American view is a one-man history lesson. Plus, few singer/songwriters have ever captured the complexity of the male-female dynamic as honestly as he. YES

Donna Summer:
She’s been nominated five time before, but like fellow nominees, Chic, has a bit of an uphill climb since some voters still look at disco-era artists as anathema to rock and roll. However, given the outpouring of love she received following her death earlier this year may cause voters to reconsider and realize that is a total artist who has long deserved inclusion. It’s a shame that her induction didn’t happen before she died. YES

Kraftwerk: No reason to exit the Autobahn yet. The seminal experimental rock band  is rightly considered a pioneer in electronic music, but the competition is too tough for them this year. NEIN

Procol Harum:  My desire to see them play “Conquistador” aside, PH falls into a somewhat nebulous category of British rock groups that blended prog rock, baroque, and blues. Like Deep Purple, it would be very interesting to see who shows up at an induction. They deserve the nomination, but induction is probably quite some ways away. NO

Chic: If it were based solely on innovation, Chic should have been in the first year they were nominated in 2003 (they’ve been nominated six additional times). However, any votes that they would have gotten this year will likely go to Summer. The Rock Hall is going to have to eventually acknowledge what the rest of us already know: Chic was far more than “just” a disco act. NO

Albert King
: Two-thirds of the holy trinity of great blues Kings are already in as  both B.B. King and Freddie King. Albert is more than deserving, but it won’t happen this year. NO

Paul Butterfield Blues Band:
This seminal band has a vaunted place in the history books for its blending of rock and blues, but it may be some time before there’s a year that they land among the top five-- and it’s only going to get tougher as years go by and more acts become eligible. NO

The Marvelettes: The Rock Hall may not like disco, but the membership has bent over backwards to try to include black artists who influenced so many and yet have rarely gotten their proper due. The Marvelettes toiled in the shadow of the Supremes and may be a little bit of a tough sell. NO

The Meters: The Hall has tried to take care of New Orleans’ rich musical heritage by already inducting such acts as Professor Longhair, Fats Domino and Dr. John, but there as so many more that deserve consideration. The Meters helped define contemporary funk music in a way that few people even realize. They, along with the Neville Brothers and Irma Thomas, should all eventually be inducted. NO

Among the acts once again not invited to the party, all of whom should be considered:  Hall & Oates, Kiss, The Monkees (I'm very surprised that Davy Jones’ death didn’t get them more consideration this year), Todd Rundgren, The Runaways, Moody Blues, Peter Gabriel (as a solo act),  Stevie Ray Vaughan, Pat Benatar, Roxy Music and Iron Maiden.

The 2013 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held April 18.  In order to be eligible, an artist must have released his or her first single or album at least 25 years ago. The final ballot goes to more then 600 music industry executives and journalists. For the first time, fans may also vote. All fan votes will be combined and counted as one of the 600 total votes. Vote through various websites, including and

Who do you think should get inducted this time?


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Credit: Sony

Will the use of the original James Bond theme on 'Skyfall' disqualify Adele's original song hopeful?

Those pesky music branch rules might claim another victim

Even though the song is set to officially debut tomorrow, I imagine most interested parties have already heard the leaked portion of Adele's new Bond tune, "Skyfall." (UPDATE: The song is available now.) One of the cooler elements of the track is that it incorporates the original Monty Norman "Dr. No" theme that became, of course, the signature Bond melody. But while it's a nifty nod, it also might have done the song in where Oscar is concerned.

The rules are relatively clear about this. Per rule 15, category I B: "An original song consists of words and music, both of which are original and written specifically for the motion picture." The bold is the Academy's, not mine. So judging by that, just having that lingering bit of melody from the classic music is potentially enough to keep it out of contention.

That puts a slight dent in Greg Ellwood's theory that the category is set to be dominated by popular songstresses like Adele, Florence Welch and Katy Perry. Though, respectfully, I never really thought it would be, and if anything has been proven over the last few years (which have seen the eligible songs presented in context to voters rather than just sent on a CD or something), it's the song or the artist itself isn't the thing. Just ask Bruce Springsteen.

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<p>Bruce Willis is back making jokes and killing bad guys in 'A Good Day To Die Hard,' the fourth sequel to his 1988 breakout action hit.</p>

Bruce Willis is back making jokes and killing bad guys in 'A Good Day To Die Hard,' the fourth sequel to his 1988 breakout action hit.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Watch: Bruce Willis and son crack wise in the teaser for 'A Good Day To Die Hard'

Will this be the right way to wrap up the action franchise?

Big badda boom.

At this point, the only way to approach the ongoing adventures of John McClane is with a wink, because the very notion of the first film has been undermined by the entirely understandable urge by the studio to turn the character into an ongoing franchise.  What made the first "Die Hard" so great is the exact thing that makes the sequels less interesting.  John McClane was just a normal cop.  That was made very clear in the film, and that's why it was so great to watch this guy take down this elaborate heist.  It was just a case of being in the wrong place at the right time, and he beat Hans Gruber and his merry band of thieves through sheer tenacity.  McClane simply wasn't going to let them win, and as a result, he managed to not only stop the bad guys but he also won back his wife in the process.  Great character arc, great premise, lean and mean and self-contained. 

And while I can roll with the notion of "Die Hard With A Vengeance" because it's about an act of specifically-targeted revenge, a true sequel to the first film, I have more trouble getting my head around the coincidental nature of "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" and "Live Free Or Die Hard," where McClane goes from being a normal cop in extraordinary circumstances to being a lightning rod for elaborate bad guy plots.

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"Grey's Anatomy"

 "Grey's Anatomy"

Credit: ABC

'Grey's Anatomy' and 'Private Practice' mix things up - but is it enough?

The shows kill off favorite characters and now comes the aftermath
As promised, both "Grey's Anatomy" (Thurs. 9:00 p.m.) and "Private Practice" (Tues. 10:00 p.m.) kicked off the 2012 season with some big -time deaths. On "Grey's," we said good-bye, post plane-crash, to Mark "McSteamy" Sloan (Eric Dane, 2006-2012) and Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh, 2007-2012). On that show's spin-off "Practice," it was Dr. Pete Wilder (Tim Daly, 2007-2012) who bit the big one, felled by a heart attack while jogging. 
Of course, whenever a key player makes an untimely (and irreversible) exit, it may close doors for the actor but open them for the series itself. The question is, are they the right doors? At least with "Grey's," we might be getting that answer, or at least part of it, tonight.
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<p>Autumn Reeser of &quot;Last Resort&quot;</p>

Autumn Reeser of "Last Resort"

Credit: ABC

Interview: Autumn Reeser talks 'Last Resort'

Is her character a hero, a villain or a work-in-progress?
Viewers who tuned in to last Thursday's premiere of ABC's "Last Resort" may not have a read yet on Autumn Reeser's Kylie Sinclair. 
I've seen three episodes and I'm not sure I know what to make of her either. As a weapons lobbyist, Kylie's not inherently sympathetic, but she's Manipulative with a capital "M" and it seems like if we want to unravel the "Last Resort" mystery, she's going to be a crucial source of information. So she's a bad guy, but maybe she's going to eventually be a good guy? Or vice versa? 
Of course, I like Kylie. But that's because she's played by Reeser, whose Taylor Townsend was largely responsible for the late-run renaissance of "The O.C." and who also provided quirky humor and energy to ABC's "No Ordinary Family." 
I got on the phone last week to talk with Reeser about her character's dual nature, about the rewards of playing smart women and about the fun of delivering exposition in the middle of a sex scene.
Click through for the full conversation...
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<p>Miguel: Shhh, I'm making out</p>

Miguel: Shhh, I'm making out

Credit: ByStorm/RCA

Watch: Miguel's 'The Thrill' and 'Do You...' confirm ladies love Miguel

Rising R&B star drops two clips in support of 'Kaleidescope Dream'

This week, after he released his album "Kaleidescope Dream" on Tuesday, Miguel dropped two new music videos that confirm that 1) he is good-looking 2) he has good-looking friends.

Not that I'm trying to look for a stronger brand than "good-looking," but the full-length is dynamic, charismatic and fun-filled, which is hardly portrayed in "The Thrill." It's mostly a tour trailer for his tour trailer entourage, all in black and white ('cause he's classy, get it).

The clip for "Do You..." is much more indicative of the song itself. "Do you like drugs / Do you like hugs... I'm gonna do you like drugs tonight" is hardly poetry: it's cheesy and he knows it. That's why he puts on a bit more of a show, inspired by nightclubs circa 1991, and makes out with a girl on a pool table, circa every movie starring Patrick Swayze. The clunky-ass product placement is the only thing to shake you from this boringly pleasant trip with the 25-year-old rising star.

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<p>&quot;Not Fade Away&quot;</p>

"Not Fade Away"

Credit: Paramount Pictures

NYFF entry 'Not Fade Away' from 'Sopranos' creator David Chase gets a poster

The Centerpiece selection premieres Saturday night

Things are clicking right along for the New York Film Festival The "Life of Pi" bow certainly was an event, and with added press screenings on the west coast, the film has very clearly set itself up as a formidable awards season contender.

"Flight" is all ready to close out the fest on October 14, and with it, surely, plenty of opinions as to whether Denzel Washington is a player this year. And in the middle, all of the great programming, restorations and events that have gone into making NYFF a big hit in its 50th anniversary.

One of those big events is a "secret work in progress" screening on Monday night that I'll unfortunately have to miss (as I'll be out of town). "Hugo" got the slot last year and it's anyone's guess what it is this time around. I've been told no on "Les Misérables," "Zero Dark Thirty," "Hitchcock," "Django Unchained" and "Promised Land," but it's possible those working on said film aren't even aware. My money is on "Lincoln," which screens for students in New York just two days later.

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<p>&quot;The Dark&nbsp;Knight&quot;&nbsp;picked up seven nominations in the crafts categories in 2008 (and one win). Will &quot;The&nbsp;Dark&nbsp;Knight Rises&quot; hit a similar tally?</p>

"The Dark Knight" picked up seven nominations in the crafts categories in 2008 (and one win). Will "The Dark Knight Rises" hit a similar tally?

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Tech Support: Kicking off 2012's crafts coverage

From 'The Avengers' to 'Zero Dark Thirty,' which films will spark below the line?

Welcome back. Today marks the beginning of the seventh year of Tech Support here at In Contention. If I may compliment Kris, this blog has come a long way in seven years. And if I may toot my own horn for a moment, the “Tech Support” columns have become one of the regular staples of this outlet and I’d like to think that our analysis of the categories that award below-the-line achievements, as well as our interviews with many of the artists in contention in such categories, has resulted in a number of other outlets beefing up their coverage in that arena.

Over the next 10 weeks, each of the “technical” category races will be analyzed: Best Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Makeup & Hairstyling, Original Score, Original Song, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects. We'll move between visual and audio categories to keep things fresh along the way.

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<p>Kevin Spacey's new Netflix series &quot;House of Cards&quot;&nbsp;will debut on February 1 &mdash; all at once.</p>

Kevin Spacey's new Netflix series "House of Cards" will debut on February 1 — all at once.

Credit: AP

Netflix's 'House of Cards' to debut all episodes at once in February

Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright drama is highest-profile streaming series to date

Netflix is trying to present an alternative to the TV production model, and now it's working on an alternative to the TV scheduling model, as well.

Netflix today announced that "House of Cards," its new political drama series produced by David Fincher, adapted from the U.K. series of the same name, and starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as the House Majority Whip and his wife, will debut on February 1, 2013 — and that all 13 episodes of the first season will be available to watch at the same time.

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