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<p>&quot;Strike Back&quot;&nbsp;stars Philip Winchester, Rhona Mitra and Sullivan Stapleton will be coming to Comic-Con.</p>

"Strike Back" stars Philip Winchester, Rhona Mitra and Sullivan Stapleton will be coming to Comic-Con.

Credit: Cinemax

Cinemax to premiere 'Strike Back' season 2 at Comic-Con

Stars will also do a Con panel for action drama, which returns August 17

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Cinemax's "Strike Back" was one of last summer's more pleasant surprises. It was an action show that, given its channel of origin, could have just been an excuse for explosions, gunfights and lots of naked flesh. And it had all of those. But the gun, knife and fist fights were always well-choreographed, the international locations were used well, and there was more than lip service paid to both characterization and moral ambiguity. It was, as I wrote at the time, much better than it needed to be, and I'm very much looking forward to its return on Friday, August 17 at 10 p.m.

If you're a fan of the show and happen to be going to San Diego next month for Comic-Con, though, you may not have to wait as long. Cinemax is presenting a "Strike Back" panel featuring returning stars Philip Winchester (straight arrow British special forces ace Michael Stonebridge) and Sullivan Stapleton (wild card American operative Damien Scott), plus new cast addition Rhona Mitra, who has displayed an on-screen proficiency with firearms in the past. I'll be moderating the panel, which will be Friday, July 13, at 8 p.m. in Room 6DE of the Convention Center.

The next day, July 14, Cinemax is hosting a screening of the first two episodes of the new season at 1 p.m. at the Reading Cinemas Gaslamp Stadium 15, which is a few blocks away from the Convention Center on 5th Avenue and G Street. It's open to anyone with a Comic-Con 2012 badge, and seating is first come, first serve.

Also, here's an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip of Winchester and Stapleton getting ready to do a bit of stunt driving in the new season: 

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<p>Finally... a movie about people just like me.</p>

Finally... a movie about people just like me.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Review: Channing Tatum and Steven Soderbergh make it rain with 'Magic Mike'

Because nothing says summer movie like half-naked dudes dancing

Okay, it's official… the summer of 2012 is not what I thought it was going to be at all, and I'm enjoying the near complete sense of surprise, week after week, film after film.  At the start of this week, I had three films scheduled, and the one I felt most excited about seeing, the one that seemed like the safest bet of the bunch was "The Amazing Spider-Man."

Now, on the far side of the three of them, "Spider-Man" is the one that disappointed me, and both Seth MacFarlane's "Ted" and Steven Soderbergh's "Magic Mike" have proven to be far more interesting than they seemed in basic pitch form.  There's something wonderful about being kept off-balance in the middle of a season where each week brings something that seems almost pre-digested thanks to hype and expectation. Aside from knowing the general backstory that Channing Tatum used to work as a stripper and that's where the material began, I knew next to nothing about "Magic Mike," and so while I'm not sure how they're selling the movie, they've got something really charming and smart here, and it deserves to be one of Soderbergh's biggest hits in years.

One of the things that makes him such an interesting filmmaker, even when he isn't completely on his game, is his willingness to try anything, work in any genre, tell any story.  Our film industry puts people into very narrow boxes as soon as they can, and it can be impossible for people to work outside of that very narrow definition of their talents.  Soderbergh seems like he's managed to figure out how to do some of everything, keeping it exciting because we can't possibly anticipate his next move if he can't.

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Watch: 'Ted' star Mark Wahlberg discusses fighting a stuffed animal and overcoming insecurities

Watch: 'Ted' star Mark Wahlberg discusses fighting a stuffed animal and overcoming insecurities

Why has the Oscar nominee been doing more comedies lately?
Mark Wahlberg has played lethal hitmen, deadly snipers, intimidating cops, crusty sailors, hair-triggered soldiers and a championship boxer, but in the new comedy "Ted," he plays a pot-head who ends up on the wrong side of a brawl with his best friend, a stuffed bear.
 
"I felt like the scene wasn't going work," Wahlberg admitted to me at the "Ted" junket last week. "I felt like it was ridiculous and far-fetched, but Seth [MacFarlane] was like, 'Dude, just trust me.' And everybody loves the scene."
 
The fracas between Wahlberg's John Bennett and the wise-cracking realization of a childhood wish has, indeed, become a centerpiece of the marketing for "Ted," which marks the live-action writing-directing debut for FOX Animation Domination powerhouse MacFarlane. It's exactly the sort of prolonged, escalating brawl that "Family Guy" fans have come to expect from Peter Griffin and his Giant Chicken nemesis.
 
In this case, though, it was mostly just Wahlberg fighting with himself, a bit of stuntwork that he explains required conquering insecurities and getting over the feelings of ridiculousness. 
 
In our brief sit-down, Wahlberg also talked about his increased comedic workload and getting to drink from the Stanley Cup while shooting at Fenway Park in Boston. 
 
I already posted my interview with Seth MacFarlane and stay tuned tomorrow for my conversation with Mila Kunis.
 
"Ted" opens on Friday, June 29.
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<p>Matthew McConoughey and Channing Tatum talk about their new movie &quot;Magic Mike.&quot;</p>

Matthew McConoughey and Channing Tatum talk about their new movie "Magic Mike."

Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey talk frankly about 'Magic Mike'

Have you ever had a big star ask you your sexuality on camera?

LOS ANGELES - Yes, as I sit down to do my interviews for "Magic Mike," I notice Matthew McConaughey has a bundle of $1 bills on his chair.  Why? I'm not entirely sure.  My guess is that it's a fun bit both McConaughey and Tatum have been having with the national press rotating through their TV room on this Friday afternoon.  But, as entertaining as Steven Soderbergh's latest film is, I have no intention of spending my short time with the gents waxing about, er, male waxing, picking the right thongs and what their favorite stripping number was.*

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<p>Muse</p>

Muse

Listen: Muse out-bombasts Queen on Olympic theme, 'Survival'

Soaring tune will be played during medal ceremonies in London

Muse goes for the gold on “Survival,” its theme for the 2012 Olympics, but falls far short.

The British group’s bombast makes Queen seem tame in comparison. There’s soaring strings, loud guitars, a short-lived jaunty piano melody, chanting, rhythmic changes, lead singer Matt Bellamy’s gritty, steely, high-pitched urgency and lots of other shenanigans going on all in search of a song.

“Survival” is a jawdropping exercise so overreaching in its attempt to create something grand and motivational that it’s almost hard to take it seriously. 

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Mary Murphy, Nigel Lythgoe and Cat Deeley of &quot;So You Think You Can Dance&quot;</p>

Mary Murphy, Nigel Lythgoe and Cat Deeley of "So You Think You Can Dance"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'So You Think You Can Dance' - Meet the Top 20

Who made the cut and who was left crying?

All things considered, that wasn't such a long preliminary process for Season 9 of "So You Think You Can Dance." I guess I'm only thinking relative to "American Idol," which took 13 episodes to get to the Top 24 this season. In contrast, this will be our sixth episode of the "SYTYCD" season and we're about to meet the Top 20.

Click through and join me for the entire protracted process.

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<p>Carly Rae Jespen</p>

Carly Rae Jespen

Carly Rae Jepsen's 'Call Me Maybe' rules on the Billboard Hot 100

Ellie Goulding makes it into the Top 10 after six months

Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” stays atop the Billboard 100 for a third week, as some other artists make moves into the Top 10.

The new artist influx into the Top 10 continues as Ellie Goulding’s “Lights”  moves 12-6. The song took 27 weeks to achieve the feat, setting a record for the longest rise by a female who was not crossing over from another format.

The other new entry into the Top 10 belongs to veteran Usher, whose “Scream” creeps up one spot to No. 10, to mark his 18th Top 10.

On the rest of the chart, Maroon 5’s “Payphone” featuring Wiz Khalifa climbs 3-2 switching places with Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know.”

Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake” holds at No. 4, though may receive a boost from her movie, “Part of Me,” opening this week. Rihanna’s “Where Have Your Been” climbs 8-5.

The bottom half sees fun.’s “We Are Young” featuring Janelle Monae drop 5-7,  Nicki Minaj’s “Starships” fall 7-8 and One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” slides 6-9.

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<p>The three stars of MTV's &quot;Awkward&quot;</p>

The three stars of MTV's "Awkward"

Credit: MTV

TV Review: MTV's 'Awkward' returns for Season 2

High school comedy makes a polished return, but is that a good thing?
MTV's "Awkward" premiered last summer as a diamond-in-the-rough.
 
On every imaginable level, Lauren Iungerich's comedy was ragged around the edges and that was part of its charm. Early storylines were without-a-net daring and the dialogue was laden with "Throw against the wall and see what sticks" jargon and neologisms. The performances were relaxed and natural and the production values weren't especially high, which all contributed to the appeal. Very few critics bothered to review those early episodes and that was OK, because MTV didn't have a clue what to do with "Awkward," burying it at 11 p.m. after airings of "Teen Mom," which was both a hilariously incompatible lead-in, but also the best the network could do under the circumstances.
 
In my review of "Awkward," I described it as a "proudly lewd and rude and big-hearted comedy." I gave "Awkward" a B-minus, but it was a fairly positive B-minus, as such things go and the write-up spoke of a fresh show with ample potential for growth and maturation.
 
"Awkward" returns to MTV on Thursday (June 28) night in a slightly more amenable 10:30 time slot and with a good deal more promotion and press.
 
And, having seen the first two episodes of the new season, I can confirm that "Awkward" is, indeed, growing and maturing. 
 
You'll notice, though, that the B-minus grade remains unchanged. It's still a positive B-minus, reflecting the copious amounts of talent and potential on display here. I'd still recommend the show and I'd strongly emphasize how "Awkward" is very close to doing the thing that I mentioned last week has been so seemingly impossible for ABC Family and The CW: It's a comedy that aims at young female viewers, is welcoming to older viewers of both sexes and actually manages to be funny.
 
So what's my problem? "Awkward" has grown and matured, but I don't think I love the direction that MTV and, presumably, Iungerich have chosen to push the show. The show that was once rough around the edges is, at times, too polished suddenly. And the show that was once daring is feeling a little too conventional at the moment. I don't think that "Awkward" Season 1 was the perfect realization of what the show was aspiring to be, but in many ways, its imperfections were admirable and felt like they weren't the result of careful reading and rereading of Twitter and message boards. 
 
The new "Awkward" episodes feel too crowd-sourced for my liking, but there's a strong chance that means that the crowd will embrace them. 
 
More after the break...
 
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<p>Lady Gaga</p>

Lady Gaga

Credit: AP Photo

Watch: Lady Gaga performs brand new song 'Princess Die' live

Sad song about suicide? Read all the lyrics

Lady Gaga performed a brand new song "Princess Die" for her Melbourne audience this week, and she seemed pretty aware that the tune would head straight to YouTube today.

In her intro, she warned that the song may or may not be on her next new album -- the title which will be announced in September -- and that it's sad, solo tone shouldn't be a reflection on its overall sound. "Princess Die," however, reflects Mother Monster's most "deep and personal thoughts I've ever had."

She emphasized that it was spelled "D-I-E," not "Di," the nickname for England's late Princess Diana, who perished in a car crash in 1997. However, some lines from the song mirror Diana details, particularly with the last verse about paparazzi, the limo and her rich boyfriend. However, the piano-led track points more toward a suicide, or someone who is considering suicide, which may have some folks up in arms.

If Gaga decides to keep this thing slow, it will probably be her darkest song yet. A very odd choice for a roll-out of new material, but OK: she needs that dimension anyway, to get her more intimate with her fans. But let's hope she also has a dance single up her sleeve by time she finally decides to announce some U.S. tour dates.

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<p>Helen Hunt and John Hawkes in the first poster for Fox Searchlight's &quot;The Sessions,&quot;&nbsp;formerly known as &quot;The Surrogate.&quot;</p>

Helen Hunt and John Hawkes in the first poster for Fox Searchlight's "The Sessions," formerly known as "The Surrogate."

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Exclusive: New ‘The Sessions’ poster continues John Hawkes ‘Surrogate’ Oscar campaign

A prime best actor candidate

Awards season is still months away from formally beginning, but the best actor race is already shaping up.  It's going to be another competitive year with highly anticipated performances from Daniel Day-Lewis ("Lincoln"), Denzel Washington ("Flight") and Philip Seymour Hoffman ("The Master") on the way.  There is, however, one phenomenal turn that's been waiting in the wings since Sundance, John Hawkes acclaimed portrayal of polio victim Mark O'Brien in "The Sessions."

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<p>Louis C.K. on &quot;Louie.&quot;</p>

Louis C.K. on "Louie."

Credit: FX

Review: FX's 'Louie' still unpredictable, and brilliant, in season 3

Louis C.K. keeps trying new ideas and new faces, including Melissa Leo and Parker Posey
Midway through the third episode of the new season of "Louie" — which was and continues to be one of the very best shows on television — Louis C.K. is introduced to a Spanish phrase that, loosely translated, means, "Say you don't know, and then you learn everything." As hard as it is to apply any motto to a show as idiosyncratic and unpredictable as "Louie," that's a pretty good one.
 
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<p>Mumford and Sons</p>

Mumford and Sons

Mumford & Sons set up August U.S. tour in advance of new album

Dates include their Gentlemen of the Road Stopover dates

Mumford & Sons will take to the road this August for a 15-date tour. The outing includes the British group’s four multi-artist Gentlemen of the Road Stopover festivals they are curating in a quartet of small towns.

M&S will undoubtedly preview a number of tunes from the group’s second album, due this fall. They took a break from completing the follow-up to "Sigh No More" to record "Learn Me Right" with Birdy for the Pixar film "Brave."

The group began debuting songs that could be on the new album earlier this year at some radio stations, as well as playing three new tunes at SXSW, "Lovers Eyes," "Lover of the Light," and "Ghosts The We Knew." 

Mumford & Sons  US tour dates


August 1 - Hoboken, NJ @ Pier A (No Fee Ticket)
August 4 - Portland, ME @ Gentlemen of the Road Stopover
August 6 - Providence, RI @ Providence Performing Arts Center
August 7 - Canandaigua, NY @ Marvin Sands Performing Arts
August 9 - Portsmouth, VA @ nTelos Wireless Pavilion
August 11 - Bristol, VA @ Gentlemen of the Road Stopover
August 13 - Louisville, KY @ Louisville Waterfront Park
August 14 - Columbus, OH @ The LC Pavilion
August 18 - Dixon, IL @ Gentlemen of the Road Stopover
August 20 - Lincoln, NE @ Pinewood Bowl Theatre
August 21 - Laramie, WY @ Gryphon Theatre
August 22 - Magna, UT @ The Saltair
August 25 - Monterey, CA @ Gentlemen of the Road Stopover
August 28 - Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre
September 1 - Snowmass Village, CO @ Jazz Aspen Snowmass Festival

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