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<p>Michael Shanks is a tuxedo-clad wandering spirit in &quot;Saving Hope.&quot;</p>

Michael Shanks is a tuxedo-clad wandering spirit in "Saving Hope."

Credit: NBC

Review: NBC's 'Saving Hope' mixes medical drama with metaphysics

Michael Shanks wasted as a doctor-turned-phantom, and Erica Durance wasted without him

It's been more than 50 years since the premieres of ABC's "Dr. Kildare" and "Ben Casey," two of the earliest successful hospital dramas on television. That is a very long time for any one genre, even with the advances in both medical science and TV storytelling over those 50 years, and the longer it's been around, the more that modern doctor shows have had to find new twists on the same old stories. "ER" was the hospital drama as action movie. "Grey's Anatomy" mixed "ER" with "Friends" and "Sex and the City," while "House" mashed up Sherlock Holmes, "CSI" and lupus.

So I can't exactly blame the creative team behind "Saving Hope" — a new Canadian-produced hospital drama that will begin airing on NBC tomorrow night at 9 — for deciding that their new way into this familiar territory was to add some metaphysics to their medicine.

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From Will Smith to John Boyega, who could play Marvel's 'Black Panther'?

From Will Smith to John Boyega, who could play Marvel's 'Black Panther'?

We put together a gallery of some intriguing potential players

Casting any superhero film can be tricky.

After all, you've got rabid fans who have deep, meaningful relationship with the characters, and they've got strong opinions.  You've got the financiers, and especially with international money driving so much of the conversation today, that becomes a very tricky minefield to navigate.  You've got studio people who have relationships they have to service, as well as personal history with many of the eligible names.

With the modern era of superhero films, one of the things that I've noticed is how tricky it is when race becomes an issue of any sort.  I'm still somewhat rattled by the firestorm of fury that erupted over Michael Clarke Duncan's casting in "Daredevil" or Idris Elba's casting in "Thor," and more than anything, it's convinced me that we need more race-blind casting in these films, not less.  Yes, I know people get attached to a visual representation of a character, but I also think there is a tendency to get hung up on the least important details about a character.

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<p>If Warner Bros. does figure out how to make a 'Justice League' movie work, it could be the most important business move they make in the next five years, and if they don't, exactly no one will be surprised.</p>

If Warner Bros. does figure out how to make a 'Justice League' movie work, it could be the most important business move they make in the next five years, and if they don't, exactly no one will be surprised.

Credit: Warner Animation Studios

Warner starts to assemble their 'Justice League' by hiring a screenwriter

The studio's betting on the 'Gangster Squad' scribe in a big way

It can be a double-edged sword for a screenwriter to find themselves suddenly "hot," because with that heat comes a certain degree of expectation, and considering how little control writers really have over the end result of their labors, you can do everything right and still end up with your head on the chopping block once a film is actually finished.

Take Will Beall, for example.  So far, that first trailer for "Gangster Squad" is fairly persuasive, and the script garnered enough buzz that every young actor in Hollywood was fighting to get cast in the ensemble period piece.  Warner Bros. obviously had a good experience with Beall overall because they hired him to write their "Lethal Weapon" reboot, and they also have him hard at work trying to finally solve "Logan's Run" for Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling.  Beall's been annointed by the studio, so it is little wonder that they have turned to him to help figure out a project that may well be the single most important in-development project at Warner Bros. right now.

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<p>Adapting 'Days Of Future Past' is probably better than my plan for an 'X-Men' sequel, which would have been two hours of Jennifer Lawrence like this.</p>

Adapting 'Days Of Future Past' is probably better than my plan for an 'X-Men' sequel, which would have been two hours of Jennifer Lawrence like this.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Matthew Vaughn's 'X-Men' are heading to 'Days Of Future Past'

Could Fox be prepping for the ultimate X-Men story?

Matthew Vaughn is hard at work prepping his next film in Fox's successfully reinvigorated "X-Men" franchise, and thanks to someone sending in a tip to Ain't It Cool News, we now have some idea of where they're headed.

I called the MPAA's Title Registration Bureau today to double-check the tip, and it is indeed true.  Fox recently locked down "X-Men: Days Of Future Past" as a title, and for anyone who is a longtime fan of the comics, that is very, very interesting news.

It seems strange to look back at some of what are considered the biggest and most significant storylines in comics weren't originally published as mega-events like we see from Marvel and DC today.  When they publish something like "Civil War" or "House Of M" or "Flashpoint" or the various "Crisis" events, they make those huge deals, with multiple authors, with dozens of comics involved, with tons of hype, and those events drive the entire publishing year for the companies.

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Album Review: 'Rock of Ages' soundtrack strikes a mixed chord
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Album Review: 'Rock of Ages' soundtrack strikes a mixed chord

How does Tom Cruise sound?

The success of “American Idol” and “Glee” has created a major market for collections of cover songs that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago.

For a long time, people (i.e. me) wondered why would anyone want the equivalent of karaoke versions (albeit very well-produced ones) of songs rather than the usually far superior original. A legion of “Gleeks” proved they do.

Therefore, there would seem to be a built-in audience for the soundtrack for “Rock Of Ages,” out today, June 5. which features the same executive music producer, Adam Anders, as "Glee."  The movie, adapted from the long-running Broadway musical, opens June 15.

If you’ve given much thought to how Tom Cruise would sound as an Axl Rose/Joe Elliott-type lead singer or if Alec Baldwin’s estimable talents extend to warbling (we’ll go ahead and tell you “no” on that one), this album gives you the answer.

As with most ventures of this sort, some tracks work better than others. Similar to the Broadway cast album, five of the tracks are mash-ups of two or more songs and the result can be a train wreck. Add up to six different actors/singers vying for space on the same song and it creates quite the pile-up, such as on Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again,” which features five different singers trading lines.

We’ll get the obvious out of the way: any track that features Mary J. Blige, who plays strip club owner Justice, is a pretty safe bet given that she has more vocal chops than all the other singers put together. On a mash-up of “Shadows of the Night/Harden My Heart” she and Julianne Hough’s voices have a nice contrast: Hough’s voice, in general, is sweet and thin, and the way the duet plays out in the movie as they first meet works on record as well. Sadly, Blige has no songs of her own on here, but, then again, there’s no shortage of those in real life.

Diego Boneta, who plays the young male lead, Drew, is second to Blige in vocal talent.  He’s a strong singer who has already released two solo albums. His straight-up pop rock voice makes him a natural on both his tender tunes, such as “Waiting For a Girl Like You” with Hough or on thumping “I Wanna Rock.”

So how is Cruise? Better than anyone could have expected. As you probably know, he studied with Axl Rose’s vocal coach to learn to sing and while he never sounds like he’s totally comfortable (or looks it, in the movie), he does a fine job. His best numbers are the rockers, such as on, not surprisingly, “Paradise City,” since he’s mimicking Rose (which can’t be easy) and Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me,”  although he and Malin Akerman pull off a decent version of “I Want To Know What Love Is.” His absolute commitment is commendable.

There are a few missteps: Hough’s and Cruise’s take on the Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane” is one of two cringeworthy moment. It’s an unfair fight to begin with: few could ever equal Klaus Meine’s full-throated vocals, but they have taken a dull knife to a gunfight.  Same with Catherine Zeta-Jones’ cover of Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” As she showed in “Chicago,” Zeta-Jones can sing, but her performance here is so mannered and awkward that it’s offputting.

The audience for the album  will be those who see the movie and the staunchest fans of each of the participating acts--anyone who’s that crazy about these ‘80s hits will want the originals. There’s not a likely single on here that radio would play, though, remember, that’s not unheard of: Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow had a No. 1 adult contemporary hit with their cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin” from “Duets” more than a decade ago. 


 

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<p>Black Panther is well-established as a member of the animated 'Avengers' team, so it's a safe bet Marvel will want him to be onboard by the time they make 'The Avengers 2' for 2015.</p>

Black Panther is well-established as a member of the animated 'Avengers' team, so it's a safe bet Marvel will want him to be onboard by the time they make 'The Avengers 2' for 2015.

Credit: Walt Disney Company/Marvel

'Black Panther' now rumored as next Marvel stand-alone movie

Who would wear the suit as T'challa?

One of the most anticipated announcements of the year will most likely take place at this year's San Diego Comic-Con when Marvel is expected to confirm which of their properties will be the source for their next original superhero title.  Obviously "Iron Man 3" just began production (you can see the first still from the film here), and they're casting bad guys for "Thor 2," and chances are they're going to get really serious about "The Avengers 2" sometime soon.

But what of the rest of the Marvel Universe?  Edgar Wright has been working towards making "Ant-Man" based on a script he's co-writing with Joe Cornish, but with the word that he's going to be shooting the final film in his Cornetto trilogy this fall, it seems less likely that "Ant-Man" is coming next.  Marvel poobah Kevin Feige has spoken many times about how much he wants to figure out "Doctor Strange" for the big-screen, but there hasn't been any word on when or if that will happen.

Today, El Mayimbe at Latino Review is reporting that he knows which movie is scheduled next, and if he's right, we're about to meet a new Avenger.

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<p>Adopt Me Maybe?</p>

Adopt Me Maybe?

Watch: Obama sings 'Call Me Maybe'... Is Romney's version next?

Plus, animals get in on the cuteness

Even Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” didn’t get a presidential version.  Carly Rae Jepsen, whose “Call Me Maybe” has spawned some great viral remakes, including by the Harvard baseball team, but now President Obama is chiming in...sort of.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Calexico's John Convertino and Joey Burns</p>

Calexico's John Convertino and Joey Burns

Credit: Anti-

Watch: Calexico announce Anti- debut 'Algiers' with new song 'Para'

Spooky single precedes set recorded in New Orleans

Calexico has always had a good handle on loss. Their new song "Para" and its accompanying music video has a downward spiral feel, aside from the obvious lyrical themes and fuzzy shots of parenthood; this dramatic track features wobbly home videos and the band performing behind distorted lenses. Oh, and Joey Burns gets a shave.

"Para" precedes the Sept. 11 release of "Algiers," the dusty-rock band's debut for Anti- and their first full-length in four years. The group released albums for years through Quarterstick/Touch & Go, rest in peace.

Calexico's principals Burns and John Convertino recorded this effort out of New Orleans with co-producer Craig Schumacher, who's worked with the band and other of their Southwesternly neighbors like Neko Case, DeVotchka and Depedro. The latter band is led by Jairo Zavala, a frequent Calexico cohort who returns to "Algiers" for a collaboration on "No Te Vayas" with Jacob Valenzuela.

In a statement, Burns explains that the choice to write and work out of New Orleans was very conscious.

"The place is strong and bold, soulful to the core, but surrounded by a sea of darkness," Burns said. "There's something creepy and old on the edge of town and written throughout the town's histories. Those kinds of aesthetics help with the writing."

Well, "Para" is certainly creepy. And marvelously visual. I'm looking forward to more, particularly to opener "Epic." Sounds like a threat, doesn't it?

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<p>Michael Kenneth Williams in a more traditional Omar kind of pose.</p>

Michael Kenneth Williams in a more traditional Omar kind of pose.

Credit: HBO

Even David Simon loves 'The Wire: The Musical'

Bubbs sings! Omar dances! And Snoop as you've never seen her before!

I don't usually do posts that are just excuses to embed funny videos, but I'm making an exception for Funny Or Die's "The Wire: The Musical" for three reasons: 1)It is among the more hilarious viral videos I've seen in a while, particularly in the way that it uses actual "Wire" castmembers like Michael Kenneth Williams, Andre Royo, Sonja Sohn and Snoop Pearson, 2)It's a very slow news day, and if not for this, I likely wouldn't be posting anything today, and 3)Even David Simon gave it his stamp of approval.

If you haven't already seen it by now — possibly many, many times — enjoy. (Also, to answer the inevitable spoiler questions, don't watch if you haven't seen the whole series.) 

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<p>&nbsp;Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra</p>

 Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra

Amanda Palmer raises $1 million for new music on Kickstarter

Listen to new song 'I Want It Back'

Long gone are the days where artists had to sign their lives away to a big, evil record conglomerate in order to get money to make music. 

On her quest to raise dough for a new project, Amanda Palmer, formerly of The Dresden Dolls, instead went straight to the source -- her fans. 

Using Kickstarter, the post-modern burlesque singer was able to raise over $1 million from her cult-like followers, who in return will get everything from a deluxe copy of the CD (per $25 pledge) to dinner with the singer (two fans pledged a whopping $10,000 each). 

Somewhat surprisingly, it's the largest music-related money-raising effort in Kickstarter history and, outside of Radiohead, it's extremely rare for an artist to enjoy that much creative independence based solely on fan loyalty. 

Palmer's already recorded the album, "Theater of Evil," but will spend the money on the stuff that record labels usually pay for: Album packaging, videos, touring production values, and an art book to compliment the record. 

Earlier this week, fans got to hear a little bit of what they're helping to fund, as Palmer released a track online. 

Listen to "Want It Back" below.

"Evil" is Palmer's first album in four years (and her first since leaving Roadrunner Records). Her new band, The Grand Theft Orchestra, features Michael McQuilken, Chad Raines and Jherek Bischoff. "Evil" was produced by John Congleton (St. Vincent, Modest Mouse) and is due out in September.

Palmer has high hopes for the set. On her Kickstarter page, she noted, "i expect great, big, giant things to happen when this record comes out in september. the band & i will be touring it across the globe ALL YEAR."

What do you think of the new song? How much did you donate?

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Watch: Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce discuss Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus'

Watch: Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce discuss Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus'

Stars tease the art of playing mysterious characters
LONDON - It's tempting to just write, "Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce both play roles in Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus'" and move on directly into the interview clip.
 
Ambiguity permeates every frame of Scott's sorta-kinda-semi-demi-"Alien" prequel and no two characters are more difficult to talk about than the roles played by Theron and Pearce.
 
Theron plays Meredith Vickers, a tightly wound authority figure (of some sort) on a mission to possibly trace the origins of human life in a deep, far-flung recess of the universe. Meredith has secrets.
 
Pearce plays Peter Weyland, whose name means something if you're a devotee of the "Alien" franchise and who featured in the viral marketing campaign for "Prometheus," but you may have noticed the the "Memento" star is nowhere to be seen in actual trailers for the feature. He has secrets.
 
Yeah. It's hard to have a conversation with Pearce and Theron about their "Prometheus" presence and you'll probably be pleased that when I sat down with the two actors in London last week, just hours after the film's gala Leicester Square premiere, we kept things general: In this interview, the stars discuss Ridley Scott's gifts as an actors' director, the scope of the film and, in oblique terms, the challenges of playing characters this murky. 
 
Stay tuned the rest of this week for a bunch more "Prometheus" video interviews, including conversations with Noomi Rapace & Michael Fassbender, Logan Marshall-Green and writer Damon Lindelof. I also had a good chat with Ridley Scott, but that interview contains a few spoilers, so I may hold it til early next week. 
 
"Prometheus" opens on Friday, June 8. 
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<p>Justin Bieber's &quot;All Around the World&quot;</p>

Justin Bieber's "All Around the World"

Listen: Justin Bieber hits the club with 'All Around The World'

And he's taking Ludacris with him

Today, Justin Bieber released “All Around The World,” a new track from “Believe,” his new album out June 19. It’s the third song we’ve gotten, following “Boyfriend” and “Die in Your Arms.”

While all three have been about love, they have all been strikingly different musically. “All Around The World,” which is, conveniently the title of Bieb’s upcoming NBC special, is a flat-out electro-pop dance track. “Boyfriend” started with its whisper intro before paying homage to Justin Timberlake, whereas “Die In Your Arms” recalled Michael Jackson and other soul icons.

[More after the jump...]

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