Latest Blog Posts

<p>Viola Davis at the 27th annual Santa Barbara International Film&nbsp;Festival</p>

Viola Davis at the 27th annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Credit: AP Photo/Michael A. Mariant

Viola Davis talks Steven Soderbergh, Tyler Perry, Meryl Streep and humanizing her characters

The 'Help' star receives Santa Barbara's Outstanding Performer of the Year Award

SANTA BARBARA - The tributes at this year's Santa Barbara Film Festival kicked off with a bang tonight as Viola Davis took the stage at the Arlington Theatre to be fluffed up for her Outstanding Performer of the Year Award. And in my four or five years of attending the festival, it was one of the better productions I've seen.

After Davis's "The Help" co-star Octavia Spencer introduced the actress, my Oscar Talk colleague Anne Thompson served as moderator for the evening -- her first stint in this format, and she did a great job. But Davis also makes it very easy with her organic and incredibly thoughtful responses. Truly, she commands this kind of setting so well, offering up authentic, specific insights into her process as an actress, and not in a sound byte way, but with a kind of matter-of-fact poignancy that really is exceptional. She's "on" in ways other stars only hope to be in such a scenario.

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<p>The cover of Tim McGraw's &quot;Emotional Traffic&quot;</p>
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The cover of Tim McGraw's "Emotional Traffic"

Can Adele make it 18 weeks on the Billboard 200 or does Tim McGraw top her?

Check out the six debuts in next week's top 10

Adele “21” will likely tie Garth Brooks’ “Ropin’ the Wind” next week when the British singer’s sophomore set spends its 18th week atop the Billboard 200 album chart.

Early projections show “21” handily outselling Tim McGraw’s “Emotional Traffic,” and possibly topping 100,000 again. This means that "21" only needs to spend three more weeks at No. 1 to set the record for most weeks at the top in the Nielsen SoundScan era. The "Bodyguard" soundtrack current holds the record at 20.

Following several post-holiday slow release weeks, the chart sees six titles debuting in the Top 10. In addition to “Emotional Traffic,” which will will sell up to 70,000 to bow at No. 2,  metal band Lamb of God’s “Resolution” looks good for No. 3, with sales of around 60,000, according to Hits Daily Double.

The “2012 Grammy Nominees” compilation is right behind Lamb of God for No. 4 with sales of 50,000-55,000. Singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson’s “Human Again” will score a top 5 debut, moving around 40,000 copies. 

The other likely Top 10 premieres are former “American Idol” contestant  Kellie Pickler’s “100 Proof” at No. 8 and Christian artist Kari Jobe at No. 9. Both are targeted to sell between 24,000-28,000.

Previously released sets remaining in the top tier are “Kidz Bop Kids 21,” which falls 2-6; Drake’s “Take Care” likely drops 4-7, and Black Keys’ “El Camino” tumbles 3-10.

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<p>Anna Torv and Lance Reddick of &quot;Fringe&quot;</p>
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Anna Torv and Lance Reddick of "Fringe"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'Fringe' - 'Forced Perspective'

Olivia meets a girl who might have clues about The Observer's prophecy
Destiny versus self-determination. That old chestnut reared its head on tonight’s “Fringe” in an episode that essentially put all of its mythology on hold for a Season 1-esque standalone episode. Sure, bits and pieces moved along on the periphery, but this was an examination of two women that felt isolated due to childhood traumas that defined their lives. Putting aside my issues with Season 4 as a whole, was this a good hour of television? “Forced Perspective” was…fine. Perfectly perfunctory. It was also, unfortunately, fairly dull. Forced, you might say.
 
I look back on those Season 1 standalones with a certain fondness now, even if those episodes aren’t particularly good. But they were definitely exercises in cookie-cutter storytelling: “Fringe” had an almost immutable formula within which it worked. Start off with a scene in which something freaky/grotesque happened, put Fringe Division on the scene, have Walter realize what happened was somehow tied into experiments he did with William Bell, and Olivia would save the day in the nick of time. Lather, rinse, repeat.
 
It’s also what passes for continuity these days on FOX as a whole. Look at “Alcatraz,” a show that seems like a complete repudiation of the serialization that blew hardcore “Fringe” fans away even as it sent casual fans fleeing for the hills. If you saw “Touch” this weekend, then you saw a similar approach in which an overarching premise is doled out in morsel-sized bites to invite the unwashed masses to occasionally check in on the series. This isn’t an evil way to produce a television series, but it’s certainly not the most interesting way. “Fringe” embraced serialization, but it also put that on the backburner in favor of character study. The show followed the characters, not the plot.
 
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<p>Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski)&nbsp;in action in the &quot;Chuck&quot;&nbsp;series finale.</p>

Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) in action in the "Chuck" series finale.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Interview: 'Chuck' co-creator Chris Fedak on the series finale

How did the writers decide on endings for Chuck, Sarah, Casey and the rest?
So "Chuck" has come to an end. I reviewed the series finale here, and in addition to my 5-part interview series with Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz (which Fedak would later joke was "egregiously long"), I got on the phone with Fedak one more time to discuss the events of the finale.
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<p>Chuck (Zachary Levi)&nbsp;and Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski)&nbsp;in the &quot;Chuck&quot;&nbsp;series finale.</p>

Chuck (Zachary Levi) and Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) in the "Chuck" series finale.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Series finale review: 'Chuck' - 'Chuck vs. Sarah/Chuck vs. the Goodbye'

Chuck tries to restore Sarah's stolen memories in a romantic, funny, terrific finale

Well, we're all done with "Chuck." I already published my 5-part retrospective interview with Schwartz and Fedak (and I interviewed Fedak again about the series finale) and my list of great moments in "Chuck" history. All that's left is to review the final two episodes, and that's coming up just as soon as I'm wooed by Midwesterners...

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<p>Zachary Booth and Ira Sachs talk &quot;Keep the Lights On.&quot;</p>

Zachary Booth and Ira Sachs talk "Keep the Lights On."

Watch: Ira Sachs and Zachary Booth on the loud intimacy of 'Keep The Lights On'

Can the indie gay drama find an audience?

PARK CITY - One of the better films I saw at this year's 2012 Sundance Film Festival was Ira Sachs "Keep The Lights On."  The drama about the ups and downs of a gay couples long term relationship as one of them battles a drug addiction and both of them keep secrets from each other was a moving and artistic portrait between two men we have rarely seen on screen.  And yet, I was surprised by how many different reactions there were to the picture in the days following.  While many appreciated it as much as I did, a significant amount of younger viewers didn't seem to get it (perhaps too little life experience?) and others didn't understand the motivations of one character or another.  That could be one explanation why the picture still hasn't been officially acquired out of the festival yet (obviously indie gay films have their limitations at the box office).  It's hard to imagine the film being relegated to just the gay film festival circuit, but stranger things have happened.

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Jean Paul Gaultier's runway show

 Jean Paul Gaultier's runway show

Credit: AP Photo

Do you think Gaultier's Amy Winehouse runway tribute was in bad taste?

The designer is being panned by Winehouse's dad and Kelly Osbourne

The inspiration behind Jean Paul Gaultier's latest collection probably seemed like a good idea at the time -- a tribute to Amy Winehouse, complete with beehive wigs, cat-eye liner and models smoking cigarettes. Unfortunately, Winehouse's dad, Mitch, and  pal Kelly Osbourne were not amused, according to People magazine and E! 

Mitch Winehouse slammed the designer for portraying a "view of Amy when she was not at her best," while Osbourne said she found the collection to be "lucratively selfish and distasteful." 

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<p>&quot;Who me? Oh I was just standing here plotting a comeback.&quot;</p>

"Who me? Oh I was just standing here plotting a comeback."

Watch: D'Angelo makes first concert appearance in a decade, debuts new songs

'The Charade' and 'Sugar Day' wedged between 'Chicken Grease'

R&B crooner D'Angelo celebrated the 12-year anniversary of "Voodoo" in a big way. For the first time in more than a decade, he took to the stage this week, at Stockholm's Filadelfiakyrkan church. Of course, Filadelfiakyrkan!

He performed beloved tracks like "Sh*t, Damn, Motherf*cker" and "Chicken Grease." The even bigger news is that he bowed two new songs: "The Charade" and "Sugar Day."

Check out those songs below.

The Roots' ?uestlove previously alluded to the fact that D'Angelo would be back into action this year, with a new album. Then there was that whole Soundgarden "Black Holed Sun" cover, and the announcement of forthcoming rare tour dates.

It's all very weird. I feel like I'm floating, and that I'm 18 again.

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<p>Genesis Rodriguez and Jamie Bell practically steal 'Man On A Ledge' out from under everyone else, making this a heist movie within a heist movie.</p>

Genesis Rodriguez and Jamie Bell practically steal 'Man On A Ledge' out from under everyone else, making this a heist movie within a heist movie.

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Review: 'Man On A Ledge' offers some mild charms amidst a sea of improbability

The supporting cast steals the film while the script can't quite deliver

January movies have traditionally been thought of as leftovers, movies that weren't strong enough to compete the holiday season that's just ended that aren't good enough to be moved to a more competitive month.  These are the orphans, the films that studios are nervous about.  They may be packed with movie stars, but for the most part, if you see a movie set for January, you can count on it being a lesser product overall.

That's slowly changing, though, and a film like "Man On A Ledge" is a good example of a more ambitious type of January film, a movie that has some solid star power and an interesting premise and some worthwhile moments. It's not great, but it's better than its release date might indicate.  It's loaded with improbabilities, but there's an energy to the way the story is told and the cast certainly seems to be enjoying the game they're playing.

Asger Leth is the director of the film, and he comes to this from a very odd background.  His film "Ghosts Of Cite Solieil" was a harrowing documentary about a "secret Army" in Haiti, and the nerve it took to capture that footage was impressive.  His father is Jorgen Leth, the filmmaker who was so gleefully tortured by Lars Von Trier in "The Five Obstructions," and Asger was part of that picture as well. 

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<p>Tim Heidecker in &quot;The Comedy&quot;</p>

Tim Heidecker in "The Comedy"

Interview: Jagjaguwar shape-shifts as Sundance's ‘The Comedy’ gets a pick-up

Chris Swanson’s one-stop shop triumvirate indie label universe

One of the most defiant films I saw at the Sundance Film Festival this year was director Rick Alverson’s “The Comedy,” a title oozing irony but boasting a weird, wooly ensemble that includes Tim & Eric, LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, actress Kate Lyn Sheil and comedian Jeff Jensen. The film itself was sort of a f*ck-you to traditional, protagonist-led dramatic narratives. It was built off of an 18-page treatment with almost all of it room for improvisation, and little-to-no script .

It is funny, yes, but loosely angers, too, with Heidecker’s perfectly portrayed 35-year-old Williamsburg ass-clown who won the birth lottery and has a boat. He and his idling creative division of friends fill their time amusing themselves sometimes to the discomfort of others – not because they’re malicious people, mind you, but because otherwise they just might get bored. Heidecker’s dead-eyed lead voyeuristically dabbles in the world of hard labor and “normal people” jobs like washing dishes in between drinking, screwing and playing wiffle ball.
 

Just because the film is largely unpleasant doesn’t make it a bad film. It’s not. Heidecker’s numb repugnance also reveals a child-like soul. He’s the sort of guy I wouldn’t be friends with but, yeah sure, I’d go to his party if he threw one. It darkly reveals something in the viewer, which required such a strangely familiar cast and, even more so, the backing of its vision.
 
Independent record label Jagjaguwar was that backer, in conjunction with Glass Eye Pix and Greyshack Productions. And after “The Comedy” bowed at Sundance this week, it found a partner in Danny McBride’s Rough House Pictures, which formed in 2009 to produce/present high-end comedies.
 
Jagjaguwar, mind you, isn’t known for movies. It and its sister labels Secretly Canadian and Dead Oceans count Bon Iver, Okkervil River, Dinosaur Jr., Antony and the Johnsons, Akron/Family and Yeasayer among its powerful ranks. Last year, SeCa released its first comedy album, Tig Notaro’s “Good One.” The labels’ co-founders linked with Ami Spishock last year to form Fort William Artist Management, with the likes of Grizzly Bear, Beirut and Van Dyke Parks, among others under its arm. The labels have their own distribution company (SC Distribution, which is also works with many, many other indies), their own publishing and do deals not just in the ‘States but also internationally.
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<p>&nbsp;Adam Lambert</p>

 Adam Lambert

Credit: AP Photo

Watch: Adam Lambert sneak peeks new video 'Better Than I Know Myself'

He tones down the guyliner in new clip

Adam Lambert takes a decidedly unglambert turn in his video for “Better Than I Know Myself.”

In this 90-second preview, Lambert is wearing a grandpa sweater in a shade of brown that he’d normally never be caught dead in as he laments not treating his lover, who knows him better than he knows himself, better.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>&quot;Undefeated&quot;</p>

"Undefeated"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Exclusive: Root for the underdog in the trailer for Weinstein's Oscar-nominated doc 'Undefeated'

The Manassas Tigers try to break 110 years of bad luck

One of the documentary features nominated by the Academy Tuesday was Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Matin's "Undefeated." No, not the Sarah Palin thing. This is a chronicle of an inner-city North Memphis, Tennessee high school football team's journey through one defining season, with all the petty and profound drama that comes with it, and it's an outstanding portrait.

If you're a fan of football, you're sure to take to it and no-nonsense coach Bill Courtney immediately. If you're not a football fan, you might just find yourself surprised by the film and the universal elements it folds in. "You think football builds character," Courtney says in the film. "It does not. Football reveals character."

Of course, the film is about more than just the high school gridiron. It uses this one season to tell a rousing underdog tale, one that makes you thankful the cameras were there to capture it. The Weinstein Company picked the film up out of South by Southwest in March and has already spun it into an Oscar success story. How far can it go in a documentary feature category that appears ripe for the taking?

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