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<p>Kevin Smith (center)&nbsp;and the cast of AMC's &quot;Comic Book Men,&quot;&nbsp;including good friend Walter Flanagan (right), who manages Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash.</p>

Kevin Smith (center) and the cast of AMC's "Comic Book Men," including good friend Walter Flanagan (right), who manages Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash.

Credit: AMC

Interview: Kevin Smith talks 'Comic Book Men'

Director's career comes full circle with new AMC reality show about his comic shop
Kevin Smith owes his career to comic books. When he needed the money to finance his low-budget debut film "Clerks," he sold his entire comic book collection to the owner of his favorite local shop, Comicology. And when Comicology's owner decided to get out of the business a few years later, he offered to sell the store to the now rich and successful Smith, who bought it, renamed it Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash, and put the management in the hands of his good friend Walter Flanagan. In its current location on Broad Street in Red Bank, it's become a tourist attraction and as much of a memorabilia museum from Smith's movies as it is a place to buy the latest issue of "Superman."
 
Now Flanagan, and the Stash, are the subject of a reality TV show, "Comic Book Men," debuting on AMC tonight at 10, and showing how Flanagan and friends Bryan Johnson, Mike Zapcic and Ming Chen deal with the customers and the business.
 
I spoke to lifelong comic book fan — and, on occasion, comic book author — Smith about his own history with comic shops, how and why he came to own this one, his expectations for the show and why Walt didn't want to be Snooki.
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<p>Zooey Deschanel and Karmin</p>
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Zooey Deschanel and Karmin

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' - Zooey Deschanel and Karmin

Did a former Oscar winner and a future Oscar winner save the show?
Here’s my solemn promise to you, “Saturday Night Live” fans: Not once during tonight’s recap will I use the word “adorkable” to describe anything related to Zooey Deschanel’s performance as host. Not gonna do it. No way, no how. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of “New Girl,” but that doesn’t mean 95% of the material written tonight for Deschanel will appeal to her manic pixie dust girl persona. Right? Right? (Please say I am right or I’m burning this site down to the virtual ground.) Tonight’s musical guest is Karmin, whom I’ve literally never heard of because I’m old and lame. If “SNL” started booking Huey Lewis and The News, maybe I’d have a shot at having pre-determined opinions on the show’s musical acts. OK, second promise: no “don’t squeeze the Karmin” jokes in tonight’s recap. We good? Good.
 
Onto tonight’s recap!
 
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<p>Whitney Houston</p>
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Whitney Houston

Credit: AP

Thoughts on Whitney Houston's voice and life

Memories of interviewing the superstar

As I heard about Whitney Houston’s death late this afternoon, I thought it had to be a hoax. I had breakfast yesterday with a friend from her record label at the Beverly Hilton and my friend brought up that she’d seen Houston the day before. She brought up Houston’s name in such reverential terms for good reason: regardless of all the tragic circumstances of the last several years surrounding Houston and the toll her addictions and lifestyle had taken on her voice, there was such an undeniable legacy of richness and wonder to draw upon.

Like Aretha Franklin, Houston grew up in the church and that gospel training influenced everything she sang. It was a voice that soared to the skies as if God handed it to her himself. In the early years of her stardom, with her voice still potent, it was a wonder to behold. Fully unleashed, it had a resonance, a pitch, and a power that was unmatched. There was nothing she couldn’t do, but, as a fan, it was her ballads that moved me the most. From the start, there was a pain that she summoned up even in her earliest heart breakers. Though she didn't write many of her songs, she sung them as if she had lived every note.

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<p>Whitney Houston and Jordin Sparks in &quot;Sparkle&quot;</p>

Whitney Houston and Jordin Sparks in "Sparkle"

Credit: Sony

Whitney Houston spoke of race, motherhood, religion for final film ‘Sparkle’

Singer/actress was the biggest loss of many losses for music movie remake

Whitney Houston’s remake of the film “Sparkle” – what has proved to be her final cinematic project – was a personal one. The superstar entertainer served as executive producer, headed up the soundtrack and starred in the musical movie. Those roles were a culmination of her long, legendary career, but her lead character Emma was developed to be, in part, an autobiographical reflection on Houston herself. She said as much. 

The 48-year-old singer/actress was looking good – really good, actually -- when, three months ago, she breezed through the double doors of a Detroit church’s social hall, wearing all white. It was an appropriate setting for her interview with a handful of us journalists: the role of religion was injected into the updated script, which bumped up the story’s time period from the late ‘50s to 1968. Christianity and gospel music was added to inform the tale of a single-parent, African-American family of three gifted daughters who start a girl group during the height of Detroit’s musical influence and racial turmoil in America.
 
“It is presenting African-Americans in a beautiful light. Everybody on camera is just beautiful, and we’re smart and we’re educated and we’re dealing with our time of civil unrest. And raising children at that time as a single parent at that time must have been…” Houston took a hand to her brow. “Phew. That’s why I put church in it, because it’s a foundation. In my life I know -- and anybody who was raised in the church or the gospel or the Word -- that’s exciting, that’s what makes… everybody be able to feel it.”
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<p>Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston at the 1999 Oscars</p>
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Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston at the 1999 Oscars

Credit: AP

Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Simon Cowell weigh in on Whitney Houston's death

Fellow artists take to Twitter to express their condolences

Fellow artists took to Tweeter immediately as news of Whitney Houston's death spread. Below is a collection of comments from a number of musicians and music executives.

Just heard the news. so crazy. One of the GREATEST VOICES EVER just passed. RIP Whitney Houston. My prayers go out to her friends and family—Justin Bieber

We are so heartbroken to hear of the loss of Whitney Houston. One of the best voices EVER! Praying God's comfort for her family. —Hillary Scott, Lady Antebellum

I'm so sad...whitney houston was so kind, sweet, wonderful, amazing, talented, and a true gift to the world...—will.i.am

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<p>The Gurus o' Gold at Movie City&nbsp;News expect &quot;Hugo&quot;&nbsp;to come out on top with five wins.</p>

The Gurus o' Gold at Movie City News expect "Hugo" to come out on top with five wins.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

MCN's Gurus make their final calls

Prognostication collective foresees a 5/4 split for 'Hugo' and 'The Artist'

The Gurus o' Gold collective of Oscar dorks (yours truly included) at Movie City News have offered up final-ish predictions. I imagine David Poland will give us all an opportunity to change this or that, and certainly, my own picks aren't final until the Friday or Saturday before the show, but for the most part, these are where the chips lie.

No one is betting against "The Artist" winning Best Picture and Best Director at the moment. The only George Clooney holdouts in Best Actor are Grantland's Mark Harris, Entertainment Weekly's Dave Karger and The Wrap's Steve Pond, three smart guys in this game so that raises my eyebrow. Karger's colleague Anthony Breznican, though, is way out on a limb for Demián Bichir. The rest of us are picking Jean Dujardin.

The Toronto Star's Peter Howell and the LA Times' Greg Olsen seem to think Meryl Streep will pull off the Best Actress win over Viola Davis, while everyone agrees Octavia Spencer and Christopher Plummer will triumph in the supporting categories.

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<p>A scene from &quot;Chico &amp;&nbsp;Rita&quot;</p>

A scene from "Chico & Rita"

Credit: GKIDS

GKIDS makes a statement this season with two animated feature nominees

'A Cat in Paris' and 'Chico & Rita' play with the big boys

Somewhat lost or at the very least under-considered this year when it comes to the Best Animated Feature Film category is the success of indie distributor GKIDS in the field.

As usual, the Oscar is expected to go to the most popular film of the bunch, the film that reached the most eyeballs from a powerhouse studio: Gore Verbinski's "Rango." And a very deserved win it will be. But after getting "The Secret of Kells" in back in 2009 and sitting pretty with not just one but two nominations this year, I'd say GKIDS has become a premier destination for alternative contenders in the medium.

"A Cat in Paris" and "Chico & Rita" are gorgeously rendered stories, the latter particularly engaging with its combination of animation and Cuban music. It's a passionate, adult-oriented ode to a time and place.

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<p>The cover of Van Halen's &quot;A Different Kind of Truth&quot;</p>
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The cover of Van Halen's "A Different Kind of Truth"

Who finally knocks Adele out of the top spot on the Billboard 200?

Five new acts bow on the chart next week

Van Halen accomplishes what many other acts have not: the veteran rock band likely pushes Adele’s “21” out of the top spot on the Billboard 200 next week with “A Different Kind of Truth,” the group’s first album with David Lee Roth since “1984” 28 years ago.

Although the chart accounting doesn’t close until Sunday,  “Truth” looks like it will sell between 180,000-195,000 copies, according to Hits Daily Double, which may be just enough to head off a pre-Grammy surge by “21,” which will sell between 175,000-190,000.

Either way, “21” is surrounded by a phalanx of debuts: Coming in at No. 3 will likely be “Now That’s What I Call Music 41,” with sales of 130,000-140,000.  The Fray’s “Scars  & Stories” is set to land at No. 4, followed by Paul McCartney’s “Kisses On The Bottom” at   No. 5 and  Dierks Bentley’s “Home” at No. 6.

The remaining titles in the Top 10 are holdovers: the 2012 Grammy Nominees compilation will likely fall from 4-7, LMFAO’s “Sorry For Party Rocking” continues its climb back up the charts (perhaps because of the duo’s appearance with Madonna on the Super Bowl half-time show) rising one to No. 8, Drake’s “Take Care” slips 6-9 and Lana Del Rey’s “Born To Die” lives to see another week in the Top 10, dropping 2-10.

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<p>When you're a six-year-old 'Star Wars' fan, there is no bigger celebrity alive than R2D2</p>

When you're a six-year-old 'Star Wars' fan, there is no bigger celebrity alive than R2D2

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Sneaky stormtroopers and breakfast with R2 in final Film Nerd 'Star Wars' diary

A long day at ILM features familiar images everywhere

So let's recap.  We ran the first video diary, a second video diary, and I published a review of the experience Toshi and I had with our screening of "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D."

That means there's only one more piece to run, and it's the loosest of the three.  On the Sunday of our trip, we got up and headed over to the Presidio, where ILM has its main facility.  This was by far the most theatrical part of our stay, and it's the event that Toshi has spent the most time talking about since we got back.  It made a huge impression on him, and I'll be honest… it made a pretty big impression on me as well.

At Skywalker Ranch, the most film nerdy thing you'll see is the movie poster collection that George Lucas has put together, none of which are for his own films.  It is, dare I say, tasteful and restrained in every way.  It is not a building designed for "Star Wars" fans… although they did probably pay for it.  Instead, ILM is the place where the iconography of his career is on full display.

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

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'Fringe' - 'Welcome to Westfield'

A trip to a small Vermont town yields one of the strongest hours of the season
Let’s not bury the lede: I quite liked this week’s episode of “Fringe.” Sorry, should I have told you to sit down first? Apologies. I was in a rush to ensure you didn’t pick up your pitchforks before settling in. Do I think “Welcome to Westfield” solved the show’s problems? Heck no. Problems a-plenty are lurking around each corner. But this was a solid, speedy hour that promised some forward momentum on a topic that’s been stalled for so long it’s almost as if David Robert Jones set up a series of amphilicite-powered devices around its perimeter.
 
So why did I enjoy this hour, even if I’m still not sold on the season? Three reasons…
 
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<p>Amy Acker guest starred on tonight's &quot;Grimm.&quot;</p>

Amy Acker guest starred on tonight's "Grimm."

Credit: NBC

'Grimm' - 'Tarantella': Along came a spider

'Angel' alum Amy Acker plays the Monster of the Week

"Grimm" has surprised me a bit by still being on NBC's schedule this late in the season. It's not that I hated the show (as you can see in my initial review), but simply that it didn't seem remarkable enough to survive on Friday nights, on NBC, opposite a couple of pre-established sci-fi/fantasy shows in "Fringe" and "Supernatural." But it actually opened to pretty good numbers (especially by NBC standards), and while the ratings have dipped since the premiere, it still handily beats the other two genre shows each week.

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<p>Saul Williams in Berlinale Competition entry &quot;Aujourd'hui.&quot;&nbsp;</p>

Saul Williams in Berlinale Competition entry "Aujourd'hui." 

Credit: Granit Films

Berlinale Diary: 'Aujourd'hui,' 'Coming Home,' 'The Outraged'

Hip-hop icon Saul Williams an unlikely lead of Competition highlight

BERLIN - “Are these real films?” a colleague asked, his tone pitched halfway between irony and incredulity, as he contemplated a potential Berlinale marathon of such appetizingly titled sidebar entries as “The Woman Who Brushed Off Her Tears” and “The Woman in the Septic Tank.” “Or are audiences simply being punked by festival programmers, and no one can stay awake long enough past the opening credits to realize?”

We were killing time in the languidly paced press ticket queue, waiting to be told, rather curtly, that seats for Sundance critical hit “Keep the Lights On” were no longer available – with the wisdom that comes of experience and persistent disappointment, the aforementioned colleague already had his mind on plan B. More subtly coded but even more bewildering than the press-badge caste system at Cannes, the press screening schedule at Berlin is so riddled with conditions and restrictions (access levels to journalists vary from strand to strand, hour to hour, cinema to cinema) that planning a day’s viewing is scarcely less work than filing a day’s tax returns.

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