Latest Blog Posts

<p>Demi Lovato</p>

Demi Lovato

Credit: Evan Agostini/AP

Are Britney Spears and Demi Lovato the right choices for 'X Factor'?

After lots of rumors, both are confirmed today as judges

Simon Cowell would like to make one thing perfectly clear: if you are a straight white male over the age of 15, he really doesn’t have much need for you.

The confirmation of Britney Spears as a new judge on “X Factor,” as well as the relatively surprising announcement that she and returning judge L.A. Reid will be joined by Demi Lovato shows very clearly that Cowell is serious about snaring the 12-34 female demo and not much else. Of course, all of these talent shows are geared toward females anyway, so Cowell is not even pretending that he means otherwise anymore.

This is, of course, despite the fact that “X Factor” includes the positively generic “Over 30” group.

So how do we see this playing out? L.A. Reid will be the voice of criticism on the show— and if we’re going to give them an “American Idol” analog— the Randy Jackson. Remember when Jackson was the lightweight panelist on “Idol?” Now he’s positively a Thor-sized hammer of sound critique compared to Jennifer Lopez, who will be played by the part of Demi Lovato on “X Factor,” and Steven Tyler, who will be played by Spears.

After  the first season on U.S. television didn’t deliver the ratings he’d bragged endlessly about, Cowell knew he had to shake things up. Out went judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger and host Steve Jones and in are Lovato/Spears and a host to be named later. 

Not that we expected anything sage or profound from their comments at the official announcement, but they did nothing to quell my doubts that Spears and Lovato will look at the artists and mutter encouragements that offer little in the way of true instruction.

Spears talked about how “fun” the experience will be and how she’s ready to find the “true star.” Lovato said she was “excited to represent my generation.” And, well, L.A. Reid, who has worked with some truly exquisite talents as a songwriter, producer and record head, said, “I’m the luckiest guy on the planet, standing new to these three. This is the Rolls Royce of television right here.”  Come again? Did he turn into a pillar of salt after he said that?

We’ve already expressed our doubts about Spears’ ability to provide any meaningful commentary here, in part because we simply don’t remember anything truly insightful ever coming out of her mouth during an interview.  And, furthermore, as many of the commenters said on my original piece, is someone who has to lip sync her way through her live show the best person to judge a contest that features artists performing live? But she does bring with her more than 20 million friends on Facebook and 16 million Twitter followers, making her a one-woman promo machine.

So what about 19-year-old Lovato? She’s been on TV since she was a tot on “Barney & Friends,” and then on her own Disney show, “Sonny With A Chance.”  She’s breaking out of the Disney camp,  but while under its reign, she showed to be an actress with a nice comedic style and her voice is a strong pop one.  “X Factor” accepts contestants as young as 12, which means that many of the younger applicants will have grown up with Lovato.

Here’s what else they have in common: both present as very sympathetic people who have been through their own shares of issues lately in a very public and cruel arena and have seemingly bounced back with admirable resilience. Other than making them compassionate to other people’s struggles, I’m not sure how that qualifies them to be judges, but I know that some folks will be tuning in simply to see if Spears is a trainwreck or if she is cogent, and to see if Lovato is as fragile before the camera as she has hinted in some interviews that she may be. Even though I know that’s how the game is played, it doesn’t make it any easier to stomach.

Lovato has turned her struggles into a campaign to help fellow teenage girls realize they don’t have to be “perfect” by Hollywood’s impossibly strict standards. If she applies her mentoring through that filter, she could bring a very interesting and valuable perspective to the proceedings. But my fear is that both will be so sensitive to the pain they have gone through that they will be reduced to little more than “good job!” for fear of hurting someone. They’ll have to learn the difference between being mean and giving truly constructive criticism in order to be effective judges.

They will have a very short grace period to prove they have wisdom from their decades of experience to impart or are going to be so entertaining that their lack of anything meaningful to say doesn’t matter. Lovato has impressed me in interviews as someone relatable and smart, so, while she’s still incredibly young for such a gig, she is absolutely used to the rigors of a weekly TV show.

Time and time again, I come down to Spears being the weak link here...and the main draw.

We’ll be watching when the new season bows this fall.

Will you watch to see how Spears and Lovato fare?

Read Full Post
<p>'s &quot;This Is Love&quot;</p>'s "This Is Love"

Listen: Will.I.Am's new song, 'This Is Love'

Eva Simons plays the Fergie role on the solo shot

Will.I.Am’s solo efforts have yet to yield any of the traction that his Black Eyed Peas’ success has brought.

Will that change with “This is Love,” presumably the next single from his forthcoming solo album, #willpower. The first single was non-starter “T.H.E.” featuring Jennifer Lopez and Mick Jagger.  Our guess is that the answer is no.

[More after the jump...]

Read Full Post
<p>Adam Lambert</p>

Adam Lambert

Credit: RCA/19

Album Review: Adam Lambert's continuing evolution on 'Trespassing'

The former 'American Idol' runner-up has a lot to say on sophomore set

Adam Lambert’s sophomore major label set, “Trespassing” opens with a full blast of bravado. “Wait til you get a load of me!,” the American Idol season eight runner up declares over and over on the thumping, hand-clapping tune, redolent of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” crossed with Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.”

Ready or not, Lambert is kicking down the door. He’s not just coming in, he’s claiming a seat at the head of the table and you will be served. The 15-track set is awash in Lambert’s influences: the aforementioned Queen and Michael Jackson, as well as Scissor Sisters, George Michael, and, even, Parliament.  To his credit, while he wears these inspirations with obvious homage, he still creates his own document here with his own history overriding those of any of his musical touchstones.

Read Full Post
<p>I&nbsp;could try to come up with a witty justification for why I chose this image to represent season two of 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer,' but who would I fool?</p>

I could try to come up with a witty justification for why I chose this image to represent season two of 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer,' but who would I fool?

Credit: Mutant Enemy/20th Century Fox Home Video

Listen: 'The Buffy Project' tackles season two as the show grows up

FEARnet critic Scott Weinberg returns for round two

I hate starting any article with an apology, but here we go.

In the first episode of our "Buffy Project" podcast, we were plagued by my oncoming illness and some ugly technical issues.  It sounded about as bad as it could.

This time, I managed to figure out how to route my Skype through my Garage Band on my laptop and record Scott Weinberg directly so we sounded closer in terms of quality.  Everything worked like clockwork, and the whole time I recorded, I watched to make sure levels looked good.

So I have no idea how, when we finished, only half of the podcast recorded.

I would imagine that Scott is probably going to stake me the next time he sees me, and I don't blame him.  We talked for about 50 minutes this time about season two, one of the best seasons of the show, and certainly one of the most important in terms of the overall growth of the series.  It was loose and fun and exactly what I hoped it would be when we first discussed doing these podcasts.

Read Full Post
<p>Colleen Atwood with her designs for 'Snow White and the Huntsman'</p>

Colleen Atwood with her designs for 'Snow White and the Huntsman'

Credit: AP Photo

Tech Support: Costume designer Colleen Atwood on the painstaking ensembles of 'Snow White'

The nine-time Oscar nominee sheds light on the darkness and decay of the upcoming fairytale adaptation

Three-time Oscar winner Colleen Atwood has been designing costumes for some of the most elaborate Hollywood productions for the better part of three decades. Perhaps best known for her singular collaborations with director Tim Burton (another of which, "Dark Shadows," is currently in theaters), she has made her career working with seasoned directors like Jonathan Demme, Michael Mann, Andrew Niccol and Rob Marshall.

But for "Snow White and the Huntsman," Atwood found herself working with debut feature director Rupert Sanders on a large-scale endeavor bursting at the seams with design elements. And she came away impressed with the the first-timer's ability to channel the stress and be all the stronger for it.

"I knew him from commercials and I always thought he had kind of a good quality to him," Atwood says, surrounded by a gallery of costume elements from the film. "This is a lot of movie for a first-time director. He did all the right things. He kept enough strength up to make the film, where sometimes on a movie like this even a seasoned director by the end is just baked. I thought he really managed his energy and his focus in a great way and he just got stronger and stronger as the movie went on, and he got more confidence."

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;Snow White and the Huntsman&quot; soundtrack</p>

"Snow White and the Huntsman" soundtrack

Credit: Universal

Watch: Florence + The Machine's 'Snow White and the Huntsman' drama

Is Flo the fairest one of all?

Want to see more clips of Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron-starring "Snow White and the Huntsman?" Florence + the Machine lift the curtain on these with their very melodramatic song "Breath of Life."

Bloody tears in slo-mo, Chris Hemsworth in slo-mo and Theron's transmogrifier in action are all featured in this primal tune, as Florence Welch is shot in black-and-white leading James Newton Howard's million-piece scoring orchestra and a choir in a fish tank vocal booth. The thing feels like it goes on forever due to all the blistering, rotting, flaming flames action, but it's really only three minutes long.

Because the VEVO folks are geniuses, a trailer for the film rolls before.

Universal Pictures will do their damndest to make Stewart look fairer than Theron throughout the flick, but in this instance -- with a powerful voice like her -- I deem Welch the fairest of them all.

The sountrack to "Snow White" will be out May 29, while the film is due in theaters on June 1.

Read Full Post
<p>A&nbsp;scene from &quot;A&nbsp;Cat in Paris&quot;</p>

A scene from "A Cat in Paris"

Credit: GKIDS

Harden, Huston and Modine tapped for English dub of Oscar-nominated 'A Cat in Paris'

The film opens in limited release June 1

One of the few surprises of last season's Academy Awards nominations announcement was the fact that the animated feature category made room for not one but two of the fringe indie titles doing battle with big guns like Disney and DreamWorks. Both films -- "A Cat in Paris" and "Chico & Rita" -- were distributed by little engine that could GKIDS.

The studio has just announced the voice cast for the English language version of the film, which will release in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego on June 1. The stars include Marcia Gay Harden, Anjelica Huston and Matthew Modine (who will be seen in "The Dark Knight Rises" late this year).

Further dates for the film will be set for Chicago, Washington DC, Boston, Seattle, Denver, Atlanta, St. Louis and other major and secondary markets throughout the summer.

Read Full Post
<p>Jennifer Morrison and Lana Parilla in &quot;Once Upon a Time.&quot;&nbsp;</p>

Jennifer Morrison and Lana Parilla in "Once Upon a Time." 

Credit: ABC

Season finale review: 'Once Upon a Time - 'A Land Without Magic'

What did everybody think of the ABC fantasy drama's first season?

A brief review of — and mainly just lots of spoilers for — the "Once Upon a Time" season finale coming up just as soon as I just go for my gun...

Read Full Post
<p>Mindy Kaling's &quot;The Mindy Project&quot;&nbsp;will be part of FOX's new four-sitcom Tuesday lineup.</p>

Mindy Kaling's "The Mindy Project" will be part of FOX's new four-sitcom Tuesday lineup.

Credit: FOX

FOX's 2012-13 schedule: 'Glee' to Thursday and a Tuesday comedy bloc

'X Factor' in the fall and 'American Idol' in spring don't leave a lot of wiggle room

Once upon a time, FOX was the hyper kid with a short attention span of Upfront Week. The network — with its commitments at different times of year to baseball, football, "American Idol," etc. — would swoop in to announce a two-, three- or even four-pronged schedule involving dozens of shows that would constantly jump around to different nights and/or times. Frequently, those plans would be scrapped by the time we got into the season (if not sooner), and some shows would never even air at all.

Now, though, the 25-year-old FOX is embracing a stable, conservative, bordering on dull mindset as it seeks stability in its adult life. With "X Factor" as a plausible fall stand-in for "Idol" — even if it wasn't the indestructible hit that FOX and Simon Cowell had suggested it would be — the network announced a new schedule on Monday morning that was among the more stable we're going to see this week, with only three new shows on in the fall, and minimal changes planned for mid-season.

Read Full Post
<p>Sam Riley in &quot;On the Road&quot;</p>

Sam Riley in "On the Road"

Credit: IFC/Sundance Selects

Cannes Check: Walter Salles's 'On the Road'

Continuing our series of Cannes competition previews

The director: Walter Salles (Brazilian, 56 years old)

The talent: As if the long-awaited adaptation of Jack Kerouac's Beat classic wasn't going to attract enough eyeballs already on the Croisette, it comes packed to the gills with star names: Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Kirsten Dunst (who, of course, is the festival's reigning Best Actress), Steve Buscemi, "Mad Men" star Elisabeth Moss, Terrence Howard and, most excitingly to the red-carpet hordes, Kristen Stewart, whose prominent role here should hopefully remind "Twilight" sceptics of the form she's displayed in such smaller projects as "Adventureland" and "The Runaways." 

Against all this star-wattage, the film's co-leads, Sam Riley and Garrett Hedlund, are comparatively low-profile -- probably a cunning choice for two roles where decades of casting speculation (and any number of megastars attached over the years) has amped up the pressure on whoever plays them. Both men come with points to prove. "TRON: Legacy" was supposed to do more for American hunk Hedlund's brand than it eventually did. Meanwhile, the wiry, offbeat Riley made a startling breakthrough five years ago in "Control," but hasn't consolidated it since -- we'll put his badly misjudged turn in the badly misjudged "Brighton Rock" behind us.

Read Full Post
<p>Beck, voiced by Elijah Wood, appears to be the lead character in Disney XD's new 'TRON:&nbsp;Uprising,' an animated spinoff from the live-action franchise</p>

Beck, voiced by Elijah Wood, appears to be the lead character in Disney XD's new 'TRON: Uprising,' an animated spinoff from the live-action franchise

Credit: Disney XD

Watch the entire pilot for Disney's 'TRON: Uprising' now

For fans, is this a welcome addition or a needless redundancy?

Sorry if you don't live in the US, because this one's region-gated, I believe.

I'm not a big fan of the "TRON" mythology. I tried. I like the original film for what it represents, an adventurous move on the part of Disney, and I like the ambition of the sequel. I like the effort. I like the attempt. I just don't think either film is very good, ultimately. They look cool. They seem to offer up a pretty amazing potential. But so far, dramatically, I'm not feeling it. I don't connect to the goofy earnest nature of the original, and I really don't understand the second one's choices.

Having said that, I think that fandom is all about opening yourself up to something, and the only way to really fully enjoy something is to embrace the story being told or the world. Because I can't really get my head around the reality "TRON" tries to create, I can't go where they want to go story-wise.  There are plenty of you out there who do like it and buy into it and dig what they've set up that I'm curious if you enjoy new versions or expansions of that.

Read Full Post
<p>January Jones in &quot;Mad Men.&quot;</p>

January Jones in "Mad Men."

Credit: AMC

Review: 'Mad Men' - 'Dark Shadows'

Betty, Don and Roger each chart a selfish course

A review of tonight's "Mad Men" coming up just as soon as I have my lawyer tell your lawyer what time dinner is...

Read Full Post