Latest Blog Posts

<p>Ben (Benjamin McKenzie)&nbsp;and Sammy (Shawn Hatosy)&nbsp;enjoy some down time on &quot;Southland.&quot;</p>

Ben (Benjamin McKenzie) and Sammy (Shawn Hatosy) enjoy some down time on "Southland."

Credit: TNT

'Southland' - 'Underwater': The naked and the wet

Sherman has a bad day, Adams takes a dive and the precinct gets a new captain

A quick review of last night's "Southland" coming up just as soon as I shoot an old lady with a bean bag... 

Read Full Post
<p>Zachary Levi went toe-to-toe with Superman himself, Brandon Routh, in &quot;Chuck&quot;&nbsp;season 3.</p>

Zachary Levi went toe-to-toe with Superman himself, Brandon Routh, in "Chuck" season 3.

Credit: NBC

'Chuck' vs. the Retrospective Interview, Part 3

Chuck gets a nemesis, Sarah and Chuck get other love interests, and the series gets two different finales
"Chuck" comes to the end of its run on Friday night at 8 on NBC, and we're continuing our five-part retrospective interview with creators Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz by discussing the unlikely Subway sandwich fan campaign (the brainchild of Wendy Farrington) that helped the show get a renewal for the third season, and then the various ups and downs of season three itself.
(And it occurs to me in looking over this transcript that, while Fedak and Schwartz talked in an earlier part about how Chuck might have gotten the Chuck-fu powers at the end of season 1, I never specifically asked them about that decision and the ways it changed the show in the third season. Fortunately, Fedak and I talked about that at length after the season 2 finale, and that interview is still up on the old blog.) 
Read Full Post
<p>Helen Hunt and John Hawkes are exceptional in the new drama 'The Surrogate,' one of the biggest acquisition titles of Sundance 2012</p>

Helen Hunt and John Hawkes are exceptional in the new drama 'The Surrogate,' one of the biggest acquisition titles of Sundance 2012

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Review: 'The Surrogate' gives John Hawkes career-best role opposite Helen Hunt

A smart adult movie about sexuality in America? Seems too good to be true

I have a dream that someday American filmmakers will finally grow up and stop being so insanely conservative about dealing with all stripes of human sexuality on film.

When we still live in a culture where a movie as ultimately restrained as "Shame" gets slapped with an NC-17, it's obvious that, on an institutional level, we are prudes.  It's ridiculous, too.  How many films do we see each year about mayhem and murder and violence and war and all manner of human horrors?  Those are all considered acceptable, and it almost feels like the more indulgent we are towards brutality, the more afraid we are to deal with sexuality in a mature manner.  Yet which subject plays a larger ongoing role in the daily lives of more people?

With "The Surrogate," writer/director Ben Lewin has taken the true story of Mark O'Brien and crafted a smart, heartfelt story about the way a lifelong polio patient, crippled and twisted by the disease, finally begins to explore his own sexuality in his late 30s, with the help of a sexual surrogate.  It is a fairly straightforward character drama distinguished by exceptional work from actor John Hawkes and strong supporting turns by William H. Macy, Moon Bloodgood, and Helen Hunt.  It is also worth paying attention to the largely clear-eyed and sophisticated approach it takes to the subject matter, including some fairly frank scenes between Hawkes and Hunt that are impressive and even moving.

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;The Imposter&quot;</p>
<div id="myEventWatcherDiv" style="display:none;">&nbsp;</div>

"The Imposter"

Credit: Sundance

Sundance Review: 'The Imposter'

Fact is stranger than fiction in this tale of a missing kid and an opportunistic con-man
Bart Layton's "The Imposter" is a gripping true-crime documentary that removes a key element of the mystery from the equation with its title.
In 1994, 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay went missing in San Antonio. More than three years later, a young man surfaced in a remote village in Spain, claiming to be Nicholas. Overjoyed, the Barclay family welcomed Nicholas back into their life, ignoring or accepting that in his missing years, Nicholas had gone through a series of traumatizing events that transformed him into a different person.
The young man who returned from Spain was not, in fact, Nicholas Barclay. 
Layton isn't interested in taking the audience on an "Is He or Isn't He?" journey. The movie is called "The Imposter" and the movie has barely begun before the interview subject with the thick French accent, dark eyes and ethnically ambiguous olive skin begins his explanation of how he came to be confused with a much younger American boy with blonde hair, blue eyes and a light complexion. 
And what an explanation it is.
There have been and will be documentaries at this Sundance Film Festival that espouse more admirable messages or that exhibit more confident artistry than "The Imposter" does, but it's hard to imagine any film, narrative or doc, unspooling a more gripping, twisted yarn.
Imagine "F For Fake" mixed in with a bit of "The Talented Mr. Ripley," only theoretically all true and you have a good sense of the appeal of "The Imposter."
Read Full Post
<p>Sam Worthington kept it casual at the press day for his new thriller 'Man On A Ledge'</p>

Sam Worthington kept it casual at the press day for his new thriller 'Man On A Ledge'

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Watch: Sam Worthington stands up for 'Man On A Ledge'

The 'Avatar' star discusses his latest thriller

I ran an excerpt from my conversation with Sam Worthington not long after I sat down with him to discuss his new film "Man On The Ledge," and we ran that one bit because he was talking specifically about his next film, "Wrath Of The Titans."

We spoke far longer about "Man," though, and I find Worthington's evolution as a leading man very interesting.  By the time most audiences saw him for the first time, he'd already been given several huge roles in "Avatar" and "Clash Of The Titans."  That seems to be a newer phenomenon, when someone gets anointed a movie star before they've really been seen by audiences, and it doesn't always work.

In Worthington's case, I see exactly why he was cast in those big roles, and I can also see why some audiences just haven't warmed to him.  He's not terribly interested in being a giant movie star, and I get the feeling that some of the attention has been difficult for Worthington.  In every conversation we've had so far, it strikes me that he really wants to just get better at his craft, pushing himself whenever possible.  In "Man On The Ledge," he's playing a normal guy, and he can't really hide behind giant CGI effects or a high concept.

Read Full Post
<p>Paul Giamatti co-stars in Don Coscarelli's adaptation of the cult novel 'John Dies At The End,' which he also co-produced.</p>

Paul Giamatti co-stars in Don Coscarelli's adaptation of the cult novel 'John Dies At The End,' which he also co-produced.

Credit: Silver Sphere Films

Review: 'John Dies At The End' offers a druggy dark comedy horror romp

Don Coscarelli nails a note-perfect adaptation of the cult comedy novel

There's going to come a point somewhere down the road, probably sooner than I would like, when my two sons start to ask me questions about drugs, and I'm going to have to make some hard choices about what to share with them about my various chemical indiscretions over the years.

One of the ways I'll make the conversation easier is through the use of specific films as examples of how things feel when you're altered.  And now, after tonight's midnight screening at Sundance, I can add "John Dies At The End" to the list of films that I can use to illustrate how it feels when you have intentionally attempted to alter reality through the use of some sort of outside influence.  Based on a novel by David Wong, one of the founding voices of, "John Dies At The End" tells the story of what happens when two friends are exposed to a profoundly bizarre drug that is nicknamed "Soy Sauce," which enables them to see an invisible world full of monsters and doorways to other dimensions and things too strange to describe.

Read Full Post
<p>Neal McDonough on &quot;Justified.&quot;</p>

Neal McDonough on "Justified."

Credit: FX

Interview: 'Justified' showrunner Graham Yost on villains, arcs and life without Mags

'It takes two big men to fill Margo's shoes,' he says
On the last day of press tour, I sat down with "Justified" showrunner Graham Yost to talk about the show's third season. Given that the season was going to premiere two days later, I knew I wasn't going to have the time to transcribe the interview then, so I geared it to go after tonight's episode (you can read my review of that here), which introduced Mykelti Williamson as the second of our two major new villains, Ellstin Limehouse, and guest-starred Carla Gugino as a U.S. Marshal who very closely resembled the one Gugino played on "Karen Sisco."
Yost and I talked about villains new and old — including the gaping hole that Margo Martindale left as Mags — about the show's evolution to be serialized even in episodes that might once upon a time have been standalone, and about Elmore Leonard's new book "Raylan," which is partly Leonard's adaptation of "Justified" season 2, and partly contains stories that Yost in turn adapted for season 3.
Read Full Post
<p>Timothy Olyphant and Carla Gugino in &quot;Justified.&quot;</p>

Timothy Olyphant and Carla Gugino in "Justified."

Credit: FX

'Justified' - 'Cut Ties': Karen Sisco, I presume?

Carla Gugino and Mykelti Williamson stop by a packed episode

"Justified" just aired its second episode of the season. I interviewed Graham Yost about where we are at this point with our heroes and villains, and I have a review of this episode coming up just as soon as I need a spot...

Read Full Post
<p>B&eacute;r&eacute;nice Bejo, Michel Hazanavicius and Jean Dujardin at the AFI Fest gala screening of &quot;The Artist&quot;</p>

Bérénice Bejo, Michel Hazanavicius and Jean Dujardin at the AFI Fest gala screening of "The Artist"

Credit: AP Photo/Katy Winn

In Contention's interviews with the nominees

Get to know this year's contenders

Now that the nominations have been announced, it seems like a good time to go ahead and point you to our interviews with various individuals who woke up to good news this morning. This list is on-going as we still have things in the pipeline, so it will inevitably be added to throughout the rest of the month. Check out the list below and we'll update it as we go.

Read Full Post
<p>Max von Sydow received one of two surprise nominations for &quot;Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close&quot; this morning.</p>

Max von Sydow received one of two surprise nominations for "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" this morning.

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Stuck in the middle with you: thoughts on the Oscar nominations

This year's nominee list points to an Academy in flux

I am no fan, to put it gently, of John Williams's chintzily instructive and inevitably Oscar-nominated score for "War Horse," but I'll admit I've been feeling the need for it all day. Williams is a master in the art of telling you how to feel, and several hours after hearing this years Academy Award nominations, I could really use some plaintive strings or percussive rumbling to tell me what on earth I'm supposed to feel about them.

Am I happy they took a chance on some adventurous arthouse fare like "The Tree of Life" and "A Separation?" Am I dismayed they haven't yet caught wise to Michael Fassbender? Am I perplexed that they seem to be actively sabotaging the admittedly inessential but once-entertaining Best Original Song category? Am I pleased that the animation branch showed some solid brass balls this year, even as I question the wisdom of their choices? Am I concerned that their barometer for the year's best documentaries bears no relation to anyone else's? Am I satisfied I predicted 73 out of 104 nominations, even if I hated myself for making some of those predictions in the first place? I'm certainly annoyed I have to see the wildly unalluring "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" now, after thinking I might just have dodged that bullet.

Read Full Post
<p>'Captain America:&nbsp;The First Avenger'</p>

'Captain America: The First Avenger'

Credit: Marvel Studios

What do the Oscar voters have against music?

Some thoughts on today's shocking best original song choices

Why do the Oscar voters hate songs so much?  Once again, the music branch has shown utter contempt for contemporary songwriters as they nominated only two tunes in the best original song category out of the 39 deemed eligible. What an insult.

A few years ago the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences changed the way it nominated songs, making it much harder for a tune to qualify.  The Academy now holds a session to screen movie clips featuring the eligible songs. The members of the music branch then assign the songs a score. Those scores are then averaged; to be eligible a song must receive an average score of 8.25 or more (if only one song achieves that criteria, the second highest score is also selected). If two or more songs achieve the 8.25 benchmark, they will be the nominees up to a total of five.

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;Transformers:&nbsp;Dark of the Moon&quot;&nbsp;received three nominations across the craft categories.</p>

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" received three nominations across the craft categories.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Tech Support: 'The Artist,' 'Hugo,' 'Dragon Tattoo' and 'War Horse' feature heavily in Oscar's crafts categories

'Harry Potter,' 'Moneyball' and 'Transformers' also get multiple nominations

This morning, many crafts artists in Hollywood (and elsewhere in the world) found out that they are heading to the Kodak Theatre for the 84th Annual Academy Awards. The thrill they are experiencing must be difficult to describe.

The reaction of many to the nominations has simply been “wow.” While I wasn’t as floored as some, I confess to being surprised by many of this morning’s events, and the crafts categories proved no exception.

Before embarking on analysis of the individual categories, two trends should be noted: first, in the vast majority of categories, previously nominated veterans were tapped over up-and-comers. Second, with a few exceptions – notably “The Artist,” “Hugo” and “War Horse” – films either tended to be embraced across the board or confined in their nominations to one or two branches.

So now, on to the individual categories…

Read Full Post