Latest Blog Posts

<p>Dennis Farina and Dustin Hoffman in &quot;Luck.&quot;</p>

Dennis Farina and Dustin Hoffman in "Luck."

Credit: HBO

'Luck' - 'Episode 2': Claim costs

Escalante and Ace both run cons, but only one goes well

A review of tonight's "Luck" coming up just as soon as I hear a voice from inside my pants...

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<p>Thor, Captain America, and the Black Widow are under fire... literally, it seems... in the extended trailer for 'The&nbsp;Avengers' that made its debut during this year's Super Bowl.</p>

Thor, Captain America, and the Black Widow are under fire... literally, it seems... in the extended trailer for 'The Avengers' that made its debut during this year's Super Bowl.

Credit: Disney

Review: Studios play blockbuster chess with 'Battleship,' 'Avengers,' 'John Carter' spots

Super Bowl Sunday is a strategic move for studios, but does it really work?

The most specifically excited I remember ever being for a Super Bowl Sunday movie spot was in the spring of '97, and Sony was the studio that bought the spot I cared most about.  It was a three-movie mega-ad they used to roadblock an entire ad break.  They sold "Air Force One," "Men In Black," and "The Fifth Element," and since we hadn't seen any footage yet for "The Fifth Element," that was our first look.

My friends and I must have played the tape back 20 times just to study the barrage of images from the film, including some of those amazing Digital Domain cityscapes with car-packed skies as well the blue diva, Gary Oldman, explosions, and LeeeloooDallasMooolteeePass in all her glory.  I didn't care about "Air Force One" at all, and the "Men In Black" footage was fine, but I loved that they used the Super Bowl to finally drop the intense veil of secrecy around Besson's movie.

These days, there is very little surprise or genuine wow to the things that happen during the Super Bowl.  We know ahead of time what the commercials will be, and this year, we actually saw studios releasing ten-second previews of the sixty-second spots, so we were getting ads for ads.  It's sort of terrifying to see how mechanical it is, and these days, it seems that more studios opt out than ever before.

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<p>Nicki Minaj, Madonna and MIA&nbsp;give you all their lovin' during the Super Bowl half-time show.</p>

Nicki Minaj, Madonna and MIA give you all their lovin' during the Super Bowl half-time show.

Credit: AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Live Blogging: Super Bowl XLVI Half Time with Madonna

Do Madge, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A. and friends score?

7:54 p.m. It's half time and that means it's almost Madonna time!!! While we're waiting, we've review the performances so far. Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert did a very fine, if countrified, sedate version of "America The Beautiful."  Kelly Clarkson showed, like  Carrie Underwood before her a few years ago, that "American Idol" winners are 2-0 in singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl. How do you feel they did? 

7:58: A few thoughts before she starts: she's supposed to be joined by Nicki Minaj, M.I.A. and LMFAO. I'd like to say, before we see any of the halftime, that Madonna does not need anyone to make her more credible or more current or more hip. I feel a little bad that she--or someone--thought she might.

8:01: VOGUE!

8:02: Madonna comes out pulled by a phalanx of Roman Centurians.. She's playing out some Roman mythology theme, with a very fleet footed Mercury. Amazing stage. Is she lipsyncing?  I say yes, but maybe not...What do you think? 

8:04 "Music." So much action, but Madge sees strangely lethargic. Is it just me? Incredible stage and field.

8:06: now she's shuffling with the LMFAO, and they've now gone into "I'm Sexy and I Know It." Nice plug for her fellow labelmates at Interscope.

8:07: Now we're off to "Give Me All Your Luvin," and the stage has changed again. Hands down, most amazing stage and production I've ever seen at a Super Bowl.

8:08: Nicki Minaj's energy was 200% higher than Madonna's.  Is it possible that Madge is nervous and knows how much is riding on this? 

8:10: . LOVE Cee-Lo as drum major. Man,  "The Voice" has managed to work two coaches into the Super Bowl. Shortest version of "Open Your Heart" ever.

8:11: Wow. That was am amazingly quick change for Cee-Lo and Madge, but this version of "Like a Prayer" has made  up for the slow start. Cee-Lo is taking us to church.

8:13 Madonna disappears into the ground, as World Peace lights up on the field. She's clearly singing live at this point.

So here's my first thought: Amazing production, choreography and effort. Madonna was strong after a lethargic start, but she didn't connect in any meaningful way. However, I've felt the same way the many times I've seen her live: it's almost as if there's a pane of glass between her and the audience and I felt the same way watching her just now. But I think that's her. It was flawless in so many ways. Respect.

Second thought: Not crazy about all the song selections. She should have started more uptempo and "Music" didn't work. And I cannot believe they played Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory" right afterward. Someone has a sense of humor.

What did you think of Madonna's half-time show? Give it a grade!

(Talk about bad timing: I was looking down and missed M.I.A.'s flipping the bird, but I write my post-game thoughts on  it here)

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<p>Tom Brady. He's a pretty man.</p>
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Tom Brady. He's a pretty man.

Credit: Mark Humphrey/AP

Super Bowl XLVI Live-Blog - Commercials, football and more

Which ads hit? Which ads miss? And how grumpy is our Pats-fan blogger?

Super Bowl Sunday, y'all!

After a couple years without a clear rooting interest, I'm relieved that the Patriots are back in the Big Game on Sunday (February 5) afternoon. Of course, that means that my enjoyment of the game and the intervening commercials and trailers and whatnot may be more regulated by the action on the field than it has been the past few Super Bowls. By the time the commercials start repeating themselves in the second half, I could either be loopy and giddy or grumpy and miserable. And if I'm grumpy and miserable, that'll spill over into "The Voice," which I'll be live-blogging right after the game (in a different post).

One quick proviso before we start the live-blogging, which will include interjections on the game, but will mostly concentrate on the ad breaks: Yes, I know that the commercials have almost all been available online for a week. I haven't watched a single one of them. I didn't really see the point. I have a nice TV and the Super Bowl is gonna have my full attention. Why would I be YouTubing clips and spoiling the moment of discovery? Exactly.

Anyway, click through, chat along and GO PATRIOTS!

3:11 p.m. Pacific. I've got my Ruffles, my french onion dip and my Sam Adams. And I'm already sick of "Safe House," which seems to have taken the cost-effective route of buying up oodles of pre-game time, but will probably skip the game itself.

3:14 p.m. Last year, Adrien Brody shilled for Stella. This year? Gillette. Next year? He'll fight off the Hamburglar.

3:18 p.m. Kelly Clarkson's bangs are singing the National Anthem. That was a fast, efficient and fine "Star-Spangled Banner." She hit every note, remembered every word and didn't keep us waiting. Kudos, Kelly!

3:25 p.m. New England wins the coin toss! Prop betters are already going nuts... This breaks a long NFC Super Bowl coin-flip winning streak. I have no idea what it augers, other than that the Patriots will get the ball to start the second half.

3:27 p.m. Remember: The money commercials don't kick in until after kickoff. So this "Gotta Fly Now" commercial for Hyundai is a bargain. 

3:31 p.m. KICKOFF!!!!!

3:37 p.m. The Patriots pass defense is a problem. The Patriots pass rush? WOOT!

3:38 p.m. COMMERCIAL TIME! The first spot for Bud Light Platinum. It's dull. Bud Light usually does jokey commercials, so I guess they've decided to show that Bud Light Platinum takes itself very seriously. But why am I impressed with the assembly line manufacturing of beer?

3:39 p.m. "Twilight" capitalization! A group of vampires are partying out in the forest. The man who comes to deliver their Type O blood shows up with an Audi. He doesn't know that the Audi's LED headlights will kill vampire. I'll have to consult Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson on this one, but at least it's better than the Bud Light commercial.

3:41 p.m. Elton John plays the king in a commercial for Pepsi. OMG! It's the Melanie Amaro commercial! The lame jester doesn't entertain Elton John, but Melanie sings "Respect" and wins the King's approval. "OK. Pepsi for you." And Melanie's all, "No! Pepsi for all!" and she sends Elton John to the dungeon where we find... Flava Flav? Ummm... OK.

3:43  p.m. Cheetah attacks man in a Hyundai commercial. I don't understand why.

3:44 p.m. Well, there's your first "Smash" promo. 

3:44 p.m. I'm not saying the Safety call was wrong, but I'm not sure that's a call you make in the Super Bowl.

3:46 p.m. So you boast about how your reality show's winner is going to get a Pepsi commercial and then you give her said commercial and make sure she's upstaged by Elton John and the syphilitic dwarf from Public Enemy? Really?

3:48 p.m. This live-blog is going to be getting grumpy very soon. Just a warning.12 freaking men on the field. Grrr...

3:51 p.m. 9-0 Giants. Yup. Getting grumpy. 

3:52 p.m. Another boring Bud Light Platinum commercial. I seriously don't know what they think they're proving with these commercials. Bud Light Platinum: Like Bud Light, only humorless.

3:53 p.m. A Brown M&M shows up to a party and everybody thinks she's naked. Including the Red M&M, who strips off his candy coating and starts dancing. Yes. He FLAYS HIMSELF. And starts dancing, muscles and nerves and internal organs exposed. That's disgusting.

3:54 p.m. "Celebrity Apprentice" commercial.

3:55 p.m. I like the Coca-Cola polar bears. In this case... I have no idea what they're doing. One is crossing his fingers and toes so he can't open/drink his Coke? Huh?

3:55 p.m. In the aftermath of the 2012 Mayan-predicted Apocalypse, one man and his dog survive thanks to their truck, a Chevy. They drive through the aftermath, as "Looks Like We Mad It." They meet with other survivors and eat Twinkies. They miss their friend Dave, who drove a Ford. These men have yet to realize that they'll never get laid again.

4:00 p.m. End of the first quarter. Already? And we've had such "fun."

4:01 p.m. Bridgestone is bringing tie technology to the world of sports. A scientist has made a football out of tire. Troy Aikman and Deion Sanders are the only stars available. The football handles well. Or something.

4:01 p.m. Jillian and Danica Patrick are painting a semi-naked model for Go Daddy. They make a joke about how they missed a spot or "spots." Bad ad, GoDaddy.

4:02 p.m. Dull Lexus ad.

4:02 p.m. Our first movie trailer is for "Battleship" and does a spectacular job of making it look like a "Transformers" sequel. We get very little Liam Neeson. Very little Rihanna. Almost no Tim Riggins. And a lot of robo-aliens. I'll watch just to see Rihanna go "Boom."

4:05 p.m. Well, the Patriots are on the board, at least. 9-3.

4:05 p.m. A very nicely shot Budweiser ad remembers the end of Prohibition and the triumphant return of beer and Clydesdales to America. The dalmatian is also back. It's a far better ad than those Bud Light Platinum spots. I feel properly patriotic.

4:05 p.m. A man begins to suspect his dog has killed a local cat. The dog... threatens to take away his Doritos if he narcs? I'm so confused. And it's his dog that's gone? What the heck is happening here, Doritos?

4:07 p.m. A young man is very happy to get a new Camaro. Only it isn't his. And the commercial isn't memorable.

4:08 p.m. Thanks, GE. You invented turbines. And you wanted to spend $4 million to tell me this. Oh. Cross-promoting. GE also makes the turbines that help make Budweiser. 

4:09 p.m. Another Tim Riggins movie! It's a multi-splitscreen ad for "John Carter."

4:10 p.m. Little boy has to pee. He leaves the pool, runs in circles, but ends up going back into the pool to pee. "Totally free. It feels good." And it's for TaxAct.com. Useless ad.

4:11 p.m. "The Voice" commercial. Why haven't we gotten a "Smash" commercial for a half-hour? What if we forget when "Smash" is on?

4:13 p.m. "The Lorax" looks colorful.

4:14 p.m. DOGGIE!!! A dog really likes the shape of the new VW bugl.

4:14 p.m. Darth Vader arrives at the Mos Eisley cantina and it has something to do with VW.

4:15 p.m. Howard Stern is coming to "America's Got Talent." And he's bringing a HOSE!

4:19 p.m. That was a somewhat reassuring defensive stand by the Patriots, slowing down what has already become a sluggish game.

4:20 p.m. David Beckham has something to do with H&M underwear. Or tattoos. That cost a lot of money and they don't even show his darned crotch. I'm not into that kinda thing myself, but it seems silly to barely show the product being advertised. Are Beckham's tats powerful enough to sell underwear? Not to me, certainly.

4:20 p.m. The polar bears are back. One of them has trouble catching a Coke and takes outseveral of his friends in the process. But at least he catches the Coke before it falls.

4:23 p.m. That was not a reassuring offensive stand by the Patriots.

4:29 p.m. That was a reassuring defensive stand by the Patriots. Yes. It's becoming that kinda game. 

4:30 p.m. Lots of Chevy stunts. The car jumps out of a plane. And jumps over a skateboard. And bungee jumps. I don't know that I need my car to be able to do these things, but I'm glad that the Chevy Sonic can...

4:31 p.m. Sorry. You can't fool me, LucasFilm. Just because the whole "Star Wars" series is coming to theaters in 3D doesn't mean you aren't starting  us off with the freakin' "Phantom Menace." I don't get chills for "Phantom Menace" anymore.

4:34 p.m. Gronk.

4:35 p.m. "Avengers," baby! Lots of NYC chaos! Lots of superheroes in uniform. A tiny bit of Hunk. "I still believe in Heroes," Nick Fury says.

4:36 p.m. I have no idea what this commercial is for, but I think it's Adrianna Lima. She tells me that I'll get laid on Valentine's Day if I use teleflora.com. OK!

4:37 p.m. OK. Bulldog in running shoes moonwalking in Sketchers? Perfect commercial til Mark Cuban shows up.

4:38 p.m. Please explain how Cars.com makes a worm-like "confidence" come out of your butt?

4:42 p.m. Patriots driving.

4:43 p.m. Ass-faced kid taunts his grandmother and little sibling with Doritos. Grandma slingshots the kid and gets the Doritos back. As Doritos commercials go, that was cute.

4:43 p.m. I hate the ETrade baby.

4:43 p.m. Nope. I'm not gonna get excited for the "G.I. Joe" sequel. I refuse. But that's a fun, colorful, Jay Z-inflected trailer. If I *were* gonna get excited, that would do it for me...

4:47 p.m. WOODHEAD! TD! 10-9 Patriots!

4:50 p.m. Halftime! I'm gonna go get food while Madonna does her thing. HitFix's Melinda Newman will be live-blogging the Halftime show...

5:03 p.m. As my taquitos heat up, here's Melinda's live-blog.

5:19 p.m. Nice Clint Eastwood commercial for Detroit. Apparently the "Detroit is in a bad place, but resilient" commercial is already a mandatory Super Bowl occurrence. I can live with that. Last year's Eminem commercial was also superior. 

5:22 p.m. Incidentally, if it's Halftime in America, as Clint Eastwood told us it is, is Mr. Eastwood predicting the end of our Empire in 2248?

5:28 p.m. TD Hernandez!  Brady is on FIRE!

5:28 p.m. "SMASH"!!!! Thank heavens. I was really jonesin'... This is a good Kat McPhee-heavy ad.

5:29 p.m.  It is not true that if nobody had challenged the status quo, the world would still be flat. Nor do I know how Infiniti is really challenging the status quo.

5:30 p.m. Ricky Gervais runs from a grenade. Mary-Louise Parker grows weed. Zombies attack. This has something to do with Time-Warner.

5:31 p.m. Cute girl travels the country in her Honda.

5:38 p.m. Solid defensive stand for The Pats. 17-12 for New England.

5:38 p.m. Rumor has it that we're gonna have to wait til the 4th quart for an "Awake" promo.

5:38 p.m. Nerdy man sees a hot Italian woman in the street. He stares at her. She slaps him. Then she teases him. Is the scorpion on the back of her neck supposed to be a tease? It is! It's the logo for the Fiat Abarth.

5:39 p.m. Beth Littleford in a Pepsi Max commercial. Regis also. It's the old "Salesman for one product really like a competitive product" commercial. It's much too familiar to be at all interesting.

5:41 p.m. Toyota reinvented the Camry, so it also invented the couch -- bikini models -- the baby -- no pooping -- and rain -- it makes you skinny. OK

5:42 p.m. More with the TV-watching polar bears. The game isn't going the way one of them wants it to, so he lets out a roar. But Coke makes everything better.

5:43 p.m. John Stamos needs to learn not to tease women with his Greek yogurt.

5:43 p.m. Century 21 commercial features Donald Trump, Deion Sanders -- yes, Deion again -- and Apolo Anton Ohno.

5:44 p.m. Jerry Seinfeld wants a car, so he's doing everything he can to get the No.1 position on the waiting list, including bringing him an alien corpse, the soup Nazi and access to his NYC zip-line line. Really, Jerry wants that Accura. But Jay Leno ends up getting it. Yawn. But then again, I'm not the Seinfeld audience, as we all know.

5:47 p.m. Patriots needed to hold the ball a little longer than that and at least get some field position. Apparently not.

5:48 p.m. It's a sequel to the Budweiser Prohibition ad, taking us through the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, apparently suggesting that Budweiser was responsible for everything awesome during that time period, including grunge, walking on the moon, Miracle on Ice and block parties.

5:49 p.m. And a Bridgestone sequel, this one with Tim Duncan and Steve Nash, plus a tire-ized basketball.

5:52 p.m. I'm not grumpy about the game. I'm just getting tense...

5:54 p.m. Well, field goals are better than TDs. But eventually, they aren't...

5:55 p.m. We just skipped over a logical commercial break.

5:59 p.m. On to the 4th Quarter, baby! Two-point game! I guess that's what NBC wants.

5:59 p.m. Nice ad runs through the history of the NFL on a single run-back.

6:00 p.m. Really? The Seinfeld commercial AGAIN? A repeat within 15 minutes of the first showing?

6:01 p.m. We've moved into local spots? Because I'm assuming you aren't getting a Jack-in-the-Box commercial if you aren't in certain markets. Too bad. Clever "marrying bacon" conceit.

6:05 p.m. Finally the much-vaunted Matthew Broderick's Day Off commercial for Honda. While it's plundering my childhood, the message isn't bad.

6:07 p.m. I have no idea what "Act of Valor" is. 

6:08 p.m. A wide assortment of cartoon characters come together for MetLife. I'll have to watch it agan to decide if it's a winner. It also may just be pandering to childhood nostalgia.

6:09 p.m. That's a great Kat-centric "Smash" ad. The featured musical number isn't in any of the four episodes I've seen. 

6:10 p.m. Getting nervous.

6:11 p.m. Man uses his Hyundai to restart his boss's heart?!?

6:12 p.m. Guy names his dog "WeGo" and trains it to fetch Bud Lights. Ladies love WeGo. Men love WeGo. But a party arrives and poor WeGo fears for his life. The ad ends, oddly, with a note to "Help rescue dogs." Yes. Rescue dogs. And train them to get beer for you.

6:19 p.m. Very nervous.

6:19 p.m. Scary sleep gnome! A little dust yields a slightly happy dream. A whole bucket leads a dream about a Kia, Motley Crue, Adrianna Lima, rhino-rodeo. He ends up with his wife? So that's cute?

6:20 p.m. FINALLY. Monkey bosses. We've seen this basic commercial: Guy's boss and co-worker are awful monkeys, encouraging him to go to CareerBuilder.com. I like monkeys. Always. And forever.

6:21 p.m. Commercial for NBC Thursday comedies conspicuously doesn't mention "Community."

6:25 p.m. Wow. Giants players keep getting hurt and we keep getting injury time-outs. The first commercial includes people who are very impressed with the innovations to their new Samsung phones. It all relates to The Darkness somehow...

6:26 p.m. We've gotten a lot of "Voice" ads, eh?

6:31 p.m. Not feeling good here.

6:38 p.m. I have no interest in blogging about commercials.

6:38 p.m. Cadillac. Taking on BMW. German training course.

6:39 p.m. "Swamp People"? Local time, I guess?

6:40 p.m. There's our "Awake" ad. It does almost nothing to clarify the tone or plot of the show for the uninitiated.

6:44 p.m. Guh.

6:55 p.m. And now? Time to get myself in a state-of-mind to live-blog "The Voice."

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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"

Album Review: Van Halen's 'A Different Kind of Truth'

Do Eddie Van Halen and Diamond Dave still have it?

Van Halen’s first new studio album with David Lee Roth in 28 years is named “A Different Kind of Truth,” but the Feb. 7 release could have just as easily been called “I Will Not Go Quietly”  “Truth” is a heavy slab of rock delivered on a concrete pillow.

As fans already know, most of the riffs/ideas for the new tunes are from never-finished songs of yore:  “She’s The Woman” is from a tune originally demoed in the ‘70s, while obsessive fans instantly noted the similarity between first single “Tattoo” and “Down In Flames,” a 1977 song played live, but never released on an album.  Roth told the Los Angeles Times that the band sought to link its past with its present by taking the most promising chunks of coal from four decades ago and polishing them into diamonds. 

 

[More after the jump...]

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<p>A scene from &quot;Hugo&quot;</p>

A scene from "Hugo"

Credit: Paramount Pictures

'Hugo,' 'Harry Potter' and 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' take Art Directors Guild honors

Dante Ferretti wins his first-ever prize from the group and the Oscarcast gets some love, too

This evening, honors for the 16th annual Art Directors Guild Awards were handed out. But before we get to those, a brief history lesson on Oscar/guild correlations.

Last year "Alice in Wonderland" won the Academy Award but lost in the ADG's fantasy category to "Inception" (which, I have to say, should have walked away with the Oscar). Then there were two years of matching up with "Avatar" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" winning in their respective categories.

In 2007, "There Will Be Blood" beat out eventual Oscar winner "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" in the ADG's period category, while in 2006, "Pan's Labyrinth" won the ADG fantasy award as a precursor to its Oscar. Prior to that, the guild actually combined period and fantasy productions in one category.

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<p>Channing Tatum and Bon Iver prepare for 'Saturday Night Live'</p>
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Channing Tatum and Bon Iver prepare for 'Saturday Night Live'

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' - Channing Tatum and Bon Iver

'SNL' kicks off February sweeps with the star of 'The Vow' trying to bring the funny
First off: a big thanks to Myles McNutt for taking over the recap of a fairly entertaining Daniel Radcliffe-hosted “Saturday Night Live” last month. As such, it’s felt like an extremely long time since last I covered the show here at HitFix. Hopefully that means that I’m as well-rested as the cast/crew of the show is after an extended hiatus. Up tonight: Channing Tatum, a name I will type out as “Carol Channing” at least once tonight. Tatum’s not exactly known for his comedic chops. Or, um, acting chops, if one gets right down to brass tacks. But he’s here to pimp one or more of the approximately 438 movies that he’s inthis year. Along for the ride on the musical front: indie darlings Bon Iver. (I looked it up: apparently “Bon Iver” is NOT a name of a dude in the band. Can you tell I have a lot of history with this band? Yeah.)
 
Anyways, we’re back to the usual shenanigans here tonight: I’ll watch each sketch and grade it as it happens. This week, I’ll single out sketches that would have been improved had recently departed cast member Paul Brittain still remained on the show. Was it something I said, Paul? I loved Lord Wyndemere. Now I’ll never hear him ask for sweets again. 2012 already stinks as a year.
 
Anyways, onto the recap!
 
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<p>Madonna</p>
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Madonna

Credit: Morry Gash/AP

Music Power Rankings: Madonna, Justin Bieber and Adam Lambert rule

Lana Del Rey and Adele make the list too

1) Madonna: Madge saves the world (for more than four minutes) as promotion for “MDNA” goes on high alert via radio waves, TV waves, and outdoor billboards. First day pre-orders for “MDNA” send the album to No. 1 on iTunes in 35 countries. And we haven’t even gotten to the Super Bowl.

2) Bono:
As if he weren’t rich enough, his stake in Facebook is likely to earn him $1billion in the social network’s  IPO.  Yeah, we said B as in Bono and Billionaire.

3) Adam Lambert: An erroneous report that he’s replacing Freddie Mercury in Queen is enough to spin the internet out of control. It’s nice to know that should his solo career ever fade away, he always has rock royalty to fall back on.
 
[More after the jump...]

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<p>&quot;Rango&quot;&nbsp;won four awards, including Best Animated Feature</p>

"Rango" won four awards, including Best Animated Feature

Credit: Paramount Pictures

'Rango' wins big at the 39th Annie Awards

'Kung Fu Panda 2' wins for direction while 'Puss in Boots' goes home empty-handed

The 39th annual Annie Awards were held this evening at UCLA's Royce Hall in West Los Angeles. You'll recall "Kung Fu Panda 2" and "Puss in Boots" led the nominations and both were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.

It was "Rango," though, that had the big night (and will surely take the Oscar later this month). The film won four awards, including Best Animated Feature. It did, however, lose Best Director to "Kung Fu Panda 2" helmer Jennifer Yuh Nelson (whose film won one other award, for production design).

It's interesting to note an upset in the animated short category as the indie "Adam and Dog" beat out contenders from Pixar, Disney and the National Film Board of Canada (the latter having two nominees in the Oscar short category, both of which were in contention here).

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<p>&nbsp;M.I.A. has a posse</p>

 M.I.A. has a posse

Today in New Music Videos: M.I.A., Miike Snow and Neon Indian

Take a ride with a crazy stuntwoman, 18th century aliens or a buxom 'toon

Three left-of-center, electronic-influenced acts -- M.I.A., Miike Snow and Neon Indian -- invite us into their imaginations with visually striking new videos. 

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<p>Max Von&nbsp;Sydow (left)&nbsp;and director Stephen&nbsp;Daldry on the set of &quot;Extremely&nbsp;Loud &amp;&nbsp;Incredibly&nbsp;Close&quot;</p>

Max Von Sydow (left) and director Stephen Daldry on the set of "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

'Extremely Loud' star Max Von Sydow talks inhabiting the silent Renter in this new featurette

Does Warner Bros. smell a window of opportunity?

Yesterday I sat down with "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" star and Oscar nominee Max Von Sydow for about a half hour to talk about this and that but mostly his and his film's surprising Academy goodwill. Warner Bros. has him in town for a few days for some TV here, some radio there, plenty of interview opportunities and a fair share of post-screening Q&As. Perhaps they smell a window of opportunity.

As I've noted here and elsewhere, Christopher Plummer may be lighting up the circuit as of late, but having his old "Dreamscape" and "Emotional Arithmetic" co-star in the category makes things a lot more interesting. Given the number of parallels between the two and equal arguments for being due a statue, I wouldn't call this race sewn up. Then again, it's tough to build momentum this late in the game and Plummer has been a full-steam locomotive for a number of months now.

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<p>Ann Curry interviewing Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill on &quot;The Today Show.&quot;</p>

Ann Curry interviewing Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill on "The Today Show."

Credit: AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer

Could this be Brad Pitt’s year after all?

The actor is gearing up his campaign with daytime and late night rounds as an air of uncertainty settles over the Best Actor race

Several months ago it seemed as though this may be Brad Pitt’s year. For some, he's a movie star who happens to know how to act. To others he is a talented character actor who happens to be a remarkably good-looking movie star. Pitt himself will often say that he has learned his craft over the course of a 20-year career peppered with hits and misses, but he has become known for his humility as well as his willingness to take chances and go against the grain of what could have been a one- or two-note body of work.

For a time in the precursor season, it appeared as though he may be nominated for “The Tree of Life” as well as “Moneyball.” Each would offer particular PR challenges. Neither necessarily represents a no-brainer Oscar win (great historical figure, person facing life-altering trauma or, as Ricky Gervais taught us in “Extras,” a Nazi or a nun). But “Moneyball” is also a film that is notably devoid of the bells and whistles of the traditional “sports movie.” There is no great triumph, no moment of cathartic victory in a neatly wrapped package of money and accolades. What the film does offer is a look at how and why we define ourselves and others as we do, as well as an exploration of a thinking man’s way through a system that is inherently inequitable.

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