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<p>Don Cornelius</p>
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Don Cornelius

Credit: AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

An Appreciation: Looking back on 'Soul Train' and Don Cornelius

A southern, surburban, white kid's reflections

As a suburban white kid in Raleigh, N.C., I grew up on “American Bandstand,” but when I wanted to feel cool, I’d watch “Soul Train.” Not only was the opening, which involved an animated train coming ‘round the tracks simultaneously iconic and goofy (we all imitated the “Soooooouuulllll Train” announcer, who tried to replicate a train whistle),  the dancing was amazing and the musical guests were often sublime.

So it was with great sadness that I woke up today to hear of "Soul Train" founder/host Don Cornelius’s passing, which early reports are indicating was a suicide.  It always seems especially poignant when someone who brought so much happiness to others’ lives can’t find the same in his own.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are set to rock SXSW&nbsp;in the very funny '21 Jump Street'</p>

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are set to rock SXSW in the very funny '21 Jump Street'

Credit: Sony Pictures

SXSW announces its full feature line-up for 2012 including '21 Jump Street'

We look at each section and pick some early stand-outs

Since joining HitFix, my film year has been defined by the festivals I attend, and of all those festivals, the one that continues to evolve and grow the most is SXSW.  I can't wait for this year's, and I felt that way even before I saw this year's full line-up of features.

One of the things I love about the festival is the way they embrace both the lowest of low-fi films as well as big mainstream Hollywood fare, and somehow, they all seem to fit together thanks to the way the programming comes together each year.  I can't think of any other festival that would have made "Macgruber" a centerpiece film, and they're also the same place that featured both "Kill List" and "Attack The Block" at midnight.  They have diverse taste, and they are inclusive in a way few festivals manage.

Also… it's Austin.  And I loves me some Austin.

This year's line-up looks fantastic, so why don't we take a look at it, section by section?  As we go through, I'm going to bold the titles that I'm planning to see at this point, keeping in mind that the easiest way to make the Festival Gods laugh at you is making a plan of any kind.  I'll also have some wrap-up thoughts at the end of the piece, especially regarding some of the titles I've already seen.

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<p>Katy Perry</p>

Katy Perry

Credit: AP Photo

Katy Perry joins list of performers for Grammys and MusiCares

Is Perry in talks to star in a 3D documentary?

Katy Perry has been added to the list of nominated performers who will appear on the Feb. 12 Grammy Awards. She joins previously announced performers Adele, Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson, Glen Campbell with the Band Perry and Blake Shelton; Coldplay and Rihanna; Foo Fighters, Bruno Mars, Paul McCartney, Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift.

Among the newly-announced presenters are Dierks Bentley, Drake, Miranda Lambert and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Additionally, the Recording Academy released the slew of artists who will honor Paul McCartney two nights prior to the Grammy Awards at the annual MusiCares  Person of the Year dinner. Comedian Eddie Izzard will host the evening, which will feature performances from Tony Bennett, Foo Fighters, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, James Taylor, Neil Young with Crazy Horse, and Sir Paul himself. Also on the bill will be the cast of the Beatles’ “Love”/Cirque Du Soleil show, Duane Eddy, Diana Krall, Alison Krauss and Union Station and Sergio Mendes.

Given Krall’s involvement and that Tommy LiPuma is the evening’s musical director, chances are McCartney will be performing material from his Feb. 7 album of standards, “Kisses on the Bottom” (Krall and LiPuma co-produced the set).

McCartney will also perform on the Grammys on Feb. 12. Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich told Billboard that McCartney will perform “My Valentine,” one of the two originals on “Kisses.”

In other Katy Perry news, the singer is in discussions with Paramount and Imagine Entertainment to create a 3D film based on her career, similar to “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.


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<p>Michael Fassbender in &quot;Shame,&quot; nominated for four Evening Standard Film Awards.</p>

Michael Fassbender in "Shame," nominated for four Evening Standard Film Awards.

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

'Shame' and 'Tyrannosaur' top nominees for Evening Standard Awards

'Tinker, Tailor' maintains its solid UK awards presence

This is rather old news, so forgive the tardiness -- but since the Evening Standard Film Awards released both a longlist and a shortlist last year, when this year's nominees appeared, I assumed they were still going to be whittled down before Monday's ceremony. As it turns out, that was the final nomination list -- and that's just as well, because it's a good crop.

The Evening Standard Awards are limited to British films and talent (British actors in international films are eligible, though it's been a sufficiently strong year for local film that only one nominee falls into that bracket). Determined by a jury of eight leading UK critics (not all of them from paper that gives the ceremony its name), they are one of the more established fixtures on what's becoming a sizeable list of British precursor events.

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<p>Leonard Cohen's &quot;Old Ideas&quot;</p>

Leonard Cohen's "Old Ideas"

Review: Leonard Cohen's 'Old Ideas' reads better than it sounds

Songwriter's first album in eight years is almost too perfect


For fans of Leonard Cohen’s songwriting, there are plenty of reasons to love “Old Ideas.” But for those eager for a great-sounding Leonard Cohen album, prepare for some disappointment.
At 77, the Canadian songsmith remains one of the most gifted lyricists and folk poets in pop music history. It’s taken eight years for this new studio release, its sites set on eternal bedfellows sex and death, and  it appears the bard is feeling his age advance.
“I love to speak with Leonard / He’s a sportsman and a shepherd / He’s a lazy bastard / Living in a suit,” he jokes in the first lines of album opener “Going Home,” an apparent start to that home-bound journey. He published all the lines to the song in the pages of The New Yorker – not Rolling Stone or the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame website – like managing his own expectations.
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<p>Emmy Rossum and William H. Macy of &quot;Shameless,&quot;&nbsp;one of three Showtime comedies to be renewed today.</p>

Emmy Rossum and William H. Macy of "Shameless," one of three Showtime comedies to be renewed today.

Credit: Showtime

Showtime renews 'Shameless,' 'House of Lies' and 'Californication'

Sunday night comedies all get to come back for more seasons

Yesterday, HBO continued its pattern of renewing new dramas after a single episode. Today was Showtime's turn on the renewal front, but HBO's pay cable rival actually waited four weeks into the current seasons of "Shameless," "House of Lies" and "Californication" before ordering more.

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<p>(from left)&nbsp;George Clooney,&nbsp;Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ryan Gosling in &quot;The Ides of March&quot;</p>

(from left) George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ryan Gosling in "The Ides of March"

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Oscar Guide 2011: Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

'Descendants,' 'Hugo,' 'Ides of March,' 'Moneyball' and 'Tinker, Tailor' square off

(The Oscar Guide will be your chaperone through the Academy's 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 26, with the Best Picture finale on Saturday, February 25.)

A script is a film’s blueprint, making it unsurprising that most of the nominees in this category have historically also been nominated for Best Picture. This year was no exception, with three of the final five adapted screenplay contenders also chalked up as the year's best films. Room was also made for a particularly challenging adaptation of a classic novel and a star-studded film with no other nominations.

Notwithstanding the Best Picture correlation, Tate Taylor failed to be nominated here for writing “The Help" after landing BFCA, WGA and BAFTA nominations. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” also appeared solid after a WGA nomination, but, like another Best Picture contender, “War Horse,” it is likely to not be remembered for its words so much as its images. “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” also managed to miss despite a surprising Best Picture berth. While three of the titles will have to be content with the nomination, the other two are in a horserace to win that I expect to remain close until the envelope is opened.

The nominees are…

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<p>Rooney Mara, Mia Wasikowska, Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain on the cover of Vanity Fair's 2012 Hollywood issue.</p>

Rooney Mara, Mia Wasikowska, Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain on the cover of Vanity Fair's 2012 Hollywood issue.

Credit: Vanity Fair

Round-up: 'Introducing' VF's Class of 2012

Also: A detractor defends 'The Artist,' and Bond is unshaven, not stirred

I always look forward to Vanity Fair's annual Hollywood Issue, an unofficial but essential ritual of the Oscar season -- mostly because I'm a sucker for pretty pictures of movie stars, but partly because they're an interesting, not wholly reliable, time capsule of where the magazine editors think the industry is at, and where it's going. This year's newly unveiled cover is adorned by four of the brightest young actresses of the moment -- three of them already Oscar-nominated, while the fourth surely will be soon -- and it's a typically beautiful effort, but my eyebrows rose slightly at the headline: "Introducing the fresh young stars of 2012." Is Vanity Fair really introducing us to 2010 Best Actress nominee Jennifer Lawrence? Or Mia Wasikowska, whom I believe was featured on the Hollywood cover two years ago? Give us some credit, VF. [Vanity Fair]

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<p>Lucy Liu and Michael Cudlitz on &quot;Southland.&quot;</p>

Lucy Liu and Michael Cudlitz on "Southland."

Credit: TNT

'Southland' - 'Community': She rolls on Shabbos

An eventful day for Cooper and Tang highlights an otherwise unmemorable episode

A very quick review of last night's "Southland" coming up just as soon as I get to punch you in the face...

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<p>Isla Fisher, Kirsten Dunst and Lizzy Caplan in the dark comedy &quot;Bachelorette.&quot;</p>

Isla Fisher, Kirsten Dunst and Lizzy Caplan in the dark comedy "Bachelorette."

Sundance Review Roundup: 'Bachelorette,' 'Simon Killer,' 'Price Check'

Mini-reviews for a slew of festival titles

PARK CITY - It wasn't he best of times nor the worst of times at this year's 2012 Sundance Film Festival, but it clearly wasn't the most memorable.  Every festival is likely to have an off year now or then, but it was the lack of buzz among many of the narrative films and even documentaries that was so disconcerting.  There were a slew of fine or mediocre films, but few that were truly godawful (a good thing) or generated hype-worthy passion (a not so good thing).  There was even a lack of controversy or pseudo celebrity around this year's edition that made the whole endeavor seem, well, forgettable.

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<p>Jeremy Davies and Damon Herriman on &quot;Justified.&quot;</p>
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Jeremy Davies and Damon Herriman on "Justified."

Credit: FX

'Justified' - 'Harlan Roulette': Smile for the camera

With all the players now on the board, the games can really begin

A review of tonight's "Justified" coming up just as soon as I move into the greater Lexington area of Kiss My Ass...

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<p>A scene from Tuesday's &quot;Glee&quot;</p>
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A scene from Tuesday's "Glee"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'Glee' - 'Michael'

Michael Jackson-themed episode asks one very important question: Do you know what's in your Slushie?

Look, anytime you have an episode in which the most dramatic event involved a rock-salt laced Slushie potentially blinding one of your leads, you know you’re in for a special hour on your hands. And so it was with “Michael,” just the latest in “Glee”’s attempts to not even bother trying to make sense on a basic level. There’s little to really review. The show’s review-proof, and consciously so. There’s absolutely no way to logically analyze what just beamed into our brains for an hour.

Let’s take the central conceit of Michael Jackson being at the heart of a new war between New Directions and The Warblers. One could, and probably should, argue for Jackson’s place in the pop pantheon. But I’ve not said that one is currently a teenager, which makes the obsession with him this week slightly odd. On Twitter tonight, it was clear that there was a schism between people my age, who remember “Billie Jean” when it first aired on MTV, and people a lot younger than me, who are surprised to learn that MTV used to play videos. Had this hour been an exploration of how Jackson paved the way for artists currently on the charts, then maybe the students could have gone through Jackson’s extensive back catalog in order to discover songs that were personal to them. But no. When Will writes, “WWMJD?” on his White Board of Doom, everyone already knows.

It’s a silly thing to quibble over, I know. “Glee” did a Michael Jackson episode because, well, “Glee” wanted to do a Michael Jackson episode. But “Glee” also thinks just throwing that idea up on its own version of Will’s White Board of Doom is good enough as an episode of television. Sometimes, the songs managed to coincide with something actually happening with a character’s arc*. Other times, characters just recreated Jackson’s original videos with remarkable fidelity. And yet other times, they sang “Black and White” and made me wonder if the entire episode was somehow about racism without me knowing about it.

* I have to asterisk this, because I managed to use the word “arc” when applied to characters on “Glee.” I promise this won’t happen again.

Look at the way Blaine kicked things off, before getting a rock-salted Slushie to the cornea. (I have to keep typing that out, because I’m semi-convinced it couldn’t have possibly happened.) He is psyched about Michael week, and knows the perfect song to start the week. That song? “Wanna Be Startin’ Something.” THAT is how much effort goes into the writing of a typical episode. It’s whatever is easiest at that moment to achieve, and if getting into a song is organic, then awesome. If it comes screaming out of left field like an auto-tuned banshee, then so it goes.

All of this depresses me to no end, because every once in a while the show connects music to emotion in ways that justify the program’s existence. Rachel agreeing to marry Finn is beyond thunderdome levels of dumb, but there’s something really powerful about the way he set up “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” He tells her, “I always feel like you hear me better when I’m not talking.” Well, that’s pretty much musical theatre in a nutshell, no? Singing what you can’t say? It’s a throwaway line, one that I’m far from sure the writers of the show ever take to heart. But watching Finn/Rachel sing, or Sam/Mercedes in a sweet, pared down version of “Human Nature,” is to watch the show at its best. It’s really small, really intimate, and uses pop songs in order to sell emotions, not records.

It’s a lot better than the college drama interspersed throughout the hour. “Glee” theoretically shows a lot of people who will never leave Lima. That’s not a bad thing, to be sure. But there’s always a sense lurking on the edges that while everything inside the practice room is hunky dory, the world can be a benignly cruel place. (Except when you’re restaging “Bad” in an abandoned parking lot. Then life gets REAL, and REAL FAST.) But no: both Rachel and Kurt get into the finalist rounds of NYADA. Not surprising, but not exactly dramatic. Quinn, though? Here’s what I wrote a few months ago: “Quinn should be going to jail. Instead? She’s probably going to Yale. Kill me in the face.” Or, in light of tonight’s episode, throw a rock-salted Slushie in my face. So of course she gets into Yale, because why not? It’s not like we’ve heard a lick about this plot since it was ludicrously introduced.

Everything in her speech to New Directions about overcoming obstacles rang false. Not because the details in them were inherently impossible, although that had something to do with it. No, it rang false because it detailed events we hadn’t actually seen for ourselves. Getting Quinn from “planting evidence in order to have an adult woman framed for child abuse” to “into an Ivy League school” should have taken more than eleven minutes of screen time. I’m guessing. I’m not a professional television writer. But I’m willing to wager my assessment here is correct. It’s a symptomatic problem for the show: rather than painstakingly lay out a character’s trajectory, they just skip to what they perceive are the cool, important, or emotional moments. But without the groundwork, none of the moments themselves register as they should.

After all this, New Directions won’t even perform Michael Jackson at Regionals. Santana manages to record Sebastian detailing his evil plot, in which he’s the Gus Fring to Santana’s Walter White. (“I’m the one with underboob!” she bellows, or should have.) So it’s no MJ for anyone, apparently, when it comes to the upcoming competition. That makes sense, in that the show hates to repeat musical numbers. It’s harder to sell iTunes singles if you keep reusing the same ones, after all. I understand the show not wanting to pull a “That Thing You Do!” and drive a specific tune into our brain until we cry uncle. And that’s fine, so long as each episode contributes to their understanding of what makes them work as a group. I just don’t know what they learned this week, aside from what can be concealed inside Santana’s bra.

If “Glee” worked in ways related to Finn’s earlier description, a lot of these complaints would go away. I really don’t watch a musical for its book. A smart book helps, but strong songs with strong emotional content go a long way towards covering that up. Only about 15% of tonight’s musical content actually connected, which made the remaining 85% frustrating rather than transporting. (Blaine had to be sitting there in bed thinking, “They know my name isn’t Ben, right?”) Given that The King of Pop was one of the all-time best in transporting people through his music, that’s a disappointing percentage. Then again, it’s been a disappointing season. So who should be surprised that this was the outcome?

What did you think of tonight’s episode? Were you a Michael Jackson fan going into this episode? Did you leave as one? What are the odds that Rachel leaves for NYC still engaged? What would you put in a Slushie in order to wound your mortal enemies? Sound off below!


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