Latest Blog Posts

<p>Christian Bale and Ni Ni in &quot;The Flowers of War.&quot;</p>

Christian Bale and Ni Ni in "The Flowers of War."

Credit: Wrekin Hill Entertainment

Round-up: Looking to break Hollywood's stranglehold

Also: See the Best Picture ballot, and Mazursky on Streep

There's a remarkable stat in Phil Hoad's interesting Guardian reflection on the global box office in 2011, and it's not a reassuring one. Looking down the list of the year's top grossers internationally, you have to go all the way down to 21st place to find a film made outside the Hollywood system: and if you haven't heard of "Intouchables," that'd be because it grossed its impressive $133.2 million inside its home country of France. (That said, it has been snapped up by The Weinstein Company.) Hoad wonders what can be done to bring a little more diversity to the international box office charts, and doesn't come up with many answers -- though he does suggest the crossover marketing appeal of projects like China's Christian Bale starrer "The Flowers of War" as one potential way forward. [The Guardian

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<p>Jason Segel on &quot;How I&nbsp;Met Your Mother.&quot;</p>

Jason Segel on "How I Met Your Mother."

Credit: CBS

'How I Met Your Mother' - 'Tailgate': Where everybody knows you're lame

The gang ushers in the new year in different ways in a solid episode

A review of last night's "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I open the kimono...

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<p>Katie Leclerc and Vanessa Marano of &quot;Switched at Birth&quot;</p>
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Katie Leclerc and Vanessa Marano of "Switched at Birth"

Credit: ABC Family

HitFix Interview: Creator Lizzy Weiss talks 'Switched at Birth'

ABC Family's hit drama resumes its first season on Tuesday
ABC Family's "Switched at Birth" was one of 2011's pleasant surprises.
 
The potentially tawdry tale of two teenage girls who discover they were [the title doesn't lie] switched at birth -- One's an aspiring artist raised by wealthy parents, one's a deaf basketball player raced by a blue collar single mom -- was rendered with enough sensitivity and nuance to earn a place on my Second 10 of 2011 list. 
 
In addition to being unexpectedly good, "Switched at Birth" also proved extremely successful for ABC Family, which gave the drama a back-22, bringing its first season to a whopping 32 episodes.
 
"Switched at Birth" returns on Tuesday (January 3) for the second block of episodes and I chatted with series creator Lizzy Weiss ("Blue Crush") about what's in store for Daphne (Katie Leclerc) and Bay (Vanessa Marano), their newly blended families and, of course, Emmett (Sean Berdy).
 
Click through for the full Q&A...
 
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"The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"

 "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' - 'Leis and Lies in Lanai'

Kim cracks up again, Brandi gets wasted and Taylor finds peace

Last week being the White Party Uninvitation Debacle on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," we obviously have a few loose ends to tie up before we can indulge in the carefree Hawaiian vacation to which Taylor and Russell can also consider themselves uninvited. Really, I think everyone is probably a bit relieved that Russell started tossing around the lawsuit threats that made him and Taylor persona non grata, because no one wanted that big ol' buzzkill trying to make awkward small talk with them or, worse, taking off his shirt on the beach and scaring off the dolphins. 

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<p>Alan Rickman as Severus Snape in &quot;Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.&quot; </p>

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2."

Credit: Warner Brothers Pictures

‘Harry Potter’ and the hunt for the golden statue

Warner Bros. makes the case for a Best Supporting Actor nod for Alan Rickman

Warner Bros. has put the full weight of its impressive resources behind an Oscar campaign for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.” As the last in the franchise, the film represents the final opportunity for Potter and friends to receive a non-crafts nomination (the series has received nine Oscar nods throughout the crafts categories with no wins to date). "For Your Consideration" billboards recommending the film for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography have sprung up all over Los Angeles, while producer David Heyman and director David Yates have dug in for fresh media rounds over the last several months.

Recently it seems that the studio has shifted its focus slightly to pin a last minute Oscar hope on Alan Rickman in the Best Supporting Actor field. Rickman’s character, Professor Severus Snape, is the most inherently conflicted in the adaptation and Rickman has embraced Snape’s nuanced motivations with increasing depth as the cinematic depictions have evolved. He understood what followers of J.K. Rowling’s creation have always known: as the kids age, the themes, content and severity of the stakes evolve. There were always layers present, but Rickman’s portrayal culminated in what was, for me, the most emotionally evocative sequence in the final film: the reveal of Snape’s role as a double agent, his tortured, unrequited and steadfast love for Harry Potter’s mother Lily and ultimately, his demise.

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"The Bachelor"

 "The Bachelor"

Credit: ABC

Recap: 'The Bachelor' meets a fleet of hella lotta crazy chicks

A lesbian twist and a total meltdown mixed with ridiculous entrances means one big evening for Ben

Yes, it's another season of "The Bachelor," and with boring Ben Flajnik at the helm, I wasn't expecting much. Boy, was I wrong. This may be, hands down, the weirdest, most gimmicky season opener in the series, and as for the girls, well, I don't know which mental institution the casting director hit, but some of these lovely ladies should be in restraints. Good luck, Ben! You're going to need it! 

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<p>Uggie the Dog in &quot;The Artist&quot;</p>

Uggie the Dog in "The Artist"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

'The Artist' leads with 4 Vancouver critics nods

'The Descendants' and 'The Tree of Life' also favorites

The Vancouver Film Critics Circle has joined the chorus with a list of nominees (mostly three in each category). "The Artist" led the way with four mentions. Melissa McCarthy made it in for "Bridesmaids" despite it being a trimmed-down category. Check out the full list of nominees below.

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<p>Paramount's new logo celebrating its centenary.</p>

Paramount's new logo celebrating its centenary.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Celebrate 100 years of Paramount on your iPad

Yes, there's even an app for that

If you've caught a screening of "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," you likely noted the new animated logo celebrating the studio's 100th anniversary. It's a grand occasion for any company to hit that kind of a mark, and Paramount will be wasting no time heralding the occasion later this month with a planned exhibition of Technicolor's restoration of 1927's first-ever Best Picture winner "Wings."

Meanwhile, the studio has launched a new app for the iPad that also celebrates the landmark year. The 100 Years of Movie Magic app "is an exploration of the studio’s incredibly rich and storied history," the iTunes blurb reads. "From Paramount’s modest beginning in 1912 with 'Queen Elizabeth' to 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol,' the app provides a fresh and innovative opportunity to experience your favorite films by flipping through never-before-seen photos, watching memorable film clips, and listening to timeless music scores."

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Justin Timberlake as Elton John in a still from the music video for John's 2001 song "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore"
Justin Timberlake as Elton John in a still from the music video for John's 2001 song "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore"
Credit: Universal Music Group

5 actors who could play Elton John (and none of them are Justin Timberlake)

We respectfully disagree with Sir Elton's choice to portray him in a biopic

In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Elton John said that his No. 1 pick to play him in his forthcoming biopic is Justin Timberlake, “because he played me before in a David LaChapelle video of ‘Rocket Man’ and was superb.”

We saw that video, which played behind John’s performance of “Rocket Man” during his multi-year Las Vegas run of his “Red Piano” show, and agree that Timberlake did a great job portraying John in the early ‘70s, but he’s not our first choice.

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Credit: Showtime

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 110

Dan and Alan review 'Work It,' 'Shameless,' 'Downton Abbey,' 'The Firm' and more

The

The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast leaps into 2012 with a busy show that includes reviews of "Work It," "Downton Abbey," "Shameless," "House of Lies" and "The Firm."
 
As if that's not enough, we fielded a little bit of Listener Mail.
 
And as if that weren't enough, we also spent WAY too long -- especially since this podcast was a Skype nightmare -- talking about the NFL MVP race and then the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. 
 
As a friendly reminder: The sports stuff is 100% backloaded to the end of what was already a regulation-lengthed podcast. It didn't take away from our TV talk time. It was just something we did at the end. We won't be offended if you don't listen.
 
And don't worry, we probably won't do any sports talk the next couple weeks, because we're going to be at Press Tour and there will still be premieres galore. But we'll be in the same place.
 
Anyway, here's the breakdown:
"Work It" (02:35 - 17:15)
"Downton Abbey" (17:20 - 27:20)
"The Firm" (27:25 - 38:20)
"Shameless" (38:30 - 47:55)
"House of Lies" (48:00 - 56:40)
Listener Mail - Reviewing shows projecting forward (57:00 - 01:04:10)
The NFL MVP Race (01:04:35 - 01:10:15)
The Baseball Hall of Fame (01:10:15 - 01:31:30)

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.] 

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<p>Kirsten Dunst seems to have a bit of a thing for upside-down kissing in her films.&nbsp; Important dating tip, fellas.</p>

Kirsten Dunst seems to have a bit of a thing for upside-down kissing in her films.  Important dating tip, fellas.

Credit: Jouror Productions/Onyx Films

First trailer for beautiful 'Upside Down' with Kirsten Dunst makes us dizzy

Fantasy-romance with Jim Sturgess has at least one big idea

Of course the moment we publish our list of the films we're anticipating most for 2012, we start to see trailers and things for movies we've never heard of that are coming out this year that immediately look like something we need to see.

"Upside Down" is a fantasy film from an Argentinean director named Juan Diego Solanas, and based on this peek at the movie, it's a big lovely Andrew Niccol style "imagine if the world was like this" movie.  Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst are the stars of this one, and it looks like Solanas has spent his money well, creating a great big visual hook that everything hinges on.  Movies like this are tricky to pull off, and most of the time, it's coming up with a tone that matches the big visual decision and making it work beyond the gimmick.

The first thing I can't help but notice is that one of the most iconic moments in any of Kirsten Dunst's films was in "Spider-Man," with the upside-down kiss in the rain.  Casting her in this is one of those choices that seems like a big bag of duh.  The question mark for me is Sturgess, who has had a number of shots as a leading man, and so far, I haven't felt like he really connected at all.  He does have his fans, though, and I suspect this will play an extended run on a double-bill with "Across The Universe" at the New Beverly for three or four months.

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<p>Meryl Streep will be honored at next month's Berlinale.</p>

Meryl Streep will be honored at next month's Berlinale.

Credit: AP Photo

Berlin Film Festival to honor Meryl Streep

'Iron Lady' star to receive Honorary Golden Bear in February

The New York Film Critics' Circle award may be the only significant trophy Meryl Streep has claimed so far this season, but she's certainly keeping her end up in terms of career honors. On the heels of an elaborate tribute to the actress at the Kennedy Center Honors comes news of a similar award on the other side of the ocean: Streep will be presented with an Honorary Golden Bear at next month's Berlin International Film Festival.

A screening of "The Iron Lady" will accompany the presentation of the Honorary Golden Bear, though I presume not as part of the official festival lineup. Other Streep films to be screened as part of the festival's Streep homage include "Kramer vs. Kramer," "Out of Africa," "Sophie's Choice," "The Bridges of Madison County" and (six years after it premiered at the Berlinale) "A Prairie Home Companion."

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