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<p>Dwayne Johnson, Luis Guzman, Michael Caine, Vanessa Hudgens, and Josh Hutcherson all struggle to give some sense of urgency to the tepid 'Journey 2:&nbsp;The Mysterious Island'</p>

Dwayne Johnson, Luis Guzman, Michael Caine, Vanessa Hudgens, and Josh Hutcherson all struggle to give some sense of urgency to the tepid 'Journey 2: The Mysterious Island'

Credit: Warner Bros/New Line

Review: Dwayne Johnson and Michael Caine struggle with flimsy 'Journey 2'

Anemic family adventure can't find anything interesting for cast to do

Even by the standards of family adventure movies, "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" feels completely slapdash and indifferent, a trailer for a franchise that just happens to run feature-length.  It is scripted as if someone greenlit a first-draft treatment without bothering to flesh it out or hone any of the ideas, and the idea that we're supposed to care about seeing these characters return in future adventures would be insulting if it weren't so obvious that even the people onscreen aren't invested in that actually happening.

The general idea of building a franchise of movies out of the public domain works of Jules Verne is not automatically a bad one.  Theoretically, I can see that working.  In practice, though, this does not appear to be the right way to do it.  The first film, "Journey To The Center Of The Earth," played more like a proof-of-concept reel for 3D event movies than as a real film.  It leaned on whatever franchise weight Brendan Fraser was able to muster, with Josh Hutcherson playing his son in the film.  This sequel does not bring back the original director (Eric Brevig), the original screenwriters (Michael D. Weiss, Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin), or Fraser.  Instead, they've refitted the movies so Hutcherson is now living with his mother ("Sex and the City" star Kristin Davis) and her new husband Hank (Dwayne Johnson).  There's absolutely no effort made to explain Fraser's absence or to connect this with any sort of narrative thread to the first film.  Aside from the actual on-screen title, there is no evidence that this is a sequel at all.  This is an odd move, but it sort of exemplifies the approach of the entire film.  It's all so incredibly painless and weightless and inconsequential.

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<p>ObiShawn and Toshi engage in a battle to the death as part of a Lucasfilm press event for 'Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom&nbsp;Menace 3D'</p>

ObiShawn and Toshi engage in a battle to the death as part of a Lucasfilm press event for 'Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Film Nerd 2.0 heads to Skywalker Ranch for a weekend of 'Star Wars'

Room 666 and a red lightsaber? Is someone trying to tell us something?

It started with an e-mail while I was at Sundance.

I was still gearing up for that festival, a massive drain of time and attention, getting settled in at the HitFix condo and figuring out my schedule for the days ahead, when I opened an e-mail from Fox.

I had to read it several times before I was convinced that they had sent it to the right person, and even then, I had to e-mail them back to make sure.  After all, I had spent over a decade being told in no unclear terms that I was officially Banned From The Ranch.  And yet, here was an invite for Toshi and I to fly up on a Friday night and spend a weekend participating in a press junket to celebrate the release of "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" in 3D.

The first call I made was to my wife to find out how she felt about the idea.  I love doing the Film Nerd 2.0 stuff with Toshi, but he's six years old, and the last thing I want to do is make him feel like he's obligated to any of this.  I also don't want to just make unilateral decisions about travel when Toshi's involved, and so we talked about the pros and the cons of taking him.  One immediate issue that we both recognized was that Allen would end up feeling slighted no matter what we did, because he's at that age where he is acutely aware of what Toshi gets to do that he doesn't get to do.  It matters to him, and contending with that fierce sibling rivalry means sometimes making choices that head the issue off completely.

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<p>Jim Carrey will most likely never play Count Olaf again, but there's still hope that a new book series could rekindle interest in film versions of the popular books by Lemony Snicket.</p>

Jim Carrey will most likely never play Count Olaf again, but there's still hope that a new book series could rekindle interest in film versions of the popular books by Lemony Snicket.

Credit: Paramount/Nickelodeon

Lemony Snicket orders million copies in first printing of launch of new series

Daniel Handler is bringing his famous pen name back to life

Harry Potter may be well and truly over, and I get the feeling that Jo Rowling is not kidding when she says she told the story and she's done and that's that.  But Daniel Handler left plenty of room for revisiting the strange and somber world of his Lemony Snicket novels, and now they've made the official announcements that confirm what Handler's been hinting at for a while.

On October 23, Little, Brown Books will release "Who Could That Be At This Hour?", which will kick off a new series called "All The Wrong Questions."  And while the previous series of novels was concerned with the fate of the Beaudelaire Orphans and their ongoing rivalry with Count Olaf, a degenerate weirdo who was chasing their inheritance, it seems that they will play no significant role in this new series.  Over the course of "A Series Of Unfortunate Events," all of which were narrated by Lemony Snicket, there were clues dropped about a much larger storyline, clues which were left up in the air at the end of the series.  It looks like that material is exactly what they'll be tackling in this new series, and for fans of the books, this is very good news indeed.

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'The Artist' and 'The Help' wage war for Oscar on LA's electronic battlefield

'The Artist' and 'The Help' wage war for Oscar on LA's electronic battlefield

Updated: 'Moneyball' and 'Hugo' are still out there too

The history of Oscar campaigning is almost akin to man's evolution from the apes.  What primarily started out as For Your Consideration ads in the local trades (Variety, The Hollywood Reporter) morphed into local cable TV buys (usually talent spouting off talking points about their movie) to traditional outdoor (primarily strategically placed billboards and bus shelter ads) to print ads in the newspaper keeping the LA Times afloat (Academy members are old and read the paper, duh) to the current wash of online advertising and, hilariously, online websites -- that will go unnamed -- publishing Academy specific print "magazines" (don't get me started on that one).  Practically, the online ads have been the biggest game changer by significantly cutting into trades sales revenues, but the past few years have seen a new tool used to reach both Oscar and Emmy voters: the electronic billboard.

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"Top Chef"

 "Top Chef"

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'Top Chef' - 'Mentors'

Another chef is added to the mix and the finalists must cook for their mentors

Well, our final four is...  not the final four. As we know, the winner of Last Chance Kitchen will be joining the challenges ahead, and then we'll have a final four. After the remaining chefs get the good/bad news about another chef rejoining the show, Ed has a pack of cigarettes saying it's Bev. Sarah is willing to put money on Grayson and will raise him a banana. I'm with Ed. Although I don't want the cigarettes. 

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<p>John Williams in rehearsal with Boston Pops Orchestra. </p>

John Williams in rehearsal with Boston Pops Orchestra.

Credit: AP Photo/Robert E. Klein

From 'Jaws' to 'Star Wars,' 'Raiders' to 'Tintin': John Williams celebrates his 80th birthday

A look (in video) at some of his most iconic work

Whatever your take on Lucasfilm’s output over the last 13-years may be, there are very few of us who can listen to more than just a few notes of the “Star Wars” score without feeling a rushing sense of possibility, excitement and remembered pleasure, or if it is the "Imperial March" a delicious impression of impending evil.

John Williams is responsible for some of the most beloved and iconic scores of our time. He’s been nominated for 47 Oscars (including two this year, for “The Adventures of Tintin” and “War Horse”), making him the second-most nominated person after Walt Disney (and the most-nominated composer, passing Alfred Newman this year). He won four original score Oscars, for the haunting and evocative “Schindler’s List” (1993), the bitter-sweet optimism of “E.T.:The Extra-Terrestrial” (1983), the indelible and enduring “Star Wars” (1977), and what has become the universal sound symbol for “danger in the water,” “Jaws” (1975). He also won Best Scoring Adaptation and Original Song Score for “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1971, kicking off his love affair with the Academy.

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<p>Madonna performs at the Super Bowl on Sunday.</p>

Madonna performs at the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Kelly Clarkson shows her strength on the Billboard Hot 100, as does Madonna

'American Idol' winner scores her third No. 1 with 'Stronger'

Kelly Clarkson scores her third chart topper on the Billboard Hot 100 as “Stronger” pushes its way to the summit this week.  But will she have to fight off a huge charge from Madonna?

The “American Idol’s” season one winner's third No. 1, and first from the album of the same name, pushes Adele’s “Set Fire To the Rain” out of the top spot, as that title drops to No. 2. But the big news is that Madge’s first single, “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” from her forthcoming album “MDNA” surges onto the Hot 100 at No. 13. The track received a huge push from Clear Channel’s pop radio stations, which pumped the song every hour for 60 hours Friday through Sunday.

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<p>Rick Ross</p>

Rick Ross

Today in New Music Videos: Rick Ross, Cee Lo, Jill Scott and Sam Sparro

The Constellations get 'Murdered,' Ladyhawke nods to 'Laura Mars'

Check out new music videos from Rick Ross, Pharoahe Monch and Jill Scott, The Constellations with Cee Lo, Ladyhawke and Sam Sparro.

Contrary to popular opinion, Rihanna has not cornered the market on "yellow diamonds." America's favorite former corrections officer Rick Ross has unveiled his drug dealing fantasies in "Yella Diamonds," another cut off of oft-delayed "God Forgives, I Don't." I thought I told that man to keep off his feet.

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<p>Your &quot;American Idol&quot; judges</p>
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Your "American Idol" judges

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' - Hollywood Week, Part 1 - Live-Blog

The auditions are over and now Randy, Steven and J-Lo get serious

The "American Idol" auditions are over!

Everybody do a happy dance!

Wednesday (Feb. 8) night's episode begins Hollywood Week, the most intense Hollywood Week in the history of humanity. Or somesuch. Click through for the highs and lows...

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Taking questions for 2/10 Oscar Talk

Offer up your burning queries

Alright, you know the drill. Rifle off your need-to-knows and we'll address as many as we can on Friday's podcast. I believe we're going to try and discuss the live action and animated shorts, perhaps the doc features. Anyway, a few categories will be covered in detail. Have at it!

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<p>Sigur R&oacute;s</p>

Sigur Rós

Sigur Rós announces first live show in four years: more to come?

Icelandic band headlining Bestival in England

Sigur Ros has made first contact in terms of a new tour today, as they announce they'll be headlining the Bestival festival in England this summer and plan to hit the road in 2012.

The Icelandic dream-rockers will head to the Isle of Wight for a Sept. 9 show, confirming their first live performance in four years. And, apparently, "their only show in the UK in 2012."

"We’ll be announcing more tour dates soon – sign up to our mailing list to get the news first," the band posted on their site.

The band was last out to support 2008's "Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust," though they released a new film last year, "Inni," which was just lovely. Not quite as lovely as 2007's "Heima," which is practically experiential in illustrating the power of Sigur Ros' live show. I was taken with Jonsi's solo stint in support of "Go" two years ago, and I imagine that this forthcoming 2012 tour will have the same stunning visual clout, particularly as it seems Sigur Ros' fandom continues to grow through exposure in television and movie placements, like in Cameron Crowe's "We Bought a Zoo."

The Cure, Bjork and PJ Harvey headed up Bestival last year.

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<p>Someone's menacing more lovely Spanish ladies in 'REC 3:&nbsp;GENESIS,' one of the movies announced today for the Midnighters section of this year's SXSW&nbsp;Festival in Austin.</p>

Someone's menacing more lovely Spanish ladies in 'REC 3: GENESIS,' one of the movies announced today for the Midnighters section of this year's SXSW Festival in Austin.

Credit: SXSW

SXSW rounds out its 2012 slate with Midnights including 'Rec 3' and 'V/H/S'

Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel... and Nazis on the moon?

Last week, we featured the announcement of much of SXSW's feature programming, but noted that they still hadn't announced the Midnights section.

Now that they have, I think it's safe to say that SXSW plans to blow your ass off this year.  And I mean surgically and precisely.  They are programming an aggressively wild line-up, some of which I've seen, some of which I haven't.  They've also announced shorts in a wide array of categories, filling out what are frequently some of the most exciting parts of a festival in terms of finding new voices.  You add this batch of titles to what we'd already heard, and it's looking like a great year for one of my favorite fests, starting on March 9 with "The Cabin In The Woods."

There are eleven Midnighters this year.  I've linked back to my reviews of a few of them, but I'm curious to see all eleven as they work together on audiences.  "REC 3" is a pretty big get for SXSW, but honestly, the title that excites me most is "Iron Sky."  This is a great example of a crowd-sourced piece of art that has been nurtured along from initial joke to trailer to feature film, and if it works, it's going to be something a lot of people have helped happen.  Great to see that "John Dies At The End" and "V/H/S" are going to screen for Austin crowds.  Both films almost feel custom-designed for these audiences.  

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