Latest Blog Posts

<p>Chuck (Zachary Levi)&nbsp;takes a dip. </p>

Chuck (Zachary Levi) takes a dip.

Credit: NBC

'Chuck' - 'Chuck vs. the Business Trip': The human target

Chuck and Sarah enjoy a "normal" mission, and Decker makes his move

A review of tonight's "Chuck" coming up just as soon as Missile Command is a part of my process...

Read Full Post
<p>That's Brad Pitt and Matt Damon playing a couple of Krill on an existential journey up the food chain in one of the many subplots in 'Happy Feet Two'</p>

That's Brad Pitt and Matt Damon playing a couple of Krill on an existential journey up the food chain in one of the many subplots in 'Happy Feet Two'

Credit: Warner Bros.

Review: Uneven but ambitious 'Happy Feet Two' full of big ideas and big stars

Less music but more ideas make for a challenging family film

As I expected, I'm already getting yelled at by "Twilight" fans because I dared to dig into the text created by Stephenie Meyer, whose name always appears in red as I write a piece about her or her "Twilight" series because she spells it wrong, and I dared to dislike the film based on what her books say about who she is.

The thing is, I can't just switch off the analytical part of my brain when I watch something, and I don't believe anyone should.  Yes, films are entertainment.  Yes, many of them are about as deep as a puddle.  But should a lack of ambition be the thing we reward in films?  And should ambition be considered a bad thing when a movie is trying to do something different?

George Miller obviously doesn't think so, and thank god for that.  When he makes a sequel, it seems like he goes out of his way to avoid simply rehashing the film we've already seen, and that has thrown people consistently throughout his career.  I may love "The Road Warrior" on a nearly-chemical level, but if you were a fan of "Mad Max," it must have felt jarring to go from this personal revenge story to what is essentially a spaghetti western set after the end of the world.  I know that when I first saw "Max Max Beyond Thunderdome," it threw me because I wanted more of "The Road Warrior," not a story about the Lost Boys of the Outback.  When audiences saw "Babe: Pig In The City" the first time, it must have been a real shock, and it seems like some people (Ron Meyer, I'm looking at you) still haven't gotten over it.  I love that Miller's film was almost completely different from the original, which seemed appropriate since the setting was so different.

Read Full Post


Will Drake top Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne's opening weeks on the Billboard 200?

It's starting to look a lot like Christmas as holiday title dominate

Drake may have his own issues with fame as chronicled on “Take Care,” but his fans are showing their full support as the Canadian rapper’s sophomore effort is set to sell more than 700,000 copies.

That impressive start will give Drake one of the highest opening-week tallies this year, behind Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne, on next week’s Billboard 200. Plus, in an era when even the biggest names see opening weeks for their new albums pale in comparison to albums past, Drake makes a substantial leap over the 447,000 first-week sales of last year’s  “Thank Me Later.”

Read Full Post
<p>A scene from &quot;Project Nim&quot;</p>

A scene from "Project Nim"

Credit: Red Box Films

Academy advances 15 doc features, 'Senna,' 'Interrupters' stunningly snubbed

'Pina' makes the cut while Werner Herzog and Errol Morris are ignored yet again

The documentary branch of the Academy is beginning to get as crazy with it's random snubs as the music branch, I have to say. Today's announcement of 15 eligible contenders for the Best Documentary Feature category revealed outright snubs of two of the most acclaimed hopefuls of the year -- "Senna" and "The Interrupters" -- while perhaps less surprisingly, Werner Herzog got the shaft once again for his best film in years, "Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, a Tale of Life."

Errol Morris was also shafted for "Tabloid" (which is embroiled in a lawsuit threat from subject Joyce McKinney), while other high-profile hopefuls like "Being Elmo: A Pupeteer's Journey" and "Page One: Inside the New York Times" were also ignored.

Interestingly, Wim Wenders's 3D Pina Bausch ode (and German selection for Best Foreign Language Film) "Pina" made the cut. So did "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory," which slated a one-week theatrical qualifying run ahead of its HBO premiere expressly for the purposes of being in this discussion.

Check out the full list of advancing titles below.

Read Full Post
<p>Rihanna's &quot;Talk That Talk&quot; </p>

Rihanna's "Talk That Talk"

Credit: Def Jam

Album Review: Rihanna's 'Talk That Talk'

Will her sixth set be her first No. 1?

Will Rihanna finally land her first No. 1 on the Billboard 200? In contrast to her 11 trips to the Billboard Hot 100 summit, the Barbadian singer has never reached the album chart’s peak.

If it’s a question of worthiness (which we know it’s not), then “Talk That Talk,” out Monday, should definitely claim the pole position (because, God knows, Rihanna frequently reminds us throughout the album how much she enjoys grabbing the “pole.” )

“Talk That Talk” is Rihanna’s sixth album in as many years. She’s evolved from a sweet, playful teenager on her debut “Music of the Sun” to a troubled young women, raunchily exploring the darkest corners of her sexuality on “Rated R,”  and swung back to somewhere in the middle on last year’s “Loud” and now on “Talk That Talk.” 

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;It's time to light the lights...&quot;</p>

"It's time to light the lights..."

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Interview: Nicholas Stoller on writing 'The Muppets' for generations young and old

How 'the gateway drug to comedy' got another curtain call

It had been nearly 12 years since Jim Henson's beloved creation the Muppets had seen any sort of action on the big screen when Jason Segel took a meeting with Disney execs about potential properties the studio owned that might be of interest to him. The first thing out of Segel's mouth: "What are you guys doing with the Muppets?"

The thing is, the studio didn't know. "Which is funny," screenwriter Nicholas Stoller says, "that a corporation lost one of their brands. I think there were a variety of corporate reasons. Things I don't really understand. Like, I mean, 18 different people seemed to have owned the property in the past 10 years."

That idea of "where have the Muppets been?" is what drove the original story process. Segel phoned up Stoller and asked, simply, "Do you want to write a Muppet movie?" And of course, Stoller jumped at the opportunity.

Read Full Post
"Live with Regis and Kelly"

 "Live with Regis and Kelly"

Credit: AP Photo

Regis Philbin says a poignant good-bye to 'Live with Regis and Kelly'

It's the 80-year-old's last day on morning TV

I can't say I've ever been an actual fan of Regis Philbin's or "Live with Regis and Kelly" (or, prior to that "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee." But he's an institution, and it's hard to deny he's a master of the morning genre, a friendly face to hang out with while you stagger through your morning coffee. And it may just seem like affable chatter, but watching others try and fail to engage audiences proves it's not as simple as it seems. While Hoda Kotb seems largely overwhelmed by Kathie Lee Gifford on "Today," Regis was able to go toe-to-toe with the lunatic without seeming like a bully, which speaks to some magical television skills. 

Read Full Post
<p>Get used to Dexter (Michael C. Hall), because he'll be around for at least two more seasons after this one.</p>

Get used to Dexter (Michael C. Hall), because he'll be around for at least two more seasons after this one.

Credit: Showtime

Showtime renews 'Dexter' for 2 more seasons

Michael C. Hall agrees to stay, so Dexter will keep killing and killing

Showtime has renewed "Dexter" for another two seasons, after getting star/producer Michael C. Hall to agree to a contract extension.

Read Full Post
<p>Mary J. Blige's &quot;My Life II&quot;</p>

Mary J. Blige's "My Life II"

Listen: Mary J. Bige and Beyonce tell you how to 'Love a Woman'

Are these useful instructions?

So you think you know how to love a woman? Mary J. Blige and Beyonce think you might be doing it wrong.

The two seasoned singers paired up for "Love a Woman," for Blige's forthcoming "My Life II... The Journey Continues (Act 1)," a title that's as much a mouthful as this track is. Blige and Bey try to delineate between just having sex with your girl and making love, that women want more than material things. Also: girls like to talk it out. Duh. It's actually a pretty standard list of grievances and explanations, but the real guts of the thing is when the two to light up, to bring out the best vocal performances in each other, shooting you straight back to the 1990s.

And you get it, with the extended bridge section, though the sparkler synth at the end of the runs really interfere with the combined fireworks of Blige's dark vowels and Beyonce's strong vibrato.

Read Full Post
<p>The motley crew from Alexander Payne's &quot;The Descendants&quot;</p>
<br />

The motley crew from Alexander Payne's "The Descendants"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'The Descendants'

The film hits theaters this week

The Telluride premiere of Alexandre Payne's "The Descendants" seems like ages ago. I saw the film there and had my say on it at the time, and we circle back again in today's Oscar Talk. Plus, earlier in the week, we dedicated an installment of The Lists to the best George Clooney performances. But the film hit theaters this week and it's time for you to have your say. If you get around to it this weekend, come on back and give us your thoughts.

Read Full Post
<p>Florence Welch in &quot;No Light, No Light&quot;</p>

Florence Welch in "No Light, No Light"

Watch: Florence + The Machine 'pin' Christianity against Voodoo in 'Light' video

This heavy and melodramtic clip is anything but 'Light'

Florence + The Machine tried to make more than just a beautiful -- though, somewhat disturbing -- music video for "No Light No Light." There seems to be a fable here, or a classic battle between good and evil.

The melodramatic clip literally pins Florence Welch against a contortionist/Voodoo priest and his minions (?), as she's tortured by a Voodoo doll, falls from a skyscraper, runs from danger, writhes in pain. She ultimately, baptismally falls through a stained-glass window through the top of a church (?) and into the arms of an all-boys choir. The priest falls to the ground, dying it seems, and Florence is comforted safely by the boys and by the cutey pie she's been singing about all along.

It's actually kind of startling when you consider the symbolism, pairing classic Christian imagery against an exotic -- and, yes, dark-skinned -- "other." I'm not sure if Welch intended commentary on spiritual matters, or was just playing with themes, but she returns, once again, to the symbol of immersion (water and otherwise) with the clip.

At the end of the day, it's a bit too much to watch. I like the rality of her running scared, and the dancers who cause her pain are impossible not to watch. It's just so... so.

"No Light No Light" is off of Florence + the Machine's latest "Ceremonials," already out this fall.

What do you think?

Read Full Post
<p>Leila Hatami and Peyman Moaadi in &quot;A Separation.&quot;</p>

Leila Hatami and Peyman Moaadi in "A Separation."

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

'A Separation' wins BBC World Cinema Award

Iran's Oscar entry beats 'The Skin I Live In,' among others, to the prize

If you were still in any doubt that Asghar Farhadi's superb Iranian marital drama "A Separation" is this year's Chosen One on the world cinema circuit, there was further confirmation this week, as the film scooped the annual BBC Four World Cinema Award, handed annually by rotating jury of film and arts luminaries to what they perceive as the standout non-English-language film of the year.

The award itself is a modest one, but it has a habit of going to consensus critical champions. Previous winners include "The White Ribbon," "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" and "Pan's Labyrinth." Juries here clearly aren't encouraged to surprise with against-the-grain choices, nor should they be.

"A Separation" is clearly, and deservedly, now in that elevated league of approval, despite its lesser-known auteur and more modest origins: it's the first winner of the award since "Downfall" in 2006 not to have debuted at Cannes. (If the success of Farhadi's film has taught us anything this year, it's that people should pay closer attention to the Berlinale in February.) An Oscar nomination is expected -- should the general branch members not vote it in, there'll be critical hell to pay if the executive committee doesn't save it -- though I'm still not counting on the soft-centered voting contingent giving this thorny moral study the win.

Read Full Post