Latest Blog Posts

Counting Crows have a new album, and they'll be streaming it in full for free

Counting Crows have a new album, and they'll be streaming it in full for free

Band is experimenting with social media in their post-Geffen days

Yeah, what did happen to the Counting Crows?

I was thinking about that as I saw the movie "Gypsy Davy" at this year's Sundance Film Festival. The documentary film, in a tangent, reveals the origins of "a black-haired / flamenco dancer" and the father who plays guitar in the '90s hit "Mr. Jones." There's footage of the band's floppy-dreaded frontman Adam Duritz singing the song live and a reminder that Duritz and his bandmates had lives and other bands before Counting Crows. And they've seen some strange years after its inception.

The rock act parted ways from Geffen in 2009, and I honestly thought that may be the end of that. They'd released the immensely personal and very dark double-disc "Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings" in 2008, with some interviews revealing some of heavy baggage. There were some good reasons why it took the band six years to release an album of new material after 2002's "Hard Candy," including Duritz' struggle with a dissociative disorder. It's a mental illness spurred on by pressure, which the band undoubtedly had after its string of hits starting in 1993 and throughout the '90s into the 2000s.

Being an immensely popular rock band from the 1990s doesn't always bode well in this jaded post-Internet age. Ask Bush, or the Wallflowers or Creed.

All this while, the Counting Crows have been touring consistently, and Duritz and the crew have been pretty lively on Twitter, with well over a million followers, and vibrant in other online community hotspots. It's this relationship that may have spurred an experiment from the band for the release of their next studio effort.

Read Full Post
<p>Brie Larson makes a strong impression in 'Rampart,' the first of several movies she stars in for 2012.</p>

Brie Larson makes a strong impression in 'Rampart,' the first of several movies she stars in for 2012.

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Brie Larson, Robin Wright-Penn and Anne Heche discuss 'Rampart'

The ladies in Woody Harrelson's life talk about the wild ride

I'll have a review of "Rampart" for you this week, but in addition, we've got a few interviews to support the film that I want to share as well.

I like that the movie surprised me.  I thought I had it figured out walking in, and on some level, it is what you think you'd get from a movie about police corruption from the writer/director of "The Messenger" and in collaboration with author James Ellroy.  But thanks to a crafty lead performance by Woody Harrelson and a focus that includes a good deal about the women in the life of Officer David Brown (Harrelson), the film is richer than I expected.

Normally, I wouldn't want to just lump all the women from a film together in one interview, but in this case, it felt thematically appropriate since so much of the film deals with how Brown deals with these very strong women and how they put up with him and influence him.  Robin Wright Penn, Anne Heche, and Brie Larson made for a nice intimidating line-up on the morning we sat down to discuss their work, and we ended up having a series of very warm and interesting chats.

Read Full Post
Album Review: Dierks Bentley proves there's no place like 'Home'

Album Review: Dierks Bentley proves there's no place like 'Home'

Unless it's the local bar

Dierks Bentley’s last album, the Grammy-nominated, bluegrass-flavored “Up On the Ridge,” showcased a previously hidden depth and it seems to have given the country singer an extra boost of confidence that he carries into “Home,” his sixth studio album for Capitol Records.

The set, out Feb. 7, has already spawned two hits: the chart topping “Am I The Only One,” and the thoughtful patriotic title track, which was informed by the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and others in Bentley’s home state of Arizona.

[More after the jump...]

Read Full Post
<p>Tilda Swinton in &quot;We Need to Talk About Kevin.&quot;</p>

Tilda Swinton in "We Need to Talk About Kevin."

Credit: Oscilloscope Pictures

'We Need to Talk About Kevin' tops Evening Standard Award winners

Michael Fassbender and Olivia Colman take acting honors

Unfortunately, after attending the Evening Standard Film Awards ceremony last year, I wasn't able to repeat this year -- a disappointment for me, since it's probably the chattiest and most unbuttoned stop on the UK precursor awards circuit.

I have happy memories of last year's event at London's tucked-away Cinema Museum, where Peter Mullan's sobering (and largely unawarded) youth drama "Neds" won top honors and I had a nice talk with director Asif Kapadia, who had a baby strapped to his stomach and was rather excited about a little film he had just premiered in Sundance called "Senna." One year later, he turns out to be a winner at tonight's event -- funny how these things work out.

The Evening Standard Awards, limited to British talent and determined by a jury of top London print critics including The Times's Kate Muir, The Telegraph's Tim Robey and, of course, The Standard's Derek Malcolm, pride themselves on their independent-mindedness -- last year, in addition to Mullan's unexpected triumph, they were also the only ceremony to reward Kristin Scott Thomas for the French drama "Leaving." This year, they still sit thoroughly left of BAFTA in their British film tastes, but have had their thunder slightly stolen by last month's London Critics' Circle Awards, which coincidentally pre-empted many of the Standard jury's choices (which are made in December, though kept secret until the ceremony).

Read Full Post
<div id="myEventWatcherDiv" style="display:none;">&nbsp;</div>


Credit: NBC

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 114

Dan and Alan talk Super Bowl commercials, 'Smash,' 'The River' and more


Happy Monday, Boys and Girls!
Well, it's not a happy Monday if you're a Patriots fan, but Sepinwall isn't, so at least it's a happy Monday for him.
It's time for a busy post-Super Bowl installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, in which I'm relieved that we made no bets on the Big Game. In the podcast, we discuss Super Bowl commercials, "Smash," "The River" and answer a pile of mail.
A good time will be had by all.
Here's the breakdown:
Super Bowl commercials (01:15 - 20:40)
"Smash" (20:40 - 39:00)
"The River" (39:00 - 52:50)
Listener Mail - "30 Rock" (53:30 - 58:45)
Listener Mail - "Kid Nation" and stuff (58:45 - 01:05:45)
Listener Mail - Casting "exclusives" (01:06:25 - 01:13:25)

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.] 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

Read Full Post
<p>The Shins</p>

The Shins

Credit: Annie Beedy

Listen: The Shins ponder 'September' as they unleash tour dates for spring

The B-Side to 'Simple Song' arrives; James Mercer taps some cool touring buddies

The Shins have tacked on more headlining tour dates for their spring trek as they bow the B-Side to currently single "Simple Song."

The newly revamped rock-pop troupe have an aesthetically pleasing lyric video for "September" literally spinning on their website, the companion to the leading track from new album "Port of Morrow." While that set is due in March, the band brings it back to the fall, where this sweetly heartbroken song sounds more akin to leaves falling than buds blooming. Or something. James Mercer's wordplay again takes front and center, as little hints of alt-country and Americana rises through the guitar processors.

Read Full Post
Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 114: 'Smash,' 'The River,' Super Bowl ads and more

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 114: 'Smash,' 'The River,' Super Bowl ads and more

Dan and Alan also answer letters about '30 Rock,' casting news and reality TV


The Super Bowl has ended, and since Dan and I couldn't agree on an acceptable wager, the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast is the same as it ever was. We don't dwell on the game very much, but we do talk for a while about the underwhelming crop of commercials, before transitioning into reviews of NBC's "Smash" and ABC's "The River," and then a smattering of listener mail.

The line-up: 

Super Bowl commercials (01:15 - 20:40)
"Smash" (20:40 - 39:00)
"The River" (39:00 - 52:50)
Listener Mail - "30 Rock" (53:30 - 58:45)
Listener Mail - "Kid Nation" and stuff (58:45 - 01:05:45)
Listener Mail - Casting "exclusives" (01:06:25 - 01:13:25)
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, download the MP3 file or stream it on Dan's blog.
And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.
Read Full Post
<p>Alexander Payne at last week's Directors' Guild Awards.</p>

Alexander Payne at last week's Directors' Guild Awards.

Credit: AP Photo/Dan Steinberg

American Cinema Editors honor Alexander Payne

'The Descendants' director named Filmmaker of the Year by guild

Considering his film isn't much of a crafts showcase, the editors' contingent has really showed up for Alexander Payne and "The Descendants" in the past month. When it looked like the modestly scaled domestic dramedy was in danger of receiving no below-the-line recognition at the Oscars, Fox Searchlight -- doubtless mindful of the fact that no film has won Best Picture without any since 1980 -- stepped up their game with a targeted campaign highlighting the film's technical properties, highlighting in particular the work of editor Kevin Tent.

Editing, of course, is routinely the easiest craft category for unflashy Best Picture nominees to find a home in, and the studio's strategy worked a treat -- Tent landed a nomination from the American Cinema Editors, followed in due course by the Academy's editors' branch, beefing up the film's contender profile at the expense of more artfully edited fare like "The Tree of Life" or "Drive." 

Read Full Post
<p>Tyson Ritter</p>

Tyson Ritter

Credit: HitFix

Watch: All-American Rejects' frontman talks 'Kids in the Street' and poisonous women

Band on the run as 'Beekeeper's Daughter' music video debuts

Tyson Ritter, in a few mere motions, slipped off his artfully ripped t-shirt in front of 15 people and slipped on a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, all for the sake of being "twinsies," to match my last-ditch gray digs. He bounced on the balls of his feet between questions and smoothed his long hair during our interview at this year's 2012 Sundance Film Festival, cunningly throwing in a phrase like "bag of d*cks" with his philosophizing on his band's varietal fanbase.

Like their frontman, the All-American Rejects are kind of all over the place. The quartet has been finished with their newest album "Kids in the Street" for a year, and in between have been "finagling" with their record label Interscope and their core listeners, lining up dates with Warped Tour and mulling how to depart from the traditional album release cycle and the alt-pop mold.

"We're melodic, we have a pop orientation," Ritter tells me of "Kids," "but this record... has a story in it."

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;The River&quot;&nbsp;is about the search for Bruce Greenwood's Dr. Emmet Cole.</p>

"The River" is about the search for Bruce Greenwood's Dr. Emmet Cole.

Credit: ABC

Review: ABC's 'The River' keeps the scares coming week after week

Found-footage horror story from 'Paranormal Activity' creator works as a TV show

At first blush, horror is a genre that wouldn't seem to lend itself well to television. So much of what makes a scary story effective in a darkened movie theater shouldn't necessarily apply to a weekly series. You can maintain a sense of dread, or willingly suspend your disbelief about why the damn fools won't get out of the haunted house already, for two hours, but week after week for years? That's tougher.

But horror has had some past success on the small screen ("The X-Files," for instance, took more of its stylistic cues from horror than science-fiction), and we're in a mini-boom right now with AMC's "The Walking Dead" and FX's "American Horror Story." You can argue with how successfully each of those shows has tried to tell their ongoing stories — and even the "AHS" producers recognized they couldn't keep their story going past a single season, and will start over from scratch with a new idea and characters — but these are very big hits for their respective channels, and "Walking Dead" has a long-running comic book series to draw stories from for years to come.

And now comes "The River," the new ABC found-footage horror series from "Paranormal Activity" creator Oren Peli, which is debuting tomorrow night at 9. I watched the pilot months ago, was impressed by the level of suspense maintained throughout, yet wondered how on earth it would work as an ongoing series.

And having seen four additional hours since then (one of which will air after the pilot tomorrow night), I'm pleased to tell you that —for now, at least — it does work.

Read Full Post
<p>Jonah&nbsp;Hill in &quot;Moneyball&quot;</p>

Jonah Hill in "Moneyball"

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Oscar Guide 2011: Best Supporting Actor

Kenneth Branagh, Jonah Hill, Nick Nolte, Christopher Plummer and Max von Sydow 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.)

This year's Best Supporting Actor race seemed to settle in rather early on. The eventual five nominees were all considered formidable as far back as September and nothing really came along to significantly alter the landscape. The one "surprise" came in the form of a contender popping up who had been expected to fall the way of his film.

Well, ultimately he did, though it was a different way than anticipated. And he took the place of an apparent dominant force int he field who was nevertheless snubbed by SAG before getting snubbed here, so perhaps that should have been writing on the wall.

The nominees are…

Read Full Post
<p>Danny DeVito gives voice to one of Dr. Seuss' greatest creations in the new film adaptation of 'The Lorax'</p>

Danny DeVito gives voice to one of Dr. Seuss' greatest creations in the new film adaptation of 'The Lorax'

Credit: Universal/Illumination

A visit to Illumination Studios and a sneak peek at 'The Lorax'

Can the 'Despicable' studio get Seuss right, and is this just the first?

Illumination Studios stands in an unassuming building on an industrial street in Santa Monica.  The only indication from outside as to the building's identity comes from an occasional glimpse of a Minion from "Despicable Me" through one of the windows.  One would never guess just driving by that this building is where they're currently working to build a new animation legacy.

And, by all accounts, succeeding.

I first visited the studio as they were working on "Despicable Me," and my first impression of Chris Meledandri was that he definitely knew how to talk a good game.  He was an important part of Fox's animation relationship with Blue Sky Studios, and when he left Fox, he decided that he wanted to focus all of his energies on creating animated movies.  If you're going to get into that business, you can't dabble.   You have to go all in.  You have to believe in animation 100%, and you have to focus on making each film great.  I've seen studios make the mistake of thinking they can crank out kid movies and they don't have to respect the audience or the process, but in those cases, they almost always fail.

Meledandri's first picture for Illumination, "Despicable Me," did a very nice job of establishing a style and a sensibility that was their own.  They also ended up with their very own mascots, the Minions, who they are going to be dropping into films for some time to come, I suspect.  The film did well for Universal, but more than that, it gave Illumination credibility.

Read Full Post