Latest Blog Posts

<p>Margot Robbie and Gaius Charles in &quot;Pan Am.&quot;</p>

Margot Robbie and Gaius Charles in "Pan Am."

Credit: ABC

The Morning Round-Up: 'Pan Am' and 'Once Upon a Time'

The stewardesses battle racism and communism, while Snow White and Prince Charming meet cute

It's time for another morning round-up, in which I have brief thoughts on the most recent episodes of "Pan Am" and "Once Upon a Time," coming up just as soon as I borrow your uniform...

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<p>Keira Knightley at the London Film&nbsp;Festival premiere of &quot;A&nbsp;Dangerous Method&quot;</p>

Keira Knightley at the London Film Festival premiere of "A Dangerous Method"

Credit: AP Photo/Jonathan Short

Oscarweb Round-up: Keira Knightley is desperate for a little levity

Also: The milestones of Eddie Murphy's career and young Hollywood at AFI Fest

Actress Keira Knightley has cranked out a boatload of sincere performances in the wake of her work in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, whether it be "Atonement" in 2007, "The Duchess" in 2008, "Never Let Me Go" last year or the soon-to-be-released "A Dangerous Method," which could generate Oscar talk for the actress yet again. Well, it turns out she's desperate for a bit of levity, having recently completed "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" (great script) opposite Steve Carrell. But then, well, it's back to the grind with Joe Wright and "Anna Karenina," so call it a brief comedic pit stop. [Telegraph]

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<p>Kirsten Dunst in &quot;Melancholia,&quot; which leads the European Film Award nominations with eight bids.</p>

Kirsten Dunst in "Melancholia," which leads the European Film Award nominations with eight bids.

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

'Melancholia' rules European Film Award nods

Oscar hopefuls 'The Artist' and 'Le Havre' also feature strongly

There's a tendency in our circles to talk about the European Film Awards, which announced their annual nominations on Saturday, as some kind of highbrow parallel-universe Oscars, where art reigns and Hollywood-style politics have no place. To some extent, that's true: at what other international awards ceremony would the top nominee be something as off-the-wall as Lars von Trier's apocalypse drama "Melancholia," which comfortably leads all takers with eight nods?

But look closer at the EFA list, and you'll see it's as riddled with conservatism and short-sightedness as any Academy Award ballot. Familiar big-name filmmakers dominate, while newer talents get frozen out. Exciting, difficult European marvels like "We Need to Talk About Kevin" and "Elena" are shunted out of the top categories in favor of vanilla, Academy-endorsed titles like "The King's Speech" and "In a Better World." Cannes remains the standard-setter: two-thirds of the Best European Film slate comes from this year's Competition.

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<p>Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson in &quot;Rampart.&quot;</p>

Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson in "Rampart."

Credit: Millennium Entertainment

Woody Harrelson's tough luck with Oscar will continue with 'Rampart'

Was this the wrong strategy for Oren Moverman's drama?

Sometimes lady luck is clearly on your side and sometimes it really isn't.  In terms of Oscar, Woody Harrelson has consistently struck out with the mercurial lady twice already and this year it appears he won't even make it to the party.  Harrelson gives another impressive and strong performance as Dave Brown, an LAPD cop who can't break his corrupt habits in Owen Moverman's "Rampart."  Harrelson's performance has drawn raves since the film debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in September (this pundit screened it at the AFI Fest on Saturday night). After Toronto, Millennium Entertainment came on board to give the film a pre-release Oscar qualifying run in December and a platform release in 2012. In hindsight, the Toronto and fall release strategy may not have been the best strategy for "Ramparts" producers.

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<p>Anson Mount and Common in &quot;Hell on Wheels.&quot;</p>

Anson Mount and Common in "Hell on Wheels."

Credit: AMC

'Hell on Wheels' - 'Pilot': An elephant never forgets

What did everybody think of AMC's new Western?

I posted my review of "Hell on Wheelsearlier in the week. Now it's your turn. Did you enjoy this show's take on the familiar Western genre? Did you buy Anson Mount as a grizzled gunslinger? Common as a tough ex-slave? Colm Meaney as a charismatic businessman who gives monologues to thin air? If you were a "Deadwood" fan, was it hard to avoid the similarities? Most importantly, will you keep watching?

As I said at the end of my review, I didn't especially like the show, but it's acceptable enough in a genre I enjoy that I imagine I'll at least be sticking with it through the end of the season. And as a result, I may wind up doing regular posts - about as long as this one, if not shorter - to see if other people want to keep talking about it. We'll play it by ear, and if the interest just isn't there, I'll either stop or start bundling it up into one of the semi-regular round-up features.

Have at it.

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<p>Sgt. Brody (Damian Lewis)&nbsp;on &quot;Homeland.&quot;</p>

Sgt. Brody (Damian Lewis) on "Homeland."

Credit: Showtime

'Homeland' - 'The Good Soldier': Hello, Larry

Carrie tries to use a polygraph expert to trap Brody

A review of tonight's "Homeland" coming up just as soon as I'm a victim of your fabulousness...

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<p>Andy and Tommy of &quot;The Amazing Race&quot;</p>
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Andy and Tommy of "The Amazing Race"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'The Amazing Race' - 'Move Goat'

A Speed Bump, a Double U-Turn and a race for first
The producers of "The Amazing Race" definitely can't sue Zac & Laurence for being stupid, but they can certainly resent the Father/Son Adventurers for possibly screwing up the intended structure of the show's latest leg. 
Oh well. It wasn't a big deal. I don't think that Laurence & Zac's dumbness had any impact at all on the results of the leg, but they definitely contributed to an anti-climactic conclusion to what was otherwise a decent episode of television.
Click through for the breakdown...
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<p>Eddie Murphy and Brett Ratner hope to spice the Oscarcast up this year, now with a troupe of fresh writers.</p>

Eddie Murphy and Brett Ratner hope to spice the Oscarcast up this year, now with a troupe of fresh writers.

Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Newly tapped Oscarcast writers place an emphasis on funny

Credits include 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' and 'Saturday Night Live'

Over at the Los Angeles Times/Envelope 24 Frames blog, Nicole Sperling has a juicy exclusive regarding this year's Oscar telecast. It seems Brett Ratner and Don Mischer, producers of this year's show, have hired a unique crop of comedy writers to work alongside Eddie Murphy and shake things up a bit.

Scribes tapped include: Alec Berg and David Mandel, two of the writers on Larry David's successful HBO comedy series "Curb Your Enthusiasm"; Jeff Nathanson, who frequently works with Ratner ("Tower Heist" and the "Rush Hour" films); Ted Griffin, who was part of the team of writers on Steven Soderbergh's "Ocean's" franchise; and Barry Blaustein and David Sheffield, who worked with Murphy on the "Nutty Professor" series and "Saturday Night Live."

Jon Macks, who wrote on the last 14 Oscarcasts and has extensive experience with variety show writing, from the Emmys to the Country Music Awards to "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," will also be on board.

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<p>Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) has a family reunion on &quot;Boardwalk Empire.&quot;</p>

Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) has a family reunion on "Boardwalk Empire."

Credit: HBO

'Boardwalk Empire' - 'Peg of Old': She is the one who knocks

Van Alden has baby mama drama, while Margaret has a family dinner

A review of tonight's "Boardwalk Empire" coming up just as soon as I send you a book with a horse in it...

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<p>Daryl (Norman Reedus)&nbsp;goes hunting on &quot;The Walking Dead.&quot;</p>

Daryl (Norman Reedus) goes hunting on "The Walking Dead."

Credit: AMC

'The Walking Dead' - 'Cherokee Rose': Throw the zombie down the well

The action slows down for a more character-driven episode

A review of tonight's "The Walking Dead" coming up just as soon as I bet on the snowball...

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<p>It all comes down to this.</p>

It all comes down to this.

Credit: 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm Ltd.

Film Nerd 2.0: The hero's journey ends with 'Return Of The Jedi' on Blu-ray

Ewoks, explosions, the Emperor, and many many shared tears close out the series

There was no event that took place during my vacation that equaled the impact of the screening I held for my sons Toshi and Allen of the final film in the "Star Wars" series, "Return of the Jedi."

And really, how could there be?

When we started this, I admit that I wasn't really thinking about it as a pivotal moment in their filmgoing lives.  I had no idea what sort of impact the films would have on them, even though I knew what kind of impact the films had on me.  One of the things I've tried to do as I've been sharing movies with my boys is be careful not to try to force them into liking the things I like.  I've been very careful about the way the iconography of "Star Wars" was introduced into their lives, never placing it on a pedestal above everything else.  There are certain little things around the house that have been there as long as they've been alive.  A Yoda figure in one room.  A Battle Droid on another shelf.  An old toy lightsaber in their toy box.  Toshi started asking me about seeing the "Star Wars" films about a year ago, and when the Blu-ray box set showed up, I finally decided to give it a try.  Part of me thought I was doing it too soon, but I couldn't deny the interest was there, and that's been the big guiding light so far with this series.  I make things available on an age-appropriate basis, and then they tell me what interests them.

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<p>Common of &quot;Hell on Wheels&quot;</p>
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Common of "Hell on Wheels"

Credit: AMC

TV Review: AMC's 'Hell on Wheels'

New Western is the least successful of AMC's new drama originals
Look, nobody's going to question that Emily Thorne has cause to seek vengeance on ABC's "Revenge." Her father was pretty royally screwed over by what seems to have been a cabal of 40 or 50 members of the Hamptons' elite.
What I do question, however, is Emily's urgency. Yeah, for a week or two she was doing a pretty good job of giving her enemies indigestion, spoiling their marriages or bankrupting their hedge funds. But the for the past few weeks, Emily has barely been revenging at all. I can't blame her for deciding that prancing around the beach in a bikini, going to upper crust galas and getting mixed up in a love triangle are a good deal more fun than  revenging. 
This goes and proves my long-held theory that the best revenge is carried out in unpleasant places where distractions are minimal. Drop Emily Thorne in the Hamptons and it's gonna take her months to complete all of her required revenging. Drop her in Mississippi and she'd have slaughtered the entire conspiracy from A-to-Z before noon and then just moved on with her life as a sexy young billionaire. 
Perhaps that's why I'm feeling comfortable with Cullen Bohannon's ability to carry out his revenge with relative expediency.
Played by Anson Mount, Cullen is the hero of AMC's new drama "Hell on Wheels," a Wikipedia-infused "'Revenge' on Rails" masquerading as a history lesson on the construction of the Union Pacific. Cullen isn't belabored by blue collar crushes or finding the perfect bandage skirt to match his skin tone. He isn't wasting time decorating his green screen adjacent home or monitoring his stock portfolio. Heck, all indications are that Cullen isn't even getting distracted by necessities like bathing. In the traveling cesspool of sin and commerce known as Hell on Wheels, Cullen's monomaniacal. 
But clarity of purpose doesn't necessarily make for a great show and "Hell on Wheels" makes the mistake of premiering with a truly weak pilot episode at exactly the time some critics and many viewers are eager to take AMC to task for perceived hubris and artistic abandonment. Although there are signs of improvement in subsequent episodes, that pilot is going to be really difficult for even patient audiences to sit through. And even from there, I can't exactly tell you that "Hell on Wheels" gets good, just that it gets better.
More after the break...
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