Latest Blog Posts

<p>Ben Affleck took the stand earlier this year to speak out about problems in the Congo, and now he may take on 'The Stand' as a writer/director</p>

Ben Affleck took the stand earlier this year to speak out about problems in the Congo, and now he may take on 'The Stand' as a writer/director

Credit: AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Will Ben Affleck end up writing and directing 'The Stand'?

What happened to the 'Harry Potter' creative team?

There's nothing I love more than coming home from a night out with the kids to find angry half-literate e-mails from people calling me names over something they don't understand.  So you can imagine this has been a gorgeous Friday night.

After all, we were the ones who told you that David Yates and Steve Kloves were going to be the creative team in charge of Warner's big-screen treatment of the Stephen King epic novel.  And when we reported it, offers had been made and deals were in motion.  It was accurate at that moment.

Then things went radio silent.  And while I'm not in a position to tell you what went on behind the scenes, I can tell you that following the success of the last four "Harry Potter" films, both Yates and Kloves are expensive, particularly when working together, and one of the keys to getting any giant tentpole film off the ground right now is finding creative ways to bring costs down.  When your writer and director together are worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 - $20 million before you make any other deals on the film, that is not an inexpensive place to begin.

Read Full Post
<p>Mayor Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer)&nbsp;gives a speech on &quot;Boss.&quot;</p>

Mayor Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer) gives a speech on "Boss."

Credit: Lions Gate

'Boss' - 'Listen': Ears to you

What did everybody think of Kelsey Grammer's new Starz drama?

I posted my review of Starz's "Bossyesterday. (And Fienberg published his earlier this evening.) Now it's your turn. How did you feel about Kelsey Grammer's performance, Gus Van Sant's very stylized direction, the glimpses we saw of (fictionalized) Chicago politics, the supporting characters, the disease and all the rest? Too many speeches? Not enough speeches? How are you feeling about eyeballs right about now? And ears, for that matter?

Under more optimal circumstances, I would be doing full-length reviews of each "Boss" episode, but I think I'm at critical mass in that area right now (especially with "Chuck" returning on Fridays starting next week). So for the time being, the plan is to set up quick talkback posts like this one, perhaps touching on a specific part of the episode I'm curious about reaction on, but mainly a place where those who are watching can discuss it. The three episodes I've seen are very much of a piece, but if it turns out there's one coming that feels notably better or worse than the others, I might got a bit longer with that one.

Anyway, have at it, and we'll see how this goes over the coming weeks. What did everybody else think?

Read Full Post
<p>Kelsey Grammer of &quot;Boss&quot;</p>
<div id="myEventWatcherDiv" style="display:none;">&nbsp;</div>

Kelsey Grammer of "Boss"

Credit: Starz

TV Review: Starz' 'Boss'

Kelsey Grammer is the hook, but the new Starz drama may have more to offer
Episodes of the new Starz drama "Boss" open with Robert Plant's version of the traditional gospel standard "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down."
In all of its incarnations (I'm partial to the Uncle Tupelo cover), "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down" is a pretty simple song and the core lyrics boil down to basically what you see in the title. 
I'm suspecting that it's no coincidence that whenever I hear "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down," my mind immediately goes to Tom Waits' "Way Down in the Hole," which has a similar message about the allure and power of Beelzebub and the saving capacity of [Christian] faith.
The magnetic power of our baser instincts and the way those baser instincts run through the broader institutions of the American City were central to David Simon's exquisitely woven "Wire" tapestry and they're not far removed from what Farhad Safinia is tackling in "Boss."
In "The Wire," The Devil was in the institutions, the forces the prevented even the best of individual instincts and aspirations from breaking through the complacency of the system. While Simon had pockets of hope -- sometimes wide swathes of hope -- he was ultimately profoundly pessimistic. Good cops. Good teachers. Good union organizers. Good politicians. Good journalists. They all fought to keep The Devil way down in the hole, but Old Scratch kept getting out a wreaking havoc. "The Wire" was about the way an American city functions, but doesn't work.
Having seen two episodes of "Boss," I can't instantly tell you Safinia's world-view. I know he's nowhere near as overtly political as Simon and, in turn, I also suspect he's nowhere near as pessimistic as Simon. The series may be about the fall of a Great Man, but I don't know if Safinia wants us to view Kelsey Grammer's Tom Kane, longtime mayor of Chicago, as the symbolic "Satan" referred to in the opening song. It's entirely plausible that the political system in Chicago, long entrenched and long variably corrupt, is meant as Satan. But through two episodes, I don't know if Safinia is wanting viewers to root for Kane and/or the system to collapse, or if he's showing a landscape in which the evil that men do is capable of leading to a collective good for the community.
I sense that the opening songs are meant to tie "Boss" and "The Wire" together in some sort of collective meditation on the evil inherent in the urban space. Although I don't feel like "Boss" is anywhere near that "Wire" level of discourse -- literally nothing else in the history of the small screen is -- I admire its willingness to dive into the sort of terrain that TV ought to be well-suited to explore, but so rarely does. I can't even say that "Boss" is on the same level as Shawn Ryan's "The Chicago Code," which used the police as a pivot for delving into all aspects of the Windy City, but "Boss" is what's on TV right now and if it lives up to even some of its ample potential, it could become a series of some substance. That's a rare thing and one worthy of investing in.
More after the break...
Read Full Post
<p>&quot;Once Upon a Time&quot;</p>
<div id="myEventWatcherDiv" style="display:none;">&nbsp;</div>

"Once Upon a Time"

Credit: ABC

Are we too grown up for grown-up fairy tales like 'Once Upon A Time' and 'Grimm'?

It's rich territory to mine, but it's rarely done right

I have to admit that when Is saw that the latest mini-trend for this fall's television season was modern takes on fairy tales, I rolled my eyes (check out Alan Sepinwall's review here). Of course, it's a move that makes perfect sense from a writing (and studio) perspective. Audiences gravitate toward the familiar (just look at the number of retreads at your local movie theater), and this is some a whole mess of familiar sitting fat and happy in the public domain. Storylines are populated with easy-to-grasp heroes and villains, stakes are life-and-death and usually we get a happy ending (or at least we did once Disney had their way with the Brothers Grimm). What could be better?

Read Full Post
<p>Alexandre Desplat won the Golden&nbsp;Globe in 2006 for his work on &quot;The Painted Veil.&quot;</p>
<br />

Alexandre Desplat won the Golden Globe in 2006 for his work on "The Painted Veil."

Credit: AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian

Alexandre Desplat tapped for 'Extremely Loud'

The prolific composer could be in contention for a number of scores this year

Film music composers are so often the most expendable element of a given project, it seems. They come, they go, and typically, someone is brought on very late in the game when we thought another composer was on the case.

That seems to be what's up with Stephen Daldry's "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," which has until now been noted as another collaboration with composer Nico Muhly ("The Reader") for Daldry. As it turns out, Alexandre Desplat - perhaps the most prolific composer in the game -- has been quietly working on the project. And his intrepid publicist just sent out a release reminding the media of this.

And it's most certainly noteworthy. Earlier in the year Desplat put out quality work in Chris Weitz's "A Better Life," a score I really think deserves some attention. Meanwhile, I've been expecting him to get a much-deserved nomination for his work in George Clooney's "The Ides of March," one of the best scores of the year.

Read Full Post
<p>Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan in &quot;Shame&quot;</p>

Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan in "Shame"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Searchlight on taking the 'Shame' out of NC-17

Studio plans to use adult rating as 'badge of honor' in Oscar campaign

"Oscar prospects, before anyone asks: probably nil. And yay for that."

So I commented immediately after posting my review of Steve McQueen's "Shame" following its unveiling at the Venice Film Festival, hoping to pre-emptively defuse a natural line of questioning on this site, without suggesting the film in any way fell short. Regular readers will know that I can be a bit snippy when quizzed about the future awards outlook for festival films, partly because I'm loath to think like a pundit at a world-cinema carnival, and partly because there are often too many unknowns for such speculation to be at all meaningful: critical approval only counts for so much with films with no distributor and no proven real-world audience.

For every festival sensation whose Oscar potential is immediately apparent (think Mo'Nique, whose recent Best Supporting Actress win seemed sewn up at Sundance a year before she even netted the nomination), there's another that has to feel its way into the season. Certainly, nobody screamed "Best Picture!" when "The Hurt Locker" premiered at Venice a full 18 months before its Oscar-night triumph.

Read Full Post
"The Rachel Zoe Project"

 "The Rachel Zoe Project"

Credit: Bravo

Do big life events work for reality TV - or send shows into a death spiral?

'The Rachel Zoe Project' and 'Gene Simmons Family Jewels' take the leap

The traditional wisdom is that, in the world of sitcoms, major life events can signal a show is about to jump the shark. How many of us have groaned as formerly great shows muddle around in the tired territory of onesies and wedding dresses, with characters suddenly falling flat and humorless before us? 

It would be easy to assume the same might happen with reality TV shows. After all, these shows are probably no less scripted than any other programming. But so far, I have high hopes for two shows on which main players have chosen to tackle big changes on-screen; "The Rachel Zoe Project" and "Gene Simmons Family Jewels" don't seem to be jettisoning their strong points to make room for plot points, or at least not so far.

Read Full Post
<p>Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin)&nbsp;and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas)&nbsp;in &quot;Once Upon a Time.&quot;</p>

Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) in "Once Upon a Time."

Credit: ABC

Review: Fairy tales come to life in ABC's 'Once Upon a Time'

Snow White, Prince Charming and friends are trapped in modern-day America

ABC's "Once Upon a Time" (Sunday at 8 p.m.) is one of two new shows this season in which fairy tale characters start appearing in modern-day America, with NBC's fairy tale crime procedural "Grimm" debuting next Friday. Every TV season brings with it at least one set of weird dopplegangers like this - this one actually has several ("Mad Men"-era dramas, and sitcoms about the death of masculinity) - but the abundance of fairy tale stories seems less surprising than most.

Read Full Post
<p>Joe Henry</p>

Joe Henry

Interview: Joe Henry discusses his open-door policy, 'Reverie'

Songwriter and producer reveals how he's landed with Hugh Laurie, Solomon Burke and more


Joe Henry’s latest solo set had an open-door policy. Literally. The songwriter and producer kept windows and doors open during the recording process, letting what he called “the racket” lead his backing musicians like T Bone Burnett drummer Jay Bellerose and labelmate Tom Waits’ main axe man Marc Ribot.
“It was a deliberate decision to allow those sounds to be heard as music. Songs don’t happen in a vacuum,” Henry told me in an interview this week. “When you’re writing a song, there’s life coming all around you. [Musicians] try to disappear into some hermetically sealed chamber. I resist that. I believe all kinds of racket to be musical. We called it the weather in the room.”
Of course, allowing “the field” into the room may not be a new, novel idea, but it certainly gives a raw sheen and texture to “Reverie,” released via Anti- last week. These groaning blues and abstractly folk capsules are the composite of Henry’s 12th solo release. His writing has meandered admirably around varying genres over the last two decades, almost as much as his production credits have.
Recently, he left his mark on Hugh Laurie’s New Orleans blues album and Irish songwriter (and Immaculate Noise favorite) Lisa Hannigan’s sophomore set “Passenger.” He’s produced for artists like the late, great, Solomon Burke, Americana mark-makers like The Jayhawks and Son Volt, Elvis Costello, Aimee Mann and “my hero since I was 19,” Loudon Wainwright III; he’s worked, too, with his sister-in-law Madonna and composed for major television shows.
His daughter thinks he’s pretty cool too.
Read Full Post
Oscar Talk: Ep. 66 -- Gotham Awards, NYFCC's FIRST! move, 'Tintin,' London fest and more

Oscar Talk: Ep. 66 -- Gotham Awards, NYFCC's FIRST! move, 'Tintin,' London fest and more

Also: Animated feature contenders, foreign film discussion and special guest Guy Lodge

Welcome to Oscar Talk.

In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.

Today Anne and I are joined by In Contention's own Guy Lodge who is knee-deep in the London Film Festival these days, catching up on a number of titles he missed along the festival circuit. And, of course, he caught a certain highly anticipated film that's opening in the UK next week. Let's see what's on the docket today…

Read Full Post
<p>Here's hoping &quot;Assassin's Creed&quot;&nbsp;doesn't go the way of &quot;Prince of Persia.&quot;</p>

Here's hoping "Assassin's Creed" doesn't go the way of "Prince of Persia."

Credit: Ubisoft

Oscarweb Round-up: Altair and Ezio find a home at Sony

Also: Emily Watson talks a little 'War Horse' and River Phoenix's disowns his final film

I make this the lead story here only because it's Friday and I'm a huge fan of the gaming series. Not awards related in the slightest, but I really hope they don't screw it up. It looks like Sony has acquired the film rights to Ubisoft's "Assassin's Creed." Ubisoft has been really careful about who these rights went to and I hope that means they are being delicate with the story, because I happen to think the story of "Assassin's Creed" -- even if portions amount to little more than boiled down ancient alien theory -- has a lot of potential. Of course, we'll likely get some kind of bottled up distillation that loses what's great about the narrative, but a guy can hope, right? [Variety]

Read Full Post
<p>Anna Torv on &quot;Fringe.&quot;</p>

Anna Torv on "Fringe."

Credit: NBC

The Peter Bishop principle: Checking in on 'Fringe' season 4

Has the new status quo been worth the trouble to introduce and explain it?

We're at the start of that awkward post-premiere, pre-sweeps period of the TV season where networks start sprinkling in repeats(*), which means there's no new "Fringe" tonight. But that gives me an excuse to offer some overall thoughts on the first four episodes and how I'm feeling about the season to date, coming up just as soon as I get all my ideas from watching "The Matrix" fight scenes...

Read Full Post