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<p>&quot;The X Factor&quot;</p>
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"The X Factor"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' - 'Auditions #2' Live-Blog

Will Cheryl Cole make another appearance, or are we stuck with Nicole?

We're back again for another night of "The X Factor" live-blogging. I don't anticipate that I'll live-blog next week's show -- Rosh Hashanah, among other things -- but last night went OK, so I'm fine with making live-blogging a fun premiere week game.

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<p>&quot;Charlie's Angels&quot;</p>
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"Charlie's Angels"

Credit: ABC

TV Review: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'

Here's a flawless blueprint on how not to reboot a franchise
The "Charlie's Angels" brand has some value, but ABC has a few problems with that brand.
First: There certainly are people with warmth for the original TV series, which was a fairly earnest piece of Aaron Spelling cheese, elevated to glorious action eye candy by Farrah Fawcett (and, to possibly a lesser extent, by Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith and Cheryl Ladd).
The problem: If you watched "Charlie's Angels" when it premiered in 1976, even if you have fond memories of it, there's at least a possibility that you may be outside of the demographic ABC truly cares about. Also, you probably won't think that the beloved tone of the jigglefest has been well captured in this mannequins-on-parade interpretation.
Second: The 2000 "Charlie's Angels" film with Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu was a pretty big hit and although it wasn't exactly an Oscar movie, as tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top sexy action-comedies go, it was pretty superb.
The problem there: [We'll leave aside that 2003's "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" was a less big hit and far less well received.] Repeatedly mentioning Drew Barrymore's name in promotion and even bringing her out at the Emmys isn't going to obscure that no matter what the "Charlie's Angels" movie was aiming for, tone-wise, that's not what ABC's reboot is aiming for in any way and no matter what kind of trailer ABC cuts together, there's actually no way to make it look like there are similarities.
So, really, whether you loved "Charlie's Angels" in the '70s or you loved "Charlie's Angels" in the '00s, you aren't going to see your version of "Charlie's Angels" celebrated on ABC on Thursday (September 22) night. There are many ways to honor or respect "Charlie's Angels" and this version achieves none of them and, in the process, it doesn't honor or respect viewers who come in without a vested interest of any kind.
I thought "Charlie's Angels" was bad when I watched the original cut back in May, but watching it a second time in what was a barely tweaked revised pilot was utterly excruciating. "Charlie's Angels" is entitled to be interpreted so many different ways, but hitting this level of tedium is almost astounding.
Full review after the break...
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<p>Michael and Wolfgang take a walk, and there's not enough bleach in the world for how dirty this film made me feel</p>

Michael and Wolfgang take a walk, and there's not enough bleach in the world for how dirty this film made me feel

Credit: Strand Releasing

Review: 'Michael' kicks off Fantastic Fest with disturbing character study

Is looking into the face of evil enough to justify the journey?

There are certain films that challenge viewers simply by existing.  They are these dares, issued by the filmmaker, that linger out there, and it's up to each viewer to decide if they want to take that dare and see whatever it is, whatever taboo has been broken.  It's an entire school of cinema that many people avoid as viewers, and I don't blame them.  So much of our culture is designed to make us feel good or to placate us or to reinforce the things we already believe that it's incongruous when we encounter something that seems genuinely determined to hurt us.

"Michael" is the debut film from writer/director Markus Schleinzer, and it's a nasty bit of business, a character portrait played dry, a dark joke told with a straight face, starring Michael Fuith as an insurance worker at an anonymous company who spends his days playing a sort of hide-in-plain-sight game of "look how normal I am" with his co-workers before going to his small and forgettable house where he keeps a young boy named Wolfgang (David Rauchenberger) locked in his disturbingly cozy basement.  There is nothing coy or ambiguous about Michael's intent, either.  Wolfgang is his prisoner, his toy, his sex object, his punching bag, his thing.  He has completely cut this boy off from the world and broken him, and for much of the running time, the film simply observes the details of their daily existence.  What happens if the boy wants to go outside and do something?  What happens if he gets sick?  Can Michael take him to the doctor without being exposed?  What if something happens to Michael?  Would anyone ever know?

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<p>Steve Jones</p>
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Steve Jones

Watch: 'X Factor' host Steve Jones introduces himself to HitFix

Why is the Welsh host determined to protect contestants against Simon?
I'll admit it: My first reaction to meeting "X Factor" host Steve Jones was "Compared to Ryan Seacrest, this guy is James Bond."
The 34-year-old former model from Wales made his debut as "X Factor" host on Wednesday (September 21) night, a gig he'll now take on solo after his original co-host, Nicole Scherzinger, was elevated to judge early in the audition process. 
Jones was only seen fleetingly in Wednesday's premiere, so he's still a bit of an unknown to American audiences, while British fans know him from hosting duties on shows like "Drop Zone," "As Seen on TV" and "Guinness World Records Smashed."
Check out my interview with Jones, in which he discussed his relationship with the judges, his relationship with contestants and why he actually doesn't want audiences to know too much about it.
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Credit: Columbia

And the Grammy goes to... Who will get an Album of the Year nod?

Eligibility period ends next week

Sure, we all know Adele’s “21” is a shoo-in for a Grammy nomination for album of the year, but after the British thrush’s second effort, who will likely land a nod among the top five slots?

We know the Grammy Awards aren’t until Feb. 12, 2012, but next Friday, Sept. 30, marks the last release day of eligibility for an album to be considered. Any album put out between Oct. 1, 2010 and Sept. 30, 2011 falls within the qualifying period.

That means that a number of sets still to come in 2011 will have to wait until the 2013 ceremony for their chance to snare the golden gramophone, including new titles from Coldplay, Kelly Clarkson, Drake, Tom Waits, Miranda Lambert and Lou Reed/Metallica.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Whitney Cummings and Chris D'Elia of &quot;Whitney&quot;</p>
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Whitney Cummings and Chris D'Elia of "Whitney"

Credit: NBC

TV Review: NBC's 'Whitney'

It's not that we dislike multi-cam comedies, it's that we dislike bad comedies
If "Whitney" is bad -- and it is, at least in pilot form, bad -- you have to give the new NBC sitcom credit for coming off the blocks as belligerently bad.
Check out this interview with series executive producer Betsy Thomas, in which she blasts the "comedy snobbery" regarding NBC's Thursday comedy lineup, saying, "Somehow it became cool to stop trying to be funny." In the article, Thomas raises the perfectly valid point that as much as I/we/smart-people love NBC's Thursday single-cam comedies, with the exception of "The Office," they're not hits. They'd all basically be considered failures if they were on ABC or CBS. [So maybe audiences don't love single camera comedies. Except audiences love "Modern Family."]
Or catch the opening to "Whitney" itself, in which Whitney Cummings tauntingly declares, "'Whitney' is taped in front of a live studio audience... You heard me." Dontcha be confusing "Whitney" with a single-camera comedy and dontcha be accusing "Whitney" of using a laff-track, y'all.
Yup, "Whitney" is defiant and the pre-premiere party line appears to be simple: Critics who don't like "Whitney" don't like "Whitney" because it's not "cool" to like multi-cam comedies anymore, but that human beings (i.e. non-critics) love multi-cam comedies so, without using exactly these words, we can all suck it. 
I don't have an immediate defense to that, since I can't look at the network comedies that I liked this year or last year or any time in the recent past and say, "Ha! There's the multi-cam comedy that I love, so you're wrong," though "The Big Bang Theory" is a regular part of my viewing rotation and "Mike & Molly" also isn't a series I ever go out of my way to mock.
But regarding "Whitney," there's only one truly important rejoinder and it goes a little like this: Disliking "Whitney" isn't reflective of a dislike for multi-cam comedies, it's reflective of a dislike for unfunny comedies and complaining that "Whitney" doesn't mesh with NBC's other Thursday comedies isn't a coded way for criticizing it as multi-cam, but rather a coded way for saying it isn't good. 
And if it's snobbery to say, "I prefer good comedies to bad comedies," I guess I'll just have to cop to that. [As if I've somehow ever disputed charges of snobbery in the past.]
More on "Whitney" after the break...
There's a tendency to shy away from the word "sitcom," which has become as much of a bad word or an antiquated word as "multi-cam," but if "Whitney" is going to take pride in being filmed in front of a live studio audience, it should also feel pride in being a sitcom of the most retro type imaginable.
Whitney Cummings plays Whitney Cummings, but not the Whitney Cummings who's a successful stand-up comic, but a slightly different Whitney Cummings who's a photographer. [Why was this the professional choice they made? I don't know.] This Whitney Cummings is in a long-term relationship with Alex (Chris D'Elia), who made a lot of money selling an Internet something of some sort. [Neither main character's professional background actually has anything to do with anything in the pilot.] Whitney and Alex have been together for a long time (five years in the original pilot, but three years now, because somebody must have told somebody this would sound less dire, or maybe just make them seem younger), but they aren't married and they aren't engaged, in part because Whitney's mom (Jane Kaczmarek) has left her terrified by the entire institution.
They've got some wacky sitcom friends, too. Lily (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Neal (Maulik Pancholy) are dating and although the NBC press description has lots of details about each character, in the pilot at least, she's a harpy and he's whipped. There's also bitter, cynical Roxanne (Rhea Seehorn) who's mostly there to lament about dating and the state of contemporary masculinity. And finally there's sexist cop Mark (Dan O'Brien) who says obnoxious and chauvinistic things and waits for the audience to pretend that it's 1984 and them laugh.
A lot of "Whitney" is actually about pretending that it's 1984. Or maybe 1993. And the weird part is that I can't tell if it's intentional. The original pilot had a couple vintage 2009 punchlines about Vajazzling and a character asking not to be CC-ed on something conversational, but they were trimmed. The current "Whitney" pilot is stripped of most pop culture references and even a "Dr. Quinn" reference has to be followed by the question "Medicine woman?" as if the joke needed additional clarification to be funny.
But there's a fine line between being intentionally retro and evergreen and coming across as dated and "Whitney" is mostly in the latter category. Cummings' comedy -- I don't claim to be an expert, but I've seen my share of Roasts, YouTube clips and late-night appearances -- doesn't tend to be reference driven and, I'll confess, I've always felt like she tends a bit too much towards obvious "women are different from men" punchlines, so I can see how this would be a logically network de-raunchified version of what she does. But as predictable as I usually find Cummings' stand-up, I can also respect that her writing is somewhat sharp and her delivery usually hits well.
In "Whitney," however, the writing isn't sharp and the delivery doesn't tend to hit well. For a sitcom with a love for traditional sitcom conventions, "Whitney" doesn't have a very good grasp on ideal sitcom pacing and scene tend to drag in ways that are inexcusable in the high-punchline-per-minute-ratio world of the multi-cam sitcom. The wedding sequence that makes up most of the pilot's first half seems to go on forever and very few of the punchlines either hit or flow organically into the marriage-based-insecurity that fuels the rest of the episode. Too many punchlines are just jokes repeating themselves, rather than the kind of escalated humor this branch of the genre thrives on. If "Whitney" ever decides to let D'Elia be funny, that would help, since too many scenes are Whitney saying ostensibly funny things loudly and then waiting for D'Elia and the audience to laugh and then gracelessly hammering home another ostensible punchline. For now, there's no back and forth and Cummings' is trying way too hard, which is a bad match for D'Elia's low-key, bemused charm.
I'll say this again: Exactly one scene in "Whitney" worked for me, but at least it worked for me well. Worried that their sex life is on the rocks, Whitney decides to role-play as a naughty nurse. This sequence, mostly spoiled already by NBC promos, works because it's the one time in the pilot that suggests or proves that Whitney and the creative team are aware of the way a good multi-cam scene should start from character, escalate, escalate and close strong (though this scene also includes the gratuitously repeated "Dr. Quinn" joke, so it's far from perfect). I'm not saying that "Whitney" should be composed entirely of scenes featuring Cummings in a naughty nurse outfit, just to note that it seems counterproductive and wrong to claim that every scene in "Whitney' is a total dud.
And I could generously agree that Jane Kaczmarek is an improvement over Beverly D'Angelo as Whitney's mom, but in terms of actual resemblance and ability to be intentionally funny on cue.
And, heck, I'll even agree that the revised ending to the new pilot is markedly less bad than the original ending and that several of those cut punchlines were cut for viable reasons, meaning that the producers are not unaware of some things not being funny.
I don't know why I'm inclined to such generosity toward a pilot which is, naughty nurse scene aside, completely without mirth. It could be that I don't think NBC and CBS are necessarily wrong in feeling like Cummings is a star of sorts. I just feel like this is a pilot which, despite Emmy winner Andy Ackerman directing and the punchy Betsy Thomas (also an Emmy winner) producing, exhibits a weird discomfort with the form it's so proud to be trying to reinvigorate. That's why, like I said in my original Take Me To The Pilots post, NBC should have let them scrap the pilot entirely and try again, rather than just tinkering with a few random scenes and pretending that was a solution. It wasn't a solution and this is a bad pilot and that's what my grade reflects, but I can somehow imagine it getting better. By next week, I may have discarded that hope as well.
"Whitney" premieres on Thursday (September 22) night on NBC at 9:30 p.m. ET.
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Watch: Wavves crash in violent clip for 'Bug'

What? Didn't they just declare their love for Dave Grohl?

You know what’s a buzz kill at a party? A dude who crashes your  perfectly civilized game night who is wanted by the police.

Then, when the pills that you’ve been popping all night kick in, a drag queen (or at least we think it’s a guy) dressed as a mermaid toting a machine gun pops up through the coffee table, and takes out the cops with said gun and splatters their blood all over a perfectly fine poster of Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl. What? It seems like it was only last month the band was declaring its love for for Grohl in “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl.”

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Jason Aldean in &quot;Tattoos on This Town&quot;</p>

Jason Aldean in "Tattoos on This Town"

Watch: Jason Aldean's video for 'Tattoos on This Town' leaves its mark

Country superstar amps up the story in new clip

Jason Aldean had the country hit of the summer with the massively popular country rap “Dirt Road Anthem.” Will he rule the fall with “Tattoos on This Town.” The song, which is already No. 23 on the Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, will undoubtedly get a boost from the video released today.

Aldean is one of country’s resident hunks, so he needs to be in the video, which intersperses footage of he and his band playing in an abandoned warehouse with a story that takes a deeply tragic turn that, to my mind, is a bit too heavy handed for the song. Having said that, congrats to the songwriters, Neil Thrasher, Wendell Mobley and Michael Dulaney, who came up with an image we haven’t gotten before in country songs—or any song—about leaving your permanent mark on your home city by comparing it to a tattoo.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Chris Hemsworth in the original &quot;Thor.&quot;</p>

Chris Hemsworth in the original "Thor."

Credit: Marvel Studios

Will 'The Killing' helmer Patty Jenkins' take a journey to Asgard for 'Thor 2'?

Marvel Studios continues to surprise with their director chair

You may not agree with every decision Kevin Fiege makes as head of Marvel Studios, but for the most part he's got an excellent track record.  Many questioned the inexperienced Jon Favreau and Kenneth Branaugh (for blockbusters at least) helming "Iron Man" and "Thor" respectively.  Or, Joe "I'm almost in movie jail" Johnston taking the reigns of "Captain America: The First Avenger."  Needless to say, critics, audiences and the box office validated all of those decisions.  And for future Marvel films, Feige and his team have continued to make unconventional choices. 

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<p>&quot;Harry&nbsp;Potter and the Deathly Hallows:&nbsp;Part 2,&quot; with a healthy Best Picture push to help it along, looks to be a contender across the board in the craft categories this year.</p>

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," with a healthy Best Picture push to help it along, looks to be a contender across the board in the craft categories this year.

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Tech Support: A new year of crafts coverage

Films like 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2' and 'War Horse' look to figure into this year's below-the-line races

Welcome back. Today marks the beginning of the sixth year of Tech Support here at In Contention. I am delighted about the new collaboration with HitFix, which will doubtless result in even more comprehensive awards coverage.

Over the next 10 weeks, we will analyze each of the “technical” category races in this space: Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Makeup, Original Score, Original Song, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects. The ways in which the artists behind these crafts can improve a film are innumerable. While excellent crafts artistry certainly can wow the audience, it can, more importantly, bring us into a world being crafted by the director, writers and stars, building mood, character and period, among other things.

Despite all the ways in which the crafts artists improve a film, and are an indispensable part of making one, they are almost always ignored by the press. Indeed, there are gripes almost every year that including these categories in the ceremony takes too long and it would be better if they were taken out of the show. While it is true that people do tend to see films for the story, direction and acting, there nonetheless seems a profound unfairness in this respect given the importance of crafts artistry to filmmaking, not to mention the fact that that first, key draw -- story -- is told via every element of the process.

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<p>Guided By Voices</p>

Guided By Voices

Guided By Voices releasing new album with reunited 'classic' lineup

'Lets Go Eat the Factory' due new year's day: will Robert Pollard be able to help himself?

It's been one hell of a week for '90s/rock-era news. R.E.M. split, Nirvana's "Nevermind" 20th anniversary is on Saturday, Guns N' Roses is touring America, Pearl Jam's rock doc and subsequent soundtrack is out and Radiohead is acting like Radiohead.

On a smaller scale -- but significantly -- Guided By Voices have taken their reunion to the next step and are releasing the first album of new material from its "classic" lineup for the first time since 1996. (The band's final lineup split on New Year's Eve in 2004).

Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Greg Demos, Mitch Mitchell and Kevin Fennell (circa ~1992-1996) got back together last year for Matador Records' 21st birthday, and then hit the road in a full tour. Now, a 21-track set is on the way, "Let's Go Eat the Factory," and will be ready for a January 1, 2012 release. For those playing along at home -- in the words of another band celebrating a major anniversary soon -- that's "on New Year's Day."

Twenty-one tracks is about on par with GBV releases (average number of tracks: 2,389), but it'd be shocking if the rockers have just one album in their back pocket.

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<p>Luke Skywalker stared out at the binary sunset of Tatooine and dreamed, and my generation did the same thing with the 'Star Wars' films, and now it's time to pass them on to our own children.</p>

Luke Skywalker stared out at the binary sunset of Tatooine and dreamed, and my generation did the same thing with the 'Star Wars' films, and now it's time to pass them on to our own children.

Credit: 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm Ltd.

Film Nerd 2.0: We kick off a special series with a first viewing of 'Star Wars' on Blu-ray

What happens when 21st century kids finally watch the biggest myth of the '70s?

This day has been a long time coming.

We all have landmarks by which we measure our lives and our accomplishments, goals you've set for yourself that you've either accomplished or not, and I'm certainly someone who holds film experiences very dear.  The moment I knew I'd spend the rest of my life somehow involved in movies took place in a dark movie theater when I was seven years old, and it was one of those lightning bolt occasions.  I felt pinned to the back of my chair as I watched a tiny blockade runner fleeing from a seemingly endless Star Destroyer that just kept coming out and over, more real than anything I had ever seen, and I've never wavered in my determination to be involved in storytelling somewhere, somehow.

Because of the relevance of "Star Wars" in my development as a fan of storytelling in general, reaching the moment of sharing these films with my kids has been one of my primary goals since I've been writing about the entire experience of sharing narrative with my children.  I know people who start screening the films for their kids as soon as they are old enough to open their eyes, and I respect that.  Of course I know other people who don't think it's of any particular importance, and I respect that as well.  For me, "Star Wars" is special, and I wanted to wait until they were old enough to process them as stories, so they're not just wallpaper, images without context.

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