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<p>&quot;Queen &amp;&nbsp;Country&quot; spy Tara Chace has appeared in both comic books and prose novels.</p>

"Queen & Country" spy Tara Chace has appeared in both comic books and prose novels.

Credit: Oni Press

Which medium is right for the message?

On eve of Comic-Con, thoughts on characters that appear in multiple media

Comic-Con starts tomorrow, and before I head out to San Diego, I had a few idle (and unsurprisingly nerdy) thoughts on a subject that feels particularly germane, given the blending of comics, movies, TV, etc. at what was once primarily a convention about comic books:

What happens when characters from one medium cross over into another?

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<p>Blake Shelton</p>

Blake Shelton

Credit: AP Photo

Blake Shelton's 'Red River Blue' flows to No. 1 on Billboard 200

Who are the other five debuts in the top 10?

Blake Shelton is having a good year:  He married longtime girlfriend Miranda Lambert, his fame rose substantially through his mentoring role on “The Voice,” and now he’s landed his first No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Red River Blue” flows to the top spot with sales of 116,000 copies. Four of Shelton’s previous albums have landed in the top 10, but never higher than No. 3.

Incubus’ new set, “If Not Now, When?” earns second place with 80,000. It is the rock band’s fifth top five album, according to Billboard.

There are four other premieres in the Top 10: Country hotshot Chris Young’s “Neon” comes in at No. 4, Colbie Caillat’s  “All of You” at No. 6, Theory of A Deadman’s “The Truth Is...” at No. 8, and Sublime with Rome’s “Yours Truly”  at No. 9.

Last week’s No. 1, Beyonce’s “4” drops to No. 5,  Adele’s “21” moves 2-3. Jason Aldean’s “My Kinda Party”  slips 4-7, while Selena Gomez & the Scene’s “When The Sun Goes Down” tumbles 3-10.

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<p>One of the highlights of last year's Comic-Con was when the cast of Marvel's 'The Avengers' assembled onstage in Hall H for the very first time.</p>

One of the highlights of last year's Comic-Con was when the cast of Marvel's 'The Avengers' assembled onstage in Hall H for the very first time.

Credit: AP Photo/Denis Poroy

A look back at Marvel's long road to 'The Avengers'

How did they get from Blade to the Beatles of superheroes in just over a decade?

It was over a decade ago, and my writing partner and I found ourselves seated in a conference room across a table from Avi Arad and Kevin Feige.  We were at Lionsgate, and the reason for our meeting was to pitch our version of "Deadpool."  At the time, Lionsgate had struck a deal with Marvel to make movies based on their lesser-known characters, many of which they had inherited from Artisan.

We ended up not getting the job, but that was my real introduction to the team who were determined to turn Marvel into a viable movie studio, and in the years since, I've watched as they have slowly but surely pulled off what I would have sworn was impossible as I was growing up. 

Now, as "Captain America: The First Avenger" opens in theaters and next summer's "The Avengers" wraps up shooting, it's time to look back at how Marvel got here, what they did right, what they did wrong, and where all of this could be headed next.

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<p>Brit Marling talks about her debut in Fox Searchlight's &quot;Another Earth.&quot;</p>

Brit Marling talks about her debut in Fox Searchlight's "Another Earth."

Brit Marling talks about pulling off the microbudget 'Another Earth'

Sundance favorite debuts on Friday

Sometimes the Sundance Film Festival plucks an actor or filmmaker from obscurity and completely changes their life. For the 2011 edition of the festival, there was no talent more lauded out of nowhere than Brit Marling.

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<p>Chris Evans is ready to punch WWII&nbsp;in the face.&nbsp; Yes, the entire war.&nbsp; That's how big a badass he is in 'Captain America:&nbsp;The First Avenger'</p>

Chris Evans is ready to punch WWII in the face.  Yes, the entire war.  That's how big a badass he is in 'Captain America: The First Avenger'

Credit: Marvel Studios/Paramount

Review: 'Captain America' offers sprawling, sincere superhero story

How does this last step on the road to 'The Avengers' stack up?

"Captain America: The First Avenger" is one of the finest movies yet from Marvel Studios, and a big departure in tone and storytelling from most of the films they've made so far.  It is a strong indicator that the more willing the studio is to experiment, the more exciting the payoffs can be.  In this case, there's no clear precursor to this one in anything else Marvel's done, and it feels like branching out and trying something this different freed them up.  It helps that director Joe Johnston shot the film like he had something to prove and Chris Evans appears to have been born for this role.  Everything came together here in a way that I'm not sure anyone could have predicted, and that indefinable chemistry is one of the things that makes this feel so special.

The first and most immediate difference between this and the other movies Marvel has made so far is the time frame over which the story plays out.  The film starts in the present day, then flashes back to the early days of WWII.  The main story plays out not over days or even weeks, but over years.  It is, in essence, a look at the entire WWII career of Captain America, and his origins as Steve Rogers.  It isn't structured like a typical superhero film, either.  It focuses on two main arcs over the course of its running time.  First, there's the story of Rogers, a skinny weakling with a lion's heart who is chosen to be the test subject in the Super Soldier program headed by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) and how he learns to handle the power he's been granted.  At the same time, we follow the efforts of Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), aka The Red Skull, whose HYDRA is starting to outgrow its origins as the dark science division of the Nazis thanks to his discovery of a strange glowing cube that once resided in the vault of weapons kept by Odin in Asgard.  The collision between these two story arcs is what keeps driving the movie forward, but there is plenty of room built in for digressions, and the end result feels like reading an entire collection of issues of the same book.

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<p>Sarah Jones and Jorge Garcia of 'Alcatraz'</p>
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Sarah Jones and Jorge Garcia of 'Alcatraz'

Credit: James Dittiger/FOX

Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Alcatraz'

Midseason drama has a clunky pilot, intriguing premise

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]

Show: "Alcatraz" (FOX)
The Pitch: I guess it's just "Escape from Alcatraz" meets "Lost" with a little "Reaper," but not the funny parts or the Devil parts of "Reaper."
Quick Response: This is another of those midseason dramas -- like "The River" -- that I'm writing about ahead of a slew of fall pilots simply because it's going to be screened at Comic-Con in a few days, so I might as well get my reaction up. If I complained that "Person of Interest" might not be J.J. Abrams-y enough, nobody is going to have that concern with the Liz Sarnoff-scripted "Alcatraz." I thought the pilot was clunky -- lots and lots of dialogue that either repeats things we were already told or articulates things totally self-evident from the visuals -- but I respect its forward-looking clarity. After seeing the pilot, I know exactly what "Alcatraz" is on a week-to-week procedural basis: Which hardened criminal who disappeared in 1963 (complete with flashbacks) will magically appear in 2011, what will his agenda be and how will our team of heroes stop him? [They're kinda collecting lost souls, "Reaper"-style. But only kinda.] And I also know exactly what the ongoing questions of "Alcatraz" are: Where did these criminals go? Who's bringing them back? And why are they being brought back? And which of our characters have altruistic agendas and who's harboring darkness? I can't guarantee that any of the answers to those questions will be worth the effort, but at least this isn't one of those pilots that has me writing, "I liked the first hour, but I don't see what the series is." Here, I was tepid on the pilot, but I have no doubt of how the series should be structured going forward. That's a good thing and a bad thing. The "Alcatraz" pilot feels spectacularly pilot-y, in that it cares more about setting a foundation and getting it set in 43 minutes than it cares about smoothing out the seams, covering up the cracks and finessing characters. I know what "Alcatraz" is going to be as a series because the pilot focuses on *that* over telling a good story in its opening hour. Director Danny Cannon strives to cover a lot of those gaps with flash and nicely rendered production design, especially when depicting both the operational Alcatraz of 1960 and the current tourist attraction. It looks like an expensive pilot. There are people in "Alcatraz" who I really like. As a genius professor with a specific interest in The Rock, Jorge Garcia gets to be funny and amiable without even a trace of Hurley popping up. It's a great role for him. There's an intriguing role for Sam Neill and I'm always happy to have Parminder Nagra on my TV (except when it required me to watch "E.R." in the later years). In the pilot, Robert Forster is utterly wasted, but hopefully somebody will realize that their show somehow landed one of the best character actors in the business and that failure to use him would be a crime. Leading lady Sarah Jones has been really good in disparate roles in the past (compare "Big Love" to "Sons of Anarchy" to "The Riches"), but she's saddled with the worst of the "Well, duh" dialogue in the pilot. She'll be fine if the material is fine. All of the actors will. Having thrown all of these nuts and bolts on the table in Episode 1, "Alcatraz" will have to start building.
Desire To Watch Again: I covered the disadvantages of this kind of premise-driven pilot, but the advantage is that since I know what the series is, I have no nervousness about sustainability in Episode 2. So sure... count me in for another week or two.

Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Person of Interest'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's ' 'The River'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Last Man Standing'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Two Broke Girls'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Revenge'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Once Upon a Time'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Awake'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'The Secret Circle'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Unforgettable'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'The Playboy Club'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Grimm'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'New Girl'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Hart of Dixie'
Take Me To The Pilots ' 11: ABC's 'Apartment 23'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'A Gifted Man'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.

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"Storage Wars"

"Storage Wars"

Credit: A&E

Quick Look: Who thought 'Storage Wars' was a good idea?

Go figure -- they're smarter than you'd think

Flipping through the channels one day, I stumbled upon “Storage Wars” (season premiere Wed. at 10 p.m. on A&E) and instantly rolled my eyes. The show follows a bunch of guys (and a few girls) who troll storage locker auctions for finds. Why not make a show about middle-aged soccer moms surfing the aisles of a 99 Cent store (wait, that one might be in development)?

Not familiar with storage locker auctions? They happen when some unfortunate soul who’s stuck their belongings into a storage space can’t or won’t pony up the rental fee, and the contents of their locker are auctioned off to scavengers, I mean, the general public. The idea of actually paying for someone’s moldering sofa cushions or college wall art doesn’t hold much appeal for most people, but the characters in this show gleefully pick through the bags of old baby clothes and dusty boxes, hoping for valuable figurines or forgotten artwork.
Sure, it’s a hobby, I guess, but a TV show? Come on.
But go figure. On average over 2 million people tuned in last season, so it’s definitely a hit by basic cable standards. And, for the most part, it works.
In the vein of “Pawn Stars” or even “Antiques Roadshow” or “American Pickers,” this is all about the hunt for buried treasure. We, like the storage locker bidders, only get to glance into an empty locker (the limit for bidders is five minutes) to see if it’s worth a bid – and if so, how much to offer is another question. We can eyeball the boxes, guess at who the space belonged to (a college kid’s locker is always a ‘no’) and then be just as surprised as the winner of the auction at what they discover once they take their haul to an expert or resale shop.
But what is most interesting about the show is, yes, the scavengers. Though I initially assumed it would be a cast of weirdoes and misfits (and I’m not saying it isn’t), they’re petty, strange and oddly endearing enough to at least hold my interest even when they’re irritating. Barry, who could be Robert Evans’ stunt double, is damn fine for a guy in his 60s, and seems almost too refined to be picking through garbage bags. Darrell and Dave are pros (Dave has a store and 15 employees; Darrell has unearthed four Picassos and “the world’s most lucrative comic book collection” through storage auctions) with a bitter, petty rivalry that is more annoying than entertaining and gets more airtime than it deserves, but it’s hard to look away. Jarrod and Brandi are the cute/bickering married couple who could have fallen out of a prime time sitcom.
And then there’s the stuff. You have to admire people willing to drop hundreds of dollars on what could be a locker full of bed bugs and spoiled food, but this is a high risk, high reward game (note the Picassos mentioned above). When Dan discovers SCUBA equipment worth over $5,000 in a locker already tossed away by Darrell as a lost cause (and at a big loss), it’s enough to make you (depending on your allegiance) give a victory hoot or groan in frustration. Barry’s big find – a collection of vintage 78s – seems promising until he lugs it to a record store. While he’ll still make several hundred bucks for his Edison disc and assorted vinyl, it’s nowhere near what he needs to recoup his investment on the storage locker. The show strangely tallies up investments versus return as if this were a reality TV competition, but I guess it’s just a way to stretch out an episode.
It’s these highs and lows that make this oddball show watchable. Is it must see TV? Hardly. But I’m inspired to hit the neighborhood yard sales in any case.   


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<p>Hayley Atwell had the charm turned up to high at the press day for 'Captain America:&nbsp;The First Avenger'</p>

Hayley Atwell had the charm turned up to high at the press day for 'Captain America: The First Avenger'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Hayley Atwell brings the charm to 'Captain America: The First Avenger'

We discuss how to be a strong woman in the Marvel Universe

My favorite television series of all time is Patrick McGoohan's original "The Prisoner," which is why I never ended up seeing the new AMC version of the show.  I just couldn't bring myself to watch and subject myself to something that would, at best, suffer by comparison and, at worst, infuriate me beyond reason.

What I think I missed by avoiding the series was an introduction to Hayley Atwell.

I've seen earlier films she was in, but in smaller roles.  It's TV where it appears she's had her biggest parts so far, like "The Prisoner," "The Pillars Of The Earth," and "Any Human Heart."  Haven't seen a one of them, though, so when I sat down for "Captain America: The First Avenger," it was basically my introduction to her, which actually worked for the character she's playing, Peggy Carter.

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Song Of The Day: M83 returns with new album, first single 'Midnight City'

Will you be dancing in this City's streets?

M83's album "Saturdays=Youth" went hand in hand with Cut Copy's "In Ghost Colours" when they came out in 2008, and both were on common rotation that spring and summer for me in New York.

The latter went ahead and already dropped another '80s, pop and house-influenced set earlier this year, so I'm pleased that the former has a follow-up as well. M83 -- also known as French mastermind Anthony Gonzalez -- will release a new album "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming" on Oct. 18. And how: this fifth studio set will be a double-disc, with 22 tracks total.

The first to arrive is the dreampop and shoegaze-influenced "Midnight City," for stream below and download for free on the M83 site.


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<p>Bjork: What can you say?</p>

Bjork: What can you say?

Listen: Bjork gives 'Biophilia' a release date, art, drops 'Cosmogeny'

Going forward, will the accompanying apps be required or simply extra credit?

Bjork's wiliest album adventure yet now has a release date for "proper" release: "Biophilia" will arrive on Sept. 27 via One Little Indian/Nonesuch, with all it's strings, pulleys, gadgets and bells intact.

Of course, I'm referring to one of its most novel concepts, that each of the 10 tracks will have an accompanying audio-visual application. The "Biophilia" application will be available for free download to all-Apple products -- iPod, iPod Touch and the iPad -- but it's within that gratis application, users are enabled to purchase in-app apps (you follow?) for the songs of their choice.

Today, that central app has been released, as has two songs to date: the previously discussed "Crystalline" and, now, "Cosmogeny."


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<p>TV&nbsp;On The Radio's Tunde Adibempe in &quot;Caffeinated Consciousness&quot;</p>

TV On The Radio's Tunde Adibempe in "Caffeinated Consciousness"

Watch: TV On The Radio on a magic carpet ride in 'Caffeinated Consciousness'

Brooklyn rockers announce iTunes remixes

TV On The Radio want to take you on a magic carpet ride.

In their latest music video, the Brooklyn rockers take at least some advantage of a green screen and the Dancing Guy from your local cable access late-night sked and jumble it up with a bunch of their friends, one of whom is a video editor with a free weekend. "Caffeinate Consciousness" is mostly the former and barely the latter; it plays like an inside joke grafted in the early '90s.

But the dude at 0:37 is pretty much my favorite thing ever.

The track's from "Nine Types of Light," out earlier this year. Two of those tracks have gotten a remix breakdown for iTunes, including the aforementioned spazz fest and "Will Do." Mylo and Das Racist have at 'em, check out samples here.

Meanwhile, TVOTR is currently on tour, and are hitting up Virgin Mobile FreeFest and Austin City Limits.


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<p>Lady Gaga</p>

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Katy Perry all on 'Now That's What I Call Music! 39'

Multi-artist hits set album includes Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull, Blake Shelton and more

The hits just keep on coming... literally. “Now That’s What I Call Music 39” will street on Aug. 9. 

The latest edition of the multi-artist compilations includes such Billboard chart toppers as LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” and Pitbull’s “Give Me Everything,” as well as such top 10 hits as  Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory” and Britney Spears’ “Till The World Ends.”

The set also contains two No. 1s from Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart: Blake Shelton’s “Honey Bee” and Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem.”

And there’s more! Although details are scant, there are special plans for the “Now!” series as it turns 40, with standard and deluxe CD and digital editions of the collections. Since its stateside launch in 1998, the originally U.K. series has sold more than 80 million copies in the U.S.

NOW That’s What I Call Music! Vol. 39 tracklisting

1. Katy Perry                                                                 Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)
2. LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett and GoonRock         Party Rock Anthem
3. Pitbull featuring Ne-Yo, Afrojack and Nayer                 Give Me Everything
4. Lady Gaga                                                                The Edge Of Glory
5. Britney Spears                                                           Till The World Ends
6. Jennifer Lopez featuring Pitbull                                  On The Floor
7. Lupe Fiasco                                                              The Show Goes On
8. Tinie Tempah featuring Eric Turner                              Written in the Stars
9. The Black Eyed Peas                                                 Just Can’t Get Enough
10. Bruno Mars                                                              The Lazy Song
11. Selena Gomez                                                         Who Says
12. Jessie J featuring B.o.B                                           Price Tag
13. Hot Chelle Rae                                                         Tonight Tonight
14. OneRepublic                                                            Good Life
15. Jason Aldean                                                          Dirt Road Anthem
16. Blake Shelton                                                          Honey Bee
BONUS TRACKS: “NOW What’s Next” New Music Preview
17. Maria K.                                                                  Starbucks Smile
18. Jessica Sutta                                                           Show Me
19. Chiddy Bang                                                           Mind Your Manners
20. DEV featuring The Cataracs                                     Bass Down Low


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