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Emma Stone and Viola Davis of "The Help"

 Emma Stone and Viola Davis of "The Help"

Credit: Dreamworks

Watch: Viola Davis, Emma Stone talk up 'The Help'

The two stars weren't afraid to tackle racism in new film

 After seeing "The Help" (and watching Viola Davis' amazing performance), I was pretty excited to meet the Oscar nominee. What I didn't expect, though, was to find that the actress, wearing a fitted red dress and a chic bob, looked absolutely stunning. In both "Doubt" and "The Help," Davis is the epitome of middle-aged frumpiness, and let's face it, no one looks good in a dowdy housecleaner's uniform. But Davis looked a good twenty years younger than her character in person, which just made her performance as Abileen that much more remarkable. Weighed down by decades of holding her tongue, veiled (and not so veiled) insults by employers and the death of her son, Abileen is old before her time. Davis, of course, is  nothing of the sort.

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<p>Viola Davis stars in 'The Help,' adapted from the best-selling novel, along with Emma Stone</p>

Viola Davis stars in 'The Help,' adapted from the best-selling novel, along with Emma Stone

Credit: Walt Disney Company

Review: 'The Help' makes the most of ensemble including Emma Stone, Viola Davis

Uplifting story of a personal turning point in race relations avoids genre traps

One of the most frustrating habits of well-meaning Hollywood over the years has been the tendency to create movies about how white people have heroically helped one minority after another.  If you only know the history of race relations from movies, it would seem that most major changes in the condition of how we live together have resulted from noble, selfless white folks who have decided to take mercy on the "lesser" races.  That disturbing cultural lie is the reason I have a problem with a number of films. like "Cry Freedom" or "Mississippi Burning," movies that contain good work on important subjects, but that are hobbled by this need to have a white face at the center of things.

For Tate Taylor, the screenwriter and director of "The Help," this history of dishonesty is working against him before the film even begins, and I'm happy to admit that I walked in, arms crossed, ready to dismiss the movie.  I didn't read Kathryn Stockett's novel, but I'm aware of how big a hit it was, and I expected something that was all feel-good surfaces and white guilt.  Instead, Taylor deserves real credit for what he's done, avoiding many of the easy traps of the genre, and I walked away impressed by just how solid and sincere "The Help" really is.  This is a case where the dynamic between the white and black characters informs the premise of the film, and they gain strength and courage from each other.  This is no one-way transaction.  Instead, it's a cross-class portrait of Southern women of a certain era, and the dawning of new respect between them, and it packs a heck of a punch.

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<p>Blake Shelton</p>

Blake Shelton

Credit: AP Photo

Blake Shelton dances his way onto the 'Footloose' soundtrack

Zac Brown, Victoria Justice, Cee-Lo and Smashing Pumpkins also on set

Blake Shelton, whose “Red River Blue” debuted atop the Billboard 200 last month, will channel his inner Kenny Loggins for a remake of the title track to “Footloose.”

The soundtrack for the Paramount Pictures reboot of the 1984 film, which stars Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid and newcomer Kenny Wormald, features four new versions of songs from the original. In addition to “Footloose,” teen queen Victoria Justice and country newcomer Hunter Hayes remake “Almost Paradise” (first recorded by Loverboy’s Mike Reno and Heart’s Ann Wilson), Jana Kramer puts her spin on “Let’s Hear It For the Boy” (Deniece Williams) and Ella Mae Bowen takes on “Holding Out For A Hero” (Bonnie Tyler).

Out Sept. 27, the soundtrack includes new music from Cee Lo Green, Zac Brown and Big & Rich, among others.  It has a lot to live up to: the original soundtrack topped the Billboard charts and contained three Top 10 hits.  The first single from the new iteration, “Fake I.D.” from Big & Rich and Gretchen Wilson dropped to No. 51 on this week’s Billboard Country Songs chart.

The movie opens Oct. 14.

“FOOTLOOSE” Soundtrack track listing:

1. Footloose – Blake Shelton
2. Where The River Goes – Zac Brown of Zac Brown Band
3. Little Lovin’ – Lissie
4. Holding Out For A Hero – Ella Mae Bowen
5. Let’s Hear It For The Boy – Jana Kramer
6. So Sorry Mama – Whitney Duncan
7. Fake I.D. – Big & Rich feat. Gretchen Wilson
8. Almost Paradise – Victoria Justice & Hunter Hayes
9. Walkin’ Blues – Cee Lo Green feat. Kenny Wayne Shepherd
10. Window Paine – The Smashing Pumpkins
11. Suicide Eyes – A Thousand Horses
12. Dance The Night Away – David Banner

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Bryce Dallas Howard

 Bryce Dallas Howard

Credit: Dreamworks

Watch: Bryce Dallas Howard gets mean for 'The Help'

The adorable actress gets bitchy as Emma Stone's adversary

Before I saw "The Help," i mostly thought of Bryce Dallas Howard as a blood-sucking vampire, M. Night Shyamalan's muse or Ron Howard's little girl. But I'll have a hard time shaking my latest recollection of her as Hilly, a sweetly vicious, adamantly racist Southern belle. Still, sitting down for an interview, the very pregnant star seemed to be the antithesis of her character. Thank God. 

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<p>Carey Mulligan discuss her new thriller &quot;Drive&quot;&nbsp;at San Diego's Comic-Con 2012.</p>

Carey Mulligan discuss her new thriller "Drive" at San Diego's Comic-Con 2012.

Carey Mulligan on the power of quiet love with Ryan Gosling in 'Drive'

A deep conversation on the art of acting at, um, Comic-Con

SAN DIEGO - Comic-Con is not necessarily the first "festival" that springs to mind when thinking of British ingenue Carey Mulligan.  An Oscar nominee for her sparkling turn in "An Education," Mulligan career has seemed more suited for the red carpets of Cannes, Toronto, Venice and Park City.  And yet, last month, Mulligan and a few of her co-horts found their way to Comic-Con's massive Hall H where they pitched the new thriller "Drive" to the pop culture festival's more genre-friendly audience. 

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The judges of "Top Chef" are about to get two new additions

 The judges of "Top Chef" are about to get two new additions

Credit: Bravo

'Top Chef' hits Texas, adds Emeril Lagasse, Hugh Acheson for season nine

New season promises to add some bam

They say everything's bigger in Texas, and that might be part of the reason the latest season of "Top Chef" will be heading to the Lonestar State. The series will head to three cities during the season -- Austin, Dallas and San Antonio. But forget location -- the changes at the judges' table are the really big deal. 

While Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons will all be returning, they'll be joined by "king of bam" Emeril Lagasse and Hugh Acheson. The Atlanta, Georgia chef behind Five & Ten, Acheson made his mark with viewers as a contestant on "Top Chef Masters," where he was notable for being the wry wit in a sea of earnestness. While I'm not too sure about Emeril (I remember those toothpaste commercials and I still shudder), I can't wait for another serving of Hugh. “Top Chef: Texas” will air later this fall.

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<p>Katy Perry</p>
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Katy Perry

Credit: Evan Agostini/AP

Listen: Katy Perry and Missy Elliott on fun remix of "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)"

Will the new version push the song to No. 1?

Will Katy Perry's new  emix of “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) featuring Missy Elliott be enough to push the song to the top of the Billboard Hot 100? 

Make no mistake, in addition to being a fun pairing of the two, the remix is a gambit to get enough radio play and singles sales on the new version to propel the song to  No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 so that Perry can tie Michael Jackson as the only artist to land five No. 1s from one album on the chart. So far,  "Teenage Dream" has provided us with four chart toppers: The title track, "California Gurls," "E.T." and "Firework."

[More after the jump...]

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Listen: Evanescence's first new single in five years

Listen: Evanescence's first new single in five years

Self-titled third album out Oct. 25

Evanescence returns with its third studio album, and its first in five years, on Oct. 11 with a self-titled set.

“What Your Want,” the first single from the Nick Raskulinecz-produced went to radio this morning. “It’s about freedom,” the group’s Amy Lee told MTV about the first single.  Of the album, Lee said, “We are so excited to release this thing. We’ve been working on this music for a very long time and seeing it all finally come together is a really amazing feeling. The album is about us and also our fans-- we’ve combining the best of Ev with some new attitude and we’re just dying to share it.”

[More after the jump...]

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<p>One reader's take on what NBC's &quot;Smash,&quot;&nbsp;with Katharine McPhee, should look like.</p>
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One reader's take on what NBC's "Smash," with Katharine McPhee, should look like.


See ya in the next life, Smash!

Taking a few days off post-press tour

Well, press tour is over. Comic-Con is over. My time in California is over.

And now it's time to take some time off.

I'll be off for much of the rest of this week to catch up on sleep, remind my kids what I look like and readjust to East Coast weather. (Rumor has it the humidity is kinda high.) With any luck, I'll be able to bang out my next "Deadwood" review on the flight home today, but that's about all you should expect from me between now and either Sunday night or Monday. (As I said in my latest "Breaking Bad" review, odds are high that I won't get that done til sometime Monday morning/early afternoon.) 

Have fun without me, kids. And if you want to see the full-sized version of that photo illustration of Katharine McPhee starring in "Smash: The Brian Williams Story," click here. Forearms aside, I think it'd make one hell of a poster for what should be the greatest show ever.

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<p>How can such sweet-faced kids star in films called 'F**k My Life' and now 'F**k My Wedding'?</p>

How can such sweet-faced kids star in films called 'F**k My Life' and now 'F**k My Wedding'?

Credit: Bazuca Films

Watch: What do you call the sequel to 'F**k My Life'? 'F**k My Wedding,' of course

Romantic comedy from Chile follows-up one of their biggest home-grown hits

Nicolas Lopez first got attention on the US festival circuit with his heartfelt and profane teenage comedy "Promedio Rojo," then promptly vanished down a several-year hole called "Santos," his follow-up film that accurately summed up many of Lopez's geek fetishes but that also wore him out as a filmmaker.

He wisely took a step back and rebooted himself as a filmmaker, and in the process, he had one of the biggest hits in Chilean history with the bluntly-titled "F**k My Life."  The film is a wry and acutely-observed look at the way social media has changed the landscape of modern relationships, and the particular case of Javier and Sophia, a young couple whose break-up resonates through the lives of their friends and family.

If you weren't able to catch "F**k My Life" at its various US festival appearances, it's already been sold to HBO.  In addition, Lionsgate is working with Pantelion to remake the movie for the US, and I'm curious to see how they handle the title of the remake.  There's no way they'll release it here with that name, although it would certainly get people's attention if they did.

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<p>Jennifer Garner lives out the dream of everyone who's ever tried to have children but couldn't in 'The Odd Life Of Timothy Green'</p>

Jennifer Garner lives out the dream of everyone who's ever tried to have children but couldn't in 'The Odd Life Of Timothy Green'

Credit: Walt Disney Company

Watch: Jennifer Garner makes a wish in 'The Odd Life of Timothy Green'

Trailer for new film from Peter Hedges promises something strange

Here's a strange one.

Earlier today, Disney released the first poster for "The Odd Life Of Timothy Green," a film I knew nothing about until they released that poster.  Never heard of it.

A little reading reveals that it's the new film from Peter Hedges, which is a good sign.  Hedges was the writer of "About A Boy" and "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," and the writer/director of both "Pieces Of April" and "Dan In Real Life."  I spent an afternoon with him talking about his work during the release of "Dan In Real Life," and I thought he was a really smart, down-to-earth guy who wants to make smaller personal films inside the studio system.

But I still wasn't sure what this new film was about.  I thought it was intriguing that it's one of the films written by Ahmet Zappa, who's been setting up a ton of stuff lately.  And now, thanks to Zappa's Twitter feed, I was directed to a Vimeo page where the trailer just went up.

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"I Don't Know How She Does It"
Credit: The Weinstein Company

Exclusive: Sarah Jessica Parker in new 'I Don't Know How She Does It' poster

'SATC' star is all grown up in her latest project

Having survived "Sex and the City 3," Sarah Jessica Parker has put away silly playthings (Mr. Big, couture tank tops) to go grown-up. Based on Allison Pearson's best seller, "I Don't Know How She Does It" tackles the trials of a working mom with humorous narration a la Carrie Bradshaw, plus it features an all-star cast (Greg Kinnear, Seth Myers, Busy Phillips and Christina Hendricks). If the poster is any indication (provided exclusively to HitFix), SJP has transformed into that other kind of New Yorker who's probably a lot more familiar to those of us who live in the real world -- lots of black and neutrals, tailored wool coats and refined clothing that says chic without being over the top. It's good to see Parker put Bradshaw behind, at least for now (another "SATC" movie seems unlikely) and apply her excellent comedic chops to some heartier fare.  

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