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America Ferrera and Jay Baruchel on how they beat Quidditch in 'How To Train Your Dragon 2'
Credit: HitFix

America Ferrera and Jay Baruchel on how they beat Quidditch in 'How To Train Your Dragon 2'

Plus we find out how they pulled off one of the film's most charming moments

The first film I saw at this year's Cannes Film Festival was also the one that was least like the others, the animated sequel, "How To Train Your Dragon 2." And while this was the least interview-oriented festival I've had in a while, when asked to sit down with the talent involved with this film, I was happy to do so.

Both Astrid (America Ferrera) and Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) have grown five years older between the first film and this one, and considering the age of the characters, those are five big years, marking a major shift in maturity. It's subtle stuff to play, and both Ferrera and Baruchel seem to really love these movies and these characters.

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Mariah Carey

Album Review: Mariah Carey: 'Me. I Am Mariah...The Elusive Chanteuse'

Was the over-stuffed album worth the five-year wait?

It’s been a long wait filled with fits and starts for Mariah Carey’s new album, first titled “The Art Of Letting Go,” and now, awkwardly called “Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse.” Yes, I know the background behind the title and she could have gone with “Me,” or “I Am Mariah” or “The Elusive Chanteuse,” but all three is a bit of overkill.  And so it is with the album. At 14 tracks on the standard edition, Carey is determined to show us all of her tricks, between her multiple-octave range  and her “I’m still really street, R&B” side (not to mention that she can still rock a crocheted bathing suit).

The album succeeds in many levels, but on some songs—“Cry,” “Camouflage,” “It’s A Wrap” (a duet with Mary J. Blige on the Deluxe version), the lyrics read like journal entries that don’t scan well with the melodies and seem crammed in to fit. Carey could have used a good editor.

To her credit, working with lots of producers —there are at least 12 here— doesn’t dilute the album’s cohesiveness, since that unifying factor is Carey’s vocals. The bigger issue here is the consistent need to throw in every bit of studio gimmickry into almost very track. There is precious little space on these tracks. Carey’s voice is such a force of nature, there’s no need to surround it with so many overlapping bells and whistles that often serve to distract rather than enhance.

Carey has crafted an album, her first since 2009’s “Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel,” that doesn’t feel progressive or groundbreaking in any way (despite Carey’s almost seemingly pathological need to remain current with hip-hop trends), but also is so much better than all the delays would have led us to believe.  Was it worth the wait? Yes, if you're a Carey fan. And it’s a reminder that Mimi remains a powerful force.

Here's a track-by-track review:

“Cry”:  The album opener is an organ-drenched gospel inflected tune that builds nicely as Carey details a heart break that leaves both parties tender and bruised.  The lyrics get unwieldy, but for the most part the ballad is a reminder that Carey has a voice that remains unmatched in pop. It’s one of the few tracks that isn’t over saturated by needless production elements. GRADE: B+

“Faded”: Just as their love has faded, so has Carey’s memory as she looks at photos of a lost love in this chugging mid-tempo ballad, co-produced by Mike Will Made-It, with a relatively light touch. Should be a fall single. GRADE: B

“Dedicated,” featuring Nas: The two titans look back at the summer of 1988, which Nas calls “My most nostalgic moment of hip-hop music ever,” in the intro before the two turn back time to 26 (!!!) years ago in a sweet duet that the label should have released for summer. The lilting track rambles along without a particularly catchy hook but feels made to be blaring out of car speakers.  Nas, no stranger to controversy, throws it down by rapping:  “We don’t wish today’s game was old again, we just wish it wasn’t filled with draconian, babylonian phony-men.” It’s not the album’s strongest track, but it has an effortless charm —and fun Wu-Tang samples— that propel it over some of the other tracks that sound so labored.  GRADE: B+

“#Beautiful,” featuring Miguel: This swaying, toe-tapping former single deserved to be a bigger hit than it was (it peaked at No. 15) as Carey and Miguel sexily coo and flirt over a retro-sounding track about how looks matter. She also likes that her bad boy runs red lights when she’s on the back of his bike. And he like her ass. True. It shouldn’t have worked as well as it did, but their talents raise the song. GRADE: B+

“Thirsty”: Rapper Rich Homie Quan comes in at the beginning and in the middle, but the star is Carey’s delivery. Her vocals glide over a very busy synth track, airy as a butterfly, but her words are lethal. The stuttering background track that runs under  the whole tune, often like an irritating mosquito buzz, is part of Hit-Boy’s signature production, but this put down of a man who used to be a considerate lover but is now all about celebrity deserves more of the spotlight. GRADE: B

“Make It Look Good”: Carey goes old school on this dreamy mid-tempo track that will charm long time fans. With a doo-wap feel and Stevie Wonder on harmonica, “Make It Look Good” is a throw back to an earlier time and an earlier Carey, Care-free and swaying. Top 40 radio wouldn’t touch it now, which is a shame. This would have been a smash in the mid-90s.  GRADE: B+

“You’re Mine (Eternal)”: The mid-tempo tune, co-written and co-produced with Rodney Jerkins, is a breathless, throbbing quiet storm of a song that relies more on its hypnotic charm than Carey's vocal pyrotechnics. GRADE: B-

“You Don’t Know What To Do,” featuring Wale: The song starts off classic Mariah as she sassily wails about dumping her man because he doesn’t know what to do when it comes to romancing his lady. Wale then comes in with the male’s perspective rapping about how he wants another chance. Carey comes back as the song shifts into an uptempo R&B pop track making clear that he is way too late since she used to love him, but she feels brand new now that she’s set loose her man.  Playful and  fun. GRADE: B+

“Supernatural”: A love letter to her now three-year old twins, who giggle and coo throughout the song, “Supernatural” also works as a romantic love letter as Carey sings, over a tinkling synth, about a love that makes everything else pale in comparison. The track will strike you as indulgent or delightfully sweet depending upon where you fall on the “kids as props” spectrum. GRADE: B-

“Meteorite”: With the insistent disco beat and other flourishes, “Meteorite” sounds like a Donna Summer outtake —and that’s high praise. The mid-tempo disco track features Carey with a straight-ahead, non-stratospheric vocal. All the elements are there for the song to achieve maximum lift-off, but it doesn’t… maybe a high energy remix would help. Tremendous unrealized potential on this track, co-produced by Carey and Q-Tip. GRADE: B-

“Camouflage”: Carey holds nothing back vocally here on this ballad about keeping her pain hidden as a love affair falls apart. From the calling-all-dogs high notes to the sustained notes, it’s all here.  And it’s all a bit much when you wade through a choir, layers of singing, and echo-y effects. It starts off lovely and spare, but as each element is added in, it begins to sag. Would have been better if it had stayed simpler. GRADE: B-

“Money ($*/…),” featuring Fabolous: Carey is reduced to guest on her own tune here as Fabolous and a squonking horn steal the show here as he exhorts, “C’mon Mariah, let’s get higher.”  Love trumps money, at the end of the day in this repetitive Hit-Boy track (or does it, as Fabolous raps about coming home “to your money.”  GRADE: C

“One More Try”: Carey likes to throw in the occasional cover of a power ballad from the past: Journey’s “Open Arms” way back in 1996 or Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” on “Memoirs.” Here she tackles George Michael’s 1988 hit, “One More Try.” She stays pretty faithful to the original, but the track has a cheesy roller-skating back beat and backing vocals that distract from her solid vocal performance and take away from the underlying weight and slight creepiness of Michael’s version.  GRADE:  C

“Heavenly (No Ways Tired/Can’t Give Up Now)”: The standard version of the album wraps with this gospel track that includes a full choir and samples from the late Rev. James Cleveland and addresses fortitude in the face of struggles. Like many of the tracks, it starts out fine, but then it builds to a busy mess (turntable scratching, really? ) that overshadows the positive, uplifting message.  GRADE: B-

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Syfy announces 'Sharknado Week'

Syfy announces “Sharknado Week”
Inspired by Discovery’s Shark Week, Syfy will celebrate the "greatest moments in shark film history” in the run-up to the airing of “Sharknado 2.” Sharknado Week kicks off July 26.


“Mad Men’s” Robert Morse: “It was an absolute love letter” and “Facebook has been going crazy"
Morse said he worked with a choreographer for four to five days in secrecry for Sunday’s midseason finale. "Nobody knew beforehand,” says Morse. We sang the song three or four times with a 30-piece orchestra, Matt was there. I rehearsed with the dancers and a few days later, Matt came in to see what we had done and said, 'It’s going to work.’”PLUS: Matthew Weiner got the song while listening to "old-time radio."


Watch the trailer for Lifetime’s “Deliverance Creek” from Nicholas Sparks
“The Notebook” author’s backdoor pilot, airing Sept. 13, follows a widowed mother who tries to protect her family and land during the Civil War.

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'True Detective’s' 3 new leads: 2 males, 1 female?

“True Detective’s” 3 new leads: 2 males, 1 female?
Season 2 of the HBO series will feature a 40-something male detective, a 30-something female detective and a 20-something male cop, according to Deadline. Joaquin Phoenix, Christian Bale and Josh Brolin are prototypes for the 40-something male detective, while Jessica Chastain is a “potential prototype” for the female detective character.


“Breaking Bad," "The Good Wife" and “True Detective” among the top TCA Award nominees
Unlike the Emmys, “True Detective” will compete in the "Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials” category at this year's Television Critics Association Awards.


“Mad Men’s” midseason finale nabs just 1.9 million viewers
That’s down from the 2.7 million who watched the Season 6 finale on the same day, but this was the first time “Mad Men” had a finale during Memorial Day Weekend.


Showtime to re-air all seasons of “Queer as Folk” and “The L Word”
To celebrate Gay Pride Month, both LGBT shows will be back next month, airing every episode through November.


BBC nearly axed “Doctor Who” after David Tennant’s exit
Steven Moffat reveals that BBC bosses didn’t think Tennant was replaceable in The Doctor role. "David owned that role in a spectacular way, gave it an all-new cheeky sexy performance and became a national treasure,” he says. "So the idea that Doctor Who could go on at all in the absence of David was a huge question.”


“The World Wars” watched by 3.4 million
The three-day History channel miniseries went up against traditional Memorial Day programming.

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<p>Scott McNairy in &quot;Halt and Catch Fire.&quot;</p>

Scott McNairy in "Halt and Catch Fire."

Credit: AMC

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 232: 'Hannibal' & 'Mad Men' finales and more

Dan and Alan also discuss new series 'Undateable,' 'Crossbones' and 'Halt and Catch Fire'

The

Time for a trans-Atlantic installment of the Firewall & Iceberg podcast, as Dan and I tried to navigate the challenges of him being in London (and in a hotel with questionable wifi). For the most part, it's workable, and at a certain point we decided we wanted to get it done because it would be our best and only real chance to discuss the "Hannibal" and "Mad Men" finales in a timely fashion, though we were more ambivalent on the three new shows being reviewed.

The rundown: 

"Undateable" (00:01:20 - 00:10:30)
"Crossbones" (00:10:30 - 00:17:20)
"Halt and Catch Fire" (00:17:30 - 00:25:20)
"Hannibal" finale (00:25:40 - 00:43:30)
"Mad Men" midseason finale - (00:43:35 - 01:05:30)
 
As always, send questions to firewalliceberg@hitfix.com. You can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. Or you can always follow our RSS Feed, download the MP3 file, subscribe on IHeartRadio or stream it on Dan's blog.

There's also now a complete archive of all the podcasts to date.

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 232

Dan and Alan discuss talk 'Crossbones,' 'Undatable,' 'Hannibal' and 'Mad Men'

The

Happy Tuesday, Boys & Girls! Time for another installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast!

I'm in London on work. The audio quality in the podcast sucks. Sorry. Deal with it. It was either that, or we didn't talk about "Hannibal" and "Mad Men" and the various new shows that, frankly, we don't especially care if you watch or don't watch, since they're either not especially good, or we haven't seen enough of them to know for sure. 

But we definitely wanted to talk about the "Hannibal" finale, which capped off a terrific season, and the "Mad Men" midseason finale, which was a spectacular ending to a small chunk of episodes that doesn't quite seem like a season or a half-season.

Here's today's breakdown:
"Undateable" (00:01:20 - 00:10:30)
"Crossbones" (00:10:30 - 00:17:20)
"Halt and Catch Fire" (00:17:30 - 00:25:20)
"Hannibal" finale (00:25:40 - 00:43:30)
"Mad Men" midseason finale - (00:43:35 - 01:05:30)

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed or subscribe on IHeartRadio.] 

 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

 

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TCA Awards Nominees include 'Breaking Bad,' 'True Detective' & 'Orange Is the New Black'
Credit: HBO

TCA Awards Nominees include 'Breaking Bad,' 'True Detective' & 'Orange Is the New Black'

The television critics also gave some love to 'The Americans,' 'Fargo' and 'The Good Wife'

A glut of great TV shows makes it hard to recognize every show worth of it, but the members of the Television Critics Association did our best in picking the nominees for this year's TCA Awards.

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'The Bachelorette' couldn’t watch her one-on-one date with the late Eric Hill

“The Bachelorette” couldn’t watch her one-on-one date with the late Eric Hill
"I remember that first date so vividly, and to be honest, I cannot bring myself to watch it back,” Andi Dorfman writes on her “Bachelorette” blog. PLUS: “Bachelorette” hits a series low on Memorial Day, and last night’s episode featured man-thongs.


Letterman to moderate a discussion on Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars”
“The Late Show” host will make a rare appearance outside the Ed Sullivan Theater on June 9 to discuss the web series with Seinfeld at the Paley Center for Media.


ESPN may sell soccer games to non-cable subscribers
The proposed plan would be the first time ESPN is selling an a la carte plan.


“Mad Men” creator wanted this year’s episodes to have the "sensation of a full season”
The last two episodes could’ve served as a series finale, and Matthew Weiner says that was intentional. — he didn’t want to leave any questions unanswered like he did at the end of Season 3. "The challenge for splitting the season up is that this is the half of something, but we also wanted it to feel like all of something,” he says. "Turning these seven episodes into the sensation of a full season was a challenge, but we just concentrated on the main characters, and that's the way it worked out, even though we had a lot of ground to cover.” PLUS: John Slattery weighs in on Roger Sterling's actions, Weiner is almost done writing the finale, “Mad Men” doesn’t work when it splits the seasons, could there be a happy ending?, a great show will gobsmack you with an out-of-nowhere plot twist or style choice, how much did each partner make?, this was one of the most remarkable and funniest episodes of “Mad Men,” one of “Mad Men’s” great tricks is making you nostalgic for old “Mad Men” episodes, and “Mad Men” finally embraced happiness.


Judge Judy earns $47 million for 52 days of work a year
“People take comfort in order,” Judy Sheindlin, now 71, says of her popularity. “I also move swiftly, as opposed to a justice system and a government that is slow and meandering.”


“24: Live Another Day” premiere gets a huge DVR boost
The two-hour premiere was up 42% with Live+7 numbers accounted for.


“Justified”/“The Americans” boss to develop a WWII drama set in Nazi-occupied Paris
Graham Yost is developing the Alex Kershaw novel, "Avenue of Spies," for WGN America. It tells the true story of how an American-born doctor and his family helped the French Resistance.


Chelsea Handler asks Joel McHale about the “Late Late” rumors
“Boy, did it cause a stir in the entertainment community,” he says of his photo with Les Moonves.


Will Ferrell, Clint Eastwood, “Scandal” president Tony Goldwyn will be among the Tony presenters
Also presenting: Wayne Brady, Zach Braff and Bradley Cooper.


Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ billionaire dad: “I couldn't tell she was going to be a star”
The “Veep” star and her father, William Louis-Dreyfus, went on “Today” this morning to talk about selling his private art collection to benefit the nonprofit Harlem Children’s Zone.


George Clooney’s wedding may take place at the “Downton Abbey” castle
“Downton” star Hugh Bonneville, who was part of Clooney’s” Monuments Men,” helped arrange a private visit for the actor.


“48 Hours” to get an extra Monday airing
CBS has ordered new episodes for several Mondays this summer.


Happy 50th birthday, Adam Carolla!
Jimmy Kimmel’s former “Man Show” sidekick and “Catch a Contractor” star today enters his 50s.

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<p>&quot;The Night Shift.&quot;</p>

"The Night Shift."

Credit: NBC

Review: NBC's 'The Night Shift' brought down by its obnoxious doctor hero

And what's up with that publicity photo?

Years ago at the Ledger, I did an occasional feature called "A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words" where, in lieu of writing a review of some terrible show or TV-movie, I would simply select a publicity still that in some way captured its terribleness, thus allowing me to devote my time to writing about something better.

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<p>The &quot;MasterChef&quot; judges</p>

The "MasterChef" judges

Credit: FOX

TV Ratings: '24,' 'Bachelorette' lead a slow Memorial Day Monday split

'MasterChef' is down from last summer's premiere

Fast National ratings for Monday, May 26, 2014.

FOX's "24: Live Another Day" and the premiere of "MasterChef" were down from last week and last summer respectively, but still helped FOX lead Monday night among young viewers, while ABC's "The Bachelorette" helped that network win overall despite its own week-to-week drops.

Want to know what was up from last week on Memorial Day? CBS' "Friends with Better Lives" was up, at least overall, though it was down in the key demo, as was NBC's return for "American Ninja Warrior."

There were lots of ugly numbers on Monday. Let's get to them...

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President Obama to make his debut on 'Live with Kelly and Michael'

President Obama to make his debut on “Live with Kelly and Michael"
The president won’t actually visit the ABC morning show. Instead, Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan will visit him in the White House Blue Room.


“Mad Men” creator defends, explains the midseason finale: "I never thought it would happen, actually”
"I don't want to do it all the time," says Matthew Weiner says of using dream sequences and hallucinations, "but it is the language of the show. It's as old as the flashback." PLUS: The series finale is “set in stone."


“True Detective” Season 2 will be set in California with 3 leads
“Right now, we're working with three leads,” says creator Nic Pizzolatto. "It takes place in California. Not Los Angeles, but some of the much lesser-known venues of California and we're going to try to capture a certain psychosphere ambience of the place, much like we did in season one.”


Whitney Houston’s family may sue over Lifetime’s biopic
The Houston family wants to make its own movie, and reportedly feels Whitney is too big for a TV movie.


Seth Rogen and Snoop Dogg recap “Game of Thrones” while stoned
Watch them smoke out while recapping the HBO series.


David Schwimmer helps NYPD officers solve a stabbing case
The “Friends” star’s surveillance video captured the aftermath of a three-person brawl.

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<p>Robert Morse in &quot;Mad Men.&quot;</p>

Robert Morse in "Mad Men."

Credit: AMC

'Mad Men' creator Matthew Weiner on singing, dancing and writing the series finale

How he wanted this half-season to feel like 'all of something'

On "Mad Men," we've seen Don and Peggy and company work on plenty of weekends and holidays. On Memorial Day of 2014, it was "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner's turn to spend the holiday getting things done, as he was supposed to finish the script for the series by the end of the day. He took a quick break to talk to me about the seven episodes of season 7 — including Sunday's eventful, musical mid-season finale — and about what it feels like to be so close to the finish line. That's coming up just as soon as an old man starts talking about Napoleon...

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