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Credit: Warner Bros.

Movie Review: 'Blended' isn't Adam Sandler's worst subsidized vacation

Drew Barrymore and the young actresses add a little sweetness

You know those real estate scams where you're offered a free vacation if you just sit through a time-share presentation and that time-share presentation seems never-ending, because even if it's just two hours, what you really wanted was a free vacation?

For Adam Sandler, filmmaking is like that time-share presentation. 

All the guy wants is to get major motion picture studios to subsidize his vacations. Is that so wrong? If Sony or Warner Brothers said to you, "How would you like an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii or Africa or a secluded lake? And all you have to do is deliver a movie and nobody on our side will even ask to see a script or bother looking at the final cut," what would you say? You'd accept the deal. Don't deny it. 

It's obvious that Sandler and his partners-in-vacation-loving-crime don't especially enjoy the quid pro quo required for their global galavanting, but like that monotonous time-share presentation, a mid-range budgeted theatrical comedy is the price they have to pay for a situation I assume is luxurious.

Trust me, if Sandler could get vacations in exchange for an Allen Covert-centric features, he'd do nothing but produce. Unfortunately, a sequel to "Grandma's Boy" isn't getting you even as far as Shreveport. 

In the name of a comped holiday, Sandler has meandered through offerings that range from mediocre-but-unsettling (the amnesiac romance of "50 First Dates" creeps me out) to downright cinematic crimes ("Grown Ups," "Grown Ups 2," that thing with Brooklyn Decker). 

That's a preamble to my warning that I sat down for "Blended," a temporary impediment to Sandler and Drew Barrymore enjoying a vacation in South Africa, with trepidation, having already cringed through the trailers on the behalf of the absurdly talented Terry Crews, seemingly clowning his way through a stereotypical African musical act that probably should have been dubbed Ladysmith Black ManBozo. [Thanks to Twitter follower @EstherK for recognizing "ManBozo" was funnier in this context than just "MamBozo." If either is funny, I mean.] 

You say "pre-judging." I say "citing ample precedent." But at this point, nobody goes into Adam Sandler movies a blank slate. You either dread every low-brow comedy and wish for "Punch-Drunk Love II," or you're willing to forgive nearly anything in perpetuity because "Billy Madison," "The Wedding Singer" and "The Waterboy" were all hella funny back in the day.

You need to know the context and the perspective so that you know how many grains of salt to take this with: 

"Blended" is far from the worst movie to come out of a studio-subsidized Adam Sandler vacation. 

In fact, I'd wager that there's a serviceably so-so movie hiding within the flabby bloat of the 117 minute "Blended" running time. With a better director and a more discerning editor, "Blended" might have been trimmed and reshaped into a 90-minute family dramedy that still might have allowed for a couple shots of humping rhinos and for two or three iterations of a gag in which a mother whacks her sleeping son's head against a wall or a door. As it stands, "Blended" is a woefully unfunny movie, but almost despite itself, there are moments of fleeting human emotion, delivered largely by Barrymore and young co-stars Emma Furmann and Alyvia Alyn Lind. 

By the end, I wouldn't say that I was especially moved by "Blended," but I respected its mawkish aspirations more than its attempts at predictable family-style bawdiness. 

More after the break...

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Presenting the final 2013-14 TV season rankings

Presenting the final 2013-14 TV season rankings
“Sunday Night Football,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “NCIS” ranked 1, 2 and 3. Which ranked the worst?

Charlie Sheen: I hope “Two and a Half Men” invites me back for the final episode
Sheen also says the CBS sitcom “went a year too far."

A “Lost” reunion: Mark Pellegrino to star in A&E’s “Returned” from Carlton Cuse
Pellegrino will play a father who comes back from the dead in the remake of the French zombie series.

“American Idol’s” steep decline is “sad”
About 10.1 million watched last night, less than half of the 21.5 million who watched the finale two years ago -- and a stunning drop from the 29.3 million viewers for the 2011 finale. PLUS: “Idol” gets the Bad Lip Reading treatment, and Caleb Johnson will release a “really kick-butt record” on Aug. 12.

“The Americans” has perhaps the most realistic portrayal of Russians
The FX series was intent on avoiding Russian stereotypes and mistakes of other TV shows and movies. Native Russian speakers were hired for key roles. And native-speaking translators translated the Russian scenes, which were initially written in English. Says creator Joe Weisberg: "Once you bring that level into detail into a show, you can't do cardboard cutouts anymore. You're not in the realm of cliché. You will invariably build a real person.” PLUS: The secret star of "The Americans" is its filmmaking,” Matthew Rhys on the season finale, explaining that “69” scene, and it’s a compliment to call “The Americans” the saddest show on TV.

“Gilligan’s Island” movie will reference “Lost”
Josh Gad, who’s currently writing the big-screen adaptation, tells MTV News: "“You would be remiss not to at least touch upon that in the movie. And I’ll leave it at that.”

How AMC "brainstormed" its next hit show
Funny or Die takes us inside AMC’s thinking process.

“SVU” went too far this season with Olivia Benson
Mariska Hargitay shouldn’t have been repeatedly victimized.

What will Syfy do to cover up the nudity on “Spartacus”?
A big part of the Starz series’ appeal was its excessive nudity and graphic sex.

“Modern Family’s” Mitch & Cam’s had TV’s most important gay wedding
Unlike the gay weddings on “Friends,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Brothers and Sisters,” this one involved two leading characters.

“Last Comic Standing” is back — it’s TV’s best diversity showcase
Previous winners have been of nearly every race. PLUS: How JB Smoove got involved.

How “The Bachelorette” reinforces female submissiveness and male dominance
“A woman has all the power” this season, Chris Harrison declared this season. But that simply isn’t true, argues Jennifer Pozner. PLUS: Andi Dorfman’s cousin pens a NY Times column calling her a “new breed of bachelorette."

Here are your Memorial Day Weekend marathons
“BBQ Pitmasters” and “CSI: Miami” are among the shows having all-day marathons on Monday.

Nickelodeon orders Ryan Seacrest’s “Webheads” viral video game show
“Big Time Rush” star Carlos PenaVega will host the show combining slime, physical challenges and viral videos.

Watch Seth Rogen in a red dress on Adult Swim
He’s a guest-star on tonight’s episode of “Loiter Squad.”

“Game of Thrones” inspires a “Perfect Strangers” spinoff
Check out “Bri & Pod."

“Survivor” winner Tony says the $1 million prize isn't life-changing
Tony Vlachos also says of the jury hating on him: "I believe the jury was hurt by me betraying them. They weren't necessarily bitter, but they were hurt. But I think them having to vent and get everything off their chest was very helpful in the sense that they got it off, could put it aside and make a rational decision was far as who played the best game.” PLUS: More from Tony, how does Woo feel coming in 2nd?, and where would Jeff Probst rank Tony?

How Jimmy Kimmel’s mean tweeters responded to “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets”
Most were happy to be mentioned and not ashamed at all.

2 Off-Broadway plays hurt by “Boardwalk Empire”
One had to cancel its opening night because its star landed a part on the HBO series, another hadn to cancel a preview and movie its premiere.

Disney XD renews “Mighty Med”
The superhero comedy series will return for a 2nd season in the fall.

10 problematic TV characters who will get a 2nd chance next season
From Deputies Tim and Rachel to Paige Jennings.

Here are fall’s toughest timeslots
At 9 pm on Thursdays, “Scandal” will battle “Gracepoint” on Fox and “The Blacklist."

Do video games make good TV shows?
Only a few video games have been adapted for televisioln, including Donkey Kong and The Legend of Zelda.

Revived by Amazon, “Ripper Street” begins filming its 3rd season
"It's a day many of us thought we'd never see,” Richard Warlow, the show’s creator says of the once-canceled former BBC series.

Why “Mad Men’s” final season was split into 2 parts
One reason: By ending in 2015, "Mad Men" won’t have to compete against “Breaking Bad” and the Matthew McConaughey-Woody Harrelson version of “True Detective” at next year’s Emmys.

Did “Parks and Rec” inspire an ad promoting the city of Ames, Iowa
Watch a video that is absolutely Pawnee-esque.

Jason Biggs doesn’t regret cracking jokes about the dead “Bachelorette” contestant
The “Orange is the New Black” star says it’s fun to read the outrage over his tweets the next day.

In defense of food TV’s celebration of celebrity “cheftestants”
"Top Chef Seattle” runner-up Brooke Williamson says "the rise of shows like 'Iron Chef,’ 'No Reservations' and 'Bizarre Foods' has made food culture more approachable, which I think is good thing."

Katharine McPhee files for divorce from the husband she was caught cheating on
The “Idol” alum, 30, is ending her six-year marriage to 49-year-old Nick Cokas.

“True Blood” star Marshall Allman welcomes a daughter
Allman’s wife gave birth on Wednesday.

CW’s 2-year-old “Labyrinth” doesn’t have enough story for its 4-hour allotted time
The “event” starring “Downton Abbey’s” Jessica Brown Findlay kicks off tonight.

Fox’s “Gang Related” is a “pile of cliches”
Judging from the “instantly awful” series, says Tim Goodman, "it's pretty clear right away that you're dealing with a pile of cliches that can never be anything more than dreadful. Every minute that you keep watching, part of your soul festers and peels away. Somewhere inside you, a pained voice screams out in anguish at whoever could have greenlighted such a blatant display of yuck.” PLUS: “Gang Related” is surprisingly good for a summer series, it’s trying to be “The Shield” filtered through the “NCIS” network, and it’s pulp hooey with a comic book vitality.

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<p>Josh Charles in &quot;Bird People&quot; which premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.</p>

Josh Charles in "Bird People" which premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.

Cannes Roundup: Gong Li in 'Coming Home,' Josh Charles in 'Bird People' and 'Alleluia'

You might be surprised which one is worth watching

CANNES - The Cannes Film Festival is certainly easier than some of its North American cousins in regards to the sheer number of movies screened and how they are scheduled (two major films rarely premiere at the same time). That being said, too many 8:30am screenings and it's easy for the whole festival to get away from you a bit. With that in mind, here are three quick capsule reviews from this year's fest.

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<p>You know you want it.</p>

You know you want it.

Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

'Godzilla' director Gareth Edwards set to direct first 'Star Wars' spinoff film for 2016

And with Gary Whitta onboard writing, things just got interesting

After the opening weekend of "Godzilla," it seemed to be a given that Gareth Edwards would be offered further big-budget blockbuster work. I just didn't expect it to be so fast, and I certainly wouldn't have guessed that he would move from one dream job to another.

As Edwards said in the press release that was just sent out, "Ever since I saw 'Star Wars,' I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life - join the Rebel Alliance! I could not be more excited and honored to go on this mission with Lucasfilm."

Yes, Edwards is the man steering the first stand-alone "Star Wars" film. With a script by Gary Whitta, the film is already dated for December 16, 2016. There is no word yet as to which of the hundreds of possible characters will anchor the film, but at this point, the exciting thing here is that they're going to be able to make something that can have its own identity.

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Review: John Boorman's 'Queen and Country' uses humor to offer a UK view of the Korean war
Credit: Le Pacte

Review: John Boorman's 'Queen and Country' uses humor to offer a UK view of the Korean war

This has got to be the year's most unexpected sequel

CANNES -- When John Boorman released "Hope and Glory" in 1987, I was already fascinated by stories of living through WWII, and I thought his film painted a remarkable, unsentimental portrait of what it was like to be a child during the Blitz. It was all about somehow being able to have a childhood while the world was burning down around him, and it had a spectacular sense of time and place.

Walking into "Queen and Country," his latest film, I had no idea it was a sequel. Written and directed by Boorman, this film takes place as Will, the little boy in the first film, is turning 19 and leaving home, conscripted into Army service as England is sending soldiers over to help fight the Korean War. There's actually a very short clip from "Hope And Glory" at the beginning, and then we dissolve to the island in the Thames where Will and his family still live. We see a Nazi in full uniform charge into the water, only to be shot and killed. Someone calls "cut!" and we realize we're watching them shoot a WWII era movie. The island is near Shepperton Studios, and Will watches, fascinated, as they "kill" the Nazi, again and again and again.

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'Labyrinth' review: 'Reign' shouldn't be expected in this book adaptation

Though the CW expects to lure in the same audience, they shouldn't

Female protagonist? Check times two. A time period when everyone rides horses? Sure. Cool jewelry? Got it. When the CW acquired "Labyrinth," a four-hour miniseries executive produced by Scott Free (Ridley and Tony Scott's company), CW president Mark Pedowitz called this a "fun companion piece" to the series "Reign." I'm not sure I would call "Labyrinth" fun, but I guess if you think 1209 and 1542 are more or less the same time period, well, then why not snap up this project?

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Maria Menounos jumps to E!

Maria Menounos jumps to E!
The “Extra” star will host her own entertainment news show, “Untold With Maria Menounos” while also joining “Live from E!” and the cable network’s other programming.

Kelsey Grammer & Martin Lawrence’s FX sitcom gets an August premiere date
They’ll play lawyers in “Partners,” which will air like “Louie” — two episodes a week for five weeks, starting Aug. 4.

Report: Mary Tyler Moore is nearly blind
According to Betty White, “Her eyesight is what the big problem is right now."

Gillian Jacobs is trying to avoid being “Community’s” Britta on the set of “Girls”
Jacobs says she was attracted to her role as “Mimi Rose” because it was so different from Britta. "I have just been trying to not wear things that are trademarks of Britta, so I nixed stripes and I nixed some leather jackets,” she says.

Jimmy Kimmel’s “Game Night” will be back for a 7th year
“Jimmy Kimmel Live” will again air after every NBA Finals game.

“Masters of Sex” adds “Smash’s” Christian Borle
He’ll play William Masters’ brother in Season 2.

Netflix is set to order royal drama “The Crown”
The project is based on the play “The Audience,” about Queen Elizabeth II’s weekly chats with the prime minister.

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<p>Not Great Bob! &quot;Mad Men&quot; and Bob Benson</p>

Not Great Bob! "Mad Men" and Bob Benson

Credit: AMC

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 231

Dan and Alan also discuss the genius of 'Review' and the latest 'Mad Men'


It's another Thursday for the Firewall & Iceberg podcast, because we wanted to be able to discuss "The Americans" finale in a relatively timely fashion, in addition to our usual "Mad Men" breakdown, some more finale talk with "The Good Wife," and a belated review of Comedy Central's brilliant "Review." Due to holidays, travel, etc., we're not sure what day of the week the next podcast may be, but we'll have plenty to discuss there.

Also, I don't often plug the video show in the podcast post, but I'd strongly suggest watching — or even listening to while you have other windows open — the last segment from this week's show, in which Dan and I play Canceled TV Show Trivia.

The rundown: 

"Review" (00:01:05 - 00:11:20)
"The Good Wife" finale (00:11:55 - 00:26:30)
"The Americans" finale (00:27:20 - 00:43:20)
Listener Mail - TV show ownership (00:43:30 - 00:49:05)
Listener Mail - "Mad Men" comparisons (00:49:10 - 00:56:55)
Sunday's "Mad Men" (00:56:55 - 01:15:20)
As always, send questions to 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. 231

Dan and Alan discuss talk 'Americans,' 'Good Wife,' 'Review' and 'Mad Men'


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

On Tuesday's video show, we reviewed "The Normal Heart," "Gang Related" and "The Night Shift," so that's where that coverage is.

In this podcast, we cover finales for "The Good Wife" and "The Americans," discuss Sunday's "Mad Men" and, since I binged it last Friday, we talked about the first season of Comedy Central's "Review," which is available to watch in its entirety on Hulu or the Comedy Central ap.

Busy busy!

And, again, we're not sure when we're podcasting next week, but it'll happen at some point! 

Today's breakdown:
"Review" (00:01:05 - 00:11:20)
"The Good Wife" finale (00:11:55 - 00:26:30)
"The Americans" finale (00:27:20 - 00:43:20)
Listener Mail - TV show ownership (00:43:30 - 00:49:05)
Listener Mail - "Mad Men" comparisons (00:49:10 - 00:56:55)
Sunday's "Mad Men" (00:56:55 - 01:15:20)

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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Lifetime making a Whitney Houston movie directed by Angela Bassett

Lifetime making a Whitney Houston movie directed by Angela Bassett
Bassett, who co-starred with Houston in “Waiting to Exhale,” won’t star in the film but could play another role. The film will focus on Whitney Houston’s relationship with Bobby Brown. Says Bassett: "I have such regard for both Whitney’s and Bobby’s amazing talents and  accomplishments; and I feel a responsibility in the telling of their story.”

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Caleb Johnson

'American Idol' winner Caleb Johnson's debut album set for August release

Does a shorter release window work better?

Fans of “American Idol” season 13 winner Caleb Johnson won’t have long to wait for the newly crowned king’s debut album.

Johnson’s self-titled album will come out Aug. 12. Anyone remember a winner’s set coming out that quickly before? Not only that, the release date was announced mere hours after Johnson was throned last night.

Given that “Idol” no longer has the shiny new car smell it once had, 19 Recordings/Interscope Records, which is putting out the release, must want to strike while Johnson’s victory is still fresh in people’s minds. No word on when Interscope will release runner-up Jena Irene’s album.

Judge Harry Connick asked Johnson last week what kind of album he’d like to make and he replied, unsurprisingly, a rock album of originals. He’s off to a good start with his “Idol” finale song, “As Long As You Love Me,” written by The Darkness’ Justin Hawkins and produced by Howard Benson.

Of course, we’ll see if that release date actually happens. Last season’s winner, Candice Glover, was initially slated to release her album even faster, in July 2013, but it didn’t surface until February 2014, and despite her having a great, soulful voice, the album hasn’t achieved much success, and, in fact, sold the least amount in its opening frame of any debut album released by an "Idol" winner.

Season 11 winner, Phillip Phillips, released his debut six months after his victory and the November album went platinum, in addition to single “Home” reaching quadruple-platinum certification. Phillips just released his second album last week.

Scotty McCreery, who won Season 10, also put out his debut album the fall after his win. Released in October 2011, “Clear As Day,” also went platinum. McCreery's fellow contestant, Pia Toscano, was shockingly eliminated early on in the competition and quickly signed to Interscope who couldn't capitalize on the immediate heat that surrounded the singer. After a single failed to catch fire, Toscano was dropped from Interscope last year.

Of course, before Johnson's album comes out, he'll take part in the obligatory American Idol Live tour, which starts June 24 in Binghampton, N.Y. and features this season's finalists.

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Angela Bassett

Angela Bassett

Angela Bassett to direct Lifetime movie 'Whitney Houston'

The story will focus on the late singer's relationship with Bobby Brown

If there's anyone who knows how to convey roller coaster (and occasionally drug-addled) romance, it's Angela Bassett. Having plumbed the depths of Tina Turner's tumultuous relationship with Ike in "What's Love Got to Do With It," Bassett is now stepping behind the camera to helm a movie about another seriously messed-up relationship -- the one between the late Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. Fittingly, Lifetime, the network known for digging into the nitty gritty of relationship angst, is set to air "Whitney Houston" in 2015.

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