Latest Blog Posts

<p>Drew Barrymore, Ellen Page, and Kristen Wiig all star in 'Whip It,' a roller derby comedy</p>

Drew Barrymore, Ellen Page, and Kristen Wiig all star in 'Whip It,' a roller derby comedy

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Drew Barrymore's 'Whip It' trailer debuts

Ellen Page, Barrymore, and Kristen Wiig in a roller derby comedy

Kristen Wiig is playing a roller derby goddess named "Maggie Mayhem"?

Ticket.  Sold.

Actually, this script had a good reputation anyway, having found a spot on the 2007 Black List, and then Drew Barrymore cast the crap out of it when she signed on to make her directorial debut.  She's in it, as well, but the star appears to be Ellen Page, playing a girl who hasn't figured herself out yet, until she sees roller derby and decides she wants to beat the hell out of other girls on wheels.

*sniffle*  Gets ya' right here, don't it?

Actually, I like the trailer.  It's funny, and aggressive, and I'll bet you Barrymore was the perfect person to create a sense of comraderie on that set.  I'm sure it won't reinvent the genre, but I'm getting a distinct vibe here of a film a la "A League Of Their Own," one that's got such a finely tuned sense of itself that it overcomes cliche.

Check out the embedded trailer after the jump, or check it out in high-definition on Yahoo!, where it premiered today.

[more after the jump]

Read Full Post
<p>Natalie Portman and Emily Blunt are both set to go 'on point' in upcoming and intriguing roles</p>

Natalie Portman and Emily Blunt are both set to go 'on point' in upcoming and intriguing roles

TMR: Stephen Chow leaves 'Green Hornet,' Blunt and Portman dance, and a 'G.I. Joe' review

Plus did Ryan Reynolds ditch 'Deadpool'?

Welcome to The Morning Read.

This is the third... YES, THIRD... false start on the column today.  I'm having monstrous computer issues this morning.  Let's see if I can get through this in baby steps, because I am having a hard time writing more than three lines before my computer throws up and runs screaming around the room for ten minutes.

It's not all bad news today, of course.  Vern declared "Spawn" the worst comic book movie of all time, so Wednesday's got that going for it.

And speaking of comic books and superheroes, when our own Greg Ellwood interviewed Michel Gondry back in April, Gondry suggested that the involvement of Stephen Chow as Kato was, at best, an unresolved question.  Now, unsurprisingly, Chow has left the film.  I couldn't imagine a scenario where he stepped aside as director but stayed on to play a supporting character.  I'm so curious to see what Gondry and Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are putting together, and I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing that Chow's gone.  All depends on how Kato's written and what Gondry wants from him.

This is an important conversation for all of us who are writing online these days, because trust me... things are changing out there.  I have no idea what the internet's going to look like five years from now or even a year from now... but I guarantee that our media diets are only going to get more complex and that the number of voices out there involved in the media will only increase.

Great article about marriage that was originally linked to on Twitter by Dave Chen, of Slashfilmcast infamy, and it ties in nicely to an interview with Bill Hader that was shot for "Paper Heart," and which is online now:

[more after the jump]

Read Full Post
<p>Logan Marshall-Green of 'Dark Blue'</p>

Logan Marshall-Green of 'Dark Blue'

Credit: TNT

TV Review: 'Dark Blue'

Why so serious, Dylan McDermott and Logan Marshall-Green? Can't undercover cops have fun?

Although I can see why it still attracts writers and actors, the undercover cop genre has seemingly gone stagnant. This makes me sad because it's a genre I love on the big screen -- "Serpico," "Point Break," "Donnie Brasco," "The Departed" -- and on TV -- "The Mod Squad," "EZ Streets," "Sleeper Cell."

The major beats of the undercover genre are all crystalized. You await the scene where the stern authority figure threatens to pull our hero off the case because he's in too deep. You await the scene where the hero's wife/girlfriend complains that she doesn't know who she's sleeping with anymore, because he's in too deep. You await the scene where our hero has to cross that line and do something illegal, because he's in too deep to let his cover slide. In a movie each of things things can happen two or three times, but in a TV series, you can be stuck playing out the same beats multiple times in every episode.

No matter how bland the genre has become, it can still be a showcase for some terrific performances. I watched CBS' "The Handler" for Joe Pantoliano and Hill Harper. I watched A&E's "The Beast" for Patrick Swayze.

While some of the performances in TNT's new drama "Dark Blue" are solid, none of them are compelling enough to elevate what is otherwise an oppressively gloom, by-the-numbers entry that just pushes the genre deeper into its rut. 

[Full review after the break...]

Dylan McDermott stars as Carter Shaw, a street-wise cop so consumed with law and order that he's let his marriage, his family and his personal life slip away. Yes. He's that street-wise cop. 

He runs a team that includes Ty (Omari Hardwick), still trying to be the best husband he can be, in-too-deep Dean (Logan Marshall-Green) and newcomer-with-a-past Jaimie (Nicki Aycox). They're an elite off-the-books undercover squad with mostly unlimited resources, getting close to Los Angeles' biggest drug pushers, arms dealers and potential terrorists. 

But there's a catch.

As Shaw explains, "You start spending more time as an addict or a thief or even a killer than you do as yourself. Sooner or later, you're gonna forget which parts are the cover and which parts are you. How long can you pretend to be something before you become it?"

Whoa. That's deep. Or else it's just familiar. "Dark Blue" is just another show that suggests that as noble as police officers are, in general, the most noble cops of all are the cops who have to act for a living.

As I've said before, there's something patently absurd about the idea that undercover cops can balance enough different aliases to allow them to go undercover and solve a different case each week, but it's a lie that TV drama like to perpetuate. I prefer shows that acknowledge the ridiculousness of that premise, something like "Burn Notice," where Michael Westen just whips out a different silly accent and he can instantly ingratiate himself to all manner of crooks and thieves in no time at all and despite having cozied up to more than 30 Miami-based criminals in a year, he almost never runs into past associates or people he helped put away. Because "Burn Notice" is mostly a comedy, you don't sweat the plausibility. You can similarly suspend disbelief for "Leverage," which returns for its second season paired with "Dark Blue." The "Leverage" gang pulls off a different con every week, but they travel the country, wear funny costumes and make wisecracks. 

"Dark Blue," however, aspires to be gritty, real and intense and only gritty, real and intense. Because this is a Jerry Bruckheimer show, the strong production values are a foregone conclusion. Directed by Danny Cannon, who crafted the visual style for several of Bruckheimer's hits, "Dark Blue" is murky and cinematic and, like much of Cannon's work, characterized by a heavy use of filters and showy lighting. It's also a vision of Los Angeles that's nearly dystopic, an LA devoid of overly iconic palm trees and landmarks, but also devoid of neighborhoods and humanity. It's all abandoned warehouses, downtown lofts and sterile asphalt back-alleys. 

The cases in the first two episodes are similarly sterile and divorced from anything Los Angeles-specific. It just happens that LA is a likely hub for untouchable (but easily infiltrated) criminal masterminds. 

Bringing down said masterminds is such hard work that there's no room for levity and the characters only pause long enough for introspective monologuing on the nature of their jobs. There's a recent why shows like this, but not this, have a quirky computer guy or a lab tech, somebody to serve no purpose other than cracking a few jokes and leaving. Yeah, sometimes we end up hating those character, but in their total absence, they're missed.

If nothing else, McDermott is playing to his strength in "Dark Blue." That is to say that he delivers 80 percent of his lines in a growling monotone. He delivers another 10 percent like he's on the verge of bawling at a his own sincerity. And then for the other 10 percent, he bellows in righteous indignation. Everything we know about the character comes when Kyle Secor, as a meddling FBI agent, reads his file out loud to him. "Dark Blue" is that kind of show.

Of the supporting players, Logan Marshall-Green makes the strongest impression, continuing a career trend of being slightly memorable in unmemorable vehicles like ABC's "Traveler" and the feature "The Great Rave." Because he's the officer who's "in too deep," he has the showiest part, at least in the pilot. In the second episode, shifted to the background, he isn't so interesting. I did find myself thinking how much better A&E's "The Beast" would have been with Marshall-Green in the Travis Fimmel role, or else how much better "Dark Blue" would be with Patrick Swayze standing in for McDermott.

I also found myself thinking that Ryan Atwood (Benjamin McKenzie) and Trey Atwood (Marshall-Green) now both find themselves playing dedicated LAPD officers overcoming the obstacle of coming from good families on procedurals. 

That, in turn, lets me embed this clip:

I feel like I owe Logan Marshall-Green an apology, but not nearly as much of an apology as Marissa Cooper and Imogen Heap do.

Hardwick gets the main arc in the second's second episode, while Aycox's secret may be interesting. They're both OK.

"Dark Blue" airs at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, following "Leverage." While I don't have the time to do a review of "Leverage," the show remains a respectable (if sometimes forgettable) mixture of well-meaning plotlines, likable characters and frequent fun. Maybe if the two are paired for long enough, some of the fun from "Leverage" will bleed into "Dark Blue." 

 

 

Read Full Post
<p>Russell of 'Big Brother 11'</p>

Russell of 'Big Brother 11'

Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

Recap: 'Big Brother 11' Tuesday Premiere: The guinea pigs pop zits

In which 'technotronics' isn't a word, squeezing whiteheads is good and begging is rewarded

I'm sure there was a lesson to Tuesday (July 14) night's Very Special Bastille Day episode of "Big Brother," but I'm struggling to find it. Yes, there's something about how if you grub and flirt and whine, you'll get your way and you can think of it as strategy. Or maybe there's something about how the worst thing that can possibly happen on "Hermano Grande" is to be considered likable and easy going. Or maybe the most important lesson is that it's better to spell a stupid word correctly than to invent a big word and spell it wrong?

Really, though, I got one thing and one thing only out of "Big Brother" on Thursday: WASH YOUR FACE. For the love of all that's holy, use soap and water, use Noxema, use Stridex medicated pads. Don't be a slave to greasy build-up, kids, or CBS is going to have reality contestants dig through your pores for fun and profit. 

Ick.

[A recap of Tuesday's "Big Brother," at least the important details, after the break...]

Read Full Post
<p>Beyonce doesn't like the new title, fellas... don't you think you could change it back?</p>

Beyonce doesn't like the new title, fellas... don't you think you could change it back?

Credit: SPHE

Movie Diary: 'Obsessed,' MST3K, and Fred Durst

Plus an unnamed entry in the Must-See series

Monday was a day at home, so I had some time to watch, starting in Monday's wee hours, just after midnight.

Can't tell you what the first film was, though.  And, yes, I'm aware that goes against the idea of keeping a movie diary like this, but this is the next entry in the Motion/Captured Must-See series, and I don't want to reveal the title till the review runs tomorrow.  It's the "W" entry in the alphabetical list, and that's all I'll say for now.  It was just as good as I remembered, too.

What else did I watch? Well...

"Obsessed" (BluRay)

First, if it's true that this was originally called "Oh, No, She Didn't," and they ended up changing it to "Obsessed" before release, then the system failed and they left a pile of money on the table, because that title is about 50 pounds of awesome.  I'm happy to see Idris Elba play the lead in anything, and he's good as a man whose office temp (Ali Larter) becomes infatuated with him, threatening his life with his wife (Beyonce Knowles) as things spin into a "Fatal Attraction" downward spiral.  It's formula all the way, and silly, but if the catfight would have lasted a full half-hour, I'd feel better about recommending it.

[more after the jump]

Read Full Post
<p>Christopher Lloyd heads up the Klingons out to destroy the Enterprise in 'Star Trek III: The Search For Spock'</p>

Christopher Lloyd heads up the Klingons out to destroy the Enterprise in 'Star Trek III: The Search For Spock'

Credit: Paramount Home Video

My BluRay Shelf: How 'Star Trek 3: The Search For Spock' taught my son to cheat

The 'treading water' part of the 'Star Trek' trilogy has some pulp charms

I wrote in my last review about seeing Toshi cry for the first time at a movie when the full impact of Spock's death hit him, and I got a lot of mail from you guys about it.  Some of you liked that I didn't ruin the third film for him, and some of you thought I was cruel for putting him through that.  I just want him to have pure experiences with movies as much as possible, separate from hype and expectation.  It's a good way for me to remind myself what it's like to simply watch and digest, without all the noise that surrounds the release of any film these days.

When we sat down to watch the third film in the series, I didn't tell him what it was called or what it was about.  Instead, we just jumped in, and he immediately got caught up in the events, which makes sense as they pick up immediately from where "Wrath of Khan" leaves off, starting with a recap of the ending and the death of Spock.  As soon as Toshi saw the Genesis planet again and the movie got rolling, he made the natural connection.  "Daddy, that's where they put Spock's body! They can get him and they can make him alive, right?"

Okay, so he's not a doctor.

But he did inherently grasp the notion of a narrative cheat, and more than that, he seemed delighted by the idea that a character who dies doesn't have to stay dead.  I remember a fair amount of grumbling the summer this one came out, but I think it makes a really nice connective piece between "Wrath of Khan" and "The Voyage Home," and although I do think it's a massive cheat to have killed Spock in one film and brought him back immediately, I also think it's handled as well as one could possibly ask, considering.

[more after the jump]

Read Full Post
<p>No, that's not the white Snoop Dogg... it's Howard Moon (Julian Barratt) and his sidekick Vince Noir (Noel Fielding) from their TV series 'The Mighty Boosh,' new to DVD in the US</p>

No, that's not the white Snoop Dogg... it's Howard Moon (Julian Barratt) and his sidekick Vince Noir (Noel Fielding) from their TV series 'The Mighty Boosh,' new to DVD in the US

Credit: BBC Video

Movie Diary: 'Surveillance,' 'Push,' and 'The Mighty Boosh'

Plus 'RIP - A Remix Manifesto' and some catalog BluRay

No matter how much I write, it never seems to be enough.

I think the purpose of this blog, more than anything, should be to keep an ongoing and evolving record of everything I'm watching and reading and playing, and then to offer up long-form reactions to those things as they warrant.  And no matter how many hours a week I put in, I only ever seem to write about a percentage of it all.

That has to change.

And since there's no way I'm going to cut back on the number of movies I see and I'm not going to suddenly discover more hours in a day, something else has to change.

So let's try this.  At the end of each day, I'll post my thoughts on everything viewed that day.  In some cases, I will later write a full review, and in some cases, I won't.  Just depends on how much more there is to say.

In a perfect world, this will eventually allow me to cover, to some extent, every single thing I watch.  I'm sure this will take some time to snap into focus as a column and as a habit, but I'm betting this can relieve at least a little of the self-generating stress I almost always feel these days.

Let's start by recapping the weekend we just wrapped up, which should give you some indication of the format for the column and just how much I watch in an average day.

"The Mighty Boosh"
Series 2, Disc 1

I'm late to the party on this show.  I've seen bits and pieces of it over the years, but it's only in the last week since the DVDs of all three series of the show arrived here at the house that I've been immersing myself in the bizarre alternate reality created by Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding.

[more after the jump]

Read Full Post
<p>Cheech and Chong's reunion has proven real fun for fans, and today they riff on 'Tron' as part of the Cinemash series</p>

Cheech and Chong's reunion has proven real fun for fans, and today they riff on 'Tron' as part of the Cinemash series

Credit: Getty Images

TMR: Cheech & Chong do 'Tron,' Spike Lee looks back, and 'Treevenge' is online

Plus this week's DVD and BluRay releases

Welcome to The Morning Read.

Anyone else already want a do-over for this week?

There's plenty to talk about, though, so that's good.  I'd rather have too much to discuss and not enough time than the other way around, I guess.

There's a handful of interesting new titles on DVD and BluRay this week.  "Mad Men: Season Two" is one I'm going to have to pick up.  I didn't watch the first season till home video, but I'm assuming I'll enjoy this new season just as much.  I still don't believe "The State" is really out on DVD now.  Until I am actually watching the sketches I remember, I won't believe it.  It's just taken so long, and there have been so many setbacks.  Amazing.  I know "The Towering Inferno" is trash, but it's Steve McQueen and Paul Newman, so it's entertaining trash, and now it's on BluRay, so it's high-def entertaining trash.  Works for me.  I've got the new box set of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"/"Curse Of The Golden Flower"/"House of Flying Daggers" BluRays, but the only one I didn't already own was CTHD, and I'm thrilled to add that to the stack of things to watch this week.  The insane Spanish horror film "[REC]" comes out today.  If you saw "Quarantine," the American remake, you've basically seen this film, but the Spanish original is absolutely terrifying, and worth tracking down for horror fans.  "Dakota Skye" is a microbudget charmer about a girl whose superpower is hearing the truth within any lie, and the turmoil that causes for her.  And finally, Criterion's got a BluRay version of the amazing NASA documentary "For All Mankind" coming out this week that I positively covet.

And why are they releasing it this week?  Could it be because this is the 40th anniversary of the moon landing?  If you want to relive the experience, or if you're like me and you weren't even alive when we first landed on the moon, then by all means... check out this awesome real-time recreation of what it was like.

[more after the jump]

Read Full Post
<p>Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal in Jim Sheridan's new drama "Brothers."</p>

Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal in Jim Sheridan's new drama "Brothers."

Credit: Lionsgate

Oscar Contender: Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman and Tobey Maguire in 'Brothers'

Watch the trailer and check out the poster from Jim Sheridan's new drama

 

A November release date, three critically acclaimed young actors, potent dramatic material and a filmmaker who is no stranger to Oscar?  That my friends is a seductive formula for an awards season player on paper if there ever was one.  But is that really the case with "Brothers"?

An adaption of Susanne Bier's provocative Danish film of the same title (translated of course), this new "Brothers" was written by screenwriter David Benioff whose career has been all over the place with flicks such as the disappointing "The Kite Runner" and this summer's dreadful "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." He's a writer who hasn't returned to the heights of his debut novel and screenplay "25th Hour."  

Read Full Post
<p>Lily Allen in "22"</p>

Lily Allen in "22"

Watch: Lily Allen's new video for '22'

Getting older isn't for sissies

 

If life truly begins at 30, someone forgot to tell Lily Allen. In the clip for "22," she plays a young party girl who is about to turn 30 and the future looks pretty bleak. 

Competing with cuter, younger, tighter 22-year-olds for men at nightclubs and in a dead-end job, all the protagonist hears is the steady drum beat of time ticking away, getting louder and louder with every desperate night that passes and she still hasn't married. It is all played out in a women's bathroom during a night out.

As Allen's lilting voice (over deceptively upbeat music) reminds us, "It's sad but true how society says her life is already over/until the man of her dreams comes along, picks her up and put her over his shoulder." Look for the part where dancing with a fella in the men's bathroom symbolizes another one-night stand that leads nowhere. Very subtle.

It's a nightly scene playing itself out nightly the world over, but Allen's sweet, vulnerable vocals and this poignant video bring it home in a refreshing way.

Read Full Post
<p>Daughtry</p>
<p><input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--></input><input id="jsProxy" onclick="jsCall();" type="hidden" /></p>

Daughtry

Review: Daughtry's 'Leave This Town'

Does band have what it takes to sell another four million?

 

For those of us who didn't grow up in hipster outposts like New York or Los Angeles, the populist music of groups like Bon Jovi or Def Leppard  in the '80s or Daughtry and Nickelback today provides a steady, comforting soundtrack. It was rock, but it was safe (the Ramones scared me when I was younger; luckily I made up for lost time after I moved to New York).

Critics like to dismiss such acts as "flyover favorites"-in other words, they're big in the red states, but the blue states are way too cool for arena rock. Meanwhile, such bands are crying all the way to the bank.

The total disregard for trendiness and the pride in their "every man" status is one big reason why Daughtry, the band fronted by "American Idol" contestant Chris Daughtry,  sold more than four million copies of its 2006 self-titled debut. The other reason is the band delivered strong, melodic hooks with relatable themes on such chart burners as "It's Not Over" and "Home."

On "Leave This Town," Daughtry's second album, the band delivers more of the same but steps it up a notch with smart songwriting by the band's five members and some noteworthy guests, as well as graceful production by Howard Benson, who produced the debut.

First single, "No Surprise,"co-written with Nickelback's Chad Kroeger,  is a fine, if somewhat plodding, opening salvo that sets the tone for what follows: a collection of pleasing mainstream rock tunes that never veer far from the middle of the road and deliver a consistent, safe dose of what we've quickly come to expect from Daughtry.  Thematically, many of the songs revolve around such universal themes of regret or learning from past mistakes.

Influences sink in, but none are too shocking. For example, on "You Don't Belong," the band goes all Evanescence (without the female vocals, of course) with overwrought, dramatic melodies as Daughtry wails "I think you lied to me."

"Every Time You Turn Around" is nice and crunchy and would sound great coming out of radio speakers, same with bouncy rocker, "What I Meant to Say. "  

'Life After You," also co-written with Kroeger, is a mid-tempo charmer about realizing, a little too late, about how good you had it. You can practically see the cell phones waving in the air in unison in concert as fans sway back and forth.

One of the loveliest tunes is "Tennessee Line," a country-tinged, stripped down, mid-tempo ballad the features background vocals by Vince Gill, who makes any song better.

Chris Daughtry has a pliant voice that serves the songs well. It's not a particularly subtle one, but the songs demand a strong presence and he provides it. He's particularly effective on "Open Up Your Eyes," a song about death and those left behind.  Daughtry channels Live's Ed Kowalcyk here in both tone and subject matter, but still manages to make the song his own. (Oddly enough, it is that song, not "You Don't Belong," that was co-written with former Evanescence members David Hodges and Ben Moody).

I'm not sure "Leave This Town" will win Daughtry any more new fans, but with an existing fan base of more than four millions,  the faithful will surely propel this album straight to the top of the chart.  

Read Full Post
<p>Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst in 2008</p>

Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst in 2008

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Free 'Nookie': Limp Bizkit to play free Vegas show Saturday

What's up with that new record?

 

Aging frat boys unite: Limp Bizkit will play its first U.S. show in eight years for free at The Palms Casino's Pearl Concert Theater on Saturday (July 18).

Tickets will be handed out on a first come, first served basis on Saturday. The show is sponsored by pickRset.com, an online site that lets fans vote for songs they would like played by a band that will be incorporated into the set.

A new LB album, the group's first since 2000's "Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water," will come out on Flip/Interscope. A release date is still pending.

Oddly, it seems as if there will be no U.S. dates other than the Vegas show. When LB announced their reforming in February, the band laid out plans for playing European festivals but gave no U.S dates and none have been forthcoming.  Our hunch is the band will smartly wait until the new album is out to even attempt to go back on the road in the U.S. Many of the European dates were festivals so LB does not know what its drawing ability to sell tickets on its own name is.

Read Full Post
BLOGS BY NAME