Latest Blog Posts

Will CNN remake itself to look like Discovery, History, A&E and Nat Geo?

Will CNN remake itself to look like Discovery, History, A&E and Nat Geo?
CNN boss Jeff Zucker wants to shake up the news network to have "attitude" and to appeal to viewers of those cable networks. "The goal for the next six months, is that we need more shows and less newscasts," he says, noting that the No. 1 show on CNN is Anthony Bourdain's "Parts Unknown."

Netflix is breaking away from the binge-watching model with "Turbo Fast"
The first five episodes of the Dreamworks Animation kids show will be released on Christmas Eve, while the rest of the episodes will be spread out in 2014.

"The Real World: Ex-Plosion": Watch the 1st trailer

Here's a glimpse of the game-changing season. PLUS: Inside the house.

"Sesame Street" visits "Watch What Happens Live"
Andy Cohen today is filming "Watch Yuck Happen Live" with Oscar the Grouch.

Listen to "The Sound of Music Live" soundtrack

The songs from the Dec. 5 musical starring Carrie Underwood are now streaming.

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<p>Megan Boone on Monday's &quot;The Blacklist&quot;</p>

Megan Boone on Monday's "The Blacklist"

Credit: NBC

TV Ratings: 'Blacklist' fall finale ends strong as NBC wins Monday

Lack of 'Dancing' frees up some Monday viewers
Fast National ratings for Monday, December 2, 2013.
With "Dancing with the Stars" done for this installment, NBC's "The Voice" got a big week-to-week bump, as did "The Blacklist," which ended its 2013 run with its best numbers in months. The result was easy Monday wins in all measures. 
[Note that NBC had the NFL preemption in New Orleans, so there will be some drops in Finals.]
Without ABC's viewer-hogging reality hit, CBS' "Mike & Molly," "2 Broke Girls" and "Mom" all rose slightly overall, though the absence of "Dancing" couldn't keep "Almost Human" from another small drop in its third week. 
Meanwhile, holiday programming kept ABC in second overall and lifted "The CW" very slightly above its normal Monday averages.
On to the numbers...
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<p>Alexandre Desplat</p>

Alexandre Desplat

Credit: Chasen & Co

Alexandre Desplat talks 'Philomena' and a busy decade full of Stateside success

The role call of directors he's worked with in a short amount of time is staggering

It was 10 Decembers ago that a French composer named Alexandre Desplat burst on to the Hollywood movie scene with his gorgeous score for "Girl With a Pearl Earring." He earned his first Golden Globe nomination for that work, and after continual quality achievements on films like "Birth," "Syriana" and "The Painted Veil," he earned his first Oscar nomination seven years ago for "The Queen." It has been nothing but up since then, as he has now earned five Oscar nominations and worked with directors ranging from Roman Polanski to Stephen Frears, Wes Anderson to Stephen Daldry, Terrence Malick to Tom Hooper, Kathryn Bigelow to George Clooney and David Fincher – and that’s just in the English language.

His latest score is for the newly released and highly regarded "Philomena." The chance to catch up recently was particularly meaningful for me, given that we first spoke the year Desplat earned his nomination for "The Queen," which was both his first Oscar nomination and the first year of In Contention's Tech Support column.

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<p>Roger Deakins&nbsp;(left)&nbsp;and director Andrew Dominik on the set of &quot;The&nbsp;Assassination of Jesse&nbsp;James by the Coward&nbsp;Robert Ford&quot;</p>

Roger Deakins (left) and director Andrew Dominik on the set of "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"

Credit: Warner Bros.

Roger Deakins reflects on 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford'

With the revival around the corner, an appreciation of the cinematography

This weekend the revival of "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" finally becomes a reality. The hard work Jamieson McGonigle has put into this thing behind the scenes is something to behold and notice has been taken across the net, his mission statement even making it into a New York Times Business section piece a few weeks back. I've been honored to have a hand in it all and look forward to hopping a plane later this week to share in the spirit out in Queens Saturday night.

In the run-up to that event, a number of outlets — Ain't It Cool News,, Film School Rejects, The Film Stage and HitFix — will be offering up appreciations of various elements from the film. As you might have expected, it's on me to look back on Roger Deakins' next-level photography, and the pleasure is all mine.

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<p>Emily Bett Rickards, Stephen Amell and David Ramsey are the power trio in &quot;Arrow.&quot;</p>

Emily Bett Rickards, Stephen Amell and David Ramsey are the power trio in "Arrow."

Credit: CW

You have not failed this city: Catching up on 'Arrow'

The second-year DC Comics adaptation has it all over 'SHIELD'

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about the disappointing early returns from "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD," which has thus far come across as a show designed by focus group to appeal to the broadest group possible, and which as a result appeals deeply to no one. In response, several readers suggested I give another shot to the CW's "Arrow," primetime's other current superhero series, which I had all but forgotten about after a few competent but unremarkable episodes last fall, but which they insisted was succeeding at so much of what "SHIELD" was struggling with.

Having watched a handful of season 1 episodes(*) and all of season 2 to date, I can say that they were right. "Arrow" isn't perfect, but it has a much better understanding than "SHIELD" of what it wants to be and what its strengths and weaknesses are. The folks at ABC/Disney/Marvel might want to take note.

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<p>Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire in &quot;The Great Gatsby.&quot;</p>

Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire in "The Great Gatsby."

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Roundup: 'Gatsby' goes down well in Down Under Oscars

Also: Variety picks 10 Directors to Watch, and J.Law's image expertise

At present, Baz Luhrmann's spring hit "The Great Gatsby" has at least two Oscar nominations in the bag: bids for Production and Costume Design are assured, and it could well win both. Other tech nods are feasible, but while Warner Bros. are putting the campaign dollars in, above-the-line nominations seem unlikely. At the Australian Academy Awards, however, it's a different story: the blockbuster scored a leading 14 nods, including Best Picture and a quintet of acting citations for Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki and Isla Fisher. (Sorry, Tobey.) I suspect it'll lose out to Australia's heartwarming Oscar submission "The Rocket" in the top races, but "Gatsby" devotees can briefly savor heavyweight status.[AACTA]

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Pat Sajak: I 'feel terrible' about 'The Fast and the Furious' puzzle answer on Monday's 'Wheel of Fortune'

Pat Sajak: I "feel terrible" about "Fast and the Furious" puzzle answer on Monday's "Wheel of Fortune"
"It's an unfortunate coincidence that it aired tonight," the show tweeted Monday, noting that the episode was taped on October 4, long before Paul Walker's death. Sajak tweeted that Monday's episode went to 200 stations days ago.

Aziz Ansari's Saris: A great holiday gift!

Check out Ansari's new ad for "Conan."

"Downton Abbey" creator to tackle "The Serpent and the Moon"
Julian Fellowes next project will be to transform a historical novel on royal love in Renaissance France into a TV series.

Bart Simpson drops by "American Dad"
He'll appear as "Mike Rotch" on Sunday's episode.

ABC's "Mind Games" adds Vinnie Jones and Luis Guzman

Guzman will play Jones' henchman in the Christian Slater-Steve Zahn drama about a firm that uses psychological manipulation.

"Homeland's" Martin Donovan is headed to Lifetime's "The Lottery"

He'll co-star in thes series revolving around a national lottery to becomes surrogates for the last 100 embryos on Earth.

Alex Kingston returning to "Arrow"
She'll reprise her role as Dinah Lance.

HBO "Silicon Valley" star dies
Christopher Evan Welch, who plays an eccentric billionaire who's the most successful entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, was in the midst of filming the Mike Judge comedy when he died suddenly on Monday.

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<p>Digging the 'do, Miss Thompson.</p>

Digging the 'do, Miss Thompson.

Credit: HitFix

Emma Thompson discusses real and pretend screenwriting and 'Saving Mr. Banks'

Plus we bring up the movie's most vexing conundrum to her

Emma Thompson is pretty much all the awesome.

One of the best things about hiring her to play P.L. Travers in "Saving Mr. Banks" is that Thompson is an accomplished writer in her own right, and when she portrays the creative process, she's not imagining what it's like. She knows. She's done the hard work herself, and she's damn good at it.

She's also someone who can effortlessly play sophisticated, but who is unafraid of being massively silly. The first film I really remember seeing her in was "The Tall Guy," a very funny and very silly romantic comedy. She has always come across as ferociously bright, but without being obnoxious about it. There are people who love to make sure that you know they are smart, and they will hammer that point until it becomes almost infuriating, but Thompson is one of those people who just projects a sort of radiant intelligence without working at it.

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Carey Mulligan at the "Inside Llewyn Davis" concert in New York.
Carey Mulligan at the "Inside Llewyn Davis" concert in New York.
Credit: AP Photo

Carey Mulligan on finding her inner Mumford in 'Inside Llewyn Davis'

The Oscar nominee also talks about the directors she'll follow anywhere

For someone who has already won a BAFTA, been nominated for an Oscar, trodden the Broadway boards and worked with such singular filmmakers as Steve McQueen, Baz Luhrmann and Michael Mann – all with years to spare before her 30th birthday – you wouldn't think “unattainable” is a word that often enters the mind of Carey Mulligan.

Yet that's exactly how the British actress regarded the prospect of working with the Coen brothers – perhaps the most enduring offbeat members of America's current filmmaking establishment – before they approached her for a small but viciously significant role in “Inside Llewyn Davis,” their melancholy, elliptical journey to New York's folk music scene of the early 1960s.

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"The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"

 "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"

Credit: Bravo

'Real Housewives of Beverly Hills': Did Brandi and Carlton make out?

'They're either at each other's throats or down each other's throats'

I really wasn't sure what to make of this week's episode of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills." At first, it's all about big, meaningful moments that would likely resonate more if they didn't seem so laden with humble bragging and narcissism. While David Foster receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is a big deal, it's probably more exciting if you're actually there. Watching Kim shopping for graduation dresses with her kid? Not all that exciting either way.

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<p>Oscar Isaac in &quot;Inside Llewyn&nbsp;Davis&quot;</p>

Oscar Isaac in "Inside Llewyn Davis"

Credit: CBS Films

'Inside Llewyn Davis' wins Best Feature at the 2013 Gotham Independent Awards

'Fruitvale Station' picks up two awards while '12 Years a Slave' walks away empty-handed

The 23rd annual Gotham Independent Awards were handed out tonight at Cipriani Wall Street in New York, and it was the Coen brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis." However, "Fruitvale Station" walked out with a pair of awards in the breakthrough categories.

It's a huge boost for the Coens' film, which is set for limited release on Friday. Interestingly, though, nominations leader (both here and with the Independent Spirits) "12 Years a Slave" walked away empty-handed. But more on the winners and losers in a moment.

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<p>No episodic art for tonight's &quot;How I&nbsp;Met Your Mother&quot;&nbsp;means that, once again, you get the gang in suits.</p>

No episodic art for tonight's "How I Met Your Mother" means that, once again, you get the gang in suits.

Credit: CBS

Talkback: 'How I Met Your Mother' - 'Rehearsal Dinner'

Barney's laser tag obsession angers Robin, while Ted and Lily share secrets

Okay, kids, it's time once again to talk about a new "How I Met Your Mother." Like most of the recent episodes, "The Rehearsal Dinner" largely took place away from the Farhampton Inn (even the present-day material was set elsewhere in town). Like much of this season, and the entire Robin/Barney relationship, it dealt with Barney seeming to act like a sociopath, then gave us a twist suggesting all was not as it seemed. And it was among the most Canadian episodes the show has ever done. (More than the Canadian jokes, I enjoyed seeing the couple in the background of MacLaren's go through an entire lifetime — including birth of a child, that kid's graduation, and then the death of the husband in old age — while the gang were telling said jokes.)

Did those elements add up to a satisfying viewing experience for you? Did the twist at the end redeem earlier behavior by Barney and Ted? Were you pleased with the cameo and the musical performance?

Have at it.

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