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<p>'Britney Jean'</p>

'Britney Jean'

Credit: RCA Records

Britney Spears is the muse, not the master on 'Britney Jean': Album review

The beats are the star on her latest effort

For months now, Britney Spears and her manager, Larry Rudolph, have been touting “Britney Jean” as Spears’ most personal album, even naming it after her first and middle name to connote a sense of intimacy.  While there are certainly nods to what could be private statements about her life, such as on  “Perfume,” “Passenger” (which features Katy Perry as one of the co-writers), and “Don’t Cry,” for the most part, Spears sounds more like she’s the muse, not the master here.

If Spears’ vision is on here -and she’s listed as co-writer on all 10 tracks-it often gets overshadowed by the dominant beats and production from the album’s executive producer Will.i.am and such DJ/producers as David Guetta, Swedish House Mafia’s Sebastian Ingrosso and Anthony Preston.

Executive produced by Will.i.am, the 10 tracks, spread out over 36 minutes, are lean and trim, with little bloat, which keeps the album moving nicely from one song to the next, even if some of the beats sound dated. You can’t blame a girl for wanting to move on, but the absence of past collaborators like Max Martin and Dr. Luke is felt.

The album’s release comes one day after Britney Jean turns 32 and a few weeks before she starts a residency in Las Vegas’s Planet Hollywood and in many ways, it has a maturity that some of her past albums have not, including featuring her singing in her shaky alto for much of the set instead of speak/singing such as on “Work Bitch.” “Britney Jean” won’t go down as a Spears’ classic, although it does capture a moment in time — in her life and in pop’s continued fascination with beats.

Below is a track-by-track review:

“Alien”: The album opener, co-produced by William Orbit, has an inviting galloping feel as the latest entry into the folktronica genre. After years of feeling like an alien, Spears sings that she no longer feels alone as the stars guide her home as a mesmerizing backwards loop draws the listener in. It’s one of many tracks on the set that feature Spears signing as opposed to her more familiar speak singing. GRADE: B+

“Work Bitch”: Polarizing single is a deep dance cut with Spears bringing the trouble as she advises how to get that Maserati, hot body, look hot in a bikini, or living in a big mansion: Work bitch. Sounding more like a commercial for 24-Hour Fitness than a classic Spears’ song--or at least until the interesting break in the final third-- she nevertheless brings the attitude and heat that a certain faction of Spears’ fans love about her. GRADE: C

“Perfume”: The current single from “Britney Jean,” the Sia co-write is Spears as we haven’t heard her—or at least not for a long while: singing a straight-ahead ballad with no talking and no heavy beat behind her as on past semi-ballads like “Unusual You” or even all the way back to “Sometimes.” Though still slickly produced, on “Perfume” the focus is on her vocal and the emotional weight of the lyrics as Spears hopes that the next woman to touch her man can smell her perfume on him. The album’s best track. GRADE: A

“It Should Be Easy” featuring. Will.i.am:
Heavily auto-tuned Spears is back after “Perfume’s” respite. Spears and her “Scream & Shout” partner reunite or this dance/electro-clash track. “If there was a scale from one to 10 on my love for you, it’s a million billion/I love you until the day I’m dead,” Spears sings as she and Will.i.am wonder why love has to be so complicated. There’s an interesting song in here, especially given the juxtaposition of the deeper thoughts and the dance beats, but they can’t seem to excavate it. GRADE: C

“Tik Tik Boom” featuring T.I.: Spears positively moans and coos during this dance track about getting horizontal and if you haven’t gotten that point, you will when T.I. lays down a rap about making your toes curl.  GRADE: B-

“Body Ache”: Produced by David Guetta and Will.i.am, it’s almost possible to pick out each part the two DJ/producers contributed, from the staccato, layered beats to the crescendos. Sex is on the menu as she wants to show us how she wants us. One of the more accessible tracks, but it’s missing Guetta’s knack for throwing in a irresistibly catchy hook among the beats. GRADE: B-

“Til It’s Gone”: Throbbing disco beats and space-age synths weave in and out of Spears’ stuttering vocals as she’s a slave to the rhythm. “All the memories I’m saving so your love is never fading,” she sings in this tune about, well, “You never know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” It’s hardly an original sentiment, but she makes the cliche sound good, in one of the album’s most diverse vocal performances. GRADE: B

“Passenger”: Co-written by Katy Perry, “Passenger” is a straight-ahead love song lyrically about finding happiness after being willing to cede control. Diplo’s production includes a synthesized, Who-like intro.  “It’s hard to jump with no net, but I jumped in and got no regret,” she sings, as the pounding, synthetic melody takes off. “This is living,” she proclaims over and over as her liberation is complete. GRADE: B

“Chillin’ With You” featuring Jamie Lynn: Spears and her little sister go from sweet country to rap in this ballad that goes from bad to worse, whether it’s the rap of the constant repeating of “Chillin’ wich you.” That’s sweet that Spears wants to help lil sis get her career restarted, but this won’t be the song to do it.  GRADE: D

“Don’t Cry”: Spears delivers her finest vocal performance on the mid-tempo album closer about moving on. “Adios, I’m out the door,” as she admonishes her ex to not cry in a nice twist. Fun whistled intro and outro with a heavy beat complementing her kiss off. GRADE: B



 

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<p>Ravens' QB Joe Flacco</p>

Ravens' QB Joe Flacco

Credit: AP

TV Ratings: NBC's football dominates Thanksgiving, while ABC's 'Lady Gaga & The Muppets' tanks

FOX wastes episodes of 'Glee' and 'X Factor'
Fast National ratings for Thursday, November 28, 2013.
 
A field goal-heavy NFL showdown between the Steelers and Ravens helped NBC dominate Thanksgiving primetime in all measures, while NFL overrun and comedy repeats pushed CBS to second for Thursday night.
 
Meanwhile, FOX wasted new episodes of "The X Factor" and "Glee" on the holiday evening, while ABC's "Lady Gaga & The Muppets Holiday Spectacular" will not become an annual tradition.
 
On to the numbers...
 
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<p>Wendell Pierce in &quot;Trem&eacute;.&quot;</p>

Wendell Pierce in "Tremé."

Credit: HBO

Review: HBO's 'Treme' returns for fourth and final season

With a shortened episode order, the New Orleans drama focuses more on the characters than the city

When it was announced that HBO had commissioned a fourth and final season of the New Orleans musical drama "Tremé" for a lump sum representing a fraction of previous seasons' budgets, co-creator David Simon said he appreciated HBO allowing he and partner Eric Overmyer to bring their nichiest of niche shows to its conclusion.

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<p>Ken Loach</p>

Ken Loach

Credit: AP Photo

Roundup: Ken Loach to be honored at Berlinale

Also: Disney's image war, and Streep's harsh image in 'August'

After a year years away, Ken Loach -- king of British social realism, though he'd probably resent the royal analogy -- returned to the Berlin Film Festival last year to premiere his documentary "Spirit of '45." He'll be back next year too, this time as an honoree: he will receive the festival's Honorary Golden Bear for lifetime  achievement, while the programme will feature a retrospective of 10 of his films. Declaring him "one of Europe's great directors," Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick praised him showing "an extraordinary degree of continuity, while remaining innovative at all times. His profound interest in people and their individual fates, as well as his critical commitment to society have found expression in a variety of cinematic approaches."  [Berlinale]  

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SAG Awards 2014 Contenders and Pretenders: Who's really a player?

SAG Awards 2014 Contenders and Pretenders: Who's really a player?

And who isn't?

It may be the traditional Thanksgiving break, but awards season doesn't take a holiday.  December is full of key events that will make or break the hopes of numerous contenders.  Along with key critics' groups honors one of the most important indicators for Oscar's acting races (and slightly for best picture) are the Screen Actors Guild Awards.  Nominations for January's ceremony will be announced in less than two weeks on Dec. 11.  While reading SAG nominating committee members is arguably more difficult than any other guild, the HFPA or Academy members (SAG members seem to love almost everything) reactions do mean something. Oh, and history does too.  

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<p>Robert&nbsp;Redford in &quot;All is Lost&quot;</p>

Robert Redford in "All is Lost"

Credit: Roadside Attractions

Tech Support: Space, music and the high seas clash in the race for Best Sound Mixing

Also: Could Disney's 'Frozen' be an unexpected contender?

Welcome to Best Sound Mixing. This Oscar category loves blockbusters and war films, particularly (albeit by no means necessarily) of the prestigious variety. Like many categories, being a Best Picture contender also helps here, and there is one particular sort of film – the musical – that does disproportionately well here, as the work done on a musical’s soundtrack is obviously incredibly important to the film’s success.

Most individuals recognized in this category tend to be previous nominees, and there are many sound artists who have received well in excess of five or 10 nominations over their careers. These talented individuals frequently anchor the list.

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Grammy Album of the Year contenders: Who will nab a nom on Dec. 6?

Grammy Album of the Year contenders: Who will nab a nom on Dec. 6?

Is anyone besides Justin Timberlake a sure bet?

The holy grail of music awards for most artists is the Grammy Award for album of the year. The contenders for this year will be announced Dec. 6, with the trophy handed out Jan. 26. While Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience” is pretty close to a sure bet,  HitFix’s music writers highlight many other worthy contenders vying for the five spots. The eligibility period runs Oct. 1, 2012-Sept. 30, 2013, which means strong albums like Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor” or Eminem’s “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” won’t be up until next year.

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<p>Idina Menzel voices Elsa in &quot;Frozen.&quot;</p>

Idina Menzel voices Elsa in "Frozen."

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'Frozen'

Disney's throwback adaptation of 'The Snow Queen' opened yesterday

I went into "Frozen" with tempered expectations -- Disney's last couple of attempts to revive the princess formula ("Tangled," "The Princess and the Frog") were, for me, pleasant but characterless, and this musical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen" looked to be in the same mold. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised: after a rushed, muddled first act, it settles into a touching, visually textured work of authentic Disney classicism, with a welcome feminist twist on the original fairytale and a pleasing lack of the smarmy, adult-targeted irony that permeates so many kids' films these days. I wouldn't go quite as far as Drew McWeeny did in hisA-grade rave, but I might just call it my favourite Disney animated feature since the studio's brief 1990s golden age.

But enough from me -- what do you think? Is it on-form Disney? And is it Oscar-worthy? I'm sure many of you will be checking it out over the holiday weekend, so when you do, be sure to share your thoughts here, and vote in the poll below.

 

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<p>Ted Danson of &quot;CSI&quot;</p>

Ted Danson of "CSI"

Credit: CBS

TV Ratings: 'Criminal Minds,' 'CSI' help CBS dominate Pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday

'Survivor' also wins its hour, thumping 'The X Factor'
Fast National ratings for Wednesday, November 27, 2013.
 
With much of the competition taking the night off, CBS dominated Thanksgiving Eve in all measures with new episodes of "Survivor," "Criminal Minds" and "CSI."
 
Among the limited competition, FOX's "X Factor" and NBC's "Making of 'The Sound of Music'" special drew only limited audience as well.
 
And for whatever it's worth, The CW's airing of the holiday classic "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" did the same key demo rating as ABC's repeat of "Nashville."
 
On to the numbers...
 
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<p>&quot;The Wind Rises&quot;</p>

"The Wind Rises"

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Roundup: Is it time for the animated Oscar to grow up?

Also: 'Wolf' clocks in at three hours, and Philomena on 'Philomena'

With "Frozen" opening today, the received wisdom that it's the film to beat for the Best Animated Feature Oscar will be further concretized. And while a win for the film would be a first for Disney, it'd follow very much in the tradition of past champions in the 13-year-old category. Jen Chaney writes how the Academy's choices for the award -- however deserving -- have reinforced the commonly held notion of animation as chiefly a kids' medium, and how Miyazaki's more adult-focused "The Wind Rises" presents an opportunity for the award to come of age. "An animated film that deals with complicated, non-child-friendly themes, or visuals that don’t match the playful picture-book aesthetic... [may be viewed] as a negative instead of a potentially refreshing, groundbreaking departure," she writes, before going on to suggest that the Academy's new, more inclusive voting system in the category means "that unintentional bias could become even more of an issue." [The Dissolve]

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<p>Gervase and Tyson scheme on &quot;Survivor: Blood vs. Water&quot;</p>

Gervase and Tyson scheme on "Survivor: Blood vs. Water"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: Blood vs. Water' - 'Gloves Come Off'

Alliances splinter with Tyson at the center
Pre-credit sequence. It's Night 26 at Kasama and Ciera is reassuring the rest of her tribe that it's OK that she voted her mother out and it had to happen. "I'm surprised that Ciera chose water over blood, but Ciera has a plan and I don't think her mother is really a part of it," Katie reflects. Ciera, meanwhile, thinks this means that she'll be viewed as strong and trustworthy. And, indeed, Tyson respects her for the move, but she also now viewers Ciera as dangerous, which he presumably did not before.
 
The Eyes of Laura M. Tina and Vytas are on Redemption Island waiting to see who comes next. Hilariously, Laura approaches them whispering "Mom," faking out Tina, who had dreaded her daughter's arrival. Well-played, Laura. "I'm having a hard time defining how I'm feeling about Ciera writing my name down," says Laura, who is proud of her daughter, but not necessarily happy. Vytas, Tina and Laura all agree that, under the radar, Tyson is running everything. "Why isn't anybody voting him out?" Vytas asks. CREDITS!
 
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<p>Little known fact... Jason Voorhees gives awesome piggy-back rides.</p>

Little known fact... Jason Voorhees gives awesome piggy-back rides.

Credit: Warner Bros.

This potentially terrible 'Friday The 13th' remake has a release date

Is this really all that horror films can do at this point?

When Paramount announced yesterday that they would be releasing "Friday The 13th" on March 13, 2015, it took most people by surprise.

There have been a number of rumors swirling about what approach they're taking, and while they now have a release date, they're a long way from having a script or even a director. HitFix can confirm that this is indeed the found footage film that has been mentioned, and that it is once again going to reboot the series from the start, which is a very confusing approach considering the 2009 film was also a remake of sorts.

The thing I liked most about Marcus Nispel's "Friday The 13th" was the way screenwriters Mark Swift and Damian Shannon managed to condense the first three films of the franchise into one movie. We got the death of Jason's mother in the opening scenes of the movie, we got a long stretch with deformed hillbilly baghead Jason, and we eventually got the hockey-mask wearing icon version. The film was the first time anyone actually tried to explain the way Jason would get around Camp Crystal Lake so quickly as well as the reason he seems to always know where everyone is. It seemed like a really interesting way to restart things without throwing out the entire franchise.

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