Latest Blog Posts

<p>Nine Inch Nails' &quot;Hesitation Marks&quot;</p>

Nine Inch Nails' "Hesitation Marks"

Credit: Columbia

Album Review: Nine Inch Nails, 'Hesitation Marks'

Trent Reznor rounds up some killer singles and disappointing gray matter

Nine Inch Nails have had plenty of time and space to regroup. New "Hesitation Marks" is the industrial rockers' first in five years, and first since taking time off from touring in as many moons. It's a fresh lineup and, in the time in-between, Trent Reznor has won and Oscar, launched How To Destroy Angels with his wife and longtime collaborator Atticus Ross and, apparently, made amends with a major labels in time to launch a proper campaign to push a significant and solid radio single.

The result from that pause is a mellower Reznor with big standalone songs, rare rays of sunshine and a run of quixotically forgettable tracks toward “Hesitation Marks’” end.
“Hesitation Marks,” NIN’s eighth full-length, eagerly rushes in with the Reznor we’ve known and loved, minus all the yelling. Perfectly dystopic “Copy of A” and single “Came Back Haunted” are quite the pair, kicking off this 14-track set after murmuring intro “The Eater of Dreams.” Reznor intimately croons on piano-dripping “Find My Way” and red-lit “All Time Low,” his chilling voice allowing in a few “baby” fillers along the way.
But talk about “Disappointed,” which is the title to a meandering glitch-dirge segueing into a sequence of songs that will try the patience of the average Nine Inch Nails fan. The glittering pop-punk sounds of “Everything” completely disorients the dark-dweller with all that light; “Satellite” has all the soul of a car commercial, with follow-up “Various Methods of Escape” providing no obvious means of escaping this HTDA outtake until three-quarters in.
“Running” and closer “While I’m Still Here”/”Black Noise” at least provide some inspired beats, invoking the good ol’ days of trip-hop without gagging on sickly sweet melodies, as on the aforementioned. It’s not that Reznor can’t carry these oddballs; his voice is as strong as ever but is, again, without as much untethered aggression to match all the white noise and his typically fatalistic lyrics. The set could use a good trim or some stronger tent-poles in its latter half. There’s a little too much control.


Read Full Post
<p>By far, this is the weirdest scene in 'Spring Breakers'</p>

By far, this is the weirdest scene in 'Spring Breakers'

Credit: Entertainment One

Review: Eli Roth's 'Green Inferno' delivers plenty of sick cannibal kicks

Is South America the land of the free for genre directors right now?

TORONTO - Since the first time I came to Toronto for the annual film festival, I have viewed Midnight Madness as my favorite part of the entire event. I've managed to attend nearly every possible Midnight Madness screening each year, and some of my favorite memories of my time here come from not only the movies shown, but the people in the audience and the lunacy of the event surrounding the movies. Programmer Colin Geddes throws a hell of a party, and until I'm in the Ryerson, surrounded by the bloodthirsty fans of the madness he unveils every year, I don't really feel like I'm in Toronto.

As a result, the first two nights of this year's festival left me a bit off-balance because scheduling issues left me stranded, unable to get to either "All Cheerleaders Die" or "The Station." I hope to catch up with both of them, but it won't be the same as it would be with that audience. On Saturday night, however, I finally worked things out and I made it to my favorite aisle seat in the Ryerson in plenty of time for Eli Roth's world premiere of his new horror film, "The Green Inferno."

Read Full Post
"Big Brother"

 "Big Brother"

Credit: CBS

'Big Brother' recap: Will the Exterminators be unbroken?

McCrae is the target, but will someone make a Big Move?

Old Yeller is gone (hey, McCrae called Amanda that, not me), and so is Elissa. We're left with McCrae and the Exterminators, which could be a great doo-wop group name, but suggests this could be a potentially dull week. If McCrae doesn't win the veto, the rest of the house is perfectly aligned in sending him packing. I mean, this is "Big Brother" and anything is possible, but for once, it seems like everyone (except McCrae) can relax for a few days knowing the target is on someone else's back. 

Read Full Post
<p>On &quot;Breaking Bad,&quot;&nbsp;Saul (Bob Odenkirk)&nbsp;counsels Walt (Bryan Cranston).</p>

On "Breaking Bad," Saul (Bob Odenkirk) counsels Walt (Bryan Cranston).

Credit: AMC

Review: 'Breaking Bad' - 'To'hajiilee'

Jesse hatches a plan, Walt meets with Uncle Jack, and Saul gets his car washed

A review of tonight's "Breaking Bad" coming up just as soon as we flip a coin for the honor...

Read Full Post
<p>In the &quot;Boardwalk Empire&quot;&nbsp;season premiere, Richard Harrow (Jack Huston)&nbsp;goes traveling.</p>

In the "Boardwalk Empire" season premiere, Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) goes traveling.

Credit: HBO

Season premiere review: 'Boardwalk Empire' - 'New York Sour'

Nucky brokers peace with New York, Chalky's nightclub opens and Richard hits the road

"Boardwalk Empire" is back for a new season. I published an overall review of the early episodes on Thursday, and I have specific thoughts on the premiere coming up just as soon as I see the second longest contiguous brick wall in the world...

Read Full Post
<p>Keira Knightley at the Toronto premiere of &quot;Can a Song Save Your&nbsp;Life?&quot;</p>

Keira Knightley at the Toronto premiere of "Can a Song Save Your Life?"

Credit: AP Photo

Toronto: Weinstein closes in on a deal for 'Can a Song Save Your Life?'

John Carney's 'Once' follow-up sparked an all-night auction

It's safe to say HitFix's Drew McWeeny was a big fan of John Carney's "Can a Song Save Your Life?," which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival yesterday. "It should not come as any surprise that John Carney, who wrote and directed 'Once,' has made another great film that focuses on songwriters and the way their lives influence their work, and I love that it doesn't feel like he's just trying to reproduce that movie's charms," Drew wrote in his review. "It's the sort of movie that I feel protective of right away, because it's delicate. It's not trying to be a giant megablockbuster that opens on 3000 screens. It is heartfelt and deeply human, and it means every word it says."

A number of distributors must feel similarly (or see the potential for audiences to feel similarly) about the film, which stars Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo: an all-night auction eventually led to The Weinstein Company securing exclusive talks to acquire it. Deadline is reporting that the film will be picked up for $7 million minimum for US rights with a $20 million P&A (prints and advertising) commitment.

Read Full Post
<p>Eleni Philippou (right) in &quot;Miss Violence.&quot;</p>

Eleni Philippou (right) in "Miss Violence."

Credit: Elle Driver

Jaw-dropping Venice awards make a defiant anti-mainstream statement

Bertolucci's jury clearly set out to provoke, but 'Sacro GRA' is a respectable winner

VENICE - "I have a feeling Bertolucci's going to be a bit spikier than that," a colleague said to me yesterday, after I ventured my not-at-all confident prediction that Hayao Miyazaki's romantic animated biopic "The Wind Rises" would win the Golden Lion. To some extent, actually, we agreed. This year's Bertolucci-led jury didn't exactly seem likely to hand the top prize to the comfortingly middlebrow "Philomena," however much the crowds at Venice wanted them to: with other jurors including Andrea Arnold, Pablo Larrain and Carrie Fisher, it was hard to tell just what they'd agree on, but the odds were firmly stacked against it being safe.

Read Full Post
<p>Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba</p>

Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba

Toronto: Best Actor contenders McConaughey and Elba debut back-to-back

Which one is now the frontrunner for Oscar?

TORONTO - As is often the case during the first weekend of the Toronto International Film Festival, two potential awards season contenders debuted within hours of each other Saturday night. In fact, "Dallas Buyers Club" and "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" premiered in theaters literally across the street from one another. And, happily, both have something to add to our long road to Oscar.

Read Full Post
<p>The CW's &quot;Star-Crossed&quot;</p>

The CW's "Star-Crossed"

Credit: The CW

Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'Star-Crossed'

It's The CW like you've frequently seen The CW before!

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show:"Star-Crossed" (The CW)
The Pitch: "It's like Roswell, only with aliens! Oh. Wait. It's like 'Beauty and the Beast' if the only thing beastly about the Beast was a couple marks on his face! Oh. Wait. It's like 'Vampire Diaries' if she were a human and he were the one with impressive powers! Oh. Wait. It's like every CW show ever made. It's The Uber-CW Show!"
Quick Response: On Thursdays at 9 p.m. this fall, The CW is airing the strange, risky, possibly off-brand period drama "Reign," which isn't such a terrific match with "Vampire Diaries" or anything else on the network. Part of what's allowing The CW to take that chance is that the network has possibly the most on-brand piece of programming imaginable on its bench ready to go in. It's hard to believe that Matt Lanter's only been on one CW show. It's hard to believe that Aimee Teegarden's only CW experience is a couple episodes of "90210" and the first pilot for "The Selection." Put them together and it's a match made in brooding-but-affectless and wide-eyed-but-plucky heaven. Or does that sound too positive? Or negative? I really can't say. There are aspects of Meredith Averill's script that come across as a bit more layered than necessary -- Teegarden's character is an outsider because of health problems, while the crash landed aliens have a parallel Earth society that borrows more than a little from "District 9," only with the ETs looking wicked hot instead of like prawns. It's near-future speculative fiction and "Star-Crossed" has a few ideas regarding how people and society would react to this sort of close encounter and some of those reactions are slightly fresh and not so wildly outlandish (others are wildly outlandish and fairly stale), so I guess I appreciated that degree (some degree) of differentiation from "Roswell" and whatnot? Mostly, though, this is straight-forward, generic CW love-triangle stuff, made even more generic by the presence of Grey Damon, who seems to specialize in being in the middle of semi-supernatural love triangles on either The CW or ABC Family. [And no, I don't remember if Hastings Ruckle and Julie Taylor ever shared quality time together, so "Star-Crossed" doesn't get to benefit from additional "FNL" flashback glow in the way it might have if they'd cast Zach Gilford here. Teegarden is, incidentally, nearly unrecognizable here from her Dillon Days.] There's a commentary on American immigration policy vis a vis aliens that there's a 3% chance "Star-Crossed" might become. There's a 97% chance that "Star-Crossed" will just become another CW show about the pretty girl torn between the man her loins crave and the man she knows is better for her psyche. And there's a 60% chance that I'll watch every episode of "Star-Crossed" no matter which show it becomes. Sigh. I'm weak and I feel like shows like "Star-Crossed" are mass-produced to take advantage of my weakness and the weakness of women aged 18-34. Damn you, CW.
Desire To Watch Again: Desire? Meh. Inevitability? Probably. I end up watching a lot of The CW. You know this about me. I watched the entire initial run of "Cult," for heaven's sake (before it got pulled and held to the summer, when I quit). It takes something as unbearable as "Beauty and the Beast" to scare me away. This is much, much better than "Beauty and the Beast," though it's much, much worse than "Vampire Diaries." But is it worse than "Vampire Diaries" when it first premiered? Probably not. It's just blander.


Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Intelligence' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Crisis' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Rake'  
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Mom' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Lucky 7'  
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Dads' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Super Fun Night'  
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Welcome to the Family' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Millers' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'The Goldbergs' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Ironside'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'We Are Men' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Almost Human' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Back in the Game' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Sean Saves the World' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'Reign' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Crazy Ones' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Enlisted' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Betrayal' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Blacklist' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'The Tomorrow People' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Hostages' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Sleepy Hollow' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Trophy Wife' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show' 
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries



Read Full Post
<p>Jason&nbsp;Bateman at the Toronto premiere of &quot;Bad Words&quot;</p>

Jason Bateman at the Toronto premiere of "Bad Words"

Credit: Getty Images

Toronto: Jason Bateman's 'Bad Words' lands at Focus

The film is set for release next year

The Toronto Film Festival is in full swing and HitFix's Greg Ellwood have chimed in on a number of films, from "Dallas Buyers Club" to "Enough Said," while a handful of Telluride players -- "12 Years a Slave," "Labor Day," "Gravity" (also Venice) have landed as well.

One of the films Greg has been high on is Jason Bateman's directorial debut, "Bad Words." Praising Bateman's transition to feature director (he's been directing television for years), Greg wrote that the film "will make many wonder if some of [Bateman's] recent flicks might have actually been even better if he'd been behind the camera instead of just in front of it." Indeed, with misses like "The Change-Up" and "Identity Thief" as of late, Bateman could certainly use a smash.

Focus Features will be aiming to turn "Bad Words" into just that as the studio acquired the film earlier this morning. Written by Andrew Dodge (and a Black List entry in 2011), it be released worldwide by Focus in 2014.

Read Full Post
<p>Katy Perry at the VMAs</p>

Katy Perry at the VMAs

Credit: Dario Cantatore/AP

Music Power Rankings: Katy Perry, Michael Jackson, and Fred Stobaugh?

Robin Thicke and Carrie Underwood also make the list

1. Katy Perry: She roars into the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100, finally toppling Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” after 12 weeks. She is queen of the jungle and queen of the chart.

2. Harry Connick Jr.: After causing a stir by speaking the truth when he mentored on “American Idol,” the crooner joins Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez as a judge for the upcoming season. Will he be the new Simon Cowell?

3. Adam Levine: The Maroon 5 lead singer launches his clothing line for K-Mart. Maybe they can rename the Blue Light Special the Maroon Light Special....

4. Fred Stobaugh: At 96, he becomes the oldest artist to appear on Billboard’s Hot 100 with “Oh Sweet Lorraine,” breaking the former record set by the young whippersnapper, Tony Bennett.

5. Michael Jackson:  The singer’s estate launches an Instagram account asking fans to upload videos to celebrate the anniversary of his birthday. What’s next? Bubbles’ own Pinterest account?

6. Janis Joplin: Speaking of dead celebrities, more than 40 years after her death, the Joplin estate is rolling out Made For Pearl,  a line of clothes, jewelry and other accessories. Don’t get down on me, but doesn’t that idea feel about 30 years too late?

7. Irving Azoff: The incomparable music manager announces a $300 million deal with Madison Square Garden that will include music management, music publishing, live event branding and a talent-scouting TV show. It’s Azoff’s world, the rest of us just live in it.

8. Alabama: The legendary country group bows at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 with “Alabama & Friends,” marking its best ranking ever on the all-format album chart. Imagine if the album had included a duet with Fred Stobaugh?

9. Robin Thicke: “Blurred Lines’” reign atop the Billboard Hot 100 may have ended, but he snags the song of the summer title from Billboard. As if there were even any doubt?

10. Carrie Underwood: She bows her version of Sunday Night Football’s theme, “Waiting All Day For Sunday Night” this weekend because nothing says football like an “American Idol” winner married to a hockey player.


Read Full Post
<p>Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley are both excellent in John Carney's enchanting new film 'Can A Song Save Your Life?'</p>

Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley are both excellent in John Carney's enchanting new film 'Can A Song Save Your Life?'

Credit: Exclusive Media Group

Review: Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo are luminous in the beautiful 'Can A Song Save Your Life'?

John Carney's latest musical is another gorgeous story of love and art

TORONTO - One of the things I love about music is the way it can act like a sort of time machine, transporting you back to the moment you first heard it or a particular performance you saw, and more than that, it can remind you of the person you were at that moment. I hear certain songs, and the world around me melts away and I find myself feeling and remembering and I can't think of anything else that does it quite the same way.

In 2001, I made a last minute trip to Sundance with Kevin Biegel, another of the writers for Ain't It Cool. We didn't plan it. We had no idea what we were doing. It was the first time at a major film festival for either of us. And for the most part, we just sat in the press screening rooms watching whatever played, not sure what to expect. At the end of one of those days, already packed with great movies like "Chain Camera" and "Dogtown & Z-Boys," we saw the first screening of "Hedwig And The Angry Inch," and when it got to the song "Origin Of Love" in the middle of the film, I was transported. It seemed to me to be the perfect explanation of what it is we look for in this world in other people, inclusive of everyone, optimistic but heartbroken, and by the time the song was over, it was one of my favorite songs of all time.

Read Full Post