Latest Blog Posts

<p>Robert De Niro in &quot;Killing Season.&quot;</p>

Robert De Niro in "Killing Season."

Credit: Millennium Pictures

Karlovy Vary Film Festival: 'Killing Season,' 'Honeymoon,' 'DK'

Travolta and De Niro bring the star power, but the Czechs bring the good stuff

The Karlovy Vary Film Festival is a rewardingly contradictory one. The locale is pure chocolate-box fragility: a bijou spa town in the densely wooded hills of the Czech republic, its buildings appear frosted by professional patissieres. The atmosphere, meanwhile, is more robustly rowdy: wealthy neighboring Russians populate the busy party circuit as cinema-loving students descend on the town by the busload, open-air bars surrounding the festival center dispensing rivers of Pilsner all the while. Neither the setting nor the crowds, meanwhile, immediately suggest the festival’s diverse, tough-minded programming, which trades largely in bleaker realities – or more challenging fantasies, as the case may be.

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;The Michael J. Fox Show&quot;</p>

"The Michael J. Fox Show"

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show'

Michael J. Fox needs you to know it's OK to laugh

[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:"The Michael J. Fox Show" (NBC)
The Pitch: NBC gave "The Michael J. Fox Show" a 22-episode commitment without a finished script or a pilot. Safe to say, then, that the title was all the pitch anybody needed.
Quick Response: Before NBC announced its fall premiere schedule, I was going to suggest that it might be a really, really, really good idea to premiere "The Michael J. Fox Show" with two episodes. Then NBC announced they were premiering "The Michael J. Fox Show" with two episodes. And rightly so! It's not that the pilot is bad, but it's basically a PSA. And its message is "It's OK to laugh." It's 22 minutes of Michael J. Fox amiably reassuring viewers not only is it OK for them to laugh at him and his medical difficulties, but since he's laughing at himself, we're actually laughing with him. And I'm not going to scoff at this as an aspiration for this particular pilot. "The Michael J. Fox Show" isn't explicitly autobiographical for Fox, but it's close enough that there's a wave of discomfort that almost every viewer is going to pass through and it's up to the beloved star to make sure that most viewers pass through that discomfort as quickly as possible. Saying that "The Michael J. Fox Show" makes a few jokes about Fox's Parkinson's would be like saying Yakov Smirnoff made a few jokes about differences between life in the USA and life in the Soviet Union. The pilot is almost nothing but jokes about Fox's tremors, his medication and the things he can and cannot do because of his Parkinson's and how that relates to the character's ability to return to a nightly newscast in New York City. You might crack a smile at some of the jokes, but the goal isn't really laughter. The goal, I hope, is to get a ton of information out of the way up-front so that subsequent episodes can begin the gradual process of making the show about a guy who has a job and a family and also has Parkinson's, rather than being A Very Important Show About Michael J. Fox's Health. Everybody involved here is talented enough that it could work, if that corner is turned. As we know from "Good Wife," Fox is actually remarkable at using his condition to turn punchlines on their heads and he still has a gift with physical comedy that's altered, but not abated. There are hints of that here, but they're buried under the well-meaning explanations and meta dialogue like "What if I'm not the guy they remember?" Freed from the shackles that bind Marie on "Breaking Bad," Betsy Brandt is loose and appealing as Fox's wife, though the distraction caused by their height disparity is unavoidable. I kinda love the casting of Wendell Pierce as a news producer and lemme just say that Katie Finneran is much better here than on FOX's "I Hate My Teenage Daughter," though she's kinda in a different, broader pilot from everybody else. And the kids aren't bad, with Juliette Goglia as the early standout.
Desire To Watch Again: The bottom line is that I understand why this pilot was something "The Michael J. Fox Show" had to get out of its system. I didn't love it, but at least they executed the "The More You Know..." side of things in a way that was light, rather than maudlin. Now? Let's see what the series looks like. I'm really eager to see a real episode.

 

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>Kristen Wiig talks about playing a love interest to Gru in 'Despicable Me 2'</p>

Kristen Wiig talks about playing a love interest to Gru in 'Despicable Me 2'

Credit: HitFix

Kristen Wiig discusses her role as the love interest in 'Despicable Me 2'

One of Hollywood's funniest ladies is getting busier every day

One of the weirdest little subcategories of things I like is when an actor shows up in two different movies in a film series playing totally different characters for no particular reason.

Weird, right? But now you can add Kristen Wiig to the list of people who have done that, since she played a very small role in "Despicable Me" as a character named "Miss Hattie," and now in "Despicable Me 2," she is front and center as the so-happy-to-be-a-spy-she-is-giddy new character, Lucy. She is also Gru's unlikely love interest in the film, and the two of them have a loose, easy connection that makes their material a lot of fun.

I am equally entertained by the notion that Wiig and Carrell are going to be paired again in "Anchorman: The Legend Continues," and it looks like Brick has met his match, which should be hilarious. The trailer that was only released to theaters has a little bit more footage, and that's where you get a good look at Wiig and Carrell together, both of them dim bulbs in a big way.

Read Full Post
<p>Gore Verbinski talks about his love of Westerns and his conception of 'The Lone Ranger'</p>

Gore Verbinski talks about his love of Westerns and his conception of 'The Lone Ranger'

Credit: HitFix

Gore Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer talk about revitalizing the Western with 'Lone Ranger'

Can they do for the Old West what they did for pirates?

I like Gore Verbinski quite a bit.

I liked his early films like "Mousehunt" and "The Ring," but when he made "Pirates Of The Caribbean," it was like a whole new filmmaker suddenly emerged. Suddenly he was revealed as an amazing action director, a guy who could stage an elaborate sequence on several different fronts, juggling everything with a visual clarity and a sense of geography that is staggering.

As action cinema in the last decade has devolved into a flailing incoherence where shaking the camera to obscure what's happening has replaced creating great action, Verbinski has become an increasingly rare bird. He has also established himself as a very canny gamer of the ratings system. You look at his version of "The Ring" or his "Pirates" films or "The Lone Ranger," and you can see just how much he's managed to sneak by under the guise of a PG-13.

Read Full Post
<p>Steve Carrell seems mightily entertained by the Minions in 'Despicable Me 2'</p>

Steve Carrell seems mightily entertained by the Minions in 'Despicable Me 2'

Credit: HitFix

Steve Carrell compares the Minions of 'Despicable Me 2' to the Marx Brothers

One of Hollywood's nicest guys seems happy to be in the sequel business

At some point, when you interview someone enough times, it starts to feel like you're just checking in, like it's an ongoing conversation that you just return to a few times every year.

I met Steve Carrell the first time on the set of "Anchorman." I visited on the day they shot the big rumble between all of the various news teams, and Carrell was having a great time that day pushing the weirdness of the scene. It was such a playful set, and he was certainly in the spirit of things.

Then I spent a long day with him on "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," and I really got a glimpse of the Steve Carrell that has become a movie star due in large part to that breakthrough performance. He seemed to me like a guy who was very serious about his craft but who wasn't really playing the big-picture career game at that point. When I saw him on the "Get Smart" set, it was starting to feel more like someone had decided that the Steve Carrell brand was a very big brand, and there was more attention and energy focused on every choice. Carrell was still the same guy, but the energy around him was undeniably different.

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;Pacific Rim&quot; screenwriter Travis&nbsp;Beacham (left)&nbsp;and director Guillermo del Toro.</p>

"Pacific Rim" screenwriter Travis Beacham (left) and director Guillermo del Toro.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Screenwriter Travis Beacham on the innovative spirit of 'Pacific Rim'

The kaiju/mech disasterpiece was to celebrate aspiration over despiration

One foggy morning in 2007, screenwriter Travis Beacham was walking along the beach in Santa Monica and he looked out at the famed amusement park pier jutting out into the water. His imagination ever running rampant, he pictured behind those mist-covered, empty rides a towering machine, a robot -- a mech, actually -- waiting to do battle with some vicious monstrosity. The germ of "Pacific Rim" was born.

Read Full Post
<p>There is a preposterous amount of great material on Shout!&nbsp;Factory's amazing new 'No Pryor Restraint' box set</p>

There is a preposterous amount of great material on Shout! Factory's amazing new 'No Pryor Restraint' box set

Credit: Shout! Factory

The new CD box set 'No Pryor Restraint' offers an amazing record of a great American artist

New and old material alike packs every disc in the set

I got challenged by a few of you for something I wrote in my review of "The Internship," and, in hindsight, you are correct about the way I said something.

I mentioned that I feel like Hollywood failed Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, and a number of you pointed out that Vaughn has a co-screenplay credit on "The Internship," which hardly makes him a victim of the system. Owen Wilson has also had

The truth is that Vaughn and Wilson are guys who are still working, even if I think they've been put in certain boxes that are short-sighted in terms of what they are hired to do, and they seem to have made an uneasy peace with what's expected of them. I think there are guys who take to life in the box very easily, and they do it very well, and I think they enjoy what they do. And nobody should be faulted for it. I don't have to enjoy the films, but someone's paying to see them.

If we want to talk about people who Hollywood failed completely, we should look at the case of Richard Pryor. This guy should have been working with great filmmakers from the start. When you talk to people about Pryor, you have to sort of establish up front which Richard Pryor you are talking about. If you judge him by the filmography he left behind, then it's a really unpleasant story. There are some bright spots, and I think Pryor did some very good work at a number of points… but it's really a story of wasted potential.

Read Full Post
<p>What? You wanted her to be a good person, TOO?</p>

What? You wanted her to be a good person, TOO?

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Big Brother' Wednesday Results - The first hamster scurries home

Who would be this season's first contestant to meet Julie Chen?
Hi all! Dan here. I'll be doing the "Big Brother" results shows this season. Wednesday tonight and then Thursday for the rest of the summer.
 
OK, since you asked, here's my problem with "Big Brother," hamster bigotry, live feeds and CBS:
 
The people passing around petitions trying to get various houseguests removed from the show are silly. Unless Aaryn wins the prize, "Big Brother" is doing far more harm than good for the smoking hot, xenophobic homophobe. She's been fired by her modeling company and she will return to a world in which most reasonable people know that she's disgusting and ignorant. For the rest of her life, when future employers Google her, guess what will come up? Exactly. And it's not like she's espousing reasonable conservative-leaning positions on things. She's just a bigot. So that'll be hard to defend going forward. Ditto with the rest of the stupidity spewing from the various hamsters. [This is me being naive, I understand. CBS not only covered up Jeff Schroeder's gay slurs, but they employed him again on both "Big Brother" and then "The Amazing Race" and only a few disgruntled people said a word. I like to believe there's a paper trail. I fear it's not as easy to follow as it should be.]
 
What bothers me, though, is actually on a practical game-play level. Various hamsters are saying nasty things, but they're only being heard on the live-feed. If you watched only the "Big Brother" telecast, you'd think the hamsters were dumb -- M-O-O-N, as Dave would spell it -- but I wouldn't have any idea that they were also just fundamentally bad people, many of them. And CBS' condemnation of what's being said is, of course, comically inadequate and disingenuous. Fine. But CBS and "Big Brother" have added a twist this year in which America is voting for a weekly MVP and that MVP has an awful lot of power in the House. And since most of America doesn't watch live-feeds or read blogs or other stuff, most of America is voting based on a sample that is skewed by CBS' editing. Editing always will shape out perception of "real" people on reality shows, but in this case, CBS and the "Big Brother" editors are actively impacting the results of the show. America is voting on the MVP because of a perception of the hamsters based on editing decisions and if they're not being given full information on the hamsters they're voting for, their vote and, by extension, the results of the show have been permanently manipulated. If one of the bigots wins this season and an MVP-related decision leads to the eviction of any of the few acceptable houseguests, I'd get out and sue CBS and "Big Brother" promptly for playing a direct role, through editing, in a competition they claim isn't rigged. 
 
With that rant out of the way... I'll be recapping Wednesday's results in my usual live-blog form after the break...
 
Read Full Post
Watch: Justin Timberlake's new NSFW video for 'Tunnel Vision'
Credit: RCA Records

Watch: Justin Timberlake's new NSFW video for 'Tunnel Vision'

Topless women gracefully glide through the 7-minute clip

Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke not only share a fierce falsetto, they now share a penchant for putting topless women in their videos.

Timberlake just dropped, very quietly, a NSFW, 7-minute video for “Tunnel Vision,” a track from “The 20/20 Experience,” this year’s biggest-selling album.

[More after the jump...]

 Unlike Thicke’s clip for “Blurred Lines,” Timberlake never interacts with the three nude women here, who maneuver through a bevy of modern dance moves either completely nude or with g-strings on. Instead, he’s dancing with himself in front of a white or grey screen crooning about how he has tunnel vision the minute his love walks into the room. Toward the end of the video he’s joined by his buddy, producer Timbaland, in some silhouette shots.

The whole thing seems rather tastefully and gently lit, with the women going through a number of graceful moves.

What do you think of “Tunnel Vision?”

Read Full Post

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 190

Dan and Alan talk 'House of Cards,' 'The Shield, 'Hill Street Blues' and more

The

Happy Wednesday, Boys & Girls! It's time for this week's installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
 
Despite not reviewing a single new show, we somehow still managed to get over 90 minutes this week. That includes a lot of time on our Summer Pilot Rewatch segment on "Hill Street Blues" and "The Shield" some Listener Mail and, because I finally got around to finishing it, a segment reflecting on the full run of "House of Cards."
 
No clue how the podcast got so long despite the paucity of new stuff, but that won't be a problem next week with "Orange Is The New Black," "Camp," "The Bridge" and "The Newsroom."
 
And, in honor of the return of Aaron Sorkin's new show, next week's Pilot Rewatch... "The West Wing." 
 
Here's today's breakdown:
Listener Mail - "Kitchen Confidential" (00:02:45 - 00:10:10)
Listener Mail - What "Under the Dome" means (00:10:10 - 00:15:20)
Listener Mail - Favorite Guest performances (00:15:25 - 00:33:30)
"House of Cards" (00:33:50 - 55:30)
Summer Pilot Rewatch: "Hill Street Blues"/"The Shield" (00:55:35 - 01:33:00)

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.] 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

 

 

Read Full Post
<p>Justin Timberlake</p>

Justin Timberlake

Credit: Frank Micelotta/Invision/AP

Justin Timberlake and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis lead 2013 sales

Halfway through, who are the year's other big sellers?

Only one album has sold more than a million copies half-way through 2013 and that album is Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience.”

While the biggest-selling album of 2013, so far, belongs to JT, the top-selling single honors go to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” featuring Wanz, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

“The 20/20 Experience” has sold 2 million copies, while “Thrift Shop” has shifted 5.6 million units. This marks only the second year in SoundScan’s 22-year history that only one album had hit the million milestone in the first six months. The last time it happened? Last year...

The top 5 selling albums of 2013 so far are, in addition to “The 20/20 Experience,” Bruno Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox” (985,000), Mumford & Sons’ “Babel” (884,000), Blake Shelton’s “Based On A True Story...” (703,000) and Imagine Dragons’ “Night Visions” (692,000).  See Top 20 chart here.

The numbers only signify the copies sold since Jan. 1, 2013 but not the cumulative for an album that was released before then (for example, “Babel’s” tally since its release is 2.4 million).

Following “Thrift Shop,” the top-selling singles are Pink’s “Just Give Me A Reason,” featuring Nate Ruess (3.5 million); Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man” (3.4 million), Rihanna’s “Stay,” featuring Mikky Ekko (3.3 million), and Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” (3.2 million).  See Top 20 chart here.

Album sales are down 6% over this time last year, while digital track sales fell  by 2%, according to Billboard.

Read Full Post
<p>Fun.</p>

Fun.

Credit: AP Photo

Fun. contemplates return to studio for follow-up to 'Some Nights'

But first comes headlining U.S. tour

Fun. is thinking about its next album, but before the trio follows up “Some Nights,” it has several nights to spend on the road.

“‘Some Nights’ was written and recorded in a two-month time period, and I think that’s one of the elements that made it successful as an album,” guitarist Jack Antonoff told Billboard. “It should be a documentation of a band in a moment, not a giant, three-year process. So the next album will be the same.”

Before the “We Are Young” group goes back into the studio, the band will be on tour throughout the rest of the summer. Its headlining Most Nights Summer Tour starts July 6 in Toronto.  Antonoff calls the outing “equal parts victory lap and a bridge to the next record.”

For now, Antonoff says there are “hints of a game plan” for the group’s third set, but nothing concrete. “I assume some time at the beginning of next year we’d like to be in the studio, but that all depends on when the feeling hits and when we have a concept that’s worthy,” he says. “Until then, we have the parameters of what the album really is, it’s hard to hone in on them and work specifically on it, and we’re not there yet.”

In the meantime, the band is working “Why Am I The One,” the fourth single from “Some Nights.”

Read Full Post
BLOGS BY NAME