Latest Blog Posts

"The Bachelorette"

 "The Bachelorette"

Credit: ABC

Reality TV Roundup: 'Big Brother,' 'SYTYCD,' 'Real Housewives' and more

It's been a busy week, so get all your reality news here, now

Welcome to Reality TV Roundup -- a quick look at some of the reality TV-centric stories that have recently popped up across the fine, old Interwebs. Click away, my couch potato friends. But before you do...

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! One more time: SPOILER ALERT. If you watch any competition shows, the latest elimination for each show is probably revealed in the text below. The hope is that, if you missed this week's program and would rather clear out your DVR than watch the episode, you can get a quick hit here. But don't come crying to me if you find out something you didn't want to know. You've been warned. Also note: lots of non-competition reality info lurks below, too. 

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<p>I&nbsp;have never worked harder to keep eye contact with an interview subject than I did with the uber-charming Rinko Kikuchi</p>

I have never worked harder to keep eye contact with an interview subject than I did with the uber-charming Rinko Kikuchi

Credit: HitFix

Rinko Kikuchi on how trauma forms character in 'Pacific Rim'

Plus she talks about her collaboration with Guillermo Del Toro

Rinko Kikuchi has now been directed by two of the Three Amigos, and both times, she's done wonderful work.

Innaritu's "Babel" is one of those films where, even if you don't love every part of it, there are so many things going on in it that it's worth your attention. In particular, the work of Rinko Kikuchi in the film is so raw, so real, so exposed and vulnerable, that it transcends language. You can watch her work in the movie without subtitles and even if you don't speak a single word of Japanese, her entire performance comes through, loud and clear.

In Guillermo Del Toro's "Pacific Rim," Rinko is once again a key piece of the puzzle, and once again, her ability to open up a character and lay their most private thoughts bare is essential for making something work. Del Toro makes full and canny use of her as a visual element and also as an emotional heavyweight. When she has to land the movie's biggest punches, she does, and she makes you believe that Mako could indeed by the thing that would bring Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) back to life enough to step back into the fray.

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<p>Jafar Panahi in &quot;This is Not a Film.&quot;</p>

Jafar Panahi in "This is Not a Film."

Credit: Palisades Tartan

Jafar Panahi accepts Academy membership 'on behalf of Iranian filmmakers'

A heartfelt statement of acceptance from the embattled Iranian director

Among the 276 artists invited to join their ranks this year, the Academy including a pleasing selection of world cinema luminaries, ranging from recent first-time Oscar nominee Emmanuelle Riva to Romanian New Wave cinematographer Oleg Mutu. One name, however, that was particularly applauded from all sides was trailblazing Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi.

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<p>Guillermo Del Toro is hoping his robots vs monsters epic 'Pacific Rim' creates plenty of new monster fans.</p>

Guillermo Del Toro is hoping his robots vs monsters epic 'Pacific Rim' creates plenty of new monster fans.

Credit: HitFix

Guillermo Del Toro talks about the optimism of 'Pacific Rim' and making monsters for young fans

One of our favorite filmmakers is finally back at work

It's no secret that Guillermo Del Toro is one of my favorite people in the film industry today.

There are very few filmmakers who adore genre with the same enthusiasm as Del Toro who can also wrestle the images from their heads directly onto the screen. No matter how outrageous or surreal an idea he has, he is great at turning those ideas into actual physical things. Part of that is because he's a gifted artist in his own right, but it's also because he knows how to mobilize the amazing art departments that he puts together for each of his films.

There are talented filmmakers who I don't feel strongly about on a personal level, but Guillermo is as decent as he is gifted, and when you see how many people work with him over and over, that's because he really does create an atmosphere of family on the films he makes.

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<p>Armie Hammer certainly has the jaw to play a hero, and he definitely rocks the mask in 'The Lone Ranger'</p>

Armie Hammer certainly has the jaw to play a hero, and he definitely rocks the mask in 'The Lone Ranger'

Credit: HitFix

Armie Hammer talks about playing the hero in 'The Lone Ranger'

Can you believe this dude is only 26 years old?

When I was twenty-six years old, I was a WGAw member already with a few produced plays, but I feel like I was still very young in many, many ways. Frankly, I'm amazed anyone took me seriously at that age, because I know for a fact I didn't carry myself with the same poise that Armie Hammer does.

I think he was exactly the right choice for Disney to cast as The Lone Ranger, and I think if they'd done something more traditional with the character, he could have absolutely crushed it. If there's anyone who seems stranded by the script, it's him. Obvious attention was paid to making sure that Tonto is given every bit of quirk and character that Johnny Depp requested, but Hammer is often left high and dry by the strange tonal shifts of the film and the completely inconsistent internal logic of his actions.

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<p>FOX's &quot;Sleepy Hollow&quot;</p>

FOX's "Sleepy Hollow"

Credit: FOX

Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Sleepy Hollow'

Nicole Beharie gives credibility to a nutty FOX drama

[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:"Sleepy Hollow" (FOX)
Airs:Mondays at 9 p.m.
The Pitch:It's "New Amsterdam" meets "Zero Hour." Wait. That doesn't work. It's... "Alcatraz" meets "National Treasure"? Hmmm... "It'll do for Washington Irving what 'The Following' did for Edgar Allen Poe"? Tough pitch, this one.
Quick Response: "Sleepy Hollow" probably should have premiered this past spring when, thanks to "Zero Hour" and "Do No Harm" and "Cult," it would have looked grounded and plausible. On the bright side, for most viewers, there won't be much question as to whether they're in or out. Around two-thirds of the way through the pilot, The Headless Horseman is strutting through a 2013 church graveyard firing a pump-action shotgun at a scruffy, newly resurrected Ichabod Crane and, at that point, you've either signed on for whatever loopy-ass misadventures Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Phillip Iscove have in store, or else you've probably changed the channel to one of the 50 other things airing on Mondays at 9 p.m. This is looney tunes stuff, lifting a couple kernels from Washington Irving's American legend, adding some revisionist American history, bringing it all to the present with a heaping spoonful of magic and then dousing the whole thing in pseudo-Biblical mumbo-jumbo. Thanks to pilot director Len Wiseman, the whole gooftastic affair is delivered with so much style that pausing to ponder the substance is either futile or, more likely, idiotically misapplied. If you've seen "Shame" or her brief "Good Wife" episode (but mostly "Shame"), you know that Nicole Beharie is a heck of an actress and she gives this pilot an almost absurd amount of credibility. It's almost unfair, because with a lesser actress, you could probably pass this off as nonsense and move on. I also think I'm OK with Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane, though that may be the tremendous relief of a British actor on an American series actually getting to do his native accent. The strong backing cast -- Orlando Jones, John Cho and Clancy Brown -- serves no purpose beyond distraction, but it's all part of the sleight-of-hand necessary to pull this nonsense off. I have no clue how this show functions on a week-to-week basis, much less the rather optimistic timetable laid out within the narrative. My initial sense is that the hastily established mythology is preposterous and "Sleepy Hollow" is going to have to make up its rules as it goes along, but... The Headless Horseman shooting a pump-action shotgun in a cemetery? Nobody can accuse these guys of not committing.
Desire To Watch Again: This actually is a light time period, so light that I continue to watch "2 Broke Girls." The availability of DVR space, plus my appreciation for Nicole Beharie could be enough to make me give this one a handful of episodes to either tighten up, sustain or crash entirely. That being said, my amusement with the pilot was hesitant at best and even the slightest decline in quality in Episode 2 and I'll probably check out immediately. I fully expect that a couple million viewers will be pretty culty about this one and nobody else will watch.

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

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<p>The cover of J Cole's &quot;Born Sinner&quot;</p>

The cover of J Cole's "Born Sinner"

J Cole's 'Born Sinner' could top Billboard 200 next week

In light sales week, 'Sinner' may jump to No. 1

With Jay-Z’s 1 million Samsung downloads declared ineligible for the Billboard 200, expect J Cole’s “Born Sinner” to possibly ascend to the top of the chart next week.

A full report isn’t available, due to the July 4th holiday, but Billboard predicts that the album, which debuted at No. 2 last week (and stayed there this week), will move to No. 1 in a slow sales week.

“Born Sinner” will likely sell around 60,000 copies to handily beat any of this week’s newcomers, including new albums from Joe, Hillsong and Relient K, as well as topple this week's chart topper: Wale's "The Gifted."

In the Nielsen Soundscan era, albums tend to arrive at No. 1, as opposed to work their way up the chart. Should “Born Sinner” make the climb, it will be the first album since Bruno Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox” to do so. Mars’ sophomore set rose to No. 1 12 weeks after it initially bowed on the chart at No. 2 in December, according to Billboard.

 

 

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Jenny McCarthy may join 'The View'


Jenny McCarthy may join "The View"
Us Weekly reports McCarthy is "in serious talks" to replace Joy Behar.


Watch Dominic West & Helena Bonham Carter as "Burton and Taylor"
The BBC has released the first trailer for the 1983-set Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton film.


"Big Brother" hits an all-time low
Wednesday was the 2nd time this week that "BB" hit a new low. PLUS: CBS seems to enjoy the racism and homophobic comments controversy.


"Game of Thrones" bringing back the "Blackwater" director
Neil Marshall will helm the Season 4 finale. PLUS: Visit "GoT" filming locations.


Michael C. Hall is finishing up 13 years of filming "Six Feet Under" followed by "Dexter" on same lot
In fact, Hall says he and Rita Hayworth are tied for logging the most hours at Sunset Gower Studios. PLUS: Hall makes his directorial debut on Sunday's "Dexter."


Paula Deen the victim of a $250,000 extortion attempt

The FBI this morning arrested a man who threatened to divulge "true and damning" information about Deen. PLUS: Deen dumps her longtime agent.


Nancy Grace banned from "GMA"
CNN boss Jeff Zucker is reportedly banning all CNN and HLN personalities from appearing on rival morning shows.


Seth Meyers gets engaged

The "SNL" Weekend Update star is set to marry his longtime girlfriend, Alexi Ashe. PLUS: Watch a preview of Meyers & Jerry Seinfeld getting coffee, and Meyers is sad he can't do his only "SNL" impression -- John Kerry -- right now.


"Community's" Yvette Nicole Brown visiting "Psych"
Details of her guest appearance haven't been revealed.


Jennifer Love Hewitt quits Twitter citing "threats" and "negativity"

"I'm sad to say twitter is no longer for me," she said in signing off Wednesday.


Rachel Zoe: I'm not pregnant

The Bravo star is denying reports she's expecting her 2nd child.


Watch Don Rickles get coffee with Jerry Seinfeld
It's the latest episode of "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee."


NBC's "Camp" and USA's "Summer Camp": Too confusing?
The two NBC Universal shows -- one reality, one dramedy -- are premiering within 24 hours of each other.


Some Brooklyn residents worry about MTV's VMAs

An entire neighborhood might have to be put on "lockdown" for the Aug. 25 event.


Kellie Pickler donates her "Dancing" mirrorball trophy to the Country Music Hall of Fame

The Nashville museum will also get her "Dancing with the Stars" costume.


"Downton Abbey"-themed beauty products are coming soon

Marks & Spencer is releasing cosmetics and candles.


"Amazing Race's" Fabulous Beekman Boys wed
Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell tied the knot last Friday.


Kaley Cuoco & Henry Cavill hold hands
The "Big Bang"-Superman couple have made their relationship almost official by their public display of affection.


See more "Veronica Mars" film pics

From the Santa Monica pier.


"Pretty Little Liars" co-stars are dating
Ashley Benson and Tyler Blackburn are officially at item.


Cooking  Channel unleashes "Donut Showdown"
Three contestants will compete for a $10,000 prize in this new donut-making competition.

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<p>Jay-Z</p>

Jay-Z

Credit: AP

Jay-Z's 'Magna Carta Holy Grail': Track-by-Track Review

Where does the album shine and where does it fall short, other than Samsung fail

Jay-Z lives in such a rarified world that it’s nearly impossible for anyone to relate to what he’s rapping about on “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” whether it’s Art Basel, his Lamborghini, sleeping with Beyonce, on and on and on so there’s an immediate distance from performer and listener on his new set. Or at least it seems that way. However, as one digs deeper, on many of these songs, Jay-Z is contemplating issues that dog all of us, regardless of stature: spirituality, parenthood, and doubt.

The raft of guests and samples (h/t to Rap Genius for helping me ID some of them) is only outnumbered by the endless onslaught of products mentioned in the songs: you could stock a car dealership with the references to Maybachs, Lexuses, Bugattis, Lamborghinis, and more here. And that’s just the start: then there’s the designers, the watches, the liquor...etc., etc., etc. Jay-Z is the ultimate consumer. Forget about the $5 million Jay-Z got paid from Samsung for the privilege to release the album to Samsung users on July 4, several days before the official July 9 street date:  If he got money for every plug, he’d be a billionaire.

And a little bit about the Samsung experience: to download the album you had to agree to be data-mined eight ways ‘til Sunday. Then, the actual experience was extremely frustrating. Often, a song wouldn’t play for no apparent reason. I would have to turn off my phone and turn it back on for the download to work. Not a user friendly experience in the least. Having said that, even coming from my Samsung Galaxy Note, the sonics sounded superior, so I imagine on a great sound system, the album sounds stellar.

Below is a track-by-track rating of the album. My overall grade is a very solid B.

“Holy Grail” (produced by J-Roc, The-Dream & Timbaland):  Justin Timberlake takes the lead on this stirring, dramatic tale of  the fickleness of fame. “I’m the ni**a, caught up in all these lights and cameras/but look what that shit did to Hammer/Goddammit, I like it/The bright lights is enticing,” Jay-Z raps before breaking into an interpolation of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”: “We’re all just entertainers/and we’re stupid, and contagious.”  While it may strike some as biting the hand that feeds, it is one of “MCHG’s” most enticing tracks, in large part due to Timberlake’s ringing falsetto (and the end that recreates the same sonics as Timberlake/Timbaland’s “Mirrors.”)  GRADE: B+

“Picasso Baby” (produced by Adrian Younge, J-Roc & Timbaland): A driving track—with a sample of Adrian Younge’s “Sirens”— that will be remembered for comparing Beyonce to the Mona Lisa, if nothing else, and for the sheer number of painters’ names that Jay-Z drops in the song that shows he has more in common with an Upper East Side society matron than many street rappers. A wicked electric guitar comes in about halfway through to add some meat to the boasts.  GRADE: B-

“Tom Ford” (produced by J-Roc & Timbaland): The most interesting part of this song, named after the fashion designer, is the way Jay-Z builds the song around M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls,” but other than that, and learning that instead of “rocking Molly,” Hova’s drug of choice is Tom Ford, there’s not a lot here other than lots of bragging.  GRADE: C

“F*ckwithmeyouknowigotit” (produced by Boi-1da, Timbaland & Vinylz): Featuring Pimp C and Rick Ross, this cascading track moves the locale from New York to Italy, where world citizen Jay-Z rules with his “Black mob” and their Lamborghini Countach. Pimp C’s intro that ties in his African ancestry where “we originated from kings” with “youngsters” wanting “shiny things” seems a bit of a stretch. Ross’s hook also seems a bit out of place as well on this track that seems like a cut-and-paste job even more so than some rap tracks.  GRADE: C

“Oceans” (produced by Pharrell Williams  & Timbaland): Frank Ocean’s line, “I hope my black skin don’t dirty this white tuxedo before the Basquiat show and if so, well f*ck it,” sums up the album: “MCHG” deals with social issues and what it’s like to be a black man in this world, but it’s through the filter of such an elite view that it’s nearly impossible to relate to. Having said that, with Pharrell and Timbaland at the helm, “Oceans” is a stunning track, with Ocean’s smooth voice playing perfect counterpoint to Jay-Z’s gruffness. Even when Jay-Z is patting himself for crashing through glass ceilings, he’s still aware that all is not well in terms of racial barriers: “Only Christopher we acknowledge is Wallace,” he raps, in a nod to Notorious B.I.G., adding “I don’t even like Washingtons in my pocket.” And then he gets on his yacht...  GRADE: A

“FUTW” (produced by J-Roc & Timbaland): This track is all Jay-Z and it’s one of the most socially conscious tracks on the album as he exhorts his African-American brothers to “f*ck up this world,” but in a good way. “America tried to emasculate the greats/Murder Malcolm, gave Cassius the shakes/Wait, tell them rumble young man rumble/try to dim your lights/tell you to be humble/you know I’m gon shine like a trillion watts...” later adding, “it’s our time now.”  If only he measured that success in more than money and Maybachs... GRADE: B-

“Somewhere In America” (produced by Hit-Boy & Mike Dean): A bouncy track, via a sample of Jimmy Norman’s “Gangster of Love (Part 1), which, itself, comes from Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Gangster of Love.” While most notable for Jay-Z’s call for Miley Cyrus to keep “twerking,” the horns and piano and the message about infiltrating neighborhoods previously closed to him dominates. (Jay-Z: it’s called nouveau riche and you’re not the first one). GRADE: B

“Crown” (produced by Mike Dean, Travis Scott & WondaGurl): One of “MCHG’s” most atmospheric tracks, built around a sample of Sizzla’s “Solid As A Rock,” Jay-Z takes on mega-sports agent Scott Boras here, declaring he’s “over, baby,” while bragging about snagging New York Yankee Robinson Cano as one of the first clients for Hova’s new sports agency. (Really? Is taking on fellow sports agents going to be your new beef?). Travis Scott delivers the hook, which is all about “ni**as” trying to keep him down. So by this point, halfway through the album, Jay-Z has complained about how everyone is trying to knock him to his knees, but like a phoenix, he keeps rising...again and again. “See my name come across on CNN/‘Bout 6 minutes, you gonna see it again.”  GRADE: B-

“Heaven” (produced by J-Roc, The-Dream & Timbaland): Lyrically, one of “MCHG’s”strongest tracks as Jay-Z questions all kinds of authority, whether it be power, religion, or other people. He even quotes R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” Musically, the track’s high point is a sweet, angelic voice (uncredited, but believed to be Justin Timberlake) singing a hook “Have You Ever Been To Heaven?” over and over,  juxtaposed against his questioning. GRADE: B

“Versus” (produced by Timbaland): A brief palate cleanser in the middle of the album built around a kicky, retro sample and another chance for Jay-Z to boast that he’s all that and you are not. GRADE: C

“Part II (On The Run)” (produce by J-Roc and Timbaland): A sequel of sorts to “’03 Bonnie & Clyde,” “On The Run” is a dreamy embellished story of their love and all that matters is that they are with each other. “I will hold your heart and your gun,” Beyonce declares as she vows fealty to her man. Jay-Z compares her prettiness to that of his Mercedes and promises that their matching tatts will never come off, even if the rings do. In a world that often celebrates being a playa, it’s a sweet song about their love and devotion to each other with a stellar, soulful performance by Bey. GRADE: B

“Beach Is Better” (produced by Mike Will Made It): Another interlude dogging on a woman for taking so long to get ready —and that she better look as good as Halle Berry or Beyonce —as well as some riffing on spending mad money. Totally non-essential, but Jay-Z sounds great. GRADE: C

“BBC” (produced by Pharrell Williams & Timbaland): An intricate track and one of the album’s most infectious, due to a repetitive pop keyboard loop, and the energy that comes from having Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and former frenemy Nas all blending together in a mish-mash of sonics. The lyrics, some of them in Japanese, and all the name-dropping are totally irrelevant, even the “Britney, bitch” line. This is all about the groove and feel. And it feels great.  There will be some fantastic remixes from this one. GRADE: A

Jay Z Blue” (produced by J-Roc & Timbaland):
Faye Dunaway’s rant from “Mommie Dearest” opens this, and the song even drops in the infamous “No wire hangers ever!” line in this track that shows Jay-Z featuring his doubts about his ability to be a good father, especially given that “my father never taught me how to be a father,” and that, by his own admission, his flight instinct still kicks in sometimes. At the same time, he is clearly so smitten with Blue Ivy. “Nothing could prepare us/for the beauty that you be Blue be.” The song samples Notorious B.I.G.’s “My Downfall.” GRADE: B+

“La Familia” (produced by J-Roc & Timbaland): Uneven track with an interesting off-kilter delivery from Jay-Z that, ostensibly, celebrates family, in all its forms, but ultimately goes nowhere.  GRADE: C

“Nickels And Dimes” (produced by Mike Dean):
Built around a sample of Gonjasufi’s “Nikels and Dimes,” the closing track is a woozy, autobiographical exploration inside Jay-Z’s mind that references Trent Reznor’s “Hurt,” filtered through Johnny Cash. Jay Z’s in a contemplative mood as he once again questions fame (bringing the album full circle) and what it means to come from poverty and make it to millionaire. He has “survivor’s guilt,” and wonders if giving to some who is only going to use the money to get high makes him part of the problem instead of the solution. It’s a reflective, deep way to end this chapter of his life (plus, check out the Lady Gaga veiled reference and the dig at Harry Belafonte).  GRADE: A



 

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Nigel Lythgoe of "So You Think You Can Dance"

 Nigel Lythgoe of "So You Think You Can Dance"

Credit: Fox

'So You Think You Can Dance' to change results format

Nigel Lythgoe responds to fan outrage

It's not often that fans get exactly what they want from a TV show, but it seems that that's exactly what has happened with "So You Think You Can Dance." After the show launched a new format for eliminating dancers, fans took to social media to complain. Instead of saving the elimination for the end of the show, it had been moved to the beginning -- meaning that dancers would have to continue performing with their partners despite having been cut. 

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"Big Brother"

 "Big Brother"

Credit: CBS

Listen: CulturePop No. 20 - 'Lone Ranger,' 'Big Brother,' Steve Silverman

We discuss 'Chopped' and Jennifer Lopez, too

Welcome to our Very Special Sort of Independence Day-themed edition of CulturePop! We invited back very special guest Steve Silverman simply because he's too much fun and we missed him. Plus, we talked about a lot of stuff -- whether or not Jennifer Lopez was irresponsible to perform for the leader of Turkmenistan, whether or not we should see the racist and homophobic comments being made on "Big Brother," why "The Lone Ranger" is a car wreck, plus why Steve loved the openly gay kid on "Chopped." Somehow we ended up talking a lot about racism, homophobia and "All in the Family," but that sounds more serious than it really was. Tune in. Hopefully you'll have just as much fun as we did. Here's the rundown:

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<p>The Minions are cleaning up in &quot;Despicable Me 2.&quot;</p>

The Minions are cleaning up in "Despicable Me 2."

Credit: Universal Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'Despicable Me 2'

The Minions are already chewing up the holiday weekend box office

With over $34 million already in the bank, "Despicable Me 2" has convincingly Minion-ized the box office, neatly paving the way for the capsule-shaped critters' forthcoming spinoff vehicle -- itself none-too-subtly promoted in the new film's closing credits. But is it any good? Drew McWeeny thinks it does its job well enough, though it's lacking in the story department. I more or less agree: it's bright, disposably fun family fare, though where the similarly fluffy first film had a reasonably smart idea at its core, the sequel loses focus by stripping Steve Carell's protagonist of his conflicted supervillain identity. What do you think? Is this a franchise you're keen to see continue? And in a lean year so far for animation, can this sequel get more Academy love than its unnominated predecessor? Vote in the poll below, and have your say in the comments.

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