Everybody likes Morgan Freeman.
There aren't many actors you can say that about, but I honestly don't think I've ever had a conversation with someone where Freeman's name came up and someone said, "Oh, I can't stand him." That's kind of amazing. It's a testament to the fundamental honesty of what Freeman does on-camera, and the way he's picked and chosen roles over the last twenty-plus years.
He's one of those guys who worked for a long time in what must have felt like relative obscurity, one of his best-known roles being an ensemble part on "The Electric Company." All of that changed when "Street Smart" hit, and suddenly Hollywood figured out how great he was. Suddenly, he started getting the types of roles he deserved. Suddenly he was front and center in a number of big films, including the Oscar-winning smash hit "Driving Miss Daisy" and the Oscar-winning genre-defining Clint Eastwood film "Unforgiven."
Thanks to his distinctive voice and his warm, authoritative diction, Freeman's become the king of the voice-over work, and no one has made better use of that than Frank Darabont did in "The Shawshank Redemption," a film that seems to become more beloved with each passing year. I've spoken with him once or twice in the past, and he's always been cordial and engaging.
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Everybody likes Morgan Freeman.
Nothing screams “The Great Gatsby” like electro-clash. Various songs from the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming remake of the F. Scott Fitzgerald have been surfacing prior to the film’s May 10 release, but perhaps none are as jarring as The Black-eyed Peas' Fergie, Q-Tip and GoonRock’s “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got).”
The upbeat tune has plenty of promise, especially with the ‘20s, Flapper-era jazziness and Fergie’s strong vocals at the beginning and the retro horns (which sound very “Thrift Shop”). The theme of living in the moment and good times never ending also fits in with the post-WW1/pre-Depression era, but if it hasn’t lost you by the time Fergie starts rapping (check out her pronunciation of “moonlight”), you will most definitely want to check out when she cheerily calls out “What do you think Goonrock? Are you ready?”
It’s a shame because it’s quite infectious; the song just has some parts that stick out like a sore thumb in an otherwise engaging track, especially the “It Don’t Mean A Thing” refrain.
Luhrmann likes to mix contemporary music with period movies, as he did with “Moulin Rouge” and “Romeo + Juliet.” Any move that risky is sure to fail as often as it hits. Oddly, “A Little Party” falls somewhere right in the middle.
The soundtrack comes out May 7. For a full track listing, go here. Among the other artists on the Jay-Z-curated soundtrack are Beyonce & Andre 3000, Florence and the Machine, and Lana Del Rey. We’ll see if it spawns another “Lady Marmalade”-type smash as “Moulin Rouge” did.
Listen to the track here:
And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.
In what we believe is our longest Firewall & Iceberg Podcast episode ever, Dan and I got busy with a mix of premieres (Syfy's "Defiance," Netflix's "Hemlock Grove"), looks back (last night's "Mad Men" plus the "Cougar Town" and "Go On" finales), mail, plus an overdue retrospective on the career and influence of the late, great Roger Ebert.
Please note: We recorded this earlier today, and were literally saying our goodbyes when I first saw news of the tragedy in Boston. Our usual banter reflects that ignorance. If you're not in the mood to hear us bicker right now, we understand.
And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.
(PLEASE NOTE: The following interview mentions plot developments in "Simon Killer" that may be considered spoilers.)
As 'American in Paris' movies go, “Simon Killer” is one of the less romantic you're ever likely to see. Formally immaculate and profoundly unnerving, Antonio Campos's second feature – following 2008's equally striking and eerie “Afterschool” – sent shockwaves through the Sundance Film Festival last year: with the film finally on limited release and available on VOD, audiences can make their minds up about a film that's still proving excitingly divisive.
On the music star Richter scale of gaffes, just how bad are Justin Bieber’s comments that he hopes Anne Frank would have been a “Belieber?”
As you know, he created a tsunami of a backlash this weekend when he visited The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and left the following message in the guest book: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a Belieber.” Oh, Biebs, why couldn’t you have stopped after the first sentence?
In the pantheon of controversial comments made by musicians, on a scale of 1-10, I’m giving this a 1, and it's barely that. He didn't say anything negative, he just inserted himself a little too much into the story. The AP story does not mention it, but a story in British newspaper The Independent cites a source saying the Bieber was told that Frank was a big fan of culture (if I remember correctly, she had photos of movie stars on her wall) and that she probably would have liked Bieber. If the source’s comment is true, then Bieber’s message needs to be taken in that context.
We now live in an era when any comment— written, said or sung— immediately gets put under the worldwide microscope for dissecting, parsing, and blame assigning. I’m sure there are more pieces coming about Bieber’s mental state and his narcissism. (What? Accusing an artist of being a narcissist? Are you kidding me? Good grief, being a narcissist is a job requirement!). He will now be required to apologize and explain over and over for years...or until he does something more boneheaded.
Next thing you know, some “enterprising” reporter will be asking Elie Weisel to comment. Please, please, please don’t let it come to that. (If you don’t know who Eli Weisel or Anne Frank are, please look them both up immediately before reading further. According to the AP story, many of his young fans tweeted that they didn’t know who Anne Frank was so he may be educating some folks).
Here are just a few randomly-selected scandals and gaffes by artists that we consider worse than Bieber’s most recent goof. We are only talking about something the artists wrote or said, not actions (yes, we’re talking to you, Chris Brown). We also left out perpetual offenders, who just tend to insert their foot into their mouth regularly, like Kanye West.
*John Lennon: He, of course, said the mother of all gaffes, when he said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus in 1966. Even though the comment was said to a British reporter for the London Evening Standard in March, it didn’t so much as cause a blip in the U.K. No, that happened when a teen magazine, Datebook, picked it up in the U.S. and more than two dozen stations in the south temporarily banned the Beatles music and burned their records. Rating on the Richter scale: 10
*Dixie Chicks: Natalie Maines’ comment before a London audience that she was “ashamed” to be from the same state as President George Bush on the eve of the Iraqi war 10 years ago still resonates. Maines herself tweeted about it on the 10th year anniversary last month, and the trio never recovered at country music radio. I’m hard pressed to come up with an example where someone’s words (not actions) hurt them so severely. Rating: 12
*Ted Nugent: Oh, where to even begin? He's a one-man flamethrower on his comments about President Obama alone, whether it's calling him evil or comparing him to Hitler... there's really no end to it. Last April, didn't he say that if Obama got re-elected, he'd either "be dead or in jail by this time next year?" The clock is ticking. His comments are get a 10 for their offensiveness, but he gets a 0 for his relevance, so we're averaging. Rating: 5
*Hank Williams Jr: Like Nugent, he also likes to compare Obama to Hitler. The instance that got him in trouble was when he told "Fox & Friends" that House speaker John Boehner golfing with Obama was like "Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu." He then followed with some tirades about Obama in concert. The little stunt got his "Are You Ready for Some Football" opening yanked from Monday Night Football by ESPN: Rating: 6
*Rick Ross: Yes, his rape comment was spoken in a song, but it counts. After rapping, “Put Molly all up in her champagne, she ain't even know it, I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain't even know it,” in the song “U.O.E.N.O,” Reebok dropped its endorsement deal with Ross this month. And for good reason. Rating: 7
*Eminem: His violent homophobic comments from early in his career, most notably in songs like “Criminal.” He’s apologized or explained a number of times and seems to have learned his lesson: either he’s become more enlightened or simply learned to keep his mouth shut: Rating: 7
*Blake Shelton: It’s a miracle Shelton doesn’t find himself in more trouble given how much he tweets, but earlier this year he found himself having to mightily backpedal after telling GAC that “Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music.” Apparently, country legend Ray Price took that remark personally even though Shelton named no names and Shelton had to apologize in one of the biggest faux scandals of the year. Rating: 2
*Brad Paisley and LL Cool J: The fact that two of my examples are from the last two weeks alone shows what a glaring spotlight every artist’s actions fall under. Paisley and LL Cool J released a song called “Accidental Racist,” a well-meaning but incredibly naive and clumsy dialog about race relations. They talked about it in the press and presented their case tremendously well. Paisley wanted to start a dialogue with the song and he certainly did. Rating: 1
Which scandals would you add?
So what will be the seventh installment in Fox's "X-Men" film franchise, "X-Men: Days of Future Past," begins shooting today. And guess what? I'm really excited. Why? One reason: Bryan Singer.
I know Singer's work on the series has yielded some divisive returns since he last directed one of these a decade ago. And I know him saddling up is a clear sign of retreat in the view of many ("Jack the Giant Slayer" bombed, and "Superman Returns" -- which I actually like in many ways -- still stinks for some). But the fact remains my favorite comic book movie is 2003's "X2," and I'm hoping for a little bit of that spark once again.
So, we're now two-thirds of the way through "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" reunion, and I'm pretty sure all of these women are just damn tired. There's not a lot of yelling at this point, and everyone seems more hungry than actually pissed off about things that happened months ago that they've mostly forgotten. Plus, it doesn't help that the weight of their false eyelashes is starting to make their faces sag, poor dears.
While Kenya tries her level best to throw herself into arguments that have nothing to do with her, Cynthia says something forgettable and Porsha doesn't make a peep, this episode really belongs to NeNe and, to a lesser extend, Phaedra. Oh, and I can't forget Kim. You remember Kim, right? The one who stomped off the show a while back? Yeah, she returns for some reason, probably to subtly remind us her spin-off show debuts on Tuesday. And there is hugging, which really suggests these women might be fully delirious.
The music video for Psy's "Gentleman" dropped over the weekend, and within 24 hours broke the record for most-viewed in a day, with 22 million people queuing the clip up. At press time, at about 48 hours, the video is now up and over 62 million views. The previous one-day high was held by Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend," with a comparably small five million.
"Gentleman" went up for sale on iTunes on Friday in the U.S., and Psy performed the song live in Seoul in concert, which was simultaneously telecast early Saturday morning here in the U.S. He busted out his new moves from the video, which has some similar stomping and left-right movements from his breakout "Gangnam Style." Oh, and a slight crotch grab.
What better way could there be for Wesley Snipes to celebrate his release from federal prison than signing up to co-star in 'The Expendables 3'?
And what better way could there be to learn the news than a middle-of-the-night Tweet by Sylvester Stallone himself?
Wesley Snipes has been out of circulation for a while, of course, and any time someone comes out of prison, it's a gamble about whether or not they're going to be able to pick up where they left off, and in entrainment, it seems like it's even more of a gamble. Sure, there are stories like Johnny Cash, and the public loves to forgive people they like, but I'm not sure Wesley Snipes was particularly beloved when he went into prison in the first place. He had burned a lot of bridges in the industry, and he wasn't exactly toplining giant studio movies anymore.
When I wrote last week about the improbable problem of too much good TV, several of you noted that the problem is compounded by just how much of it gets concentrated on Sunday nights between 9 and 11. That's the night that HBO made its signature, and Showtime, AMC and others have followed. The new era of On Demand, streaming and multiple plays throughout the week makes this less of an issue for some, but if you like to talk about your favorite shows the day after they air — and if a lot of them air on the same night at the same time — it gets tricky.
AMC has already tried expanding beyond Sundays by moving its reality TV bloc to Thursday nights(*), and today the channel announced its first scripted move away from Sundays in quite some time, as the third season of "Hell on Wheels" will air on Saturday nights at 9, starting August 3.
(*) Which once upon a time was the home of "Mad Men," before AMC executives decided to move in on HBO's turf starting with the second season.
And so the 2013 MTV Movie Awards draws to a close. "The Avengers" and "Silver Linings Playbook" were the night's big winners, the result of a line-up of nominees that was uncharacteristically...not bad. But that doesn't mean there weren't some typically, well, BAD moments. There always are. With a few decent ones to balance it all out. So we've given the show a thorough review to come up with the best and worst of the 22nd annual MTV Movie Awards.
Check out our picks in the gallery below and also chalk up your vote for the BEST moment of the show in the embedded poll.