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"America's Got Talent"

 "America's Got Talent"

Credit: NBC

Hanging out under the radar at 'America's Got Talent'

Heidi Klum and Mel B make a mark as tough but fair judges

Last week, a friend of mine called me with an offer. She had "line jumper" passes to watch a daytime filming of "America's Got Talent" and wanted to know if I'd like to join her. How could I not? It was a chance to see new judges Mel B (Scary Spice) and Heidi Klum in action. The auditions were being held at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, where there's hardly a bad seat in the house. There would be comedians, dancers, singers and God only knows who else, ready to be booed or applauded as necessary.

More importantly, I've been to lots of television tapings, but in a professional capacity. I'd been herded by publicists, stuck in press rooms, and tasked with chasing after talent (and, in the case of covering "American Idol" years ago, the moms and dads of said talent). The experience of being an audience member was one I hadn't had, not in a true sense, for years. So why not?

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<p>On &quot;How I&nbsp;Met Your Mother,&quot;&nbsp;Barney goes gambling during his bachelor party.</p>

On "How I Met Your Mother," Barney goes gambling during his bachelor party.

Credit: CBS

Review: 'How I Met Your Mother' - 'The Bro Mitzvah'

The gang invites the wrong Karate Kid to Barney's bachelor party

A quick review of last night's "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I talk about my night with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young...

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<p>Kevin Bacon of &quot;The Following&quot;</p>

Kevin Bacon of "The Following"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The Following' Finale - 'Final Chapter'

After this finale, will you be saying "Nevermore"?
The best part of this episode -- "Final Chapter" -- is Claire frankly telling Joe that his writing sucks. I mean -- YEAH OF COURSE IT DOES! -- but considering that the writers of "The Following" are the ones writing Joe's novel, it's strangely self-critical to have another character point out that the plot, like, you know, totally reeks. Self-critical, but also hilarious. Joe raving to Claire that the lighthouse is A MOTIF and trying to defend his narrative linking of his character and Ryan's characters through the love triangle with Claire is quite funny, except when you realize that if even the writers of "The Following" think that their endgame is a silly, tired plot, then that means no one, anywhere finds this gory, horrific cliffhanger compelling in the least.
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HitFix's 25 Most Anticipated Films of Summer 2013: Who's no. 1?

HitFix's 25 Most Anticipated Films of Summer 2013: Who's no. 1?

Shirtless Ryan Gosling, tattooed Charlie Day, and the return of Celine and Jesse

The countdown is complete, and at least on our end of things, the summer is underway.

So far, members of the HitFix staff have seen at least half of the films from this countdown, including "Iron Man 3," "Star Trek Into Darkness," and "The Great Gatsby," and while we may be embargoed from reviewing them, we can tell you that our enthusiasm for the summer is unchanged. This is a great, diverse line-up of material, and it doesn't matter what your tastes are… something in here is going to appeal to you.

Maybe you're looking forward to seeing some new adventures for some familiar faces this summer. Nothing wrong with that, and Hollywood is happy to help with Robert Downey Jr. facing a very different take on The Mandarin, one of Iron Man's most famous rivals. There's also the follow-up to 2009's successful relaunch of "Star Trek," with JJ Abrams once again directing and playing games with some of the most iconic moments from the original series. Hugh Jackman's playing "The Wolverine" for the sixth time, we check in with a young Mike and Sully for "Monsters University," the anti-social lunatics of "Kick-Ass 2" dish up some more bad behavior, and Superman will finally punch a whole bunch of someones in "Man Of Steel."

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"Once Upon A Time"

 "Once Upon A Time"

Credit: ABC

12 things to expect from 'Once Upon A Time' and 'Wonderland'

Show creators Kitsis and Horowitz talk season finale and that taser

Last night I was going to post a piece about all of the things that were frustrating me about "Once Upon A Time" this season. What the hell was up with Tamara and Greg? Why did they kill magical beings with a taser, of all things? Why did they want to kill them anyway? And why don't Neal and Emma just get together already? But I didn't, knowing I (along with some other journalists) was going to have an informal breakfast with show creators Adam Horowitz and Ed Kitsis today. The good news is that some of the things that were bugging me will be resolved by the end of the season finale on May 12, and even better? They can't defend that stupid taser, either. 

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<p>Cover art to &quot;In an Aeroplane Over the Sea&quot;</p>

Cover art to "In an Aeroplane Over the Sea"

Credit: Merge

Neutral Milk Hotel announces reunion tour dates

'On Avery Island' lineup will head back to Athens, Ga. breeding ground

That Neutral Milk Hotel reunion tour you were hoping for? The one featuring more than just Jeff Mangum? Well, so far, let's just hope you live in the South or Asia.

For the first time since 1998, the indie rockers will be performing live, with five dates announce for Athens, Ga., Asheville, NC... Tokyo and Taipei, Taiwan. On the band's website, there is the promise of "more to come," with "more" probably indicating additional dates.

The lineup will be Mangum, Scott Spillane, Julian Koster and Jeremy Barnes, which is the crew that came together to support 1996's "On Avery Island"; they all performed on 1998's masterful "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea." Athens is the band's hometown.

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<p>Kristin Scott Thomas in &quot;Only God Forgives.&quot;</p>

Kristin Scott Thomas in "Only God Forgives."

Credit: TWC/RADiUs

Gosling and Scott Thomas whet our appetite in new clips for 'Only God Forgives'

Is the classy British star the secret weapon of Nicolas Winding Refn's latest?

Regular readers know how hard I fell for "Drive" at Cannes two years ago, so when the news broke that Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn were reuniting for a similarly hard-boiled thriller, I admit my usually well-behaved inner fanboy let out a rather loud yelp. Yes, "Only God Forgives" had me at hello -- and that was before they added one of my favorite working actors, Kristin Scott Thomas, to the mix. Gosling's sleek posturing, Refn's heightened action styling and Scott Thomas vamping it up as a black-hearted gangster mama? Did this film somehow get made in my subconscious?

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<p>Benicio Del Toro and Mathieu Amalric in &quot;Jimmy P.&quot;</p>

Benicio Del Toro and Mathieu Amalric in "Jimmy P."

Credit: Le Pacte

Cannes Check 2013: Arnaud Desplechin's 'Jimmy P.'

Continuing our cheat sheet for the Cannes Competition

(Welcome to Cannes Check, your annual guide through the 20 films in Competition at next month's Cannes Film Festival, which kicks off on May 15. Taking on a different selection every day, we'll be examining what they're about, who's involved and what their chances are of snagging an award from Steven Spielberg's jury. We're going through the list by director and in alphabetical order -- next up, Arnaud Desplechin with "Jimmy P.")

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 179

Dan and Alan talk 'Family Tools,' 'Good Wife,' 'Game of Thrones' and more


Happy Monday, Boys & Girls!
Time for a business-as-usual installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
We've got a busy show this week, with a couple new show renews, including "Family Tools" and "Maron," a check-in on "Game of Thrones" at midseason, a discussion of the "Good Wife" finale and, of course, "Mad Men" talk. 
Next week? More of the same!
Today's breakdown:
"Family Tools" (00:01:25 - 00:16:25)
"Maron" (00:16:30 - 00:27:55)
Listener Mail - "Hannibal" & "The Following" (00:28:20 - 00:39:15)
"Good Wife" (00:39:20 - 00:54:45)
"Game of Thrones" (00:54:50 - 01:11:05)
"Mad Men" (01:11:10 - 01:33:25)

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.

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Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 179: 'Family Tools,' 'Maron,' 'Game of Thrones' & more

Dan and Alan also review 'The Good Wife' finale and last night's 'Mad Men'


The network TV season is almost over, but this week's Firewall & Iceberg Podcast is a mix of finale and premiere talk, as we see how "The Good Wife" wrapped things up while looking at the debut of two new comedies, in addition to checking in on the midpoint of "Game of Thrones" season 3 and our usual "Mad Men" analysis.

The lineup:

"Family Tools" (00:01:25 - 00:16:25)
"Maron" (00:16:30 - 00:27:55)
Listener Mail - "Hannibal" & "The Following" (00:28:20 - 00:39:15)
"Good Wife" (00:39:20 - 00:54:45)
"Game of Thrones" (00:54:50 - 01:11:05)
"Mad Men" (01:11:10 - 01:33:25)

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, download the MP3 file or stream it on Dan's blog.

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

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<p>I just noticed that Charlie Day's got tattoos on both arms. I&nbsp;have a feeling 'Pacific Rim' is going to be loaded with tiny details worth revisiting.</p>

I just noticed that Charlie Day's got tattoos on both arms. I have a feeling 'Pacific Rim' is going to be loaded with tiny details worth revisiting.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Amazing WonderCon footage from 'Pacific Rim' posted by Guillermo Del Toro

The director seems impatient to show off what he's done

In the days leading up to WonderCon, I had a link to an online screener of the "Pacific Rim" footage that Warner Bros. sent over so I'd get a chance to see the footage before the event. They told me it would play a grand total of three times before the link would expire, and I called both of my sons into the office to watch it with me.

Not even two seconds passed between the three screenings of the footage. As soon as it ended, both of my kids started demanding that I restart it. Then again. And when the link expired, they looked at me like it was "Lord Of The Flies" and I was about to get hunted. They were rabid about what they saw, and I figured their near-chemical reaction was because they are seven and five years old respectively.

Then at WonderCon, I watched an entire auditorium of people have the exact same reaction to the footage, and seeing it on a giant screen, I was struck by how impressive it is, how primal the reaction is when you're watching giant monsters and giant robots throw down like this. That last image, with the jaeger walking down the street dragging an oil tanker like a baseball bat, is completely thug. It's just absurd, and when you're making a movie about giant monster and giant robots, absurd seems like the way to go.

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<p>LL Cool J's Authentic</p>

LL Cool J's Authentic

Album Review: LL Cool's 'Authentic' shows rapper's true colors

Eddie Van Halen, Brad Paisley and Chuck D help bring the noise

In the last few years, LL Cool J has gained fame around the world as Special Agent Sam Hanna on the hit TV show “NCIS: Los Angeles,” as well as host of the Grammy Awards, but now he’s back to his roots with the rapper’s first album in five years, out April 30.

While the title is “Authentic,” it could just as easily be called “LL Cool J and Friends,” given how many guests he has stop by. The album plays like an aural variety show as different artists ranging from Snoop Dogg to Eddie Van Halen, Seal, and Brad Paisley drop by on various tracks with varying results. The one constant is that LL Cool J sounds like he’s having the time of his life, whether he’s spitting rhythms on in-your-face tracks or seducing the ladies with a number of love songs on the set.

If there’s any doubt that LL Cool J may have gone soft since 2008’s “Exit 13,” he lays any such notion to rest with aggressive opener “Bath Salt,” which serves also as a salute to Salt N Pepa. That aggression plays out well on a number of other tracks, including the genre-busting “Whaddup,” featuring Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Blink-182’s Travis Barker, Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, and Z-Trip (Enjoy the Beastie Boy-sounding homage in the middle).

As “Whaddup” and heavy tracks such as “We’re The Greatest,” featuring Eddie Van Halen and Barker,  rap and rock have a natural alliance here (although on the latter, his line about wondering why the Pope resigned is a bit of clunker in an otherwise compelling track).

He also embraces alternative music on “Not Leaving Here Tonight” featuring Fitz & the Tantrums. Fitz’s pop smoothness plays nicely against LL Cool J’s gruff vocals and Eddie Van Halen’s tasty guitar solo (even if you’ll swear it’s Enrique Iglesias singing here).

But LL Cool J doesn’t stand for Ladies Love Cool J for nothing and he is eager to show his romantic powers on so-smooth-you’ll-melt tracks like “Between The Sheetz” featuring Mickey Shiloh. He and R&B legend Charlie Wilson get a serious groove going on “New Love,” and his old-school jam “Something About You” featuring Earth Wind & Fire; Wilson, and Melanie Thornton could make you blush.

Unlike their well-meaning, if ham fisted, collaboration on Paisley’s “Accidental Racist,” their duet here,  “Live For You,”  works much better and Paisley stretches vocally in a way that renders him almost unrecognizable.

Is this cutting edge? Not in the slightest, but that’s not the purpose here. Instead, LL Cool J has made an album that, —as odd as it may sound to call it this—is Adult Contemporary Rap meant to appeal to fans who have grown up with LL Cool J and are happy to have him back. They want his sure-fire raps, but are happy to wrap the rap around gentler melodies. While this may strike some as a little defanged, it never feels like he’s pushing too hard.

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