Latest Blog Posts

<p>Harry Connick Jr. served as mentor to the &quot;American Idol&quot;&nbsp;top 4 women.</p>

Harry Connick Jr. served as mentor to the "American Idol" top 4 women.

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' - Top 4, take two: Now and Then

What will Amber, Kree, Angie and Candice sing with the help of Harry Connick Jr.?

Hey all, as you can tell by the byline above, Dan's not around tonight. Due to unforeseen circumstances, tonight's "American Idol" recapping duties have been handed to me — who hasn't watched an episode of the show since early in the Scotty McCreery season, but who used to write about it regularly on my old blog — and what better time for me to jump into a new season, with a new judging panel, than with the top 4? My apologies; this is Dan's world and I'm just lamely filling in.

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Michael Raymond-James in "Once Upon A Time"

 Michael Raymond-James in "Once Upon A Time"

Credit: ABC

Michael Raymond-James talks 'Once Upon A Time' finale, Kerouac

The actor reveals who 'moved the furniture around in his brain'

As Neal Cassady on "Once Upon A Time," Michael Raymond-James is a charming ne'er-do-well turned caring dad who seems to be right on the verge of rekindling the flame with Emma (Jennifer Morrison), the mother of his son -- that is, until the evil Tamara makes her presence known in Storybrooke. However, romance is the least of anyone's worries for the next few weeks.

With the season finale looming on May 12, Neal (or at least his youthful self, better known by his given name of Baelfire) can expect some excitement; next week the storyline takes Bae from fairytale land to Victorian London, where he meets the Darlings (whom you might remember from a little story about Peter Pan).  I spoke briefly to Raymond-James about what's coming up in the coming weeks, whether his character's name suggests a future Kerouac crossover and whether he's seen the Tumblr site that's all about him.  [Also, fans of the show who'd like to see an extended preview of the next episode can find it here

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<p>Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at Austin Psych Fest</p>

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at Austin Psych Fest

Credit: Austin Psych Fest

Listen to the 10 best live bands from Austin Psych Fest

A review of the small Texas rock fest, with a look at BRMC, Moving Sidewalks and more

I think of music festivals in terms of high school, or summer camp. Lollapalooza, Coachella and the ilk may host tens and hundreds of thousands of attendees, of varying ages and actual interest in music, but some social mechanics are all still there: what you do when you're bored, the indiscriminant judgement of character on the most petty of outward appearances, the laws of attraction, clique strata and Art School Kids.

Austin Psych Fest, hosted this past weekend at Carson Creek Ranch in Austin's outskirts, hosted fewer than 5,000  people -- about the size of a large high school. Despite having three large stage areas with attendance hardly near cap, it felt snug yet inviting, with hammocks dangling from the trees, the Texas capitols' affinity for food trucks representing, and a satisfying range of what qualifies as "psych" music.

A round of rain hardly elevated festivities from "appropriately groovy" to "post-adolescent mud-hippie batsh*t" and the crowd stayed cool, even polite, and thoroughly committed to the music lineup of this sixth annual fest. (Though, this doesn't mean it didn't make for great people watching. The gorgeous Elevation Amphitheater, with its various tiers leading down to the green creek's edge, may as well have been called the Football Stadium Bleachers. The blissfully short bathroom lines were a veritable Fashion Avenue.)

But for programming with such a genre-leading tilt, the lineup was definitely above average, delivering  long-jams, space rock, stoner punk, experimental electronica, psychedelic blues, acid, prog and world. Immaculate Noise favorites like Black Angels, Os Mutantes and Goat introduced their excellent new albums with varying degrees of success (great, cheesy, trainwreck-in-slow-motion, respectively). The fest's variety is its strength, even though sticking largely to rock. The majestic tunics on Tinariwen contrasted with the goobery costumes of King Khan & BBQ Show; Man Or Astroman's hilarious banter was near-opposite of solid shoegazers No Joy, whose stage presence lived up to its name; Masaki Batoh's fascinating Brain Pulse Music improvisations were as affecting as Boris' well-practiced deep-space drones.

I wasn't wild on headliners Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's one-noting and reunited Moving Sidewalks' drummer artlessly plodding over rock hero Billy Gibbons. The phoniness of Island Records signees Deap Vally wrecked a perfectly good Sunday afternoon slot. And It doesn't cease to amaze me that Vietnam is still a band that gets booked. And of course, you could crack the jibe that there were five bands with the word "Black" in their name, one "Wolf" band, one "Deer" band, and several with death, the dead, the dying and drugs. But what was overwhelmingly good-feeling was the diversity in performers, especially with the heartening number of bands with women in them, averaging out better than your Coachellas and Bonnaroos.

Below I outline some of my favorite live performers from the 2013 Austin Psych Fest, or as I'll call it, Psych Fest High School. Included are Tinariwen, King Khan & BBQ Show, Acid Mothers Temple, Suuns, Man Or Astroman?, Spectrum, Indian Jewelry, The Saint James Society, Tjutjuna and Dead Skeletons.

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Watch: Janelle Monae and Erykah Badu come to life in new video for 'Q.U.E.E.N'
Credit: Bad Boy Records

Watch: Janelle Monae and Erykah Badu come to life in new video for 'Q.U.E.E.N'

Clip continues her black and white motif

Janelle Monae continues her black and white motif with the video for “Q.U.E.E.N.” featuring the Erykah Badu.

The  Alan Ferguson-directed video starts with Monae as a time-traveling rebel, who has reduced to an exhibit in a museum, as a relic. She was captured for launching Project Q.U.E.E.N., “a musical weapons program in the 21st century” that trafficked in, among other things, “emotion pictures.”  Badoula Oblongata, aka Badu, is similarly frozen in time.

A museum goer puts a vinyl version of “Q.U.E.E.N” on the coolest turntable you’ll ever see and Monae and her band and dancers come alive.

Badu and her poodle and her changing wigs show up for her part about four minutes in, but the clip belongs to Monae, who ends it solo on camera delivering her minute-long rap.

It is a gorgeously-shot, stylish video, shot against a white background, that focuses on Monae’s charisma. Few artists are as compelling to watch on screen.

"Q.U.E.E.N" is the first single from Monae's forthcoming album, "The Electric Lady." 

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<p>Let's be honest... if an audience is coming to a 'Transformers' movie, this is why.</p>

Let's be honest... if an audience is coming to a 'Transformers' movie, this is why.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Kelsey Grammer joins the human cast for Michael Bay's 'Transformers 4'

Does it really matter who's in the movie, though?

I'm curious… does anyone think it actually matters what human cast they put together for a "Transformers" movie at this point?

After all, even though I gave the last film a positive review, that was for the Bayhem and the hour-long siege in Chicago, which I still think is a dazzling extended bit of action filmmaking. Everything that is wrong with the "Transformers" series can be traced to every scene in the films that does not involve giant robots bashing the hell out of one another.

You can't blame them, really. The first film told a small-scale and somewhat charming variation on a "boy and his car" story, a coming-of-age piece that also happened to involve giant extraterrestrial shape-shifters. Each of the sequels has added an unnecessary sense of bloat to the proceedings, though, and even as they've gotten more bizarre, they've grossed more and more money. It's become harder to sit through long stretches of "character comedy" that is often filled with some of the strangest choices you'll ever see in a mainstream blockbuster.

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<p>P!nk</p>

P!nk

Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Pink makes it 3 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100

Icona Pop finally makes it into the Top 10

Pink’s “Just Give Me A Reason” makes it three weeks at No. 1. The tune, featuring fun.’s Nate Ruess, does the seemingly impossible by remaining in the top spot while not leading any of the three components that make up the chart: radio play, streaming songs, and digital sales.

That means that “Just Give Me A Reason” will probably be knocked off the  top next week by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “Can’t Hold Us,” which holds at No. 2 in the closest race between No. 1 and No. 2 in six months, according to Billboard.

Rihanna’s “Stay,” featuring Mikky Ekko, climbs 6-3, pushing Macklemore & Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” down to No. 4.  Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” rises 7-5.

The bottom half of the Top 10, Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man” drops 4-6, Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie,” featuring Jay-Z, rises 8-7, Pitbull’s “Feel This Moment,” featuring Christina Aguilera climbs 9-8. Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” featuring Charli XCX, which has been around for months now, finally makes it to the Top 10 as it climbs 13-9. Just as “I Love It” makes it into the elite Top 10, Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive,” returns to top the top 10, rising 12-10.

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<p>Wolverine pretty much is a swordfight all by himself, so the Silver Samurai is almost redundant here.</p>

Wolverine pretty much is a swordfight all by himself, so the Silver Samurai is almost redundant here.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Singer tweets Jackman sneak for 'X-Men' as 'Wolverine' CinemaCon trailer leaks

Two different looks ahead at Fox's busiest mutant in action

At this point, I'll bet even Hugh Jackman is wondering just how much Wolverine is too much Wolverine.

Right now, they aren't even done with "The Wolverine," the Japan-set stand-alone film by James Mangold that's coming out in July, and Hugh Jackman is already doing wardrobe tests for the about-to-start-shooting "X-Men: Days Of Future Past."

Bryan Singer, returning to the world of "X-Men" for the first time since he left Fox in turmoil so he could go direct "Superman Returns," seems to be enjoying every single part of the pre-production process, and he's being fairly open with imagery via his Twitter account. I ran a photo last week that he sent out from Storm's wardrobe test, showing off Halle Berry's new look, and yesterday, he had a little fun with the way fandom is freaking out over every little thing he releases by putting out the first image of Wolverine from "DOFP."

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<p>Julia Louis-Dreyfus in &quot;Veep.&quot;</p>

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in "Veep."

Credit: HBO

HBO renews 'Veep' for season 3

Julia Louis-Dreyfus political comedy in midst of second season right now

HBO has renewed "Veep" for a third season. The political comedy, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and created by Armando Iannucci, is three episodes into its second season, airing Sundays at 10 after "Game of Thrones."

I never got a chance to do an advance review of "Veep" season 2, though Fienberg and I discussed it at length on the podcast. I had liked but not loved the first season, and even though Iannucci made several obvious and welcome tweaks for season 2 — making Selina more relevant to the presidential administration, bringing in ace guest stars like Gary Cole and Kevin Dunn — I actually found myself laughing less frequently at the new episodes than the old ones. (And Cole has, so far, been a total bust, which didn't seem possible when I heard he'd be appearing this year.) But I'm glad it's continuing, if only because I enjoy hearing these fine actors wrap their tongues around Iannucci's clever, creatively profane dialogue.

I know some other critics feel this season's been stronger than the first, so I'm curious what all of you who are watching think. Is "Veep" better, worse, or the same as it was last year? 

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<p>&quot;The Way&nbsp;Way&nbsp;Back&quot; will close out the fest.</p>

"The Way Way Back" will close out the fest.

Credit: Fox Searchlight

LA film fest announces 2013 line-up: 'Fruitvale Station,' 'Only God Forgives,' 'Way, Way Back'

Sundance holdovers from 'Ain't Them Bodies Saints' to 'Crystal Fairy' will screen

Film Independent has revealed the line-up for this year's Los Angeles Film Festival, cherry-picking this and that from Sundance and Cannes with a few other things thrown in here and there.

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Gary Carr

 Gary Carr

'Downton Abbey' casts the show's first black character

The actor will play jazz singer Jack Ross

Back in March we first had word that "Downton Abbey" was looking for an actor to play the show's first black character, a "charming and charismatic" jazz singer named Jack Ross. Now comes word from Deadline.com about who got the role. 

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<p>Ke$ha</p>

Ke$ha

Catching up with 'Ke$ha: My Crazy Beautiful Life'

She finally gets laid, while we get bored out of our skull

I missed the first episode of MTV's  “Ke$ha: My Crazy Beautiful Life” last week but if the second episode, which aired Tuesday night is any indication, I missed nothing.

As we catch up with Ke$ha in this six-episode “documentary” culled from footage shot by her brother Lagan Sebert over a two-year period,  it’s June 2011. This immediately begs the question, “Why on earth would we care about seeing footage that’s two years old?”

She’s headed to play at Glastonbury and she’s lost her voice, but even more trouble looms as one of her two tour buses breaks down en route to the British festival. The “essential” personnel from bus 2 hop on Ke$ha’s bus, while others, like her mother, are apparently left by the roadside to fend for themselves. Oh, the inhumanity!

But it gets worse! The Glastonbury field is so muddy, there’s no way to load in all her production, so Ke$ha has to scale back her show. Her peppy guitarist Max tries to get her to cheer up and it’s a good thing that Ke$ha is resting her voice and not speaking, because otherwise she’d probably fire him on the spot.

“My voice is everything,” she declares, as we go into a montage of her on stage at Glastonbury (interestingly, we never see more than a few seconds of her actually performing), and yet she seemingly relies on every trick in the book on stage to distract people from her vocals.

The crowds love her,  but she’s bummed because she hasn’t made out with any hot guys yet, so she resorts to watching “penis movies.”  She’s lamenting her months-long dry spell, as she declares she wants “a beard.” Hmmm, that clearly means something different in Ke$ha’s world than what it means to the rest of us.

And so it goes for 30 minutes, with lots of commercials thrown in every four or five minutes because  MTV knows it’s hard to watch more than a few minutes of this drivel at a time. Lagan may have had 24-hour access to his sister, but he doesn’t seem to know what to actually do with that and how to create any kind of story arc out of the footage.

Ten minutes in, I’m wondering what Ke$ha had to promise to MTV to get the cable outlet to air this. This feels like someone’s very boring, bad home movies. She’s touring Europe and there’s not even any pretty scenery to distract us. There’s no way this series will help her sell records and there’s certainly no way it’s going to get good ratings for MTV.

“In 2009 The New York Times names Beirut the top place to visit,” her manager tells Ke$ha, as they sit on Ke$ha’s bed in the Lebanese capital. It’s almost impossible to calculate the cultural divide between Ke$ha and the New York Times.  There seems to be a great deal of security for Ke$ha who worries that she’s driving down the same road where the Lebanese president was assassinated a few years ago. It’s this fake sense of drama—trust me she’s in no real danger—that makes the show even more asinine. Not to mention the fact that she goes from worrying about getting kidnapped back to moaning about not having a boyfriend in about 30 seconds flat.

Her European tour over,  she returns triumphant to Los Angeles. Next thing we know she’s at “Conan” complaining to fellow guest Pauly Shore (doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know) that she can’t get laid and that her mom, who is along for the ride for no discernible reason other than to irritate her daughter, is a horrible wingman. Shore looks like he’s torn between suggesting that he help Ke$ha through her rough patch and knowing he’s going to get shot down if he even hints at that. (Conan O'Brien wisely isn't seen on camera at all)

In a move that can’t end well, Ke$ha picks up one of her crew members and hangs out with him and eventually gets laid...and no one seems to think it’s weird and that this guy couldn’t say no since she’s his boss. She nicknames him “Baby Spoon” for reasons that I can’t quite figure out because she’s explaining it while riding in a car to someone we don’t see and the sound is so bad. Plus, by now I don’t care if she calls him “Grown Up Spork.”

The show is  frenetic and horribly edited and, worst of all, boring. It’s not even that Ke$ha is unlikeable, because she isn't, she's just nothing; an endlessly yammering voice. I wish that she were unlikeable; that would make for more interesting television. She’s just there and the camera never stops long enough to focus on any of her thoughts for more than a nano-second. Oh! Ke$ha has lost her voice! Oh! Ke$ha’s bus breaks down. Oh! Ke$ha wants to get laid! Oh! Ke$ha picks up a boy in her crew! Oh! Get me out of here.

Ke$ha’s second full-length album, “Warrior,” hasn’t come near the success of first album “Animal,” and maybe the series was seen as a way to goose sales, but all this will do is get people to change the channel.  I’ve dropped in on “Ke$ha” and I won’t be back. If you decide to watch the rest of the series, you’re on your own.

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<p>Steven Soderbergh.</p>

Steven Soderbergh.

Credit: AP Photo/Steffi Loos

Soderbergh on the state of the industry, and why 'cinema is shrinking'

Oscar-winning director gave a keynote address at the San Francisco Film Fest

I'm hardly alone in this, but I continue to resist the notion that Steven Soderbergh's professed retirement from feature filmmaking is permanent -- not least because he's been on such vigorous creative form lately. "Magic Mike," of course, cracked my Top 10 of 2012 list, while his lithely nasty Hitchcockian thriller "Side Effects" is on course to be one of my favorite mainstream genre entertainments of this year -- it would be an enormous pity for him to bow out just as he seems to have perfected the rarely performed trick of the counter-intuitive audience movie.

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