Latest Blog Posts

<p>Amy Poehler and Adam Scott in &quot;Parks and Recreation.&quot;</p>

Amy Poehler and Adam Scott in "Parks and Recreation."

Credit: NBC

Review: 'Parks and Recreation' - 'Pawnee Commons'

Leslie, Tom and Andy all struggle with the need to grow up

A review of tonight's "Parks and Recreation" coming up just as soon as I tour the country performing a spoken-word opera about pear-shaped women...

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"The Vampire Diaries"

 "The Vampire Diaries"

Credit: The CW

'Vampire Diaries' recap: 'My Brother's Keeper'

Elena is hot for Damon - and her brother Jeremy is out for blood

Of all the scripted dramas on television, "The Vampire Diaries" may churn through more pure plot than any other. More happens in one episode of this show than several weeks worth of, say, "Nashville" or, say, "Criminal Minds." It's never less than exciting, but man, don't blink. 

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<p>Grace (Daisy Betts)&nbsp;plays defense attorney on &quot;Last Resort.&quot;</p>

Grace (Daisy Betts) plays defense attorney on "Last Resort."

Credit: ABC

Review: 'Last Resort' - 'Big Chicken Dinner'

A Colorado crewman goes on trial for rape, and Sam works Booth

A quick review of tonight's "Last Resort" coming up just as soon as the backup singers transpose the lyric...

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<p>Diamond White of &quot;The X Factor&quot;</p>

Diamond White of "The X Factor"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' Top 8 - Two eliminations and Alicia Keys performs

But mostly? Burrito Josh returns to the 'X Factor' stage!

It's nearly time for Burrito Josh!

That's why we're all watching Thursday (November 29) night's "The X Factor," right? Burrito Josh!

He was like Vino Alan, only instead of tattoos everywhere, he had a huge beard! And instead of entertaining the troops for a living, he MADE BURRITOS!

Oh right. Alicia Keys is gonna perform also.

Oh right. We're sending home two musical acts.

OK, fine. Let's get down to business...

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<p>Rob Corddry, Keegan Michael Key, and Leslie Bibb all grapple with the supernatural in 'Hell Baby'</p>

Rob Corddry, Keegan Michael Key, and Leslie Bibb all grapple with the supernatural in 'Hell Baby'

Credit: Darko Entertainment

Sundance 2013 Midnight Line-up Including Demon Babies, Video Game Heroes, 'S-VHS' and more

Our first look at the announcement for the Sundance midnight selection seems promising

It does not seem possible that the next Sundance Film Festival is just over a month away now.

I mean, we're still waiting on screening dates for some of the Christmas movies, and now we're already poring over the Sundance announcements so we can figure out who's seeing what when Team HitFix descends on Park City once again for the start of the fest on January 17, 2013.

I know that I'm on midnights duty, as always, and in festival after festival, some of my favorite experiences come from the midnight line-ups.  It was at Sundance two years ago that I witnessed that amazing meltdown during a screening of Lucky McKee's "The Woman," and last year, I had my socks knocked off by "V/H/S," the anthology horror film.

Looking at the titles announced today, the first thing that jumps out is the follow-up to that anthology, and I had to laugh when I saw that they've titled it "S-VHS."  There will come a point when no one is alive who understands those two titles or remembers what they refer to, but for those of us who lived through the video revolution, that's immediately funny.  I'm excited to see the filmmakers behind "The Raid" involved in this one, and Eduardo Sanchez, who can be described as a pioneer of the found-footage genre, is also joining the roster.  Throw in Jason Eisener, the sociopath behind "Hobo With A Shotgun," and it sounds like it's going to be another huge kick.

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<p>AC/DC</p>

AC/DC

Credit: AP Photo

AC/DC's entire back catalog does so-so on iTunes debut with little promotion

Do the numbers compare to the Beatles' or Led Zeppelin's?

AC/DC were among the last holdouts from digital retail of their music, but they should have perhaps thought about making more fanfare about their entry.

On Nov. 19, the evolving rock act finally unleashed its back catalog on iTunes, as well as two exclusive box sets (let's just call them bulk sets now, people). According to Billboard, combined, the 25 albums sold 48,000 downloads. The total number of songs sold were 696,000.

The best-selling album was "Back in Black" at 15,000 and "Thunderstruck" was the single best-seller with 85,000. Which surprises me. I would have thought "You Shook Me All Night Long" (64,000) would have been the winner there.

When the Beatles lifted the cold, hard curtain on their catalog to iTunes in 2010, they sold a combined 119,000 albums and 1.42 million songs.

When Led Zeppelin finally bowed, it was 47,000 albums and 300,000 songs. That was 2007.

What changes is the times, and how much promotion and marketing the catalog entities put into it. Unless you saw the timely article on HitFix.com (OK, OK, OK, and some other outlets) and checked out the iTunes shop homepage, you probably weren't entirely aware that AC/DC was now selling through iTunes. Meanwhile, consumers couldn't avoid the Beatles' launch if they tried back in 2010; and in 2007, you were still stealing all your music anyway, and iTunes, Amazon and other retailers weren't exactly in their selling prime yet.

AC/DC, of course, is still practically omnipresent. "Back and Black" is widely licensed, the band had a best-selling exclusive album through Wal-Mart recently and they still are on that first page of the karaoke catalog. But they were competing for the attentions of shoppers during Black Friday week, and digital tracks aren't necessarily the first item on everyone's wish list, as opposed to the physical product.

Do you think the so-so sales could have been better if they joined the bandwagon sooner? Or if consumers were more aware? Or both?

 

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<p>Bruno Mars</p>

Bruno Mars

Credit: Atlantic

What are the top contenders for Grammy's song of the year?

Will tunes by Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars and Jason Mraz make the cut?

Which five tunes will receive coveted song of the year nods when the Grammy nominations are announced Dec. 5?

Song of the year, along with best new artist, record of the year, and album of the year, compose The Big Four. The entire Grammy voting body can vote on these awards and that can tend to skew the results in favor of the most mainstream entries.

The winner for song of the year and all the other awards will be announced at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards, airing Feb. 10 on CBS.

To be eligible a song must have been released between Oct. 1, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2012. People often, understandably, confuse record of the year with song of the year. Record of the year goes to the artist, producer, recording engineer and/or mixer, whereas song of the year’s sole recipient is the songwriter. Therefore, when thinking about the song of the year contenders, I usually think about how the song would sound if it were performed only on a piano or an acoustic guitar with no other embellishment.

In recent years, there’s been great overlap between the song of the year and record of the year nominees. For example, this February, four of the five nominees were the same in both categories. In 2011, three out of the five were the same.

My predictions, listed in alphabetical order, have some duplication, but I also included songs that I thought met my sniff test above but wouldn't necessarily be record of the year contenders.


“Call Me Maybe,” Carly Rae Jepsen:
This piece of pop culture led to so many imitators and most of them held up. That’s a sign of s strong, well constructed song. Yes, it’s simple, but it’s not simplistic.

“Gold On the Ceiling,”  The Black Keys:
  It may not be quite as catchy as “Tighten Up” but it’s still a retro, blues stomp that stands out from everything else on the radio.

“I Will Wait,” Mumford & Sons: Grammy favorites M & S craft songs that sound so good live, whether they are fully embellished or stripped down and “I Will Wait” is no exception. The banjo-led melody and the “I Will Wait” refrain create an instantly-memorable tune.

“I Won’t Give Up,” Jason Mraz: No, it’s not as jaunty as former nominee “I’m Yours,” but this plaintive love song has staying power at radio. It also one of those tunes that doesn’t seem to have that much going for it at first, but repeated listenings reveal a hidden depth.

“Locked Out Of Heaven,” Bruno Mars: The Grammys love him and this song, without the stuttering, high-gloss production, would work as a stirring ballad.

“Payphone,” Maroon 5 featuring Wiz Khalifa:  Sure, it may be a little lightweight as a song, but it is so catchy that it could make it as a song of the year contender. Plus, the chorus was one of this year’s mightiest earworms.

“Spectrum,” Florence & The Machine: The song, co-written by Florence Welch and Adele’s producer/co-writer Paul Epworth, is grand and sweeping, growing from a shudder to a howl. Nothing else sounded like it this year.

“Thinkin’ Bout You,” Frank Ocean:
  Beautiful, provocative and sexy. Never a bad combination.

“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” Taylor Swift:  Not only did Swift try something new with the alternative pop melody, but the lyrics are some of her cleverest, even if she does seem like she’s 15.

“We Take Care Of Our Own,” Bruce Springsteen: In this election year, this song stood out as a statement about our country. We may feel divided, but when the chips are down, such as with Super Storm Sandy, we’ve proved over and over again that we do, indeed, take care of our own. And Springsteen’s song, which is an appeal to our higher selves says it beautifully.

Which songs do you think will be nominated on Dec. 5? 

 

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<p>Sia</p>

Sia

Listen to Sia sing her own 'Diamonds,' which is now Rihanna's No. 1 hit

Who does it better?

Sia co-wrote the song "Diamonds," and now that track is a No. 1 single by Rihanna. If Sia had sung it, and farmed it to radio, it would not go No. 1.

But that's not to say the songwriter doesn't sing it better.

The Aussie performed "Diamonds" for an audience at the Norweigan-American Achievement Award ceremony (you heard me) last night, set to a simple and emotional backing track with help from Stargate. Her rasp and high notes fit the tune and "Diamonds" obviously sat right in her range.

Rihanna's version has her Bajan accent, a childish sound clap-trapping down on the chorus' vowels. I think coming from global superstar Rihanna the song is just fine. I get why it's a hit when it's coming from Sia, ho is better known at the moment for her guest spot and co-write on David Guetta's "Titanium." She, furthermore, co-wrote Ne-Yo's recent hit "Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself)."

"Diamonds" was produced by Stargate and frequent collaborator and "Diamonds" co-writer Benny Blanco. The latter told the Huffington Post of the song's fruition: "We're sitting there trying to make records, and we finally just said, "Let's just do something we like. Let's make a hip-hop record with some really cool chords on it." It didn't sound Rihanna at all... Then Sia heard the track and instantly gravitated towards it... she wrote this amazing song, and it just happened overnight."

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<p>&quot;Cloud Atlas&quot; is one of the 10 films left in the hunt for the Best Visual Effects Oscar.</p>

"Cloud Atlas" is one of the 10 films left in the hunt for the Best Visual Effects Oscar.

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

'Impossible' snubbed as Oscar's VFX race is cut to 10 films

'Life of Pi,' 'Cloud Atlas' and a trio of superhero movies all make the grade

What's that sweet smell of vanilla wafting in from the kitchen? Yep, it's bakeoff time already. Earlier today, the Academy announced the shortlist of 10 films still in the race for the Best Visual Effects Oscar. On January 3, the visual effects branch members will gather to view 10-minute excerpts from the shortlisted films before voting on the final five nominees.

None of the inclusions is as surprising as one particular omission. For its jaw-dropping re-creation of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, I had thought Juan Antonio Bayona's "The Impossible" a sure thing for a nomination, let alone a shortlist spot. However, despite nominating "Hereafter" in 2010 for a far less impressive tsunami sequence, the voters felt differently: the Spanish production failed to make a list dominated by expensive Hollywood product.

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<p>Jeff Zucker.</p>

Jeff Zucker.

Credit: AP

Can ex-NBC boss Jeff Zucker make CNN into must-see TV news?

The man responsible for super-sizing and 'The Jay Leno Show' takes over the cable news giant

The Jeff Zucker era at NBC was a never-ending fountain of both comedy (though not the successful kind) and tragedy, as the former "Today" producer inherited the aging but still strong foundation of Must-See TV and proceeded to turn the network into the biggest joke in the business. He never tried to hide his disdain for the entertainment business and tried to succeed not through developing great programs to take the torch from "Friends" and "ER," but rather through gimmicks like super-sizing or Jay Leno five nights a week in primetime. He once famously said that NBC's focus was now "managing for (profit) margins," and not ratings. I can't speak to the bottom line, but it was clear that Zucker and his various underlings weren't doing a hot job of getting ratings.

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<p>Michael Jackson</p>

Michael Jackson

Happy Birthday 'Thriller!': 5 Ways Michael Jackson's set changed everything

His masterpiece turns 30 on Nov. 30

Nov. 30th marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” the best selling studio album in the United States.

Not only was the album a blockbuster that forever sealed Jackson’s fate as one of the most legendary pop artists of all time, it changed the music industry in ways that are still being felt today, three decades later.

Here’s five ways that “Thriller” forever altered the pop landscape:

1. “Thriller” was the first blockbuster title to release seven songs as singles to radio. Until “Thriller,” labels usually put out three or four singles and then the artist went back into the studio to work on the next album. While seven singles is still a stretch for most artists, many superstars routinely go five or six singles deep on an album.

2. “Thriller” was the first major release to come out around the world simultaneously. Previously, release dates were often staggered to accommodate an act’s ability to be in the marketplace for promotional activities when the album came out.  Now, it’s the industry standard for a star with any kind of global reach to have his or her album out worldwide at the same time. In fact, now it’s common for the U.S. release date to move from its usual Tuesday standard release date to Monday to match the release date used by much of the rest of the world. Rihanna and Taylor Swift just did it with their chart toppers.

3. “Thriller” was one of the first albums to release simultaneous singles to different radio formats. After  “The Girl Is Mine” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, Epic put out “Billie Jean” to the pop stations and while it was still climbing the charts, pushed “Beat It” to rock radio.

4. “Billie Jean” became the first video by a black superstar artist to be played on MTV (the channel had minimally played videos from a handful of black artists, such as Joan Armatrading). Epic’s parent, CBS, claims they had to threaten to yank all its artists off a then-18 month-old MTV if the channel didn’t play Jackson’s video. MTV says they were always going to play “Billie Jean.” Regardless of which side you believe, Jackson busted through any color barrier at MTV, altering the cable outlet’s programming for good.

5. After breaking down walls with the “Billie Jean” video, MTV and Jackson were close allies. When it came time to debut the 14-minute video for “Thriller,” which MTV paid $1 million for exclusive airing rights, the music channel aired the clip at five designated times per day. It thereby created the first “destination viewing” for a video clip.

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<p>Christopher Nolan on the set of &quot;The&nbsp;Dark&nbsp;Knight&nbsp;Rises&quot;</p>

Christopher Nolan on the set of "The Dark Knight Rises"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Christopher Nolan talks Bond, Heath Ledger and his 'Dark Knight' trilogy at Lincoln Center

An intimate discussion focused on his seven-year journey with the Caped Crusader

NEW YORK -- "The Dark Knight Rises" director Christopher Nolan stopped by the Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater Wednesday night for one of the Film Society's "An Evening with…" events. Scott Foundas moderated the discussion, which didn't focus on Nolan's full career, but rather, his experience with the character of Batman across a trilogy of films that has changed the landscape of blockbuster filmmaking and, indeed, the awards race itself.

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