Latest Blog Posts

"Cheer Perfection"

 "Cheer Perfection"

Credit: TLC

Exclusive: The mama drama heats up on 'Cheer Perfection'

The tension mounts between Ann and Shannon

Guess what? Crazy, bickering women aren't strictly confined to "The Real Housewives" franchise! They also pop up a-plenty on "Cheer Perfection" (Wed. 10:00 p.m. ET, TLC). In this exclusive clip, the mama drama reaches new heights as Anna and Shannon get into it in the parking lot outside the gym. As they battle to defend their teenaged girls, they oddly sound a lot like five-year-olds. 

If you're not familiar with the show, head coach Alisha chooses the top five athletes from youth silver to return to Chicago so they might compete in duo and trio divisions. Furious that her daughter Torrann wasn’t selected as one of the ‘fab five,’ cheer mom Ann continues to lash out at the other moms in the gym. And since she has unresolved issues with Shannon, she continues to pick fights with her. 

Read Full Post
<p>Amanda Seyfried of &quot;Lovelace&quot;</p>

Amanda Seyfried of "Lovelace"

Credit: Sundance

Sundance Review: 'Lovelace' doesn't go deep enough despite Amanda Seyfried's efforts

Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's porn-fueled biopic premieres at Sundance
Under the name Linda Lovelace, Linda Boreman starred in "Deep Throat," the most successful hard-core sex film ever made, as well as a handful of less successful and less legitimate adult ventures. For a brief period in the 1970s, Lovelace was a public figure with a high degree of fame and notoriety.
In less than a decade, she had become an aggressive anti-porn advocate, writing multiple books about the evils of the industry that quite literally gave her her name. 
For years, Hollywood has tried to tell Lovelace's story, with numerous writers and directors and stars circling and abandoning different projects, perhaps recognizing the difficulties of adequately depicting a woman mostly famous for her aptitude with blowjobs and then her subsequent disgust at said aptitude.
It's a tale that finally had its premiere on Tuesday (January 22) night at the Sundance Film Festival with Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's "Lovelace."
Screenwriter Andy Bellin has solved many of the contradictions in Lovelace's life by ignoring them entirely. "Lovelace" is a flat and superficially arced film that relies on a little linear trickery to create the illusion of complexities that are sorely lacking. The resulting film is superficial and flat and wastes a transformative, gung-ho performance by leading lady Amanda Seyfried and an amusing supporting cast that seems to be appearing in four or five different movies.
When Stanley Kubrick's "Lolita" was released in 1962, it drummed up curiosity with the tagline "How did they ever make a movie of 'Lolita'?" I suspect a similar tactic could be used to generate initial interest in "Lovelace" before audiences discover the answer to the question "How did they ever make a movie about Linda Lovelace?" is "As blandly as possible."
More after the break...
Read Full Post
<p>&quot;Before Midnight&quot; is, for my money, the most likely awards player out of this year's Sundance.</p>

"Before Midnight" is, for my money, the most likely awards player out of this year's Sundance.

Credit: Sundance Film Festival

Sundance 2013: Which films might find Oscar traction next season?

Is there a 'Beasts'-level success in the mix?

PARK CITY - There are still five days left in this year's Sundance fest, but I'm out of here tomorrow, so it's time to start winding coverage down. And one thing worth considering is the potential awards season impact of this year's 35th annual.

Read Full Post
<p>Allison Brie and Nick Offerman play strong supporting roles in 'Toy's House,' a sharp and funny coming-of-age story at this year's Sundance Film Festival.</p>

Allison Brie and Nick Offerman play strong supporting roles in 'Toy's House,' a sharp and funny coming-of-age story at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Credit: Sundance Film Festival

Review: 'Toy's House' features a wickedly funny Nick Offerman and a great young cast

Jordan Vogt-Roberts makes a promising coming-of-age debut

PARK CITY - As we were waiting for a press and industry screening of "Toy's House" to start today, I said to a few friends I was sitting with, "This Sundance is distressingly light on Nick Offerman sightings so far."  When they informed me that he was part of the cast of "Toy's House," I took that to be a very good sign indeed, since I had no idea that was the case.  I knew nothing about the film when walking in today except that my friend Erik Davis saw it at an earlier screening and really enjoyed it.

As you can see from the photo at the top of this review, Nick Offerman and Allison Brie are both in the film, and they're certainly good in it.  It would be deceptive to say they are the stars of the film, though, because the real center of this picture, written by Chris Galletta and directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, is the unlikely summer friendship between Joe Toy (Nick Robinson), Patrick Keenan (Gabriel Basso), and the official winner of the "Oh my god have you seen this guy?" award for this year's Sundance Film Festival, Moises Arias, who plays Biaggio.  These three guys have just finished their freshman year of high school, and while it wasn't exactly a living hell, they don't seem to have made any real shift in their spot in the social pecking order.  Joe and Patrick are old friends, while Biaggio just sort of starts hanging around.  He decides these are his friends and he just joins them. Constantly. Whether he's been invited or not.

Read Full Post
<p>Juno Temple and Kathryn Hahn in Sundance dramatic competition entry &quot;Afternoon Delight.&quot;</p>

Juno Temple and Kathryn Hahn in Sundance dramatic competition entry "Afternoon Delight."

Review: Kathryn Hahn shines in flawed 'Afternoon Delight'

'Step Brothers' star saves an otherwise wrong-headed production

PARK CITY - There's a great idea for a movie inside Jill Soloway's "Afternoon Delight.  Unfortunately, the former "United States of Tara" writer and producer veered away from the more compelling subject matter in her LA-set drama for a titillating tease that just doesn't work. Thankfully, Kathryn Hahn's impressive dramatic performance pulls the picture through most of the rough patches.

Read Full Post
<p>Boyd (Walton Goggins)&nbsp;confronts Preacher Billy (Joseph Mazzello)&nbsp;on &quot;Justified.&quot;</p>

Boyd (Walton Goggins) confronts Preacher Billy (Joseph Mazzello) on "Justified."

Credit: FX

Review: 'Justified' - 'Truth and Consequences'

Raylan gives Lindsey's ex an ultimatum, while Boyd snakes Preacher Billy

A review of tonight's "Justified" coming up just as soon as I figure out a way to keep a gun in my undershorts...

Read Full Post
<p>Brian Van Holt and Ian Gomez in &quot;Cougar Town.&quot;</p>

Brian Van Holt and Ian Gomez in "Cougar Town."

Credit: TBS

Review: 'Cougar Town' - 'Between Two Worlds'

Bobby chooses a new name, and the gang identifies their super powers

A review of tonight's "Cougar Town" coming up just as soon as specialists weigh in on my STD results...

Read Full Post
<p>Matthias Schoenaerts and Armand Verdure in &quot;Rust and Bone.&quot;</p>

Matthias Schoenaerts and Armand Verdure in "Rust and Bone."

Credit: Sony Classics

'Amour,' 'Rust and Bone' divide spoils at France's Lumiere Awards

Jean-Louis Trintignant joins Emmanuelle Riva in the winners' circle

The Lumiere Awards -- in French film inustry terms, the Golden Globes to the Cesars' Oscars -- actually took place on Friday, but I missed the news in the Sundance crush. Anyway, better late than never, and you probably could have guessed anyway that Michael Haneke's "Amour" took the top prize, as well as Best Actor and Actress for Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva. It wasn't a sweep, however: Haneke was foiled by Jacques Audiard and "Rust and Bone" in both the Best Director and Best Screenplay categories. Meanwhile, I'm pleased to see a newcomer award for Ernst Umhauer, a crafty presence in one my top 10 of 2012, Francois Ozon's "In the House." Full list of winners after the jump and at The Circuit.

Read Full Post
<p>Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch bond in the unconventional new David Gordon Green film 'Prince Avalanche'</p>

Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch bond in the unconventional new David Gordon Green film 'Prince Avalanche'

Credit: Sundance Film Festival

Review: 'Prince Avalanche' strands Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch in the nowheres of Texas

David Gordon Green's latest may please fans of his earlier films

PARK CITY - I think it's safe to say that at this point, I have no idea what constitutes a David Gordon Green movie.  Is he the filmmaker who directed "Snow Angels" and "All The Real Girls" and "George Washington"?  Is he the comedy fan who made "Pineapple Express" and directed episodes of "Eastbound and Down" and who made "Your Highness"?  He's one of these guys who seem to have slipped loose from any sort of box that Hollywood tried to put him in, and so walking in to see something he's made these days, I've learned to leave expectations at the door and to meet the films on their own terms.

Set in the aftermath of some brutal Texas wildfires, "Prince Avalanche" is a small character driven film about two guys working a road repair crew through a seldom-used rural area.  Alvin is the older guy, the one who got the job in the first place, the one who knows how to live out in the Texas woods.  He's got a girlfriend back home, he's sending her money, he's using his time to read and paint and better himself.  Lance (Emile Hirsch) is the younger brother of Madison, the girl Alvin loves.  Lance doesn't know the first thing about camping or working or much of anything.  He's all impulse, a jittery little goofball.  Alvin finds himself frustrated with the kid most of the time, but he's making the effort because he loves Lance's sister and he wants to help her.

Read Full Post
<p>Emile Hirsch (left),&nbsp;David Gordon&nbsp;Green (center)&nbsp;and Paul&nbsp;Rudd (right)&nbsp;at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival</p>

Emile Hirsch (left), David Gordon Green (center) and Paul Rudd (right) at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival

Credit: Getty Images

David Gordon Green calls the economical 'Prince Avalanche' a conversation with himself

The director needed a palate cleanser after a number of bigger projects

PARK CITY - "I found a state park in Texas that had burnt in a forest fire, and before it started growing again, I wanted to film a movie in it." That is the simple thought process that led director David Gordon Green to make "Prince Avalance," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival Sunday afternoon. It was an area -- Bastrop State Park, southeast of Austin -- that he knew from hiking and the atmosphere spoke to him.

Read Full Post
<p>Mariel&nbsp;Hemingway in &quot;Running from&nbsp;Crazy&quot;</p>

Mariel Hemingway in "Running from Crazy"

Credit: Sundance Film Festival

Mariel Hemingway opens up about suicide, molestation and her family's curse in 'Running from Crazy'

Barbara Kopple's doc is as fascinating as you'd expect from a film on the subject

PARK CITY - It's been another good year for documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival from what I've heard. I, unfortunately, have missed most, though I did catch up with Alex Gibney's "We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks" today. In a word, excellent. But I'll cover that in another capsule post later on.

The only other doc I've been able to catch up with was actually one of my most anticipated films of the fest: Barbara Kopple's "Running from Crazy." An examination of the Hemingway family's unfortunate history of mental illness and suicide, the film is seen through the eyes of "the littlest Hemingway," actress and model Mariel.

It's a fascinating subject and Kopple is one of the great navigators of the form, having won two Oscars, for 1976's "Harlan County, USA" and 1991's "American Dream." Indeed, the latter is the only film to sweep Sundance's documentary award categories. So the stage was already set for this one to be captivating, and that it is.

Read Full Post


Credit: AP Photo

Does it matter if Beyonce was lip-syncing at the Presidential Inaugural?

Do we hold artists up to an impossible standard?

After most pundits and critics (me included) fell all over themselves praising Beyonce’s rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at Monday’s presidential inauguration, word comes today that she was lip-syncing, according to the Times of London. 

In the ever-evolving story, first U.S. Marine Band spokeswoman Kristen DuBois stated that Beyonce decided to lip-synch to a recording of her own voice at the last minute on Monday. We know Beyonce recorded a version because she sent an Instagram photo of herself reviewing the music the day before and footage of the recording leaked out by Monday morning.

After the attendant brouhaha, the Marine Corps (which accompanied Beyonce and were also, apparently, on tape) walked back the statement, as they say in government speak, releasing a statement that said they weren’t sure what had happened and that they, according to CNN, weren’t in a position  “to assess whether [Beyonce’s vocal performance] was live or pre-recorded.”

The Marine Corps statement went on to explain that the musical pieces are always pre-recorded to allow for extenuating circumstances. For example, four years ago, cellist Yo-Yo Ma played to a pre-recorded track because it was too cold for his fingers to do what he needed them to do to sound good.

But then, Jezebel linked to this version, which is a different feed than the one run by the networks, to indicate that she was singing live and the sound we hear is the echo, not her singing along to her own pre-recorded vocal.

The bigger question is does it matter?  It’s clearly her singing, so what’s the harm if it’s not live?

As we learned from Watergate and from practically every political scandal since, it isn’t so much the crime as the cover-up. When Beyonce pulled out one of her in-ear monitors mid-performance, whether intentional or not, that was a signal that she was singing live and needed to adjust the arrangement she was hearing in her ears in order to sing to the best of her ability. If she was lip-syncing all along, why make that kind of gesture?

The gold standard by which all other versions of the National Anthem are judged is Whitney Houston’s version at the 1992 Super Bowl.  Following her blockbuster performance came word that she too was lip-synching. It’s too hard a song to sing and there are too many variables when performing outside, especially in cold weather, to mess around with it.

After the initial uproar, and after the Super Bowl folks explained that they always pre-tape the National Anthem just in case, the furor died down and 20 years later, Houston’s version is now seen as the definitive.

Beyonce’s representative, whom we reached out to, has declined to comment to anyone. But as the story began trending today, a new theory emerged, which is that Beyonce was singing live to her own taped version and that is why she pulled out the ear piece.

I honestly don’t know if it matters. What I do know is that the pressure put on performers to be perfect live is unrealistic, especially in a setting such as Mondays: very, very cold temperatures that can play havoc with vocal chords and nerves that can trip the finest artist up.  When an artist does sing live and muffles it, such as Christina Aguilera did at the Super Bowl a few years ago, they never hear the end of it. When they lip-sync to their own voice so there won’t be any mistakes, they get criticized for that too.

The weird thing about Beyonce’s performance and part of what makes it so hard to tell, is that she starts off softly and a little wobbly, so it seems like if she was lip-syncing, they would have made her intro stronger. 

All I know is no one seems to know for sure. There’s a hot debate going on on a top music producer’s page on Facebook and even the studio cats can’t seem to decide for sure . (Both Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor’s reps have gone on the record stating that they were singing live).

The one thing I definitely know: Beyonce  is not the main story we should be taking away from yesterday’s festivities.

Do you think she was singing live? Does it matter?

Read Full Post