Latest Blog Posts

<p>Jessica Chastain in a scene from Kathryn Bigelow's &quot;Zero Dark Thirty.&quot;</p>

Jessica Chastain in a scene from Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty."

Credit: Sony Pictures

Sony's Amy Pascal defends 'Zero Dark Thirty' after Academy member's attack

Film 'does not advocate torture'

Sony Pictures chairwoman Amy Pascal appears to have had enough of the accusations that "Zero Dark Thirty" advocates torture. Likely prompted by Academy member David Clennon's assertion "I will not be voting for Zero Dark Thirty - in any Academy Awards category" from a post on Truth-Out.org, Pascal released a statement with her opinion on the matter.

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<p>Uma Thurman in &quot;Pulp Fiction.&quot;</p>

Uma Thurman in "Pulp Fiction."

Credit: Miramax Films

Haneke's 'Amour' joins exclusive club of Palme d'Or winners turned Best Picture nominees

The film joins 15 others to have transitioned from the Croisette to Oscar

As well as being gratifying in and of itself, Thursday's Best Picture Oscar nomination for Michael Haneke's "Amour" is immensely pleasing to Oscar stat geeks, who can count up the many ways in which it breaks form in the top category: the first foreign-language nominee since 2006's "Letters from Iwo Jima," the first non-US foreign-language nominee since 2000's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," the first French-language nominee since 1969's "Z," only the ninth foreign-language nominee overall, etc, etc.

But the stat we've picked up on today relates back to the start of its awards journey, where it won arguably the loftiest film award of all: the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. It scarcely needs to be stated that Cannes and the Oscars occupy very different worlds, so their respective favorites rarely overlap -- but "Amour" now becomes only the 16th Palme d'Or winner to convert that prestige into a Best Picture nomination. (Okay, not strictly, given that a few films on the list actually went to Cannes after Oscar night, but the overlap is the point.)

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<p>The cover of Chris Tomlin's &quot;Burning Lights&quot;</p>

The cover of Chris Tomlin's "Burning Lights"

Big changes at the top of the Billboard 200 with Chris Tomlin in the lead

What happens to Taylor Swift and 'Les Mis?'

The holidays are officially over. If you had any doubt, just look at the numbers projected for next week’s Top 10 on the Billboard 200. Gone are sales numbers in the six figures. Back are lesser-act acts who waited until January to drop new titles rather than compete with superstars.

Christian Contemporary artist Chris Tomlin’s “Burning Lights” looks good for  a No. 1 debut, with sales of up to 75,000. Close behind him are “Notes from the Underground” from Hollywood Undead at No. 2 and “Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones” from Black Veil Brides” at No. 3.

After the trio of debuts, we get back to some returning names. This week’s No. 1, the soundtrack to “Les Miserables,” likely drops to No. 4, although it and Taylor Swift’s “Red” are locked in a race that’s too close to call for the No. 4 and No. 5 spot right now. Both should sell between 45,000 and 50,000.

Vying for No. 6 are Bruno Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox” and the soundtrack to “Pitch Perfect,” both pegged for 35,000-40,000.

It’s a two-way race for No. 8 as well, as the new set from Dropkick Murphys, “Signed and Sealed in Blood”  and The Lumineers’ self-titled set are neck and neck with sales between 30,000 and 35,000 for each.

Likely coming in at No. 10 is Pink’s “The Truth About Love,” which will sell between 27,000 and 30,000, according to Hits Daily Double.
 

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<p>Josh Brolin was in an unusually outgoing mood when we sat down to talk about his work in this weekend's new release, 'Gangster Squad'</p>

Josh Brolin was in an unusually outgoing mood when we sat down to talk about his work in this weekend's new release, 'Gangster Squad'

Credit: HitFix

Josh Brolin talks about throwing punches with Sean Penn in 'Gangster Squad'

Plus he threatens to report me to Penn over a comment

One of the most distinct memories I have involving Josh Brolin took place on the set of "Jonah Hex," where we interviewed him standing outside on a muggy New Orleans night, a few yards away from a swamp where there were alligators visibly checking us out.  Brolin's extensive prosthetic work in the film made it nearly impossible to understand him when he spoke, but he seemed delighted by the way it affected him.

Brolin strikes me as the kind of guy who loves to immerse himself in a role, losing himself in the little details.  I think the way he has evolved as a performer has been impressive, and it would have been impossible to guess back in the early days of "The Goonies" and "Thrashin'" that he would evolve into one of our most interesting leading men.  As I mentioned to him at the end of this interview, I value his presence in movies precisely because of the mileage that is so evident on him these days.  This is a guy who has lived, and who has built up his fair share of scar tissue.

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Peter and Walter in this week's "Fringe".

Peter and Walter in this week's "Fringe".

Credit: FOX

'Fringe' Recap - 'This Boy Must Live'

The table is set for the series finale.

 

If one cannot remember a life lived, does that life matter at all?
 
That’s not merely a fundamental philosophical problem that has haunted humanity for thousands of years. It’s also the core question for the last few seasons of “Fringe”. The schism that formed in the aftermath of Peter stepping into the Doomsday Device cleaved fandom in two. Some argued that the characters that developed in the new reality were closely enough aligned with the original iterations that the discrepancies actually gave depth to the show’s analysis of human behavior. Others felt their connections to those onscreen severed, with all new work needed to find a way to emotionally bond with these new versions. While I fall on the side of the latter group, neither side is “right” or “wrong”. There are never such clearly shaded sides when it comes to questions such as the ones that “Fringe”, at its best, puts forth.
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<p>More of this but in 3D?&nbsp; Bring it on, Summer 2014.</p>

More of this but in 3D?  Bring it on, Summer 2014.

Credit: Universal Pictures

'Jurassic Park 4' sets a 2014 release date but still has no director

Someone's got their work cut out for them

It has always been the goal of Universal and Amblin' to continue making "Jurassic Park" movies, and part of me wishes they would have greenlit the insane version that John Sayles and William Monahan wrote a few years back about a commando team of genetically-modified dinosaur/human hybrid creatures who were sent in to destroy South American drug cartels.

Alas, we have lost our opportunity to witness that particular strain of madness, and instead, there's another version that they've been developing, with Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver scripting it.  That's one of those totally logical moves considering "Rise Of The Planet of The Apes" managed to salvage a property that Fox had been frustrated by for decades.

Universal seems confident that the latest draft of the script cracked whatever problems they've been having, because they just set a release date for the film of June 13, 2014.

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<p>Britney Spears</p>

Britney Spears

Credit: AP Photo

Confirmed: Britney Spears leaves 'X Factor' - What's next?

Is Las Vegas the next stop?

Britney Spears is officially out at “The X Factor,” y’all. This is, of course, not news to anyone who had followed the back and forth over the past few weeks: First came the rumors that Spears was fired, then came word that she was quitting.

Regardless of the how it went down, the result is the same: Spears can get back to her music. And signs are that she’s ready to double down. There are lots of rumors floating around about what's coming next, but our hope is that, as she's suggested, she will really focus on the music.  The last three albums have provided hits, but it's time for Spears to push a little bit. 

Whether it was her attempt to spin things her way or the reality or both, she already laid the foundation for folks last week when she tweeted that she was “really focused on my music right now.” 

Among the collaborators she’s working with on for her eighth studio album  are will.i.am, Nate “Danja” Hills, and Hit-Boy. She’s worked with will.i.am and Danja before, but this marks her first stint with Hit-Boy, who’s on a role fresh from his work with Kanye West and Jay-Z on “Ni***s in Paris” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Backseat Freestyle.”  As you know, she and will.i.am are in the Top 10 right know on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Scream and Shout.”

Just as telling as her departure from “The X Factor” is Thursday’s news that she’s switched booking agencies, from William Morris Endeavor to Creative Artists Agency When an artist makes such a move, it can portend some shift, in that they want to get into a new area or expand their existing domain (Or in this case, she could just want a clean start after “The X Factor.) UPDATE:  Word just came down of Spears' split with fiance Jason Trawick, who had been an agent at WME. He'd left the agency more than a year ago, but that could the reason for the shift to CAA).

While there’s no word yet on a new Spears tour, she remains a touring machine. Her last tour in 2011, to support latest album “Femme Fatale,” grossed $37 million from 39 shows, according to Billboard Boxscore.
In her statement today confirming her exit, Spears reiterated the desire to focus on her music and that she missed touring. “I can’t wait to get back out there and do what I love most,” she says.

Is one of the possibilities a Las Vegas residency? TMZ reports she is in “serious talks” to ink a deal with one of the Caesars properties.

As Elton John and other acts have proved, an act can commit to a certain number of dates in Las Vegas per year and still have a very healthy touring slate around the rest of the country and world. Plus, if she’s looking for a quick way to replace the $15 million she reportedly received from “The X Factor,” look no further.

Before we’ve got her commuting from LA to LV, let’s have her focus on making good, solid music.  As I mentioned, "Blackout," "Circus" and "Femme Fatale"—the three albums since her 2007 breakdown— have all had strong moments, but haven’t been consistent.

What would happen if she really focused on digging deep and making an album that tried something new instead of just some new beats? I’m not suggesting she go acoustic or get too serious, but hearing basically the same sexual themes over slightly different beats and lyrics blaring out of the radio is getting tiresome. What's the last Spears hit  you could actually sing along to?   Maybe it’s time to focus a little more on the substance since it would appear she has some time on her hands.
 

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Listen: Destiny's Child's new song 'Nuclear' drops

Listen: Destiny's Child's new song 'Nuclear' drops

Pharrell produced this airy track

The term "nuclear" has a heaviness about it, but Destiny's Child's new song of the same name feels very much in the air.

As previously reported, the trio reunited for a fresh track for the first time in eight years, to pack an extra punch in with the release of their "Love Songs" hits compilation. "Nuclear" was produced by Pharrell Williams -- who is also helping on Beyonce's next solo album -- and the sound overall dips back into an early '90s R&B vibe, powered by high volts of tambourine.

It's a sweet and easy-listening tune, as Beyonce takes those runs in the refrain and Michelle Williams getting an even more angelic verse. It's not Song Of The Year by any stretch, due to lethargy, but it's pleasant hearing the Children back together.

According to Mashable (that's right: Mashable), Pharrell co-wrote "Nuclear" with Michelle, James Fauntleroy and Lonny Bereal.

Destiny's Child is on slate to take the stage with Beyonce during her solo career-driven halftime show at the Super Bowl, and they will tackle "Nuclear."

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<p>Emmanuelle Riva, Michael Haneke (center)&nbsp;and Jean-Louis Trintignant on the set of &quot;Amour&quot;</p>

Emmanuelle Riva, Michael Haneke (center) and Jean-Louis Trintignant on the set of "Amour"

Credit: Sony Classics

Nine double-dipping Oscar nominees have multiple shots on goal this year

And George Clooney broke a record, by the way

Another year, another set of Oscar nominees. And while all are lucky to be in the mix, some are twice as lucky. There are always a few double dippers each year, individuals recognized in multiple categories or, sometimes, twice in the same category. So who's in the club this time around?

Let's start with "Amour" director Michael Haneke, because you could actually make a case for him being a triple nominee this year. He was recognized individually in the Best Director and Best Original Screenplay categories, but he will also be the one to accept the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film should "Amour" wind up victorious there. Alas, the nomination "officially" goes to the film's country of origin, Austria in this case, but the fact is Haneke is in a position to walk away with three trophies next month. No one else can say that this year.

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<p>Taylor Swift</p>

Taylor Swift

Credit: AP Photo

Taylor Swift heads back into the studio

Does that mean 'Trouble' for One Direction's Harry Styles?

Give Taylor Swift credit for poking fun at her own reputation. The singer tweeted Thursday night that she’s returned to the recording studio and then added a warning...

“Back in the studio. Uh oh...,” Taylor tweeted.  Such news should have One Direction’s Harry Styles and Conor Kennedy quaking in their boots since they are her two latest paramours-- or whatever we want to call the rotating list of boys she’s churning through.

[More after the jump...]

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Oscar Talk: Ep. 102 -- Oscar nominations and the BFCA Critics' Choice Movie Awards

Oscar Talk: Ep. 102 -- Oscar nominations and the BFCA Critics' Choice Movie Awards

First blush predicts on what will win as well

Welcome to Oscar Talk.

In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.

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<p>Antony Starr in &quot;Banshee.&quot;</p>

Antony Starr in "Banshee."

Credit: Cinemax

Review: Cinemax takes a step back with 'Banshee'

A crook impersonates a cop in a low-wattage pulp thriller

I like to say of "Strike Back" that the show is better than it needs to be. Given the Cinemax brand, all it really had to offer was guns and breasts and it was going to get some kind of audience, but the show goes a lot deeper than that, and is executed on a much higher level than I might have expected. And though the channel's second series, "Hunted," had some plotting issues, it also had ambition and atmosphere and strong performances.

"Banshee," on the other hand, feels exactly like what I pictured when I first heard that Cinemax was getting into the scripted drama game — and not just because its main character leaves prison and has sex with a naked woman within the pilot's first 90 seconds. It's pulp fiction, but hampered by its leading man's limitations and some odd choices along the way.

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