Latest Blog Posts

<p>Matthew Rhys and Keri Rusell in &quot;The Americans.&quot;</p>

Matthew Rhys and Keri Rusell in "The Americans."

Credit: FX

Review: 'The Americans' - 'In Control'

Both sides scramble when President Reagan is shot

I'm on vacation this week, but I got to see tonight's "The Americans" in advance, and I have a few quick thoughts coming up just as soon as I dig up a buried weapons cache...

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'Harlem Shake' zooms to the top of the Billboard Hot 100
Credit: Mad Decent

'Harlem Shake' zooms to the top of the Billboard Hot 100

A change in methodology upends the weekly chart

A change in chart methodology leads to viral sensation “Harlem Shake” by Baauer  catapulting to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Starting this week, YouTube streaming data will be included in the media tallied for the Billboard Hot 100, joining radio play, other social steaming media, and digital sales (imagine how long “Gangnam Style” would have been at No. 1 if YouTube had been added only a few months ago!).

“Harlem Shake” is the 21st song in the 55-year history of the chart to debut at No. 1, according to Billboard.

“Shake” knocks Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “Thrift Shop,” which topped the chart for four weeks, down to No. 2.  Rihanna’s  “Stay, featuring Mikky Ekko,” charges to No. 3 from No. 57, propelled by the new methodology and her Grammy performance. “Stay” is Rihanna’s 24th top 10 hit. She surpasses both Whitney Houston and the Rolling Stones, who had 23 each. and Britney Spears’ “Scream & Shout” falls 3-4, while Taylor Swift’s “I Knew Your Were Trouble” stays at No. 5.

The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” slides 4-6 and Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven”  falls to earth, slipping 2-7. But it’s not all bad news for Mars, as his new single, “When I Was Your Man” inches 9-8.

Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie,” featuring Jay-Z moves 8-9 and Drake’s “Started From the Bottom” makes it way toward the top as it flies 63-10.

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<p>It's not fair to judge a screen cap from a streaming presentation of a live-event, but it's safe to say today's 'Watch Dogs' demo was one of the highlights of today's PS4 demonstration.</p>

It's not fair to judge a screen cap from a streaming presentation of a live-event, but it's safe to say today's 'Watch Dogs' demo was one of the highlights of today's PS4 demonstration.

Credit: Playstation

Sony puts their best foot forward at the New York debut of the Playstation 4

We look at the presentation and the promise of this next-gen console

"Social" seems to be the biggest buzzword for the Playstation 4, as it is for pretty much any device that connects in any way to the Internet at this point.

Sony held a major press event tonight in New York to officially premiere the next generation console as well as some of the launch titles that will be available for it.  The first one that flabbergasted me was "Driveclub," which is basically a virtual reality racing game that is based around team-based racing, and the racing footage they showed was so remarkable, so close to photo-real, that it really does feel like a jump forward, something I haven't felt from gaming in a while.  It's been incremental steps for the last few years, and that's fine.  I understand that we live in an age of technical marvels, and I don't take for granted how spectacular something like "Sleeping Dogs," which I just finished playing is, even if gamers in general greeted it with a shrug as a knock-off of "Grand Theft Auto."  That may be true, but it's still eye-popping and the game play is mind-blowing considering I remember when "Spy Hunter" was the state of the art.

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<p>Angela Miller of &quot;American Idol&quot;</p>

Angela Miller of "American Idol"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' Season 12 - Sudden Death, Part 1 - 10 Girls Perform

This season's semifinal round takes on a whole new form in Las Vegas

Wednesday (Feb. 20) night's "American Idol" represents an all-new format the long-running series. And, as a result, I don't actually have a clue what's coming tonight. Depending on which press release you read, this is either the "Semifinals" or the "Sudden Death Round." It appears that 10 people -- Girls if you trust FOX's press site, but Boys if you trust my Time-Warner cable listings -- will be singing and five will be going home. How were the groups split? What happens if one group or one gender ends up much better than the other? 

I have no idea. 

So click through and follow along...

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<p>How to destroy angels_</p>

How to destroy angels_

Trent Reznor's How to destroy angels__ announce tour, stream full album

'Welcome oblivion' out March 5: Check out a video

Trent Reznor's group How to destroy angels__, in preparation for the March 5 release of its debut full-length album 'Welcom oblivion' has been rolling out some promotional activity behind the release, namely a tour and an official stream of the new album.

And "rolling out," that means in pieces. Today the band announced tour dates, and tour cities, but not venues, which they'll be revealing tomorrow, adding mysteriously: "These are the only dates we have scheduled right now. To preemptively answer the 'when are you coming to my city/country??' questions: We just don’t know. Right now, the dates above are the only dates. There are some other announcements coming soon that will impact this as well…"

Maybe "other announcements" means there's more festival appearances, since this week seems to be the week of all festival announcements. Or maybe Nine Inch Nails is putting out a covers set of How To Destroy Angels songs. Who knows.

Meanwhile, you can sample "Welcome oblivion" in its entirety via Pitchfork. It includes the cuts from the " Check out the creepy, dark music video for "How Long" by Shynola, the London art collective which, on the flip side, was behind the totally amazing Coldplay vid for "Strawberry Swing."

Here are the How to destroy angels__ tour dates, to be updated when venues arrive:

4.12 indio, ca [coachella]
4.13 las vegas, nv
4.17 monterey, ca
4.18 san francisco, ca
4.19 indo, ca [coachella]
4.21 denver, co
4.23 chicago, il
4.25 toronto, on
4.27 boston, ma
4.28 montclair, nj
4.29 new york, ny

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<p>Billy Corgan</p>

Billy Corgan

Credit: AP Photo

Watch Billy Corgan's local furniture commercial with his team of wrestlers

You read that right

Billy Corgan, when he's not playing and recording with Smashing Pumpkins, runs a pro wrestling promotions company called Resistance Pro Wrestling. Its members and Corgan himself star in a commercial for the Walter E. Smithe furniture store, which is Chicago-based.

For the record, if I was famous, I'd do this kind of thing all the time.

Read my interview with Corgan on wrestling, the Pumpkins and fame here. It could explain nothing. It could explain everything.

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<p>Clive Davis and Kelly Clarkson</p>

Clive Davis and Kelly Clarkson

Credit: AP Photos

Kelly Clarkson vs. Clive Davis: Where does it rate among label spats with artists?

He said/she said takes a new turn today

Clive Davis got off lucky.  His public spat with Kelly Clarkson has so far only involved words. 

Once, an artist was so pissed off at her A&R executive at a record company that she jumped up on his desk, squatted, and took a dump. This is a true story. She thought it was the ultimate act of rebellion, but all it did was get her dumped from the label.

To catch you up to speed, yesterday Davis, a legendary label executive, released his second book, “ The Soundtrack of My Life.”   In it, he told his version of what happened with Kelly Clarkson’s third album, “My December.” She was in a dark place when she wrote many of the songs for the album and Davis was concerned that it wouldn’t have the commercial appeal of the “American Idol” winner’s first glossy two albums.

Davis describes the ongoing battle over the album one way and Clarkson remembers it very, very differently, so she took to Whosay yesterday to post her version of events. She calls Davis's account "a violation." 

This morning, Davis decided to chime in again and in a long Twitter posting, replied:

“As anyone who has read ‘The Soundtrack of My Life’ knows, I think Kelly Clarkson is a tremendous vocal talent and performer. In the book, I provide an in-depth look at our years together during which we shared major multi-platinum success, as well as a few creative differences. I am truly very sorry that she has decided to take issue with what I know to be an accurate depiction of our time together. Before the book was published, I had every fact checked with five independent individuals who were present on a daily basis throughout it all. The chapter as it is written was thoroughly verified by each and every one of them. I stand by the chapter as written in my book. At the same time I wish, and will always wish, Kelly's talent and her career to soar to ever new heights.”

So he’s not backing down and she won’t either. Let’s just say we won’t be seeing Clarkson perform at any of Davis’s pre-Grammy parties any time soon.

In the annals of recorded music, this he said/she said doesn’t even rate a 2 on the spat-o-meter.  Artists have taken swings at record executives: Diddy, then going as Puffy, struck label exec/artist manager Steve Stoute with a champagne bottle because he was mad over a scene kept in a Nas video (they settled out of court).

Maybe Clarkson will get another song out of it: the road is strewn with songs by artists railing against their record label, including Nick Lowe’s “I Love My Label,”  Cracker’s “It Ain’t Gonna Suck Itself,” Against’s Me’s “Unprotected Sex with Multiple Partners” and, of course, Pink’s “Don’t Let Me Get Me.”

So does the public really want to see how the sausage is made? The vast majority  of fans don’t care that artists and label execs go toe-to-toe every day...they’re just quiet about it. It’s really part of the creative process and, while it’s nice to believe that an artist should always get to make the album he or she wants to, when a label is investing millions of dollars in that artist (most of which it will never recoup), it does get to have a say.

In this court of public opinion, Clarkson will likely win this one and I applaud her for speaking up  since she clearly felt wronged (she wasn’t quiet when the incident happened the first time, so why should she be now). For Davis, it’s all part of publicity machine and even he knows this is great for his book.

Who do you think is right?

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<p>&quot;What does this thing do,&quot;&nbsp;one Academy voter apparently wonders.</p>

"What does this thing do," one Academy voter apparently wonders.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Carlson

Why the entire Academy should not be allowed to vote on every category

Someone tell this guy what a re-recording mixer does

In case you needed reminding that there are those in the Academy ignorant to the various crafts and trades recognized at the Oscars, I direct you to this Hollywood Reporter piece built around one brave soul's ballot and open reasoning about his vote.

The voter is a member of the Academy's directors branch and, quite frankly, is a perfect case study for why the Academy should not be allowed to vote for the winners in every category. This is my opinion, of course, but maybe this will be a bit of illumination as to why I have that opinion. Because there are guys like this throughout the organization. There are plenty who are astute and get the nuance in this or that category. But many simply don't.

Take Best Sound Mixing, for instance. It's a shame to me that a member of an esteemed branch such as the directors apparently has no clue whatsoever as to what a re-recording mixer does. "This is the award for sound that is mixed on the set on the day," he says, clueless, getting it dead wrong.

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<p>You remember how it felt when 'Jedi' first opened and this moment first played out and everyone in the theater was like 'Ohhhhhhhh daaaaaaaaaaaaamn!'? Because that was awesome.</p>

You remember how it felt when 'Jedi' first opened and this moment first played out and everyone in the theater was like 'Ohhhhhhhh daaaaaaaaaaaaamn!'? Because that was awesome.

Credit: 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm Ltd.

Mark Hamill discusses the wonderful surprise of 'Star Wars: Episode VII'

He confirms that he is discussing his return to the role of Luke Skywalker

Okay, now it's getting exciting.

There is no Luke Skywalker but Mark Hamill.  At least, that's always been the way I've felt about it.  While Harrison Ford is the one who became the giant movie star, what Hamill had going for him was the feeling that he belonged in the world of "Star Wars" completely.  Watch him dealing with the mundane details of the world, like doing the maintenance on the droids or seasoning his meal in Yoda's home or any of a million other little things he does that sell it as real.  It goes beyond talking about performance for me, and all I can really say is that as a seven or a ten or a thirteen year old kid seeing the "Star Wars" films for the first time, Hamill was a big part of making me completely believe in that universe.

In an interview with "Entertainment Tonight," Hamill compared the announcement that there will be an "Episode VII" to finding a pair of jeans in the closet with a $20 in the pocket.  That's probably my favorite reaction to the new "Star Wars" movies so far, and Hamill confirms what Lucas said initially, that he'd already started speaking to the principal cast.

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<p>Charlize Theron in &quot;Snow White and the Huntsman.&quot;</p>

Charlize Theron in "Snow White and the Huntsman."

Credit: Universal Pictures

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Costume Design

'Anna Karenina,' 'Lincoln,' 'Mirror Mirror,' 'Les Misérables' and 'Snow White and the Huntsman' square off

(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.) 

Best Costume Design is one Oscar category for which I have particular affection -- partly because I find the discipline itself so interesting, but largely because it's arguably the most forgiving and open-minded of all the Academy's below-the-line races. Whereas most other branches allow their voting to be at least partially dictated by their feelings for the films in question, the Academy's costume designers routinely focus on the craft itself, regardless of the surrounding vehicle. You can rely on this category to single out remarkable costume work in films otherwise forgotten by Oscar, from outright bombs ("W.E.," "Across the Universe") to arthouse outsiders ("Bright Star," "I Am Love"), and for that we should all be grateful.

When it comes to the award itself, however, things tend to get markedly more predictable, as the winner often seems to be determined by the sheer number corsets, ruffles and hoop skirts filling every frame. Last year's win for the sleek, monochrome 1920s Hollywood fashions in "The Artist" was a relatively atypical one, presumably assisted by the film's Best Picture momentum, but this year promises a return to colorful, aristocracy-based period spectacle, unless one of the category's two outliers -- both, coincidentally enough, based on the same storybook classic -- proves a spoiler.   

The nominees are...

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<p>Ian McKellen in &quot;The Hobbit:&nbsp;An&nbsp;Unexpected Journey&quot;</p>

Ian McKellen in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit' leads the way with Saturn Awards nominations

Oscar nominees 'Les Misérables' and 'Life of Pi' have strong showings

Peter Jackson's return to Middle Earth, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," led the way with nine nominations for the 39th annual Saturn Awards, recognizing the best in genre filmmaking. It picked up nods in the Best Fantasy Film and Best Director categories, among others. Not far behind were Ang Lee's Oscar nominee "Life of Pi" with eight and Sam Mendes's James Bon actioner "Skyfall" with seven.

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<p>Martin Freeman in &quot;The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.&quot;</p>

Martin Freeman in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Production Design

'Anna Karenina,' 'The Hobbit,' 'Life of Pi,' 'Lincoln' and 'Les Misérables' square off

(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.)

Best Art Direction was one of two Oscar categories to get rechristened last year: from here on out, it'll go by the rather more imposing-sounding Best Production Design. It was a long-overdue change, really, given that the award includes production designers and set decorators among its nominees... but not, funnily enough, art directors. Go figure.

The name may be new, but this year's slate of Best Production Design nominees otherwise finds the award on familiar ground, offering voters a choice between period spectacle and fantasy spectacle -- though none of it in films too far outside the Academy's comfort zone. (Three of the nominees are also up for Best Picture.) Compounding the sense of familiarity: all but two of the 11 names cited have been to the dance before, while one of the nominated films adjoins a franchise previously rewarded in this category. In recent years, the Academy has often opted for films that combine fantasy and period elements, with expensive, effects-heavy productions winning out for the last few years running. Still, this year's field offers more traditionalist voters a couple of attractive handmade options. 

The nominees are...

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