Latest Blog Posts

Interview: Scotty McCreery talks Christmas, Elvis and college

Interview: Scotty McCreery talks Christmas, Elvis and college

The 'American Idol' champ reveals details about his next album

When Scotty McCreery entered a Nashville studio to record his first holiday set, “Christmas With Scotty McCreery,” any dreams of a white Christmas were solely in his head.

“We recorded it in a heat wave,” says McCreery, who tweeted a photo of himself this summer in the studio with a furry Santa Claus hat perched on his head. “It was 105 in Nashville. I was singing the songs in shorts and flip-flops.” But he and his crew tried to create a festive mood. “We had a Christmas tree in the studio, Christmas lights on the mike stand. My tour manager brought in Christmas cookies and cupcakes.”

For the Oct. 16 release, which includes traditional holiday standards as well as two originals, the 2011 “American Idol” champ “knew we had to get creative” on these oft-recorded songs. “The main thing we talked about together with the band was we wanted to be different, not just to be different, but to be creative and different in a good way. Put a stamp on these songs.”

The biggest surprise to his casual fans may be the way he channels Elvis Presley on his version of “Santa Claus Is Back In Town.” He brings a Presley-like swagger to “Jingle Bells,” but he reserves his full lip-quivering, hip-shaking imitation for “Santa Claus,” even throwing in a bit of Presley’s classic cover of “C.C. Rider” in for good measure.

“I was an Elvis freak. That’s all I listened to growing up,” he says. I wasn’t listening to the Backstreet Boys,” he says. “It just got ingrained in me to where it would come out in my songs.”

The track wasn’t originally intended for the album.  “We did that in one take. The drummer [plays] in a huge Elvis production that tours across the country,” McCreery recalls. “He broke into ‘C.C. Rider.’ It wasn’t planned at all. We thought we’d cut it and not put it on the album. We were high-fiving and laughing and we decided to put it on the album.”

When told that the sultry take may make his fans see a new, sexy side of him, the 19-year old reverts back to his shy self and just replied. “Dadgum.”

McCreery has been singing another of the album’s tracks, “O Holy Night,” since he was in elementary school. “I was singing it much higher then,” he laughs. “It really was difficult. As a kid, I didn’t know anything about the technical side. It was for the children’s choir.”

He included the song as a nod to his grandmother and to his first public performance of the song when he was in 4th or 5th grade. “My grandma is tough to impress. I’d sing at a competition and she’d tell me ‘ That wasn’t so good.’ When I got done, my grandma said, ‘That was beautiful.’ My mom was videotaping, so she was concentrating on that. Coming from my grandma, that meant a lot. We were thinking about her when we recorded it and the memories that we had that night.”

The album’s two originals struck the right chord with McCreery the first time he heard them. One of them seemed destined to end up in his hands.

“The week before ‘Christmas In Heaven’ got sent to me,  I was writing a song called ‘Christmas In Heaven’ about my grandfather. He passed away a few years ago. It had some of the same lyrical ideas. It wasn’t a week later that my choir director was at a conference and told some folks who she is and that she knew me. They said, ‘I have the perfect song.’ It gave me chills. It was a God thing. No question is was going on the album.”

The second original tune, “Christmas Is Coming Around Again” deals with a couple with children going through a divorce, who reunite after the Christmas spirit hits them. “That’s about the message,” McCreery says. “There might be a family out there hurting and maybe this can help them.”

McCreery is already collecting tunes for his next studio album, which he hopes to release in Spring 2013. He’s writing for the album with two top Nashville songwriters, Ashley Gorley and Kelley Lovelace. “My songwriting craft isn’t perfect yet,” he says. “Hopefully it can get there.”

In the meantime, he is half-way done with his first semester at North Carolina State University in Raleigh,  just down the road from his hometown of Garner.  He takes classes a few days a week and then is out on the road opening for Brad Paisley on the weekends.

College has been a blast so far, he says. “I’ve loving every second of it. As far as people freaking out”  when they see him, he notes, “it hasn’t been that way at all. Maybe they’d want a handshake or a ‘hey.’ I wore my cap pulled down the first couple of days, but after a few days, I didn’t even worry about the hat and sunglasses any more.”

Read Full Post
"All-Star Celebrity Apprentice"

"All-Star Celebrity Apprentice"

Credit: NBC

See the new cast of 'All-Star Celebrity Apprentice'

Trace Adkins and Bret Michaels return, but so does Gary Busey

NBC has announced that after just five seasons, it's time for a greatest hits version of Donald Trump's C-list beat down. "All-Star Celebrity Apprentice" (which will air mid-season 2012-13) brings back a roster of favorites and a few memorable contestants whom we probably didn't want to see again. As usual, they'll be competing to raise money for charity when not tearing out their hair and picking fights.

Read Full Post
<p>Justin Bieber in &quot;Beauty and the Beat&quot;</p>

Justin Bieber in "Beauty and the Beat"

Watch: Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj in new 'Beauty & the Beat' video

Is he a fan of 'Waterworld?'

Ever wonder how we’ll be partying in 3012? According to Justin Bieber, it will be primarily underwater  (maybe it’s all a subtle illusion to global warming the polar ice caps melting. Or maybe it's his homage to Kevin Costner's "Waterworld?"...nah).

[More after the jump...]

Read Full Post
<p>A scene from Andrea Arnold's &quot;Wuthering Heights.&quot;</p>

A scene from Andrea Arnold's "Wuthering Heights."

Credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories

Interview: Andrea Arnold on 'Wuthering Heights,' crying to Mumford & Sons and having faith in a face

Her brilliant take on the Emily Brontë classic opens in Los Angeles today

In an era of filmmaking where producers and moneymen seem shyer than ever of original screenplays, hungry for the built-in audience of a known quantity, “This again?” is a question we seem to find ourselves asking on a weekly basis. That may most frequently be in response to high-concept Hollywood franchises and superhero movies, but it's no less applicable to the classic literary adaptation. This autumn alone has brought us new versions of oft-filmed chestnuts in “Anna Karenina” and “Great Expectations,” with Baz Luhrmann's “The Great Gatsby” narrowly scuttling out of the fray; each one invites a fresh round of comparisons, with varying assertions of redundancy or reinvention. 

It's all the more impressive, then, that British director Andrea Arnold's pared-back, wind-whipped and wholly remarkable adaptation of Emily Brontë's “Wuthering Heights” – which itself premiered only months after Cary Fukunaga's fresh take on another standard from the Brontë family canon, “Jane Eyre” – feels both very new and very necessary indeed. If Arnold's film, already on release in New York and opening today in Los Angeles, feels to some extent like the first true version of this dog-eared Yorkshire romance, that could be because it's the first film to realize that the story of farmgirl Cathy and founding Heathcliff's unfettered, ultimately damaging passion isn't really a romance at all. 

Read Full Post
<p>Ben&nbsp;Affleck in &quot;Argo&quot;</p>

Ben Affleck in "Argo"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'Argo'

Ben Affleck's Iran hostage thriller opens today

I've been high on Ben Affleck's "Argo" since way back at Telluride over a month ago. It is, I feel, the current Best Picture frontrunner. We've sussed out its zeitgeist potential, talked to Affleck, Alan Arkin and Bryan Cranston and pretty much covered all bases on the way to release, which is finally here. So if you make it out to see the film this weekend (and you should), hustle on back here and tell us what you thought. It's time for a wider audience to chime in. And feel free to rate the film via the tool above.

Read Full Post
<p>Jack White at Lollapalooza</p>

Jack White at Lollapalooza

Credit: AP Photo

2012 Austin City Limits Cheat Sheet

Who's headlining, what's it about and how does it look?

Welcome to the weekend, those en route to Austin. Or wish they were in Austin. This weekend marks the 11th Austin City Limits music festival, in Zilker Park in the Texas capitol.

Below, I outline ACL, for those on their way and those who missed out.

When does it run?

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 12-14.

Is it sold out?

Big time. All regular weekend and one-day passes are sold out, and have been since May 22. But you can get schmancy VIP passes at $1,050 each and Platinum Passes at $3,600. About 50,000 people go.

What time does it start every day? Is it worth going early?

Around 11:15 a.m. And yes, there's some great acts like Caveman, Asleep at the Wheel, the Deep Dark Woods, Alt-J and the Kopecky Family Band that play super-early in the day?

Wait, the who, who and who? Just tell me who the big acts are.

The headliners are the Black Keys (8:15 on Friday), AVICII (8:15 on Friday), Jack White (8 on Saturday), Neil Young and Crazy Horse (also 8 on Saturday) and Red Hot Chili Peppers (8:15 on Sunday).

HERE IS THE FULL 2012 ACL SCHEDULE, BY DAY.

What makes ACL different from the other music festivals?

ACL is basically in downtown Austin, a notoriously awesome party town. It is not in the middle of a desert or field somewhere, like Coachella and Bonnaroo are. It's on par with Lollapalooza, the Chicago-based fest that is also run by C3, the fest producers who are actually based here. So, in a way, this is their home territory, which shows in the familiarity with the vendors and the lay of the land.

ACL is also heavily rock-based, as is reflected in its headliners. It skews a little older in its programming, a little safer, but the upshot is early end-times, so that you're not wasted at tired at 1 a.m.. Instead, you're wasted and tired at 10 p.m. They have night programming at local clubs with some of the same bands that you missed during the day so that you, too, can get a lay of the land.

How about the park itself, how's the weather? Texas is hot, I hear.

Yeah, it is hot. It's also gonna rain a little bit this weekend.

WHAT, BUT I THOUGHT IT'S TEXAS.

It's rained the last couple of years, too. Just be glad, it keeps the temperature down.

What else are the perks?

Man, get this: NO SMOKING. Now, I know you're trying to quit...

It's hard man.

I know buddy. But there's no smoking, so all patrons including kids can breathe your BO safely. It's one of the biggest no-smoking fests in the country.

What about parking?

There's no parking at the fest. Bike, walk or take a shuttle there.

But...

Again, It's really close to downtown. Not gonna say this makes things simpler, but organizers are centered around sustainability, "green" festival-going and recycling and hug the earth stuff.

What are you doing there all weekend?

I'll be taking photos, interviewing artists, reviewing the big shows and pulling out artists-to-watch. Stay tuned.

I can't go. Is there some way I can watch stuff?

About a third of the bands will be webcast through the ACL YouTube live-stream, including the headliners. Read more about that here.

Read Full Post
<p>Adam Scott and Jon Hamm get their &quot;Simon and Simon&quot;&nbsp;on.</p>

Adam Scott and Jon Hamm get their "Simon and Simon" on.

Simon, Simon, Adam Scott and Jon Hamm in 'The Greatest Event in Television History'

'Friends With Kids' co-stars recreate '80s detective show credits

Something to make you smile on a Friday afternoon: Jon Hamm, Adam Scott, Paul Rudd, Jeff Probst, Paul Scheer and more coming together for "The Greatest Event in Television History," which turns out to be a multi-million dollar remake of the opening credits to "Simon & Simon." Scheer wrote it, Scott co-directed it, and as with so many of these Adult Swim and Funny or Die projects, it's clear everyone was having a lot of fun doing it.

Enjoy, and then we can debate which version of the "Harcastle and McCormick" credits (the famous one or the other one) these guys should do next: 

Read Full Post
Oscar Talk: Ep. 91 -- 'Not Fade Away' drops on NYFF and surveying Best Supporting Actor

Oscar Talk: Ep. 91 -- 'Not Fade Away' drops on NYFF and surveying Best Supporting Actor

Also: Small films looking to stand out this season

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.

Read Full Post
<p>Tracy Morgan as Governor Dunston on &quot;30 Rock.&quot;</p>

Tracy Morgan as Governor Dunston on "30 Rock."

Credit: NBC

Review: '30 Rock' - 'Governor Dunston'

'30 Rock' revisits the Tina Fey/Sarah Palin experience in a funny new way

A review of last night's "30 Rock" coming up just as soon as I make myself an Old Spanish...

Read Full Post
<p>Harvey Weinstein.</p>

Harvey Weinstein.

Credit: AP Photo/Jeff Christensen

Roundup: Harvey takes on the pirates

Also: Remembering Harris Savides, and 'Argo' is fighting fit

With a stacked -- and rather rewarding -- slate of films on my plate yesterday, I didn't get to see Harvey Weinstein's keynote speech at the London Film Festival. But no matter: Screen helpfully provides a transcript. It would appear that preservation and piracy were the two chief issues on his mind: he laid into Hollywood film execs for their limited knowledge of their film heritage ("I began to wonder if any of them had even heard of John Ford") and celebrated the French for their hard line on illegal content-sharing, which he claims has bolstered the local film industry, allowing them to finance such grown-up hits as -- and here come two wholly impartial examples -- "The Artist" and "The Intouchables." [Screen Daily]

Read Full Post
<p>Ridley Scott, seen here on the set of 'Prometheus,' is determined to not only make another film set in this world, but also return to 'Blade Runner'</p>

Ridley Scott, seen here on the set of 'Prometheus,' is determined to not only make another film set in this world, but also return to 'Blade Runner'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Ridley Scott continues to talk up 'Blade Runner' and 'Prometheus' sequels

A brief bit of non-news sets off another fanboy frenzy, but why?

It was fascinating to watch the way the Internet behaved in the months leading up to the release of Ridley Scott's "Prometheus."  I feel like I was one of the few people who wasn't convinced from day one that the film would reinvent science-fiction and cure the common cold all in one fell swoop, because the near-rabid reactions to every photo and every tiny tidbit of information was sort of terrifyingly intense.

Now Scott's gearing up for another run of fanboy mania, and I'm curious to see if anyone learned anything from the experience they had with "Prometheus," or if they're going to be just as rabid and just as pre-convinced of greatness when it comes to the "Blade Runner" sequel that he's developing right now.

Here's why I think no one learned a single thing.  Scott gave a short interview to Metro in the UK, and it has been picked up everywhere today and people seem to think that it's as good as a release date for the "Blade Runner" sequel.  Let's look at what he actually said about the film, which was already announced as being in development:

"It's not a rumor - it's happening. With Harrison Ford? I don't know yet. Is he too old? Well, he was a Nexus-6 so we don't know how long he can live. [laughs] And that's all I'm going to say at this stage."

Wow.  First, there's nothing new there.  We already knew he was attached.  He said it was a sequel during the "Prometheus" theatrical press.  And he's still convinced that Harrison Ford was a replicant in the original, which automatically makes me pray that something happens to derail this film before he makes it and ruins another legacy.

Read Full Post
"The Vampire Diaries"

 "The Vampire Diaries"

Credit: The CW

'The Vampire Diaries' recap: 'Growing Pains'

The vampires of Mystic Falls are under attack, but Elena's got real problems

So, for those of you who may have forgotten and the rest of you who have tried to blot out the unhappy memory of it, when last we saw poor Elena (Nina Dobrev) she was fixing to turn into a vampire. While you'd think hanging out with vampires, especially ones as hot as Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Stefan (Peter Wesley) would make the whole vampire thing look pretty appealing, Elena does not want to be a vampire. I don't even think she'd wear the plastic fangs for Halloween or read the "Twilight" books; that's how much she doesn't want to be a vampire.

Read Full Post
BLOGS BY NAME