“Looks like somebody wasn’t in on the joke.”
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Pierce Gagnon is not a name most people know at this point, but after they see "Looper," it is a name they'll want to learn. Gagnon positively steals the film out from under the already-outstanding adult cast that includes Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Garret Dillahunt, and Emily Blunt, who plays Sara, mother to Gagnon's character, Cid.
Gagnon was five years old when they shot his part in the film, and it's an amazing performance for an actor of any age. I think Rian Johnson and his cast did something very special in capturing his work, and that was one of the things I really wanted to discuss with her when we sat down during Toronto.
It feels like I interview Blunt about four times a year now, which is a perfectly lovely arrangement as far as I'm concerned. She's a smart performer, and she's been making great choices for the last few years, starring in a number of films that I've enjoyed, racking up one strong performance after another.
Universal is, in many ways, the house that horror built, so it is little wonder they view their various famous monster properties as some of the key assets for them as a studio. I am not remotely shocked to learn that they are interested in rebooting "The Mummy." After all, the most recent incarnation has already spawned two sequels and at least two spinoff films, and at this point, it would be preposterously expensive for them to try to get Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz back to play their characters again.
Instead, it looks like they're headed in a very different direction with the film, and if they want to freak out film fans, they've certainly made the right choice. Len Wiseman is reportedly the choice the studio has made, and while I understand the reasoning on the level of "he's made films of a certain budget in the past and is capable of managing a big-budget movie," I would be hard-pressed to believe that there are any hardcore Wiseman fans. The "Underworld" series is profitable enough to support however many movies they've made so far, but I don't get the feeling they're particularly well-liked. A quick survey of audiences after the release of "Total Recall" this summer probably wouldn't yield many people able to mount more than a passing defense, and while I was kinder than most, I would also say that Wiseman has yet to really prove that he can develop a script to the point where it really lives and breathes. His movies feel like the description of a movie I should like, but there's something missing. He makes Real Doll movies. They're synthetic, and while they look like movies, they don't satisfy in the way a real film does. I'd love for him to prove me wrong, too.
We're back with an all-star season of "Dancing with the Stars"! So, it's double-starry, since they were stars to begin with (by the definition of this show and, in some cases, only this show) and now they are all-star stars. I think everyone should get a little star sticker for their forehead, don't you? There isn't a lot of time to dwell on the starriness of the proceedings, though, because thirteen performances must be shoehorned into two hours. Still, that doesn't stop co-host Tom Bergeron. He blithers about how fabulous our dancers are. They’re the best of the best! Creme de la creme! The people you most want to see dancing! Okay, okay, if we're already watching, Tom, there's no further need to sell us. All-stars, got it.
The earth may have orbited the sun 11 times since the last No Doubt album, but it’s hard to tell any time has passed in the Southern California band’s world on its new album, “Push And Shove," out Sept. 25.
No Doubt’s last studio album, “Rock Steady,” came out in 2001—before the world had heard from Kanye West, Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga. There have been seismic changes in the way that rap and rock and pop have intersected since then, not to mention how music is delivered. And yet, the four members of No Doubt seem to have been largely hermetically sealed in a time capsule for the last decade. If anything, on “Push And Shove,” the band looks back at the synth-drenched ‘80s for inspiration, rather than to any of today’s hitmakers.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. By the time “Rock Steady” came out, No Doubt had done a wonderful (and tremendously) successful job of blending rock, pop and ska, while lead singer Gwen Stefani had perfected the alternately wounded bird/rising Phoenix trope that made her so appealing.
Marriage and motherhood have not quelled many of Stefani’s doubts, even if she can confidently boast in the horn-laden, rollicking “Looking Hot,” we are free to stare at her “ragamuffin...and take a picture please.”
The passage of time has given the band added musical confidence. No Doubt has always had a muscularity— bolstered primarily by Tony Kanal’s funky bass playing and Adrian Young’s robust drumming— that anchors its otherwise fairly lightweight melodies and lyrics. It is now accompanied by a pleasing certitude that replaces an earlier brashness.
Throughout the Mark "Spike" Stent-produced “Push And Shove,” the band skips through different beats and tempos with a firm hand that less assured acts could not pull off and that, at times, threaten to give the listener whiplash. First single, reggae-tinged “Settle Down” time shifts throughout, but it has nothing on the title track, which breaks down into a dub step section—in one of the few concessions to current musical trends. The song, a collaboration with Major Lazer, then transforms to running in slow-motion, as if dragging through tar. It then speeds up for a rapid-fire rap from Jamaican rapper Busy Signal (He's this album's Bounty Hunter."). “Push & Shove” is a bit busy and overly ambitious, but No Doubt somehow pulls it off.
Underneath it all, Stefani is a throwback to girl group singers of yore —even if her vulnerability often comes with an armor veneer— and No Doubt is a pure pop band. A three-song arc midway through the album focuses solely on those aspects.
On the poppy “Gravity,” a love song presumably to husband Gavin Rossdale, Stefani ruminates on how lucky they are that their relationship has gravity that tethers the two of them together. “We’re in orbit/so we’re safe. Don’t let go/don’t ever let me float away,” she sings as laser effects torpedo through the song. It’s totally possible to imagine Belinda Carlisle singing this song 25 years ago, especially given the lighthearted, synth bridge.
For the peppy, sweet “Undercover,” those doubts creep back in. “I want to look down deep inside you and I want to come in but I can’t do it/I’m so scared of what I might find there.”
Things go from bad to worse on acoustic ballad “Undone,” the album’s most striking track.
The protagonist has fallen apart. “Just when it was getting good/why does it have to end/I don’t understand,” she sings as she pleads for her lover not to leave her behind.
The good times have returned by the boppy “Heaven” and the wistful “Dreaming the Same Dream,” both of which sound like outtakes from a Madonna album circa 1985.
“Push And Shove” is a solid, consistent album that isn’t afraid to embrace the multitude of styles that No Doubt has built its 20-year career upon. It’s the sound of a band that is very comfortable in its own skin, but still wants to challenge itself. At the same time, "Push & Shove" has nothing that seems as forward thinking or as career defining as “Just A Girl,” “Spiderwebs” or “Hey Baby," though with a little wind beneath its wings, "Undone" could be this decade's equivalent of "Don't Speak."
A review of the "How I Met Your Mother" season premiere coming up just as soon as I replace you with a tiger...
At this point, Hugh Jackman has been playing Wolverine longer than any motion picture actor has continuously played any superhero character. So far, at least as far as the big screen is concerned, Jackman is Wolverine. Period.
He's currently hard at work shooting "The Wolverine," the sixth film in which he'll play the character, and Fox finally released an official still of him on-set in the movie, which James Mangold is directing. I'm at Fantastic Fest in Austin this week, so of course in a setting where I'm surrounded by film geeks of all stripes, I asked around to see what people thought of the image.
Even now, this many years after he first played the character, I'm amazed how some people still get worked up about how different Jackman is from the typical renderings of the character in the comics. He's taller, he's leaner, and honestly, he doesn't really look like him. But Jackman's made the character his with the choices he's made, and he's absolutely willing to transform himself each time he returns to play the part, getting crazy ripped each time.
So, the finale of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" kind of called to mind a drunken argument outside a college bar, which would be more amusing if any of these people ever a) went to college or b) were in their early 20s, when such abject stupidity seems to come with the territory.
And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.
The TV season is here! The TV season is here! Of course, new shows have been debuting for a couple of weeks now, but there's still plenty to talk about in the first of this week's two Firewall & Iceberg Podcast episodes, starting with all the Emmy results and then moving onto new show reviews. We should be back on Thursday to talk "Last Resort" and the rest of the week.