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Watch: 'Brave' star Kelly Macdonald discusses her plucky Pixar heroine

Watch: 'Brave' star Kelly Macdonald discusses her plucky Pixar heroine

Is her 'Boardwalk Empire' character beginning to emulate Merida?
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - Leave aside the prospect of Oscars or overflowing box office coffers. Pixar's latest feature, "Brave," will have fulfilled its destiny if children across the United States begin to inject Scottish accents into their playground adventures.
 
Sure to be leading that charge will be destiny-defying red-headed firebrand Merida, who is the first female focal protagonist in a Pixar film. An ace archer, Merida resists her mother's entreaties that she tame her unruly hair, set aside her beloved bow and accept responsibility, adulthood and marriage.
 
Much of Merida's spirit comes from her determined eyes and a fiery mane that took Pixar years to develop, but it would be hard to undersell the value of the vocal contribution from Glasgow-born Kelly Macdonald, who wins audience adoration with every exasperated grunt, spunky exclamation and crisply delivered zinger. 
 
In live action form, Macdonald has been embodying feisty heroines dating back to 1996's "Trainspotting" and following through features like "Gosford Park" and superb TV work like "State of Play," an Emmy-winning turn in "The Girl in the Cafe" and her current Emmy nominated role on HBO's "Boardwalk Empire."
 
And, in person, Macdonald is every bit as feisty. 
 
At Disney and Pixar's junket for "Brave" in Edinburgh, Scotland, I sat down with Macdonald and we discussed Merida's place among Pixar protagonists, what aspects of Teenage Kelly made it into Merida's voice and whether, in the upcoming third season of "Boardwalk Empire," Margaret Schroeder finally gets to become a little Merida. 
 
As the stand-up introduction to this interview indicates, I've got a lot of "Brave" interviews coming over the next few days. After Macdonald, I'll have interviews with co-star Kevin McKidd, Pixar chief John Lasseter, and director Mark Andrews & producer Katherine Sarafian. And, you got a snippet of this in the intro, I'll probably be posting a really embarrassing video of my attempts to master archery, Merida style. 
 
"Brave" opens on Friday, June 22.
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<p>George Lazenby only made one film as James Bond, but maybe he would have hung around longer if it didn't look like such abject misery to be on that set.</p>

George Lazenby only made one film as James Bond, but maybe he would have hung around longer if it didn't look like such abject misery to be on that set.

Credit: MGM/UA Home Video

James Bond Declassified: File #6 - 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' changes everything

Would this have been the best Bond ever with Connery playing the part?

JAMES BOND 007 DECLASSIFIED
FILE #6: "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"


This series will trace the cinema history of James Bond, while also examining Ian Fleming's original novels as source material and examining how faithful (or not) the films have been to his work.

Directed by Peter Hunt
Screenplay by Richard Maibaum
Produced by Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli

CHARACTERS / CAST

James Bond / George Lazenby
Countess Tracy di Vicenzo / Diana Rigg
Ernst Stavro Blofeld / Telly Savalas
Marc-Ange Draco / Gabriele Ferzetti
Irma Bunt / Ilse Steppat
Sir Hilary Bray / George Baker
Grunther / Yuri Borienko
Shaun Campbell / Bernard Horsfall
M / Bernard Lee
Q / Desmond Llewellyn
Miss Moneypenny / Lois Maxwell
Ruby / Angela Scoular

CREDITS SEQUENCE

Full Orchestra Sting.  The familiar "DAH-DAH, dah! DAH-DAH, dah! DAH DAH DAH DAH!"

HARRY SALTZMAN and ALBERT R. BROCCOLI Present

Then the rest of the theme kicks in, swinging and a little bit tweaked, like it's being played on a Moog harpsichord.  Lazenby walks in and the gun barrel follows, taking his time, and when he turns suddenly to fire, he drops to one knee.  It's him making that moment his with a new move.

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 135

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 135

Dan and Alan talk 'Newsroom,' plus finales for 'Girls' and 'The Killing'

The

Happy Monday, Boys & Girls. It's time for a slightly late-day installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
 
Sepinwall realized that we hadn't watched "Wilfred," which FX is previewing this Thursday, before it moves to its regular time period the following week, so we plowed through some screeners to set up some less-than-thrilling "Wilfred" discussion.
 
Fortunately, things were much more engaged for our review of Aaron Sorkin's "Newsroom," as well as the finales of "Girls" and "The Killing."
 
And without further ado... Allison Williams eating cake.
 
Here's today's breakdown:
"Wilfred" (00:01:00 - 00:11:10)
"The Newsroom" (00:11:15 - 00:35:20)
"Veep" finale (00:35:25 - 00:43:00)
"Girls" finale (00:43:00 - 00:57:15)
"Killing" finale (00:57:15 - 01:19:50)
"Buffy" (01:20:10 - 01:30:35)

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.] 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

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Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 135: 'The Newsroom,' 'Wilfred,' 'The Killing' & more

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 135: 'The Newsroom,' 'Wilfred,' 'The Killing' & more

Dan and Alan also break down the finales of 'Girls' and 'Veep,' and talk more about 'Buffy'

The

Lots of finale talk on this week's Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, as we break down the recent conclusions of "The Killing," "Girls" (and here's a link to the Allison Williams .gif we discuss during that segment) and "Veep," but before that we have to check in on "Wilfred" season 2, and also spend quite a while discussing our concerns about Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom."  Also, after a few weeks of duds, we get another good "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" episode to discuss.

The line-up: 

"Wilfred" (00:01:00 - 00:11:10)
"The Newsroom" (00:11:15 - 00:35:20)
"Veep" finale (00:35:25 - 00:43:00)
"Girls" finale (00:43:00 - 00:57:15)
"Killing" finale (00:57:15 - 01:19:50)
"Buffy" (01:20:10 - 01:30:35)
 
As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. Or you can always follow our RSS Feed, download the MP3 file or stream it on Dan's blog.
 
And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.
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Album Review: Will you 'Believe' in Justin Bieber's new album?
Credit: Island Records

Album Review: Will you 'Believe' in Justin Bieber's new album?

Is he still a boy, not yet a man, on new set?

Justin Bieber finds himself at an important, but tricky, intersection with his new studio album, “Believe,” out June 19. Now 18, can Bieber transition from his teen idol status to an artist that transcends that nearly  unbreachable hurdle?

It’s unclear on the mixed-bag “Believe,” a 16-track collection that takes a certain scatter shot, cut-and-paste musical approach. It’s like that saying about the weather: if you don’t like it, stick around for five minutes and it will change:  If you don’t like it when Bieber delves into electroclash as he does on “All Around the World,” then wait a few minutes and he’ll be imitating his retro soul musical heroes on the Motown-inspired “Die In Your Arms” or taking the listener to church on the title track. “Believe” is an album for those with short-attention-spans, i.e., anyone under 21. In fact, it would be fascinating to see if his fans can even digest the whole set in one sitting. Probably not.

Bieber is in the dream business: he wants to love you and support you and remind you that you’d be nothing “if your heart didn’t dream/if you didn’t believe.” R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” has nothing on Bieber’s positivity. And that’s not meant as a bad thing. In a craven world, Bieber remains overtly non-cynical.

Pivoting around themes that strike a direct bulls-eye into the heart of his tween/teen female fanbase—almost every song is based on love and infatuation, Bieber continues to have A-List rappers on speed dial, all of whom seem only too happy to pair with the Biebs. On this album alone, Ludacris, Drake, Nicki Minaj and Big Sean show up, but they add nothing other than their name value.

Instead, “Believe” is about showcasing Bieber as a singer. He positively croons on sweet, gentle, mid-tempo R&B ballad “Catching Feelings.”

 There’s the obvious comparison to be made with the other Justin— Timberlake—who, himself, extremely successfully transitioned from pop star to highly respected artist before pretty much abandoning music to focus on acting and other endeavors. Bieber, while no slouch, doesn’t have Timberlake’s vocal talent but he surpasses Timberlake in the vital ambition department. For anyone who follows Bieber on Twitter, being Bieber is a 24/7 job. No artist has ever tried so hard to stay in constant touch with his millions of fans and let them know how much he appreciates them.

There’s some delicacy here that Bieber dances through beautifully, to his credit. He may have come of age, but many of his fans are much younger, and he wisely knows that indulging in the raunch that even artists only a few years older, like Rihanna, routinely turn to is a one-way trip to Nowheresville at this stage. To that end, the album is G-rated from start to finish, without ever seeming Disney-fied. That is a noteworthy feat in and of itself. Even on “One Love,” in which he declares he wants to “lie down beside you,” he pledges fidelity.

Bieber’s greatest assets are his likability, his musical curiosity and his almost preternatural ability to balance being a regular teen with the pressures and responsibilities that come with being a multi-million dollar enterprise. The only time Bieber ever addresses such conflicts is on closing track “Maria,” a direct response to the woman who accused Bieber of fathering her child last year. The thumper, which sounds like a companion to his hero Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” or “Dirty Diana,” is one of the most interesting musically on the album in part because it’s clear that the incident, understandably, really riled Bieber. There’s a bite to the song that no other material on “Believe” possesses.

For all his rampant popularity (his upcoming tour was a quick sell out) radio has been a little fickle with Bieber. He has yet to score a No. 1 single (contrast that with Rihanna, who has 22 top 10 hits). “Boyfriend” made some headway, but only with a with his label mightily pushing that rock uphill. “Believe” seems to acknowledge that gap between his massive fan base and radio play by containing tunes that would fit right in with current radio playlists, but doesn’t pander to them.

Bieber’s voice is now recognizable, but the problem with “Believe” is too many of the songs sound generic, as if they come from the same music factory pumping out every song on the radio today, except for “Somebody That I Used To Know” or “We Are Young.”  Every tune is catchy, but not particularly memorable. There’s nothing on here that comes close to the earworm-ability of “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen (who is now signed to Bieber’s manager’s label).  Bieber is great at selling sincerity, emotion and inspiration. Now he just needs to work on getting some great hooks.

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<p>Cat Power's &quot;Sun&quot;</p>

Cat Power's "Sun"

Credit: Matador

Listen: Cat Power returns with 'Ruin' from her first new album in six years

A travel song, post-break-up

The wait for a new Cat Power record was, in part, due to a relationship and a break-up, but fans' first taste of Chan Marshall's next "Sun" is more about travel than anything.

"Ruin" bops along to the sounds of the various countries to which Marshall's travel -- not the native styles of music, mind you, but the actual names of the countries. Can't say I'm wild about the silly over-pronunciations of said countries, like Meh-heeko and Great Breht-ahn, but it's a driving, cool-eyed song with a undeniable refrain.

Cat Power played all the instruments on "Sun," and produced it herself too. Which is always impressive. She and her mixer  kinda pulls the whole thing on "Ruin" back a bit much (around the 2:15 mark) but damn if she didn't do a nice job driving the whole jangly, piano-rocking thing.

"Sun," as previously reported, arrives on Sept. 4 via Matador. It's the follow-up to 2008's covers set "Jukebox" and the first set of originals since 2006's "The Greatest." Marshall explained to the Stool Pigeon recently that the wait was because she was working hard at making her relationship with her boyfriend -- now ex-boyfriend and actor Giovanni Ribisi -- work. But a woman who changes her hair changes her life: after years of also dabbling on the record, she split, three days later cut her hair mad short, and then went to France to finish this album.

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<p>They can remake the 'Twilight' films if they want, but they'll never top the sheer comedy genius that this image suggests.</p>

They can remake the 'Twilight' films if they want, but they'll never top the sheer comedy genius that this image suggests.

Credit: Lionsgate/Summit

Lionsgate says they don't plan to remake 'Twilight,' but is this a sign of the future?

Franchise filmmaking hasn't reached its lowest point yet, but it could soon

Here's how you know "Twilight" is a giant pop culture phenomenon:  even the denial of a story about the series becomes a headline across the entire Internet.

Bloody-Disgusting ran a story over the weekend saying that Lionsgate has begun having internal conversations about the idea of rebooting "Twilight."  Considering they haven't even released "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II" yet, it seems premature to start having these conversations, but that would suggest that there is some sense of logic or rational behavior that drives the decision-making process in Hollywood.  Lionsgate has denied the report, of course, but it makes sense.

Here's the cold hard truth.  "Twilight" is giant business, and one of the reasons Summit was such an attractive purchase for Lionsgate this past January is because they own the "Twilight" franchise.  While Open Road Films certainly hopes to have a success on the same scale with their upcoming adaptation of the Stephenie Meyer novel "The Host," my guess is that lightning will not be striking twice.  With nothing else to sell, Meyer has pretty much reached the end of her commercial lifespan unless she finds a new way to exploit Edward, Bella, Jacob and the rest.

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<p>Sleigh Bells</p>

Sleigh Bells

FYF Fest brings Beirut, Sleigh Bells, Refused and Against Me! to Los Angeles

September indie fest expands to two days

Refused, M83, Beirut and Sleigh Bells will headline the 9th FYF Fest, to be held Sept. 1-2 at Los Angeles State Historic Park. This indie-music festival expands to two days this year, a first since it moved to its current location four years ago.

Among the other acts on the 75-artist bill are Against Me!, Cursive, Quicksand and Wild Flag.

Tickets for the all-ages festival go on sale June 22 and start at $77 for a weekend pass. The festival, which is put on in conjunction with concert promoter  Goldenvoice, runs from noon-midnight.


FYF FEST LINE-UP

AA Bondy
Aesop Rock
Against Me!
American Nightmare
Atlas Sound
Paul Banks (Interpol)
Baroness
Beirut
Black Dice
Black Mountain
Ceremony
Chairlift
Chromatics
Cloud Nothings
Converge
Cursive
Dam Funk
Desaparecidos
Devin
Dinosaur Jr
DJ Coco (Primavera Sound)
DJ Harvey
Doldrums
Father John Misty
FIDLAR
Fucked Up
Future Islands
Givers
Gold Panda
Health
Hot Snakes
I Break Horses
James Blake
John Maus
Joyce Manor
King Khan & the Shrines
Kishi Bashi
Liars
Lightning Bolt
M83
Moonface
Nick Waterhouse
Nite Jewel
PAPA
Purity Ring
Quicksand
Redd Kross
Refused
Sandro Perri
Simian Mobile Disco (Live)
Sleigh Bells
Tanlines
The Allah La's
The Field
The Growlers
The Men
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
The Soft Pack
The Suicide of Western Culture
The Vaselines
Tiger & Woods
Turbonegro
Twin Shadow
Two Gallants
Tycho
Warpaint
White Arrows
White Fence
Wild Flag
Wild Nothing
Yeasayer


 

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<p>Fleetwood Mac's picture from &quot;Rumours&quot;</p>

Fleetwood Mac's picture from "Rumours"

MGMT, Best Coast, Lykke Li cover Fleetwood Mac for tribute album

'Just Tell Me That You Want Me' out in August

MGMT, Best Coast, New Pornographers, Lykke Li and The Kills are among artists contributing to “Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute To Fleetwood Mac.”

Out Aug. 14, via Hear Music/Concord, the 17-track set features indie rockers and Fleetwood Mac contemporaries such as ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons examining the popular group’s catalog.

Some acts, such as Best Coast and Karen Elson, took on more familiar Fleetwood Mac tunes, while others, such as Shudder to Think’s Craig Wedren paired with St. Vincent to dive deeper into the group’s 45-year catalog. A complete track listing is below.

Movie music supervisor Randall Poster and Geyla Robb put together the collection; they were also behind last year’s “Rave On Buddy Holly” compilation that included reinventions of Holly tunes by such artists as Paul McCartney, The Black Keys and Cee Lo Green.

As longtime Fleetwood Mac fans know, former member Bob Welch committed suicide earlier this month.  MGMT covers “Future Games,” a tune recorded under his tenure in the group. The current members of Fleetwood Mac—Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, and John McVie—are expected to tour again, perhaps this year. The band’s website notes “check back soon for more details on the upcoming tour.” Fleetwood told Billboard last November “we’re all up for touring in the early summer of next year.” That timeframe is clearly not happening, but look for an announcement here once details are firmed.

'Just Tell Me That You Want Me' A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac' Tracklist:

1. "Albatross" - Lee Ranaldo Band Featuring J Mascis (4:16)?
2. "Landslide" - Antony (3:33)?
3. "Before The Beginning" - Trixie Whitley (4:46)?
4. "Oh Well" - Billy Gibbons & Co. (4:45)
5. "Rhiannon" - Best Coast (3:07)
6. "Think About Me" - The New Pornographers (2:56)
7. "Angel" - Marianne Faithfull (4:59)?
8. "Silver Springs" - Lykke Li (4:11)
9. "Gold Dust Woman" - Karen Elson (5:43)?
10. "Storms" - Matt Sweeney And Bonnie 'Prince' Billy (4:46)?
11. "Straight Back" - Washed Out (3:44)?
12. "That's All For Everyone" - Tame Impala (3:43)?
13. "Sisters Of The Moon" - Craig Wedren with St. Vincent (3:45) ?
14. "Dreams" - The Kills (4:46)?
15. "Gypsy" - Gardens & Villa (4:40)?
16. "Tusk" - The Crystal Ark (5:30)
17. "Future Games" - MGMT (9:02)
 

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<p>Shia LaBeouf in Sigur Ros' &quot;Fjogur piano&quot;</p>

Shia LaBeouf in Sigur Ros' "Fjogur piano"

Watch: Shia LaBeouf stars in serious and NSFW Sigur Ros music vid

'Fjögur píanó' next in line for experimental short film series

You've probably never seen actor Shia LaBeouf like this.

The "Transformers" star co-leads the music video to Sigur Ros' new "Fjögur píanó," the third song to get an experimental music video treatment from their album "Valtari." LaBeouf and actress/dancer Denna Thompson perform as “a man and woman locked in a never-ending cycle of addiction and desire,” forcing them through some high-stress, abstract dream sequences during which both stars appearing completely in the nude.

It is emotional and also very beautiful. I found it kind of hard to watch more than once, with all its lacerations and breaking glass and the weirdo car scene -- with the actors kidnapped and licking insect-filled lollipops -- with all its sharks. But the performances are worth while and the styling is absolutely breathtaking. The track didn't stand out much from the album for me, but now it doesn't seem as interstitial.

Also, Shia should stick to the ponytail. It's kinda working for me. Reminds me of Milo Ventimiglia on Fergie's "Good Girls Don't Cry" music video.

Oh, the things I'm finding myself say today.

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<p>Alec Baldwin and Jesse Eisenberg play two different versions of the same character in the most successful of the multiple storylines in Woody Allen's new anthology film 'To Rome With Love'</p>

Alec Baldwin and Jesse Eisenberg play two different versions of the same character in the most successful of the multiple storylines in Woody Allen's new anthology film 'To Rome With Love'

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Review: 'To Rome With Love' is Woody Allen on automatic pilot

Is that necessarily a bad thing, though?

"To Rome With Love" is the 11,000th motion picture by writer/director Woody Allen, and he deserves congratulations for the sheer volume of work he's produced, if nothing else.

Perhaps I exaggerate slightly, but I do find myself often pleased by the mere existence of a new Allen film because of the place it occupies in the natural order of things.  A new Allen film every year.  That's federal law at this point, right?  And when people talk about what distinguishes Allen's work, you'll hear them talking about dialogue rhythms or the font he uses for his titles or his soundtracks, but those are mere gravy on the actual meat of what it is he does, and I think he's fascinating for the way he basically found his own approach to storytelling and he's worked variations in that same form ever since.

He's taken steps away from his main approach a few times, but he always eventually finds his way back, and it's been true from the jokes he wrote as a stand-up to the short pieces he collected in books like "Without Feathers" and continued directly into his filmmaking career, one of the richest and most fully explored of any American director, now or in the past.  Woody Allen worships at the altar of the high concept.  He loves to imagine a mundane world where one crucial detail is tweaked to comic effect.  Sometimes, those high concepts are super high concept, like "The Purple Rose Of Cairo" or "Midnight In Paris" or "Zelig." 

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<p>Ariane Labed in &quot;Alps.&quot;</p>

Ariane Labed in "Alps."

Credit: Kino Lorber

'Alps' wins big in Sydney, but 'Lore' is the one making waves

Dogtooth' director's latest beats such films as 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'

"Alps," the follow-up feature from "Dogtooth" helmer Yorgos Lanthimos, didn't get quite the push it deserved out of last autumn's festival season. Well-received by critics upon its debut at Venice, where the Best Screenplay prize it eventually took was the very least it deserved, Lanthimos's glassily menacing comedy of extreme appropriated identity went on to provoke and perplex festival audiences at Toronto and London. Somehow, however, it acquired a reputation as more of a niche proposition than the already gruelling, yet astonishingly Oscar-nominated, "Dogtooth" -- a shame, really, since it's no less accomplished, and arguably more ambitious, an achievement. 

New York cinephiles have only until mid-July to wait for the film, which you may or may not remember cracked the top five of my Best of 2011 list. (It's not the last title on that list awaiting US release, either.) Thanks to its tough-sell status, the rest of us may have to be very patient indeed -- here in the UK, a release date has yet to be confirmed.

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