Latest Blog Posts

"Top Chef: Seattle"

 "Top Chef: Seattle"

Credit: Bravo

'Top Chef: Seattle' recap: 'Tom vs. Emeril: Turkeypocalypse'

It's a Thanksgiving challenge pitting Creole dishes against Italian

I'm curious to know what a turkeypocalypse might be, and not just because it's making the autocorrect on my computer short out. But yes, it's a Thanksgiving-themed episode just in time for our Thanksgiving, so everyone who's cooking anything tomorrow can know beyond a doubt that their food is not as good as what these people are serving up. But first, we start with that grand old Thanksgiving tradition -- a dumpling challenge! Because when I think Thanksgiving, I think dumplings, don't you?

Read Full Post
"American Horror Story"

 "American Horror Story"

Credit: FX

'American Horror Story' recap: 'Origins of Monstrosity'

What creates a serial killer? Lack of hugs, for starters

For the record, “American Horror Story” does not get you into the holiday spirit. Or maybe, if you really, really hate the holidays and want to kill anyone who wishes you a chipper “Season’s greetings!” in late October, or who camps out on Black Friday or deep fries their turkey and accidentally sets an entire city block on fire, this might be just the show for you. And hey, there are even cooking tips in this episode! As Dr. Thredson says, “Nutmeg makes all the difference in the world.” If you have not seen this episode, you might think that’s handy advice. And if you have seen this episode? You may never, ever cook with, eat or use the word nutmeg again. As if I needed another reason not to eat pumpkin pie.

Read Full Post
<p>Abi pouts in &quot;Survivor:&nbsp;Philippines.&quot;</p>

Abi pouts in "Survivor: Philippines."

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: Philippines' - 'Whiners are Wieners'

As power shifts in the game, interpersonal dynamics move front and center

Survivor”’s decision to air a new episode on the night before Thanksgiving is an interesting one. While the show has historically chosen to feature a special “recap” episode at this point in the season, the shift to Wednesday has made it possible for them to more safely air a new hour of television during the holidays.

On the one hand, the decision could reflect a desire to maintain the momentum of what has been a really terrific season, one that has me far more invested in the show than at any point in recent years (where I rarely got through an entire season). However, more cynically, one wonders if this episode is airing tonight in part because the result is inevitable. With the numbers shifting last week as a result of Skupin’s change of heart regarding the original Tandang, the surprise factor seems low, and Pete and Abi seem like they’re on their way out.

Could they be airing “Whiners and Wieners” because it reaches an inevitable conclusion, and those who choose to skip the episode won’t miss much when they return from their holiday next week and discover that all has gone according to expectation? Or are they hoping it’s so enthralling that “Survivor” will be all people can talk about at Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow?

Click through for the full recap to find out…

Pre-credit sequence. When the tribe returns to their camp, Abi feels bad for Artis, and thinks they need another game plan. They fell asleep at the wheel, Pete says, and Abi doesn’t understand how it went down. She seems incredulous to the fact that someone might think “Keeping Tandang Strong” isn’t actually a useful strategy.

For the other side, it’s about finding a way to ensure that Pete and Abi go home before they do. Indeed, Skupin and Denise lay out a very basic plan: Abi and Pete are eliminated, and then the final six duke it out from there. It’s an ideal strategy for Malcolm and Denise (who are more closely aligned than some of the players seem to realize), and would probably work out well for a player like Carter (who, despite being incapable of completing a sentence, is very willing to follow a leader like Penner deep into the game). The credits roll with Skupin promising he has big plans for playing this game.

Breaking up is hard to do (even when she disrespects you at every turn). When they return from commercial, though, Lisa isn’t exactly sure she wants to be part of this six. Indeed, she’s sitting on the beach explaining to Abi that she has never wavered from their alliance. Effectively, Lisa sees this as a breakup, and she’s terrible at getting out of relationships. She’s lost her trust in them, and she finds them to be horrible people, and yet she just can’t quit them. Abi is trying to sell her on being at the top of an alliance—that’s a clear minority—but Lisa would rather be able to sleep at night. For her, aligning with the other five will better her time on “Survivor” and the rest of the life. It’s a bold statement, but Lisa’s gameplay has been so rewarding in part because of how much she’s worn her heart on her sleeve. It’s an honest moment, and one that quickly disperses with any notion that Lisa might be willing to stick around with Pete and Abi. The game is now 6 on 2.

Flipping a coin is harder than it looks. The Reward Challenge, however, is 4 on 4. With a spa day on the line—which yields excitement from Malcolm upon learning he could win a chance to wash his hair—the teams compete in a game of chaos and strategy: the teams each have three large medallions in the sand (with one of each in three circles), and their task is to—as individuals in a multi-round setup—flip your team’s medallions onto their proper side while also flipping back those from the other team. It’s the Red Team (Abi, Carter, Malcolm and Pete) against the Yellow Team (Skupin, Lisa, Penner, and Denise), which is very much divided along age lines. Unfortunately for the older team, this really is a game of speed: although Penner is great at strategizing in these kinds of challenges—think back to last week’s reward—Carter is simply faster, winning the first point based purely on foot speed between medallions.

However, as the next two rounds reveals, this is also a game that requires you to understand how it works. Despite Carter’s dead-eyed existence, it’s Malcolm and Abi who makes the mistakes: Malcolm forgets to flip the Yellow team’s medallion back over (giving Skupin an easy chance to get a point), while Abi proves why she’s sat out the majority of challenges when she flips over Lisa’s third medallion for her (“No, not really,” she says when Jeff asks her if she gets what is happening). Malcolm’s mental lapse and Abi’s fundamental misunderstanding of the game at hand give the Yellow team a lead until Pete outraces Denise to set up a rematch between Malcolm and Skupin in which Skupin “Pulls an Abi” and flips over the Red tile. With that, the young win a spa getaway, and the narrative shifts from naiveté to senility (if one can honestly make such a narrative as a group of incredibly tired people in extenuating circumstances race around flipping stuff in the sand).

Read Full Post
<p>Suraj Sharma in &quot;Life of Pi&quot;</p>

Suraj Sharma in "Life of Pi"

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Tell us what you thought of 'Life of Pi'

Ang Lee's visionary adaptation hits theaters just in time for the holiday

Ang Lee's addition to the season is finally here as "Life of Pi" -- hotly anticipated for years -- hits the multiplex. I was favorable when I saw the film at the 50th annual New York Film Festival, though I took some mechanics issues with it. I still feel that way, though the creamy center has really felt richer and richer the further I've spun away from it. HitFix's own Drew McWeeny, meanwhile, has a completely different take, a disagreement with fundamental elements. But let's see what you have to say. Drop your comments below when you get around to seeing the film, and as always, feel free to rate it above.

Read Full Post
<p>James Gandolfini, Chris Rock and Larry David in three classic shows from 40 years of HBO.</p>

James Gandolfini, Chris Rock and Larry David in three classic shows from 40 years of HBO.

Credit: HBO

It's not TV. It's 40 years of HBO.

'The Sopranos' and 'The Wire' are gimmes, but don't forget 'Larry Sanders' or the comedy specials

When I targeted Thanksgiving 2012 as the time to release my book, I didn't realize that it would be coming out in the same month as the 40th anniversary of HBO. (The pay cable channel launched on November 8, 1972.) But if the timing was accidental, it also feels perfect, because of course HBO was the place where the whole drama revolution began, and I could have easily written an entire book about what was happening at HBO from "Oz" through, say, "Deadwood."

Read Full Post
<p>Alfred Hitchcock and his &quot;Rebecca&quot; leading lady, Joan Fontaine.&nbsp;</p>

Alfred Hitchcock and his "Rebecca" leading lady, Joan Fontaine. 

Credit: AMPAS

On 'Rebecca' and 'Foreign Correspondent,' Hitchcock's 1940 double-shot at Oscar glory

Hitch probably never came closer to victory than his first time at bat

You needn't have been following the Oscars for long to know that -- the usual inseparability of the Best Picture and Best Director awards notwithstanding -- Academy voters aren't particularly auteurist-minded.

That's not a comment on the films and filmmakers they've chosen to reward over the years, though the winners list would look somewhat different if they were. Rather, it alludes simply to the practical consideration that their top prize is still awarded to a film's producer, not the director -- a tradition inherited from the days when producers often wielded more creative control in Hollywood than the helmers they hired to shepherd their projects to fruition. (Not coincidentally, the Academy was happier to split the Picture and Director awards back then.) If the Academy worked more along the lines of film festival juries, the director would claim, or at least share, credit for the year's best film -- and Alfred Hitchcock would have one competitive Oscar to his name. 

Read Full Post
<p>Chevy Chase won't be on &quot;Community&quot;&nbsp;for all of season 4.</p>

Chevy Chase won't be on "Community" for all of season 4.

Credit: NBC

Chevy Chase leaving 'Community'

NBC sitcom will film last 1 or 2 episodes of season 4 without Pierce

Almost from the moment Chevy Chase joined the cast of "Community," he has talked about wanting off of the NBC sitcom. Well, today, his wish was granted, as the veteran actor was allowed to leave the series before filming of the fourth season ends.

Read Full Post
<p>Don't worry Anne. Early buzz says you won't have to pray for good reviews of &quot;Les Miserables.&quot; </p>

Don't worry Anne. Early buzz says you won't have to pray for good reviews of "Les Miserables."

Credit: Universal Pictures

Contender Countdown: 'Les Miserables' gets ready for its close up

Plus: 'Silver Linings Playbook' takes a slip

Seemingly as always, Hollywood has a lot to be thankful for. The box office has been on an upswing the past six weeks and with "The Hobbit," "Django Unchained" and "Les Miserables" arriving next month ticket sales should remain strong.  But for many consultants and movie marketers this holiday weekend won't be a relaxing vacation.  

Read Full Post
<p>Denis Lavant in &quot;Holy Motors.&quot;</p>

Denis Lavant in "Holy Motors."

Credit: Indomina Releasing

Cahiers du Cinéma names 'Holy Motors' the best film of 2012

The venerable French magazine's Top 10 ranges from 'Twixt' to 'Tabu'

Yep, folks, we're in Top 10 season already, and the first major list to land is both one of the longest-running and the most reliably eccentric: that of leading French cinephile magazine Cahiers du Cinéma.

As the journal on which the likes of Godard, Truffaut and Chabrol cut their teeth as writers after its establishment in 1951, Cahiers retains a staunch auteurist sensibility, and that's evident every year in their Top 10 -- though they don't always favor the same auteurs most other critics do.

Last year, they surprised everyone with an atypically softball choice -- Nanni Moretti's amiable ecclesiastical comedy "We Have a Pope" -- as the year's best. This year, paradoxical as this sounds, they're back on more familiarly adventurous ground, as Léos Carax's wild, weird, thrillingly bewildering shapeshifter study "Holy Motors" topped the list.

Read Full Post
"Dirty Jobs"

 "Dirty Jobs"

Credit: Discovery

Mike Rowe tells fans that 'Dirty Jobs' has been scrubbed

Star proud to say he 'never shared the sewer with Paris Hilton'

It's going to be an unhappy Thanksgiving for fans of "Dirty Jobs." After eight years, star Mike Rowe took to the Interwebs to let the public know that he's navigated his last sewer for the show. "A few weeks ago, I was officially informed that 'Dirty Jobs' had entered into a new phase," he wrote in a post for the Huffington Post. "One I like to call, "permanent hiatus." Or in the more popular industry vernacular, canceled."

Read Full Post
<p>A scene from &quot;Rise of the Guardians.&quot;</p>

A scene from "Rise of the Guardians."

Credit: DreamWork Animation

Roundup: Fall of the 'Guardians?'

Also: Frank Ocean's 'Django' tune, and 2012's narrative rule-breakers

DreamWorks Animation's "Rise of the Guardians" was once viewed by many pundits as the studio's best shot at an Oscar since winning the inaugural award 11 years ago for "Shrek," but things don't quite seem to be going to plan. Critics so far aren't wildly excited, and now box office projections for the holiday weekend suggest audiences aren't either. Variety is projecting a $25 million gross: nothing to be ashamed of, but it'd put it well below last year's "Puss in Boots," and among DreamWorks Animation's lowest openings ever. "Wreck-It Ralph" has evidently stolen its winter cartoon thunder, but can it also zoom ahead in the Oscar race? Or will voters retreat to the familiar comforts of "Pixar," or disregard commerce and side with the auteurism of "Frankenweenie?" For once, the race really is on. [Variety

Read Full Post
<p>Julia and Joel on &quot;Parenthood.&quot;</p>

Julia and Joel on "Parenthood."

Credit: NBC

Review: 'Parenthood' - 'One More Weekend With You'

Is the cancer storyline overwhelming the rest of the show?

A review of last night's "Parenthood" coming up just as soon as I have piggy bank money for a taxi...

Read Full Post