Latest Blog Posts

<p>Sarah Chalke of &quot;How To Live With Your Parents (For The Rest of Your Life)&quot;</p>

Sarah Chalke of "How To Live With Your Parents (For The Rest of Your Life)"

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'How To Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)'

Acceptable premise and a great cast result in an unappealing pilot

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show:"How To Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)" (ABC) [Midseason]
The Pitch: You know how it's weird when guys have to help raise their kids? It's even weirder when grownups live with their parents. Or that's what the trend stories say.
Quick Response: I don't mind the premise here. I generally think Sarah Chalke is fantastic and I've been known to really like both Elizabeth Perkins and Brad Garrett. But just because I would happily watch a show with EXACTLY this premise and EXACTLY this cast doesn't mean that I want to watch THIS version of that show. Execution is everything and the pilot for "How To Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)" --- or HTLwYPFtRoYL, as I like to call it -- is probably the least enjoyable version of itself that it could possibly be. It doesn't help that Chalke is playing just another iteration of the exact same ditzy-yet-earthy-yet-flighty-yet-maternal quirky-hipster-mom that Dakota Johnson is playing on "Ben and Kate" and Georgia King is playing on "The New Normal" and her on-screen daughter (Rachael Eggleston) is just another variant on all of the season's interchangeable accessory daughters. If you're going to be part of a trend, it hurts to be the last show from the set to premiere and "HTLwYPFtRoYL" is the last [and least] of this group. ["Happy Endings" was the last of a group of "Friends"-style comedies in its season and is now the only survivor, so it's not impossible to overcome, if you happen to be funny.] For what it's worth, "HTLwYPFtRoYL" has a fair amount to say about the nature of parenting and the ways in which the mistakes of one generation inform the mistakes of the next generation. It just isn't funny in saying those things. The script is almost entirely designed to make likable actors unlikeable. Chalke, about as winning an actress as you can find, is flailing and shrill. Perkins and Garrett are the rare TV "Parents with No Filter" who you almost immediately wish would just muzzle themselves, without producing any compensating laughter [maybe it's not-so-rare, actually]. There's the tacit implication that you don't want to hear Perkins talking about having sex with a basketball team or Garrett talking about the results of testicular cancer because the characters are old and it's embarrassing when old people talk about such things. No. It's embarrassing because these are two talented actors delivering dialogue that's more unfunny than awkward. With bleeped swearing and sex talk, there's actually a lot of "HTLwYPFtRoYL" that's convinced it's cool or edgy or boundary shifting, but doesn't come close to any of those targets. [Am I wrong or is this title cumbersome without being genuinely amusing? Like the rest of the pilot, it thinks it's being cool or edgy, but it's really just long.] Orlando Jones and Jon Dore are wasted in supporting roles.
Desire To Watch Again: Chalke's moving into dangerous territory, because after "Mad Love," this is her second straight starring vehicle that I was convinced had all of the elements to eventually be funny and just wasn't funny in immediate execution. I gave "Mad Love" entirely too many episodes before giving up a week or two before ended. I won't be nearly as patient with this. I'll give "HTLwYPFtRoYL" a couple weeks to rise to the level of the involved talent and then I'm out, because the pilot was unpleasant.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's '1600 Penn'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Zero Hour'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Do No Harm'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'The Carrie Diaries'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Malibu Country'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'The New Normal'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Guys with Kids'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mindy Project'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Mob Doctor'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Animal Practice'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries

 

 

Read Full Post
<p>Madonna</p>

Madonna

Credit: Evan Agostini/AP

Music Power Rankings: Madonna, Taylor Swift and Adele make the list

Michael Jackson returns

1. Madonna: Madge launches the U.S. leg of her “MDNA” tour in Philadelphia. She takes to the stage 2 1/2 hours after the time on the ticket, angering some fans, but luckily the only guns beared were hers on stage.

2. The Rolling Stones: The legendary rock band will reportedly celebrate its 50th anniversary by playing two dates in Brooklyn and two in London for a reported payday of $25 million. As it turns out, sometimes you can get what you want.

3. Florence & The Machine: Band namesake Florence Welch reveals that the band plans to take a year off following the conclusion its current tour. Looks like they’ll be standing on “Ceremonials” for the near future.

4. Taylor Swift: She continues on a roll as her first Billboard Hot 100, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” sells close to 1 million downloads in its first two weeks of release.

5. Randy Jackson:
His time as a judge in “American Idol” is coming to an end as rumors swirl that he will shift to the lesser role of a mentor. Does that mean he’s being put in the ‘dawg” pound?

6. Adele: It had to come at some point. After 79 weeks, “21” falls out of the Top 10 for the first time since its release. The good news is it will likely rebound back into the upper reaches next week.

7. Trey Songz: It took five albums and seven years, but the R&B singer lands his first chart topping album this week with “Chapter V.” That’s what you call artist development.

8. The Simpsons: Music artists are nothing new for the long-running series, but the show is diving deep with the new season: over the past week, Justin Bieber, Tom Waits and The Decemberists have all signed on to appear on season 24.

9. Michael Jackson:
As his fans celebrate would have been Jackson’s 54th birthday,  ABC announces that “Bad25,” Spike Lee’s documentary on the superstar and one of his biggest albums will air Thanksgiving.

10. Chris Lighty: The highly regarded manager, who over the course of his long career worked with such acts as 50 Cent, Diddy, Mariah Carey, Cee Lo Green and more, dies of an apparent suicide.  RIP

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;The&nbsp;Gatekeepers&quot;</p>

"The Gatekeepers"

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Provocative and revealing 'Gatekeepers' argues futility of an eye for an eye

One of the most important premieres of the festival

TELLURIDE - Fewer movies are going to be as important and provocative at this year's Telluride Film Festival than Dror Moreh's "The Gatekeepers." The documentary filmmaker was granted an extraordinary amount of access to six former heads of Shin Bet, the ultra-secretive Israeli intelligence agency, and turned out a striking, candid assessment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from those with the very power to dictate what can and cannot be divulged.

Along the way there are plenty of defensive exchanges regarding the organization's handling of terrorism and notions of morality in a situation seemingly lacking any sense of it, but ultimately there is a sense of weariness from the former agency chiefs and a desire to negotiate peace with their enemies. "We can sit down and I can see that you don't eat glass and you can see that I don't drink petrol," one of them -- who even goes so far as to compare the "cruel" Israeli occupation to Nazi Germany -- puts it.

Read Full Post
<p>A scene from &quot;Argo&quot;</p>

A scene from "Argo"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Does WB have an Oscar thoroughbred on its hands with Ben Affleck's 'Argo?'

Signs point to 'Yes'

TELLURIDE - Like my colleague Greg Ellwood, I attended yesterday afternoon's "Sneak Preview" premiere of Ben Affleck's "Argo." Last year the spot -- an unannounced screening for patrons of the festival and invited press -- went to "The Descendants," the year before, "Chico & Rita." It's not a typical spot for Oscar bait to bow, it just happened to fall that way the last couple of years. And it was a big winner this time around.

I found the film to be yet another step up for Affleck, who continues to grow as a filmmaker and surprise not just formally but with his adeptness at handling ensembles as well. And that's what "Argo" is: an organic, finely tuned ensemble where no one really stands out from the pack. And that's not a bad thing, particularly for a film that is very much about the efforts of the many.

Read Full Post
<p>Karen Gillan and Matt Smith in &quot;Doctor Who.&quot;</p>

Karen Gillan and Matt Smith in "Doctor Who."

Credit: BBC

Season premiere review: 'Doctor Who' - 'Asylum of the Daleks'

The Doctor, Rory and Amy reunite to take on a familiar set of foes

"Doctor Who" is back for a new season, and I have a review of the premiere, "Asylum of the Daleks," coming up just as soon as I have an escape plan where I survive 4 seconds longer...

Read Full Post
<p>Marion Cotillard at the New&nbsp;York premiere of &quot;The&nbsp;Dark&nbsp;Knight Rises&quot;&nbsp;in July</p>

Marion Cotillard at the New York premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises" in July

Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

'Dark Knight Rises' and 'Rust & Bone' star Marion Cotillard honored in Telluride

The still-rising starlet receives the second tribute of the festival this year

TELLURIDE - Actress Marion Cotillard didn't really explode onto the domestic film stage until "La Vie en Rose," but what a coming out it was. She managed to win an Oscar that few (ahem) saw coming and transformed that newfound respect and goodwill into a thriving Hollywood career, but it was hardly an overnight success story.

Cotillard had already seen plenty of success in her native France before that 2007 explosion. She starred in Arnaud Desplechin's "My Sex Life... or How I Got Into an Argument," Pierre Grimblat's "Lisa" and the "Taxi" action comedy trilogy -- earning plenty of recognition for each -- before breaking out in Yann Samuel's romantic comedy "Love Me If You Dare" (in which she co-starred with eventual husband Guillaume Canet) in 2003. She also eventually landed a prime role in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "A Very Long Engagement," which brought her a César Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Read Full Post
<p>Greta Gerwig, Michael Zegman and Adam Driver in &quot;Frances Ha.&quot;</p>

Greta Gerwig, Michael Zegman and Adam Driver in "Frances Ha."

Review: Greta Gerwig is superb on both sides of the camera in 'Frances Ha'

Noah Baumbach's latest is a gem about the breaking point for twentysomethings

TELLURIDE – There is a moment in the new Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig collaboration “Frances Ha” where you begin to think, “Oh, no.  This seems way too much like Lena Dunham’s ‘Girls.’”  And during the picture’s opening act, the tone and hipster Brooklyn setting makes that a very valid concern.  Thankfully, and somewhat remarkably, “Ha” transforms into something all its own.  

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;1600 Penn&quot;</p>

"1600 Penn"

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's '1600 Penn'

'West Wing'/'Modern Family' hybrid has potential, but a mediocre pilot

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show:"1600 Penn" (NBC) [Midseason]
The Pitch: "It's 'The West Wing' meets 'Modern Family.'" I suspect that's probably what the actual pitch was.
Quick Response: I sometimes liked the pilot for "1600 Penn," but I also kinda wish NBC didn't have to air it, because the pilot is probably broader and more narratively flabby than the creative Forces That Be want the show to eventually become. Or maybe that's what what *I* hope the Forces That Be want? Maybe I just see upside in Bill Pullman's dry near-deadpan delivery in returning to the White House for the first time since "Independence Day"? And in Josh Gad's flailing, childlike glee, which keeps me believing in Josh Gad, even when I almost never find that the reality of Josh Gad lives up to the potential of Josh Gad (having never seen "Book of Mormon")? And in Jenna Elfman, who I think remains a sitcom star even if "Accidentally on Purpose" and "Courting Alex" have clouded those waters? And in Martha MacIsaac, who totally held her own in "Superbad" back in the day, but never got the career bump she deserved? It's entirely possible that "1600 Penn" just feels like a show that I would like to like and because I didn't hate the pilot, I've latched on to an idealized way that it could gel, even if the pilot doesn't necessarily give any indication that its aspirations are anything more than a "West Wing" version of "Tommy Boy" with Gad standing in for the late Chris Farley? There are punchlines in "1600 Penn" that landed solidly for me and produced the desired chuckles, but even more than your typical pilot, this feels like a rough draft and coming from director Jason Winer, whose "Modern Family" pilot is one of the great recent examples of a series arriving fully realized from the opening episode, that's a disappointment. There are too many moments of easy ethnic humor or easy physical humor or easy broadness that could lay a template for a lazy show that I'd find unbearable. Then again, there are better moments, like Gad's character recording a wonderfully inept fire safety PSA, that blend wordplay with those broader instincts in a totally effective way. So we'll see. I actually like the simplicity of the hypothetical pitch that I referenced above and I think that with the elements in place, there's a best case scenario for "1600 Penn" that I'd really like. It's not there yet. It probably won't go there. The pilot suggests a lack of interest in anything resembling actual politics and while it's not like I want a wonkish attention to detail, Wesley Snipes once taught me that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is an address that changes all the rules, but "1600 Penn" isn't a comedy that's interested in breaking any new ground.
Desire To Watch Again: Obviously I'm prepared to give this a few more episodes. If it doesn't go down a fruitful path? Oh well. Such is life.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Zero Hour'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Do No Harm'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'The Carrie Diaries'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Malibu Country'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'The New Normal'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Guys with Kids'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mindy Project'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Mob Doctor'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Animal Practice'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries

 

 

 

Read Full Post
<p>By the time 'The Phantom Menace' arrived in theaters in 1999, I felt like I'd already seen every frame of the film.</p>

By the time 'The Phantom Menace' arrived in theaters in 1999, I felt like I'd already seen every frame of the film.

Credit: 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm

The Vacation Read: Which do you prefer, anticipation or total spoilers?

We wrap up our week away with a look at how we prefer to learn about films

Wow… has it been a week already?  I'm probably curled into a fetal position right now, weeping about the fact that I'm already done with my vacation.  A week sounds like it's going to be a long time, but then when it actually happens, it's over as soon as it starts.

Today, I want to wrap up this week of conversations by talking about anticipation.  I think modern movie marketing is so pumped up and aggressive that much of the joy of waiting for a film to be released has been diminished.  For me, unfortunately, the process has been completely distorted because of the way we cover trailers and set visits and editing room visits and early cuts and more.  By the time a film comes out these days, I feel like I've already had the experience, and it's harder and harder for me to have anything approaching a "normal" experience.

I grew up loving the anticipation.  The wait between the release of "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back" may have only been three years, but it felt like forever, and every single day of those three years, I was manic for information about what was coming.  I spent that time in a constant fog of daydreaming about what might happen, what could happen, what should happen.  I loved it.

Read Full Post
<p>A police sketch from the trial of Antron McCray, Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam</p>

A police sketch from the trial of Antron McCray, Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam

Credit: Sundance Selects

'Central Park Five' is a crushing indictment of mob mentality and miscarried justice

Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon's doc holds a mirror up to society

TELLURIDE - "I hope this film makes you angry," filmmaker Sarah Burns said by way of introduction to this morning's screening of "The Central Park Five." She co-directed the film with her father, Ken Burns (a Telluride staple -- as is Sarah: this is her 20th fest) and husband David McMahon. And angry is a good way to put it.

Maddening, gut-wrenching, deflating, these are all words I would use to describe the film, which tells the story of five black and Latino youths who were wrongfully convicted of the vicious rape of a female jogger in New York's Central Park in April of 1989. Films like the "Paradise Lost" trilogy and "West of Memphis" have recently depicted miscarriages of justice in similarly infuriating ways, but few have been such a thorough and profound indictment of mob mentality as this. It's a must-see effort analyzing an ugly and dark hour for society.

Read Full Post
<p>Nina Hoss in &quot;Barbara.&quot;</p>

Nina Hoss in "Barbara."

Credit: Adopt Films

Germany selects Berlinale winner 'Barbara' for the foreign-language Oscar race

Christian Petzold's superb Stasi-era drama is playing Telluride this weekend

A little over a week ago, I mentioned that Germany had announced a shortlist of eight possibilities for their official submission in this year's Best Foreign Language Film race -- and had evidently ceded Michael Haneke's French-Austrian-German co-production "Amour" to Austria this time, after beating their neighboring state in the tussle to submit "The White Ribbon" three years ago.

I had only seen one of the options on the list, but still found it hard to imagine they could make a better choice than "Barbara," Christian Petzold's excellent, broadly acclaimed Cold War drama about a female doctor in rural East Germany circa 1980, wrestling with her conscience over whether or not to defect to the West.

Happily, that's exactly what they've chosen -- giving Telluride audiences an extra reason to check "Barbara" out as it has its North American premiere there this weekend, before travelling on to both the Toronto and New York festivals. The film already has a US distributor in newish indie outfit Adopt Films, so Petzold's team can now just bask in the further kudos they're likely to receive on the fall festival track.

Read Full Post
<p>Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in &quot;The Master.&quot;</p>

Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in "The Master."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: Seductive, elliptical 'The Master' answers to no man

Anderson's latest man-and-boy saga stimulates and mystifies in equal measure

VENICE - How do you break an already broken man? It'd be presumptuous to say that this is one of the questions asked by Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" -- and it certainly asks no end of them, both verbally and otherwise -- but it was the first of many it left me asking. In a film that devotes an abundance of screen time to replicating (though not, contrary to more excitable pre-screening rumours, ridiculing) the Scientological auditing process, an interrogative therapy designed to draw out unconscious truths, the spontaneous personal response is surely not to be distrusted.

Elliptical but hardly indecisive, testy but hardly incendiary, Anderson's exquisitely sculpted film is about more individual-based values and desires than its grabby advance reputation as a Scientology exposé promised: trust, admiration, sex, kinship. "The Master" turns out to be many of the things I expected it to be -- a sharp evaluation of what we are prepared to believe in exchange for self-possession, a richly textured evocation of American social vulnerabilities in the aftermath of WWII, most inevitably of all, another literate chapter in Paul Thomas Anderson's ongoing thesis on the positive and corruptive powers of charismatic leadership. What I had not quite anticipated, however, was a romance -- much less one between two men.

Read Full Post
BLOGS BY NAME