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<p>Rodriguez performing at the Newport Folk Festival in July</p>

Rodriguez performing at the Newport Folk Festival in July

Credit: AP Photo/Joe Giblin

'Searching for Sugar Man' finally brings an unsung crooner to light back home

The documentary could be in the hunt for an Oscar nomination later this year

Saturday night I shelled out cash to see Sundance hit "Searching for Sugar Man."  Malik Bendjelloul's documentary tells the incredible story of musician Sixto Rodriguez, who crashed and burned with record sales in the States in his time (the early 1970s) but became an inspiration for South Africans fighting Apartheid throughout the decade and into the 1980s.

Of course, the kicker is Rodriguez (his stage name) never knew about his worldwide success (he was also huge in Australia). Many fans had come to believe the myth -- different depending on who's telling the tale -- that he had killed himself on stage in some dramatic fashion.

Rodriguez was re-discovered in the 1990s and actually went to South Africa to perform sold-out concerts, much to the shock and delight of his daughters, who had no idea their father had it in him. But that's where he belonged, on the stage, telling stories through really great music. Indeed, many of the major music figures who worked with Rodriguez -- as the doc points out -- consider him on the top tier of their collaborators.

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

Suraj Sharma in "Life of Pi"

Credit: 20th Century Fox

NYFF bookends with Lee and Zemeckis for a big 50th annual

'Life of Pi' and 'Flight' will get their close-ups in the Big Apple

In spit-balling the upcoming fall festival circuit recently, I noted that, in my view, the New York Film Festival -- at least as a launching pad for year-end awards hopefuls -- had been underutilized in its time. But things have changed the last few years.

Up until the unveiling of David Fincher's "The Social Network," NYFF had been a stopping-off point for Sundance, Cannes, Venice, Telluride and Toronto holdovers, for the most part. Films like "Good Night, and Good Luck.," "The Queen," "The Darjeeling Limited," "The Class" and "Wild Grass" opened the fest after bowing elsewhere, while closing nighters such as "Caché," "Pan's Labyrinth," "Persepolis," "The Wrestler" and "Broken Embraces" did the same. Ditto a slew of centerpiece screenings.

But that exclusive bow for Fincher's film in 2010 was a turning point. The excitement was probably dampened a bit by the fact that Sony screened the film for press in New York and Los Angeles in the middle of the Toronto Film Festival, looking to get some headway while ultimate Best Picture winner "The King's Speech" was dominating the festival conversation, but it was a good start.

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<p>The official cover art for Taylor Swift's new album &quot;Red.&quot;</p>

The official cover art for Taylor Swift's new album "Red."

Credit: Big Machine

Shocker: Taylor Swift draws from her 'semi-toxic' romances for new album, 'Red'

First single, 'We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together' out now

After going it alone for her last album, “Speak Now,” Taylor Swift has turned to top songwriters and producers for her fourth studio album, “Red,” out Oct. 22.

Both Max Martin, best known for his work with Britney Spears and Pink, and Ed Sheeran, who has written hits for One Direction, as well as has his own solo career, collaborated with Swift on the new set, which she recorded over a two-year period.  Martin co-wrote first single, “We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together,” with Swift and Shellback. Swift debuted the stompy, up-tempo pop tune today during a YouTube chat with fans and it is already available on iTunes.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Kris Kristoffersen in &quot;Heaven's Gate.&quot;</p>

Kris Kristoffersen in "Heaven's Gate."

Credit: United Artists

Venice honors Michael Cimino as 'Heaven's Gate' gets another close-up

The festival will premiere a restoration of the director's ill-fated 1980 film

For a film that a lot of critics continue to believe is a disaster of momentous proportions, Michael Cimino's epic flop "Heaven's Gate" has received an awful lot of second chances. The vast period western is one of Hollywood's most enduring cautionary tales: made on the back of Cimino's Oscar triumph with "The Deer Hunter," it fell prey to the director's hubris as it ran catastrophically behind schedule and over budget, ruining United Artists as it grossed not one-twentieth of its then-massive $44 million budget.

Critics may have piled onto the already woebegone film, both in its 219-minute premiere edit (still a feat of restraint compared to the five-and-a-half-hour edit Cimino originally had in mind) and the studio-shredded 149-minute version prepared for general theatrical release, but the rehabilitation has been steady and dedicated over the years. Originally unveiled in Competition at Cannes, it's since been given other illustrious platforms from to recoup its credibility.

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Review: 'The Expendables 2' pumps up the mayhem and delivers real thrills
Credit: Lionsgate

Review: 'The Expendables 2' pumps up the mayhem and delivers real thrills

Second time's the charm for this series

I was no fan of "The Expendables."

In general, I feel like my generation has been made stupid by nostalgia.  We hold on to any terrible piece of crap from our childhoods simply because we recognize it from our childhoods.  I am often startled by the things that people profess love for, and the only explanation for much of it is because recognition has replaced any sort of demand for quality.  With "The Expendables," people seemed willing to excuse a truly awful, uninteresting action nothing simply because of the cast, and I just couldn't hang with it.

I'm also not exactly the biggest Simon West fan in the world.  Just seeing the difference between the scripts for "Tomb Raider" and the film that West eventually released was enough to make me skeptical of his taste as a filmmaker.  I find myself uninspired by his work.  I think he's a competent shooter, and if that's all you need from a director, he's your guy.

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"Hotel Hell"

"Hotel Hell"

Credit: Fox

Gordon Ramsay talks about scratchy towels and being an 'unselfish' boss

The 'Hotel Hell' makeover king says hotel owners are worse than restaurateurs

Gordon Ramsay takes on the task of berating and shaking up clueless hotel owners on "Hotel Hell" tonight (two night season premiere Mon. Aug. 13 at 8:00 p.m. PT, Tues. Aug. 14 at 8:00 p.m. PT; regular series time will be Mondays at 8:00 p.m.) Ramsay will travel to San Diego, California; Couer d’Alene, Idaho; Cambridge, New York; Milford, Pennsylvania; and Winter, Vermont to fix the bad, the bedbug-ridden and the downright stinky. In a conference call with journalists, Ramsay talked about what he likes (comfortable rooms), what he doesn't (scratchy towels) and why we all need to complain more.

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<p>The &quot;Sparkle&quot; ladies: Tika Sumpter, <span class="il">Jordin</span> Sparks and Carmen Ejogo</p>

The "Sparkle" ladies: Tika Sumpter, Jordin Sparks and Carmen Ejogo

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Jordin Sparks and her 'Sparkle' co-stars reveal their top Whitney Houston memories

What did Houston say to Sparks that made her cry?

In “Sparkle,” Tika Sumpter, Jordin Sparks, and Carmen Ejogo play sisters— and daughters of Whitney Houston’s character. The trio embarks on a musical journey during which their sibling bond deepens and they each find out some truths about each other.

Sumpter, Sparks, and Ejogo found that playing sisters came easily to them, especially as they bonded during the recording of the cast album. “You know that it’s real when somebody can deal with your attitude or not,” Sumpter joked. “When somebody’s like ‘What is wrong with you’. You’re like, ‘Look, this is how I feel right now,’ and they accept you.”

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Christina Aguilera</p>

Christina Aguilera

Credit: AP Photo

What Christina Aguilera really thinks about Britney Spears joining her as a talent show coach

Plus, other nuggets about Season 3 of 'The Voice'

Christina Aguilera had welcoming words to the talent reality show world for her fellow former Mousketeer Britney Spears.

At a press conference for “The Voice” Sunday at producer Mark Burnett’s Malibu mansion,  Aguilera, who is a judge alongside Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, and Cee Lo Green, was asked how she felt about Spears joining “The X Factor,” since the pop queens‘ careers have somewhat paralleled each other and they have known each other since they were tweens.

“I came up with Britney. [We were in the] Mickey Mouse Club. We were very close, and our paths have always crossed and, interestingly, they will continue to cross,” Aguilera said. “I welcome her to this family of fun and entertainment and finding new talent as well....I don’t know what [advice] she’s going to offer specifically, but I know she’s a pro...I think she’s going to give great advice.”’

Without being asked specifically about fellow diva Mariah Carey, who is joining the judges panel for “American Idol,”  she said in general, “I welcome these very talented women. In this business, especially in my genre of pop.. women [get] compared to each other and it’s women against women and this and that and I’m not down for that at this point in my life. I have no patience for it. C’mon, the more the merrier.”

The biggest change for Season 3 of “The Voice,” which debuts in September, is the addition of The Steal. “We go from blind auditions to the battles, this year, there’s much more at stake,” Burnett said. “When [the coaches] have their battles and select one person to stay with them and one person to leave, the other coach can buzz in and steal that person that coach has sent home.”

Each coach can steal up to two contestants from other teams. Each team will leave the Battle Round with 10 contestants. That number will drop to five in the Knock Out Round.

Levine admitted that if a dropped contestant is not picked by another coach during the Battle Round, it is adding insult to injury.  “It’s pretty debilitating getting let go and then, essentially, it’s three other people not necessarily wanting to keep you,” he said. “That’s just like getting kicked in the balls and punched in the face at the same time.”

With “The Voice” expanding to two cycles per year, Burnett acknowledged that it will be tough to keep the coaches, all of whom have very active careers. Adding that the initial coaches have their “chairs for life,” Burnett said the producers will never replace one of the existing judges permanently, but the judges may rotate out for a season to tour or fulfill other career duties, and then come back. While Green, who pushed back his Las Vegas residency to film Season 3 said he “hoped” he’d be back for Season 4 this spring, none of the other judges committed on whether they planned to return, but Aguilera hinted that there may be a point when she takes a sabbatical.

“For me, personally, we’re not speaking about anybody going or leaving or the details of that, I just know that I can only be so great as a coach if I keep on re-inspiring myself by going out, making albums... and gaining new stories and experiences on the road so that I can share with my team and bring it back.”

Aguilera mentioned that she is getting ready to drop “Your Body,” the first single from her forthcoming album. According to Pop Crush, she will debut the song on “The Voice.”

As if to illustrate the point, Levine left this morning for a three-week South America tour with his band Maroon 5, but will be back in time for the start of Season 3’s live shows.


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<p>David Giuntoli and Bitsie Tulloch in &quot;Grimm.&quot;</p>

David Giuntoli and Bitsie Tulloch in "Grimm."

Credit: NBC

Review: NBC's 'Grimm' returns, improved, for season 2

Deeper mythology and a more balanced ensemble highlight the growth curve

In today's podcast, Fienberg and I revisited NBC's "Grimm," which begins its second season tonight at 10. (NBC is airing a episodes on Mondays for the next few weeks in the hopes of hanging onto their Olympic audience for as long as possible.)

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<p>Ang Lee's &quot;Life of Pi.&quot;</p>

Ang Lee's "Life of Pi."

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Ang Lee's 'Life of Pi' will open the 50th New York Film Festival

Awards potential will be on display Sept. 28

After a slew of major premieres were announced for both the Venice Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival last month, critics and media have been wondering what high profile release was left for the coveted opening night of the New York Film Festival.  Additionally, as its the 50th edition of NYFF, the Film Society of Lincoln Center would not want a second rate picture opening the celebrated festival.  Happily, 20th Century Fox and Ang Lee have come to the rescue.

The Film Society announced today that Lee's adaptation of Yann Martel's popular novel "Life of Pi" will open the festival on Sept. 28.  The Fox release is currently scheduled to open nationwide on Nov. 21.

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 144

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 144

Dan and Alan talk 'Grimm,' 'Copper,' 'Boss,' 'Strike Back' and more


Happy Monday, Boys and Girls!
In this week's busy installment of The Firewall & Iceberg podcast, we discuss the returns of "Grimm," "Boss" and "Strike Back," plus the premiere of BBC America's "Copper." We also get to "Breaking Bad."
In the podcast, I forgot to apologize to Terrell Owens for my inaccurate memories of his last season in the NFL, which was more statistically respectable than I remembered. Then again, the last time y'all insisted I needed to apologize to an NFL wide receiver it was Kenny Britt, when I had the nerve to doubt his reliability as an NFL No. 1 wide receiver. I stand by that ongoing skepticism, which isn't based on Britt's talent, so much as his difficulties staying healthy and his inability to stay unarrested.
But anyway... Back to this week's podcast... If you have questions for us, next week would be a good week to ask, since we're definitely gonna have time for Listener Mail...
Today's breakdown:
"Grimm" (00:00:50 - 00:14:20)
"Boss" (00:14:25 - 00:26:05)
"Strike Back" (00:26:05 - 00:35:20)
"Copper" (00:35:20 - 00:50:00)
"Breaking Bad" (00:50:25 - 01:10:00)

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 144: 'Grimm,' 'Boss,' 'Strike Back' & 'Copper'

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 144: 'Grimm,' 'Boss,' 'Strike Back' & 'Copper'

Dan and Alan also discuss a thrilling 'Breaking Bad'


It's a busy Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, as Dan and I talk about the returns of "Grimm," "Boss" and "Strike Back," the debut of BBC America's "Copper," and get into the teeth of a tense "Breaking Bad" episode.

The line-up: 

"Grimm" (00:00:50 - 00:14:20)
"Boss" (00:14:25 - 00:26:05)
"Strike Back" (00:26:05 - 00:35:20)
"Copper" (00:35:20 - 00:50:00)
"Breaking Bad" (00:50:25 - 01:10:00)
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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