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<p>Russell Brand, Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta and Alec Baldwin in &quot;Rock of Ages&quot;</p>

Russell Brand, Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta and Alec Baldwin in "Rock of Ages"

Credit: Warner Bros.

Set Visit Preview: 'Rock of Ages' is Tom Cruise singing, Adam Shankman laughing

How to make straight guys rock-out with a gay kiss on the Sunset Strip

Julianne Hough’s character Sherrie in “Rock of Ages” arrives onto the scene in a floral-enhanced dress, with an obscenely cumbersome suitcase in hand while a skinny punk jerk is rattled between policemen and hookers. Skipping alongside ‘80s choppers and liquor ads, Sherrie sings “Just Like Paradize” as her nose points at a rack of girlie mags and cigarettes next to the Roxy. At the edge of her jaunt is one of the film’s fictional focal points, the Bourbon Room, sullied and dank like used chewing gum on the sidewalk. It’s like the opening of “Rock of Ages” is a whiskey-drunk “Wizard of Oz,” with the Sunset Strip as the Yellow Brick Road and the munchkins starring as gum-chewing, crimp-haired, Poison-baiting Lollipop Guild.

Judging from the promos that have arrived from director Adam Shankman’s new creation, there’s going to be a lot of jokes about hair, just as there were in his other film “Hairspray.” But the rebuilt Strip – carved out of a low-rent neighborhood in Miami – boasts some darkness and details: understated, celebrated, a stark contrast to Hough’s bright chirp.
“This whole movie is like meta-paced. Like if you blow on any of the sets they’ll fall down,” said Shankman during a film shoot last year. He’s bringing the jukebox musical to life with what he said is the same budget but half the time as “Hairspray.”
So the set may not be sturdy, but the cash reserves were seemingly saved for casting. Along with Hough, the all-star lineup includes Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Mary J. Blige, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Bryan Cranston. But the real spotlights are on the songs, with roses and thorns from the ‘80s from artists like Def Leppard, Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi and, of course, Journey.
“I was singing ‘Don't Stop Believin’’ before ‘Glee,’ and there was someone before me too. These songs are timeless,” said Diego Boneta, who plays the romantic orbit around Hough’s Sherrie as would-be-rock-star Drew. “If it wasn't Glee, it would've been someone else.”
It’s Cruise who takes the last lead as Stacee Jaxx, an early-30-something rocker who tries splitting from his longtime band. It’s the 49-year-old “Mission Impossible” action star’s first musical film.
“We put him with Axl Rose's singing guy because I needed the songs to be really rock, I needed the voices to be rock ‘n’ roll, not Broadway,” Shankman recalls about the early “Rock of Ages” rehearsals. “And the guy got him to sing way the f*ck up, and it would have thick, amazing sound to it. Apparently, Tom has in his family, has, like, some opera singers. And so he's genetically predisposed to be able to sing.”
Dancing, at times, was a different matter, particularly since Cruise’s craft needs a little more... motivation.
“You have to be careful what you say, because he listens so much. He really takes what you say and then starts to pull it apart… You don't improv [dance] movement with him,” Shankman said, discussing working with choreographer Mia Michaels (“So You Think You Can Dance”). “There's nothing he does in the movie that wasn't choreographed to the knuckle. He wants to why you're doing, like, a hip roll or something like that. I don't want to f*cking have to tell you why you're doing a hip roll, because there's a piece of music that does it. Tom wants to know why.
“There's nothing bad about that, it's just very challenging to us to have to explain things that are just organic.”
Another challenge to the “Rock of Ages” shoot was the combination of sex and rock ‘n’ roll: not that it’s not a natural, erm, coming-together, but it’s a PG-13 flick. “Sex and humor are the two big choreographic sort of points in this,” Shankman says.
That means Malin Akerman singing the tune of “I Want to Know What Love Is” as she pulls apart the laces to Stacee’s pants with her teeth. It’s world-class pole dancing champions accompanying essentially the rock version of “Be Our Guest.” Drew’s dreams are altered into a New Kids on the Block-style boy band while there’s a gay love story between Baldwin and Brand’s characters. Zeta-Jones’ Patricia Whitmore is essentially the First Lady of Los Angeles circa 1987 (not exactly what audiences grew to love from her role in “Chicago”).
“You have incredibly famous people doing incredibly weird sh*t. And it's all through my filter. And they've all given over to me, and I feel very grateful that they have, because I feel incredibly lucky,” Shankman continues. “I was so stunned when I went to see the [original] play, that the house was full of straight guys rocking out, freaking out and loving a musical. I was like, if I can make a musical for straight guys… are you f*cking kidding me? Then I’d be a rock star.”


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<p>Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta in &quot;Rock of Ages&quot;</p>

Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta in "Rock of Ages"

Interview: Julianne Hough on 'Rock of Ages' and a Tom Cruise lap dance

Country pop singer reports in from the set of the Broadway-movie conversion

Apart from her country music career, Julianne Hough has built a reputation for showing up in musical films lately, including “Burlesque” with Christina Aguilera and the “Footloose” remake. Of course, the convincing powers of co-starring in a flick with Tom Cruise didn’t hurt to say “yes” to one more, now with cinematic adaptation of Broadway show “Rock of Ages.” 

Hough will hit the stage, the Sunset Strip and the stripper pole for her role as Sherrie in the film, due in theaters June 15, with other co-stars like Paul Giamatti, Diego Boneta, Alec Baldwin and Catherine Zeta-Jones. But then again, not all of them will get a lap dance from the rising star…
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<p>Hugh Jackman in &quot;Les Mis&eacute;rables&quot;</p>

Hugh Jackman in "Les Misérables"

Watch: 'Les Miserables' teaser trailer unveiled

Curtain is lifted on Hugh Jackman plus Anne Hathaway's big musical number

Taking beloved stage musical "Les Misérables" to the big screen is no easy feat, but in the new teaser trailer that dropped today, it seems the newest incarnation's filmmakers at least got the scale right. 

Featured in the clip is Professional High School Theater Girl Anne Hathaway singing her character Fantine's money shot "I Dreamed a Dream," as Hugh Jackman's Jean Valjean, Amanda Seyfried's pure-faced Cosette, Russel Crowe's militant Javert and others are revealed between sobs. There's even a blink of Samantha Barks, who is making a huge leap from stage to film as Eponine.

Victor Hugo's novel, set in 19th century, elegantly compounded the human condition and challenged the high and low ground of ethics and class loyalty, which made for good stage material and even romance when it was first adapted as plays -- and then as a musical in the 1980s. The music of that show is why the show is so fiercely defended and well-worn, because of its strong feminine arcs around Jean Valjean's hard-scrabble for redemption.

Which brings us back to size. What a stage musical can't do is reveal sweeping landscape aerials and assemble enough bodies to amp a student rebellion to scale. Capturing songs in close, quiet quarters also has the appeal of nixing full-throated stage sound, for much more intimate performances in-studio. Director Tom Hooper -- on whom every eye is fallen after "The King's Speech" -- seems unafraid to let the "Les Mis' actors look like dirt and, hopefully, let them act, fight and die like dirt, too, without the quick costume changes between acts.

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<p>&quot;Seinfeld&quot;&nbsp;was one of the biggest hits of the Warren Littlefield era at NBC.</p>

"Seinfeld" was one of the biggest hits of the Warren Littlefield era at NBC.

Credit: NBC

Book review: Warren Littlefield's 'Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV'

Former NBC president dishes entertainingly on the era of 'Seinfeld,' 'Friends,' 'ER' and more

Warren Littlefield was the first NBC president I knew as a TV critic, but not the first NBC president I knew as a TV viewer, and that unfortunately meant he was always playing catch-up in my eyes.

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<p>You can expect a whole lot more of this in the reshot version of 'G.i. Joe Retaliation' that will open in March 2013.</p>

You can expect a whole lot more of this in the reshot version of 'G.i. Joe Retaliation' that will open in March 2013.

Credit: Paramount

Paramount's decision to move 'G.I Joe Retaliation' could be a no-win for the studio

As their cover story crumbles, a picture of a troubled production emerges

Walk down the aisle of a grocery store, and you'll see products with the "G.I. Joe Retaliation" logo slapped on them.  Hit the right toy store that didn't get the memo, and you'll see "G.I. Joe Retaliation" toys on the shelves.  Drive around LA, and you'll see plenty of outdoor posters for the film.  It looks like Paramount's got their sequel to the live-action "Rise Of Cobra" ready to go and on its way to theaters on June 29th.

That's not true, though.  They've pushed the film to a March 29th, 2013 release, and the reason they gave last week when details started to break was that they wanted to make sure they had time to give the film a good 3D post-conversion.

This week, though, that cover story is starting to collapse, and a very different picture is emerging of a film in trouble, a director being pushed aside, and reshoots designed to radically alter the fate of at least one character.  In an age where even the smallest details on a film seem to be known months ahead of release, I'm not sure how Paramount thought they were going to get away with a cover story as simple as "We like 3D," but it's apparent that they're going to have to contend with months of tough buzz instead, and their decision to move the film could be make or break and worth hundreds of millions of dollars to a studio that can't afford to throw away any money right now.

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<p>Josh Hopkins and Courteney Cox in the &quot;Cougar Town&quot;&nbsp;season finale.</p>

Josh Hopkins and Courteney Cox in the "Cougar Town" season finale.

Credit: ABC

Season finale review: 'Cougar Town' - 'My Life/Your World'

Jules and Grayson hit some bumps on their way to a dream wedding

A review of the "Cougar Town" season finale coming up just as soon as I say something bad about leather sandals...

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<p>Mindy Kaling of &quot;The Mindy Project&quot;</p>

Mindy Kaling of "The Mindy Project"

Credit: FOX

DVR Gridlock 2012-13: Tuesday Nights

Six new shows! Three head-to-head-to-head comedy blocks! Chaos!
[This week, I'm going to be glancing, night-by-night, at how the primetime schedules have changed after the network announcements at upfronts. I'll be looking at how the various changes will impact the ratings races on each night, as well as my own DVRing habits. Readers can chime in on how their own DVRs will be impacted. And yes, this brief series assumes that anybody still watches TV on their TVs. I'm old-fashioned.]
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<p>I expected Mighty Joe Young to wake up and attack based on how realistic the sculpture was during our tour of Rick Baker's Glendale studio.</p>

I expected Mighty Joe Young to wake up and attack based on how realistic the sculpture was during our tour of Rick Baker's Glendale studio.

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Join us for a tour of Rick Baker's make-up showroom

'Mighty Joe Young,' 'Ed Wood,' 'Coming To America,' and more

Last week, I ran my long-form interview with make-up effects legend Rick Baker, which may be my favorite thing we've done so far this year here on HitFix.

While we were at his Glendale studio getting ready for the interview, we had some time to kill in the showroom, where he has many elaborate make-ups on display, and we decided to shoot as much of it as we could for you.

The result isn't he most formal walk-through tour of all time, but should offer you a flavor of what it's like to be there, and just how remarkable these creations are when you see them up close.  Stan Winston used to have the same sort of showroom at his company, and I think it's a testament to the artistry that goes into the making of these things.  Built right, they endure long past when you'd expect them to, and even without knowing the film they came from, they are remarkable.

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 131

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 131

Dan and Alan talk 'Awake,' 'Longmire' and start their 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' journey


Happy Tuesday, Boys & Girls!
Hope you had a happy and reverential Memorial Day. Now it's time for another installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, recorded with a full ocean between us.
In this week's podcast, we review A&E's "Longmire," discuss the series finale of NBC's "Awake," talk about Sunday's mighty eventful "Mad Men" and then we begin our summer rewatch of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
So that's a lot of ground to cover.
[On a side note: If the "Buffy" character who we say at the end of the podcast is never mentioned again happens to be mentioned again in the next episode, no need to tell us. That's the beauty of a rewatch: We'll discover next episode and I'll be sure to apologize profusely. To the character, not the actor.]
Here's the breakdown:
"Longmire" (00:01:45 - 00:11:00)
"Awake" finale (00:11:00 - 00:26:15)
Listener Mail (00:26:15 - 00:36:15)
"Mad Men" (00:37:35 - 01:01:20)
"Buffy" Rewatch Part I (01:01:30 - 01:25:10)

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 131: 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' 'Longmire,' 'Mad Men' & more

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 131: 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' 'Longmire,' 'Mad Men' & more

Dan and Alan also look back at the 'Awake' series finale and answer your mail


We found a line of string long enough to connect my tin can in New Jersey with Dan's tin can in London, which means we were able to record a trans-Atlantic edition of the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, which starts with a review of A&E's "Longmire," ends with the beginning of our summer-long "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" rewatch, and in between deals with the end of "Awake" and a "Mad Men" with much to discuss. (Dan hasn't been able to see "Game of Thrones" yet, or else we might've tried some "Blackwater" chat.) 

The line-up: 

"Longmire" (00:01:45 - 00:11:00)
"Awake" finale (00:11:00 - 00:26:15)
Listener Mail (00:26:15 - 00:36:15)
"Mad Men" (00:37:35 - 01:01:20)
"Buffy" Rewatch Part I (01:01:30 - 01:25:10)
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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<p>Tom Cruise, seen here in last year's 'Mission:&nbsp;Impossible - Ghost Protocol,' is set to play the titular character in 'Jack Reacher' this Christmas.</p>

Tom Cruise, seen here in last year's 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol,' is set to play the titular character in 'Jack Reacher' this Christmas.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Is Paramount hobbling a potential franchise by changing 'One Shot' to 'Jack Reacher'?

Has Hollywood learned nothing from 'John Carter'?

Paramount's been making some odd and potentially expensive choices recently, and no matter what's really going on behind closed doors, it's making them look like they are rudderless and even desperate.

I was not at CinemaCon this year for Paramount's presentation, but that's where they first showed footage from what they hope will be a kickoff to an ongoing franchise based on the Lee Childs novels about Jack Reacher, an ex-military cop who wanders America and frequently finds himself in harm's way.  They're starting with an adaptation of the ninth book in the (so-far) seventeen novel series, "One Shot," and until now, that's the title they've been using for the film itself.  Today, though, it appears that they have decided to retitle the piece.

It will now officially be known as "John Carter."

Oh, wait… I mean they're changing the title to "Jack Reacher."  But my entirely-intentional slip makes a point, and I'm curious how no one brought up Disney's marketing debacle from this spring when they were having meetings about this title switch.  Of course, this is just the latest in a series of strange choices that Paramount's made on this one.

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<p>&nbsp;Adam Lambert</p>

 Adam Lambert

Watch: Adam Lambert's new video for 'Never Close Our Eyes'

Former 'American Idol' star takes a quantum creative leap

Adam Lambert’s video for “Never Close Our Eyes” takes place somewhere in a dystopian future where all those beautiful multi-ethnic models from the old Benetton commercials have been rounded up and imprisoned. Their freedom may be taken away,  as has their possession of any clothes not in the beige/gray family, but, thank God, they still have access to hair dye, as evidenced by Lambert’s fierce highlights.

Food has been replaced with pill pellets and the days seem to pass in drudgery, scrubbing the floor in a series of coordinated, ballet-like moves, and checking into some plexiglass box that scans our eyes, while Big Brother keeps  constant surveillance. 

[More after the jump...]

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