Latest Blog Posts

<p>There's no faking it... Nora Ephron, screenwriter of 'When Harry Met Sally,' will be deeply missed.</p>

There's no faking it... Nora Ephron, screenwriter of 'When Harry Met Sally,' will be deeply missed.

Credit: 20th Century Fox Home Video

'When Harry Met Sally' screenwriter Nora Ephron remembered

From 'Silkwood' to 'Julia and Julia,' we look at the impact of one of Hollywood's most loved writers

Nora Ephron followed an unusual career trajectory in Hollywood, and the single greatest compliment I can pay to her on the occasion of her passing is that you can clearly identify what makes something a Nora Ephron movie.  Her voice was strong and distinct, and from the start of her Hollywood career to the end of it, she did personal work that somehow also managed to fit comfortably into the ever-changing modern studio system.  That is no easy feat, no matter what the gender of the artist, and when you praise Ephron, it should be as a writer and not just a woman writer.

She came from Hollywood stock, of course, with parents who were part of the old Hollywood studio system, and I have no doubt she learned all you would ever need to know about navigating the political system growing up that way.  She was around for the production of films like "Desk Set" and "Carousel" and "There's No Business Like Show Business," and her parents worked on TV variety shows as well.  She couldn't have been any more ground zero for a career in film, but for a while, she worked more as an essayist.  She was part of the world of politics and journalism, married for a time to Carl Bernstein, and her first theatrical feature, "Silkwood," was a very smart and angry portrait of famed nuclear industry whistle-blower Karen Silkwood.  She was working with Mike Nichols, with Meryl Streep.  Talk about hitting the ground running.  Her journalist's background made her an inspired choice for "Silkwood," and it's a really good script.

Read Full Post
Naya Rivera on 'The Glee Project'

Naya Rivera gets wasted on 'The Glee Project'

Credit: Tyler Golden/Oxygen

'The Glee Project' recap: 'Sexuality' is a real turn off

Naya Rivera shows up to do nothing and it's a shame only one person goes home

The second season cast of "The Glee Project" tackling sexuality turns out to be about as sexy as Lars von Trier directing an episode of "iCarly." It's either the ugliest cute thing or the cutest ugly thing you've ever seen, and either way it's a bad combination.

Here's how it started:

This week's theme: Sexuality
Homework assignment: Color Me Badd's "I Wanna Sex You Up"
Guest mentor: Naya Rivera

Read Full Post
<p>There's a whoooooole lot of this in 'The Amazing Spider-Man,' but if you're looking for more than a pose, brace yourself for a letdown.</p>

There's a whoooooole lot of this in 'The Amazing Spider-Man,' but if you're looking for more than a pose, brace yourself for a letdown.

Credit: Sony/Columbia

Review: 'The Amazing Spider-Man' is neither amazing nor new

Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone work well together, but it's just not enough

There is one moment of pure visual magic in "The Amazing Spider-Man," perfectly staged and realized, and when the Stan Lee cameo is the best thing in your movie, something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.

One of the biggest questions you're going to hear in the days and weeks ahead as people finally get a chance to see this series reboot is going to be "Why?"  Sony's answer to that question is "Because we had to."  From a business perspective, they had no choice but to make another movie, and since they couldn't afford to stay in the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire business, they made a decision to go back to the start and kick things off with a new creative team…

… only they didn't.  The producers are still the same producers, and sure enough, Alvin Sargent's got a shared screenplay credit on the film, making him the most consistent creative player in the series so far.  While there's one advantage to restarting the entire series, allowing them to layer in Gwen Stacy from the very start and then, somewhere down the road, play out her most infamous story line, what you gain by doing that, you lose in narrative momentum.  This film's got one major issue that nothing can overcome, and that is a profound feeling of "been there, done that."

Read Full Post
Watch: Seth MacFarlane talks 'Ted,' Giant Chicken fights and going R-rated

Watch: Seth MacFarlane talks 'Ted,' Giant Chicken fights and going R-rated

Why was it important to the 'Family Guy' creator to make Ted real?
In film and television, it's hardly unusual for troubled guys to take solace in the company of furry friends. 
 
James Stewart hobnobbed with an overgrown rabbit.
 
Mel Gibson got confrontational with a British beaver.
 
Elijah Wood smokes up with a randy dog.
 
And Mark Wahlberg has a co-dependent friendship with a uncouth teddy bear.
 
Unlike "Harvey," "The Beaver" and "Wilfred," however, the foul-mouthed ursine companion in "Ted" is unquestionably real and not in any way a manifestation of his human chum's tormented psyche. Ted is capable of driving, having sex and fighting, while Wahlberg's John Bennett isn't crazy, unless you think it's crazy to occasionally prioritize a talking bear over intimacy with Mila Kunis.
 
Last weekend, I sat down with "Ted" writer-director-star Seth MacFarlane to talk about his first foray into live-action filmmaking after years of providing FOX with the bulk of its Sunday Animation Domination lineup. 
 
We chatted about using "Family Guy" and his FOX experiences for preparation, the decision to make "Ted" R-rated and why it was important to him that Ted not be a figment of anybody's imagination. 
 
Check back in the next two days for my conversations with Wahlberg and Kunis.
 
"Ted" opens on Friday, June 29.
Read Full Post
<p>BAFTA is giving its own voting system a polish.</p>

BAFTA is giving its own voting system a polish.

Credit: AP Photo/Adam Butler

As the Academy deliberates, BAFTA makes its own voting tweaks

January longlists to be scrapped and chapter voting reversed

Ah, BAFTA -- even when they're not making a conscious decision to do so, they seem to wind up shadowing the Academy. As Kris reported yesterday, AMPAS brass are meeting today to discuss potential changes to the voting rules for next year's Academy Awards. Earlier today, however, BAFTA beat them to the punch by announcing an overhaul of their own voting system. They'd cry "First!" -- but it's not the English thing to do.

The changes are considerable, and to my eye, come with both pros and cons -- but the chief takeaway, for better or worse, is that it makes the BAFTA voting system markedly more similar to that of the Oscars. That'll disappoint those who treasure the quirks of the Brits' previous voting system, which sometimes resulted in some rather distinctive winners. But since dramatically shifting their calendar to precede the Oscars in 2000 -- they used to take place several weeks after -- the BAFTAs having been falling ever more in line with the American awards, so this feels like a natural progression. 

Read Full Post
<p>You do not want to know what one of those ladies just did on the floor in 'Ted,' Seth MacFarlane's new comedy</p>

You do not want to know what one of those ladies just did on the floor in 'Ted,' Seth MacFarlane's new comedy

Credit: Universal Pictures

Review: Seth MacFarlane's 'Ted' has a foul mouth but a sweet heart

Seamless character animation and great performances sell a big idea

If you had told me at the start of this summer that I would prefer both the Seth MacFarlane film and the Katy Perry film to "Prometheus," I would have laughed in your face.

Seth MacFarlane has become enormously wealthy thanks to his animation empire, the foundation of which is "Family Guy," a show that tends to be very divisive.  I've written before about my problems with it, and I think by now, you know whether or not you're a fan of the show's shotgun-style sensibility and the near-constant pop culture randomness.  The thing that always surprises me about the show is how MacFarlane's able to get some of the material by Fox's standards and practices, because "Family Guy" is frequently dirty in a way that is startling.  Looking at "American Dad" or "The Cleveland Show," one could be forgiven for thinking that he's basically a one-trick pony.  A successful one-trick pony, certainly, but limited nonetheless.

Walking into "Ted," all I'd seen was the first red-band trailer, and it looked to me like exactly what I would expect from a Seth MacFarlane film.  However, what the trailers haven't really sold yet is the emotional core of the movie which works incredibly well, and while the movie has a dirty mouth, it's got a sweet heart, and it suggests to me that MacFarlane's signature interests are tempered by a new maturity to his work.

Read Full Post
<p>From Lana Del Rey's &quot;National Anthem&quot;</p>

From Lana Del Rey's "National Anthem"

Watch: Lana Del Rey and ASAP Rocky in 'National Anthem' video teaser

They reinvent Jackie O and JFK

History repeats itself over and over and over again in the teaser for Lana Del Rey’s upcoming “National Anthem” video.

If you have the patience to watch the thousand repeats of Lana Del Rey, standing at a microphone sweeping back her hair and smiling and
 A$AP Rocky taking a drag in the cigarette, presumably in the audience, a bit of a the plots unspools. Del Rey appear as Jackie Onassis (looking like a cross between Jackie O and Elvis-era Priscilla Presley) with A$AP Rocky as her John F. Kennedy.  Cut in is footage of American flags, the couple dancing, and a motorcade similar to the one on that fateful day in November 1963.

[More after the jump...]

Read Full Post
<p>The founding Avett Brothers</p>

The founding Avett Brothers

Credit: Universal Republic

Listen: The Avett Brothers unveil new 'Carpenter' album with song 'Live and Die'

Folky quintet's first since 2009's 'I and Love and You'

The Avett Brothers are returning with their first album since 2009's "I and Love and You," with "The Carpenter" out on Sept. 11 this year.

The set has been preceded by the first single "Live and Die," which is available for streaming via NPR as of today. The tune goes up for purchase on July 9; it's a style familiar to fans of the band, which has steadily stepped away from rockabilly elements and bluegrass toward more middle-of-the-road, pleasant, folk-inspired pop tunes with their penchant harmonies. This one starts out with a trotting banjo and ends with a chorus that can only be dislodged from your mind with a crowbar.

Listen to "Live and Die" here.

Read Full Post
<p>Charlie Sheen in &quot;Anger Management.&quot;</p>

Charlie Sheen in "Anger Management."

Credit: FX

Review: FX's 'Anger Management' lets Charlie Sheen be Charlie Sheen

New sitcom isn't winning, or losing; just what you expect it to be, no more, no less

Talent and/or fame will get you second chances — and often third, fifth and ninth chances. Always and always and always. Whether in sports or entertainment, if your skill set is going to make the product better, or if your popularity is going to put more fannies in the seats, then it doesn't matter how difficult you can be to work with, how many times you've been arrested, how often your face has been in the news for an embarrassing reason.

See Ron Artest. See Lindsay Lohan. See Dennis Rodman.

Or see Charlie Sheen, newly returned to television in "Anger Management," a sitcom that debuts Thursday night at 9 on FX.

Read Full Post
<p>&nbsp;Iggy Pop</p>

 Iggy Pop

Credit: AP Photo

Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino and Iggy Pop pair for a 'True Blood' duet

Plus, listen to Best Coast reinvent Fleetwood Mac's 'Rhiannon'

Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino and Iggy Pop have paired together for “Let’s Boot and Rally,” a song that will be featured in the July 8 episode of HBO’s “True Blood.”

The tune, co-written by “True Blood’s” music supervisor Gary Calamar and James Combs, will premiere on Santa Monica’s KCRW (where Calamar also DJs) on July 5 at 10:20 a.m. Not much word on how it sounds yet, other than KCRW calls it a “punk rock duet.”

Cosentino expressed her excitement over recording with Iggy Pop on Best Coast’s twitter feed, while Iggy Pop said in a statement, “I’ve always liked to bit. I guess that means me a vampire. Does this mean I have a license to suck?” Oh, Iggy....

While we have to wait a hot minute to hear the collaboration, fans can listen to Best Coast’s cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon” right now right here. The song is on the “Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac,” a tribute album out Aug. 14 that also features MGMT, Lykke Li and others.  NIcks' swirl has been replaced by Consentino's pep-rally perkiness.

As you can hear here, Best Coast takes the mystery and drama Stevie Nicks infused in the song and reinvents the tune as a complete pop turn filtered through a girl-group sensibility complete with hand claps. You’re either going to love it or hate it, but you have to give BC credit: they made the song their own.

Read Full Post
<p>Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum in &quot;Magic Mike.&quot;</p>

Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum in "Magic Mike."

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Lists: Top 10 performances in Steven Soderbergh films

With 'Magic Mike' on the way, a look at the actors who have excelled in his work

If it feels like just the other day that Steven Soderbergh released a new movie -- well, it pretty much was. Ahead of the supposed sabbatical from filmmaking he's threatening to make at the end of this year, the Oscar-winning director has been on a tear, perhaps hoping to churn out enough films in a short space of time that audiences won't miss him for a while. In the last 10 months, he's given us a double-shot of nifty genre action in "Contagion" and "Haywire," while this Friday sees the release of male-stripper comedy "Magic Mike" -- an unapologetically fizzy entertainment that is nonetheless scoring the director his strongest reviews in some time.

With 24 features now in the can for Soderbergh, it seemed appropriate to devote this week's edition of The Lists to his decidedly catholic, even eccentric, filmography, which runs the gamut from bright studio popcorners like "Ocean's Eleven" to classy prestige drama like "Traffic" to square-peg experiments like "The Girlfriend Experience" to such outright esoterica as "Schizopolis" -- but since I already offered a Top 10 Soderbergh films list a few years ago, I decided to shift focus to his equally wide-ranging work with actors.

Read Full Post
<p>Carly Rae Jepsen's &quot;Call Me Maybe&quot;</p>

Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe"

Are we in a new golden age of pop music? Here's why the answer is yes

Top 40 radio sounds better than it has in years: Carly Rae Jepsen, Bieber, Adele, fun.

Are we in a golden era of pop music?

Over the last 18 months, we’ve seen the tide turn from the hip-hop/urban cycle that had dominated pop radio for several years to a hybrid of pop/hip-hop. Now, we’re in the full flush of a pure pop resurgence. Beats were king for a very long time, now melody is pushing through again and the two are nestled comfortably together on the Hot 100 in the most diverse roster of artists and sounds to co-exist on the chart in decades.

Plus, there’s an influx of new artists pouring into pop, which is crucial for any movement to expand:  Two weeks ago, we saw a harmonic convergence that hasn’t occurred in 35 years: As Billboard noted, fun., Gotye, and Carly Rae Jepson logged consecutive No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, marking the first time since 1977 that baby acts have succeeded themselves in the top spot with their first charting single. Furthermore, these songs, all straight-ahead pop songs with melodies that you can sing to, are sticky with each spending multiple weeks at No. 1.

Throw in One Direction and The Wanted, plus Justin Bieber’s coming into his own as a pop artist so you have the all-important teen/tween idol factor covered; the continuation of success by strong R&B and rap-leaning artists like Nicki Minaj and Usher, and the ongoing integration of dance into Top 40 via artists like David Guetta (and his revolving line-up of guests) and there’s something for everyone.

How did the shift occur? First off, it happened simply because pop has always moved in trends. This current pop cycle won’t last forever: something more exciting will come in and replace it. I credit two artists with starting this round: Adele and Bruno Mars provided Top 40 radio with singles whose sound wasn’t in fashion with what was clogging playlists yet were too good to be denied. And props also go to Katy Perry and Rihanna for continually feeding the pop monster with non-stop hits. They have totally owned pop radio for the last two years and seldom been out of the Top 10.

So let’s rewind a bit and turn back the clock to the end of 2010: Mars’ massive “Just The Way You Are,” a soulful ballad with a chugging R&B beat (you can hear the shift starting there) was headed straight to No. 1 as Adele’s stomping (and also very rhythmic) “Rolling In the Deep” was hitting the airwaves, making inroads on a chart that had recently had little tolerance for straight-ahead singers.

If there had been no “Rollin in the Deep,”  which debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 exactly 18 months ago, I’m fairly convinced there would have been no “Somebody That I Used To Know” at No. 1. The biggest crossover hit in the last 25 years was a total game changer when it came to pop radio because it gave radio stations the freedom to expand their playlists.  “People never stopped liking pop records. [Top 40 program directors] stopped thinking pop records fit,” says Sean Ross. Ross was radio editor at Billboard during part of my time there and now writes the insightful “Ross on Radio” column for Radio-Info.com. He knows more about trends in radio than anyone else I know, so I asked him why he thought this was happening. “After Adele, playing something seemingly exotic no longer felt like jeopardizing one’s job,” he says.

And from there, it gave artists the courage to try different things. Ross notes Taylor Swift’s “Eyes Open” from “The Hunger Games” and Katy Perry’s current shapeshifting single “Wide Awake,” which is already in the Top 10. Though “Eyes Open” peaked at No. 19, and its predecessor, the gorgeous “Safe & Sound” by Swift featuring the Civil Wars, stalled at No. 30 (and were driven more by downloads than airplay), they still made inroads and their radio spins helped give Swift’s career some additional heft.

Ross also points out that the connection between TV licensing and Top 40  radio has never been stronger:  Exhibit A, of course, being fun.’s “We Are Young” featuring Janelle Monae, which leapt straight from a Chevy commercial onto the upper reaches of the pop charts. Cast members of both “Glee” and “Smash” covered Adele’s “Rumour Has It” before it hit radio, plus the song logged several other placements, making it familiar to many before it ever went to radio.

Furthermore, while part of Top 40’s charm is its ability to produce one-hit wonders, it feels like many of the songs in this current era will age well: Most of Adele’s hits sound timeless, and “Somebody That I Used To Know” still sounds inventive and like nothing else around it with virtually no burnout factor. To be sure, the electroclash of LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” already screams summer of 2011, but, sometimes, sounding dated isn’t a bad thing.

While it's tempting to ask how many of these artists will we still be hearing from five years from now, that's not the point of Top 40. The genre, now more so than it has ever been, is about the song, not the artist. That's what makes the strings of hits that artists like Rihanna and Katy Perry have been able to cobble together all the more impressive. By its very nature, pop music has a fleeting, of-the-moment, ephemeral quality that captures a certain moment.

Where do we go from here? I’d like to make a bold prediction: I bet six months from now, we see the totally abused and overused “featured artist” phenomenon greatly wane. Rappers are the ones who really started the culture for it by adding their friends and label mates on to tracks, often as a way to introduce new acts (Fun fact: Lil Wayne just logged his 100th (!!!) tune on the R&B chart not only because of his own success but because he’s been featured on so many songs by other artists). The trend caught hold and many pop acts started doing it because they wanted to work with certain rappers or they wanted their records to stand a better shot while Top 40 was so urban-leaning. It still has its place, but hopefully artists will be featured on a song because of creative and artistic decisions instead of solely marketing ones.

But in the meantime, for my fellow pop fans, join me as we hop in the car, put down the windows and hear Minaj’s “Starships” (a song that I love no matter what anyone else thinks) roll into “Somebody That I Used To Know,” which segues into “Call Me Maybe” and then Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been” and let’s sing along at the top of our lungs.

What do you think? 

Follow Melinda Newman on Twitter @HitfixMelinda

Read Full Post
BLOGS BY NAME