Latest Blog Posts

<p>Tim Burton exams some puppet hands on the set of &quot;Frankenweenie.&quot;</p>

Tim Burton exams some puppet hands on the set of "Frankenweenie."

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Tim Burton takes you on a tour of the sets of 'Frankenweenie'

Bringing a black and white passion project to life

LONDON - Some directors are enthusiastic about working with actors.  Others get an adrenaline rush from difficult shots and exotic locales.  And there is even a select group that find the most exciting part of the filmmaking process to be the decisions made in the editing room.  Tim Burton may enjoy all aspects of making movies, but he admits there is a special joy he gets on a stop-motion animated film just from the "props and things that people are making." 

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<p>Peter Buck (2008)</p>

Peter Buck (2008)

Listen: R.E.M.'s Peter Buck goes solo on '10 Million BC'

Boggy garage rocker arrives ahead of as-yet-untitled solo set

Since R.E.M. split, it sounds like guitarist Peter Buck has been spending time in the garage.

The rocker is stepping out solo with a new album and now has "10 Million BC" to show for it. The boggy, Jon Spencer-styled track made its bow on WFMU this week, with Buck's collaborator in The Baseball Project, Steve Wynn, introducing it.

"10 Million BC" is from Buck's forthcoming, as-yet-untitled effort, with no word yet when to expect a whole package -- a package which may be released on vinyl-only.

R.E.M. called it quits last September. And I've really enjoyed Michael Stipe's cameos on "Colbert."

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<p>Whitney Houston in 2010</p>

Whitney Houston in 2010

Review: Grammy doc 'A Death in the Family' looks at Whitney Houston's passing

What happens when a superstar dies 24 hours before the big show?

Earlier this week, The Recording Academy debuted “A Death in the Family: The Show Must Go On.”  The 26-minute documentary details how the 54th annual Grammy Awards put together a tribute to Whitney Houston for the telecast 24 hours following her death.

I was out of town and couldn’t attend the June 11 premiere and Q&A in Hollywood, but the short film is available for viewing on and will also be part of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.

The documentary is decidedly and deliberately non-showy: small talking heads often appear in a corner of a shot of an artist performing before expanding to the full screen. There’s a certain low-tech, news story approach to the whole enterprise.

The piece doesn’t go into any of the back story behind’s Houston’s death, instead staying focused on its mission: What happens when one of music’s top names dies 24 hours before the Grammys? With the show locked, how quickly can everything change and how does a show pay homage without seeming exploitative? Producer Ken Ehrlich, show writer David Wild, exec producer Terry Lickona, and Recording Academy head Neil Portnow are among those detailing how the Feb. 12 telecast was updated practically minute-by-minute following Houston’s death. Host LL Cool J also chronicles how he approached Houston’s death and his highly unusual decision to insert a prayer in his opening monologue.

Everyone speaks totally with one voice, as if there was never any debate at all as to how to honor Whitney, while taking care not to turn the program into the Houston show. That could be because they don’t want to show any possible dissension or  there was never any discussion at all over how to honor Houston after Ehrlich thought of  having Jennifer Hudson, who did a remarkable job, pay tribute or because the train had already left the station so there was no time for discussion, just execution.

The doc’s title is a bit of a misnomer: Houston’s death didn’t happen in a vacuum with the rest of the show totally locked and loaded: With less than 48 hours to go, Paul McCartney decided that he wanted to change his show closer from “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” to the much smarter “Abbey Road” medley that includes “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and “The End.” Not only was the Beatle changing his tune, literally, he now wanted Dave Grohl, Joe Walsh and Bruce Springsteen to join him. It would have been interesting to know how the producers dealt with the extra time needed for both Houston's tribute and the longer McCartney number.

While the emotional appeal of calling the documentary “ A Death in the Family”  is understandable, the documentary is just as much about the McCartney performance as the Houston addition. Plus, the McCartney portion provides some of the most glowing commentary. Where else will you hear Springsteen raving like a fan boy about playing with McCartney, the fulfillment of a wish he’s had since 1964? Or hear Grohl say he felt like he was standing next to Mt. Rushmore as he looked over at McCartney, Walsh and Springsteen?

The documentary works well on face value, but it has a very important additional role here that has nothing to do with educating the Grammy-watching public: The Grammys are using the film as a way to reach out to Emmy voters, and it is none too subtle.  Part of Portnow’s main role in the film is to brag about the team that produces the show and really stress the exceptional way the Grammys, every year, not just this one, come together.

Remarkably, the Grammys have never won an Emmy for best program, as Gold Derby points out, and if it’s going to happen, this is the time. Not only did the Grammys score their second highest ratings ever, drawing 39 million viewers,  they tied this year’s Oscar ratings and beat the 2011 Oscars, even though the Oscars are traditionally considered the much “bigger” show and the Grammys have always suffered a little in the Academy Awards’ shadow.

In case all the talking heads haven’t made their points persuasively enough, the documentary ends, as Springsteen’s Grammy-opening number “We Take Care Of Own” plays, with a montage of the 20 or so extremely diverse performances that took place during the 3-hour if to say to voters, “C’mon. Is there really any other show that deals with as much technical switch-ups as we do? Really?” It’s as subtle as a sledge hammer, but very effective and impressive.

Whether you want to view “A Death in the Family” as a documentary or as a marketing tool, it’s a compelling look behind the curtain of how the “biggest night in music,” as the Grammys have self-proclaimed their evening to be, comes together under unbelievably challenging circumstances...even when “one of their own,” as LL Cool J called Houston, doesn’t die on the eve of the show.

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

Julianne Hough with Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin in "Rock of Ages"

Julianne Hough on her favorite scenes in 'Rock of Ages' and Mary J. Blige

What does she find 'nerve wracking' about her next movie?

Julianne Hough wasn’t born until 1988, a year after “Rock of Ages” takes place, but she seems the perfect choice to play the naive, hopeful Sherrie Christian in the movie, which opens today.

With her all-American looks and her sweet voice, Hough personifies the girl who arrives on a bus from the midwest and with a gee-whiz, can-do attitude chases her dreams along the Sunset Strip.

The movie, unlike the play, tells its story through Sherrie’s eyes as she experiences all of Hollywood’s excesses for the first time. Though Hough, who was introduced to audiences through “Dancing With the Stars,” has appeared in other movies, such as “Burlesque” and “Footloose,” “Rock Of Ages” was the first to pair her with such megastars as Tom Cruise, Mary J. Blige, Catherine Zeta Jones and Alec Baldwin.

Playing the ingenue who temporarily captures the attentions of Stacee Jaxx (played by Cruise) was a blast, Hough says, who jokes that she didn’t have to act when her character is starstruck by Jaxx.  However, as much as she loved playing opposite Cruise, her favorite scenes took place in the strip club, and with her love interest, Drew, played by Diego Boneta. “We had so many fun scenes,” she says. “All the strip club stuff was fun. I really love the love montage we did because that was Drew and Sherrie falling in love. They were all these short little scenes and they were setting the tone of the movie. That was the most fun for me.”

Though she is an extraordinary dancer, Hough says she was in awe of the talents displayed by the “pole specialists” in the movie. “ They’ve got some ripped bodies, that’s for sure,” she says.  

Hough also enjoyed developing a friendship with Blige, who plays the strip club proprietor who takes Sherrie under her wing.  She was struck by Blige’s humility as the Grammy-winning singer continues, like Hough, to develop her acting skills. “She’s one of the most influential women in music and yet she doesn’t know it,” Hough says. “I’d be like, ‘That’s amazing!,” and she’d be like, ‘Really? You really thought that was okay? I’m not sure about it.’  The fact that she’s that humble and she’s who she is is just a testament how there are so many people in this world we put in pedestals and they’re just human beings, you know.”

With each new movie, Hough, who is also signed to Mercury Nashville as a recording artist,  says her faith in her abilities grows. “I just keep getting more confident and more secure,” she says. “Also, because I learn so much from each movie and a lot of technical things: how a movie is made and the process, so I know how to use my stamina, you know what I mean, and be top energy all day long. That’s a hard part.”

Hough went straight from promoting “Rock of Ages” to filming “Safe Haven,” a romantic drama starring Josh Duhamel based on the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name. It will be one of Hough’s first non-singing roles. She admits she’s nervous about not having singing and dancing to fall back on, but also excited. “I love having a challenge and I think that’s what makes me better as a performer, as an actress, or whatever I may be pursuing, but I think the most nerve wracking part is I’m literally having to leave the press tour of ‘Rock of Ages’ to start shooting right away. I’ve always had a lot of prep time for movies so... that will be a little different, but I love different. I get bored if I’m doing the same thing long.”

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<p>Jonah&nbsp;Hill at the Academy's Nominees Luncheon in February</p>

Jonah Hill at the Academy's Nominees Luncheon in February

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

'Moneyball,' '21 Jump Street' star Jonah Hill joins the cast of Tarantino's 'Django Unchained'

The Oscar nominee further looks to diversify his output

Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" is still shooting, believe it or not, despite that Christmas Day release looming six months away. Two lengthy back-to-back shoots for Leonardo DiCaprio. That guy's gonna need a vacation.

Today comes news of further casting on the western romp, as Jonah Hill has joined the ensemble, according to a report at Deadline. Apparently Hill was in the mix for a larger role in the film at one point in time, but couldn't commit due to scheduling. It seems they've found room for him after all.

Hill has stepped up his profile plenty in the last few years. He's successfully jerked himself from the pigeonhole of broad comedy (though he'll continue to be in plenty of those, including this year's "The Watch"). An Oscar nomination for his performance in Bennett Miller's "Moneyball" certainly pushes that point.

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<p>Woody Allen and Penelope Cruz at the &quot;To Rome With Love&quot;&nbsp;premiere in Rome this past April.</p>

Woody Allen and Penelope Cruz at the "To Rome With Love" premiere in Rome this past April.

Credit: AP Photo

Woody Allen and Penelope Cruz bring 'To Rome With Love' to LA Film Fest

A big night for the downtown fest

LOS ANGELES - The LA Film Festival has always done an admirable job of bringing in major films for its opening or closing night galas.  Last year Richard Linklater's "Bernie" had its world premiere to kick off the 2011 edition of the festival and the year before eventual Oscar best picture nominee "The Kids Are All Right" inaugurated the event's move to LA Live (with riot police surrounding the after party following the Lakers NBA Championship win to boot).  2012 got off to a memorable start Thursday night with the U.S. premiere of Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love" and a surprise introduction from the legendary filmmaker himself.

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<p>Malin Akerman and Tom Cruise in &quot;Rock of Ages.&quot;</p>

Malin Akerman and Tom Cruise in "Rock of Ages."

Credit: New Line Cinema

Tell us what you thought of 'Rock of Ages'

The hair-metal musical hits theaters today

It didn't take great clairvoyant powers to predict that the critical majority would have their knives out for "Rock of Ages," an unapologetically synthetic karaoke musical that, with its "Glee"-generation take on 1980s excess, is surely the year's most uncool blockbuster. (Hitfix's Drew McWeeny didn't see the funny side; nor did David Poland, regular champion of the genre, who claimed he was "not exaggerating" in naming it the worst movie musical in 30 years.) Oh, well. I'm happy to be in the minority on this one, having already sung the praises of both the movie and Tom Cruise's magnetic, self-reflexive performance in it. (Golden Globe nod, here we come.) Any of you planning to make up your own mind this weekend? Report back if you do, and rank it using the button above.

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<p>Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner in James Gray's untitled new feature.</p>

Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner in James Gray's untitled new feature.

Credit: Liberation/The Weinstein Company

Weinsteins pick up James Gray's latest for 2013 release

Formerly titled 'Low Life,' film stars Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Renner and Joaquin Phoenix

On Monday, when we launched our Oscar predictions for 2012, Kris was keen to stress how fluid the field is, how few things are set in stone. "Which of these could fall off the 2012 map and take a seat until next year?" he asked. Days later, the first of these dropouts -- not that it was ever promised to us this year in the first place -- has come to light, and the Contenders charts have already required tweaking.

But it's good news. The latest feature from unhurried New York auteur James Gray -- a starry, evidently lush period piece that's currently untitled, but was once dubbed "Low Life" -- has been acquired by The Weinstein Company for a 2013 release, and Deadline's Mike Fleming claims that the distributor has "big plans" for the film next year.

That puts a major question mark on speculation about the film cropping up in this year's autumn festivals; Gray's work, for whatever reason, has a greater following in France than anywhere else, so Cannes 2013 (where his last three features premiered in Competition) seems the natural place for the Weinsteins to unveil this one, which only recently completed shooting.

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<p>Doc Cochran (Brad Dourif) and Johnny (Sean Bridgers) in &quot;Deadwood.&quot;</p>

Doc Cochran (Brad Dourif) and Johnny (Sean Bridgers) in "Deadwood."

Credit: HBO

'Deadwood' Rewind: Season 2, Episode 4: 'Requiem for a Gleet' (Veterans edition)

Al's health worsens while Wolcott's power base strengthens

We're into week 2 of our summer trip back through David Milch's epic revisionist Western "Deadwood." As always with this project, we're going to have two parallel discussions going at once: identical reviews, but one where the comments section is just for people who are new to the series and don't want to be spoiled on anything past the events of the episode being discussed, and one for people who know "Deadwood" backwards and forwards, and want to be able to discuss it all at once. This is the veteran-friendly version; click here for the newbie-safe one.

A review of episode 4, "Requiem for a Gleet," coming up just as soon as I have a Nubian genie at my disposal...

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<p>Doc Cochran (Brad Dourif)&nbsp;and Johnny (Sean Bridgers)&nbsp;in &quot;Deadwood.&quot;</p>

Doc Cochran (Brad Dourif) and Johnny (Sean Bridgers) in "Deadwood."

Credit: HBO

'Deadwood' Rewind: Season 2, Episode 4: 'Requieum for a Gleet' (Newbies edition)

Al's health worsens while Wolcott's power base strengthens

We're into week 2 of our summer trip back through David Milch's epic revisionist Western "Deadwood." As always with this project, we're going to have two parallel discussions going at once: identical reviews, but one where the comments section is just for people who are new to the series and don't want to be spoiled on anything past the events of the episode being discussed, and one for people who know "Deadwood" backwards and forwards, and want to be able to discuss it all at once. This is the newbie-safe version; click here for the veteran-friendly one.

A review of episode 4, "Requiem for a Gleet," coming up just as soon as I have a Nubian genie at my disposal...

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<p>Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate on &quot;Parks and Recreation.&quot;</p>

Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate on "Parks and Recreation."

Credit: NBC

If I had an Emmy ballot 2012: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

The women of 'Suburgatory,' 'Big Bang Theory,' 'Cougar Town' and more

Okay, it's part 2 of our look at the Emmy nominations process for 2012. As always, Fienberg and I are going to approach things in two ways. I'll pretend that I have an Emmy ballot and make my picks for the six actors or shows I would put on my ballot, while Dan will rank the potential nominees from most likely to least. And, as always, we are working off of the actual Emmy ballot, so we can't consider people who didn't submit themselves, nor can we reassign anyone to a more suitable or easier category.

Yesterday, we looked at the comedy supporting actors, so now it's time to make our picks for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. (Click here for Dan's predictions.)

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<p>Joe Cornish, seen here in the middle on the set of 'Attack The Block,' is now set to bring Neal Stephenson's classic 'Snow Crash' to the screen</p>

Joe Cornish, seen here in the middle on the set of 'Attack The Block,' is now set to bring Neal Stephenson's classic 'Snow Crash' to the screen

Credit: Screen Gems/Film4/Studio Canal

'Attack The Block' director Joe Cornish set to bring sci-fi classic 'Snow Crash' to life

Could this and 'Ender's Game' kick off a new age of sci-fi adaptations?

You can't see me right now, but it's safe to assume I'm doing backflips of pure joy.

Neal Stephenson's breakthrough novel was "Snow Crash," a pre-Internet book that seems positively prescient when you look at it now.  It's a rousing adventure story about Hiro Protagonist, part pizza guy, part hacker, part samurai, who gets pulled into the mystery of a computer virus called Snow Crash that threatens to destroy the proto-internet that is the main setting of the novel.  It's a truly great book, and there have been attempts to turn it into a film before, with Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall attached to produce it at one point for Disney.

Now it looks like Joe Cornish, whose breakthrough film was last year's "Attack The Block," is set to write and direct the film, with Kennedy/Marshall once again attached, and the film this time set to be produced by Paramount.

This is exciting news.  "Snow Crash" is a great piece of original science-fiction, and I would love for studios to stop demanding everything be a prequel or a requel or a sequel or a reboot or a whateverthehell that's already been made.  As I watch the cast come together on Jose Padilla's "Robocop," I am impressed by the actors he's brought together, and I like Padilla, and I remain deeply, deeply unconvinced that we need a remake of an already perfect movie. 

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