Latest Blog Posts

<p>Ellie (Sarah Lancaster)&nbsp;and Awesome (Ryan McPartlin)&nbsp;have a memorable night out on &quot;Chuck.&quot;</p>

Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and Awesome (Ryan McPartlin) have a memorable night out on "Chuck."

Credit: NBC

'Chuck' - 'Chuck vs. the Curse': Spy game

Ellie and Awesome's pretend spy adventure turns very real

A review of tonight's "Chuck" coming up just as soon as the CIA brings me wine...

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<p>Charlize Theron in &quot;Young Adult.&quot;</p>

Charlize Theron in "Young Adult."

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'Young Adult'

Jason Reitman's latest goes into wide release today

Jason Reitman's "Young Adult" goes into wide release today, and I'm interested to know what our readers make of it -- it's a piece that takes some bold tonal risks in asking its audience to accompany a tragically deluded, cripplingly spiteful character, and some will be more willing to take the journey than others. Certainly, awards voters have been regarding it warily: it failed to show up in yesterday's Globe nominees for Best Comedy or Musical, while top-form star Charlize Theron was blanked by SAG the day before. No matter. I appreciated the film's prickly eccentricities, and certainly think it's one of the most daring major studio releases of 2011; Kris was even more impressed. But what about you? Share your thoughts in the comments.  

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"Dance Moms"

"Dance Moms"

Starr Raving's Top Ten Reality TV Shows of 2011

There was gold among the garbage, believe it or not

Given how crowded and wide-ranging the field of reality television is, picking a top ten that makes any sense at all is no easy task. In a category that technically includes everything from educational programming to "The Amazing Race" to "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," it's not just comparing apples to oranges -- it's comparing apples to mangos to, say, potato chips.

It seemed to me we all know about the big guns in this category -- "TAR" is reliably entertaining, "Survivor" has a surprising amount of juice for an aging series and, if you like talent competitions, "American Idol" managed to reboot fairly well post-Simon Cowell. But these shows make up a narrow, high profile segment of the market.

Equally high profile, but more problematic, are the so-bad-they're-good entries in the field. Like a great, greasy hamburger or a particularly gooey dessert, shows like "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" or "Jersey Shore" can be highly addictive, entertaining and guilt inducing. I've included one on my list, but only one (they aren't Pringles, after all). These shows may be great fun, but I couldn't bring myself to include too many on my list. That doesn't mean I'm not watching them, but even I have limits.

What has always interested me more are the hidden gems lurking in the depths of basic cable. There's nothing I love more than stumbling across a great, weird, little-known show and adding it to my DVR (at least until it's canceled). So consider this my Top Ten Shows You Haven't Been Watching or Top Ten Shows You Haven't Heard of. Maybe a favorite of yours will be on here, but I'm hoping not.

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<p>Gary Oldman at the Los Angeles premiere of &quot;Tinker, Tailor,&nbsp;Soldier, Spy&quot;</p>

Gary Oldman at the Los Angeles premiere of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Gary Oldman: Unsung hero or international star?

Palm Springs will honor the actor that keeps coming up short this season

The answer, as most of us would agree, is "both." Earlier today we reported that Christopher Plummer, a well-established and much-beloved actor, is for the first time in his long and expansive career primed to take home Oscar gold. Gary Oldman, though, who is also considered one of the greatest actors of his generation, has had a similar (befuddling) lack of recognition so far in the precursor season.

As we all know, Oldman has never received recognition from the industry in the form of an Oscar nomination. His work this year was cited by the San Francisco Film Critics Circle but has otherwise been largely left out of the awards conversation. With organizations like the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the Screen Actors Guild and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association leaving him out of the their nominations, things are looking worse and worse for his Oscar chances this year.

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<p>Katy Perry</p>

Katy Perry

Credit: AP Photo

Katy Perry's march to No. 1 continues with B.o.B. remix of 'The One That Got Away'

Will it be enough to land her the record-setting sixth No. 1 from 'Teenage Dream?'

Discount single at iTunes? Check. Come up with a new remix? Check. Show up on well-timed, year-end television shows? Check.

Looks like Katy Perry, who hosted “Saturday Night Live” last week and was one of  Barbara Walters’  Most Fascinating People, is on track to make “The One That Got Away” her sixth No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 from “Teenage Dream,” which, as we all know by now, would make her the only artist in pop history to ever do so.

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<p>Shailene Woodley at the Los Angeles premiere of &quot;The&nbsp;Descendants&quot;</p>

Shailene Woodley at the Los Angeles premiere of "The Descendants"

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Novel giveaway contest winner!

Cody S, come on down...

Thanks everyone who participated in our novel giveaway contest. It dovetails nicely with my post this morning about Hunter McCracken in "The Tree of Life." We got a lot of passionate defenses of actors like Elle Fanning ("Super 8"), Anna Jacoby-Heron ("Contagion"), Chloe Grace Moretz ("Hugo), Anna Sophia Robb ("Soul Surfer"), Jacon Wsocki ("Terri"), Alex Shaffer ("Win Win") and Cozi Zuehlsdorff ("Dolphin Tale").

Ultimately, though, I really liked what reader CODY S had to say about Shailene Woodley in "The Descendants":

"Audiences often worship adult actors, adore child actors and simply recognize teenage actors. Shailene Woodley, coming from a show that criminally mocks and overlooks teenage emotion, surprisingly astounded me in 'The Descendants.' Woodley could have simply played off cliched angst and walked away with a nice paycheck, but instead embodies her character's ambivalence, anger, sadness, and frustration. Beyond her character's profanity and sarcasm lies a genuine struggle between forgiveness and disdain, which Woodley conveys beautifully through strained glances and buried grief. Embodying a showy and subdued performance, Woodley truly deserves a spot in oscar candidacy."

So Cody S, if you're reading, drop me a line so I can get your address and send off your spoils!

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<p>Paul McCartney</p>

Paul McCartney

Credit: AP Photo

Paul McCartney wants to be your sweetheart on Feb. 7's 'My Valentine'

Romantic set focuses on tunes from the '20s and '40s

Newlywed Paul McCartney has got that lovin’ feeling. On Feb. 7, just in time for Valentine’s Day, Sir Paul will release “My Valentine” on Concord/Hear Music.

The Tommy LiPuma-produced set will contain new McCartney-penned odes, because you never can really have enough silly love songs, as well as songs from the 1920s-1940s that his father loved and a young McCartney heard growing up. “My family, my uncles, everybody sang,” he told a French radio station (via Direct Contact). “And there will be pieces I wrote, but in this style...I worked with Diana Krall, and great jazz musicians like John Clayton. This is an album very tender, very intimate. This is an album you listen to at home after work, with a glass of wine or a cup of tea.”

It will be a big week for McCartney, who will be honored Feb. 10 in Los Angeles as MusiCares Person of the Year, the annual fundraiser produced by The Recording Academy two nights before the Grammys.


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<p>The Chieftans</p>

The Chieftans


Bon Iver, Decemberists, Civil Wars join the Chieftains for 'Voice of Ages'

Venerated Irish band pairs with indie, Americana and folk artists for new set

The DecemberistsBon Iver, The  Civil Wars, The Low Anthem, Pistol Annies and Carolina Chocolate Drops all join The Chieftains on the legendary Irish outfit’s “Voice of Ages,” out  Feb. 21.

Co-produced by T Bone Burnett, the set also features Punch Brothers, Imelda May, Lisa Hannigan and Paolo Nutini mixing it up on a collection, as well as writing some of the material: The Civil Wars write a song specifically for the project.

The Chieftains will kick off a tour in conjunction with the release on Feb. 17  in Santa Barbara, which will culminate in their annual St. Patrick’s Day show in New York. This year’s St. Paddy’s show will also serve as a 50th anniversary celebration.

The band has a long history of collaborating with musicians from all different genres, and has recorded in the past with Mark Knopfler, Tom Jones, Ziggy Marley, Jackson Browne, Madonna, Sting, Elvis Costello, Mick Jagger and dozens more.


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Michael Shannon gave the year's best leading male performance in Jeff Nichols's "Take Shelter."
Michael Shannon gave the year's best leading male performance in Jeff Nichols's "Take Shelter."
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

2011: the year in superlatives

Awarding the best in Oscar's categories and ours

So we've spent a week digesting and considering every critics organization's list of winners from LA to New York and everywhere in between. It's probably resulted in a numbing effect, the sheer volume of announcements whittling the season down to a point where it doesn't resemble much of anything anymore.

But who am I to complain about the amount of year-end kudos announcements when I had this post coming all along? I know. I'm so hypocritical.

Alas, after starting with the top 10 column on Monday and continuing with The Longlists on Wednesday, I'm wrapping up a week of year-in-review specials today with the annual list of superlatives, née, "The In Contention Awards." I have over 30 categories here with winners in each. Basically I take the Oscar fields and add a bunch of peripheral stuff to round out the year and send it off with a bang.

I look forward to hearing everyone else's choices for best this and best that as the season continues and more of you are able to see the films in release. But for me, I'm putting a bow on it with the below. Enjoy.

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Howard Stern

Howard Stern

Credit: AP

Is Howard Stern a good fit for 'America's Got Talent'?

The irrascible radio icon says he'll be tough - but is this the right forum for that?

Yes, it's true -- Howard Stern will be replacing Piers Morgan at the judges' table on "America's Got Talent." Clearly, the contentious radio personality is considered a big get by producers, who are moving the whole show to New York to accommodate him. What this means for co-judges Sharon Osbourne (who has a regular gig at Los Angeles-based "The Talk") and Howie Mandel is not yet clear -- and the impact Stern might have on the show itself is also anyone's guess.

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<p>&quot;The Life &amp;&nbsp;Times of Tim.&quot;</p>

"The Life & Times of Tim."

Credit: HBO

Reminder: HBO's 'The Life & Times of Tim' returns

Animated comedy of embarrassment survived cancellation

HBO's "The Life & Times of Tim" returns from cancellation tonight at 9, and you can be forgiven for not even realizing the show was canceled. The animated comedy has always existed well below the radar, airing in latenight for its first season and on Fridays for its second. It has its fans - I happen to be one of them - but they seem neither as vocal nor numerous as, say, the people stumping for "Archer" or various Adult Swim series.

So it was a disappointment but not a shock when HBO declined to order a third season back in June of 2010, and then a pleasant surprise when the decision was reversed a month and a half later after the show was shopped elsewhere. It's rare to see shows comes back from the dead, and the low-key fashion in which the whole saga played out seemed oddly fitting for such a simple, deadpan comedy.

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<p>Christopher Plummer</p>

Christopher Plummer

Credit: AP Photo/Focus Feature

Santa Barbara fest selects Christopher Plummer for Modern Master Award

The actor follows up SAG and Globe nominations with the festival's highest honor

Christopher Plummer is easily one of the most well-known and respected actors of our time. He is also an incredibly active 82-year-old man with a schedule to rival that of Clint Eastwood’s: He's completing press rounds for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” can be seen in the film version of his one-man show “Barrymore,” is developing another one-man show, "A Word or Two," and has settled in as the frontrunner for the Best Support Actor Oscar for his portrayal of a widower who comes out of the closet in the later part of his life in Mike Mills’s “Beginners.”

Plumber just received Golden Globe and SAG nominations for his work in the film, among other kudos, and has now added anoter feather to his pre-Oscar cap. The Santa Barbara International Film Festival has announced that Plumber will receive the Modern Master Award at this year's festival. SBIFF describes the award as its highest honor, created to honor an individual who has enriched our culture through his/her multi-faceted accomplishments in the industry.

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