Latest Blog Posts

Ashley and Ben on "The Bachelorette"

Ashley and Ben on "The Bachelorette"

Credit: ABC

A 'Bachelorette' favorite will be the new 'Bachelor' this January

Rejected by Ashley, the winemaker returns to TV to woo again

It turns out there can be an upside to being rejected by the woman you love in front of millions of television viewers. Ben Flajnik, the runner-up for Ashley Hebert's heart in the most recent cycle of "The Bachelorette," has been chosen to be the latest star of "The Bachelor." Ben will make his first public appearance in his new role on the season finale of "Bachelor Pad" on Mon. Sept. 12.

The next season of "The Bachelor" begins airing in Jan. 2012, so until then we'll just have to trust that the 28-year-old Sonoma, Calif. wine maker is piecing together the heart Ashley stomped all over in Fiji when he's not pursuing his hobbies of (if the ABC press release is to be believed) "crab fishing, sailing, golf, skate boarding, surfing, playing piano and singing in a tribute band." He also loves to fix things, has a passion for landscaping, and loves spending time with his Jack Russell terrier, Scotch. 

Read Full Post
<p>Taylor Swift at last month's Teen Choice Awards</p>

Taylor Swift at last month's Teen Choice Awards

Credit: AP Photo

Analysis: What we can learn from today's CMA Award nominations

Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton and Brad Paisley lead all artists

The Country Music Assn. announced the nominees for the 45th Annual CMA Awards today and there’s a lot to be gleaned from the nods.

*As opposed to years
when Garth Brooks was head and shoulders and torso above everyone else in country music, there’s a much healthier level playing field these days.  Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton and Brad Paisley each received five nominations, while Zac Brown Band and The Band Perry garnered four apiece.

*The sharing the wealth also points to how strong the touring market is for country artists. Kenny Chesney, who got neglected here despite releasing the fine “Hemingway’s Whiskey” during the July 1, 2010-June 30, 2011 eligibility period, and Taylor Swift can both fill stadiums, Keith Urban, Zac Brown Band, Brad Paisley and Jason Aldean can fill arenas. And that’s not even dipping into the stalwarts like Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, and George Strait who sell out larges venues years after year or artists like Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, whose live audiences are growing every day.  Country probably has the deepest bench of any genre. 

*There remains a gaping hole when it comes to country duos, so much so that the vocal group and vocal duo of the year should be combined. Just as Brooks & Dunn dominated for a decade plus, and the Judds before them, Sugarland is the only true superstar duo in a field that also includes developing acts Steel Magnolia and Thompson Square, long-in-the-tooth pair Montgomery Gentry and the fantastic Civil Wars, who despite living in Nashville, have probably never gotten played on country radio other than as a novelty.

*The CMA needs to define “new artist” more narrowly
.  Luke Bryan, who is nominated here, first hit the charts four years ago. To whom is he new?  He’s had six Top 10 hits. If he’s new to you, you haven’t been paying attention. Eric Church’s first album came out on Capitol in 2006. Why not nominate Swift? Her first album came out the same year as Church’s.

*Blake Shelton’s continued ascension
shows that an artist can have an incredible second act. It was the perfect confluence of events: 10 years after releasing his first album, he earns his first entertainer of the year nod. It’s a build that began a little more than two years ago. He’s been rambling along, doing perfectly well, but the combination of stronger music and dating Miranda Lambert, as her star was also rising, led to the jump from steady mid-level artist to superstar.

*Unlike in the past
, when country shunned artists like Faith Hill who courted pop success, the format is confident enough to embrace artists who prove popular in other formats, primarily Taylor Swift.  Plus, Swift has handled her crossover beautifully without ever abandoning country for a minute.

*There are acts who the CMA voters largely ignored this year, all of whom released albums during the eligibility period: Toby Keith (why should this year be any different?), Darius Rucker, the aforementioned Chesney and Rascal Flatts, who received only one nod this year for Vocal Group. Why does it remain such a clique?

The 45th Annual CMA Awards will air Nov. 9 at 8 p.m. on ABC. Paisley and Carrie Underwood will co-host for the fourth time.

What did you think of the nominations?

Read Full Post
<p>Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton co-star in the MMA drama 'Warrior,' in theaters this weekend</p>

Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton co-star in the MMA drama 'Warrior,' in theaters this weekend

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton step in the ring for a conversation on 'Warrior'

The battling stars of this weekend's fight drama sit down to talk about their work

When "Warrior" opens this coming weekend, I have a feeling it's going to find an audience.  Lionsgate knows what they have, and they've been smart about how they've promoted the film.  Doing a paid sneak the weekend before is a confident move, and it shows that they know that word of mouth is the best friend they've got on this film.

I have seen some serious pushback from some critics because they can't get past the contrivance of the film, and I understand that.  Yes, it is is a very contrived situation.  Yes, it takes a lot of heavy lifting to build to a point where you have two brothers fighting for the $5 million prize money in this MMA tournament.  Yes, the film is unabashedly trying to tug the heartstrings.

Yet, as I said in my review, that doesn't matter to me in this movie.  I grant them all of that happily because the film gets it right emotionally, and much of that comes down to Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy and the way they orbit around the great wounded animal played by Nick Nolte.

Read Full Post
<p>In a recent &quot;Rescue Me,&quot;&nbsp;Tommy and the guys went back to Ground Zero.</p>

In a recent "Rescue Me," Tommy and the guys went back to Ground Zero.

Credit: FX

Review: FX's 'Rescue Me' says goodbye in typically uneven fashion

Firefighting drama was strongest when focusing on 9/11, silliest when kissing up to star Denis Leary

Last week's "Rescue Me," the penultimate episode of the FX firefighting drama, spent most of its running time on the wedding of Tommy Gavin's eldest daughter Colleen to his colleague Black Shawn. It was a long sequence, alternately funny and unbearable. Then the episode segued rather abruptly into one of its hairiest, most riveting fire sequences ever, as Tommy and the rest of the guys on 62 Truck became trapped in an arson fire after turning away from a waiting escape ladder to try to rescue a few more civilians. Their only exit blocked, best friends Tommy and Lou faced each other, unsure of what to do next...

...and then the building blew up.

The episode was, in other words, seven seasons of "Rescue Me" in a nutshell: at times hilarious, at times obnoxious, and then so riveting that you will almost forgive it every one of its past sins.


Read Full Post
<p>Keira Knightley in David Cronenberg's &quot;A&nbsp;Dangerous Method.&quot;</p>

Keira Knightley in David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method."

Credit: Sony Classics

Telluride: Who got an Oscar bounce and who didn't?

George Clooney and 'The Artist' are up

TELLURIDE - There is a big reason stars like George Clooney, Glenn Close and Tilda Swinton trekked to Colorado over Labor Day weekend.  Sure, their films are being screened (or premiered) at a world renowned film festival.  Sure, Clooney and Swinton received lifetime tributes and a fancy silver medallion for their respective bodies of work.  What it's really about, however, is creating substantial buzz among Academy members and industry influencers.  This sort of word-of-mouth fuels industry guild interest, the media and therefore box office prospects (which is what the season is really all about in this era).  Remember those big Academy players "The King's Speech," "Black Swan" and "127 Hours" last year?  Their campaigns basically began at Telluride a year ago.  So, with that in mind, let's run down the expected players who screened at the festival and the resulting buzz was after a long weekend of movie going.

Read Full Post
"The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"

 "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' returns post-suicide

The episode hits some dark notes, and not just the ones we expect

I can't say I'm looking forward to the second season premiere of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills." It is, of course, the first episode of the show since the suicide of "Housewives" husband Russell Armstrong, and the idea that the show is kicking off with a post-death powwow sets my teeth on edge. Bravo certainly didn't have a lot of choices in how to deal with Armstrong's death, but I have a sinking feeling that plunking the housewives into a room together to share their feelings about the death of a man none of them seemed to like very much is going to set a dismal tone that simply can't mesh with a show that is, for the most part, a breezy, guilty pleasure. 

Read Full Post
<p>Gary Oldman in 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'</p>

Gary Oldman in 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'

Credit: Focus Features

Critics' Response: 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' starring Gary Oldman a riveting and intelligent espionage thriller

Reviews out of Venice indicate a highly successful adaptation of the John le Carre novel

Premiering at the 68th Annual Venice International Film Festival today, director Tomas Alfredson's new political thriller "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" has received enthusiastic early notices from critics, with reviews heaping particular praise on both Gary Oldman's understated lead performance and assured direction by Alfredson.

The film is an adaptation of the 1974 John le Carre novel about secret agent George Smiley (Oldman), who comes out of semi-retirement to uncover the identity of a Soviet mole working within "The Circus", the highest level of Britain's Mi6 intelligence agency. Other cast members include Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, and John Hurt. It is the English-language debut of Swedish director Alfredson, who made a big splash Stateside in 2008 with "Let the Right One In".

In a 4/5-star review, the Guardian's Xan Brooks calls "Tinker, Tailor" the "film to beat" at this year's festival, singling out Oldman's "deliciously delicate, shaded performance". His only criticism concerns the relative transparency of the plot's central mystery, stating: "If there is any flaw to the film, it's that the whistle is blown too soon and that some eagle-eyed George Smiley types are liable to identity the bad apple before Smiley does himself."

Over at Variety, Leslie Felpering praises Alfredson's "flair for suspense" and predicts healthy box-office for the film, indicating the period piece could resonate with contemporary audiences given the current political climate: "In the wake of corruption scandals that include the world banking crisis, this version of 'Tinker, Tailor' catches the newest wave of disillusionment and anxiety. It may be a period piece...but it feels painfully apt now to revisit the early-to-mid-1970s, when things were just about to fall apart."

The Hollywood Reporter's Deborah Young, on the other hand, thinks the film actually "risks feeling out of date" with its Cold War backdrop, but nevertheless praises the look of the film and Alfredson's unique directing style: "It is one of the few films so visually absorbing, felicitous shot after shot, that its emotional coldness is noticed only at the end, when all the plot twists are unraveled in a solid piece of thinking-man’s entertainment for upmarket thriller audiences."

David Gritten of the Telegraph awarded the film a perfect 5/5 stars, giving it good odds of being a major contender come awards season: "It’s possible another film may soon emerge to spearhead Britain’s assault on the coming awards season. But after the world premiere here at the Venice Film Festival of 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy', it would be a huge surprise."

Perhaps the least enthusiastic of all early reviewers is Thompson on Hollywood's Matt Mueller, who still liked the film overall but echoed Brooks in believing the "whodunit" element will be too easily solved by astute viewers: "Fans of the genre will finger the culprit early and without that added layer of suspicion, the big reveal is left feeling perfunctory, almost blasé. Minus that last cathartic gasp, 'Tinker Tailor Solder Spy' settles for being a very good as opposed to a superb spy thriller."

Based on these early reviews, I'd say it sounds like Oldman has a good chance of scoring an Oscar nod next year...

"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is set to premiere in U.S. theaters on December 9th courtesy of Focus Features.

Read Full Post
<p>The cast of ABC's &quot;Work It&quot;</p>
<div id="myEventWatcherDiv" style="display:none;">&nbsp;</div>

The cast of ABC's "Work It"

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Work It'

If we all cross our fingers, maybe this cross-dressing comedy will never air

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]

Show: "Work It" (ABC)
The Pitch: "Apparently ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee loves drag comedies and has absolutely NO standards when it comes to what makes him laugh. Let's test the limits of that theory."
Quick Response: Last and certainly least, it's time to end this lengthy Take Me To The Pilots journey with "Work It," which isn't necessarily the worst ordered pilot I've seen in my years on this job, but it's pretty darned close. It's arguably worse than "Outsources" or "Feces My Dad Says." It's as bad or worse than "Brothers." It's worse than "Emily's Reasons Why Not" and far worse than "The Ortegas" and "Thick and Thin," three shows that were weak enough that a combined ONE episode aired for all three. There's an ugly broadness to this drag comedy that suggests it might have seemed cutting edge in 1976, but that decades of human consciousness and sitcom evolution passed it by, probably decades ago. "Work It" stumbles an unpleasant line between misogyny and gynophobia and I think it settles more on the latter, evincing a paranoid distaste for women in general and strong women in particular that permeates the dialogue and all of the portrayals. [The exception that veers into pure hatred for women would be John Caparulo's Brian, possibly the least likable character in television history, no exaggeration, who gets to utter likes like "When the women take over, they'll make pride illegal. That and eating on the toilet" to the squealing approval of the "audience."] Stars Ben Koldyke and Amaury Nolasco commit with almost no evident winking that the premise they're adhering to -- a car salesman and a mechanic are out of work because of the "mancession" so they cross-dress to get work as pharma girls -- is idiotic and unfunny. [I'm not even going to get into how implausibly ridiculous Koldyke and Nolasco look as women, because presumably it's intentional. Unfortunately, their ability to get away with the charade only adds to the show's "Women are dumb poo-poo heads" ethos, which probably isn't intentional.] I guess that's admirable? In some way? It's admirable enough that I felt bad for Koldyke. And worse for Rebecca Mader, who hopefully will escape from her supporting role here. But anyway, it's not enough that "Work It" is an '80s sitcom. TV Land has made a cottage industry out of dated '80s sitcoms in semi-modern contexts. But it's a BAD '80s sitcom. Amidst dialogue about the ace bandage used to conceal his man business, Nolasco's character actually justifies his participation in this farce by observing "I'm Puerto Rican. I'd be great at selling drugs." And witty bon mots like that -- and similarly toned jokes about emasculation, prostate exam rape and how much women enjoy dieting -- proliferate. And it's a CHEAP '80s sitcom. The generic office and bar sets are bad, but there's a night club sequence at the end that takes the Weak-Ass Art Direction cake (should such a cake exist). Anyway, "Work It" is excruciatingly bad, but what's worse is what ABC and specifically Paul Lee are saying through the show, saying both *to* critics -- "We didn’t think this room would like it, and there’s some pleasure in that," Lee told us at press tour last month -- and *about* supposedly "average" TV viewers. There's room on TV for good farce and for smartly delivered blue collar, politically incorrect comedy, but pity ABC if anybody there believes that's what this is.
Desire To Watch Again: Wanna know how you know these entries aren't reviews? I've gone EASY on "Work It." I'd love to watch one or two more episodes so that I can really tear into it for my review. Of course, I have some doubts that we're ever going to actually see "Work It" on TV. That would be a fine alternative. Because here's the thing: I assume that every spring there are a dozen pilots produced that are as bad as "Work It," pilots that seemed like good ideas at one point or another (to somebody), but just didn't come together. It's exactly what the pilot process is there for. I don't think the people involved with "Work It" had a malicious plan to make an embarrassing sitcom. I just think that for a variety of reasons, what they tried failed. But normally, those pilots just don't get picked up and nobody ever has to acknowledge that they existed. I no longer have that luxury, but audiences still could.

Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Bent'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Scandal'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Smash'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Good Christian Belles'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'How To Be A Gentleman'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Prime Suspect'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Man Up!'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Free Agents'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Suburgatory'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Ringer'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Terra Nova'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Whitney'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Pan Am'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Alcatraz'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Person of Interest'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's ' 'The River'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Last Man Standing'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Two Broke Girls'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Revenge'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Once Upon a Time'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Awake'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'The Secret Circle'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Unforgettable'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'The Playboy Club'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Grimm'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'New Girl'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Hart of Dixie'
Take Me To The Pilots ' 11: ABC's 'Apartment 23'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'A Gifted Man'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.


Read Full Post
<p>Charlie Hunnam and Maggie Siff in &quot;Sons of Anarchy.&quot;</p>

Charlie Hunnam and Maggie Siff in "Sons of Anarchy."

Credit: FX

Review: FX's 'Sons of Anarchy' on familiar ground for season 4

But is the back-to-basics approach too formulaic?

(Note: This column contains mild spoilers for the fourth season of "Sons of Anarchy," which premieres tomorrow night at 10 on FX. If you want to know nothing, don't read any further.)

Read Full Post
<p>Carey Mulligan in Steve McQueen's &quot;Shame.&quot;</p>

Carey Mulligan in Steve McQueen's "Shame."

Review: Steve McQueen's 'Shame' is simply a spectacular work of art

Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan are superb

TELLURIDE - A remarkable snapshot of the perils of sexual compulsion in the modern world, Steve McQueen's new drama "Shame" is simply a spectacular work of art.  The film debuted almost simultaneously at the Venice and Telluride Film Festivals Sunday.

Read Full Post
<p>Team Vampire on 'True Blood'</p>
<div id="myEventWatcherDiv" style="display:none;">&nbsp;</div>

Team Vampire on 'True Blood'

Credit: HBO

Recap: 'True Blood' - 'Soul of Fire'

Things come to a head between Marnie/Antonia and the Vampire Hit Squad
When we last left Team Vampire, they were walking four abreast in slick black outfits loaded up with war gear, which usually means that Alan Ball is planning a very expensive explosion on the backlot. Now, as the new episode begins, Bill helpfully offers some exposition: Just in case you all forgot, we’re here to kill the witch inside the emporium. 
Read Full Post
<p>Walt (Bryan Cranston)&nbsp;goes in for a check-up on &quot;Breaking Bad.&quot;</p>

Walt (Bryan Cranston) goes in for a check-up on "Breaking Bad."

Credit: AMC

'Breaking Bad' - 'Hermanos': The secret origin of the Chicken Man

A Gus spotlight episode also suggests he has things in common with Walt

A review of tonight's "Breaking Bad" coming up just as soon as I add a plus-douchebag to a minus-douchebag...

Read Full Post