Latest Blog Posts

<p>&quot;The Kings Speech&quot;&nbsp;wins the big prize at the 83rd Academy Awards.</p>

"The Kings Speech" wins the big prize at the 83rd Academy Awards.

Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Things just ain't the same for Oscar's 2012 best picture race

Plus: A quick rundown of who didn't make the major list

Things just ain't the same.  At least, that's the mantra for studios attempting to play best picture game this year.  After two years of expanded play after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences increased the number of nominees from five to 10, the org made news by putting in a complex rule it sees as validating each nominee.  Instead of a guaranteed 10 nods, a film must qualify by receiving at least 5% of member first place votes.  The weighted system that previously allowed members to rank their top 10 (or five before that) will only be used if 10 potential nominees receive more than the 5% (or approximately 250) required votes. 

Read Full Post
<p>'George Harrison:&nbsp;Living in the Material World'</p>

'George Harrison: Living in the Material World'

Credit: HBO

Review: 'George Harrison: Living In the Material World'

Martin Scorsese has his way with the quiet Beatle

Martin Scorsese loves music. Furthermore, he understands its rhythms and potency like few directors do. That’s why I had such high hopes going into his 3 and a 1/2-hour documentary, “George Harrison: Living In the Material World.”  The film airs in two parts on HBO Oct. 5 and Oct. 6.

There are moments of exhilaration and illumination, and, of course, there is the glorious music.  However, the documentary isn’t consistently compelling and could use some tighter focus.

The first half is devoted to Harrison’s childhood and the Beatles’ formation. Even the most casual Beatles fan will feel the excitement of seeing footage of the band during its formative years in Hamburg, Germany, but the story devotes more time to the group as a whole than to Harrison (other than we learn he had a nasty temper that could show up very unexpectedly). Not that a documentary on Harrison has to have the spotlight pointed at him 100%, but Scorsese allows talking heads like Hamburg photographer Astrid Kirchherr and her boyfriend, musician Klaus Voormann (or at least he was until the  Beatles  original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe pulled her away), to go on a little too long about the general zeitgeist during the Beatles’ time in Germany.

[More after the jump...]

Read Full Post
<p>Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott and Taissa Farmiga in &quot;American Horror Story.&quot;</p>

Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott and Taissa Farmiga in "American Horror Story."

Credit: FX

Review: FX's 'American Horror Story' an overwrought mess

'Glee' creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk go even more over the top than usual

Let's say you had a friend in college… No, "friend" is too strong. Let's say you knew a guy in college who would show up to every party, have a few drinks and start acting crazy. For a little while, everyone would enjoy just watching him operate in a completely liquid state - sometimes doing genuinely entertaining things that he wouldn't have the nerve to do sober, other times just being an amusing mess. And then after the empty beer cans piled up, the guy's behavior would start becoming more unsettling, to the point where even the rubberneckers had to look away, feeling bad that they'd watched this wreck in the first place.

Watching a Ryan Murphy-created show tends to follow the same pattern. Both "Nip/Tuck" and "Glee" debuted with attention-getting premises and stories, where the execution was often less relevant than the "My god, did I just see that?" spectacle. And then Murphy keeps trying to outdo himself, going more and more over the top each time, until by the second or third season it's mortifying.

"American Horror Story" (tomorrow at 10 p.m., FX), the new drama Murphy co-created with "Glee" partner Brad Falchuk, speeds up the process, starting out as the TV equivalent of the college guy after eight too many beers, rather than ramping up to that awkward level. It is so far over the top that the top is a microscopic speck in its rearview mirror, and so full of strange sounds, sights and characters that you likely won't forget it - even though many of you(*) will wish you could.

Read Full Post
<p>Jessica Chastain talks about one of her five films in release this year, &quot;The Tree of Life&quot;</p>

Jessica Chastain talks about one of her five films in release this year, "The Tree of Life"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Jessica Chastain explains the audition process for Terrence Malick and 'The Tree of Life'

2011's 'it' girl recalls first meeting with the elusive auteur

What else can we say about Jessica Chastain at this point that isn't bordering on over-saturation? The girl is killing it this year, from Jeff Nichols' "Take Shelter" at Sundance to Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" at Cannes to "The Help" and "The Debt" to close out the summer, with "Coriolanus" still to come.

Malick's film is set for a DVD/Blu-ray bow one week from today, and it should be a hot seller among cinephiles, at the very least. I have a screener around here somewhere and I've been meaning to put it in and get a load of how it plays on the small screen. I imagine it won't have the same impact, as Malick is the sort who always lends a bit of scope and majesty to his work that just feels at home on the big screen.

The elusive auteur has always been a point of fascination by those eager for any morsel of info on his process. When footage dropped a few weeks back of him directing Christian Bale in a new film at the crowded Austin City Limits festival, it was like Sasquatch in the wild or something. Well the same people who clamored for a look at that will be interested in a new, albeit brief video Fox Searchlight has made available in advance of next week's home video release.

Read Full Post
<p>Jeremy&nbsp;Irvine in &quot;War Horse&quot;</p>

Jeremy Irvine in "War Horse"

Credit: Touchstone Pictures

A little more of Steven Spielberg's 'War Horse' revealed as the film's UK trailer drops

Will the still unseen contender have the goods?

Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" is still one of the great unknowns of the season. Touchstone Pictures smartly stirred some mid-summer buzz by dropping a teaser trailer for the film in advance of the Oscar season. It got people talking but it also set the film up as a sight-unseen frontrunner, what with all that Oscar bait dripping off of it.

Today, via Empire, the UK trailer has hit the web. Lots of crying, lots of emotion, heavy John Williams score - it's kind of just an extension of that teaser. And the production value appears to be, naturally, outstanding. Is this going to be the one to beat? Is it just too easy to chalk something like this up? Is it destined to fall? Who knows?? Have a look at the new trailer after the jump.

Read Full Post
<p>Feist, &quot;Metals&quot;</p>

Feist, "Metals"

Credit: Cherrytree/Interscope

Review: Feist's 'Metals' is heavy and refined

The Canadian singer-songwriter returns after four-year wait: what's the weather like?

Feist’s records are less defined by their genre and more by the textures and intimacy of the recordings. On Leslie Feist’s latest “Metals” – a title that would otherwise indicate a rock record – there is a new heaviness that makes it feel like it’s max capacity, even on its smallest-sounding songs. It so far best defines this singer-songwriter; what it lacks in urgency from frequently lethargic tempos, it feels immediate, fluid and close.

Feist’s last “The Reminder” (2007) was made in an old mansion-turned-studio outside of Paris. She waited a couple years and then returned to making music, out of a converted barn in Big Sur. While the climates may have been different, it was the utility of space and inspiring beauty that remained a constant, and it shows. Practically every song has a one-take, happy mistake feel to it, the instruments impeccably mic’ed, familial and un-neglected.
Just start from the top: a bang of a kick drum, a bari sax and dark guitar phrases of opener “The Bad In Each Other” depicts a mood as much as the sad lyrics. Sleepy “Caught a Long Wind” puts the breeze at Feist’s back as a bird, as it leads into album single “How Come You Never Go There.” It lends no comparison to previous Feist singles like “Mushaboom” or “1234” in that it’s more of a torchy bubble-burster than bubble-gum. She does bring a little sugar, however, to “The Circle Married the Line,” a simple song with strings bobbing in pizzicato, and a xylophone and tender woodwinds filling in the gaps.
There are a handful of tracks that wed folk songs with nursery melodies, like “Bittersweet Melodies,” “Comfort Me” and “Anti-Pioneer,” the latter of which is a slow, slow, slow, slow dance with some mean guitar work in doses. The power picks up on “Commotion,” with strings uniquely holding down the rhythm section, and “The Undiscovered First,” the blue flame of which furls up into tight-fisted tambourine shimmies and the harrumphs of guitars through warm tube amps, both battling Feist’s vocal yelps and precarious harmonies. “Cicadas and Gulls” smoothes things out just as much as you’d think a song called “Cicadas and Gulls” would.
And throughout is that voice, her natural recording-ready quality, like good and bad weather moving between tracks. It is always the glue that binds this recording family with Mocky and Chilly Gonzalez into a operating whole, even in the infinity of songs like "Graveyard": "Roots and lies / our family tree is old /
From there we climb the golden hill / calmly will eternity." “Metals” sounds like something grown-into, of planned and unplanned elements that didn’t require too much discussion to manifest. After a four-year wait, it’s good news that Feist has made an album this easy to listen to.
Read Full Post
<p>Bill Nunn's iconic Radio Raheem tells you about &quot;love&quot; and &quot;hate&quot; in Spike Lee's &quot;Do the Right Thing&quot;</p>

Bill Nunn's iconic Radio Raheem tells you about "love" and "hate" in Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing"

Credit: Universal Pictures

The Lists: Top 10 films about politics

With 'The Ides of March' on the way, a state of the filmpolitik union

When Kris invited your thoughts on “Take Shelter” last week, one reader’s comment in particular caught my eye: Jessica claimed to have felt cheated by the film’s ending, which she described as “too right-wing.” The comment struck me as interesting not because I agreed with it at all – for me, Jeff Nichols’s markedly ambiguous psychological drama doesn’t forge any political affiliations in its study of security and paranoia – but because it demonstrates how almost any film can become political if viewed through a certain lens.

It was a comment I bore in mind as I began assembling this week’s list, which Kris and I had already decided would be dedicated to political cinema – a category into which one of this week’s major releases, George Clooney’s “The Ides of March,” rather less arguably falls. If political subtext is often in the eye of the beholder, how exactly does one define what a political film is? It’s certainly not as simple as "films about politicians," though that’s a long and distinguished list in itself, and one which certainly contributed to my eventual Top 10.

Read Full Post
<p>The making of a razor blade-shaped metal poster for David Fincher's &quot;The&nbsp;Girl with the Dragon&nbsp;Tattoo&quot;</p>
<br />

The making of a razor blade-shaped metal poster for David Fincher's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"


Razor blade 'Dragon Tattoo' with Reznor and Ross accompaniment

'Mouth Taped Shut' delivers another 'cool' nugget

It's always interesting to watch the marketing of a David Fincher unfold. Notoriously, he eschews all traditional routes. He loathes the usual process of building interest in a film. I've been told by those close to "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" that this very fact explains the recent, oddly structured four-minute trailer for the film, a bit of a middle digit to the status quo.

And hey, that's fine. Hip cred is a big deal in this day and age. And I can understand a desire to rub against the grain of what's accepted, because let's face it. The usual is boring and uninspiring and, to say the least, not very creative. But still, the typical marketing machine serves its purpose and serves it well, so it's important not to drown your film in "cool."

That's what I think "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is on the verge of doing. As a film fan and a Fincher enthusiast, I dig things like Mouth Taped Shut, the behind-the-scenes look at the film's production that Fincher launched as, again, a push back against the expected marketing machine. But if I put myself in the shoes of the general consumer, I have to imagine some of this might feel impenetrable and kind of, I don't know, elitist?

Read Full Post
<p>Seth&nbsp;Rogen wasn't able to spark big numbers for &quot;50/50&quot; on opening weekend, but perhaps the film will have some legs.</p>

Seth Rogen wasn't able to spark big numbers for "50/50" on opening weekend, but perhaps the film will have some legs.

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Oscarweb Round-up: Calling it too soon on '50/50'

Also: Oscar dominates Netflix's most rented titles and the original 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' ending

Linked in today's round-up is a piece from the LA Times' Steven Zeitchik asking what went wrong at the box office for "50/50." It's a shame, really, the instant analysis and diagnosis of films that hit and land a bit softly at the box office in opening week. "50/50" strikes me as a film that will build a bit of interest through word of mouth and maybe stack some more dollars in its favor. Then again, I thought "Warrior" would have been the same, but it started low and went further down the box office drain.

The point is, I think it's unfortunate that the popular identity of a film has to be made or broken in the media based on first weekend numbers. Look at something like "The Help," which didn't even open in the top spot but soon claimed it and stayed there for three weeks straight. Let a film find that identity before assigning one to it. Anyway, let's see what's going on in the Oscarweb today...

Read Full Post
<p>Beyonce in &quot;Countdown&quot;</p>

Beyonce in "Countdown"

Watch: Beyonce teases us with tasty preview of 'Countdown' video

She salutes the '60s in this colorful clip

Beyonce pays homage to Audrey Hepburn and other icons in a new 30-second teaser for her “Countdown” video.

We won’t get to see the full clip until it premieres on Thursday, Oct. 6, but until then, you can stimulate you eyeballs with her fetching black turtleneck/cropped back pants style, straight out of Hepburn’s “ Funny Face,” as well as be bedazzled by the pop art of multiple Beyonces in bathing suits.  She looks beautiful throughout, whether she’s rocking Hepburn’s pixie cut or pushing the ‘60s mod look.

[More after the jump...]

Read Full Post
<p>Taio Cruz</p>

Taio Cruz

Listen: Taio Cruz's new single 'Hangover'

Can you get drunk off a song or just merely feel sick?

Taio Cruz is 28, but he might as well be 16 on his new single. At least Ke$ha won’t be drinking alone anymore: On “Hangover,” his party anthem and first single from sophomore album, “TY.O,” Cruz can’t wait to drink until he throws up...or at least until he makes “shit-faced” into a three-syllable word.

Flo Rida chimes in for a rap in the middle and to boast that he never throws up.

[More after the jump...]

Read Full Post
<p>Blake Lively, seen here at the CinemaCon Awards in March, has passed on 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,' raising serious questions about the film's fate</p>

Blake Lively, seen here at the CinemaCon Awards in March, has passed on 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,' raising serious questions about the film's fate

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Blake Lively passes on 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,' so will it ever happen?

We look at the troubled history of the film so far

Serious question.  By a quick show of hands, how many of you are seriously excited about or interested in a film version of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies"?

I ask because I'm a little confused by the way this one's coming together.  Or not coming together, as the case may be.  According to Variety's Justin Kroll and Jeff Sneider, Blake Lively has now officially passed on playing Elizabeth Bennett in the film adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's novel.  I actually had to go look up who the current director of the film is, and I'm wondering if Craig Gillespie is going to stay on the film for much longer.  This thing's been through a lot of hands in the last few years, and it's no closer to making it to the screen now than it was at the start of the process.

As a book, I guess I can acknowledge the joke, but I made it through about four chapters of the novel when it came out before I set it aside.  I'm all for post-modernism and mash-up culture, but it has to add something beyond a gimmick, and I'm still not convinced that "P&P&Z" does.

Read Full Post