Latest Blog Posts
Oh no. The show is starting with a Very Inspiring slow motion intro that looks sort of like our final four are headed to war. I know you have to goose the drama, "Dancing with the Stars," but this is a bit much. Still, it's the finals, so let's get excited!
It's Thanksgiving on "Sleepy Hollow," and that means an episode rich in family, traditions and ... tree monsters?
One of the things that is always interesting when a film changes directors or writers or any key member of a creative team is seeing how much of the original plan for the film stays intact. Back when Matthew Vaughn was set to make the sequel to his own "X-Men: First Class," he seemed more than happy to reveal certain details and ideas about how he'd approach the film.
In particular, he talked about opening the movie with the assassination of JFK, then revealing how Magneto would be revealed to be the killer, driven by a fury that Kennedy took credit for the Cuban Missile Crisis solution, pretending mutants had no part in it at all. Our interview about his plans was pretty widely quoted at the time, and when he left the film, I assumed they pretty much scuttled Vaughn's plans completely.
After all, he wasn't planning to do "X-Men: Days Of Future Past" at the time. That idea came after he departed the film, and we've heard now that the new film is set in 1973, which would seem to leave the JFK thing out completely.
Tonight, "How I Met Your Mother" told a trio of stories all in rhyme, with Marshall trying to get Marvin to sleep on the bus to Farhampton. On the one hand, I thought the rhymes themselves were fairly clever, particularly anytime we were back on the bus with Marshall and the other passengers — particularly Tony-winning guest star Lin-Manuel Miranda, who of course was asked to do a rap about the difficulty of rhyming "Canada." On the other hand, I thought the stories the rhymes were built around were dumb to varying degrees, and represented various latter-day "HIMYM" flaws regarding broad characterization, portrayals of women being stupid, Barney being a superhero, etc.
But these posts are designed to hear what you all have to say, so let's hear it about "Bedtime Stories." Did the rhymes make you smile or grit your teeth? Did you enjoy watching NPH play so many roles? Ted's LeBron grudge? The thought that, as hinted at by the Future Ted narration, it may still be many episodes before Marshall gets to the Inn?
What did everybody else think?
Ron Burgundy will guest-anchor "SportsCenter"
Will Ferrell's "Anchorman" character will take over the ESPN news show on Dec. 5.
Poor Margo Martindale. On a brisk Sunday morning in New York, the Emmy Award winner was paired with Oscar winner Chris Cooper to discuss their impressive performances in John Wells' big screen adaptation of Tracy Letts' acclaimed stage play "August: Osage County." Both actors have outside chances at best supporting Oscar nominations and, of course, what do I want to talk about? All I want to do is ask Martindale questions about a television show she isn't "officially" a regular guest star on anymore, "The Americans."
Did you watch the "Doctor Who" special "Day of the Doctor"? So did lots of other people! "Doctor Who" and new series "Atlantis" broke records on Saturday. "Doctor Who"’s 50th Anniversary special, "Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor," delivered 3.6 million viewers for the daytime simulcast and primetime encore.
These are solid numbers for "Doctor Who," but not landmarks for basic cable in the United States ("Duck Dynasty," for example, raked in 8.4 million viewers for its season finale). But the show did do gonzo business on social media. On Saturday, BBC America was the #1 cable network on Twitter, "Doctor Who" was #1 on Twitter in all of television and the series set a record on Tumblr with the highest level of activity of any televised event ever, surpassing the Super Bowl and MTV’s Video Music Awards.
Much has been written about the way Adam McKay and Will Ferrell work together, and I recently put up a piece about spending time on the Sea World set where they shot an early sequence for the film. In that article, I described the way that they build scenes, the way their ad-libs flow on a set, the way McKay and Ferrell seem to share two halves of one brain.
The one down side, if you can call it that, to the way their process works is that they end up with miles of film to choose from when building each and every scene in the movie. That's no exaggeration, either. While the process is digital now, they shot the equivalent of 1.25 million feet of film, and when they did the first assembly cut of the movie, where they put in every scene just to see it all together, the film came in at four and a half hours.
One Direction has been tremendously prolific during its short shelf life as dominant boy band of the 2010s. Out today, “Midnight Memories,” their third full studio album released in 20 months in the U.S., tries to extend the British quintet’s 15 minutes of fame by pushing them into a rockier direction with mixed results. Gone, for the most part, are some of the dance/pop elements that guided the past two efforts.
On the plus side, Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson deliver their most self-assured strongest vocals yet, which is no surprise as they’ve grown more comfortable with each other since being packaged by Simon Cowell for “The X Factor.” On many of the tracks, they’ve embraced an Americana/folk vibe popularized by Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers, and it works well for them. On the negative side, too many of the edgier songs here sound forced as if the addition of a jagged guitar will suddenly make them a rock band. That’s not going to happen, though as songs like “Midnight Memories” show, they are capable of pushing themselves a little. Additionally, too many of the songs are generic. Their material doesn’t rise to the level of what their voices can do.
By their very nature, acts like One Direction flame out so no one came blame 1D for trying to stoke the fire as much as they can. But the way to do that isn’t to keep flooding the market with albums that have as many weak songs as strong ones. The key is to take a little more time and come back with an album that is undeniably consistently good throughout. There are some very worthwhile tracks here, but the group needs to focus more on upping the overall level of the material.
“Best Song Ever”: Parents got drawn in by the “Baba O’Riley”-like intro, while their daughters were captivated by the high energy song that brought both a pop sheen and a live verve to the otherwise bubblegum track. The album’s first single peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. GRADE: B+
“Story of My Life”: One Direction meets Mumford & Sons and Lumineers and Ed Sheeran on this elegant, spare, largely acoustic mid-tempo, chugging track about the pasts that we all carry around with us. Peaked at No. 6 in the U.S., but should have been bigger. It will become one of the band’s defining songs. GRADE: A
“Diana”: The band bounces back to the ‘80s with a drum beat straight out of the Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” on this track about a missing girl the protagonist wants to save, but it turns out she’d really be saving him. The words and the Robin Sparkle vibe don’t really mix. Peppy track gets dragged down by clumsy lyrics. GRADE: C
“Midnight Memories”: Well, here’s something we haven’t heard from 1D before: a rock and roll tune that delightfully recalls ‘80s rock, complete with the hand clapping and guitar that wants to rock harder than the song warrants. The execution isn’t quite what it should be and they’re punching above their weight here, but it’s such a fun change of pace for them and its anthemic feel will make it a live stand out. Just “sing it, sing it, sing it.” GRADE: B
“You and I”: It should be “between you and me,” boys, not “you and I,” but who are we to let grammar get between us and an elegant ballad that will have the long time fans waving their cell phones in the air as the boys sing, “You and I, we don’t want to be like them. We can make it to the end. Nothing can come between you and I. Not even the gods above can separate the two of us.” This is the kind of song that 15-year old girls put on repeat as they clutch their pillows. Having been a 15-year old girl once, trust me, that is a big compliment. Could be massive. GRADE: B+
“Don’t Forget Where You Belong”: This mid-tempo track could serve as a letter to themselves about remembering where they came from and a reminder that, just like at a Motel 6, there will always be a light on to guide you home. Pedestrian and generic, but still catchy. GRADE: B-
“Strong”: His weakness is his greatest strength in this mid-tempo tune about being a better man when his girl is by his side. GRADE: C
“Happily”: Back to the Lumineers-like guitar/banjo acoustic stomp on this track about chasing a girl who belongs to another. There’s even a “hey!” in the background. One of the catchiest tracks on the set, it’s a pop hootenanny that feels like it should be paired with Taylor Swift’s “Mean.” The “We’re on fire” now refrain into the chorus is pretty irresistible. GRADE: B+
“Right Now”: Echo-y atmospherics and strong vocals take precedence over a catchy melody in this moody, big-drummed mid-tempo tale of longing co-written by OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder (and, boy, is his handiwork all over it). When they sing, “Let’s go crazy together” it conjures up images of staying out 30 minutes past curfew than truly letting loose. Even GRADE: C
“Little Black Dress”: The tune ultimately doesn’t work, but One Direction is trying so hard to break out of the pop mold that you have to give them props for this song that takes a swaggering guitar rock part and molds it around a line about “I want to see the way you move for me baby.” A loose-limbed delivery helps, but ultimately they can’t sell the promise of the song, though it sure is fun to see them try. GRADE: B-
“Through The Dark”: An acoustic guitar-based strumming mid-tempo track that, like “Story of My Life,” recalls Mumford & Sons in both tone and message: “When the night is coming down on you, we will find a way through the dark.” This is 1D’s sweet spot. It’s effortless and doesn’t feel forced. Should be a definite single. GRADE: A
“Something Great”: Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody is one of the co-writers here, along with 1D’s Harry Styles and Snow Patrol producer Jacknife Lee, which explains the overall sweep and grandeur of the song. It’s hard to hear the ringing refrain and not imagine Lightbody singing it. The opening choral sounds are already being used in commercials so expect this one to grow on you as you hear it more and more. GRADE: B
“Little White Lies”: Some vixen has captured the guys’ hearts in this driving pop track that shifts gears into a dub-step feel. Their vocals are fine, but the mid-tempo song never gets out of first. GRADE: C
“Better Than Words”: Wave your hand in the air like you just don’t care on this mid-tempo tune about trying to describe the indescribable joy your love brings. One of the more disposable tracks on the set. GRADE: C
Not only is Eddie Vedder Pearl Jam’s mesmerizing front man, on Saturday night (23) at the first of the band’s two shows at Los Angeles Sports Arena, he was the audience’s protector-in- chief.
Four songs into the set, during crowd favorite “Corduroy,” Vedder noticed some disturbance in the first few rows of the pit. Though the band somehow never lost its stride or intensity he commanded that the woman causing the strife get out. After the song finished, he looked over the area like a benevolent dictator and saw the agitator was still there. The house lights went up. “We’re not fucking around here,” he said. “You had a chance to make friends with these people. You fucked it up. Go watch the show from over there,” he said gesturing to the sidelines.
It was endearing as it was startling. Pearl Jam and its fans have always had a tight connection, but as the band settles into its 20s —Vedder fondly recalled the last time the band played the Sports Arena in 1991, opening for Red Hot Chili Peppers— and its loyal audience grow older together, that sense of community seems somehow more precious. Stronger and yet more fragile at the same time.
It’s almost impossible now to bring up Pearl Jam without mentioning Vedder’s spirit animal, Bruce Springsteen. The two men are very close (check out their great live version of “Better Man” on YouTube from a few years back) and while Pearl Jam has always been a commanding live act over the 22 years I’ve seen them, the Boss’s influence has seemed to grow over the years from the care and attention paid to the crowd (sadly, the 2000 deadly Roskilde concert could also have plenty to do with that) and the duration of the the shows. Saturday’s show easily blew past the three-hour mark. Vedder even name checked Springsteen, who loves the decrepit, concrete Sports Arena, as the reason the band was playing there.
Despite its ability to fill arenas for two decades now, at its heart Pearl Jam remains a great club band but with better lighting and the tightness that only time and talent provide. They have, against the odds, retained a kinetic energy that makes them still seem fresh and somehow keeps even old chestnuts like “Jeremy,” delivered here in a more foreboding atmospheric version than on record, interesting.
Opening with “Pendulum,” from the band’s new chart topper, “Lightning Bolt,” Pearl Jam agilely slide from one song to the next. While Vedder remained largely static veering from his trademark two-fisted microphone grip to awkwardly dancing when he was not singing, the other members were almost constantly in motion with guitarist Mike McCready and bassist Jeff Ament literally running circles around each other during “Spin the Black Circle,” and Stone Gossard putting his whole body into his guitar solo during a erupting “Do the Evolution.”
A few songs after dedicating a lovely, mournful “Garden” to Tim Robbins, Vedder turned reflective. “2013’s been a real fucking son of a bitch,” he said. “If you avoided tragedies, you should be very grateful, but you should know you’re probably next.” He took the time to point out fans who had crossed continents to be at the show, including their friend Rob from the Philippines, as Vedder pledged that money from the Los Angeles shows, as well as the San Diego show on Nov. 22, were going back with Rob for Typhoon Haiyan relief. He elliptically also thanked “some very good doctor friends who have given us hope in very dire times,” before launching into, appropriately enough, an elegiac version of “Sirens.”
The 20-song main set closed with an intense “Rearviewmirror” that built and built until it felt like it spilled over into every corner of the Sports Arena.
For the first encore, the band members sat down for the first time all evening (other than, of course, drummer Matt Cameron), for a strong 8-song mini-set that included a haunting “Footsteps,” rarity “All or None” (played as an audible after Vedder saw it on a sign a fan held up), and a spirited cover of the Ramones’ “I Believe in Miracles.”
By the time they closed with “Porch,” it seemed that the show was destined to be done as it was approaching 11 p.m., but, remarkably, they returned for a second encore with tremendous verve and energy. Vedder, by now well lubricated from his constant sipping from at least one bottle of wine, and the band tore into ferocious versions of “Unknown Thought,” “Black” (McCready’s solo was as emotionally piercing as always), “Alive” and a very lively cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” with Ament giving his best Pete Townshend-like leap at the end as Vedder passed out the two tambourines he’d been bashing. The show concluded with a rambunctious “Indifference.” It was hard to tell who was more exhausted, the band or the fans... but everyone was smiling.
Almost miraculously given its troubled production history, Natalie Portman's "Jane Got a Gun" has been given a release date.
The Gavin O'Connor-directed western, which also stars Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor and Noah Emmericah, has been slated to hit theaters on August 29, 2014, it was announced today. O'Connor ("Warrior") came aboard the project at the last minute after original director Lynne Ramsay ("We Need to Talk About Kevin") declined to show up for the first day of filming back in March.