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<p>Album art for Neko Case's latest</p>

Album art for Neko Case's latest

Credit: Anti Records

Album Review: Neko Case's 'The Worse Things Get... ' looks at the dark side

Set soars despite Neko's heartfelt heaviness

Neko Case’s follow-up to “Middle  Cyclone,” finds her in a far more personal mood. On that 2009 album, she explored forces of nature. On “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You,”  Case tackles something much harder to wrangle: her own life.

Case wrote and recorded “The Worse Things Get”  during a time of great turmoil: her grandmother, whom she was close to, and both her parents, whom she was not, died and she plunged into a depression. Much of the tunes carry a sense of tumult, a near fruitless attempt at making sense amid the chaos. Buoyed by her crystalline vocals, the songs transcend the maudlin to become something much more interesting: a look at the life force that surges through us even as we may feel we’re getting pulled under. Or, as she confesses in “Where Did I Leave That Fire, “I wanted to badly not to be me.”

The album’s most arresting track is “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu,” an a capella song that recounts Case seeing a mother yell at her child at a bus stop. Case not only wants to tell the child that she loves him/her (the child’s gender is never revealed), but that she witnessed the horror as the child will remember it, it really happened, and to never lose his/her voice. Given Case’s own very troubled relationship with her parents, it’s easy to imagine that she’s wishing someone had done that for her. (Parents come up again in opening track “Wild Creatures,” as she laments “There’s no mother’s hands to quiet me.”)

There’s an aloneness, and in many ways, a sense of isolation,  that pervades the album, making the lone cover here, Nico’s “Afraid,” a perfect fit. Case’s take on the tune is spare and haunting. “You’re beautiful and you’re alone,” Case sings as if it’s a haunting curse, as she finds herself in her 40s and single and childless.

Despite its “every woman is an island” feel, “The Worse Things Get” is far from a downer of a set (well, at least not totally). First single “Man,” featuring M. Ward is a gender bending propulsive rocker about Case being a woman in a man’s world. Gender roles come up again in “Night Still Comes,” as she asks “Did you poison my food? Is it because I’m a girl? if I puked up some sonnets would me a ‘miracle?,” and on “I’m From Nowhere.”

In addition to M. Ward, Case is joined by a phalanx of like-minded, indie-rock oriented compatriots, including her New Pornographers band mate A.C. Newman, Howe Gelb, members of My Morning Jacket, Los Lobos and Visqueen.

There’s a sense that the darkness is lifting on closing track, “Ragtime” (Case has said that ragtime was the only music that pulled her out of the abyss during her depression). It’s a shaky ground she finds herself on as “The Worse Things Get” comes to its conclusion, but there is the feeling that rock bottom is in her rear view mirror.

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<p>Idris Elba in &quot;Luther.&quot;</p>

Idris Elba in "Luther."

Credit: BBC

Review: Idris Elba continues to rise above BBC America's 'Luther'

The former Stringer Bell is a blast as a damaged British cop, but the show's still a mess

It's such a pleasure to watch Idris Elba periodically return to television as British cop John Luther that it can be easy to ignore for a moment what a mess "Luther" the show is around him.

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'Homeland's' Season 3 premiere leaks on the internet


"Homeland's" Season 3 premiere leaks on the internet
An unfinished version surfaced on BitTorrent sites over the weekend, one month before its Sept. 29 air date.


Comedy Central's James Franco roast lacked desperation
Most of the comedians were just too nice to Franco, says Sonia Saraiya, who adds: "This particular generation of comedians feels a little too polished for the post-empire decadence of a roast. There isn't that same bloody minded savagery, borne of whatever comedians have to go through to become the slightly brittle funny people they are. There isn't desperation." PLUS: Jeff Ross was brilliant.


Dianna Agron wasn't invited to "Glee's" Cory Monteith tribute episode
In fact, Agron isn't sure she'll be back this season.


Dean Norris deconstructs this week's "Breaking Bad"
"What else is Hank going to do?" he says of this week's developments. PLUS: Everyone had a case of the stupids this week, writer/director of this week's episode calls it "one of the hardest episodes to break in the history of the show," this episode felt too disjointed, it was a slow and steady burn, and "Rabid Dog" was elegantly structured.


Fox orders "Dream Date" from Ryan Seacrest
The dating competition follows a group of women looking for love.


"Downton Abbey" Season 4 trailer debuts

"You have a straightforward choice," says Maggie Smith's Violet Crawley. "You must choose either death or life."


"Sesame Street" has gotten more sophisticated
In recent years, a show devoted to teaching 3- to 5-year-olds about numbers and letters have evolved into teaching about nature, science, math and engineering concepts. But is this sophisticated approach working?


Police return 15 pounds of weed to "Weed Country" star
Discovery Channel's medical marijuana dispensary owner Matthew Shotwell had his marijuana seized last year, but charges were later dropped.


CBS vs. Time Warner dispute ends

Which side ultimately caved?


Alec Baldwin pens a tribute to Julie Harris

Baldwin worked with Harris on "Knots Landing."


See "Once Upon a Time's" Tinkerbell
Played by Rose McIver, Peter Pan's sidekick is "glamorous."


David Frost: An appreciation
The British host who famously grilled Richard Nixon was a TV natural.


Seth Meyers weds his longtime girlfriend

Lorne Michaels and Amy Poehler were among the guests as Meyers' Martha's Vineyard wedding to Alexi Ashe.

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<p>Sandra Bullock in &quot;Gravity.&quot;</p>

Sandra Bullock in "Gravity."

Credit: Warner Bros.

Telluride Roundup: 'Prisoners,' 'Palo Alto,' 'Gravity'

Looking back at some of the major films at Telluride's 40th

TELLURIDE, Colo. - The 2013 Telluride Film Festival has come to a close and, overall, the quality of the slate was befitting the event's 40th anniversary. Granted, you might have expected more celebratory moments, but Telluride has always been about the movies first. Parties? Special ceremonies?  Eh, they'll stick with the annual Thursday "feed" and Labor Day picnic thank you very much.

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<p>Yes, Zac, we are talking to you.</p>

Yes, Zac, we are talking to you.

Credit: Universal Pictures

Rogen and Efron make a strong impression in first filthy funny trailer for 'Neighbors'

This one's pulling no punches even in the first first peek

It wasn't that long ago that I drove to an unassuming street just off the 10 freeway in Los Angeles and followed the directions to the two houses being used for what was still at that point being called "Townies."

By this point, I feel comfortable on a set that's run by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, or Nicholas Stoller, and when you throw all three of them into the mix, you've got my attention. I ended up talking to Stoller, Goldberg, and Rogen, as well as screenwriters Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien, and it was apparent that they all had one clear goal in mind: make a stunningly dirty and wildly funny film.

If you're unfamiliar with the film, it deals with Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne), a young couple who have just gone through two of the most stressful experiences that you can face in normal daily life. They just had a baby, and they just bought a house. Piling those one on top of the other means that they're stretched about as thin as they can be, and then within days of them closing the deal on their house, they get new neighbors, and it turns out to be a fraternity, run by Teddy (Zac Efron), Scoonie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and Pete (Dave Franco).

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<p>Christoph Waltz in &quot;The Zero Theorem.&quot;</p>

Christoph Waltz in "The Zero Theorem."

Credit: Voltage Pictures

Review: Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem' doesn't add up to much

Headache-inducing sci-fi's futurism is so dated, it's practically a period piece

VENICE - Playing an online shrink, Tilda Swinton raps for about 30 seconds at the midpoint of "The Zero Theorem" -- a stiff, Scots-accented Fresh Prince breakdown performed from under a broom-like hairpiece. It doesn't advance the story in any way, but then, nothing here does; her screen is switched off and the rap passes without comment, like a slippery fart in an elevator; the onscreen witnesses look sheepish to have heard it at all.

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<p>J.C.&nbsp;Chandor (right) and Robert Redford on the set of &quot;All is&nbsp;Lost&quot;</p>

J.C. Chandor (right) and Robert Redford on the set of "All is Lost"

Credit: Roadside Attractions

Telluride: J.C. Chandor on the multiple metaphors of 'All is Lost'

Is it an abstraction about the financial crisis? Maybe...

TELLURIDE, Colo. - Like any artist, J.C. Chandor isn't interested in tying his work down with one thematic takeaway. Indeed, his latest film, "All is Lost," lives in the abstract and can service any number of perspectives on it. But for a guy who launched his career with the financial crisis indie "Margin Call," one can't help but wonder if this film, about a man stranded at sea as things go from bad to worse, isn't in some way a metaphor for market collapse and financial ruin as seen over the last five years.

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<p>&quot;Gravity,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;12 Years a Slave&quot;&nbsp;and &quot;Labor Day&quot; hope to keep the fire going through the fall.</p>

"Gravity," "12 Years a Slave" and "Labor Day" hope to keep the fire going through the fall.

Credit: Warner Bros./Fox Searchlight/Paramount

Off the Carpet: Telluride launches the season from 'Gravity' to '12 Years a Slave'

Will films that hit be able to keep the high going through the circuit?

The Telluride Film Festival wraps up today and with that, the upcoming awards season has finally taken a little shape. We have a long way to go, of course, and no one should be calling the race from this far out, but we certainly know a few things.

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<p>&quot;Crisis&quot;</p>

"Crisis"

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Crisis'

Dermot Mulroney's hostage drama tops Dylan McDermott's 'Hostages'

[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. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show:"Crisis" (NBC)
Airs:Midseason
The Pitch: "It's 'Hostages' only with Dermot Mulroney!"
Quick Response: In the Dylan McDermott/Dermot Mulroney battle of conspiracy-fueled, DC-based hostage dramas with bland one-word titles, the winner is Mulroney's "Crisis," at least for me. Yes, "Crisis" has several easy-to-predict twists and a frustrating in medias res opening and some character motivations that are totally transparent. And as with "Hostages," it feels more like the set-up for a movie or brief miniseries than anything with real legs. And a lot of Rand Ravich's dialogue -- "You're my problem and now I'm yours!" -- sounds like it was lifted from a Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich summer blockbuster. And I can't talk about half of the characters and half of the performances without saying things that would probably give other things away. So that's a lot of negatives. But negatives aside, Ravich's script also has a lot of unexpected and interesting beats and taking a group of well-reared school children as hostages rather than a boring-as-hell family gives Ravich an astounding number of potential directions to take things, at least in the short-term. And while I ended "Hostages" thinking, "I don't quite know where things go from here and I don't care," I ended the "Crisis" pilot thinking, "I don't quite know where things go from here, but there are a handful of paths that might be interesting." A frequently reliable (and sometimes hacky) feature thriller director, Phillip Noyce orchestrates a pilot in which a ton happens in a very condensed time-frame and a lot of it is at least initially entertaining. Unlike "Hostages," which was all about the prolongation of a simple situation, the "Crisis" pilot has a very high narrative burn-rate for a 43-minute network drama. I'd say the pilot has two or three climaxes which, with different arrangement of plotpoints, could have been held to end the second and third episodes, but get plowed through immediately. The immediate concern is whether Ravich threw the kitchen sink into the pilot to make sure it would test well, leaving the cupboard bare, or if he knew he had so much story to tell that he had move at breakneck speed. Ravich has some really poor feature credits, but due to his work on "Life," he's got short-term benefit-of-the-doubt from me. I don't wanna say too much but with Gillian Anderson, Rachael Taylor, Michael Beach and whatever your feelings happen to be towards Mulroney, there's a good cast of familiar stars and the kids, who aren't overburdened in the pilot, seem pretty and not-initially-inept (that's all I can ask). "Crisis" definitely isn't bad, especially if you watch it soon after "Hostages."
Desire To Watch Again: A lot of my desire to watch "Crisis" long-term will depend on where NBC puts it at midseason, but that midseason berth also means that before it premieres critics probably will get three or four episodes as screeners. I'll be happy to watch a couple more and that will give me a better sense of whether Ravich had a full bag of tricks or just enough for a pilot.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Rake'  
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Mom' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Lucky 7'  
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Dads' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Super Fun Night'  
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Welcome to the Family' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Millers' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'The Goldbergs' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Ironside'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'We Are Men' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Almost Human' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Back in the Game' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Sean Saves the World' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'Reign' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Crazy Ones' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Enlisted' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Betrayal' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Blacklist' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'The Tomorrow People' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Hostages' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Sleepy Hollow' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Trophy Wife' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show' 
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries

 


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<p>Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones in &quot;The Invisible Woman.&quot;</p>

Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones in "The Invisible Woman."

Credit: Sony Classics

Review: Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones can't light a fire in 'The Invisible Woman'

Sophmore effort reiterates Fiennes filmmaking talent

TELLURIDE, Colo. - More than any other medium, the chemistry between two actors is paramount onscreen. The camera intimately reveals what the stage cannot and, ultimately, is most unforgiving if there is none. The latter, sadly, is the fate of Ralph Fiennes' impeccably realized "The Invisible Woman," which premiered at the 2013 Telluride Film Festival on Saturday.

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<p>&quot;Tim's Vermeer&quot;</p>

"Tim's Vermeer"

Credit: Sony Classics

Telluride: Penn and Teller's 'Tim's Vermeer' might be the breakout hit of the festival

A story of art, ingenuity and human spirit is lighting up audiences this weekend

TELLURIDE, Colo. - I must say I'm happy to see that the media is finding its way to Penn and Teller's "Tim's Vermeer" here at the fest. I caught the film on a whim Friday morning and haven't found the right time and head space to write it up, but it might just be -- still -- my favorite entry of the 40th annual Telluride Film Festival.

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<p>Sandra Bullock in &quot;Gravity&quot;</p>

Sandra Bullock in "Gravity"

Credit: Warner Bros.

Telluride: Jonás Cuarón's 'Aningaaq' short plays as a companion piece to Alfonso Cuarón's 'Gravity'

'Tracks' viewers are catching an echo of the festival's hottest ticket

TELLURIDE, Colo. - There's an interesting bit of synergy happening in Telluride this year between the hottest ticket of the festival and a modest short film that has been screening before John Curran's "Tracks."

Without giving too much away (though some might consider this paragraph to contain SPOILERS -- you've been warned), Alfonso Cuarón's "Gravity" features a scene in which astronaut Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) makes an S.O.S. radio call down to Earth and picks up the signal of an Inuk man in the arctic. Of course, you don't really know he's an Inuk until you get a look at Jonás Cuarón's short film "Aningaaq," which depicts the very same scene but from the Inuk man's point of view with Stone's voice coming in over the radio.

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