Latest Blog Posts

<p>The Minions are cleaning up in &quot;Despicable Me 2.&quot;</p>

The Minions are cleaning up in "Despicable Me 2."

Credit: Universal Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'Despicable Me 2'

The Minions are already chewing up the holiday weekend box office

With over $34 million already in the bank, "Despicable Me 2" has convincingly Minion-ized the box office, neatly paving the way for the capsule-shaped critters' forthcoming spinoff vehicle -- itself none-too-subtly promoted in the new film's closing credits. But is it any good? Drew McWeeny thinks it does its job well enough, though it's lacking in the story department. I more or less agree: it's bright, disposably fun family fare, though where the similarly fluffy first film had a reasonably smart idea at its core, the sequel loses focus by stripping Steve Carell's protagonist of his conflicted supervillain identity. What do you think? Is this a franchise you're keen to see continue? And in a lean year so far for animation, can this sequel get more Academy love than its unnominated predecessor? Vote in the poll below, and have your say in the comments.

Read Full Post
<p>On &quot;Deadwood,&quot;&nbsp;Captain Turner gets the advantage of Dan.</p>

On "Deadwood," Captain Turner gets the advantage of Dan.

Credit: HBO

'Deadwood' Rewind: Season 3, episode 5: 'A Two-Headed Beast'

Dan and Captain Turner do battle in the thoroughfare in one of the greatest fight scenes ever filmed

For the third summer in a row, we're revisiting David Milch's classic revisionist HBO Western "Deadwood," this time discussing the third season.

While I once upon a time posted two separate reviews so people who hadn't watched the whole series would have a safe place to comment, almost no one bothered commenting on the newbie reviews last year, and they've been ditched. If you haven't finished the series, just avoid the comments of this review and you'll be fine.

Thoughts on episode 5, "A Two-Headed Beast," coming up just as soon as I put that down to drunkenness or a high estimate of athleticism...

Read Full Post
<p>Malin Akerman of &quot;Trophy Wife&quot;</p>

Malin Akerman of "Trophy Wife"

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Trophy Wife'

Malin Akerman brings a ton of charm to her new comedy

[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:"Trophy Wife" (ABC)
The Pitch: "Modern-er Family"
Quick Response:I like the shape of "Trophy Wife." And no, I'm not just referring to star Malin Akerman. What I like is the structural integrity of the premise, even if the title is probably a misleading mistake. I don't think the show looks at Akerman's character as a trophy wife and most of the characters don't view her that way. She's a slightly wide-eyed young woman who finds herself plunged into an established an atypical family unit and has to find a way to negotiate her position within that unit. It's just a different way to approach a blended family and the title doesn't really capture that Akerman's Kate and Bradley Whitford's Pete have a very natural and warm chemistry together and while we haven't really gotten to the meat of their attraction, it's implied. But there's also a warmth between Pete and his two previous ex-wives (Michaela Watkins and Marcia Gay Harden) and also with his two teenage kids and his adopted son. So it's a family, but it's a weird family, especially when you include Kate's buddy Meg (Natalie Morales). What I enjoyed about the pilot is how quickly and cleanly it establishes its eight main characters and, more impressively, how quickly it finds the dynamics between the different disparate pieces. It helps that this is a great vehicle for the frequently appealing -- but only occasionally properly utilized -- Akerman, who shows myriad sides to Kate in a short period, playing off familiar "adorakable" tropes -- she gets drunk, she falls down, she says things that would embarrass anybody but her -- but also giving us many reasons to respect and root for Kate all in 22 minutes. Akerman's bubbly energy has instantly great foils in Harden's brilliant iciness and Watkins' loopy mania and also in the sarcastic preppiness that Whitford plays as well as anyone. ABC had a full shelf of family comedies this year, which means lots of kids and I think Gianna LePera, Ryan Scott Lee and Albert Tsai are solid, but I need a bit more time with them. Tsai in particular seems to sometimes be overacting, but there were a couple times I sensed his line deliveries were actually boosting sluggish punchlines. And I really hope they pay close attention to Morales, because she's a lively treat here, but I can just as easily imagine her becoming increasingly overlooked as the show progresses. Knowing that it's hard for a comedy pilot to hit the ground with hilarity, I won't criticize "Trophy Wife" harshly for making me consistently smile, but not laugh.
Desire To Watch Again: Reasonably high. I really like Malin Akerman and will happily watch her on a weekly basis. I think this pilot also suggests writers Emily Halpern & Sarah Haskins have a good sense of what Harden, Watkins and Whitford do well. I don't love where ABC has put "Trophy Wife." It's a much better match with "Modern Family" than "Super Fun Night." "The Goldbergs" also seems like a better match with "Modern Family" than "Super Fun Night." In fact... Seriously, ABC. Give some thought to not airing "Super Fun Night" on Wednesdays at 9:30.

 

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

Read Full Post
Listen: Jay-Z's 'Holy Grail' with Justin Timberlake and Nirvana tribute

Listen: Jay-Z's 'Holy Grail' with Justin Timberlake and Nirvana tribute

Track from 'Magna Carta Holy Grail' interpolates 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'

Happy Fourth of July!

We'll have a full review of Jay-Z's "Magna Carta Holy Grail," but until then, enjoy half of the title track, "Holy Grail," featuring Justin Timberlake.  Actually, the song way more than 'features' Timberlake. The first verse is his and the third, as he laments "I just can't crack ya code/One day screaming you love me/the next day you're so cold...and I still don't know why I love you so much."

While it sounds like it may be about a woman, upon closer listen, it seems to be about fame, as the two address how fickle a mistress fame is and how it's cut down many a man, including MC Hammer and Mike Tyson, both of whom are namechecked.

Jay-Z also drops Kurt Cobain's name before he and Timberlake go into a "Smells Like Teen Spirit." 

Timberlake sounds fantastic and you'll also recognize Timbaland's  touch on this one (especially at the end when it uses the same sound effects as "Mirrors." Damn if it's not a better vocal performance than almost anything on "The 20/20 Experience." 

What do you think? 

 

Read Full Post
<p>Robert De Niro in &quot;Killing Season.&quot;</p>

Robert De Niro in "Killing Season."

Credit: Millennium Pictures

Karlovy Vary Film Festival: 'Killing Season,' 'Honeymoon,' 'DK'

Travolta and De Niro bring the star power, but the Czechs bring the good stuff

The Karlovy Vary Film Festival is a rewardingly contradictory one. The locale is pure chocolate-box fragility: a bijou spa town in the densely wooded hills of the Czech republic, its buildings appear frosted by professional patissieres. The atmosphere, meanwhile, is more robustly rowdy: wealthy neighboring Russians populate the busy party circuit as cinema-loving students descend on the town by the busload, open-air bars surrounding the festival center dispensing rivers of Pilsner all the while. Neither the setting nor the crowds, meanwhile, immediately suggest the festival’s diverse, tough-minded programming, which trades largely in bleaker realities – or more challenging fantasies, as the case may be.

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;The Michael J. Fox Show&quot;</p>

"The Michael J. Fox Show"

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show'

Michael J. Fox needs you to know it's OK to laugh

[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:"The Michael J. Fox Show" (NBC)
The Pitch: NBC gave "The Michael J. Fox Show" a 22-episode commitment without a finished script or a pilot. Safe to say, then, that the title was all the pitch anybody needed.
Quick Response: Before NBC announced its fall premiere schedule, I was going to suggest that it might be a really, really, really good idea to premiere "The Michael J. Fox Show" with two episodes. Then NBC announced they were premiering "The Michael J. Fox Show" with two episodes. And rightly so! It's not that the pilot is bad, but it's basically a PSA. And its message is "It's OK to laugh." It's 22 minutes of Michael J. Fox amiably reassuring viewers not only is it OK for them to laugh at him and his medical difficulties, but since he's laughing at himself, we're actually laughing with him. And I'm not going to scoff at this as an aspiration for this particular pilot. "The Michael J. Fox Show" isn't explicitly autobiographical for Fox, but it's close enough that there's a wave of discomfort that almost every viewer is going to pass through and it's up to the beloved star to make sure that most viewers pass through that discomfort as quickly as possible. Saying that "The Michael J. Fox Show" makes a few jokes about Fox's Parkinson's would be like saying Yakov Smirnoff made a few jokes about differences between life in the USA and life in the Soviet Union. The pilot is almost nothing but jokes about Fox's tremors, his medication and the things he can and cannot do because of his Parkinson's and how that relates to the character's ability to return to a nightly newscast in New York City. You might crack a smile at some of the jokes, but the goal isn't really laughter. The goal, I hope, is to get a ton of information out of the way up-front so that subsequent episodes can begin the gradual process of making the show about a guy who has a job and a family and also has Parkinson's, rather than being A Very Important Show About Michael J. Fox's Health. Everybody involved here is talented enough that it could work, if that corner is turned. As we know from "Good Wife," Fox is actually remarkable at using his condition to turn punchlines on their heads and he still has a gift with physical comedy that's altered, but not abated. There are hints of that here, but they're buried under the well-meaning explanations and meta dialogue like "What if I'm not the guy they remember?" Freed from the shackles that bind Marie on "Breaking Bad," Betsy Brandt is loose and appealing as Fox's wife, though the distraction caused by their height disparity is unavoidable. I kinda love the casting of Wendell Pierce as a news producer and lemme just say that Katie Finneran is much better here than on FOX's "I Hate My Teenage Daughter," though she's kinda in a different, broader pilot from everybody else. And the kids aren't bad, with Juliette Goglia as the early standout.
Desire To Watch Again: The bottom line is that I understand why this pilot was something "The Michael J. Fox Show" had to get out of its system. I didn't love it, but at least they executed the "The More You Know..." side of things in a way that was light, rather than maudlin. Now? Let's see what the series looks like. I'm really eager to see a real episode.

 

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

Read Full Post
<p>Kristen Wiig talks about playing a love interest to Gru in 'Despicable Me 2'</p>

Kristen Wiig talks about playing a love interest to Gru in 'Despicable Me 2'

Credit: HitFix

Kristen Wiig discusses her role as the love interest in 'Despicable Me 2'

One of Hollywood's funniest ladies is getting busier every day

One of the weirdest little subcategories of things I like is when an actor shows up in two different movies in a film series playing totally different characters for no particular reason.

Weird, right? But now you can add Kristen Wiig to the list of people who have done that, since she played a very small role in "Despicable Me" as a character named "Miss Hattie," and now in "Despicable Me 2," she is front and center as the so-happy-to-be-a-spy-she-is-giddy new character, Lucy. She is also Gru's unlikely love interest in the film, and the two of them have a loose, easy connection that makes their material a lot of fun.

I am equally entertained by the notion that Wiig and Carrell are going to be paired again in "Anchorman: The Legend Continues," and it looks like Brick has met his match, which should be hilarious. The trailer that was only released to theaters has a little bit more footage, and that's where you get a good look at Wiig and Carrell together, both of them dim bulbs in a big way.

Read Full Post
<p>Gore Verbinski talks about his love of Westerns and his conception of 'The Lone Ranger'</p>

Gore Verbinski talks about his love of Westerns and his conception of 'The Lone Ranger'

Credit: HitFix

Gore Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer talk about revitalizing the Western with 'Lone Ranger'

Can they do for the Old West what they did for pirates?

I like Gore Verbinski quite a bit.

I liked his early films like "Mousehunt" and "The Ring," but when he made "Pirates Of The Caribbean," it was like a whole new filmmaker suddenly emerged. Suddenly he was revealed as an amazing action director, a guy who could stage an elaborate sequence on several different fronts, juggling everything with a visual clarity and a sense of geography that is staggering.

As action cinema in the last decade has devolved into a flailing incoherence where shaking the camera to obscure what's happening has replaced creating great action, Verbinski has become an increasingly rare bird. He has also established himself as a very canny gamer of the ratings system. You look at his version of "The Ring" or his "Pirates" films or "The Lone Ranger," and you can see just how much he's managed to sneak by under the guise of a PG-13.

Read Full Post
<p>Steve Carrell seems mightily entertained by the Minions in 'Despicable Me 2'</p>

Steve Carrell seems mightily entertained by the Minions in 'Despicable Me 2'

Credit: HitFix

Steve Carrell compares the Minions of 'Despicable Me 2' to the Marx Brothers

One of Hollywood's nicest guys seems happy to be in the sequel business

At some point, when you interview someone enough times, it starts to feel like you're just checking in, like it's an ongoing conversation that you just return to a few times every year.

I met Steve Carrell the first time on the set of "Anchorman." I visited on the day they shot the big rumble between all of the various news teams, and Carrell was having a great time that day pushing the weirdness of the scene. It was such a playful set, and he was certainly in the spirit of things.

Then I spent a long day with him on "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," and I really got a glimpse of the Steve Carrell that has become a movie star due in large part to that breakthrough performance. He seemed to me like a guy who was very serious about his craft but who wasn't really playing the big-picture career game at that point. When I saw him on the "Get Smart" set, it was starting to feel more like someone had decided that the Steve Carrell brand was a very big brand, and there was more attention and energy focused on every choice. Carrell was still the same guy, but the energy around him was undeniably different.

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;Pacific Rim&quot; screenwriter Travis&nbsp;Beacham (left)&nbsp;and director Guillermo del Toro.</p>

"Pacific Rim" screenwriter Travis Beacham (left) and director Guillermo del Toro.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Screenwriter Travis Beacham on the innovative spirit of 'Pacific Rim'

The kaiju/mech disasterpiece was to celebrate aspiration over despiration

One foggy morning in 2007, screenwriter Travis Beacham was walking along the beach in Santa Monica and he looked out at the famed amusement park pier jutting out into the water. His imagination ever running rampant, he pictured behind those mist-covered, empty rides a towering machine, a robot -- a mech, actually -- waiting to do battle with some vicious monstrosity. The germ of "Pacific Rim" was born.

Read Full Post
<p>There is a preposterous amount of great material on Shout!&nbsp;Factory's amazing new 'No Pryor Restraint' box set</p>

There is a preposterous amount of great material on Shout! Factory's amazing new 'No Pryor Restraint' box set

Credit: Shout! Factory

The new CD box set 'No Pryor Restraint' offers an amazing record of a great American artist

New and old material alike packs every disc in the set

I got challenged by a few of you for something I wrote in my review of "The Internship," and, in hindsight, you are correct about the way I said something.

I mentioned that I feel like Hollywood failed Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, and a number of you pointed out that Vaughn has a co-screenplay credit on "The Internship," which hardly makes him a victim of the system. Owen Wilson has also had

The truth is that Vaughn and Wilson are guys who are still working, even if I think they've been put in certain boxes that are short-sighted in terms of what they are hired to do, and they seem to have made an uneasy peace with what's expected of them. I think there are guys who take to life in the box very easily, and they do it very well, and I think they enjoy what they do. And nobody should be faulted for it. I don't have to enjoy the films, but someone's paying to see them.

If we want to talk about people who Hollywood failed completely, we should look at the case of Richard Pryor. This guy should have been working with great filmmakers from the start. When you talk to people about Pryor, you have to sort of establish up front which Richard Pryor you are talking about. If you judge him by the filmography he left behind, then it's a really unpleasant story. There are some bright spots, and I think Pryor did some very good work at a number of points… but it's really a story of wasted potential.

Read Full Post
<p>What? You wanted her to be a good person, TOO?</p>

What? You wanted her to be a good person, TOO?

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Big Brother' Wednesday Results - The first hamster scurries home

Who would be this season's first contestant to meet Julie Chen?
Hi all! Dan here. I'll be doing the "Big Brother" results shows this season. Wednesday tonight and then Thursday for the rest of the summer.
 
OK, since you asked, here's my problem with "Big Brother," hamster bigotry, live feeds and CBS:
 
The people passing around petitions trying to get various houseguests removed from the show are silly. Unless Aaryn wins the prize, "Big Brother" is doing far more harm than good for the smoking hot, xenophobic homophobe. She's been fired by her modeling company and she will return to a world in which most reasonable people know that she's disgusting and ignorant. For the rest of her life, when future employers Google her, guess what will come up? Exactly. And it's not like she's espousing reasonable conservative-leaning positions on things. She's just a bigot. So that'll be hard to defend going forward. Ditto with the rest of the stupidity spewing from the various hamsters. [This is me being naive, I understand. CBS not only covered up Jeff Schroeder's gay slurs, but they employed him again on both "Big Brother" and then "The Amazing Race" and only a few disgruntled people said a word. I like to believe there's a paper trail. I fear it's not as easy to follow as it should be.]
 
What bothers me, though, is actually on a practical game-play level. Various hamsters are saying nasty things, but they're only being heard on the live-feed. If you watched only the "Big Brother" telecast, you'd think the hamsters were dumb -- M-O-O-N, as Dave would spell it -- but I wouldn't have any idea that they were also just fundamentally bad people, many of them. And CBS' condemnation of what's being said is, of course, comically inadequate and disingenuous. Fine. But CBS and "Big Brother" have added a twist this year in which America is voting for a weekly MVP and that MVP has an awful lot of power in the House. And since most of America doesn't watch live-feeds or read blogs or other stuff, most of America is voting based on a sample that is skewed by CBS' editing. Editing always will shape out perception of "real" people on reality shows, but in this case, CBS and the "Big Brother" editors are actively impacting the results of the show. America is voting on the MVP because of a perception of the hamsters based on editing decisions and if they're not being given full information on the hamsters they're voting for, their vote and, by extension, the results of the show have been permanently manipulated. If one of the bigots wins this season and an MVP-related decision leads to the eviction of any of the few acceptable houseguests, I'd get out and sue CBS and "Big Brother" promptly for playing a direct role, through editing, in a competition they claim isn't rigged. 
 
With that rant out of the way... I'll be recapping Wednesday's results in my usual live-blog form after the break...
 
Read Full Post
BLOGS BY NAME