It seems that "Doctor Who" is going dark for season eight. As suggested in the season seven finale, the future isn't looking so bright for the good doctor, plus the casting of Peter Capaldi to replace the decidedly bouncier Matt Smith only seemed to confirm that impression. Now comes word that director Ben Wheatley ("Kill List," "Sightseers") will be directing the first two episodes of the show. Given Wheatley's track record for dark comedy and horror, don't expect any cute aliens when new episodes start airing next fall.
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On “Lightning Bolt,” Pearl Jam’s 10th studio album, the Seattle group isn’t content to rest on its laurels. The 12 songs here — all anchored by Eddie Vedder’s often stirring, always impassioned vocal delivery, Mike McCready and Stone Gossard’s fine, sharp guitar playing, and drummer Matt Cameron and bassist Jeff Ament’s sturdy rhythm section —are well delivered, with taut, strong musicianship.
By now, after more than 20 years, it’s not a surprise that the band finds itself so easily in the pocket on the Brendan O’Brien-produced set. Even though the band stretches out of its usual heavy, mid-tempo, groove here a few times, the playing always sounds assured, but that doesn’t mean everything works as well as it should.
Some of the songs, including first two singles, the spiky “Mind Your Manners” and the heartbreaking “Sirens,” hit their marks with perfect precision. On others, as Pearl Jam drifts into funkier territory or space rock, don’t land as gracefully. It seems churlish to deduct points for Pearl Jam’s attempts to push its boundaries a little here, but the result is an album that sometimes feels a tad unfocused and one that could use a little more bite in a few places.
Also, given that it’s the band’s first album since 2009’s “Backspacer,” it seems odd that the band had to draw upon a track from Vedder’s 2011 solo album, “Ukulele Songs,” to round out the package.
Lyrically, Vedder looks both outward and rails against the system ("Mind Your Manners" and "Infallible"), as well as inward on such beauties as "Sirens" and "Future Days," but he's also sensing his own mortality on a number of the tracks.
Despite its flaws, there’s much here to enjoy on the band’s first album in four years, out Oct. 15. Here’s a track-by-track review:
“Getaway”: A thrashy, mid-tempo treat opens the album with the band firing on all cylinders. “Getaway” has a 70s rock feel as Vedder rants about organized religion. In a career built on often impenetrable lyrics, he comes across loud and clear when he sings, “Science says we’re making love like the lizards.” Go figure. GRADE: B
“Mind Your Manners”: A punk rock blast across the bow, this feral tune features Cameron bashing away as if his life depended upon it and a blistering metal guitar solo by McCready. It will undoubtedly be a high point of the live show. GRADE: A
“My Father’s Son”: Vedder’s father issues are, understandably, the dominant story of his life and he’s got a lots left to say here. The song totally shape shifts in the last third, but for the most part is a dark, driving tune about getting out from under your own gene pool. “Now father, you’re dead and gone and I’m finally free to be me,” Vedder sings, although none of the torment seems to be alleviated. GRADE: B-
“Sirens”: Simply one of the most beautiful ballads Pearl Jam has recorded. There are seldom happy endings in Pearl Jam’s songs and this one won’t end well either, but between the gorgeous piano-based melody, and Vedder singing about how the “fear goes away” when he holds his disappearing lover and how fragile life is, this is the album’s masterpiece. GRADE: A+
“Lightning Bolt”: The titular character is a woman whom you will never be able to tame, even when you ride her like a wave or she may be the ocean. The mid-tempo rocker has a killer vocal by Vedder and it explodes into a full-on burner for a nice build that left me wishing the whole song had that kind of thrust: GRADE: B
“Infallible”: Funky isn’t really one of Pearl Jam’s signatures, but the band gives it a try with this tune about man’s infallibility. “Our ship’s come in and it’s sinking,” Vedder sings. It’s fun to hear the band play around a bit here and switch it up, even though it’s a tripwire of a song that feels a bit more like a curiosity than anything else. GRADE: C
“Pendulum”: “We are here and then we go/my shadow left me long ago,” Vedder sings on this stark, spare entry. The subdued percussion brings a feeling of foreboding, as a lonely tremelo guitar line weaves through much of the song, adding to the haunted feel. “Easy left me a long time ago,” Vedder sings. The change of pace works much better here than on “Infallible.” GRADE: B+
“Swallowed Whole”: Redolent of mid-‘90s Pearl Jam, this track feels like a loose-limbed jam that could take flight at any point. Lyrically, it’s a reminder of how our peace and sense of nature get swallowed up with all the mire and muck of daily life. GRADE: B+
“Let The Records Play”: That funky bounce is back as Cameron and Ament find a cool groove here. The sneaky bass line works well, but the rest of the song never really goes anywhere. GRADE: C
“Sleeping By Myself”: The gentle, lulling, acoustic tale first appeared n sounds like an Vedder’s 2011 solo album, “Ukulele Songs” and is stretched out in an enhanced version here. He’s destined to be forever lonely as his love leaves him and he comes to the conclusion that love and disaster are pretty much the same thing. GRADE: B-
“Yellow Moon”: A spacey, intentionally slow drift of a song with a dreamy vocal by Vedder and measured drumming from Cameron. GRADE: B-
“Future Days”: For all the turbulence that life brings, both from external struggles and internal demons, there can be beautiful moments where we can leave all that behind, especially when we find the one person who anchors us and lets us fly at the same time. The album concludes with a very happy ending on this emotional piano ballad (complete with strings and O’Brien on piano) as Vedder sees a future free of pain... OK, maybe with a little less pain. GRADE: B
And they said it wouldn't last (and it may still be too soon to say it will, as they haven't gotten down the aisle just yet), but "The Bachelor"'s Sean Lowe and Catherine Giudicie have set a date. They're so confident, in fact, they're letting ABC air their wedding live, Sun. Jan. 26 at 8:00 p.m. This is the first time ever that a "Bachelor" wedding has aired live. Can't wait to see what goes wrong!
Network ratings hurt by "The Walking Dead," baseball playoffs, NFL
It was a perfect storm of ratings decline for many network shows, with "The Amazing Race" and "The Good Wife" suffering the most damage.
"The View" will broadcast live from Disneyland, with Jimmy Kimmel as lead guest
The November sweeps stunt is set for the week of Nov. 18.
IFC renews "Comedy Bang! Bang!"
Twenty episodes will air in 2014, divided into two 10-episode blocks.
Tom Hanks & Sandra Bullock recreate his famous "Big" scene on British TV
Watch them dance on a piano on Jonathan Ross' talk show.
Watch the official trailer for Starz's "Black Sails"
The pirate drama is Michael Bay's first TV project.
We've weighed the contenders and early declarations have been made. The whisper campaigns and casual takedowns have begun with no real (comfortable) frontrunner to emerge for a while yet. But as we look out over this year's Oscar contending crop, what does it have to say about where and who we are?
Netflix in talks to add it service to cable set-top boxes
Does this mean cable companies are warming to the idea of working with Netflix?
"The Big Bang Theory" has the highest non-NFL ad rates on TV these days
CBS charges $326,260 per 30-second spot.
Damian Lewis talks "Homeland"
The actor says of new developments, "I think people are going to love it. I hope they do." PLUS: Lewis says everybody was surprised by the success of Brody, inside the real-life building from last night's episode, last night seemed like a commentary on "Homeland," maybe "Homeland" is better without Brody, and remember when "Homeland" was fun to watch?
David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson are up for another "X Files" movie
"Gillian and I want to do it, so it's really up to Twentieth Century Fox at this point," Duchovny said at New York Comic-Con's "X Files" reunion panel.
Read the letter "Breaking Bad" fan Anthony Hopkins sent to Bryan Cranston
"Your performance as Walter White was the best acting I have seen - ever," wrote Hopkins, after consuming all 62 episodes in two weeks. UPDATE: Read the letter here. PLUS: Russian "Breaking Bad" fan changes his name to Jesse Pinkman.
Caroline Manzo: I'm done with "Real Housewives of New Jersey"
Minutes after last night's reunion ended, Manzo wrote on Twitter, ""I've decided to leave #RHONJ this season was my last. Love and kisses to you all. Xoxoxo."
"The Bachelor's" Sean Lowe & Catherine Giudici announce their wedding date
They announced on "GMA" this morning that they'll wed on Jan. 26. UPDATE: ABC will show the wedding live.
Lynda Carter caught off guard by "Two and a Half Men's" raciness
"I didn't know it was going to be quite as sexy as it's turning out to be," says the former "Wonder Woman" star.
"Game of Thrones" gets a porn parody: "Game of Bones"
Porn star James Deen stars as Jon Snow.
Paula Deen tonight gets the "E! True Hollywood" treatment
The Food Network host's hour will be devoted to her rags to riches to scandal story.
"CSI" holds a "Back to the Future" reunion
Elisabeth Shue and Lea Thompson, who both appeared on "Part II" and "Part III" of the "Back to the Future" films, will share a scene together on "CSI."
"Falling Skies" Season 4: Watch a sneak peek
The trailer for the upcoming season was unveiled at New York's Comic-Con.
So, this season of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" comes to an end, and, as usual, there's fighting, tears, and more fighting. Some things never change, do they? Even though Teresa and Joe Giudice are facing prison and everyone (except Teresa and Joe) seems terribly upset about this, that doesn't mean they behave themselves or that anyone else does. No, even the prospect of jail time doesn't inspire anyone to pull a punch. Hey, it's the Italian way! According to this very small subset of Italian-Americans who are by no means representative of an entire national identity!
The story of the weekend, as you may have heard by now, is that Spike Jonze's "Her" went down a storm at the NYFF this weekend. Critics (including HitFix's Drew McWeeny) are nuts for the oddball techno-romance. Can all that critical love translate into Academy attention, as it did with Jonze's first two features? Steve Pond belives so, declaring the film a likely bet for Best Picture and Best Original SCreenplay nominations, though he thinks acting nominations will require some adventurousness from the actors' branch -- particularly if Scarlett Johansson is to be the first actor ever nominated for a voice-only performance. [The Wrap]
We kick off the episode with a live performance of "Wake Me Up" by Alloe Blacc, which is great, but the real reason to be excited about this episode of "Dancing with the Stars" is because it's the one that forces each star to pick their most memorable year and build a dance around it. This is not as easy as it might seem, but it does usually lead to tearful confessions and tugging on heart strings, so even if the dancing is marginal there's plenty of drama. Grab your tissues! Oh, and at this point, Tom explains a female star is on the chopping block, though that can change. Sweat, ladies, sweat!
Christina & Mark
The Background: Christina felt dissed by Julianne last week. But moving on! She picks 2010 as her most important year, which is when she had her baby girl. That year, her marriage to her cheating baby daddy also ended, so major highs and lows. She chooses CeeLo's "Forget You," because she survived this ultimate betrayal. Oh, I love this already! Go, Christina, go!
The Dance: She's dancing the cha cha cha. This is just as feisty as I hoped it would be. Christina has been very strong throughout, but this was actually a notch above.
The Judges: Len thought it was fire and ice -- fire in the performance, ice in the attitude. In short, he liked it. Bruno thought she had a sharp finish and it was indecently hot. Carrie Ann thought it was something special, and she really was right on with her technique.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 9 Len - 10 Bruno - 9 It's their first ten of the season -- and from Len!
Since a female star is going home, Brooke asks the women if they're miserable thinking about this.
Jack & Cheryl
The Background: He picks last year. His daughter was born in April, which was exciting. Two and a half weeks after she was born, he was diagnosed with M.S. He starts crying thinking about his baby not having her dad. He doesn't mention his wife's miscarriage, but that was this year.
The Dance: He's dancing the waltz for his wife and his daughter. Still some weird hands, and he always looks a little grim on the dance floor. I was hoping this particular dance would be more emotional for him, but I'm not seeing it.
The Judges: Bruno has so much admiration for Jack, and his dancing was wonderful. Carrie Ann thinks he's graceful and, I guess, aaaaaaaah. This is, she explains, good. Len appreciated how much he stayed in hold. But he noticed the weird hands, too.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 9 Len - 9 Bruno - 9
Leah & Tony
The Background: Her most important year was the last year, which is when she left Scientology. She chooses not to be a victim, and she thinks her daughter has gotten to see the strength in her family. She'll be dancing contemporary. She hasn't danced contemporary, and neither has Tony. She comes up with the puppet concept.
The Dance: I can tell this isn't Tony's thing. Lean needed direction to work on her footwork so it didn't look so leaden. There's a lot of ballroom in this, unfortunately, which isn't working. This isn't her fault, by the way. And, really, it's unfair of the show to ask Tony to do contemporary.
The Judges: Carrie Ann loved the concept… but once it got into lifts, it didn't feel fluid. Len agrees. Great idea, crappy lifts. Bruno loved that she took on something difficult.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 7 Len - 7 Bruno - 8 Leah looks pissed, but she says she's just happy she got through the routine.
Paris Hilton in the house! She wanted to support Christina. Brooke suggests she do the show. Paris poses and smiles.
Corbin & Karina
The Background: 2011 his 12-year-old sister was diagnosed with scoliosis. I'm sorry, but a dancer personally fighting MS or friggin' brain cancer beats second-hand scoliosis. Sorry, but this doesn't feel personal at all but an attempt to jump on the physical ailment bandwagon.
The Dance: This is fine. I'm really not impressed with Corbin at all after his "most memorable" moment. Oh, look, he has to hug his sister in the audience. Not manipulative at ALL.
The Judges: Len thinks he's a terrific dancer. Bruno thinks he could be the love child of Fred Astaire and Ben Vereen. Carrie Ann thinks she saw a lift. Karina argues that didn't happen. Hmmm… Tom wants to know if she'll change her score if they can get a slow motion replay. It's like sports, but better outfits!
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 9 Len - 9 Bruno - 10
Bill & Emma
The Background: Yes, Bill cried last week when he realized he wasn't getting cut. He is just a big softy, and that's absolutely his charm, I think. Anyway, he picks his most memorable year as 1982, which is when he got married. The fact that none of this seems contrived speaks to how sincerely charming he's been on this show (and in his career).
The Dance: He's dancing the Viennese waltz to "Always A Woman," and it's so sweet -- but damn, his arms are just so rigid.
The Judges: Bruno tells him not to swing his arms. Carrie Ann thinks he touched our souls, but his timing was off. Len thought he stayed in hold, so kudos!
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 8 Len - 8 Bruno - 8
Tom weighs in on whether or not Carrie Ann can change her vote -- nope. Too bad. I was hoping for instant replays to become a part of the show.
Snooki & Sasha
The Background: She chooses 2012, which is when she had her son. That makes sense, as she has completely changed since then. She likes cleaning and doing laundry now. What?
The Dance: She's dancing a jazz routine to "Work Bitch" by Britney Spears. This is actually fun. Not entirely coordinated; sort of like a dance you'd see at a wedding reception, but it is fun.
The Judges: Carrie Ann was surprised, because she doesn't seem to be a natural but she barrels through. Len thought it had energy and attack. Bruno says she works hard for her money.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 9 Len - 9 Bruno - 9
Time for pros to talk about whether or not previous dance experience is an advantage. Some say it isn't, some say it is, some say it's actually a disadvantage. Blah blah blah.
Brant & Peta
The Background: In 2009 his dad died of lymphoma. He's going to dance to Elton John's "Your Song," and this is probably going to be really emotional.
The Dance: Wow, this actually looks like a contemporary dance (sorry, Leah, but this is how it's done). Actually, the dance is too emotional for a soft little song like this, but it was REALLY good. Like, shockingly so. And he gets weepy at the end.
The Judges: Len thought it was terrific. Bruno says he threw himself into it and did some Martha Graham contractions, too. Carrie Ann thought every movement was driven from a true place of passion.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 9 Len - 9 Bruno - 9 That's it? No tens?
Amber & Derek
The Background: She didn't make it onto "American Idol," but she got onto "Glee," so her most memorable year is 2009. That's fine. At least it's honest. Big year!
The Dance: As usual, very solid. Amber is always good, though I think the judges lay it on pretty thick.
The Judges: Bruno says she's a star. Carrie Ann thinks she's incredible. Len thinks it wasn't a foxtrot.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 9 Len - 7 Bruno - 10. Wow, Len was NOT happy with Derek, I think, and Amber paid for it.
Elizabeth & Val
The Background: She's doing a jive in '90s clothing with Mario Lopez rooting for her in the audience. I don't love Elizabeth, but kudos for her for saying her favorite year was 1) something that happened to HER and 2) wasn't just a second-hand illness. I'm still annoyed with Corbin. But wait! 2012 is actually her most memorable year, but she wants to tie it into "Saved by the Bell."
The Dance: They start out with a skit. Hmmm… I'm not seeing any 2012 in this, but okay. This looks really awkward, if you ask me.
The Judges: Carrie Ann thought it was a mess, but she loved the '90s. Len thought the kicks were clean and exact, so, basically he means, suck it, Carrie Ann! Bruno also loved the '90s. It was fun! So… Len liked it.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 8 Len - 9 Bruno - 9
Enough with the dancing -- someone needs to pack their dressing room! Elizabeth & Val are in jeopardy. Christina & Mark and Corbin and Karina are at the top. Leah & Tony are at the bottom.
Christina & Mark, Elizabeth & Val and Leah & Tony are the bottom three.
Elizabeth & Val are safe. So, who goes home? I have to think Leah & Tony. The couple leaving right now is… Christina & Mark. Seriously? That's crazy! Such a shame -- I think tonight's dance would have scored with voters, certainly more than Leah's did. I like Leah's story, I'm rooting for her, but not to the extent that I'm okay with a more talented dancer going home.
I'm genuinely surprised. It's a shame no one will get to vote for Christina routine tonight. She admits she's shocked, but she's happy to be going out with the first ten of the competition. I'd say good for her, but it's a pretty hollow victory.
Were you surprised she got the boot? Do you think she should have gone home? Who are you rooting for?
Damian Lewis made his first appearance of "Homeland" season 3 in tonight's episode, "Tower of David," which I reviewed here. On Friday, I spoke briefly with the show's Emmy-winning leading man about where exactly he and Brody find themselves at this stage, and how much life he thinks the character has left in him.
A quick review of tonight's "Masters of Sex" coming up just as soon as I take a Midol and watch "General Electric Theater"...