Latest Blog Posts

<p>Don Payne was a big part of helping to figure out how to bring 'Thor' to the screen.</p>

Don Payne was a big part of helping to figure out how to bring 'Thor' to the screen.

Credit: Marvel Studios

Don Payne, writer of both 'Thor' movies and 'The Simpsons,' has passed away

Social media spreads the sad news as his friends remember him

Don Payne, whose film credits include "Thor," "Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer," and "Thor: The Dark World" passed away last night in Los Angeles, according to friends who spread the word today via Twitter.

It seems fitting that I learned the news from the Twitter feeds of both Kat Dennings and Jaimie Alexander, who played Darcy and Sif in "Thor," and from Mike Scully, the man who first hired Payne to write for "The Simpsons." Payne is one of those people who I never met, but who was friends with a number of people who I am friends with, and I always heard good things about him on a personal level. He inspired real loyalty in some people I trust implicitly, and I always hoped we would end up meeting at some point. One of the people speaking fondly of him tonight was Zack Stentz, one of the other credited writers on "Thor," which I think speaks volumes. It isn't everyone who can remain friends on the far side of an arbitration process.

Read Full Post
<p>He's just as happy to be in 'G.I. Joe' as fans are to have him.</p>

He's just as happy to be in 'G.I. Joe' as fans are to have him.

Credit: HitFix

Dwayne Johnson discusses his new role as 'franchise Viagra' for 'G.I. Joe'

The Rock was an '80s kid, and he can't hide his enthusiasm for his new role

It has been a very Dwayne Johnson-heavy day here on the blog.

And why not? It's his Hollywood, and the rest of us are just living in it. After all, he's got four films out this year before we even reach June, and one of those is one of the most highly-anticipated event sequels of the summer. He has settled into his new role as Hollywood's "franchise Viagra," the guy you bring in when you want to make a new movie in a series and your'e not sure how to get people interested in it again. There is a very clear sense in the new "G.I. Joe" of the series being passed from Channing Tatum's Duke to Johnson's Roadblock.

One thing that distinguishes Johnson from the typical action heroes of the '80s is just how able he is to make you forget he happens to be a gigantic slab of muscle. When he talks about how he loved "G.I. Joe" as a kid, I can actually picture him as that kid, and he seems amazed to be a real-life action figure these days.

Read Full Post
"The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

 "The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

Credit: Bravo

Are you surprised Kordell's divorcing 'Real Housewives of Atlanta' star Porsha?

The couple is splitting after just two years of marriage

While it should never come as a surprise when a reality TV couple decides to call it quits, I'll admit I was still a litte shocked when I saw that former Pittsburgh Steelers star Kordell Stewart is filing for divorce from his much-younger "Real Housewives of Atlanta" wife Porsha Williams. Heck, we only just got to some light squabbling between the two of them on the show! It's not that they were a great couple, or even an appealing one. It's just that Porsha seemed so determined to cater to Kordell's every whim that I couldn't imagine why he'd kick her to the curb. Maybe he found a country that sells affordable house slaves.

Read Full Post
<p>Tim (Jacob Pitts)&nbsp;and Rachel (Erica Tazel) on &quot;Justified.&quot;</p>

Tim (Jacob Pitts) and Rachel (Erica Tazel) on "Justified."

Credit: FX

Review: 'Justified' - 'Peace of Mind'

With Drew Thompson in custody, everybody's out to find Ellen May

A review of tonight's "Justified" coming up just as soon as we are literally searching every dog house, hen house and outhouse...

Read Full Post
<p>Zooey Deschanel as Jess as Elvis Presley on &quot;New Girl.&quot;</p>

Zooey Deschanel as Jess as Elvis Presley on "New Girl."

Credit: FOX

Review: 'New Girl' - 'Chicago'

A death in the family sends the gang to Nick and Winston's hometown to plan a funeral

A quick review of tonight's "New Girl" coming up just as soon as I take a dart in the eye for a gold chain...

Read Full Post
<p>It's the subtle sophisticated humor that has led to more than one critic calling Michael Bay 'the new Billy Wilder'</p>

It's the subtle sophisticated humor that has led to more than one critic calling Michael Bay 'the new Billy Wilder'

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Mark Wahlberg and The Rock play dummies with a dream in new red-band 'Pain and Gain' trailer

Michael Bay's moral compass is broken, and thank god for that

When I praise Michael Bay, I feel like I have to explain that I'm being ironic and I'm not doing it sarcastically. I've had plenty of problems with plenty of his films, but the things I like, I like quite a bit. "Bad Boys II," for instance. That is a startling film, a studio movie that seems to have a completely and utterly broken moral compass. It is actively offensive, and I have to admire how completely committed to things it is. It feels like the perfect movie reaction to what was happening in gaming at the time, like the "Grand Theft Auto" series. It's incredibly well-made, even if it feels like everyone involved had to be just a little bit crazy to think that it was okay.

This new red-band trailer for "Pain and Gain" looks like the movie that's been backing up Bay's system the entire time he's been making the "Transformers" movies. He has been a good soldier for Paramount as he cranked those money-making behemoths out, and while I like a lot of the set piece work that he's done in the series, I've never felt like his heart was fully in what he was doing. The most personal details in those films tend to be the things that people react negatively to, and it's always seemed like a bit of an ill fit between franchise and filmmaker.

Read Full Post
Anderson Cooper

 Anderson Cooper

Credit: Bravo

Would you watch a Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper TV show?

If it happens, the CNN show would go for the funny

I've always been a fan of Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper, both together and apart. I've loved Griffin's celebrity-poking stand-up acts, her D-list dramas, and her new chat show, which mashes up real people with celebrities to surprisingly good effect. Whether he's reporting real news, rescuing a kid from getting pummeled in Haiti, or just giggling over pee jokes on "Anderson 360" (still love that clip), Anderson Cooper is no slouch, either. Even his short-lived talk show was pretty good.

Together on New Year's Eve, they've proved to be more than the sum of their parts as they counted down the moments in Times Square. He, a slightly prudish foil; she, a merry prankster with a potty mouth who lived to make him blush. The only tiresome part has been CNN vowing repeatedly to bar Griffin from returning after she said or did something offensive, only to bring her back as if she might actually play nice the next time. Like we ever expected nice. 

Read Full Post
<p>Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, terrorists, the White House... whattaya want, a road map?</p>

Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, terrorists, the White House... whattaya want, a road map?

Credit: Sony Pictures

Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx throw down in action-packed trailer for 'White House Down'

Emmerich blows up his favorite landmark again

It's an interesting afternoon of trailers, particularly because you can find plenty of examples of me raining scorn on the work of Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich online if you go looking. At one point, Michael Bay got so used to me disliking him that he would just roll his eyes when he saw me.

Today, though, I'm sincerely impressed by the trailers for both "Pain and Gain" and "White House Down." We'll get into "White House Down" first, and it's doubly interesting to see this less than a week after sitting in the theater watching "Olympus Has Fallen" unfold. Say what you will about Roland Emmerich as a storyteller, but he orchestrates large-scale chaos with a sharp eye, and he's gotten better at it over the years. If anyone knows the value of destroying the White House in a movie, it's Emmerich, and he seems to have pulled out all the stops for this one.

What variations on the basic formula will we see here? Well, in "Olympus," Gerard Butler is a Secret Service agent who has been sidelined because he was involved in an accident involving the First Lady. Here, Channing Tatum is a DC cop who wasn't able to get a job in the Secret Service, and I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that he proves himself capable of the job at some point in the movie, just as Butler redeemed himself.

Read Full Post
<p>Kathleen Hanna</p>

Kathleen Hanna

Interview: Kathleen Hanna talks 'The Punk Singer,' Beyonce and crying in public

Tamra Davis, Sini Anderson on hand for some 'Spring Breakers' and Julie Ruin insight

AUSTIN -- "I'm definitely not writing 'slut' on my stomach any time soon," Kathleen Hanna says.

It's the day after the premiere of "The Punk Singer," the documentary that centers on Hanna's music legacy from the origins of Bikini Kill to now, as the 43-year-old artist prepares a new album under the band name The Julie Ruin. Hanna had just seen herself on the big screen at SXSW, first as a kid, a teenaged feminist, up through Riot Grrrl, the media circuses, a solidfying Third Wave, marriage, (solo act) Julie Ruin, Le Tigre and the sad steps away from the stage due to crippling illness.

That history, of course, contains the times where Hanna literally markered the word "SLUT" across her bare midriff, which was part of a "character I was playing. I was a feminist performance artist first. So it was a seven year performance piece," she says, smiling, referring to her shocking and inspired stint fronting Bikini Kill. Conclusion: "It's really weird to see a younger version of yourself."

On this day, Hanna's sitting with "The Punk Singer" director Sini Anderson and producer (and longtime friend) Tamra Davis talking about archival footage and, y'know, crying. As you do. As a powerful and confident woman on film and in life, it had been enlightening for me to see Kathleen Hanna cry in "The Punk Singer"; after so many disheartening and epic details of her life unfolded, it was during a home-video shoot of her talking about her battle with Lyme disease that tears started to fall.

Hanna refers back to her "dork manifesto," "Burn Down The Walls That Say You Can't," that commands: "Cry in public." When voices in reality TV to the election trail continue to condemn crying as a failure on the part of the cryer -- most frequently women -- Hanna and her cohorts counter that it's assurance that it's fine to "feel."

"There's a stigma of if you're a woman and working at a job you can't cry because they'll see you as weak... as an animal, you'll be torn apart," Hanna says.

"We're criers, as women. My goal was to make you [the audience] cry," Davis said. "As women, we have to show our control of our emotions, that we're not always acting from that zone."

"There's something really different about a really really strong person to emote and not be a victim, and be in their power and say 'this is what I feel like," Anderson says. "[Hanna] was sick, pushing through and showing up. Showing that being strong enough to emote then recover, that can only inspire other people. I think that's punk rock."

Hanna is a big fan of another performer who one wouldn't necessarily designate as "punk rock": Beyonce. "I love seeing her legs. I enjoy her outfits and costumes, and I wore outfits and costumes..."

But there's the elements of female superstardom that just don't add up, Hanna warns. She talks about a time when she saw Pink performing at the MTV Music Video Awards, "hanging from a trapeze, dumping water on her herself, boobs lit on fire," you get the picture. That's Pink, y'know? But then there were "guys coming out in jeans and a jacket. I was like, what do we have to do next? Knifing ourselves?"

Pop stars have to keep "ratcheting it up" in order to garner respect from the performance world. "Why do we have to prove we can multi-task?"

Then there's a flip side, and that's when we talk about "Spring Breakers," which premiered at the same time as "The Punk Singer." "Rob purity of a Disney Queen... and then it's like 'yay!'," Davis says, shrugging and shaking her head.

Check out what else Hanna has to say about body image, "Girls" creator Lena Dunham and about the personnel of The Julie Ruin, which will be releasing their new album "around" June 15 through their own record label.

Read Full Post
<p>Chris Brown</p>

Chris Brown

Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Chris Brown's new single, 'Fine China,' breaks next week

What else do we know about his next album?

Chris Brown’s new single, “Fine China,” will drop Monday, April 1. The song comes from Brown’s sixth album, “X,” which will come out on RCA in late August/early September, according to Billboard.

“Fine China” was influenced by Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Sam Cooke, Brown told a handful of reporters for whom he played five new tracks recently.

Among the producers on the set are Timbaland, Danja, Diplo, BAM, Drumma Boy, CP Dubb, Mel and Mus, Verse Simmonds and Camper.

Guests on the album include Kendrick Lamar, who is on “Autumn Leaves,” a potential single.

“X” will be Brown’s first album since last year’s “Fortune.” Like girlfriend Rihanna, Brown is releasing an album a year.

Read Full Post
Listen to M83's title song to the 'Oblivion' soundtrack

Listen to M83's title song to the 'Oblivion' soundtrack

Susanne Sundfør guests on this bland electro-ballad for the Tom Cruise sci-fi

The hope is M83's new song "Oblivion" from the film "Oblivion" will have you out of your seat. And then probably back in your seat, because standing up in a movie theater is rude.

However, this electro-ballad is likely to play over the end credits, so get your coat: the generic "I've been waiting for you / waiting for a sign / (something something)" lyrics don't do much for singer Susanne Sundfør's pretty, hearty voice, and the climax feels like all-artifice, less gentle and subtle than M83's Anthony Gonzalez' usual hand on the beats.

Read Full Post
Album Review: Blake Shelton's 'Based On A True Story...'
Credit: Warner Bros. Records

Album Review: Blake Shelton's 'Based On A True Story...'

Does 'The Voice' mentor's new album give the whole picture?

Blake Shelton’s is a country mouse who’s become a part-time city mouse. By virtue of his stint as a mentor on “The Voice,” he’s now got one foot squarely in Los Angeles just as much as he has the other in Nashville (or actually Oklahoma, as the case may be), but he seems determined to make sure his redneck bonafides stay intact on “Based On A True Story...,” his seventh studio album.

In fact, the only tune that addresses his Los Angeles life is “Small Town Big Time,” a ditty that pokes fun at Hollywood, while still yearning to be back in a one-stoplight town. Most of the album is devoted to his country roots in ways both clever and disappointingly mundane. On album opener “Boys ‘Round Here,”  Shelton takes on Jason Aldean’s sloping success with a song that’s as much talking as it is singing, set to a pointed guitar melody. It even includes the refrain, “chew tobacco, chew tobacco, chew tobacco, spit...” The mid-tempo “Country On the Radio” panders to the usual tired country tropes of pick-ups, cut-offs, and, of course, a name check to King George, George Strait.

Shelton has said in interviews for this album that he is in such a happy place with his career and private life (as private as his marriage to fellow country superstar Miranda Lambert can be) that he only wanted to record upbeat tunes. For the most part, that’s what he’s done here. He displays an appealing cross between Johnny Paycheck’s feistiness and Jimmy Buffett’s good timing swagger on “I Still Got A Finger,” a modern update on “Take This Job & Shove It.”

With his easy-going voice and attitude, Shelton makes it all sound effortless, especially on current No. 1 country hit, the infectious “Sure Be Cool If You Did,” but if you’re looking for any kind of depth, look elsewhere. This is an album for popping in the car on a sunny day that will serve as the soundtrack for a day at the beach as much as a night at your favorite honky tonk.

ACM host Shelton is a man’s man, but he knows he has great appeal to the ladies, who love his romantic side: hence tunes like ballad “Mine Would Be You.” It’s one of those impossibly romantic songs about a man whose “best day/finest hour/wildest dream come true” is the woman by his side. Chicks dig that stuff, but this one comes with a twist in the last verse that gives it a kick you don’t see coming.

Similarly aimed for his female audience are My Eyes,” a sly, sultry song, where he declares, “My eyes are the only thing I don’t wanna take off of you" and  “Lay Low,” which, other than the line about “stay high,”  has the musical feel of ‘80s country tune with just the right amount of cheesiness.

The album ends with “Granddaddy’s Gun,” a touching salute to his grandfather, who suggested handling a gun with the same care as a man handles a woman. The gun has taken the place of the family Bible as the keeper of generations of memories.

There’s nothing wrong with “Based On A True Story,” but there’s also nothing particularly excellent other than “Granddaddy’s Gun” and “Mine Would Be You.” The production is predictable, as are most of the songs. Shelton is a true talent and yet this album doesn’t match up with his abilities. Maybe he’s simply too stretched to spend the amount of time writing or recording an album that would reflect the totality of his talents, but it would be great to get an album from him that really showed what he could do. While pleasing in many ways, "Based On A True Story..." rarely scratches below the surface.

Read Full Post
BLOGS BY NAME