Looks like the debate over the depiction of torture in "Zero Dark Thirty" isn't going to end any time soon. Three US senators, all in positions concerning national security, have taken it upon themselves to dismiss the film's portrayal is "grossly inaccurate and misleading" in an open letter to Sony Pictures chairman Michael Lynton. "'Zero Dark Thirty' is factually inaccurate," they write, "and we believe that you have an obligation to state that the role of torture in the hunt for Usama (sic) bin Laden is not based on facts, but rather part of the film's fictional narrative," They further accuse the film of having "the potential to shape American public opinion in a disturbing and misleading manner." There is plenty to counter in such claims -- both regarding the events on screen and their relative fictional status -- so I expect this conversation to continue. [Variety]
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Sometimes I love "Top Chef" for the same reason I hate "Top Chef." And what's that reason? Crazy ass challenges. This week, though, I love "Top Chef," because the Quickfire Challenge is so bizarre it's actually brilliant. Yes, it's shameless product placement, but for once it doesn't feel entirely arbitrary. It doesn't make me want to create a foil frying pan, either, but hey, this one's a winner.
The internet was abuzz a few months back when what turned out to be an overzealous report put Ben Affleck in the driver's seat of the planned Warner Bros. team-up film "Justice League." The report was soon enough shot down and everyone went about their business, but in a recent interview about his work on "Argo," Affleck said he hated talking about it in the media at all because the eventual stories shed a negative light on the project.
"I just want to make it clear because it’s not like I had something to even pass on," he said. "Because someone will eventually do 'Justice League' and they'll go, like, 'Ben Affleck passed on it,' and it won't be true. So I don’t mind setting the record straight. It's one of those things where the closest I came was some people talked to me about it like at a meeting. They were like, 'Here's the stuff we’re doing,' you know? 'Here’s what we're looking at.' That kind of thing. And they suggested it. But I don’t think there’s a script. I don’t think there’s anything."
"The Great Gatsby" may well be the most artificial-looking film I've ever seen, even in this condensed two minute form.
That's not a criticism, necessarily, because it looks like that's exactly what Baz Luhrmann intended. They've had a difficult post-production process on this one, but part of that has been creating this incredibly stylized world that Luhrmann has chosen as the setting for his take on F. Scott Fitzgerald's most famous book. Luhrmann has never been the sort of guy to shy away from a heightened reality. That's why I loved his take on "Romeo + Juliet" and "Moulin Rouge." Those movies are patently fake, impressionistic from start to finish, and it looks like he's doing that again, but on a much larger scale than ever before.
The real challenge of "Gatsby" is that the book is all about inner landscapes and the feel of a time and place, and previous film versions that have focused just on the story have felt empty because they haven't found a way to create a visual language that manages to somehow suggest the gorgeous, emotional prose that is so much a part of the appeal of Fitzgerald's novel.
NEW YORK - We've been waiting a long time for Hugh Jackman to sing on the big screen. From his Tony Award-winning turn in "The Boy From Oz" to his three stints hosting Broadway's annual awards show to his lauded turn as Academy Awards host (arguably the best Oscars show over the past decade), Jackman has teased us with his impressive voice, sly dance moves and old school showmanship. Granted, producers have tried to get him to commit to a number of movie musical projects, but most of them have been stuck in development hell for years leaving fans to wonder if we'd ever see Jackman sing in his prime. That's all changed with the actor's SAG and Golden Globes Awards nominated turn as Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables." And, in something of a surprise, it turns out that he had to campaign to get the role.
I think it's pretty safe to say that no one writes for Leslie Mann the way Judd Apatow does, and it's been fascinating to see the evolution of that from "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" until "This Is 40."
The thing I love in the characters she plays in his films is the way she mixes this remarkable frankness with an intense vulnerability. She's great all the way through "Knocked Up," but the moment where I fell for the character completely came about 2/3 of the way through. I'm going to bet most fans of that film think of the same moment first when they think of Debbie, that great scene when she is trying to get into a club and Craig Robinson plays the bouncer that has to explain why he can't let her in.
It's amazing, profane and well-observed, and what starts as a joke gets very real, then completely surreal, all in the space of about two minutes. Her rant manages to do it all, and the reaction from Robinson is solid gold.
This Saturday, PBS will be airing "What Next After Newtown: What Our Country and Communities Can Do" at 3:00 p.m. (check local listings). I'm curious to see this, as I'm sure I share the same sense of powerlessness and frustration a lot of people have had following the events in Newtown last week. Even though I think the problems that lead to mass murder are many, complex and thorny, if there's something I can do, I'd like to know.
If you can measure a reality show's clout or buzz by the acts clamoring to be involved with its finale, FOX has to be absolutely terrified by how chilly "The X Factor" is.
It was previously announced that Thursday's whopping two-hour finale would feature performances by One Direction, who have already performed two songs on "X Factor" this season and owe their entire career to Simon Cowell and the show, and Pitbull, an artist so desperate for exposure that he'd probably appear at a well-attended bar mitzvah.
That was a bad sign.
Then came Wednesday's (December 19) announcement that finalists Carly Rose Sonenclar, Tate Stevens and Fifth Harmony would duet on tonight's show with LeAnn Rimes, Little Big Town and Demi Lovato, respectively.
That's right. Tonight's big guests are an "X Factor" judge who didn't have anything else to do, a country singer more notorious for tabloid exploits than anything in her recent music output and a reasonably successful country act with only moderate crossover appeal. That's... weak.
Why is Carly Rose Sonenclar being asked to sing with a less vocally gifted singer in a genre she's never displayed any interest in? Is Demi singing with Fifth Harmony because they did one of her songs once? And are they keeping Tate from doing a duet with a female artist because they don't want to alienate voters who think Tate only has chemistry with his wife?
I'm very confused.
On to tonight's recap!
It's Top 10 time on the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, as Dan and I go back and forth (in, for some reason, snake draft order) on our respective favorite shows of 2012. You've already seen my list, and the HitFix Television Critics' Poll has Dan's Top 10, but this is us discussing how much we liked various shows, arguing about how high or low they should be ranked, etc. And we even go a bit past the top 10.
There's no rundown this week, because Dan didn't want to individually code segments that overlap anyway, and there really aren't spoilers of note (I think we mention who won the Pawnee City Council election and a few other minor comedy things, but were very careful with regards to the big dramas).
As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. Or you can always follow our RSS Feed, download the MP3 file or stream it on Dan's blog.
And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.
NEW YORK -- When he made his way into the director's chair for a new phase in his career, Ben Affleck always assumed that if he came across an existing script, he would likely just take over and re-write it. And of course, he has the credentials: an Oscar for co-writing "Good Will Hunting" with Matt Damon goes a long way toward legitimizing his talent as a writer. But when "Argo" was fired across his bow by Smoke House honchos Grant Heslov and George Clooney, that wasn't the case.