<p>Elton John and Leon Russell of &quot;The Union&quot;</p>
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Elton John and Leon Russell of "The Union"

Credit: HBO

TV Review: HBO's 'The Union'

HitFix
B+
Readers
B
Cameron Crowe chronicles Elton John and Leon Russell at work
I'm an unapologetic Cameron Crowe fan. 
 
That's not a big statement or anything. Lots of people are Cameron Crowe fans. But you want me to defend "Elizabethtown"? Oh, I'll defend "Elizabethtown." Happily. Assuming you don't also want a defense of Orlando Bloom *in* "Elizabethtown."
 
And yet somehow, Cameron Crowe released a movie in December that I didn't see in theaters. It seems that "We Bought a Zoo" has done reasonably well without me and I'll gladly catch it on DVD in a few months. 
 
Fortunately, it feels like I've been watching Cameron Crowe documentaries non-stop. I ended up watching Crowe's very fine "Pearl Jam Twenty" twice last year and viewers can start 2012 with Crowe's "The Union," another sturdy documentary elevated by the director's passion for music and the sometimes astounding access that that passion gives him.
 
It's that passion that also sometimes blinds Crowe a tiny bit when it comes to applying focus to what was surely a mountain of footage stemming from the recording sessions for Elton John and Leon Russell's "The Union" album.
 
The result is a documentary that's sometimes a straight-forward making-of piece, sometimes a broader retrospective on two brilliant careers, but sometimes a more introspective look at what happens to two former wild-men of music when age sucks the wildness right out of them and the music is all that remains. 
 
"The Union" doesn't quite gel and you're invariably wishing Crowe could give us more in some scenes and less in others, but it's full of magical and occasionally enlightening moments for fans of both artists and probably for fans of the musical process as well.
 
More after the break...
 
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<p>According to FOX, these people appear on Wednesday's &quot;American Idol.&quot; One of them is named Britnee Kellogg. Keep an eye out for her!</p>
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According to FOX, these people appear on Wednesday's "American Idol." One of them is named Britnee Kellogg. Keep an eye out for her!

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' Portland Auditions - Live-Blog

What would our judges find in Oregon? Talent, we hope!

It's been a big week of news stemming from a FOX singing competition show. Of course, that news has all involved "The Ex Factor" and its revolving door of talent, which has put "American Idol" in the odd position of being under-discussed and under-the-radar. 

Has "American Idol" become FOX's neglected underdog?

Probably not. But maybe "American Idol" will find some underdog singing talent in Portland. 

Click through for the full recap...

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 113

Dan and Alan talk 'Chuck,' but also 'Luck' and 'Key & Peele'

The

Happy Monday, Boys & Girls. After a one-week Sundance hiatus, The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast is BACK!
 
The bulk of this week's extra-long podcast is dedicated to remembering and celebrating "Chuck" (and my quibbles about the finale, I suppose). That's nearly an hour of podcasting time. But we also did a full review of HBO's "Luck" -- we chatted a bit about it last month after the tease, but this is longer -- and a review of Comedy Central's very good "Key & Peele." Oh and we teased the Super Bowl a bit, since it pits Alan's Giants against my Patriots.
 
But here's the breakdown:
Dan's Sundance (02:00 - 07:00)
"Key & Peele" (07:00 - 14:30)
"Luck" (14:30 - 33:40)
"Chuck" (33:40 - 01:25:20)
Super Bowl Preview (01:25:30 - 01:34:45)

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.] 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

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<p>Sofia Vergara and a slack-jawed publicist on the Screen Actors Guild Awards red carpet.</p>
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Sofia Vergara and a slack-jawed publicist on the Screen Actors Guild Awards red carpet.

Credit: Matt Sayles/AP

Screen Actors Guild Awards 2012 Live-Blog

Will 'The Artist' be able to continue its domination at The Saggies?
I'm always of two minds regarding the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
 
On one hand, they reliably do stupid things like not having "supporting" categories for TV, ignoring "Homeland" completely and nominating "The Artist" -- essentially a two-hander -- for an "ensemble" acting award (while leaving Uggie out of the ensemble list).
 
On the other hand, they're a major (allegedly) award ceremony that only runs two hours (and always finishes on time) and when the winners say "I'd like to thank my fellow actors," it can't help but sound more sincere than "I'd like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press."
 
Click through for my full live-blog of the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Award.
 
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<p>One of the Texas auditioners on Thursday night's &quot;American Idol&quot;</p>
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One of the Texas auditioners on Thursday night's "American Idol"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' Texas Auditions - Live-Blog

Were the stars tonight big and bright deep in the heart of Texas?

So what have I missed, y'all? It seems like a dozen months ago that I recapped the "American Idol" premiere and then the Sundance Film Festival began.

I assume you've been keeping up with Liane Bonin Starr's "Idol" recaps in my absence, while also keeping up with all of my Sundance coverage... 

Right?

I know I'm live-blogging on West Coast Time tonight, but let's get going with Thursday's (Jan. 26) auditions from Texas...

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Watch: Aaron Paul talks 'Smashed' at Sundance

How is this substance abuser different from his 'Breaking Bad' substance abuser?
The other day, I posted the chunk of my conversation with Aaron Paul that focused more on his Emmy-winning AMC dramedy "Breaking Bad" than on his well-regarded Sundance dramedy "Smashed."
 
Today, I'm posting the longer portion of the interview focusing on "Smashed." You'll discover pretty quickly that it's almost impossible to talk "Smashed" with Aaron Paul without also discussing "Breaking Bad."
 
In "Smashed," Paul plays a jovial alcoholic who proves to be an emotional liability for his equally booze-loving wife (the excellent Mary Elizabeth Winstead) when she decides to go clean.
 
Other than a focus on addiction, Paul's "Smashed" character has little in common with Jesse Pinkman, but "addiction" isn't exactly a tiny similarity. 
 
In our chat, Paul discusses the difficulties finding feature scripts that live up to the standards set by "Breaking Bad," his reservations about returning to addiction and his very different approach to his "Smashed" character.
 
Check it out...
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<p>&quot;Grabbers&quot;</p>
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"Grabbers"

Credit: Sundance

Sundance Review: 'Grabbers'

HitFix
C+
Readers
n/a
Midnight creature featured needed to be better... or worse
Over the years, I've found that in the wacky world of Sundance Midnight Movies, there's a strange and counter-intuitive logic of quality.
 
"Good" always means "good." But sometimes "bad" means "good" and sometimes it just means "bad," an evaluation that has to be made on a case-by-case and person-by-person basis, because one man's crap is another man's camp.
 
Yes, quality is fungible when it comes to Midnight movies, but one thing I know for sure: There's absolutely nothing worse for a Midnight movie than being "OK."
 
In an ideal world, Jon Wright's "Grabbers" could stand to be a lot better, but I'd just as soon see it be a lot worse. In its current form, "Grabbers" is just plain average.
 
And where's the fun in that?
 
Full review of "Grabbers" after the break...
 
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Watch: Mary Elizabeth Winstead talks getting 'Smashed' at Sundance

Alcoholic dramedy is a career highlight for the 'Scott Pilgrim' star
With movies like "Sky High," "Death Proof" and "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," Mary Elizabeth Winstead secured her status as a fanboy favorite years ago. 
 
The 27-year-old actress' career may be on the verge of a big shift in the aftermath of her new dramedy "Smashed," which premiered earlier this week at the Sundance Film Festival.
 
In "Smashed," Winstead plays Kate, a fun-loving woman with a particular love for alcohol, imbibed at any hour of the day. After hitting bottom multiple times, Kate decides to sober up, only to discover that working The Steps isn't nearly as easy or as enjoyable as her former life.
 
Although the supporting cast for "Smashed" includes Emmy winners Aaron Paul and Megan Mullally, newly minted Oscar nominee Octavia Spencer and the incomparable Nick Offerman, the movie belongs to Winstead, who's in practically every shot and gets to mine both pathos and a surprising amount of comedy, all while dodging any sort of Hollywood It Girl glamour. 
 
It's a role Winstead actively pursued and when the cast and crew of "Smashed" came to the front of the theater for a post-showing Q&A, she was visibly moved, brushing away tears.
 
In an interview the next morning, Winstead discussed her emotional Sundance experience and the most challenging role of her career.
 
Check it out...
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<p>&quot;For a Good Time, Call...&quot;</p>
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"For a Good Time, Call..."

Credit: Sundance

Sundance Review: 'For a Good Time, Call...'

HitFix
B
Readers
A+
Raunchy phone sex comedy has big laughs and real commercial potential
Five minutes into the Sundance comedy "For a Good Time, Call..." I was cringing.
 
My notes read like this:
 
"Wow. This is... broad."
 
"Geez. REALLY broad."
 
"Neither leading lady introduced with any subtlety."
 
"Guess we're not downplaying the coarseness, eh?"
 
[Yes. My notes are often designed to be read with a slight Canadian accent.]
 
It was not an encouraging start for the Sundance Premieres entry from director Jamie Travis and writers Lauren Anne Miller and Katie Anne Naylon.
 
Then a funny thing started happening. Or, more literally, funny things started happening. "For a Good Time, Call..." never exactly became subtle, but under what circumstances is a story of two college enemies who bond and become friends when they start a phone sex line designed to be understated?
 
Yes, "For a Good Time, Call..." is broad. And yes, it's coarse. It also produced more laugh-out-loud moments than any comedy I've seen at Sundance thus far.
 
Driven by stars Ari Graynor and Miller, plus a slew of memorable supporting performances and a handful of exceptional cameos I'd hate to spoil, "For a Good Time, Call..." is unapologetically raunchy and rude, which should only be an asset in our post-"Bridesmaids" era.
 
Full review after the break...
 
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<p>&quot;The Imposter&quot;</p>
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"The Imposter"

Credit: Sundance

Sundance Review: 'The Imposter'

HitFix
A-
Readers
n/a
Fact is stranger than fiction in this tale of a missing kid and an opportunistic con-man
Bart Layton's "The Imposter" is a gripping true-crime documentary that removes a key element of the mystery from the equation with its title.
 
In 1994, 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay went missing in San Antonio. More than three years later, a young man surfaced in a remote village in Spain, claiming to be Nicholas. Overjoyed, the Barclay family welcomed Nicholas back into their life, ignoring or accepting that in his missing years, Nicholas had gone through a series of traumatizing events that transformed him into a different person.
 
Literally.
 
The young man who returned from Spain was not, in fact, Nicholas Barclay. 
 
Layton isn't interested in taking the audience on an "Is He or Isn't He?" journey. The movie is called "The Imposter" and the movie has barely begun before the interview subject with the thick French accent, dark eyes and ethnically ambiguous olive skin begins his explanation of how he came to be confused with a much younger American boy with blonde hair, blue eyes and a light complexion. 
 
And what an explanation it is.
 
There have been and will be documentaries at this Sundance Film Festival that espouse more admirable messages or that exhibit more confident artistry than "The Imposter" does, but it's hard to imagine any film, narrative or doc, unspooling a more gripping, twisted yarn.
 
Imagine "F For Fake" mixed in with a bit of "The Talented Mr. Ripley," only theoretically all true and you have a good sense of the appeal of "The Imposter."
 
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