<p>&quot;The Voices&quot;</p>

"The Voices"

Credit: Sundance

Review: Surprising 'The Voices' offers Ryan Reynolds and a Scottish talking cat

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
Marjane Satrapi's Sundance premiere is a disturbingly funny treat
Some movies stumble into cult status by accident, aiming for mainstream approval, but landing wide of that mark. 
 
Other movies just shrug and steer self-consciously into a cult-friendly niche with every fiber of their being.
 
It isn't easy to do the former, but it's probably easier than the latter. Weirdness-for-the-sake-of-weirdness often just ends up trying too hard. It's almost like you need a certain earnestness to make a cult film seem genuine, rather than over-calculated.
 
"The Voices," which is premiering out-of-competition at the Sundance Film Festival, is designed pretty purely as a cult movie. It probably should never play in 3000 theaters and it's certainly not going to make $100 million. From the first frame to the last, it's begging audiences to raise a collective eyebrow and go along for the ride, knowing that if you're in from the beginning, you'll probably be in for the duration, but that if you don't crack an immediate smile within 30 seconds, it probably won't get better. 
 
"The Voices" is trying to be a cult film with a capital "C" and you can feel its effort in that direction... But it mostly works.
 
Carried to no small degree by wildly and successfully against-expectations direction from "Persepolis" veteran Marjane Satrapi, "The Voices" is "Psycho" by way of "Wonderfalls" by way of Francois Ozon. 
 
Perhaps a little more successful when winking at genre expectations than when playing things straight, "The Voices" is funny, disturbing and whimsical, anchored by an "Oh right, he can act" performance by Ryan Reynolds, an "Oh duh, she's effortlessly appealing" performance by Anna Kendrick and an "Oh wow, that's what it takes to make her interesting" performance by Gemma Arterton. 
 
More after the break…
 
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<p>&quot;Happy Valley&quot;</p>

"Happy Valley"

Credit: A&E Films

Review: 'Happy Valley' is a confounding look at Penn State post-scandal

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
Amir Bar-Lev's Sundance doc should spark post-screening debate
Amir Bar-Lev's "Happy Valley," a documentary premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, is not a film about the sex scandal that rocked Penn State University in late 2011, 
 
Make no mistake, you won't come away with any ambiguity regarding the allegations against Jerry Sandusky or the crimes for which he was convicted and sentenced to what amounts to a life sentence.
 
But this is not a documentary about interviewing witnesses, investigating timelines or attempting to get to the root of Sandusky's criminal behavior.  The accepted supposition is that Sandusky did what he was accused of doing and, with one major exception, the victims probably aren't ready for extended feature-length interviews (plus, it's all on the record anyway).
 
As its title might indicate if you happen to have any awareness of Penn State and Penn State football, Happy Valley is about a place and about a state of mind, both of which were crushed and vilified by the Sandusky case and its repulsive and saddening revelations.
 
And that's going to prove an immediate barrier-to-entry for many potential viewers who really won't be incorrect if they say, "Yes, it's unfortunate that many innocent people associated with Penn State saw their university's good name spoiled by this and it's probably disappointing to some fans of a powerhouse sports program that innocent athletes are being punished for the actions of a reprehensible assistant coach and it's arguably unfair to blame an entire community for this ugly mess, but... Sexual abuse. Children. Let's concentrate on the actual victims here and maybe down the road we can get around to restoring the joy of the tailgating experience for bushy-tailed coeds."
 
It's not that "Happy Valley" cheapens what happened to the victims in any way, but there are definitely people within the documentary whose sense of perspective is a wee bit askew and they're given ample platform. And there will certainly be viewers who think that any focus that looks away from Sandusky's actions is invariably a focus in the wrong place.
 
That's why "Happy Valley" is probably going to leave many viewers, possibly most viewers, angry. The question is just at the direction of the anger. Many people will just have a generalized anger because if the Jerry Sandusky scandal doesn't piss you off, you're not paying attention. But I know some people with Penn State sympathies or affiliations who are going to feel like "Happy Valley" is too hard on the show and I'm certain that many people outside of the bubble are going to feel it's too lenient.
 
Probably that's what director Amir Bar-Lev wants, though he continues to be a director who sells himself short by rushing to cover big stories.
 
[More after the break...]
 
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<p>Rae Spoon of &quot;My Prairie Home&quot;</p>

Rae Spoon of "My Prairie Home"

Credit: Maya Bankovic

Review: 'My Prairie Home' introduces viewers to Rae Spoon

Chelsea McMullan's Sundance doc defies expectations as does its subject
"Gender" and "genre" share a common root in the Latin "genus." It means "kind" or "type" or "sort" and that's how both gender and genre function. They allow us to classify things. They give us categories into which we believe it's easy and beneficial to slot plants, animals, people, literary forms. Gender and genre are systems through which we think we've made it simpler to view the world.
 
Of course, very few classification systems work all the time.
 
The slippery slope at the intersection of gender and genre is at the center of Chelsea McMullan's "My Prairie Home," which is premiering at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in the World Documentary Competition.
 
I suppose that intro probably makes "My Prairie Home" sound more academically challenging than it is. "My Prairie Home" is also a small, poetic, quirky portrait of a very fine artist, a singer-songwriter who happens to be difficult to fit in any traditional boxes, as a person or as a musician.
 
More after the break...
 
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<p>&quot;How I&nbsp;Met Your Mother&quot;&nbsp;was Monday's highest-rated show.</p>

"How I Met Your Mother" was Monday's highest-rated show.

Credit: CBS

TV Ratings: 'Sleepy Hollow' gets FOX narrow Monday win

'The Bachelor' unscathed by controversy, 'The Blacklist' down

Fast National ratings for Monday, January 20, 2014.

The season finale of "Sleepy Hollow" carried FOX to a narrow demographic victory on  Monday night, while "The Bachelor" was virtually unaffected by the recent controversy, "The Blacklist" continued to slide without "The Voice" as a lead-in, and "Intelligence" remains DOA on Mondays.

For the night, FOX averaged a 2.3 rating among adults 18-49, and 6.9 million viewers overall. It was followed by ABC (2.2, 8.2 million), CBS (2.0, 7.6 million), NBC (1.7, 5.9 million) and the CW (0.4, 1.1 million).

8 p.m. -- "How I Met Your Mother" (3.0, 8.8 million) got the best demo rating of any broadcast show on the night, and together with "2 Broke Girls" (2.7, 8.9 million) helped CBS win the hour. "The Bachelor" ratings (2.2, 7.8 million) were virtually identical to last week, even after Juan Pablo's comments about gay people. The first hour of the "Sleepy Hollow" finale (2.2, 6.8 million) was third for the hour, followed by "Hollywood Game Night" on NBC (1.3, 4.7 million) and the CW's "Hart of Dixie."

9 p.m. -- The second half of the "Sleepy Hollow" finale slid into first place (2.4, 7 million), followed  by more "Bachelor" (2.3, 7.8 million), "Mike & Molly" and "Mom" on CBS (2.0, 8.4 million), more "Hollywood Game Night" (1.5, 4.2 million) and the CW's "Beauty and the Beast" (0.4, 931,000).

10 p.m. -- "The Blacklist" finished first, but with numbers (2.3, 8.7 million) notably lower than it was doing with "The Voice" as a lead-in. ABC's "Castle" was second (2.0, 8.9 million), followed by "Intelligence" (1.1, 5.6 million), which repeated last week's terrible demo number while losing about a half million viewers.

All ratings information comes from preliminary Fast National Nielsen data, which includes live and same-day DVR viewing. All numbers are subject to change.
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<p>Roger Ebert</p>

Roger Ebert

Credit: Kevin Horan

Review: 'Life Itself' does right by Roger Ebert's life and legacy

HitFix
A-
Readers
n/a
Steve James' Sundance doc honors Ebert, but doesn't canonize
When people want to minimize this thing I do for a living, they like to quote Jean Sibelius, "Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic."
 
It's a bit of a lie, but that hasn't stopped social observers as keen as Chad Ochocinco from making the cliched declaration.
 
While it may not be cast in bronze or carved from marble, Steve James' "Life Itself" stands as a cinematic monument to its subject, a much more fitting celebration of Roger Ebert than anything that might have been produced by Rodin or Brancusi.
 
One could hardly find a more amenable audience for "Life Itself" than a Press & Industry Screening at the Sundance Film Festival, but I think this is a documentary that will play beyond rooms of ink-stained wretches. "Life Itself" is a moving tribute to one exceptional critic and, by extension, his profession, but it's also a celebration of celebrating movies and, at its heart, a salute to any life lived fully.
 
More on "Life Itself" after the break…
 
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<p>Mitt Romney of &quot;Mitt&quot;</p>

Mitt Romney of "Mitt"

Credit: Netflix

Sundance Review: 'Mitt' gets all-access to Mitt Romney with bland results

HitFix
B-
Readers
n/a
Behind-the-scenes doc will premiere on Netflix on Friday
One of the hardest documentary approaches to wrap your head around is the one in which the filmmaker goes to a lot of trouble to show you that beyond the public facade of a subject matter, the previously unseen reality is... exactly what you already thought you knew.
 
I got into multiple good-natured fights last year with R.J. Cutler, including an amusing back-and-forth in the snow on Main Street in Park City, about whether or not the former Vice President's stubbornness in "The World According To Dick Cheney" was a lack of introspection or a display of self-conviction and how that shaped the rest of the film. I'm sure Cutler was right, but what made "The World According To Dick Cheney" work was that no matter your ideology, your feelings on Cheney were confirmed but tweaked in interesting ways. What you didn't get from "The World According to Dick Cheney" was enlightenment, but that's a product of the kind of man Dick Cheney seems to be and the kind of access R.J. Cutler had. 
 
In the fittingly titled "Mitt," Director Greg Whiteley was granted unprecedented access to Mitt Romney from 2006 through 20012 and he was able to follow him from the beginning of an unsuccessful campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2008 and an unsuccessful run for the Presidency in 2012.
 
At an early fundraiser in 2006, Romney tells potential backers of the risks  of unsuccessful runs for high office. 
 
"We just brutalize whoever loses," he says. 
 
It could just be my own perception, but I don't feel like Romney was ever "brutalized," per se. At his absolute nadir, he wasn't viewed as anything worse than a slightly robotic, slightly ideologically insecure man who weathered a few major gaffes and pulled off one debate surprise, but still wasn't able to convince the majority of Americans that he deserved to be president. There were jokes about his interchangeably huge family and certain people never forgot accusations of abuse regarding a family dog and rumbling about his Mormon faith was occasionally in the background, but a fundamental blandness prevented any real long-lasting vilification. I could be wrong, but I don't think Democrats are likely to use "Mitt Romney" as the punchline for jokes in the way that, say, "Michael Dukakis" has been getting laughs from both parties for decades.
 
So Greg Whiteley's "Mitt" has to combat an image of bland innocuousness and, at the end of 92 minutes befitting its surplus of access, we're left with a portrait of Mitt Romney that is... blandly innocuous. I was not a Mitt Romney supporter, but I'll agree without hesitation that he comes across as a sturdy guy and a good family man here. And for Romney family members and supporters, I think there may be a feeling that this documentary shows the side of Romney that maybe America didn't get to see in 2012, which I don't quite think is true. I think "Mitt" shows the side of Mitt Romney that everybody was willing to accept on faith was there in 2012. We just didn't care.
 
[More on "Mitt," premiering out of competition at Sundance, after the break.]
 
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<p>Kevin Bacon in &quot;The Following.&quot;</p>

Kevin Bacon in "The Following."

Credit: FOX

TV Ratings: NFC Championship Game boosts 'The Following' to biggest numbers ever

Richard Sherman and Kevin Bacon couldn't be stopped on Sunday night

Fast National ratings for Sunday, January 19, 2014.

Though any ratings related to live sporting events are subject to change, preliminary numbers from Sunday night have the combination of the NFC Championship Game between the Seahawks and 49ers and "The Following" season 2 premiere gave FOX its highest-rated night in two years (since the Giants-49ers NFC Championship Game), and lifted "The Following" season 2 premiere to that show's best numbers ever.

For the night, preliminary numbers say that FOX averaged 44.7 million viewers and a 15.4 rating among adults 18-49. Everyone else was irrelevant, with CBS, NBC and ABC all averaging only a 0.9 demo ratings, differentiated by small amounts among total viewers (5.7 million for CBS, 4.2 for ABC, 3.5 for FOX).

7 p.m. -- Niners-Seahawks was already under way, and already destroying everything in its path. For the hour, it averaged a 15.7 in the demo and 46.4 million viewers. It was followed by CBS' "60 Minutes" (1.3, 7.8 million viewers), an "America's Funniest Home Videos" repeat on ABC (0.8, 4.4 million), and "Dateline NBC" (0.8, 4.25 million).

8 p.m. -- More football annihilation, with the game pulling a 15.3 in the demo and 44.5 million viewers, followed by "The Bachelor Love Stories" special on ABC (0.9, 3.9 million), a "Good Wife" repeat on CBS (0.7, 4.4 million) and NBC's telecast of the movie "Bridesmaids" (0.7, 2.8 million).

9 p.m. -- Third verse, same as the first two: football at a 15.1 demo rating and 43.1 million viewers, followed by ABC's "Revenge" (1.3, 5.3 million), a "Mentalist" repeat on CBS (0.7, 4.4 million) and more "Bridesmaids" (0.8, 2.9 million).

10 p.m. -- The game ended at 9:54 p.m., and postgame coverage ran until 10:18. So the numbers for this hour will be fuzzy, but "The Following" itself drew a 4.4 demo rating and 11.2 million viewers, followed by more "Bridesmaids" (1.2, 4 million), a "Criminal Minds" repeat (1.0, 6.1 million), and what was almost certainly the series finale of "Betrayal" (0.7, 3.4 million).

All ratings information comes from preliminary Fast National Nielsen data, which includes live and same-day DVR viewing. All numbers are subject to change.
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<p>&quot;Web Junkie&quot;</p>

"Web Junkie"

Credit: Sundance

Sundance Review: 'Web Junkie' explores Internet addiction in China

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
Since we're all probably web junkies, this doc is pretty universal
Everybody has their Sundance Film Festival goals, whether it's to see all of the eventual Jury winners or to see all of the eventual Oscar nominees or just to make sure that you've never missed a single cinematic second of Brit Marling or Elizabeth Olsen.
 
This year, I have a much more restrained goal: I just want to complete the documentary trifecta I'm going to call The Oy Vey The Internet Is Freaky Trilogy.
 
It's a slate that includes the open access tragedy "The Internet's Own Boy," the South Korean online gaming horror story "Love Child" and the Chinese cautionary tale "Web Junkie." It's a subject matter that isn't new to Sundance, what with "Wikileaks" and "Google and the World Brain" premiering here just last year, but when the original 2014 Festival schedule was first announced, it was the first trend I was going to isolate as being on the verge of a Park City explosion.
 
The first of the three documentaries on my docket is Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia's internationally diverse China-set, Israeli-American co-production playing here in the World Documentary Competition.
 
At a only-slightly-too-brisk 75 minutes, "Web Junkie" is, on its surface, a harrowing look at a seemingly ordinary behavior taken to extremes and the stifling culture going to equal extremes to combat it. Looking very close below the surface, though, "Web Junkie" isn't such a foreign tale at all. It's about a generational clash that repeats itself over and over across the decades and also across international boundaries. 
 
The narrative transition from alien to universal is what will likely help "Web Junkie" find an audience, but at times I felt it went too much for relatability at the expense of some of the things that make the story unique. 
 
More after the break...
 
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<p>&quot;Parks and Recreation&quot;</p>

"Parks and Recreation"

Credit: NBC

Press Tour: NBC execs say 'Parks and Recreation' will get Season 7

And a history of 'bullish' proclamations from network executives
Please note that comments made at the Television Critics Association press tour are not binding contracts. They in no way replace legally notarized deals signed between studios and networks and whatnot. 
 
However, it's hard not to feel good about the fate of "Parks and Recreation" after Sunday (January 19) morning's TCA press tour panel with NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt and NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke. 
 
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<p>Robert Greenblatt, Jennifer Salke and Paul Telegdy. Plus Amy Poehler!</p>

Robert Greenblatt, Jennifer Salke and Paul Telegdy. Plus Amy Poehler!

Credit: NBC

NBC Executive Session with Robert Greenblatt Press Tour Live-Blog

Jennifer Salke and Paul Telegdy are also on-hand

Our final network executive session of the January 2014 Press Tour  -- And my last live-blog of this press tour before heading to Sundance -- is NBC's panel.

Naturally, we have NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt, but as he sometimes likes to do, he's being joined by NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke and President of Late Night, Alternative & Whatnot Paul Telegdy.

It was a fairly decent fall for NBC, plus they have the Winter Olympics coming, plus they have a big late-night shift coming, so there will be plenty to discuss. 

Click through...

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