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Culture Cafe

Movie, music, and television reviews from a select group of bloggers.

Mila Kunis (pictured) and Channing Tatum will star in the Wachowskis' new film 'Jupiter Ascending,' which is scheduled to begin filming this year. (Neil Hall/Reuters)

Mila Kunis, Sean Bean will star in the Wachowskis' new movie 'Jupiter Ascending'

By Sandy SchaeferScreen Rant / 03.05.13

Jupiter Ascending cross-pollinates the Snow White fairy tale with Japanese pop culture influences to create a piece of sci-fi folklore and futuristic mythology, as imagined by filmmakers Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas). The project begins shooting this year, with Mila Kunis starring as the diamond-in-the-rough protagonist: an ordinary human woman whose perfect genetic structure threatens the reign of higher-evolved beings.

Channing Tatum costars as the bounty hunter hired to find and kill Kunis, only to turn around and become her protecter. The remainder of the cast is steadily filling out, including Eddie Redmayne (Les Misérables) in an unspecified role.

Deadline is reporting that Sean Bean has come aboard the Wachowskis’ new sci-fi project, referencing his character – named Stinger – as “a Han Solo-type” who is supposed to be noticeably older than Tatum (according to the script). The actor’s a welcome addition to the proceedings, but his tendency to die gruesomely onscreen in whatever role he plays – be it Boromir in Lord of the Rings, Ned Stark in Game of Thrones, or his lesser-known characters in sci-fi films like Equilibrium and The Island – make his involvement something of a warning flag, as far as the longevity of any character he plays goes.

Tatum says Jupiter Ascending is a reinvention of the sci-fi/action genre, while the fundamental plot and character details suggest the Wachowskis are preparing a dense backstory for the film’s fantastical universe in advance; that may allow for a multi-installment sci-fi saga on par with the non-prequel Star Wars trilogy (e.g. better pre-planning than on both Matrix live-action sequels and Animatrix spinoff). Hence, the Han Solo comparison seems fitting; not to mention, a roughneck with a heart-of-gold type is a good match for Bean’s masculine presence. Who knows, he might even be alive by the time the end credits start rolling… maybe.

Wachowski pictures like Bound, The Matrix, Cloud Atlas (read our review) and, yes, even Speed Racer demonstrate the siblings’ affection for geek pop culture and genre. Even with their Racer and Atlas adaptations, they continue to strive towards revitalizing familiar pop genre aesthetics by mixing and splicing them together – in an effort to create a daring and innovative product. True, the final results do not always turn out well – and have earned the duo a reputation for being divisive – but even their worst output possesses some quality making it memorable.

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

'Zero Hour,' starring Anthony Edwards (pictured), was canceled after airing three episodes. (Phillippe Bosse/ABC/AP)

'Zero Hour' canceled after only three episodes

By Staff Writer / 03.04.13

The drama “Zero Hour,” starring “ER” alum Anthony Edwards, was canceled after airing only three episodes on ABC.

“Hour” followed Edwards as Hank Galliston, a man who publishes a magazine based around the paranormal, who must save his wife after she’s kidnapped and becomes involved in a historical conspiracy. The show premiered Feb. 14 and had aired three episodes so far.

When “Zero” premiered, it was watched by 6.3 million viewers, which was the lowest-rated ABC premiere for a scripted show during the regular TV season ever. The show kept falling, luring in 5.3 million viewers for its second episode and 5 for its third. In its 8 p.m. air time, the show was up against boffo programs like “American Idol” and “The Big Bang Theory,” though, as pointed out by the Huffington Post, it attracted only 5 million viewers on a night when CBS, which is the home of high-rating Thursday comedy “The Big Bang Theory,” wasn’t even airing new episodes.

An ABC spokesperson told the Huffington Post that it hasn’t yet been determined when the remaining episodes of “Zero Hour” will air, though the summer is a possibility.

Reviews for the show were mixed, with some, like the Hollywood Reporter, somewhat won over by the show’s “Da Vinci Code”-like premise.

Zero Hour has lots of twists and turns that could be worth following,” the Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodwin wrote. “It also has the DNA to be laughably bad… This is your opt-in or opt-out moment. For me, I’m in. Broadcast television is a graveyard right now.” 

Others found the pilot incomprehensible. The Star-Ledger writer Vicki Hyman called the exposition “clunky” and the dialogue “laughable.”

“The creator has said he'll tell a single story in 13 episodes (we've heard that one before), with a separate mystery unfolding for the second season, if there is one,” she wrote. “Based on the pilot, I doubt they'll make it to lunch.”

The slot formerly occupied by “Zero” will be filled by repeats of the business-pitch reality show “Shark Tank,” according to ABC.

'Red Widow' stars Goran Visnjic (l.) and Radha Mitchell (r.). (Gus Ruelas/Reuters)

'Red Widow' star Goran Visnjic discusses his villainous new role

By The TV Addict / 03.04.13

Based on the Dutch drama “Penoza,” RED WIDOW revolves around Marta Walraven, a stay-at-home mother whose idyllic life shatters following the brutal murder of her husband Evan. Cue a cadre of characters including but not limited to Russian gangsters, FBI Agents, scheming family members and an international crimeboss. Many of whom theTVaddict.com had the pleasure of catching up with during a recent star-studded affair in Hollywood. First up, ER alum Goran Visjnic, who shed some light on what attracted him to the role, what he loves about playing his new dark character Christian Schiller and what surprises are in store for those who come along for the ride.

How excited are you for this new show, RED WIDOW?
 Goran Visnjic: A lot actually because this is first time being back on TV as a regular for a couple of years, and it’s different than I’ve done before. We’ve already done eight episodes, so we know what is happening with the show, what’s the storyline, how is it finishing and we’ve seen a couple episodes also so we know we have a good show on our hands. So it’s kind of really exciting to see how ever body else will react.

I read an article that you had initially been hesitant about joining the show because you weren’t sure if the character was going to be meaty enough. Do you feel like Melissa [Rosenberg] really took charge of this character and gave you something that is worthwhile?
 It’s difficult upon reading a pilot, you’ve probably seen the Episode 1, there is only one scene in the end. You can’t even imagine, ok what’s going to happen afterwards. We had a long conversation – I wasn’t sure about it. But after I saw the pilot, because they did the pilot without me, that I was like, ‘Ok this is a good show. Let me have that meeting again.’ So we went out and had dinner again, and I said ‘OK, look, how are you going to run the show later, what is going to be happening?’ and then we parted. And then we kind of established a lot, what is going to be happening with the character, about his family, about why he does things the way he does it and all that stuff.

I have to say when we came to Vancouver and I saw episodes 2 and 3, everything Melissa and I discussed was in the script. I was really happy. It was awesome. You have a writer who actually listens to what you think about a character and co-creates the story with you about the character, like the backstory – what was happening in his life before. So it was really exciting.

It seems like some of the basic cable shows are pushing network shows to get a little bit edgier. Do you feel like that’s happening in this show, where you have more freedom than you might have had 10 years ago?
 Melissa said something that I kind of stopped and started thinking about. We all think that cable has better shows, or this and that, because they can show blood, sex, violence. But it’s not, it’s actually the format of the story, how much time do they have to tell the story. If you are on network TV and have 22 episodes to tell the story, you have to water it down. You can’t keep the linear, one-way storyline for 22 episodes. You can’t. It’s impossible. But if you have 13, 14, 15 episodes, you can make it as a long, long movie. It’s pretty much a miniseries every season. So this is what ABC is trying to do now. We have these 8 episodes – after episode 1, you’re going to see in the premiere night. We have episode 1 and 2 and they just continue. There is no procedural. There is no story finishing a little bit in each episode. It just goes like a freight train – it just goes, goes, goes. Until episode 8, then it’s boom – big season finale and a new cliffhanger for the new season. So that’s what the beauty is of a cable show, they have this luxury of telling the story that way and also the writers have time to actually sit in the office and think about how they are going to do a smaller amount of episodes and have more time to write. In network TV they have a bigger amount of episodes and less time to write. I think that’s the beauty of cable, the beauty of the format we are trying to do here. Not blood violence, sex. You can do a sexy scene without actually seeing much. It can be really charged.

We know that we’re going to find out who killed Marta’s husband this season, what do you think would be the direction you would want to see the show go in next season?
 Look I don’t want to jump the gun here. ABC is going to make a decision in May, like every time when they do announce whether the show is going to go or not. I don’t want to give any predictions or not. But, the way the show is going to go next season, we’re already talking about that. So we’ve been talking that you’re going to see more – talking about my character – more inside my family life, you’re going to see more about the backstory with my father, you’re going to see more of his – some people in his family are going to start showing up. You’re going to see that the show is going to spread more internationally. You’re going to see that this guy actually has his fingers in some activities that are actually even legal. Not just illegal stuff. So he’s like a businessman who does edgy things, legal things and very illegal things. On Radha’s character, it’s probably going to be trying to get out of this, but getting in deeper. I don’t know. That’s a question for Melissa probably.

The TV Addict staff blogs at The TV Addict.

'The Walking Dead' actor Norman Reedus stars as Daryl Dixon on the AMC drama. (Chiang Ying-ying/Reuters)

'The Walking Dead' recap: The newest episode examines Rick's past and features an unexpected return

By Kevin YeomanScreen Rant / 03.04.13

With all the time The Walking Dead has spent milling around the prison, or in the streets of Woodbury, it’s nice to see the series get out of those settings and away from the immediacy of the various conflicts (life threatening and otherwise), and really concentrate on telling a story that is temporarily removed from the main thrust of the season, but still remains deeply rooted in the story at hand.

To that end, ‘Clear’ winds up being a good episode that gives Rick, Carl and Michonne a chance to move around and exist (however briefly) in an adventure that seems to really show them off as more complicated characters.

From the opening scene on, there’s the feeling that the supply run will offer more than the chance to simply grab a few extra guns, supplies and rounds of ammunition. It seems everywhere they look, there is some sort of sign that shows just how desperately some past survivors attempted to get information out to one another, to tell their loved ones (or anyone, really) which direction they were headed. But there’s nothing to indicate any of these messages did any good – only a brief confirmation that an intended recipient had turned into a zombie.

The closer they get to their destination, the communication becomes more focused, but less optimistic; the words are harsh and sharp, warning of the unfortunate things that will befall those who continue down the path. The messages suggest it’s best for those reading to just turn around and go back to where they came. And that’s just what Rick’s plan is: to go back to where he started, and to loot his old armory so that his people can better defend themselves against the pending conflict against the Governor and Woodbury.

But that’s a far as the episode delves into the main narrative of the season. ‘Clear’ is more concerned with digging up a bit of Rick’s past, in order for him to get a glimpse at his possible future. And in order to do that, the episode brings Rick Grimes face-to-face with Morgan Jones (played by the fantastic Lennie James), the man who saved his life during the series premiere.

Initially, it’s not much of a reunion, as the group stumbles upon Morgan’s zombie traps and increasingly threatening signage and is then set upon by a man with a high-powered rifle and a motorcycle helmet. The scuffle is brief, but it disperses the group to such a degree that Carl winds up saving his father’s life by shooting the assailant point blank in the chest. Inspecting the body, Rick finds that not only was the man’s life spared by a bulletproof vest, but that the face underneath the helmet is one he distinctly remembers.

After dragging the unconscious Morgan back inside his cleverly booby-trapped house, they discover where all the weapons and ammunition of the armory (and then some) wound up. Michonne considers dragging someone who shot at them into relative safety to be the extent of her good intentions and votes to grab and go (guns and snacks, that is), while Rick once again goes against the desires of group – but this time for an understandable reason.

At this point, the storyline splits into Carl and Michonne on a mission to find a crib for Judith, while Rick tries to find out what’s left of a man he once knew. When he regains consciousness, however, Morgan shows little indication he’s looking to reminisce with Rick, choosing instead to stab him in the shoulder with a knife before being subdued once more. Between the weapons cache, the scribbling on the walls and Morgan’s hyper violent attitude toward anyone stopping by his neighborhood, it doesn’t take Rick long to figure out just what’s gone wrong.

‘Clear’ offers more than just an update on where Morgan has been, and what has been going on with him. It is apparent very early on that his son Duane is no longer with him – a fact that is confirmed not long after – and due to the awful circumstances in which Duane was killed, Morgan has become a completely different man whose only concern now is to hole up in his house and kill anything or anyone that stumbles across his walker kill zone. But most importantly, Morgan’s journey and his state of mind serves to mirror Rick’s; it is a clearer warning than any of the signs spray painted on the walls of the town or written in the street. And while Rick realizes he can’t save Morgan right now, there’s a feeling the message has certainly been received.

As much as ‘Clear’ affords Rick the opportunity to, if not answer his questions, at least become more aware of them, it also has several nice moments that give Carl a chance to take a break from his new role as the (rather loathsome sounding) “child soldier” and let him be the somewhat selfish, pigheaded Carl Grimes of old. After all the displeasure that fans expressed at some of Carl’s antics back in season 2, it would seem his story here might be seen as an unfortunate setback. However, his determination to fetch a picture of his family from the King County Café actually comes off as understandable (reckless and foolhardy, but still understandable) and winds up working to the advantage of not only Carl’s characterization, but that of Michonne as well.

Earlier in the episode, Rick and Carl have a conversation about why Michonne is along for the ride, and perhaps purposely, Rick says within earshot that he simply didn’t want her in the prison with Merle. It’s not exactly a statement glowing with praise, but then again, Michonne hasn’t really had much of a chance to do anything but scowl and silently chop walkers down with her sword. Here, though, ‘Clear’ offers her plenty of opportunity to prove herself within the framework of the team, but also within the larger world of The Walking Dead as an actual character.

If anything, ‘Clear’ gives Rick, Michonne and Carl a chance to step away from the immediate narrative and better demonstrate why the audience should be so invested in whether or not they survive from one episode to the next. As it stands, this is certainly the best offering since The Walking Dead returned from hiatus, and it may just wind up being the highlight of season 3.

Kevin Yeoman blogs at Screen Rant.

Kaley Cuoco stars on 'The Big Bang Theory.' (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Kaley Cuoco's TV show 'The Big Bang Theory' airs one of the best episodes of 2012

By The Futon Critic / 02.28.13

The episodes on this list are based on nominations by myself, our merry band of freelancers and you the readers as to what we think the standout moments of the year were. And as always, be sure to revisit some of our previous picks in the archives.

Obviously our final list will differ from the ones you sent in - but that's half the fun! So sit back, relax and enjoy the countdown!

25. modern family: bringing up baby
 (originally aired: september 26, 2012)

Worth a spot on this list for its wonderful closing moments as Gloria's anxiety over telling Jay about her pregnancy is quickly sated by his overwhelming joy of having the Pritchett clan expand by one more. The resulting time jump to a now very pregnant Gloria - alongside everyone else's sped-up foibles - was just plain delightful.

24. big bang theory: the vacation solution
 (originally aired: february 9, 2012)

Sheldon and Amy's relationship remains one of television's comedic gold mines, a fact made all the more evident by this episode in which Sheldon is forced to take a vacation. His destination of choice: Amy's workplace, where he's tasked as her assistant. The resulting journey - from being emasculated by his girlfriend, to drowning his sorrows in piña coladas to eventually doing the adult thing and apologizing - was not only a stellar showcase of Jim Parsons's talents but also a reminder of how big a part Mayim Bialik has played in bringing it out of him.

23. mad men: far away places
 (originally aired: april 22, 2012)

"Mad Men" continues to thumb its nose at expectations, opting for vignettes about existential subjects rather than plodding forward as your typical serial. Case in point: this fable in which Peggy, Roger and Don attempt to maintain control of their lives, a haunting reminder that our vision of the world and ourselves is fleeting, always on the cusp of being replaced by something else, no matter how hard we try to ignore it.

22. 30 rock: mazel tov, dummies!
 (originally aired: november 29, 2012)

Liz Lemon's wedding was everything we hoped it would be and more. Sure there's the expected silliness (Top Gun-esque windmill high fives, dressing up as Princess Leia, anything involving Dennis Duffy, etc.) but it's the perfect amount of sweetness - beau Criss cleverly sabotages their city hall wedding so she can have the one she hadn't yet admitted to herself - that set it apart.

21. how i met your mother: no pressure
 (originally aired: february 20, 2012)

I love that even some eight years in, the romantic pangs of the pilot - in which the blistering chemistry between Robin and Ted is crushingly undercut by the news that she is in fact not the mother - still hang over in the series. Such was the case here as Ted once again offers his heart to her, to similarly devastating results. The ensuing fallout: Marshall tells Robin she needs to move out in order to give Ted space to heal was equally bittersweet, another example of the emotional honesty that makes this show so great.

20. fringe: letters of transit
 (originally aired: april 20, 2012)

The hallmark of "Fringe" has been its ability to establish a family unit no matter how outlandish the scenario. Lose your son, replace him with one from an alternate universe. Lose your universe, have yourself dropped into a new one. Regardless of the makeup, the connections of love and family still manage to get created. That constant state of reinvention once again became evident in this episode, as Walter, Astrid and Peter awaken some 25 years into the future under the rule of The Observers. Among the rebels: Peter's now grown up daughter Henrietta, squaring the circle of the family unit once again.

19. community: virtual systems analysis
 (originally aired: april 19, 2012)

If centering an episode about trying to help Abed, a character who is paralyzed by his skewed perception of reality, using an even more fake perception of reality, the Dreamatorium, isn't snake-eating-its-tail meta manna from heaven, I don't know what is.

18. treme: tipitina
 (originally aired: november 25, 2012)

David Simon and Eric Overmyer's annual closing up shop remains as potent as ever, as their characters either find peace in letting go of their previous ambitions or remain resolute in the face of the realities of their fates. As always "Treme" remains a compelling story about survival and what that means to each of its denizens.

17. parks and recreation: halloween surprise
 (originally aired: october 25, 2012)

Ben's (Adam Scott) marriage proposal to Leslie (Amy Poehler) was somehow surprising, touching and hilarious all at the same time - a perfect moment between two great characters, not to mention two wonderful actors.

16. dexter: are you ...?
 (originally aired: september 30, 2012)

It's a development that's been hanging over the series since its start: what happens when Deb finds out her brother is a serial killer? Six years later we finally got the answer. No cop out, no switcheroo, she really knows. The result: a full-on reinvention of the show, one that gave rise to questions about the status quo we've accepted for Dexter the character (and the show) all along.

15. luck: episode 9
 (originally aired: march 25, 2012)

The de facto ending to David Milch's horse racing opus proved to be a surprisingly upbeat capper, from Mike and Ace's détente over the race track to the windfall for our sad sack group of gamblers. The latter in particular was disarmingly sweet as what were initially a group of degenerates at best ultimately morphed into a quartet of true friends, all hopeful of the future.

14. the good wife: another ham sandwich
 (originally aired: january 29, 2012)

The defeat - for now at least - of Wendy Scott-Carr (Anika Noni Rose) was "The Good Wife" at the top of its game. Whether it's the cleverly passive-aggressive way the characters manage to manipulate each other or the endless shades of grey they continue to become mired in, this show is a delightful meal any week. Here though we them pushed to the precipice, from Kalinda going all double-agent to Alicia being tasked with admitting to her personal foibles on the witness stand.

13. mad men: lady lazarus
 (originally aired: may 6, 2012)

Pete's search for and Don's attempts to hold onto happiness remained as fascinating as ever in this episode. For the latter, Megan's decision to leave Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to pursue acting pulled the floor out from under him (literally if you count his experience with an empty elevator shaft). And in the former's case, a dalliance with an acquaintance's wife (Alexis Bledel) once again exposed - much like Don - his perpetual need to control the world around him.

12/11. breaking bad: say my name/gliding over all
 (originally aired: august 26-september 2, 2012)

"Shut the f--- up and let me die in peace," were the final words of Mike Ehrmantraut to Walter White. They also marked the beginning of the end of Walter's empire as his meticulous construction begins to unravel across these two episodes. It's the end result of pride unchecked by humility. Even with his initial goals long achieved - Walter literally has more money than he can spend - there's a hubris inside him that still demands more. More respect. More fear. Just more. So how fitting then that the man who thinks he knows everything overlooks the one thing that lays the tracks for his downfall: a seemingly innocuous copy of "Leaves Of Grass" that Hank stumbles across and gets his wheels turning.

10. sons of anarchy: j'ai obtenu cette
 (originally aired: december 4, 2012)

"Sons of Anarchy" finally stuck the landing so to speak in 2012. Each year the show seemed to paint its characters into inescapable corners for 12 weeks, then just pull them out of their predicaments without significant consequence. This time though, the big choices were finally made and their costs were heavy. That especially applied to Jax, who in his efforts to remove Clay for good, finally became the man he's loathed all along.

9. suits: she knows
 (originally aired: june 14, 2012)

A breakthrough episode which solidified its status as a top-tier drama, "She Knows" doubled down on its previously shaky premise and somehow emerged clearer and sharper than ever thanks to its supernaturally charming cast, distinctive voice and slick look. At a certain point you either fall in love with a show or you don't and we fell hard in 2012.

6/7/8. louie: late show, parts 1-3
 (originally aired: august 30-september 20, 2012)

After three seasons of character pieces, "Louie" finally pushed for a full-fledged narrative in this trilogy of episodes and the dividends were tremendous. Admittedly part the fun was seeing who would show up next (Jay Leno! Chris Rock! David Lynch?!) but the true draw was seeing Louie actually challenged on a level we haven't seen before, both at work and at home. The prize: a chance to succeed David Letterman on CBS. The ensuing "Rocky"-esque journey gave us a litany of great moments: from a pragmatic discussion about his career with a network executive (Garry Marshall) to learning how to literally tell jokes by the aforementioned Lynch. The piece de resistance of course arrives in the closing installment when, after learning the entire operation is for naught, the mere fact he was in the discussion proves to be all the victory he needs.

5. mad men: signal 30
 (originally aired: april 15, 2012)

A dinner party at the Campbells - not to mention a science-fiction story by Ken Cosgrove - provided a window into Pete's foibles in this memorable episode. Perennially painted as the petulant child of the show, Pete nevertheless has grown to match the personal and professional success of his idol Don Draper. And yet, despite it all, he's still unhappy, on the cusp of tearing down his great life because it's suffocating him. It's Don of course who steps in and sets him straight, advice that also serves as a reminder he'll never be Don Draper... or anyone else for that matter, as much as he wants to be.

4. homeland: new car smell
 (originally aired: october 21, 2012)

We all knew the day would come, we just couldn't imagine it happening this fast. And yet here we are 16 episodes in and the unthinkable has happened: Carrie and company, armed with definitive proof of Brody's terrorist activities, take him into custody. The fact that a rattled Carrie does it to simply regain the power in her relationship with Brody: all the better.

3. breaking bad: dead freight
 (originally aired: august 12, 2012)

A brazen, daylight train robbery served as the backdrop for this standout installment as Walter and company endeavor to not only steal a shipment of methylamine, but replace it with water to cover their tracks. The end result was about as stunning a setpiece as this series has ever achieved, made all the more harrowing by its closing moments in which our "heroes" rejoice after pulling off their expertly crafted heist - only to be spotted by a random boy riding his bike. The choice is made before even a discussion can be had: Todd shoots and kills him in cold blood. Just... wow.

2. the walking dead: seed
 (originally aired: october 14, 2012)

Season three opened with a staunch reminder of just how bad things have gotten in the world of "The Walking Dead." Ever outnumbered, our heroes make the only choice left to them: hole up at a nearby prison and pray its walls keep them safe longer than a few nights at a time. Before that can happen, they literally have to clean house. Said efforts are about as stunning and visceral of a TV experience as I've ever encountered, an agonizing sequence of events that's both thrilling (seriously how many zombies did they kill?) and downright unsettling (seriously how many zombies did they kill?) plus not without its costs (Hershel is bitten but potentially saved via impromptu amputation). Just another white knuckle episode of "The Walking Dead."

1. game of thrones: blackwater
 (originally aired: may 27, 2012)

Sometimes things just live up to the hype. So goes the penultimate episode of season two, which finally put the show's oft-referenced - but rarely seen - epic battles front and center. A wondrous spectacle of both military strategy and CGI, Stannis' attempt to take King's Landing was worthy of the big screen. But as is custom with this show, it's the character beats that eclipse it all, whether it's the seemingly invincible Sandor Clegane losing his fire for battle, packing up and leaving; Cersei's spiral into drunkenness, acknowledging the cancerous presence she has become; and of course, Tyrion's stirring speech to keep on fighting, not for the crown but for their homes. Man do I love this show.

The Futon Critic staff blogs at The Futon Critic.

Jack Nicholson and Jennifer Lawrence (pictured) talked after the Oscars while Lawrence was being interviewed by journalist George Stephanopoulos. 'You did such a beautiful job,' Nicholson told her. (Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

Jack Nicholson, Jennifer Lawrence chat post-Oscars

By Staff Writer / 02.27.13

Best Actress winner Jennifer Lawrence had an unexpected encounter with an Oscar legend when she was being interviewed by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

Lawrence was chatting with Stephanopoulos when actor and Oscar staple Jack Nicholson, who often attends the ceremony, whether he’s nominated or not, came up behind her.

Lawrence let out a huge gasp when she realized who was over her shoulder, and it turned out Nicholson wanted to let her know he was a big fan.

“You did such a beautiful job,” Nicholson told her of her movie. “I don't mean to crash your interview.”

“Yeah, you’re being really rude,” Lawrence joked.

“You look like an old girlfriend,” the “Shining” actor then added.

“Oh, really?” Lawrence inquired. “Do I look like a new girlfriend?”

After Nicholson left, she buried her head in her hands. “Oh my God. Is he still here?”

Nicholson then popped up in view of the camera again, said, “I’ll be waiting!,” and disappeared.

“I need a rearview mirror!” Lawrence exclaimed.

Lawrence took home the Best Actress award for her work in “Silver Linings Playbook,” and was nominated previously for her work in the 2010 movie “Winter’s Bone.”

She’d also received praise for her graceful handling of an accident in which she tripped on the way to receive her Oscar. When some members of the audience gave her a standing ovation when she reached the stage, she said, “You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell.”

In addition to her other films, Lawrence is currently the head of a young adult movie franchise in her role as Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of the dystopian “Hunger Games” trilogy. The second installment in the series, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” is due out this November.

Check out the full video of Lawrence chatting with Nicholson.

'American Horror Story' creators Ryan Murphy (l.) and Brad Falchuk and star Jessica Lange (center) arrive at the screening of the show's season two premiere. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

'American Horror Story' season 3: Kathy Bates joins cast

By Robert Yaniz Jr.Screen Rant / 02.27.13

American Horror Story has proven to be a real winner for FX. The show earned impressive numbers throughout season 2, subtitled Asylum, and was quickly renewed for season 3. Concrete details regarding the upcoming storyline have remained scarce, but co-creator Ryan Murphy (of Nip/Tuck and Glee fame) has since offered a few hints regarding what fans can expect.

Thus far, the series has included all manner of supernatural madness, including demons, mutants, aliens and ghosts. Murphy himself has said that the season will feature an “evil glamour” of sorts, and rumor has it that witches will be a central part of the plot. While the inclusion of magic is still unconfirmed, the latest addition to the show’s cast is sure to raise expectations. 

According to TV Line, Oscar winner Kathy Bates is poised to join American Horror Story season 3 as the arch-enemy (and former best friend) of Jessica Lange’s new character. The season is expected to be more historical than previous rounds – though it will jump through a few different time periods – and will feature a somewhat lighter tone than the bleak Asylum.

Bates most recently headlined Harry’s Law for NBC, but she is no stranger to the world of horror. The actress famously walked away with Oscar gold for her chilling portrayal of obsessed fan Annie Wilkes in the 1990 film adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery. So the thought of her joining the eerie world of American Horror Story is a terrific fit and gives her a chance to exercise those chill-inducing acting skills once more. Plus, the very idea of Lange and Bates facing off (potentially as witches) can only help to bring in viewers at this point.

In addition to Lange, the upcoming season of American Horror Story will feature returning cast members Taissa Farmiga, Frances Conroy, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe and Evan Peters.

Do you think Bates will prove a worthy adversary for Lange and a smart addition to the cast? Let us know in the comments.

Robert Yaniz Jr. blogs at Screen Rant.

Gillian Anderson pilot will center on a conspiracy involving Washington's most powerful figures

By Staff Writer / 02.26.13

Will “X-Files” star Gillian Anderson be returning to television?

According to TV Guide, the actress will star in an untitled pilot for NBC, in which she will play a CEO named Meg Fitch whose daughter and daughter’s classmates are taken prisoner. The show itself, which will be produced and written by Rand Ravich with Far Shariat, will center on a vast conspiracy that comes to involve some of the most powerful people in Washington, D.C.

Actress Rachael Taylor of ABC’s “666 Park Avenue” will star on the show as Susie Dunn, an FBI agent who is Meg’s sister and who is in charge of the operation to find her niece and her niece’s classmates. Before the kidnapping, Fitch and Dunn were estranged because of a secret that lies between them.

Taylor also starred on the ABC remake of “Charlie’s Angels” as Abby Sampson, one of the titular Angels, and guest-starred on the ABC medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” as Dr. Lucy Fields.

Ravich created and wrote the NBC series “Life,” which starred actor Damian Lewis pre-“Homeland” as a police officer who gets back on the job after having been mistakenly sent to jail. Shariat served as an executive producer on "Life."

“Battle Force” actress Stevie Lynn Jones has also signed on to Ravich and Shariat's NBC pilot, according to TV Guide.

Anderson starred in the 2007 film version of “The X-Files,” titled “The X-Files: I Want to Believe,” and signed on for an arc on the upcoming NBC show “Hannibal,” which will center on the “Silence of the Lambs” killer Hannibal Lecter. She also appeared in a BBC miniseries of the Charles Dickens novel “Bleak House” and in a miniseries, also by the BBC, of “Great Expectations.” She recently starred as a detective on the British series “The Fall,” which will air on the BBC. 

On “Hannibal,” the actress will play a therapist named Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier who serves as doctor to Hannibal Lecter himself.

Seth MacFarlane hosted the 2013 Oscars ceremony. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Seth MacFarlane: Would he host the Oscars again? The comedian answers.

By Staff Writer / 02.26.13

However you felt about the performance of Seth MacFarlane as Oscar host, he certainly got everyone talking.

So will he be back for a second go-round?

The comedian’s answer was definite.

“No way,” MacFarlane tweeted in response to a fan who asked if he'd consider it. “Lotta fun to have done it, though.”

MacFarlane received mixed to negative reviews for his turn as host, with many offended by jokes that were perceived as racist, sexist or homophobic. There were a few that landed, but many felt his routine was dominated by objectionable humor.

He presided on a night where the film “Argo,” which focused on a little-known aspect of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis and was directed by Ben Affleck, won Best Picture. Actor Daniel Day-Lewis made history when he took home his third Best Actor statuette for the movie “Lincoln,” while first-time winners Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Lawrence won the Best Supporting Actress for “Les Miserables” and Best Actress prize for “Silver Linings Playbook,” respectively. Actor Christoph Waltz won his second Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the movie “Django Unchained.”

MacFarlane came to the Oscar hosting gig as his animated sitcom “Family Guy” aired its eleventh season. Another of his shows, “American Dad,” is in its eighth season and the “Family Guy” spin-off “The Cleveland Show” is in its fourth. MacFarlane’s film “Ted,” which he wrote, directed, and starred in as the voice of a foulmouthed teddy bear, was a hit this summer, grossing more than $218 million in the US, according to Box Office Mojo. The film starred Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis, and Wahlberg and the teddy bear Ted appeared at the Oscars ceremony as presenters.

A sequel to “Ted” has been rumored, and MacFarlane told Collider that nothing is certain yet but many on the original team are interested.

“It has not been officially signed off on yet,” MacFarlane said. “But it's very promising.”

Pentatonix released their first EP this past June.

A cappella group Pentatonix offers powerful vocals in their takes on top 40 hits

By Saba HamedyContributor / 02.25.13

From “cello beat-boxing” to an interactive audience sing-along, vocal group Pentatonix had no problem amping up the crowd at their recent sold-out concert at the House of Blues in Boston.

The five-person a cappella group, which was the winner of the third season of NBC’s “The Sing-Off,” are not your average YouTube sensation – they’re better.   

With Scott Hoying’s spot-on solos, Mitch Grassi’s unreal high notes, Avi Kaplan’s sultry bass, Kirstie Maldonado’s pitch-perfect diva vocals and Kevin Olusola’s beat-boxing/percussion perfection, the group is a unique mix of individual voices that beautifully blend into one.

It’s so perfect that it’s almost robotic, too good to be real – but it is.

What was once just popular among “choir nerd extraordinaires” (as Hoying called himself and some of his fellow group members during the concert), a capella music has transformed into a pop culture phenomenon, partially due to shows such as "The Sing Off" and "Glee" and even more recently with films such as "Pitch Perfect" (which made over $100 million in the box office) and ABC Family's "The Mistle-Tones." Pentatonix has scored YouTube hits in the millions and currently boasts about 230,000 Facebook fans and more than 71,000 Twitter followers. 

In a time where people glorify electronic beats and synthesized vocal chords such as those remixed by Swedish DJ Avicii - and synthesized vocal tracks - such as top-of-the-charts songs like Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" – Pentatonix offers a refreshing twist to top 40 hits.

With little choreography and only some minor light effects (different colors for different songs, spotlights on individual group members, etc.), the group stayed away from a flashy routine and kept the performance simple but still fresh to avoid simply replicating their YouTube videos.

Highlights of the show:

– The combination of Kaplan's hilarious jokes/one-liners and body roll dance moves (seriously, how did he move his legs like that?) was highly entertaining, not to mention when he sang a song originally from “The Hobbit" titled "Misty Mountains Cold."

“I don’t know what I was doing in Middle Earth at the time, but I’m sad I missed out,” Kaplan said to the crowd.

– Olusola's "cello beat-boxing" was also a standout. Olusola is beyond talented – he's a Yale graduate, fluent in Chinese and can literally provide a beat for anything, even a cello. Hoying said they got Olusola on board after seeing a YouTube video of him cello beat-boxing, which is basically playing the cello while simultaneously beat-boxing. Yes, it’s as impressive as it sounds.

– Pentatonix proved they have more than covers up their sleeve by performing a new number, “Peaceful World,” written by Kaplan. The song showcased all of the group’s amazing ranges and vocal talents – it was a little slow, but it left me wanting more of their originals. Here’s to hoping some of the originals include Olusola’s amazing cello beat-boxing.

– An 'N Sync medley was one of the best parts of the show. While I’ve watched Pentatonix’s Youtube rendition before, seeing it in person brought my inner 10-year-old to life. 

– Olusola and Kaplan said audience participation is their favorite part about every concert because they love getting the crowd to sing along. First they divided the audience into three sections – Team Scott, Team Kirstie and Team Mitch. Then the less musically talented were assigned clapping roles. Everyone had a part to play. Then Olusola and Kaplan beat-boxed and dropped the bass. I have to say, we didn’t sound half-bad. Maybe Pentatonix should take us on tour as their back-up singers. (Just kidding, they don’t need back-up anything.)    

– After the band “ended” their show with Nicki Minaj’s “Starships,” the crowd started chanting “PTX” to get an encore. After a few minutes, the group came back on stage and performed their last few fan favorites. First came Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over,” with Grassi hitting some impressive high notes. Then came a YouTube favorite, a cover of fun.'s “We Are Young." Pentatonix's version has over 7 million hits.

Now that the concert is over, I am eagerly anticipating the group’s new album. Until then, I’ll have to keep my inner acanerd occupied with YouTube covers.

Saba Hamedy is a Monitor contributor.

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