Thursday, June 25, 2009

Celebrity Death Update: Michael Jackson is Dead at 50; Was the King of Pop

Singer Michael Jackson died this afternoon of cardiac arrest at the age of 50. Jackson debuted on the professional music scene at the age of 11, joining his older brothers as a member of The Jackson 5. He began a solo career in 1971 while still a member of the group. Referred to as the "King of Pop" in subsequent years, five of his solo studio albums become some of the world's best-selling records: Off the Wall (1979), Thriller (1982), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991) and HIStory (1995).

More recently, Jackson's wacky lifestyle overshadowed his amazing talent and successes (inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, Jackson won 13 Grammy Awards and had 13 number one singles in his solo career). Let's hope that history focuses on his musical genius and not the crazy "Wacko Jacko" persona he became known as in his later years.


Poll Results:

1) Who should get custody of Michael Jackson's kids?
  • Michael's mom, Katherine 41 (54%)
  • One of Michael's siblings, like Janet 18 (24%)
  • Debbie Rowe for her two; the un-named surrogate for the 3rd 3 (4%)
  • Diana Ross 7 (9%)
  • Dame Elizabeth Taylor 1 (1%)
  • California Child Services 5 (6%)
Total votes: 75

2) What was your favorite Michael Jackson song?
  • Beat It 12 (8%)
  • Billie Jean 41 (29%)
  • Thriller 19 (13%)
  • Bad 5 (3%)
  • Rock With You 14 (9%)
  • Man in the Mirror 24 (17%)
  • Black or White 9 (6%)
  • Human Nature 9 (6%)
  • I Just Can't Stop Loving You 1 (0%)
  • Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough 7 (4%)
Total votes: 141

Celebrity Death Update: Farrah Fawcett Loses Cancer Battle

Actress Farrah Fawcett died of cancer this morning at 62. Her long-time companion, actor Ryan O'Neal, was reportedly by her side.

Fawcett will forever be remembered as one of the original stars of the tv hit, Charlie's Angels. The series, about three women who work for a private investigation agency, was one of the first shows to showcase women in roles traditionally reserved for men. Although she was a regular only for the show's 1976-77 season, she became an international pop culture icon for decades to follow. Her hairstyle was emulated by millions of young women, and she was a swimsuit-wearing pin-up sex symbol for millions of young men in the 1970s and 1980s.

Sadly, many may have forgotten that Fawcett went on to become a critically-accepted actress, appearing in challenging roles off-Broadway and in acclaimed movies. In the 1984 tv movie, The Burning Bed, Fawcett gave a riveting performance as a battered housewife who took revenge on her husband. Fawcett also won acclaim in the stage (1983) and theatrical movie version of Extremities (1986), in which she played a rape victim who turns the tables on her attacker. Along the way, she earned several acting nominations (three for Emmy Awards, one for a Golden Globe Award).

photo credit: Bruce McBroom

Movie Review: My Sister's Keeper

Director Nick Cassevettes (The Notebook) brings us the movie version of the novel of the same name by Jodi Picoult. Fans of the book have been forewarned -- the film ending is different from the book, although the core of the story remains the same. It centers around Anna (Abigail Breslin) -- who was conceived by means of in vitro fertilization and genetically matched to help her older sister, Kate (Sofia Vassilieva of TV's Medium), who suffers from acute promyelocytic leukemia.

With a mother (Cameron Diaz) who will stop at nothing to save her eldest daughter, Anna has endured many procedures aimed at helping Kate recover from the disease. But at what cost? Kate has suffered for years -- but so, too, has Anna. She is unable to live a normal life either. Is it fair to ask a healthy child to take on the burden of trying to save her sick sibling? These are just some of the ethical questions explored as Anna sues her parents to seek her own medical emancipation.

The main cast is fine, but no performances stand out -- especially not a dramatic attempt by Diaz. In supporting roles, Alec Baldwin (Anna's attorney) and Joan Cusack (the judge) also put their comic expertise on hold here. Although both are great actors, they are miscast.

A courtroom revelation becomes an interesting twist, but it can't save this film. It plays like a television movie -- complete with scene fade-outs. I half-expected to see commercials or the Lifetime network logo to pop up. I wanted to like this movie -- and was ready for a good cry. There were moments I thought that may happen -- especially when Kate falls for fellow teenage cancer patient, Taylor (the engaging Thomas Dekker of TV's Heroes and The Sarah Connor Chronicles). But honestly, I didn't even tear up. The film too often felt contrived. [PG-13; Opens June 26]

Grade: C+


The movie soundtrack includes a previously unreleased song performed by (the late, great) Jeff Buckley. Click on the image below to listen.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Movie Review: Yet Another Hollywood Sequel - Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Director Michael Bay, executive producer Steven Spielberg, and most of the human and robotic stars are back in this sequel to the 2007 hit. In Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the Autobots (good robots) have now joined forces with the American military to form an organization named NEST to combat the Decepticons (bad robots) that are threatening Earth. And, of course, it doesn't take long for college student Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), to get caught up once again in the war between the combating aliens. Returning for the ride is his girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox) -- and his Chevy Camaro/Autobot friend, Bumblebee. No doubt about it, Fox is beautiful. And Bay dresses her in low-cut shirts and short-shorts to draw in the fans. But is it just me -- or does Bumblebee seem less robotic than Fox (see poll results below)? At least LaBeouf shows some emotion in the quest to save Autobot leader Optimus Prime and our planet.

I definitely enjoyed this movie more than the first -- which I found really silly, despite the cool robots. In this sequel, the storyline is better and the dialogue (somewhat) improved. Also adding more excitement are all the newly introduced robots and some international settings. But at two-and-a-half hours, the movie is way too long. A final battle scene goes on and on and on -- and could have been cut in half to make the movie a more reasonable two hours. So to sum it up, Bay definitely lives up to his reputation of being the master of creating a lot of crashes and noises -- but being unable to make a good movie. Remember though, I am grading on the genre -- summer popcorn fluff -- and since the robots kept my interest for at least the first two hours, I will say that Bay has made an OK summer film. [Rated PG-13; Opens June 24]

Grade: B-

  • Also, are the new jive-talking twin autobots racist? Read The Philadelphia Tribune article here -- and comment below!
  • Poll results: In the Transformers movies, who is more robotic?
    Bumblebee 15 (38%), Megan Fox 24 (61%); Total votes: 39

Monday, June 22, 2009

MusicMonday -- Free Downloads

I've come across three FREE music downloads to add to recent posts on:

Just click on the names above and follow posts to the end to get download links.

Also, while here -- please vote in the music poll at right. What are your thoughts on Coldplay plagiarism accusation?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Last Word on Letterman/Palin Controversy?

After a week of controversy, David Letterman apologized for last week's Late Show joke about one of Sarah Palin's daughters getting "knocked up" by A-Rod during a New York Yankees game.

In Monday night's apology (click here), Letterman said, "I told a joke that was beyond flawed, and my intent is completely meaningless compared to the perception" of the joke by viewers. He maintains that his intended target was 18-year-old Bristol Palin, claiming he went so far as to make sure she was of legal age before making the joke, without realizing that it was 14-year-old Willow Palin who had accompanied her mother to the game instead.

According to last week's EntertainmentBlogger poll (results below), most thought Palin was over-reacting. And many others, including me, thought no apology was necessary. But some question whether Letterman was pressured to apologize due to dropped advertising. Embassy Suites, part of the Hilton Hotels Corp., pulled advertising on CBS' Web site because of complaints, company spokeswoman Kendra Walker told The company was not an advertiser on Letterman's show. And with Letterman's 2-year contract renewal thisclose, others believed this situation had to be rectified first.

Was the apology enough? In a statement this morning, Sarah Palin accepted the apology "on behalf of young women, like my daughters, who hope men who 'joke' about public displays of sexual exploitation of girls will soon evolve."

But others are not being so forgiving. A protest calling for Letterman's firing is planned today outside the Ed Sullivan Theatre where Letterman tapes his show. Parallels are being drawn to Don Imus' comments, which ultimately got him fired.

I say let it go. He apologized. She accepted. And for what it's worth, I'm still waiting for an apology from Palin on her lack of preparedness in last year's political campaign. Here is a great YouTube refresher of Palin's "greatest campaign interview hits." I think it's time she start tackling some more crucial issues if she expects to be taken seriously in a presumed 2012 campaign run.

Poll Results:

Which side are you on in the David Letterman / Sarah Palin feud?
  • David Letterman -- comedians should be allowed to joke about anything 73 (63%)
  • Sarah Palin -- kids of "celebrities" should be off limits 34 (29%)
  • Neither -- they're both acting ridiculous 8 (6%)
Total votes: 115

Latest Mainstream Publishing Trend: Nudity

The latest trend in mainstream magazine publishing: showing more and more flesh.

First, Sacha Baron Cohen strips down as his naked alter ego - the flamboyantly gay Austrian fashionista Brüno - for the July cover of GQ magazine (shown at right).

The actor-comedian's 2006 movie, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," was a surprise box-office hit. His new film, "Brüno," is scheduled for release July 10.

Baron Cohen staged an elaborate prank at the recent MTV Movie Awards. In character as Brüno, he descended from the ceiling on a wire in a fake mishap that ended with his bare hindquarters in rapper Eminem's face. Eminem stormed off in a huff, but later said he was in on the joke.

Now comes word that some prominent female and male athletes will drop their uniforms for the first "Body Issue" of ESPN The Magazine, slated to hit newsstands October 19. The magazine is approaching pro, amateur and Olympic athletes about posing au naturel, albeit artfully positioned or covered by sporting equipment. Their response has been enthusiastic, editor in chief Gary Belsky says. He declined to identify who has been approached. The question remains if he can pull off the issue without offending ESPN's corporate masters at The Walt Disney Company.

Monday, June 15, 2009

NIN's 'Last Show Ever' in United States?

Nine Inch Nails performed Saturday at Tennessee's annual Bonnaroo Festival -- and band leader Trent Reznor shared a big announcement from the stage: that the show would be NIN's last on U.S. soil.

"It just dawned on me that this is our last show ever in the United States," the Associated Press quoted Reznor as saying. "Don't be sad. I'll keep going. But I think I'm going to lose my ... mind if I keep doing this, and I have to stop." Reznor, NIN's only constant member since its inception in the late 1980s, has been recording, releasing new music and touring almost non-stop since 2005.

Reznor's remarks shouldn't come as too much of a shock; the musician announced in December that the group's just-completed North American outing, dubbed the "Wave Goodbye" tour, would be its last for the "foreseeable future." Co-headlining with Jane's Addiction, they're now slated to play a series of shows in Europe and Asia that end in August (note: click on the image above for more information on the tour).

Still to this day, the band's hit "Closer"gets to me every time. WARNING: uncensored video version here.
Photo: Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor performs at Bonnaroo 2009 on Saturday;
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
Free Download
As a thank you to their fans for their continued support, NIN is giving away their new album, The Slip, for free. Click on the image of Reznor above to link to the free download.

Coldplay Debate: Did the Band Plagiarize?

The potentially enormous plagiarism case involving Coldplay and guitarist Joe Satriani (now in the band, Chickenfoot) has taken another twist, with lawyers admitting that YouTube evidence could be used in court.

Coldplay released their new album 'Viva La Vida (Or Death And All His Friends)' last year -- and it later became the best selling album of 2008. With over 7.82 million copies sold worldwide, it has gone double-platinum here in the US. The band won three Grammy Awards for the effort, including song of the year for the album's title track. However some were not pleased by the group's success. Rock guitarist Joe Satriani claims that the title track borrows sections from his 2004 song 'If I Could Fly.' A legal battle has ensued, with Coldplay denying any wrongdoing.

Some musicologists believe that YouTube comparisons of the two songs could be Coldplay's undoing. While others think certain videos could strengthen Coldplay's claim, with some pointing out similarities between Satriani's song and even older works. Another musician who has pointed out commonality between the song and his own work is Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens). In a recent interview, the singer/songwriter claims that 'Viva La Vida' bears more than a passing resemblance to his song 'Foreigner Suite' - written back in the 1970s.

Islam stated that he has no intentions of suing Coldplay. The case between Satriani and Coldplay is ongoing. And so is the debate.

As a fan of Coldplay, I find it hard to believe that Chris Martin and his bandmates purposefully stole music from others. Let's face it, many songs sound familiar. There are a limited number of chords - and just so many ways to string the music together. Similarities between songs have happened before, and they'll happen again. But what do you think?

Click here to see a recent CNN story on the matter -- which includes the YouTube comparison. And then tell me where you stand. Comment below and/or take the poll (update: results below).

Note: For a limited time, Coldplay is offering a FREE download of their live cd, "LeftRightLeftRightLeft." Click on the band's image above to link to the download.

Poll results:
Do you think the band Coldplay is guilty of plagiarism?
Yes 10 (37%)
No 17 (62%)
Total votes: 27

September 16, 2009 update:
Guitar hero Joe Satriani and British pop-rock band Coldplay have settled their legal entanglements and the guitarist's lawsuit alleging copyright infringement has been dismissed, Satriani's representative confirmed to Billboard today. While details of the case remain sealed, legal sources tell Billboard a financial settlement between the two parties may have been reached. Coldplay will not be required to admit to any wrongdoing.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Concert Review: Eddie Vedder Solo in Philly -- Great Music...And Laughs, Too!

It's no secret to those who know me in the real world that I am a huge Pearl Jam fan -- seeing the band live in concert over two dozen times in five states since the 1990s. So you can imagine how excited I was that front-man Eddie Vedder brought his solo tour to Philadelphia last night. And I was not left disappointed.

The setlist (below) included a suitable mix of covers (my favorites were the Beatles' "You’ve Gotta Hide Your Love Away" and Bruce Springsteen's "Atlantic City"), some lesser-known Pearl Jam songs and tracks from the Golden-Globe winning soundtrack to Into the Wild. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you haven't heard the latter -- you need to buy it. And if you haven't seen the movie, you need to rent it. Vedder's songs so perfectly weave into the film's storyline -- you'll witness how a soundtrack really can enhance a movie -- and not feel like some after-thought tack-on that so many soundtracks seem to be.

The night didn't turn out to be the religious experience I expected. Probably because I've grown accustomed to hearing Vedder live so often (yes, even solo as many times on tour with Pearl Jam, he plays a song or two alone on stage before opening bands' sets). And as much as I find it endearing when he screws up mid-song, even Vedder admitted last night that he was overdoing it a bit -- and needed to focus better.

But when Vedder was on, and on he was for most of the nite - the payoffs were huge. It was obvious that the crowd enjoyed a rousing "Porch" -- so I could see how some would feel a bit cheated if they were only looking for a night full of Pearl Jam's biggest and loudest hits. But I appreciated Vedder's wise selections of "Sometimes,""Around the Bend" and "I Am Mine" -- more fitting for the intimate setting.

New Zealand singer/songwriter Liam Finn opened for Vedder -- and showcased his wacky varied styles. I was entertained enough -- especially when he traded in the guitar for drums. And I really enjoyed when he joined Vedder in encores of "Society," "Throw Your Arms Around Me" and "Hard Sun." Their banter about equating the seasons to stages in relationships was very comical: spring being foreplay, summer being f*cking, fall being marriage and winter being divorce. Ok, it was a had-to-be-there moment. But trust me, funny.

Setlist - The Tower Theatre, Upper Darby, PA - Thursday, June 11

Walking the Cow, (Brain Damage intro) Sometimes, Around the Bend, I Am Mine, I’m Open, Man of the Hour, Far Behind, No Ceiling, Guaranteed, (snippet of Fernando), Rise, Driftin’, You’ve Gotta Hide Your Love Away, (Uncle Ed's Beer and Cigarette Story Time - hilarious; see below), The Kids are Alright, Last Kiss, Atlantic City, Lukin, Porch

Encore: Society, Throw Your Arms Around Me, (snippet of Let's Go Phillies), Forever Young, ARC, Hard Sun

As part of Vedder's side chat (aka, beer and cigarette break story time), he told a funny LA Lakers story. After a game once, Eddie, Jack Nicholson and Sean Penn hit a bar to have a few drinks. Up walks this woman who Eddie described as, "a human version of Jessica Rabbit." She asked Jack in a sexy southern accent, "Hey Jack, do you want to dance?" And Jack raised one eyebrow above his dark shades and said, "Sweetheart, you chose the wrong verb." Ha. Classic.
After reading this Vedder update, are you jonesing for new Pearl Jam? Missed their June 1 performance on Conan O'Brien's Tonight Show debut? Well you're in luck -- just click on the photo above and watch the band tear the roof off the studio with their brand new track "Got Some" from the forthcoming album, Backspacer - tentatively scheduled for release on September 22.
June 13 Update:
Read more about this same concert in the June 13 Philadelphia Inquirer review here.
June 22 Update:
I was offered this free download of the concert; WARNING: I have not yet downloaded -- so cannot vouch for safety.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Daughter of Sonny and Cher Changing Gender

Chastity Bono, the daughter of Cher and the late Sonny Bono, is in the early stages of transitioning from female to male. Bono’s representative, Howard Bragman, told HLN's Showbiz Tonight. Now known as "Chaz," Bono is an LGBT rights advocate, writer, actor and musician.

Said Bragman, “Yes, it’s true — Chaz, after many years of consideration, has made the courageous decision to honor his true identity. He is proud of his decision and grateful for the support and respect that has already been shown by his loved ones. It is Chaz’s hope that his choice to transition will open the hearts and minds of the public regarding this issue, just as his ‘coming out’ did nearly 20 years ago.”

I met Chastity at a book signing for "Family Outing" a decade ago. SHE seemed cool enough. Let's hope HE will be cool, too.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Movie Review: Another Must-See for Fans of The Office

Are you a fan of tv's The Office? Are you already missing the great cast during the summer hiatus? Well, you're in luck. Most of the sitcom's actors are in films this summer -- so just head to your local movie theater to see them.

If you hurry, you can still catch Melora Hardin (Jan) in two earlier spring releases: 17 Again and Hannah Montana, The Movie. Mindy Kalling (Kelly), Craig Robinson (Darryl) and Ed Helms (Andy) all appear in the Night at the Museum sequel. And Helms is also one of the groomsmen in the current #1 movie (and must-see), The Hangover.

Later this month, Oscar Nuñez (Oscar) shows up as a jack-of-all-trades in The Proposal, while Rainn Wilson (Dwight) plays a professor in the Transformers sequel. Late this August, look for B.J. Novak (Ryan) in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.

But it's John Krasinski (Jim) who has a LEADING role in a movie this summer -- and here is my review...

Away We Go

Academy Award-winning director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) follows last year's under-rated dark drama, Revolutionary Road, with this wonderful lighter drama/comedy. Both Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live) and John Krasinski (The Office) are revelations as a young couple traveling across the United States and into Canada in search of the perfect place to raise their soon-to-be-born baby.

Along the way, they reunite with family members and some friends from their past -- many who are completely off-the-wall. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Catherine O'Hara and Alison Janney are especially good in supporting roles. Be forewarned, their scenes are fleeting, and you'll be left wanting to see more of them -- so, savor the time they're on screen. Luckily, Rudolph and Krasinski have plenty of screen time -- and shine throughout. Just like life itself, this film has a lot of comic moments -- with some tender ones mixed in as well. [Rated R; Opens June 12]

Grade: B+

Note: Click on the movie poster above to enter a Funjet Vacations' contest for a chance to win a 4-nite stay at a Sheraton Hotel & Resort! - update: contest now closed

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Adam Lambert's Rolling Stone Interview -- The Truth Comes Out

"American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert has landed the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, where he talks about sex, drugs and his "Idol" experiences.

Drumroll, the June 25 issue, the 27-year-old singer from San Diego acknowledges that he's gay, and says it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Says Lambert, "I'm proud of my sexuality. I embrace it. It's just another part of me."

He also reveals that he began smoking pot and tried Ecstasy for the first time while performing in a European production of "Hair" in his early twenties. Lambert says he was inspired to audition for the Fox network singing competition after having a "psychedelic experience" at the Burning Man festival in Nevada.

Lambert says he knew "American Idol" was his "only shot to be taken seriously in the recording industry, because it's fast and broad." Huh?

Meanwhile, a day after announcing season 8 champ Kris Allen's deal, 19 Recordings revealed it has also signed Lambert, and that, as widely rumored on the Internet, his debut album will be licensed to RCA Records for a fall release.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Apple Announces New iPhone 3GS Today -- Will You Buy or Try to Win One?

As Apple held its much-anticipated Worldwide Developers Conference today in San Francisco, California, much of the buzz was about the possibility of a new iPhone release. Here are the updated details:

  • New iPhone Features: Apple has introduced the new iPhone 3GS with better speed (2 to 3.6x faster), built-in camera (3 megapixel, not 3.2 as expected) with auto-focus and video capture, digital compass, voice control, and cut/copy/paste function.
  • New iPhone Pricing/Launch Dates: New iPhones will be available June 19 @ $199 for 16 GB and $299 for 32GB. Starting today, existing iPhone 3G will have lower price: $99 for 8 GB.
  • New Competition: The iPhone faces new competition from the Palm Pre, a smartphone that debuted on Friday and claims to combine Apple's popular touch screen with a more functional keyboard, like the one found on a popular business-class smartphone, the BlackBerry.
  • Macbook Updates: Apple also introduced a new 15-inch Macbook laptop computer with better battery life and a faster processor. Start price: $1,700. The Macbook with the 13-inch screen starts at $1,200. The company also lowered the price on its ultra-thin MacBook Air to $1,500. All three of these models are now $300 less than existing similar models.
  • Rumor Control: Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who has been ill, did not appear at the conference.


Squarespace -- a software publisher -- is giving away 30 iPhones in 30 days via a Twitter contest (details here). Keep in mind, the rules state that winners will actually be sent $199 Apple certificates. So you can use that to buy a new iPhone, TWO older model iPhones, an iPod -- or put it towards the purchase of a new Macbook or other Apple accessories! How would you spend it? Take the poll at the upper left portion of this page.

Best of Musical Numbers from Tony Awards: Intentional and Unintentional Hilarity

The opening and closing numbers from last night's Tony Awards offered the best moments of hilarity.

As part of an opening montage of musicals, Rock of Love reality star Bret Michaels hit the stage with his band Poison and the cast of Broadway's Rock of Ages. After his final note of "Nothin' But a Good Time," Michaels ran into a piece of descending scenery when he missed his mark. He was hit in the face and knocked to the ground -- suffering a fractured nose and busted lip (which required three stitches). See the unintentional smackdown here.

Meanwhile, host Neil Patrick Harris ended the show with more intentional hilarity. Click here for his closing number.

Note: Here are the results of the EntertainmentBlogger poll about this year's host -- it appears that Neil Patrick Harris is well-liked.

How would you rate the Tony Awards hosting job by Neil Patrick Harris?

Excellent = 71 votes (86%)
Good = 10 votes (12%)
Fair = 0 votes ( 0%)
Poor = 1 vote ( 1%)

Total votes = 82

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Billy Elliot is the Big Winner at Tony Awards

Billy Elliot, The Musical was the big winner at tonight's 63rd Tony Awards, honoring the best of the Broadway season. The tale of a British coal miner's son who dreams of becoming a dancer earned 10 statuettes -- including one for best musical. And in a first, the show's three young stars -- David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish -- shared the award for best peformance by a leading actor (click here to see their win).

Angela Lansbury won her fifth Tony for her featured role as spiritual medium Madame Arcati in the revival of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit. Other winners included Geoffrey Rush and Marcia Gay Harden -- who both now have Tony Awards to keep their Oscars company. The complete list of winners can be found here.

6/8 ratings update: Broadway's big night was seen by 7.45 million people. Nielsen Media Research says that's a 19 percent increase over last year's awards show, which had 6.27 million viewers. Nielsen said it was the biggest audience for the Tonys in three years, the second biggest since 2003.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Ratings for the MTV Movie Awards Soar -- Thanks to Brüno/Eminem Stunt and Twilight

Hosted by Saturday Night Live's Andy Samberg, ratings for the May 31 MTV Movie Awards jumped a whopping 92% over last year's show -- likely due to the huge interest by Twilight fans. Those fans tuned in for the exclusive first look of the trailer to the November sequel, The Twilight Saga: New Moon (click here) -- and got to see the original win five buckets of golden popcorn -- including one for best movie.

But the highlight of the evening was the kickoff for the marketing campaign for Sacha Baron Cohen's new comedy, Brüno. Cohen's bare-assed swan dive into rapper Eminem's face (click here) lead to incredible buzz -- and left many questioning whether Eminem, who stormed out, was in on the stunt. A few days later, Eminem confirmed he was -- even though many viewers surprisingly thought otherwise (see poll results below).

Note: Here are the results of the EntertainmentBlogger poll -- which closed as soon as Eminem announced he was in on the stunt.

Do you think Eminem was in on the Brüno stunt at the MTV Movie Awards show?

Yes = 55 votes (41%)
No = 79 votes (59%)

Total votes = 134

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Movie Reviews: Three June Releases

Beginning with these three reviews, I now include each movie's MPAA rating and release date.

The Hangover

From Todd Phillips, the director of Old School and Road Trip, this new comedy follows four men who travel to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. After a night of gambling and partying, the three groomsmen (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis) wake up the next morning not remembering a thing -- and unable to find the groom (Justin Bartha). The script could have been a bit tighter, and Heather Graham's role as a stripper is far too small. But there are plenty of hilarious moments as the groomsmen encounter a variety of problems retracing their steps in hopes of reuniting with the groom in time for the wedding. Look for a fun cameo by former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson -- playing himself. [Rated R; Opens June 5]

Grade: B+

The Proposal

I am not a fan of the average romantic comedy/chick flick. The scripts are usually so predictable, you can foresee the ending from the point of the opening credits. And this new comedy from director Anne Fletcher (27 Dresses) is definitely predictable. It also suffers from some pretty sad "unspecial" effects that look like they are from the 1970s. But this film ends up rating above-average for the genre thanks in large part to its very appealing stars, Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds.

Bullock plays a bitchy executive editor-in-chief of a book publishing company who forces her submissive assistant (Reynolds) to marry her in order to avoid being deported to Canada. He grudgingly accepts by negotiating a trade to get his desired position as editor at the company. When the immigration authority investigates, the two are forced to spend the weekend with his parents in Alaska in order to sell the lie. But will their feelings for each other change as they spend time together outside of the office? Finding out is worth the price of admission -- especially due to a great comic turn by Betty White as Grandma Annie. [Rated PG-13; Opens June 19]

Grade: B

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

Director Tony Scott (Top Gun, Man on Fire) brings us the remake of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, the 1974 heist film which starred Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw. As with the original, the screenplay is adapted from the book by author John Godey. Once again, armed men hijack a New York City subway train, hold the passengers hostage in return for a ransom, and turn an ordinary day's work for a transit worker into a face-off with the mastermind behind the crime.

This time around, Denzel Washington portrays the dispatcher and John Travolta plays the leader of the hijackers. Scott forces some distracting production techniques on us, and also expects us to ignore a couple of ridiculous oversights. But Washington and Travolta both give commanding performances -- and there is plenty of suspense as the clock ticks down for negotiators to meet the hijackers' demands.

James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) portrays the mayor of New York City, who is under pressure to address the hostage crisis. Is the actor finally able to separate himself from the television role that made him so famous? I think he may be on his way. [Rated R; Opens June 12]

Grade: B

Conan O'Brien's Debut Week: Ratings Update and Instant Classic Segment

Conan O'Brien scored a 7.1 rating Monday for his big debut on The Tonight Show, more than his major time-slot competitors, The Late Show with David Letterman on CBS and Nightline on ABC, combined. While his ratings dropped 30 percent for Tuesday's show (and will probably continue to erode all week), that was still 22 percent better than Jay Leno's average for the last quarter.

Last night, Conan delivered an instant classic with a modification of his recurring "In the Year 2000" segment. Introducing "In the Year 3000," Conan announced that YouTube, Twitter and Facebook will merge to form one super time-wasting Website called, "YouTwitFace." Check out the video clip ("YouTwitFace" is mentioned at the end; 5:15 in): click here

Note: Here are results of a recent EntertainmentBlogger poll on the debut episode:

If you watched it, how would you rate the premiere of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien?

Excellent = 18 votes (35%)

Good = 13 votes (25%)
Fair = 10 votes (20%)
Poor = 10 votes (20%)

Total = 51 votes

Celebrity Death Update: "Kung Fu" Actor David Carradine

American actor David Carradine has been found dead in a Bangkok, Thailand hotel, according to his personal manager, Chuck Binder. He was 72.

David Carradine, pictured in 2005, became famous in the 1970s after starring in the television series "Kung Fu." Binder said Thursday that the death is being investigated but could provide no other details. There is a rumor that he committed suicide by hanging himself.

Carradine's death was "shocking and sad. He was full of life, always wanting to work ... a great person," Binder told People magazine. Carradine, who became famous in the 1970s when he starred in the television series "Kung Fu." Modern audiences may best know him as "Bill" in Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" films. His career included more than 100 feature films, two dozen television movies and theater work.

Update: Carradine was found nude and hanging by a nylon rope in a hotel room closet. Rope was believed taken from the hotel room curtains. Police found no sign of forced entry into Carradine's room. An autopsy was conducted at a Bangkok hospital, but results will not be available for another day.

Monday, June 1, 2009

LiveNation Announces Ticket Price Cut with "No Service Fee Wednesdays"

Beginning this Wednesday, June 3, LiveNation will offer, for the first time, no-fee concert tickets for hundreds of shows (bands included in the special are Coldplay, blink-182, the Killers, Dave Matthews Band, Kid Rock, No Doubt, Toby Keith, the Allman Brothers Band, and New Kids on the Block, among others). will be selling 5 million tickets starting this Wednesday (the special goes the full 24 hours), but there's a catch: all non-fee tickets are for lawn seating only. While other no-fee deals will continue on Wednesdays throughout the summer on LiveNation's site, it's a pretty safe bet this week's deal will spark a site crash!

I guess the ticket controllers are finally feeling some backlash in this economy. Fewer summer sell-outs for sure. Thoughts?

June 15 update:

Live Nation has taken all fees and taxes out of “No Service Fee Wednesday,” responding to complaints that hidden fees remained when it launched the ticket promotion two weeks ago.

All amphitheater lawn seats — except for Dave Matthews Band shows — will be $24.99 for 24 hours beginning at 12:01 a.m. this Wednesday, June 17. Dave Matthews Band lawn seats will be deeply discounted, but at a $34.99 flat rate, according to a Live Nation spokesman.

The promotion could save concert-goers more than $20 per ticket, an improvement over the initial “No Service Fee Wednesday” which still included some extra charges such as a $6 per-ticket parking fee.

It’s too early to tell if the summer “no service fee” promotions will stimulate overall ticket sales, or if fans will just shift the day they buy. However, a company spokesman has said that Live Nation saw a 500 percent increase in ticket sales the past two Wednesdays.