Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Game 7 Edition

Pop-Culture-608x500I’ll admit that this year I kind of checked out on baseball. My Yankees just weren’t very good and I was a little emotionally exhausted from going to so many retirement ceremonies and final games for the players that I had been watching since I got into baseball. I needed a break; I didn’t go to a single Yankee game this year and the two games I did go to (Atlanta and Washington DC) I wasn’t all that engaged in. But I have to say that the playoffs have really drawn me back in, especially the Cubs historic run into the World Series. I love an underdog – I am a Buffalo Bills fan after all – so I’m always rooting for the Cubs to break their curse and finally win the Wold Series again. I don’t know that they’ll actually pull that off tonight as Cleveland has been more than a worthy opponent, but it’s been kind of thrilling to watch. My only complaint is that I am old and these games last too long. I’ve been exhausted for weeks. Whoever walks away the champion tonight, it’s been a fun ride and it has reinvigorated my love of baseball. Now the Yankees just have to be good next year. Hope spring eternal.

But even if you aren’t into baseball, you can still be excited since it’s also pop culture roundup day. And who doesn’t love that? As usual, I’ve scoured high and low to bring you the best that the world of pop culture had to offer in the last week. So get yourself caught up….and Go Cubs go!

Television

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Movies

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Trailers

  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk:

 

  • 24: Legacy:

 

  • Life:

 

  • Rules Don’t Apply:

 

  • The Crown:

 

  • Dreamland:

 

  • Split:

 

  • Frank & Lola:

 

  • The Eyes of My Mother:

 

  • xXx: The Return of Xander Cage:

 

  • Gifted:

 

  • David Blaine: Beyond Magic:

 

  • Fuller House, season 2:

 

  • 20th Century Woman:

 

Music

Books

Theater

Halloween Leftovers

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Odds and Ends

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Mashups and Supercuts

  • In honor of the World Series, a fictional Cubs/Indians mashup:

 

  • Tina Turner meets Queen:

 

  • Bryan Cranston does a dramatic reading of Little Mix’s song, “Shout Out To My Ex”:

 

  • Quantico’s Jay Armstrong Johnson paid tribute to Hocus Pocus:

 

  • The Ghostbusters theme played on pumpkins:

 

  • David S. Pumpkins makes every movie scarier:

 

  • SPOILERS A LEGO recreation of the deaths in The Walking Dead season premiere:

 

  • The Goonies recut as a thriller:

 

  • A Stranger Things Christmas:

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Spring is (Hopefully) Here Edition

I hate to jinx anything, but I think that Spring has finally arrived. The weather is slightly warmer, the days are longer and baseball is back. If that doesn’t mean Spring, I don’t know what does. I even heard the music of my first ice cream truck of the season. My mood has drastically improved the last two days – part of that is because I’m finally getting a breather at work, but I can’t discount the impact of the changing seasons. I think the worst is really behind us. Of course, we’ll probably get a blizzard next week just so Mother Nature can show who’s  the boss.

The improving weather doesn’t give me permission to slack of from my duties, however, so I’ve once again assembles a fantastic menagerie of pop culture goodness. There’s a little bit of everything in here, so if you have fallen behind on what’s going on in the world of pop during your winter hibernation this should help get you back up to speed.

  • Watch Crowe, Jimmy Fallon and The Roots play “Folsom Prison Blues”

 

Who knew Jimmy could play the harmonica?

  • Billy Dee Williams has dropped out of Dancing with the Stars. Probably for the best.
  • Drake has a new song – that name checks Jennifer Lawrence:

 

  • Conan is in Dallas all this week; he tries to become a Texas Deputy:

 

  • More details on the new season of American Horror Story: it will be called Freak Show and Michael Chiklis has joined the cast. Kathy Bates, Emma Roberts, Evan Peters, Denis O’Hare Sarah Paulson, Angela Basset, Frances Conroy, Gabourey Sidibe, and Jessica Lange will all be returning in some capacity.
  • How much do you love this photo of some of the Game of Thrones cast on a beach day:

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The Lannisters are the worst, but the actors that play them are pretty awesome.

  • Perhaps to prove progress has been made, George R.R. Martin has released a chapter from the next Game of Thrones book.
  • A youth orchestra in Spain did a flash mob version of the Game of Thrones theme:

 

  • Gotta love the NYC real estate market – the apartment where Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead has already been rented.
  • There was briefly rumor that the Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys were going out on tour together, but that isn’t happening.
  • For those that enjoyed The Grand Budapest Hotel, here’s a vignette on Zubrowka (the fictional European country dreamed up by Wes Anderson)
  • I’m still annoyed by the How I Met Your Mother finale, but this makes me smile – Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel perform “The Confrontation” from Les Mis:

 

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  • Justin Bieber won at Canada’s Juno Awards – and was roundly booed. When you’ve lost Canda, you’ve lost the world.
  • You guys…Ginuwine performed “Pony” on Arsenio.

 

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  • Also from The Tonight Show – Samuel L. Jackson did some Boy Meets World slam poetry:

 

  • A ranking of all of Frank’s hats on 30 Rock.
  • Some of the stars of Nashville (not named Connie Britton or Hayden Panettiere) are doing some live shows.
  • A model transformed herself into a real life version of Marge Simpson:

 

  • This just has to be seen to believed – Arnold Schwarzenegger does the Nae Nae Dance:

 

This man used to govern a state.

  • Celebrity beef of the week: Eddie Money vs. Kenny Loggins. Tough call – one has two tickets to paradise, but the other is familiar with the danger zone. Edge: Loggins
  • Star Wars released a featurette on the birth of the lightsaber:

 

  • This map determines what states will be best prepared for a zombie attack. I’m screwed.

Trailers:

  • The first official trailer for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:

 

  • A new trailer for FX’s Fargo miniseries:

 

  • Keira Knightly and Mark Ruffalo in Begin Again:

 

  • Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in Only Lovers Left Alive:

 

  • A new teaser for Louie, coming back May 5th:

 

  • A new trailer for The Purge: Anarchy:

 

  • A red-band trailer for Let’s Be Cops:

 

  • The new Tom & Jerry:

 

  • The Drop, James Gandolfini’s last film:

 

  • A red band trailer for Sex Tape, starring Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz (NSFW):

 

  • Katy Perry may be sort of dating Riff Raff (the rapper, not the character from Rocky Horror).

As always, we end with the mashups and supercuts:

  • Wolverine the Musical:

 

  • A Carnegie Hall ensemble played 43 cartoon theme songs:

 

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  • Mike Tyson training videos with Street Fighter sound effects added:

 

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  • Every suit Barney ever wore on HIMYM:

 

  • A supercut of every time Barney had sex on HIMYM:

 

  • For those of you that used to love Homestar Runner as much as me, here’s a Strong Bad/Daft Punk mashup:

 

  • Batman recut:

 

  • A supercut of actors gearing up for battle:

 

  • And finally, Breaking Bad vs. Street Fighter:

 

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel – A Review

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One of the trademarks of a great director is that they have a particular point of view and typically some signature trademarks. Martin Scorsese isn’t the only director to do a long tracking shot, but he is the man that has perfected it. A film with an over the top theatrical look and a mash-up of time periods is likely to be a Baz Luhrmann production. Tim Burton movies are instantly recognizable – not only does he work with the same actors repeatedly, but there are frequently macabre themes and a particular color palate. Tarantino movies have their own distinctive pattern of dialogue and musical choices. A Woody Allen film has its own telltale signs.

Wes Anderson is no different; his films all share his very unique perspective. His films are quirky and filled with playful shots and his costumes and set designs tend to embrace a slightly vintage feel. He certainly doesn’t go out of his way to make any of his actors or actresses look particularly attractive; if anything, he tends to frump them up to obscure their natural good looks. His movies feel more like stage plays than most movies and he has created his own certain brand of stylized nostalgia. The same actors and actresses tend to pop up in his films, further giving the impression that he is the leader of a merry band of actors that are simply putting on a show. You know instantly if you are watching a Wes Anderson film; even if I had gone into The Grand Budapest Hotel without knowing anything about it, it would have been instantly recognizable as one of his films. The whimsy is unmistakable.

Anderson has his own artistic vision that works for me sporadically; while I respect what he’s trying to do, I have a checkered history with my enjoyment of his films. I generally enjoyed The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore when I saw them, but I absolutely hated The Darjeeling Limited. Overall, I find his perspective too twee and precious for my personal aesthetic; his films feels a bit like they are trying too hard and the            quirk factor is turned up a just a bit too high. That’s not Anderson’s problem, obviously – I appreciate that he is good at what he does and stays true to his ideal; it’s simply a case of my preferences and his vision not being totally simpatico. I keep watching his films because they are always interesting and he’s an important modern director. Hope springs eternal that I’ll come around on his movies and finally learn to love them.

The Grand Budapest Hotel didn’t make me a Wes Anderson convert, but it did fall in the enjoyable column for me. It is a fun and silly movie that has a great cast and an amusing story, but it is ultimately something of a trifle. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a good time while it lasts, yet it didn’t make a lasting impression.

The Grand Budapest Hotel once again reunites many of Anderson’s favorite actors (Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Edward Norton and Bill Murray all pop up), but the real stars are Anderson newcomers Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori (the latter of which is a real newcomer – this film is his only credit on his IMBD page). Fiennes plays M. Gustave, the concierge of the hotel who has a habit of romancing the rich older women in residence. Revolori is Zero the Lobby Boy, who is taken under Gustave’s wing. When one of Gustave’s octogenarian paramours is murdered, Gustave is suspect number one and a series of screwball antics unfolds.

Ralph Fiennes is not the first person that you think of when you think of comedies; his resume is littered with serious dramas, but is light on anything heavy on the jokes. He completely rises to the challenge, however, and he is tremendously delightful in The Grand Budapest Hotel. He blends in seamlessly with the more frequent Anderson players and commits fully to the lunacy that is M. Gistave. When Fiennes is on screen, the film simply crackles and he has great chemistry with Tony Revolori. I’ve never seen Fiennes have this much fun and I admit that I had forgotten how great Fiennes is in general.

Tony Revolori also fits in well in Anderson’s universe, though I’ll be interested to see what he is capable of in future film roles. He is a nice sidekick for Fiennes and seems right at home among the odd characters that inhabit the film. There are worst ways to make your feature film debut than in a Wes Anderson movie.

I was never quite sure where the story was going to go next, which is to its credit, but it ultimately didn’t hold my full attention. I appreciated the twists and turns, but I did find my mind wandering as the events on the big screen unfolded. I am generally not a fan of screwball comedies with ridiculous hijinks, which this film was in spades, which may have been a major factor to my distraction. The film just moved a little slow for me, though a lot of ground was covered. It is something of a weird dichotomy where I was curious how this was all going to resolve itself, yet subconsciously was doing the math to figure out when this all would be over. I liked the story, but I was never lost in it.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a visually stimulating movie; much has been made over the years of Anderson’s fastidious attention to detail, but there is no doubt that his films looks exactly as he imagine. The Grand Budapest Hotel at times feels like a giant picture book that has come to life; if you liked the look of Moonrise Kingdom, you will appreciate the look of this film as well. Stylistically, they are very similar.

I really wish that I got more out of Wes Anderson movies, but I think I just have to file them under “not for me.” I think that he’s a talented director, but we’re simply out of sync stylistically. I recognize that I am in the minority on this – The Grand Budapest Hotel is currently hovering at 91% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. I didn’t dislike The Grand Budapest Hotel, but I didn’t love it either. It was a perfectly fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but once I finish writing this review I doubt I’ll give the film much thought again. If you dig Wes Anderson movies, I won’t be surprised if you think The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of his better films. I’m sure that it isn’t keeping anyone up nights that I don’t totally get these movies; I would like nothing better than to part of this fan club. But for whatever reason, it just doesn’t seem destined to happen. Wherever you fall on the Anderson spectrum, I don’t think that The Grand Budapest Hotel is a waste of time, though I think its impact and your overall enjoyment will be directly proportional to your relationship with the director.