Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Christmas Eve Edition

Tis the season of giving and I could think of nothing better to give my dear readers than an extra jam packed stocking of pop culture links. There is a lot in here, which will hopefully keep you entertained as the blog takes a mini-holiday hiatus for a couple of days. If all goes according to plan, I should be back Friday with a Wolf of Wall Street review.

And now, my gift to you: more pop culture knowledge than you can shake a stick at:

  • You can now watch Metallica’s entire concert in Antarctica:

 

  • Lifetime has also announced dates for their Flowers in the Attic and Lizzie Borden movies.
  • Kate Winslet has picked a name for her newborn son and yes, it’s unusual (though kudos for NOT giving the kid his father’s last name of Rocknroll).
  • STOP THE PRESSES – a Tom Hiddleston/Benedict Cumberbatch dance-off:

I think the Internet just exploded.

  • I do love me some touchdown celebrations, so I appreciate the Wall Street Journal analyzing all 1,150 in the 2013 season:

They also created this fancy chart.

  • Watch Ron Burgundy perform “Ride Like the Wind” on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

 

  • Paul Rudd told Letterman about the time he tried to break up a drag queen fight while in his Anchorman 2 costume:

THAT should have been added to the movie!

  • Put Conan, Ice Cube and Kevin Hart together and watch the magic happen:

 

  • Conan also visited The American Doll store.

I think Conan has just earned his way to a season pass on my DVR. He’s killing it lately.

  • Watch a Jeopardy! contestant do his best Bane impression:

 

  • I enjoyed this Cougar Town ad created from thousands of corks. The Cul-de-sac crew loves its vino!

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  • Cracker Barrel pulled, then restocked, their Duck Dynasty merchandise after Phil Robertson’s controversial GQ interview.
  • Justin Timberlake photobombed some people at his concert:

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  • Ha! Watch Michael K. Williams (OMAR!) promote the Chalky White line of children’s books:

 

  • I’ll be on the market for a new car within a year; perhaps I should look into this LEGO car.

For your holiday perusal – a tone of trailers:

  • A new teaser for Community (January 2! Can’t wait!)

 

  • A teaser trailer for the new season of Orphan Black:

 

  • Anne Hathaway and Jamie Foxx in Rio 2:

 

  • A promo for Patton Oswalt’s new standup special:

 

  • A longer look at HBO’s Looking:

 

  • An animated trailer for Community:

 

  • Did the Oscars always have trailers?

 

  • Ha! Netflix did a trailer for their streaming Yule Log:

 

  • A trailer for Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel:

 

  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:

 

 

  • A red band trailer for 22 Jump Street:

 

  • The Other Woman starring Cameron Diaz and Kate Upton:

 

  • The Expendables 3 teaser trailer:

 

  • Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore team up for what I’m already predicting will be one of the worst movies of 2014:

 

  • Jon Hamm + Baseball = Heather’s wheelhouse. I will see Million Dollar Arm 100 times.

 

  • A third season trailer for Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee:

 

  • I have never seen Kanye as happy as he is in this photo, eating ice cream:

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There has been a sudden proliferation of oral histories;

A few quick Mashups and Supercuts

  • Check out this illustrated mashup of memorable pop culture events in 2013:

 

 

  • I try to keep you guys up to date, but if you want a real crash course, here’s a three minute video on 2013 pop culture:

 

  • Watch Jeff Winger and Dean Pelton’s relationship on Community reimagined as a psychological thriller:

 

And finally, we end with a bunch of holiday stuff:

  • A holiday themed Billy on the Street featuring Amy Poehler:

 

  • For those of you who feel a little grinchy, an “I hate Christmas” supercut:

 

  • This never gets old – the Happy Endings Hip Hop Santa dance-off:

 

  • A Peanuts flashmob? Outstanding!

 

  • Watch Elf re-enacted with pugs:

 

  •  Whoa – check out this gingerbread Optimus Prime:

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  • A song made only from Christmas tree ornaments:

 

  • Some guy named Paul inserted himself into Home Alone:

 

  • In honor of Festivus, a supercut of Seinfeld characters airing their grievances:

I’ve got a lot of problems with you people.

  • “Defying Gravity” as sung by Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer:

 

  • And finally…..Conan reveals a terrifying twist for Elf on the Shelf:

 

Wishing you all a very happy holidays – however you choose to celebrate, I hope you are smiling.

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – May Day Edition

Happy first day of May! While this date used to be commemorated with festivals and May baskets, now it just means that I need to pay my rent, which is decidedly less glamorous. I think we should bring all those celebrations back, if for no other reason I could use a day off from work and it is a gorgeous day outside. I’d even be willing to dance around a Maypole if need be.

While I try to convince my boss that we should be observing this ancient spring festival, kick back and enjoy your bi-weekly roundup of pop culture stories that you might have missed. If you see a story that you think should be included in this feature, please feel free to hit me up on the blog’s Facebook page or tweet me (@AsHeathersWorld). And don’t forget to vote to decide what my summer viewing project will be; the polling sample is small at the moment, but The Good Wife is off to a narrow lead. Finally, a very special welcome to all the new people following the blog – your readership is much appreciated!

Now let’s get our pop culture on!

  • Seth Rogen and FX are teaming up for an animated program about Bigfoot.
  • Check out this jazzy cover version of Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” that will be in The Great Gatsby:

 

  • However, the soundtrack also features this horrific cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black.” Beyoncé is fine, but Andre 3000 ruins it:

 

  • Johnny Depp is in talks to star in the big screen adaption of the Broadway musical Into the Woods.
  • The Madonna/Elton John feud has been squashed. This has really been going on a decade?
  • A woman recreated the opening of a bunch of TV shows for her hubby’s birthday:

 

  • More pop culture birthday: a How I Met Your Mother themed party.
  • Mad Men has gone to the dogs:

 

  • After the success of Veronica Mars, Zach Braff has also turned to Kickstarter to fund his new movie. For some reason, this has people all worked up into a tizzy. I know it’s not cool to say, but I actually really liked Garden State, so I’m eager to see this new film.
  • All My Children and One Life to Live have been revived; the soaps started an on-line only run o Monday.

Renewal news:

  • The CW has renewed The Vampire Diaries, Heart of Dixie and Beauty and the Beast. They also picked up The Vampire Diaries spinoff, The Originals.
  • NBC has renewed Parenthood (yay!), Chicago Fire, Revolution, Grimm and Law & Order: SVU.
  • Two and a Half Men will be back, short a half man; Angus T. Jones will not be a regular.
  • Comedy Central has renewed The Jeselnik Offensive and Nathan for You.
  • MTV has renewed Snooki and JWoww and is reviving Nick Cannon Presents Wild n Out.

 

  • Paul Scheer and Will Arnett decided, for unknown reasons, to recreate the Bill Clinton/Arsenio Hall interview (with some creative license):

 

  • Armie Hammer and Tom Cruise are slated to co-star in Guy Richie’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E film remake.
  • Neil Diamond is donating the profits from “Sweet Caroline” the week of the Boston bombings to a charity for the victims.
  • Quentin Tarantino’s car – driven by John Travolta in Pulp Fictionhas been recovered 17 years after it was stolen.
  • This guy nails his Louis CK impression (NSFW):

 

  • This is kind of spectacular: Norman Reedus (Daryl from The Walking Dead) photobombed a Game of Thrones fan picture:

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  • The Tony nominations were announced. Tom Hanks is closer to getting an EGOT.
  • In honor of the Red Headed Stranger’s 80th birthday, watch Willie Nelson’s “audition tape” for The Hobbit:

 

  • I haven’t played in years, but I was interested to hear a new Grand Theft Auto game is coming out in September. I always enjoyed that game, though I mostly just drove around and wrecked stuff.
  • Watch SNL’s Kate McKinnon do her Ellen DeGeneres impression for Ellen on Ellen:

 

  • Fans of The Simpsons may want to check out this website that encourages artists to reinterpret Homer Simpson.
  • Supervillian speed dating:

 

  • This is hilarious – E.L. James, author of the Fifty Shades of Grey series – is releasing a writing advice journal. Those books were a lot of things, but well written wasn’t one of them.
  • NBC will allegedly be burning off the remaining episodes of the dreadful Do No Harm over the summer.
  • Watch a short film directed by Michael Cera:

 

  • I didn’t make it again this year, but the winners of the Tribeca Film Festival have been announced.
  • Michael Bublé put on an impromptu show in the NYC subway:

 

  • House of Card’s Corey Stoll is attached to a vampire pilot for FX from Carlton Cuse and Guillermo del Toro, based on the del Toro’s book The Strain.
  • A musical Dowton Abbey spoof? Why thank you! (contains spoilers)

 

  • Uproxx created a power ranking of Ted’s girlfriends on How I Met Your Mother. Zoey should have been much lower – she was the worst.

As always, we end with the mashups and supercuts:

  • It’s a quip off between Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess and Game of Throne’s Lady Olenna
  • Here’s a mashup of trailers for summer 2013 movies:

 

  • The Game of Thrones/Friends mashup (contains GoT spoilers):

 

  • MineKart 64 – Minecraft and Mario Kart 64:

 

  • Statler, Waldorf, & Inglourious Basterds

 

  • This Taylor Swift/Demi Lovto mashup (“I Knew You Had a Heartattack”) is pretty catchy:

 

  • Mad Men and The Simpsons both have done episodes involving Planet of the Apes, so it was only a matter of time before someone put them together:

 

  • An Arnold Schwarzenegger supercut:

 

  • And finally, here is Cookie Monster singing Tom Waits (NSFW). I am embarrassed to say how many times I have watched this:

Vikings – The History Channel

The History Channel is not usually the first place that I go for my television enjoyment; though I do like history, I abandoned them long ago when almost every special had something to do with WWII. I get it – “the greatest generation” – but there is only so much a person can hear about that stuff and for this person, the bar is set pretty low. I’m all Hitler-ed out at this point (that’s a sentence I never thought I’d have to write). Channel surfing has shown me that The History Channel has recently changed their focus, but their new slate of programming isn’t much interest to me either. I’m not really sure what Swamp People and Pawn Stars have to do with history, but those types of shows aren’t going to woo me back to the network.

I did, however, enjoy the Hatfields & McCoys miniseries that the History Channel did last year. So when it was announced that they were dipping their toe into scripted programing with their first series, I decided to give it a shot. While Vikings isn’t necessarily appointment television, I found it surprisingly enjoyable. It will certainly help fill the void until (the vastly superior) Game of Thrones returns later this month. But a solid cast and edgier than expected material, for The History Channel at least, makes Vikings a fun way to spend an hour.

Now comparisons with Game of Thrones are inevitable; while Game of Thrones is fictional (sorry – Westeros isn’t real), it certainly borrows its look and general  mood from the European Middle Ages – with some dragons thrown in for good measure. So while many will look at Vikings as a Game of Thrones clone, Vikings is actually trying to historically represent that time period, while Game of Thrones is simply borrowing. So if anything, they are both relying on the same source material for different purposes. So on both shows you are going to see beheadings, crows, interesting facial hair and general filth. Of course, Vikings doesn’t help matters by casting a young man that has a passing resemblance to a young King Joffrey, though so far this kid doesn’t seem to be a sociopath (yet).

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The general story of Vikings does differs  from that of Game of Thrones; while there is some minor overlap – I think it’s required that all overlords be kind of jerks – the main focus so far is on Viking warrior Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) and his family. Ragnar believes that there is land to the West to be discovered (and, one would assume, pillaged and plundered), a challenge to the conventional wisdom that it is impossible to sail across the vast sea. His lord Jarl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne) forbids such an excursion, so Ragnar secretly commissions his own boat and assembles a team with his brother Rollo (Clive Standen) to test out his theory, in direct disobedience of his ruler.

While this certainly isn’t as sophisticated as Game of Thrones, I found myself drawn into Vikings. This is a show that could get cheesy very quickly, but those tendencies were tempered. My knowledge of Vikings is limited to what I’ve gleamed from Hagar the Horrible and Rose Nylund stories on Golden Girls, so I have no idea if there are historical inaccuracies in the series, nor do I really care. What I’m interested in are good storylines and compelling characters and two episodes in, Vikings appears to have both.

Now, it doesn’t hurt that star Travis Fimmel bears more than a passing resemblance to one of my personal favorites Charlie Hunnam (Jax on Sons of Anarchy). Even if the show was terrible, that would be worth tuning in for.

Hunnam on the right, Fimmel on the left.

Hunnam on the left, Fimmel on the right. I don’t know what mold was used to make these guys, but keep using it.

But Fimmel and Hunnam have more in common than just good looks and the ability to pull off a straggly beard. Both are able to pull off characters that are bad-asses, but that also have a heart. It’s early on in Vikings, but Ragnar seems completely devoted to his wife Lagertha (Kathryn Winnick) and his children. Both actors play characters that do bad things, but neither are necessarily bad men. I was unfamiliar with Fimmel before this show, but he does a nice job as the lead.

I was glad to see that The History Channel decided to “go for it” in regards to pushing the envelope on violence. You can’t really adequately tell the story of the Vikings without some brutality; these are not men who made a name for themselves by being well behaved gentleman. The first two episodes have featured any major warfare, but the opening sequence from the premiere indicates that they will not hold back when the story line calls for some viciousness. If a guy needs to be beheaded or be impaled by a spear, it will happen. Vikings is much tamer when it comes to sex; while there is plenty of bawdy language, most of the action takes place off screen. In other words, do not expect the “sexposition” (exposition occurring during sex) that has become a staple of Game of Thrones. You can get away with a lot more violence than nudity on basic cable.

Some other thoughts:

  • I was so excited to discover that Gabriel Byrne is a member of the cast. I love him. He was so great as the therapist on the excellent, yet little watched, HBO show In Treatment. He elevates everything he’s in.
  • I appreciate that they made Lagertha as much of a bad-ass as her husband. Women don’t get to be warriors in a lot of these shows, but she is not to be trifled with. She can handle her business. Arya Stark would be impressed.
  • I know that Loki is an actual Norse god, but every time they reference him, I can’t help but think of The Avengers, and this scene in particular:

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  • New rule based on this show – never trust a guy named after a candy bar.
  • GQ does its own Vikings and Game of Thrones comparison.
  • It isn’t a show about Vikings if there isn’t at least one Skarsgård in the cast – Gustaf Skarsgård plays Floki and is the younger brother of Alexander (Eric, True Blood). Though he may not have inherited all of his brother’s devastating good looks, you can definitely see the family resemblance, especially in the eyes.
  • The wife of Byrne’s Viking leader may look familiar – she was Mr. Shue’s crazy wife on Glee.
  • Only the first episode has aired on television, but The History Channel has made the second episode available on-line in advance of its airing on Sunday night.
  • My Sunday nights are already pretty swamped – The Walking Dead, Once Upon a Time, Revenge, Girls – but The History Channel repeats episodes several times throughout the week. So it is easy to catch up.

I don’t know that Vikings is going to be that significant of the show, but for their first foray into scripted series The History Channel at least made a show that is entertaining.  I’m curious to see what happens to these characters down the line, so I’ll be continuing to watch. If nothing else, it serves as a nice appetizer while I impatiently wait for Game of Thrones to return. Vikings is not as substantial as Game of Thrones, but it’s not trying to be. Vikings has turned out to be a surprising little discovery.

Vikings airs Sunday nights at 10 pm on The History Channel.