Saturday, December 07, 2013

Best of the Week: 12/7/13

Quote of the Week: They were Kurdish , not to split hairs. But this is not something the president needs to know. (Dar Adal, Homeland)

Song of the Week: Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm – Crash Test Dummies (as sung by Alan Thicke and Wayne Brady, How I Met Your Mother)

Scene of the Week:

Big News of the Week: Veronica Mars Hitting Theaters: Forget Wonder Woman (she is moderately attractive, what more is there to say) because Veronica Mars finally has a release date. And it is not just getting your typical low budge limited theater run before being resigned to digital release, the movie will likely be coming to a theater near you. So mark your calendars for March 14, 2014 (for those that like counting down, that is only 96 days away). There is even a new clip featuring Ronnie’s first run in with Madison Sinclair for the first time in a decade over there. It also has an official name too, just simply Veronica Mars.

Preview Picture of the Week:

Sons of Anarchy Season Finale, Tuesday at 10:00 on FX

Free Download of the Week: This Christmas – Mary J. Blige (iTunes)

Deal of the Week: Greatest Hits as Low as $2.99: Get the best at a discounted price including Sarah McLaughlin, The Bangles, Harry Connick Jr., and Electric Light Orchestra.

New Album Release of the Week: Black Panties - R.Kelly

New DVD Release of the Week: Despicable Me 2

Video of the Week: Every year since 2007 DJ Earworm has taking the Top 40 from Billboards End Year list to create one huge mash-up of the year’s biggest song. He did it a little different this year, not waiting for Billboard and just going with his gut. This led to some omissions (Cups is the first to come to mind) and it is a bit surprising that the two biggest songs from the first half of the year, Blurred Lines and Get Lucky barely get any play yet the backing track is based on Don’t You Worry Child, one song I would never have associated with 2013 in either a good or bad way. The song does have a heavy dose Royals which give its this year's subtitle "Livin' the Fantasy".

Next Week Pick of the Week: The Sing-Off, starting Monday at 9:00 on NBC: The Sing-Off was a great winter break program for two seasons on NBC. It was on almost every day for two weeks and done. Then The Voice happened and NBC certainly wanted to have the show on fall of 2011 after its breakout season in the spring but since it would have been too much of a turnaround they instead expanded The Sing-Off into a weekly fall series and unfortunately it floundered. Then next spring, NBC announced The Voice would expand to two times a year while The Sing-Off was canceled outright and was not even put back to its previous pre-Christmas spot last year. Thankfully NBC had a change of heart (the surprise success of Pitch Perfect and its soundtrack last winter may have something to do with it) and The Sing-Off is getting rebooted starting Monday with the producer of The Voice, Mark Burnett taking the reins (which means the judges will take more of a m mentoring role like his other show, but no swiveling chairs… yet) and new judge Jewel (on her third reality show stint after Nashville Star and the little seen Platinum Hit) taking the spot of Sara Bareilles. Ten groups will be competing this season (same as season two) and unlike the last two season, it does not look like there will be any supergroups made up of past contestants. Here is the full schedule over the next three week and the themes:

Monday (12/9) at 9:00: Signature Songs
Wednesday (12/11) at 8:00: Party Anthems
Thursday (12/12) at 8:00: #1 Hits
Monday (12/16) at 10:00: My Generation
Wednesday (12/18) at 8:00: Movie Night
Thursday (12/19) at 8:00: Judge’s Choice
Monday (12/23) at 9:00: Finale

Friday, December 06, 2013

Around the Tubes: 12/6/13

I have gotten a plethora of cool press releases have been flooding my inbox recently that you may find interesting. This post will include blurbs on Six by Sondheim, Guess Who's Coming to Christmas, The Velvet Underground, AV Club, Playing it Forward, Dominion, Inside Comedy, Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did For Love, Fierce Bad Rabbits, Tess Druckenmiller, and Dallas.

- Directed by Tony Award-winner and frequent Steven Sondheim collaborator James Lapine, Six by Sondheim is a highly personal profile of a great American artist as revealed through the creation and performance of six of his iconic songs. Told primarily in Sondheim’s own words, this feature documentary weaves together dozens of interviews with the composer, rarely seen archival material spanning more than half a century (including newly discovered footage of Ethel Merman performing Gypsy) and re-stagings of three songs produced especially for the film. Executive produced by James Lapine and Frank Rich, the exclusive HBO presentation debuts Monday at 9:00. Check out the trailer below:

- UP, “America’s Christmas Channel,” presents the UP Original Movie Guess Who’s Coming To Christmas (#GuessWho), a funny, romantic holiday movie for the entire family, starring singer/actor/emcee Drew Lachey (98 Degrees, Dancing with the Stars) and actress/musician MacKenzie Porter (Christmas Rescue, Dinosapien). Kristoffer Tabori (The Carpenter’s Miracle, Judging Amy) directs from a screenplay written by Tippi and Neal Dobrofsky (Window Wonderland, Goodnight for Justice). Guess Who’s Coming To Christmas will premiere exclusively on Sunday at 7:00.

- Universal Music Enterprises and Burger Records have joined forces for the release of the 45th Anniversary of White Light/White Heat by The Velvet Underground with a tribute album featuring indie artists Gap Dream (“Sister Ray”), Natural Child (“White Light/White Heat”), Curtis Harding (“Here She Comes Now”), among others. Lou Reed famously said "No one listened to it. But there it is, forever – the quintessence of articulated punk. And no one goes near it." This partnership between UMe and Burger Records proves 45 years later, fans and bands of every age continue to listen and be inspired by this iconic album and is a true testament of the influence of The Velvet Underground.

- I will not start publishing my Best of 2013 lists for another two week, but those that want to start perusing others, AV Club has released their 23 Best Albums of 2013 list. Apparently do not care that Black Panties do not drop until next week.

- Crackle, the multi-platform entertainment network, announced today the launch of its first original music series, Playing It Forward. The special street performance-style follow-doc is produced by Team Downey, an entertainment company founded by Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey, alongside veteran music producer/composer Tony Berg and Kevin Lake. The Playing It Forward music movement will showcase surprise street performances by some of the world’s biggest artists in unplanned, unexpected environments across the country benefiting music education and charities of the artists’ choice. The first episode is at and features a surprise show by acclaimed singer and songwriter John Legend. The Grammy Award-winning artist performed three fan favorites, All of Me, Ordinary People, and Shine to an unsuspecting and amazed crowd at the Culver City Town Plaza in Los Angeles.

- The ultimate celestial battle between good and evil will descend to Earth in 2014 as Syfy officially greenlights the scripted drama Dominion (working title) to series, it was announced today by Syfy President, Dave Howe. Based on characters from the hit theatrical film Legion (2010), Dominion is an epic supernatural drama set in the year 25 A.E. In this transformed post–apocalyptic future an army of lower angels, assembled by the archangel Gabriel, has waged a war of possession against mankind. The archangel Michael, turning against his own kind, has chosen to side with humanity against Gabriel. Rising out of the ashes of the 25 year-long battle are newly fortified cities which protect the human survivors. In Vega (formerly Las Vegas), the largest of these cities, two houses vie for control and the stage is set for political upheaval and a dangerous power shift. Meanwhile, a rebellious young soldier begins a perilous journey as the war between the human race and the fallen angels hell-bent on their domination escalates.

- Showtime has renewed its critically-acclaimed documentary series Inside Comedy for a third season, set to premiere Monday, February 3rd at 11:00. The ten, half-hour episodes from comedy forces David Steinberg and Steve Carell, will continue to feature one-of-a-kind interviews with some of the most respected entertainers who have shaped the genre over the last several decades, with Steinberg returning as host. In addition to Jimmy Fallon, Zach Galifianakis, Jonah Hill, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Bette Midler, the new season will also include Alan Arkin, Dick Van Dyke, and Richard Belzer, along with more names to be announced.

- Composer, conductor, genius, mensch: Marvin Hamlisch (June 2, 1944 - Aug. 6, 2012) earned four Grammys, four Emmys, three Oscars, three Golden Globes, a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize before his untimely death, making him one of only two PEGOT winners ever. Hit after hit - "The Way We Were," "Nobody Does It Better" and scores for The Sting,Sophie's Choice and the Broadway juggernaut A Chorus Line - made him the go-to composer and performer for film, Broadway, every U.S. President since Reagan and concert halls worldwide. With exclusive access to Hamlisch's personal archival treasure trove and complete cooperation from his family, Dramatic Forces and THIRTEEN's American Mastersexplore his prolific life and career in the series' Season 27 finale, Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did For Love, premiering nationally Friday, December 27, 2013, 9:00 on PBS (check local listings).

- Westwood describes Fierce Bad Rabbit as, If the members of Modest Mouse and Arcade Fire joined ranks to record an AM Gold tribute to Wilco." I would not be able to come up with something more descriptive. You can check out Do You Want Me Now below:

- If traditional singer / songwriters are more your speed, check out Tess Druckenmiller.

- Three weeks until Christmas and the Ewings of Dallas have a season’s greetings for you:

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Previewing Bonnie and Clyde

Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger as Bonnie adn Clyde

After the runaway success of Hatfields and McCoys, it was only a matter of time before History dug the depths of the underbelly of American history. They settled on the most infamous love story of all time: Bonnie and Clyde. Though set in the Depression era thirties, their story is as relevant today as it centers on three subjects that still fascinate Americans today: sex, violence, and celebrity. This is why their name still resonates today with even current hip-hop royalty Jay-Z and Beyoncé co-opted the duo just last decade (Eminem also had a song of the same name with his daughter playing the role of Bonnie). If Bonnie and Clyde were alive today they probably would leak a sex tape to TMZ.

But on film, it has been over a generation since the last Bonnie and Clyde movie when Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty took on the titular roles (unless you count Teenage Bonnie and Klepto Clyde starring a pre-fame Scott Wolf and a post-Out of the World Maureen Flannigan). This incarnation stars Emile Hirsch (Alpha Dog) and Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) as the lovebirds that set off on a crime spree throughout the South.

Nope, this is not a Halloween episode of Modern Family
Along for the ride is Sarah Hyland (and yes, seeing Hayley Dunfey in the forties with a Texas accent is a bit distracting) as Clyde’s sister-in-law though she does not get much screen time until the second episode. Elizabeth Reaser (The Family Stone) plays the reporter who makes the duo a national headline and in a return, Bonnie sends them publicity photos. William Hurt (The Incredible Hulk) is the Texas Ranger who comes out of retirement to end the reign of terror. While Holly Hunter (Raising Arizona) pops up as Bonnie’s mother.

If you enjoyed the Hatfields and McCoys miniseries, History’s take on Bonnie and Clyde is a can’t miss television event. The theme of both miniseries are very similar though Bonnie and Clyde does sneak in some black humor, like when Bonnie sings at her father’s funeral (I would have liked more moments like this). The mini-series does take some silly liberties like how Clyde can see the future but for the most part it is as enjoyable as the channel’s last miniseries. Now the question is what miniseries will History plot next? I vote for Custer’s Last Stand.

Bonnie and Clyde premieres Sunday and concludes Monday both at 8:00 on History and will be simulcast on A&E and Lifetime.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Previewing Mob City

The boys of Mob City

After all the behind the scenes turmoil of his first foray into the small screen , you would think his time converting The Walking Dead to television would send Frank Darabont, the writer / director behind The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Mist, back to making major motion pictures. It is still unclear what exactly when on but is is widely believe to do with network meddling and budget issues. But Darabont was not completely scared off by creating television show because he quickly turned around and created Mob City for TNT which premieres tonight (just three days after The Walking Dead had its winter finale which many, including me, consider has been its best episodes yet).

Two actors who left The Walking Dead right after Darabont did pop up on Mob City. The new show is headlined by Jon Bernthal (Shane) as a police officer in Los Angeles in the forties who considers himself grey in a world of black and white hats. Then Jeffrey DeMunn (Dale who had worked on the three previously mentioned Darabont films and asked off The Walking Dead which was granted when his character was disemboweled by a couple zombies) as the head of the new LAPD mob squad. Andrew Rothenberg, who played the long forgotten Jim from the Atlanta days, also has a recurring role on the new show as yet another unmemorable character.

Rounding out the white hats is Neal McDonough, who after a long stretch as being the go to bad buy for film and television (just last year he played a sadistic mob boss son who had his arm cut off on Justified) is on the other side of the law as the chief of police who is determined to wipe out organized crime. There are out of site for the most part of the first episode but eventually Jeremy Luke (Jersey Shore Shark Attack) shows up as Micky Cohen with his hired guns Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes), Robert Knepper (who, unlike McDonough, does not play against type in his role as the guy who gets his hands very dirty), and Edward Burns (She's the One) as Bugsy Siegel.

Mob City is another adaptation for Darabont, this time from the critically acclaimed book L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City (the show’s title was changed to delineate itself from the nineties movie; though the first name change to Lost Angels was a better one then they ended up on). And like any good noir story, this one also has a femme fatale, this time in the form of Alexa Davalos (The Mist) who boyfriend (Simon Pegg, The World's End) in a rare serious role. Well, he does play a middling stand-up comic.

For some reason the series starts in New York City during probation which brings to mind Boardwalk Empire, and even features three characters who have already been on that other period show. It then quickly switches coasts where we meet Bernthal who gets propositioned by Pegg with some after hours work. Like most works of noir, Mob City is a slow moving (though not quit as slow moving as the often criticized first season of The Walking Dead whose six episodes really could have been condensed into one) stylized show. And that slowly moving feel could be eased by the fact that TNT will air the six episodes first season over the course of three week with back to back episodes each week. With a short, sweet and condensed season, Mob City could just help you get through the pre-Christmas television doldrums for those that find The Sing-Off too fluffy.

Mob City airs Wednesdays at 9:00 on TNT. You will be able to download Mob City on iTunes.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Previewing One Life

Nature fans who do not really like leaving the coach are living in the golden age of nature documentaries. There seems to be a new one every six months. Sometimes it is only an hour long, others last an entire week. The latest, One Life, premieres this Sunday on Nat Geo Wild. There is no unifying theme other than the focus on various members of the animal kingdom (there is a vague tread of motherhood that is abandoned early on but picked back up at the end). And of course there is a superstar narrator; this time James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, provides the audio commentary.

If you are a nature enthusiast who has seen most of the specials that have populated the cable channels over the past decade, you have probably started seeing the same subject repeated a few time, and there were a few animals here on One Life that I have seen on other specials like the Venus Fly Trap. And like many of the animal specials before it, a warning to animal lovers, there are plenty of animal on animal assaults throughout the special including a brutal takedown of an ostrich by three cheetahs.

One Life was filmed over 3000 days, across every continent and every habitat. And of course there are plenty of beautiful shots of landscapes that will only be heightened by an HDTV. And though there may be some images you have seen before if you have seen other nature programs, One Life catures fifteen filming firsts including a “yogi cam” to track elephants and a Jesus Christ lizard “walking on water” in slow motion.

One Life premieres Sunday at 8:00 on Nat Geo Wild.

Monday, December 02, 2013

You Better Watch Out You Better Not Cry

A Motown Christmas

RnB was at its best during the Motown era (as you may remember, it ranked in at number one on my list of the 25 Greatest Eras in Rock and Roll History). And of course whenever you are at the height of your game, you are going to release a Christmas song or two and Motown artists released their fair share in the late sixties and early seventies. By 1973, there were plenty of Christmas songs to fill an album (a second volume was released in 2001) with A Motown Christmas, this month’s induction into the Scooter Hall of Fame.

Of course both compilations was filled with festive songs from the labels biggest acts like The Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, The Jackson 5, and Marvin Gaye. Most of the Christmas standards are represented like Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman, and traditional carols like Joy to the World and Deck the Halls.

There were a couple of songs popularized by the Motown artists that would go on to be standards like the Stevie Wonder sung What Christmas Means to Me. But the best songs on the albums were those provided by The Jackson 5 as the young group captured the wonders of Christmas on song like Santa Claus Is Coming to Town and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. If you have yet to amassed a Christmas musical library to rival my nearly seven hundred tunes, A Motown Christmas may be the best place to start.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

57 Channels and Only This Is On: 12/1/13

Quote of the Week: Did you ever for one second think if I wanted to see you. What do you want to hear: That you were a good dad? The despite everything it is okay. What do you want me to say? Look, just write it down, just write it down and I will say it just as long as you promise that I will never have to see you again. (Dana Brody, Homeland)

Song of the Week: How I Met Your Mother Theme (stupid rhyming episode edition)

Homeland: I cannot believe they are trying to redeem Brody. Do they really think if he pulls this off, the American public will go, “oh we forgive you now?” He will likely be welcomed like he was by his daughter. And is anyone going to finally figure out he killed the Vice President? He was there when it happen. How can no one put two and two together?

The Walking Dead: Well that did not take long for The Governor to replace Brian. And all it took was Ramirez to suggest they share power. He is so completely back, he even recreated his fishbowl of walker heads at the bottom of the lake. I have a suspicion that he was the one who double back and killed the people of that camp. Now that the two episode set up is done, we will actually get to see him confront the prison next week.
You can download The Walking Dead on iTunes.

Masters of Sex: Lester the videographer is quickly becoming my favorite character on the show. Sadly it looks like he is being replaced as the cameraman.

The Blacklist: I really wished the show gave us fair warning this was a two partner. They kill Red’s bodyguard, cut to commercial, and then come back with scenes to next week. What!?! With Lizzie captured, I wonder if Red will finally admit she is her daughter (even though everyone watching has already figured that out) as a bargaining chip when the big bad threatens to kill her.
You can stream recent episodes on Hulu. You can also download The Blacklist on iTunes.

Survivor: Blood vs. Water: Last week’s promo suggested that there would be a newbie alliance which meant something would go horribly wrong this week. At the time I just assumed Tyson would get wind and play his Idol. Okay, that actually ended up happening, but what I did not see coming was Ciera would be the one to turn on the newbies. And then she almost got voted out for her truthfulness. Last week I thought Ciera could win, but turning on Colton and Hayden like that could really hurt her with them on the jury. Had she voted out Tyson instead, she could blame the boys, now everyone knows that she is the one that got Colton voted out. It also does not help that her mother openly helped Tina which could hurt Ciera with Vytas and maybe even Aras. Not that I really cares who wins just as long as one entertaining person makes it to the season finale.
You can stream recent episodes on You can also download Survivor: Blood vs. Water on iTunes.

Free Download of the Week: Paste Holiday Sampler (Noise Trade): Get festive songs by Sufjan Stevens, Otis Redding and Good Old War.

Deal of the Week: 2013 Albums as Low as $1.99: Get some of the biggest aqlbums of the year at discounted prices including the latest from Kacey Musgraves, Kanye West, Fall Out Boy, and Selena Gomez for just a penny under two dollars.

New Album Release of the Week: The Sound of Music (Music From the NBC Television Event)

New DVD Release of the Week: Drinking Buddies

Video of the Week: the fourth and final season of the HBO series Treme debuts tonight at 9:00 and below is a trailer:

Next Week Pick of the Week: The Sound of Music Live, Thursday at 8:00 on NBC: Last season NBC finally crawled out of the cellar but things were not that rosy over in Peacock land because it was pretty much buoyed by football and The Voice so over the summer it announced they would throw a few more strands of spaghetti at the wall this season like a bunch of miniseries (granted the planned Hillary Clinton has already been canceled). Another even they hoped would bolster their prospects is a live production of The Sound of Music headlined by Carrie Underwood. It is surprising it took so long for the network to schedule a live event considering Saturday Night Live, even on at a late time on the weekend, sometimes is the most watched show on NBC for the week when The Voice is on hiatus. There have been a few sitcoms that went live and ER did an episode once, but this is the first time in a very long time that there will be a three hour scripted live event. And with some many kids involved, something is bound to go wrong. It may actually be more entertaining if they did. Unless of course someone comes down with a Jimmy Fallon type bout of the giggles.