Saturday, March 24, 2018

Previewing Billions: Season Three

I was utterly disappointed with how the first season of Billions ended. For me the season needed to end with Bobby Axelrod in handcuffs otherwise the show might go down like Damien Lewis’s last show Homeland which kept him around much too long. I realized in the second season that this was not your typical season long cops and robbers storyline stretched too long, this was a story of Spy vs. Spy with both spies bent on assured mutual destruction. And then the second season ended with Axe in handcuffs.

Of course Axe does not stay in jail long and posted bail in between seasons. That is not to say the perp walk is not having a lasting effect on Bobby, Lara has given him the boot and his assets have been frozen. So Axe and everyone at the company that bares his name are unable to trade and basically go in to work now and sit on their collective thumbs. And as you can guess it, people like Dollar Bill are not very good at sitting on their thumbs.

Even though he finally got his white whale things are not completely peachy for Chuck Rhoades either. He has a new hands on Attorney General from the heart of Texas who does not like the types of cases the New York office is picking. Oh yeah, and he still needs to make sure his involvement in the Bobby Axelrod case which included screwing over his father and best friend and draining his trust. All the while making sure Axe does not wiggle out of the charges.

I originally thought I knew how the first season ended. Of course I was wrong. But after watching two plus season, I am even more certain that there is only way the series can end: Bobby enters a new prison cell to find his new cellmate: Chuck Rhodes. As much as they hate each other, they both deserve each other more than anyone else on the planet.

Billions airs Sundays at 10:00 on Showtime.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Around the Tubes: 3/23/2018

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 The Last O.G., National Treasure: Kira, Shaquille O'Neal Presents: All Star Comedy Jam: I'm Still Laughing, Poetry in America, Idols, Icons + Influencers, Waco: The Longest Siege, and John Prine,

- Tracy Morgan and Tiffany Haddish star in TBS’ The Last O.G., a new comedy series that Morgan executive produces alongside creator and executive producer Jordan Peele. Beginning April 3, episodes will air Tuesdays at 10:30.

- National Treasure: Kira featurette featuring interviews with writer Jack Thorne, executive producer George Ormond, director Euros Lyn, and cast members Sarah Lancashire, Lucian Msamati, and Paapa Essiedu. National Treasure: Kiri will premiere Wednesday, April 4 only on Hulu.

- Comedian and actor Bill Bellamy (Any Given Sunday, How to Be A Player) takes center stage to host the eighth and final installment of Shaquille O'Neal's comedy franchise, Shaquille O'Neal Presents: All Star Comedy Jam: I'm Still Laughing, premiering on SHOWTIME on Friday, March 23 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on-air, on demand and over the internet. Filmed at The Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, the new special features comedy veteran and fan-favorite Bruce Bruce (Think Like A Man, The Wash, Idlewild) teaming up with Huggy Lowdown (Tom Joyner Morning Show), Aida Rodriguez (Last Comic Standing, The Comedian) and Brian "Da Wildcat" Smith (2015 Winner of The Nationwide Shaq All Star Comedy Competition) for a hilarious line-up in a high-energy night of comedy.

- New episodes of Poetry in America will be on public television stations nationwide starting Wednesday, March 28 through Wednesday, May 2. (Check local listings as some stations will debut the series at other times during the spring.) Poetry in America features Shaquille O’Neal, Cynthia Nixon, Frank Gehry, Bono, Herbie Hancock, Yo-Yo Ma, and more exploring poems on subjects close to their heart in twelve visually stunning episodes. The new series aims to inspire Americans of all ages and bring communities together through poetry.

- Aspire (@tvASPiRE), the network that reflects, shares and celebrates the experiences of black culture and urban lifestyle, announced today that its second episode of Idols, Icons + Influencers will premiere Sunday, March 25 at 8:00. Done in partnership with ABFF Studios, the television and production arm of the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), this dynamic new interview series brings viewers inside the lives of leading Black figures in film, television, sports, arts, music and social action, through one-on-one intimate and candid conversations. In this episode, host Chris Spencer (executive producer of Grown-ish, Real Husbands of Hollywood) sits down with actress Regina Hall (Girls Trip, Think Like a Man, The Best Man) in front of a live audience for an honest, and often hilarious conversation, filled with personal stories about the successes and setbacks in her life and career and some surprising lessons she’s learned along the way. Each taping is followed by a meet and greet hospitality event where the audience can engage with the featured guest. The first interview in the series was with acclaimed director, writer and producer Malcolm D. Lee (Girls Trip, Best Man Holiday, and Barbershop: The Next Cut). The third installment will premiere this August.

- Twenty-five years after federal agents raided an armed religious compound outside of Waco, Texas that was led by self-proclaimed messiah David Koresh, a new documentary tells the inside story of the sect and the bloody battle that resulted in one of the longest standoffs in American history. Featuring previously unseen archival footage and using only firsthand accounts by survivors and those directly involved in the tragedy, Waco: The Longest Siege looks at unexplored facets of the Waco story, the Branch Davidians and their charismatic leader, and the uneasy relationship between the media and national law enforcement agencies, which further complicated the deadly series of events that claimed 75 lives, including 25 children. Waco: The Longest Siege premieres Monday, April 9 at 8:00 on Smithsonian Channel.

- Legendary singer-songwriter John Prine has joined forces with PledgeMusic in support of his forthcoming album, The Tree Of Forgiveness, his first record of original material in 13 years. With all funds raised benefiting the Stoneman Douglas High School Victims' Fund, Prine will offer signed material exclusively through his PledgeMusic campaign. The album is set for release on April 13, 2018.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Previewing March of the Penguins 2: The Next Step

Penguin mania swept the world a decade ago with the documentary March of the Penguins. Director Luc Jacquet took home Best Documentary that year for following a group of Emperor Penguins as they left their land locked home to head to the sea to get food for themselves and their family. It was funny and heartbreaking and sure to touch the heart of every child and those young at heart.

Not much has changed in the past decade, the penguins still have their regular march to the sea, sure climate change starting to have some effect but that is barely mentioned in the sequel March of the Penguin 2: The Next Step. Though warming, it still gets to -50 degrees below. What has changed is technology. High definition televisions were still new in 2006 when the original came out, I did not get one until 2010 so I probably saw the first film in standard definition on a DVD player.

The Next Step utilizes new technologies and techniques to give a fresh new look at these majestic creature. Jacquet spent two months shooting in the Antarctic winter using the new technology of 4K cameras, airborne drones, and under-ice diving cameras. And though some things change, Morgan Freeman is back to narrate the new documentary just like the first.

Where the first film spend most of the time following the marchers, the sequel tells the story of two penguins, a father and son, out of 60,000 in Antarctica as they face and overcome the almost unimaginable challenges of life in this hostile land. We follow the son from the time as an egg up until the point he is ready to head to the sea himself. Keep in mind only one in ten penguins make it to adulthood.

Still the film hits many of the same beats as the original, it is tense when there are lives at stake, heartbreaking at time, but a lot more slipping than I remember. Still, March of the Penguin 2: The Next Step is worth checking out just to see the breathtaking advances in picture quality. Although I guess it may be time for me to upgrade to a 4K TV.

March of the Penguins 2: The Next Step premieres Friday, on Hulu. The original March of the Penguins is on Hulu now.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Five Most Anticipated Albums of Spring 2018

Someone pointed out to me that my list of the 100 Best Songs of 2017 was very chick heavy. Looking back at previous year end lists, it looked like a bit of an anomaly with the fairer sex lucky to make up a quter of previous list. But looking at my most anticipated music of this spring, maybe it was not an anomaly but a trend because most albums I am looking forward to are by female singer. Here are five albums I am really looking forward to over the next couple months

1. Love Is Dead - Chvrches (May 25) - There used to be a sophomore slump, but I wonder if maybe the third album is the hardest. If you have a great sound, you can just duplicate that on your second album and still have it sound good. But it is hard to stretch it into three albums without sounding tired. Chvrches released two very good album based around melodic electronic sounds. From the first single they did not sound like they were switching things up but things got a little more interesting with the second single where they brought into the singer from The National whos voice is a start difference to that of the Chvrches singer. Hopefully the album takes more chances.

2. No Shame - Lily Allen (June 8) - Speaking of third albums, Sheesuz was a turning point for Lily Allen. It seemed like half of the songs were he same snotty songs that she sculpted to perfection of her first two albums, but the other showed huge growth with a more mature Lily. I am actually hoping for more maturity from her fourth outing.

3. Dirty Computer - Janelle Monáe (April 28) - Janelle Monoe started out as this weird alt-RnB songstress but her latest Prince inspired song, Make Me Feel, may be the catchiest pop song you hear this year but still does not lose that coolness from her early work.

4. Golden Hour - Kacey Musgraves (March 30) - Musgraves is also on that tricky third album. Except her second album was a bit rougher. But both singles released from the new album definitely do not sound anything like the down home songs from the first two albums.

5. When My Heart Felt Volcanic - The Aces (April 6) - Rock's demised has been discussed for a while now, but one causality that does not really get talked about is that pop rock or power pop is pretty dead. Whether you consider it pop with a little edge or rock with a heavy dose of sugar, you just do not hear that anymore. Here are four friends from Utah, just a guitar, bass, and drums, and no weird computer sounds to be heard. Very familiar but very refreshing since no one does it anymore.

Here are a bunch of album that will at the very least be worth a spin on Spotify including the first album from a nineties one hit wonder, their first since that decades, and a bizarre collaboration from an eighties New Wave singer and nineties reggae artist.

March 23
Boarding House Reach - Jack White
Staying at Tamara's - George Ezra
The Two of Us - Chloe x Halle
Paradox (Original Music from the Film) - Neil Young & Promise of the Real
Castles - Lissie
Sex and Cigarettes - Toni Braxton

March 30
Yesterday Was Forever - Kate Nash
Liberty - Lindi Ortega
Electric Café - En Vogue
No Mercy in This Land - Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite

April 6
The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs - Wye Oak
Revamp: The Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin

April 20
44/876 - Sting & Shaggy
Vide Noir - Lord Huron
Primal Heart - Kimbra
Sparrow - Ashley Monroe
Volunteer - Old Crow Medicine Show

April 27
Last Man Standing - Willie Nelson

May 4
Good Thing - Leon Bridges
Free Yourself Up - Lake Street Dive
Lost Friends - Middle Kids
Dove - Belly

May 18
Electric Light - James Bay
Wide Awake! - Parquet Courts
Tell Me How You Really Feel - Courtney Barnett

May 25
Wildness - Snow Patrol

June 1
The Future And The Past - Natalie Prass
Hell-On - Neko Case

Ariana Grande
Black Star
Busta Rhymes
Christina Aguilera
Herbie Hancock
Kanye West
Smashing Pumpkins

And of course this could be the quarter that Dr. Dre releases Detox.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Voice Season Fourteen Blind Audition Power Rankings

As an avid watcher of Survivor, Mark Burnett’s other competition show juggernaut which seems to have one new stupid twist per year; I am a bit surprised that The Voice has pretty much been the same since season three. Sure the Knockout Steal was later introduced that was just copycatting the Battle Round Steal. The other changes since were pretty innocuous, they tried two Battle Round once which was stupid, same with twice not allowing voting during the Playoffs. The biggest twist was the Comeback Artist but really that is just the Knockout Steal for your own team. The Twitter Save was just a shameless brand integration.

We finally got our first real big twist in a while this season with the Block. Much like every Survivor twist, the Block was mostly lame and poorly executed. And really kind of cruel because if a singer really wants to be mentored by a coach that turned around, forcing them to pick a coach which may not a good fit kind of hampering their chance of making a run (unless they just happen to get Stolen later). I also find it conspicuous that each coach just happened to be Blocked once. Why wouldn’t everyone Block Blake from getting a country artist? Seriously, Adam always complains about everyone with twang going with Blake yet he ends up Blocking some Spanish singer from picking Kelly?

But I guess they really did need something to spice things up (though half the Blocks were burned in the first episode) because this may have been one of the bottom five talent pools in the show’s history. Maybe The Voice should copy another Survivor tradition and bring back former contestants. Until then, here is how I rank those who made this season:

1. Terrence Cunningham (Team Alicia) – I cannot confirm nor deny he is number one on my list solely because of his hair.

2. Hannah Goebel (Team Kelly) – What a smooth performance. Complete and utter shame she could not pick Alicia.

3. Spensha Baker (Team Blake) – People like to go gaga of belters, but this was just simple and beautiful.

4. Dallas Caroline (Team Blake) – Is this the first time someone has done Willie Nelson on this show? I believe Amber Carrington did Crazy which he wrote but mostly is considered a Patsy Cline song. Such a sweet song you would think someone would have done it before.

5. Wilkes (Team Blake) – Finally someone cool enough to sing The Wallflowers. But it is weird that this is the second country singer recently Lauren Duski being the other) who auditioned with a nineties pop-rock song.

6. Amber Sauer (Team Kelly) – A piano version of Shape of You was really interesting.

7. Kyla Jade (Team Blake) – I was surprised it took so long for anyone to turn. After three underwhelming performances to start the season, I thought the first compitant singer of the season was not going to turn any chairs.

8. Davison (Team Adam) – Decent voice but I was still kind of bored.

9. Johnny Bliss (Team Alicia) – There was a stretch of three seasons coinciding with Shakira being a coach where they had a bunch of Latin artists (this was in the early days when they had a bunch of shocking auditions instead of today’s where everyone fits into four different categories). So it was nice to get some diversity, even if was just shamelessly because there was a huge Latin hit last year.

10. Jackie Verna (Team Adam) – Overdid it in a few places but I mostly enjoyed the performance.

11. Molly Stevens (Team Kelly) – Another decent but utterly boring performance.

12. Jackie Foster (Team Kelly) – Another alright but kind of boring performance.

13. D.R. King (Team Kelly) – Going outside your genre is usually interesting, but RnB doing alt rock rarely works (except Maxwell doing Nine Inch Nails, look it up kids) he was fine, but never really came completely together.

14. Dylan Hartigan (Team Kelly) – Again, mostly boring but I guess that was slightly better than bad.

15. Livia Faith (Team Alicia) – One of my biggest pet peeves of this show is when singers try to do a song that someone already did a definitive version of. Amy Vachal’s version was one of the five best Blind Auditions of all time and Livia is no Amy Vachal.

16. Mia Boostrom (Team Adam) – has an interesting voice, but that was not a very inspiring song selection. I would be interested in hearing her try a better song.

17. Jaclyn Lovey (Team Alicia) – If she is going to be this season’s token indie young girl, I hope she has something a lot more interesting than what she did in the Blinds.

18. Genesis Diaz (Team Adam) – She needs better taste in music.

19. Sharane Calister (Team Alicia) – I was kind bored for this.

20. Pryor Baird (Team Blake) - There has been a rash of guitar playing blues men who are probably better guitarist then singers, and he may be the weakest singer of them.

21. Shana Halligan (Team Alicia) – I usually like singers like this on the show but but she was a little too weird for me. Maybe it was the weird song.

22. Alexa Cappelli (Team Kelly) – Well that was mostly boring.

23. Rayshun LaMarr (Team Adam) – A little too over the top for me. And by a little I mean way too much. Very show choir.

24. Jamai (Team Alicia) – He seems much more interesting than his song selection.

25. Kaleb Lee (Team Blake) – Interesting gravelly voice, boring song seletion. Unfortualy since I is Team Blake, he will probably do more boring country songs all the way to the final.

26. Brynn Cartelli (Team Kelly) – She was fine, probably mostly because the song selection, but fourteen is way too young. I would say fodder, hopefully Kelly does not have the creepy obsession with teenagers that Gwen Stefani does.

27. Brett Hunter (Team Blake) – Novelty acts have a very short shelf life on this show(I bealieve Cole Vosbury is the only one who did a novelty song and made it out of the Battle Round) so this was fun, but dude is clearly fodder.

28. Tish Haynes Keys (Team Adam) – So many good RnB singers, Tish performind so late n the Blinds was just too hard for her to stand out. Doing an overused Areatha Franklin song did not help

29. Reid Umstattd (Team Adam) – I have spent a lot of time this season blasting song selection by people with interesting voices. This was the exception where an mostly annoying voice sang an inspiring song.

30. Christiana Danielle (Team Alicia) - Meh, she is no Amy Vachal. I am actually a little offended Adam turned around.

31. Gary Edwards (Team Adam) – I really did not like what he did with that song.

32. Megan Lee (Team Alicia) – The Voice has a weird bad track record with Asians in that they get montaged at a very high percentage. I also find it weird that they finally put no chair turns on YouTube but not the montage singers.

33. Bransen Ireland (Team Blake) – Tulsa Time was a song on an Eric Clapton so I got excited when I saw that was the song he was singing. Unfortunately I did realize it was also a country song. Yawn. Seriously people, more Clapton on this show.

34. Teana Boston (Team Kelly) – Her voice just sounded off, like too nasally.

35. Drew Cole (Team Adam) – Though the bluesy twist was somewhat interesting, Sex and Candy is maybe the second worst one hit wonder of the nineties after What’s Up.

36. Jorge Eduardo (Team Kelly) – Obvious fodder.

37. Kelsea Johnson (Team Alicia) – Horrible song selection, and she was oversinging too.

38. Stephanie Skipper (Team Adam) – I have to wonder if anyone would have turned around had she not been singing a Kelly Clarkson song.

39. Austin Giorgio (Team Blake): It has been a while since we had a crooner on the showprobably because they rarely made the Live Shows. A good reason for that.

40. Justin Kilgore (Team Kelly) -Boring country dude alert!

41. Britton Buchanan (Team Alicia) – Tony Lucca was one of the best Blind Audition ever and this performance was not even half that. But it was wise for Blake to Block because sadly this is the same type of boring white dude that goes far.

42. Jordan Kirkdorffer (Team Blake) – Ugg, this seems to happen once a season, Adam turns for a horrible country singer that did not deserve a chair turn, then Blake turns just out of spite upping the number of crappy country singers.

43. Miya Bass (Team Adam) – It is hard to find a song we need less than a shouty version of that horrible song. I guess Adam needs fodder.

44. Jamilla (Team Kelly) – Montage, yawn.

45. Jordyn Simone (Team Alicia) – Montage, Yawn.

46. JessLee (Team Blake) – Montage, yawn.

47. Angel Bonilla (Team Adam) – Just how bad do you have to be to be the first every transgender dude on the show and get montaged? Listening to the studio version, it apparently is really bad.

48. Jaron Strom (Tea Blake) – Seriously Blake, what the fork?

Alright, time to see how each team stacks up in my patent pending ranking formula:

Kelly: 328
Alicia: 297
Blake: 289
Adam: 262

So much like Miley last season, the newer token pop coach seems to have the same taste in music with me. It does seem Blake and Adam pander to the bored housewife voting block and stocks their teams with boring white dudes. But who cares what I think, here is how the iTunes buyers rank the singers at the highest peak on iTunes.

1. Terrence Cunningham (49)
2. Christiana Danielle (149)
3. Molly Stevens (156)
4. Livia Faith (168)
5. Drew Cole (173)
6. Brynn Cartelli (211)
7. Jorge Eduardo (226)
8. Johnny Bliss (239)
9. Justin Kilgore (246)
10. Britton Buchanan (266)
11. Jaclyn Lovey (274)
12. Davison (347)
13. Pryor Baird (417)
14. Rayshun LaMarr (465)
15. Jordan Kirkdorffer (474)
16. Shana Halligan (508)
17. Brett Hunter (513)
18. Stephanie Skipper (530)
19. Sharane Calister (533)
20. Hannah Goebel (538)
21. Wilkes (559)
22. Dallas Caroline (561)
23. Kelsea Johnson (615)
24. Dylan Hartigan (657)
25. JessLee (671)
26. Spensha Baker (673)
27. Reid Umstattd (721)
28. Gary Edwards (739)
29. Jackie Verna (823)
30. Kaleb Lee (926)
31. Genesis Diaz (989)
32. D.R. King (1040)
33. Amber Sauer (1046)
34. Jackie Foster (1195)
35. Bransen Ireland (1245)

Now time to see who has the strongest team according to my formula:

Alicia: 230
Kelly: 140
Blake: 136
Adam: 124

Oh, wow, Alicia is dominating. The only problem is, as you will see from the Battle pairing, four of Alicia’s top five ranking singers on iTunes are in the same Battle pairing. I wonder if we will have another situation like last where three of the four finalists start out on Team Miley but Blake gets the win and Adam comes in second. Speaking of those pairing, The Voice YouTube page already announced all the pairings and also “leaked” a pretty uninspiring Battle of a lackluster Reputation track. I guess the loser will end up being Stolen and the promo for next week so allude to a Kelly Battle being the recipient of a three coach Steal. Ugg, these coaches are stupid. So here are the pairing with the singer who I think will win being listed first and ranked by how confident I am that I am right (which is not very confident because how overwhelming mediocre this year is).

Team Adam

Gary Edwards vs. Angel Bonilla
Mia Boostrom vs Genesis Diaz
Drew Cole vs Miya Bass
Reid Umstattd vs. Davison (Steal)
Jackie Verna vs. Stephanie Skipper (Steal)
Rayshun Lamarr vs Tish Hayes Keys

Team Alicia
Johnny Bliss vs Megan Lee
Kelsea Johnson vs. Jordyn Simone
Christiana Danielle vs Shana Halligan
Terrence Cunningham vs Livia Faith
Britton Buchanan vs. Jaclyn Lovey (Steal)
Jamai vs Sharane Calister (Steal)

Team Blake
Kyla Jade vs JessLee
Bransen Ireland vs. Jaron Strom
Austin Giorgio vs. Brett Hunter
Pryor Baird vs Kaleb Lee (Steal)
Jordan Kirkdorffer vs. Wilkes
Dallas Caroline vs. Spensha Baker (Steal)

Team Kelly
Hannah Goebel vs. Alexa Cappelli
Brynn Cartelli vs. Dylan Hartigan (Steal)
Molly Stevens vs. Justin Kilgore
D.R. King vs. Jackie Foster
Teana Boston vs Jamella (Steal)

Jorge Eduardo vs. Amber Sauer