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Will Sparks Fly? February 23, 2010

Posted by Patrick in Cinematics, Lit.
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Curiously, in the next few months there are not one but two Nicholas Sparks book adaptations on the way and inevitably, everyone’s going to be debating which was better.

The first, Dear John, stars Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum as a war-torn couple, separated by his decision to go fight for his country. Throughout his time abroad as a soldier, they exchange letters, which keep him going through his “increasingly dangerous missions” and blah blah blah while she sits at home and waits for him to return.

The other film is Sparks’ Miley Cyrus vehicle The Last Song. This film has a more chequered past, originally scheduled for release in January, but subsequently postponed until March 31st (at least in the US). The storyline even seems a bit less stimulating – Cyrus plays a mopey teen who goes to live with her dad for the summer, and falls in love with a guy on the beach.

Although Miley’s name attached to anything would normally seem like a safe bet, the film seems a to be skewing a little older than her usual demographic. The problem is, however, the type of people who loved The Notebook are likely to be put off by the presence of Miley Cyrus in the film. It doesn’t help either that Liam Hemsworth is a complete unknown, famous only for his real life attachment to the Hannah Montana star.

Although I’m never one to completely write Miley off, I’m going to wager that Dear John will fare much better at the box office (judging by its ticket sales to date, The Last Song has a lot to live up to), given that it panders almost shamelessly to The Notebook fans.

And if they had come out the same weekend, Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum of course would have had some sort of sabotage mission planned.

“If The Last Song was coming out the same weekend as Dear John, we’d have to collaborate on some sort of sabotage mission,” Seyfried told MTV.

“I’d burn it,” Tatum added. “I’d sabotage it somehow.”

Once they’re better than the god-awful Nights in Rodanthe, I’ll be happy.

Check out the trailers below and let the battle commence.

Dear John (out 16th April in Ireland)

The Last Song (out 30th April in Ireland)

Fairtrade Freebies February 23, 2010

Posted by Paula in Muzak.
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An old manager of mine, in one of the many part-time jobs I’ve had in this lifetime, claimed that reggae music increased customers’ desire to purchase. She piped it out constantly over the shop’s speakers. Since then, I’ve had an aversion to any kind of…shall we say…afro-beats.

Cadbury’s Big Swap Songs album, released as part of their 2010 Fairtrade campaign, is a collection of covers by Ghanian group The Big Ghana Band. And it’s definitely grown on me.

Paolo Nutini collaborated with The Big Ghana Band for the album’s opening song, a reggae’d up version of his new single, A Pencil Full of Lead. I think I like it better than the original. The album also features covers (some dodgy, but most quite good) of Girls Aloud, Goldfrapp and Elbow to name but a few. Big Swap Songs is available for download on the Cadbury’s site. It’s free (and legal…), so why wouldn’t you?

HBO Killed the Radio Star? February 22, 2010

Posted by Paula in Televisual.
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A new animated series, inspired by The Ricky Gervais Show podcasts, will air on Channel 4 this April. ‘Inspired’ is perhaps the wrong word though. The series, which has already aired on US cable channel HBO is, quite literally, an animated version of the original podcasts.

Ricky Gervais, Steve Merchant and Karl Pilkington sit in a studio chatting. Only this time, we get to see them chatting. Or, a Hanna Barbara-style animated version of them chatting. There’s no doubt that the audio content itself is incredibly entertaining, but if you’ve listened to the audiobooks (and you still can via iTunes), are you getting anything extra from seeing it in cartoon format? It seems like a group of HBO execs sat down and said “God, these guys are funny. Pity we don’t have a radio station. Pity we can’t get the three of them in here to say it all again on camera. If only there was any way we could make this into a telvision sh- oh wait…”

Apparently it takes 17 animators to make each episode of the show. Is it really worth it? Decide for yourself on April 23, or watch the clips below and after the jump…

(more…)

The Little Multi-National Corporation That Could February 22, 2010

Posted by Paula in Cinematics.
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The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Beauty and the Beast… I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that anyone reading this who is under the age of 30 owned at least one of these on video (and still does, even if they don’t own an actual VHS player anymore). Disney’s streak of classics from 1988 onwards defined the childhoods of millions.

But what came before 1988? Well, not very much really. There was a huge lull in the number of Disney animations released post-The Rescuers (1977) and pre-Roger Rabbit (1988). And unless you are an extremely dedicated Disney fan, you would be forgiven for not remembering such live-action classics as The Cat From Outer Space (1978) and The Journey of Natty Gan (1985).

Waking Sleeping Beauty is the story of Disney’s efforts to drag itself out of the doldrums, and of the stellar work done by animators like John Lasseter and Tim Burton from the mid-1980s onwards. The documentary is currently doing the festival circuit in the US, and begins its limited theatrical release on March 26. Fingers crossed it makes it to this side of the Atlantic.

Vampire Weekend Make a Racquet February 19, 2010

Posted by Patrick in Muzak.
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Not only have Vampire Weekend decided to release my favourite song from new album Contra, Giving Up the Gun as their second single, but its accompanying video is the best thing I’ve seen all week. Everyone’s dressed in tennis gear and some ginger girl comes out and starts playing against a load of random opponents.

First up is Wu-Tang Clan member RZA as a line judge, swiftly followed by Joe Jonas and Jake Gyllenhaal, who each play the girl and are both beaten. Jake Gyllenhaal even brings a naggin on to the court with him.

Lil Jon even shows up near the end as the girl’s tennis coach. Along the way she also takes on a giant woman, two helmeted people, a samurai and herself. And also herself three times. Then she pours a load of milk over herself.

Ezra Koenig, the band’s lead singer shed some light on the bizarre video in an interview with Spinner magazine:

“I was stressed out one night worrying about the video and an image popped into my head of our friend Jenny (who’s also in the ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ video) playing tennis against a samurai. It grew from there,” Koenig tells Spinner.

“We always thought RZA would be perfect. We’d been in touch with Lil Jon since the first album. He heard the reference on ‘Oxford Comma’ and sent us some cases of Crunk Juice. Joe Jonas and Jake Gyllenhaal were both excellent — lot of improvisation and some surprisingly powerful serves.”

“‘Giving Up the Gun’ just means turning your back on aggression and selfishness,” Koenig explains of the song’s concept. “The heroine of the video isn’t an amazing tennis player, but she has heart. She stays calm despite the unfairness of it all.”

Ah sure, no one said it had to make sense. Watch it below.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Avril in Wonderland February 18, 2010

Posted by Patrick in Cinematics, Muzak.
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As excitement for the brand spanking new Alice in Wonderland 3D live action spectacular builds to a fever pitch, Avril Lavigne drops the video for her song from the soundtrack, Alice.

Although the song also has the task of launching one of the film’s soundtracks, Almost Alice, it’s also Avril Lavigne’s chance to prove herself after the relative failure of her last album and tour. The Best Damn Album and Tour they weren’t. It’s hard to gauge what Tim Burton was thinking, or indeed smoking, when he plonked the most important piece of the soundtrack in the Canadian sk8er girl’s hands.

Visually, the video is gorgeous, with Avril prancing around wonderland with freaky blue eyes, seemingly playing the role of Alice. She sits at the table with Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter for nearly a minute of the song, perhaps placed there so some dimwit could say “I can’t believe they got Johnny Depp to appear in an Avril Lavigne video!”

That aside, the movie scenes are mostly spliced in quite well, until the part when she opens a random door and they bung a load of clips in to take up some of the running time.

The song itself is a bit of a grower. The first time I heard it I thought it was god-awful, but it becomes more listenable over time. Lavigne’s vocal completely overpowers the song, with a so-so verse contrasted by an actually-quite-catchy-and-good chorus.

I shudder to think of Lavigne performing this live, because unless you’re into shout-singing that chorus is not going to be pretty. Check out the video below.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

How to Knock Off Entourage? February 15, 2010

Posted by Patrick in Televisual.
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How to Make it in America aired its first episode last night on HBO in the US. Having been touted as a New York-set Entourage-alike, the show certainly lived up to this comparison in its first half hour on the air.

America swaps L.A. for New York and instead of a group of guys trying to make it in the entertainment industry, it’s two guys trying to make it in the fashion industry. At least – that’s what the promos say. After watching the first episode though, I’m not really fascinated by its insights into the fashion industry at any level. Yes, they buy some stolen leather jackets off the back of a truck and attempt to sell them – but for the most part I felt like this was all in the name of making a quick buck, rather than trying to scale their thievery into some sort of thriving career.

Unsurprisingly, it’s from the same team who produced Entourage. I would have expected them to try out something new this time round, rather than produce something to keep Entourage fans interested. Alas, no luck.

The cast does an acceptable job with the material, although Bryan Greenberg as Ben continues to slightly annoy me. Maybe it’s because he played Peyton’s boyfriend in One Tree Hill way back when. His best friend Cam, played by Victor Rasuk is nothing special either, and once again feels like an Entourage import. The ladies don’t fare too much better either. Shannyn Sossamon pops up as the duo’s friend Gingy, and she’s fine but her character has little to do. Always-bland Lake Bell plays Ben’s ex in a storyline that we’ve seen thousands of times before. Samaire Armstrong guest stars and let’s just say she’s become exponentially more annoying since her days as Anna on The O.C. Kid Cudi also randomly stars in the show, but only briefly appears in the first episode.

Criticisms aside, the series shows a lot of potential, and I think the characters will become more likeable as we get to know them and as the show’s focus tightens a bit. Judging by the trailer alone, things look to get much more interesting in forthcoming episodes. Basically, it needs to justify its existence and step out of Entourage‘s shadow. It’s nicely shot, with some hipster photography thrown in every now and again and during the opening credits.

Check out the trailer below.

Back In Business February 4, 2010

Posted by Paula in Muzak.
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Mark Ronson will collaborate with Scissor Sisters, Santigold and Miike Snow among others on his new album In Business. Speaking to NME, Ronson promised that the album, released this summer, will all be original work.

There’s no covers, and no horns. It’s written with some of the people that actually wrote the songs I covered on the last album and that I didn’t actually even know at the time. It’s quite interesting to write songs from scratch with those people.

Given that Ronson’s 2007 album Version was an album of covers, it’ll be interesting to see how this new effort pans out. Other collaborators will include Nick Hodgson of Kaiser Chiefs and US rapper Pill. But I’ve saved the best for last. Ronson will also work with 90s pop/dance artist Cathy Dennis. Dennis was responsible for such masterpieces as Just Another Dream and Touch Me (All Night Long). She also wrote Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Outta My Head, and has co-written songs for various American Idol winners. Let’s see what she comes up with for Ronson.

Let Me Go Home February 4, 2010

Posted by Patrick in Muzak.
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Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros have been around since 2007, but only last summer released their debut album Up From Below.

I’ve only just discovered them, thanks to a tip-off from my sister. Since then, I’ve become slightly obsessed with their song Home. They sound a little bit like a mix between Jefferson Airplane and a less manic Polyphonic Spree, although this group are made up of slightly less members – thirteen to be exact (if we’re counting three ‘additional members’).

And Edward Sharpe isn’t actually part of the group – he’s actually a fictional “messianic figure” who “was sent down to Earth to kinda heal and save mankind, but he kept getting distracted by girls and falling in love.” That’s according to the group’s founder Alex Ebert, who does double duty as lead singer of Ima Robot.

While you digest all that, have a listen to Home below. There’s even a great talky bit about three minutes in – but I’ll let you hear it for yourself.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Home (download)

[MP3 hosted at Factory Made Future, Image via iTunes]

Five Girls, One Musical February 3, 2010

Posted by Paula in Muzak.
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Plans for a Spice Girls musical were finally confirmed last week. The musical’s working title is Viva Forever, and will hit the West End sometime in the next two years. The Spice Girls are said to be “very excited” about the plans. Who wouldn’t be?

The word on the street is that Geri Halliwell will co-produce the project, but that has yet be confirmed. Fingers crossed. For now though, Mamma Mia! creator, Judy Craymer will be at the musical’s helm, in partnership with former Spice Girls manager Simon Fuller.

Whether the musical will be about the Spice Girls’ rise to stardom, or whether it will follow a Mamma Mia!-esque structure, which just uses the band’s music, remains to be seen. I’m hoping for the former.