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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

She’s with the Band February 3, 2010

Posted by Patrick in Lit, Televisual.
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Another day, another piece of Zooey Deschanel news. Alongside her successful music and film careers, Zooey’s finally sticking her finger into the television pie (unless we’re counting guest appearances on Bones and Tin Man) by signing up to star in and executive produce HBO’s new comedy pilot, I’m with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie.

The show is based on the book of the same name, a 1987 memoir by notorious groupie Pamela Des Barres. Some of her story was already told in the film Almost Famous, which incidentally was one of Zooey’s first film appearances.

It’s a half-hour comedy, so I’m not expecting anything along the lines of The Sopranos or Six Feet Under here. But HBO’s needed something in the comedy department to fill the void left by Sex and the City. I don’t see this as being the worthiest of replacements, but with Zooey on board I can’t help but be optimistic.

For a taste of what to expect, here’s the book’s blurb:

The stylish, exuberant, and remarkably sweet confession of one of the most famous groupies of the 1960s and 70s is back in print in this new edition that includes an afterword on the author’s last 15 years of adventures. As soon as she graduated from high school, Pamela Des Barres headed for the Sunset Strip, where she knocked on rock stars’ backstage doors and immersed herself in the drugs, danger, and ecstasy of the freewheeling 1960s. Over the next 10 years she had affairs with Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Keith Moon, Waylon Jennings, Chris Hillman, Noel Redding, and Jim Morrison, among others. She traveled with Led Zeppelin; lived in sin with Don Johnson; turned down a date with Elvis Presley; and was close friends with Robert Plant, Gram Parsons, Ray Davies, and Frank Zappa. As a member of the GTO’s, a girl group masterminded by Frank Zappa, she was in the thick of the most revolutionary renaissance in the history of modern popular music. Warm, witty, and sexy, this kiss-and-tell–all stands out as the perfect chronicle of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most thrilling eras.

[Blurb via Good Reads]
[Image: Girls Aren’t Funny]

Hollywood Infected Your Vain February 3, 2010

Posted by Patrick in Cinematics, Trashion.
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Vanity Fair have unveiled their annual Hollywood photoshoot, featuring nine of the film industry’s brightest up and coming female stars (click above for larger version).

The talent selected, from left to right: Abbie Cornish (Bright Star, Candy), Kristen Stewart (Twilight, The Runaways), Carey Mulligan (An Education, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!, Jennifer’s Body), Rebecca Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Frost/Nixon), Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, Defiance), Emma Stone (Superbad, Zombieland), Evan Rachel Wood (The Wrestler, Across the Universe) and Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air, Twilight).

The girls were photographed by Annie Liebovitz (no surprises there), who has been doing the annual shoot for the past sixteen years.

The editorial has been criticised for being all-white, which is certainly true. Forgive me for saying it, but I don’t think it would do Precious‘s Gabourey Sidibe any good to be plonked in the middle of the fold-out amongst nine other thin white girls.

Even in the magazine’s first Hollywood cover, in 1995, there was one non-white face in the form of Angela Bassett. And everyone had a lot less on.

Behind the scenes at the 2010 shoot, below.

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[Images: Vanity Fair, Oh No They Didn’t!]