With the Emmys right around the corner, join a live chat with four of Digital First Media’s distinguished TV critics to talk about what is in store for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards this Sunday.
Long time, no see!
I mean, we see each other sometimes, but really it’s my goofy kids who come visit you practically every day.
But because the account is in my name, you’ve been thinking it’s me! Haha!
So, anyway, that’s why when I open you up, you greet me and show me a screen of things I might like — like this:
How colorful and delightful!
Except it’s not my stuff.
Anyway, I was really glad you recently made it so you can set up profiles for separate people who use the same account. That means more time travel, laser shootouts and dinosaurs for me — and more cupcake wars for everybody else.
One day we’ll look back at this and laugh. Let’s make that one day now.
Here’s your current “Top Ten Recommendations for Brad”:
1. Geek Charming. Popular high school diva Dylan gains a new perspective on life when geeky wannabe filmmaker Josh makes her the subject of his documentary
2. Radio Rebel. Shy student Tara has a secret identity: She is smooth-talking Radio Rebel, a DJ who lends her voice to all kids, popular and unpopular alike.
3. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Journey to the enchanted land of Equestria, where unicorn Twilight Sparkle and her pals have adventures and learn valuable lessons about friendship.
4. The Lorax. The forest-dwelling Lorax has to stop the short-sighted Once-ler from ruining the environment for profit in this adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic.
5. High School Musical 2. As part of a plan to steal Troy Bolton away from Gabriella Montez, a scheming debutante arranges summer jobs for them at an exclusive country club.
6. Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2. Canine companions Chloe and Papi exchange wedding bow-wows, then plunge paws first into parenthood as their five pups turn their home upside down.
7. Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior. A teen girl focuses on becoming homecoming queen — until she learns she has the soul of an ancient female warrior destined to battle an evil spirit.
8. Vampire Dog. An enduring friendship forms when a boy adopts Fang, a 600-year-old vampire dog, and together they try to stop a mad scientist who wants Fang’s DNA.
9. Avalon High. When a girl transfers to Avalon High, she discovers the school is a modern-day Camelot, complete with Knights of the Round Table, and she’s a member.
10. Beethoven’s Big Break. It’s a dog’s life for stray pooch Beethoven and his puppy family, but when a movie-star canine gets dognapped, Beethoven is chosen to take his place.
I mean, not exactly spot on for my actual tastes. Wendy Wu and Avalon High sound pretty all right. And maybe I should give Vampire Dog a chance.
I’m not sure why I’ve got High School Musical 2 or Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2 rather than the classic originals but that’s OK. Maybe it’s an Empire Strikes Back or Wrath of Khan kind of thing.
Anyway, I look forward to getting to know you even better on our own, new terms Netflix.
I’ll be the first to admit I have a somewhat strange taste in music.
If, when introducing an artist to someone else, I have to go into great detail to describe the subgenre of the music, that might be a sign that it could be considered peculiar.
So, to save myself some time and possibly spread some nerdy earworms, here’s a primer on a handful of unconventional musical acts that cater to a certain crowd. Sure, any nerd with a 20-sided die and a skepticism toward baked goods is familiar with artists like MC Frontalot and Jonathon Coulton. But believe me when I say this rabbit hole goes much deeper.
Steampunk vaudeville/robot pantomime
Can I tell you about Steam Powered Giraffe? Please?
Imagine a band of robots, complete with grinding gears and mechanical malfunctions, singing goofy songs in perfect harmony.
OK, so it’s actually a bunch of performers in heavy makeup who are rather good at miming and making robot-sounding noises. They do have wonderful harmony, though, and don’t resort to auto-tune despite portraying machines.
Their act is as much about stage presence as it is the quality of their sound. Each robot has a personality – from the straight-laced Spine to the unhinged Rabbit, played by twins David and Bunny Bennett, respectively. The group also includes Hatchworth (Sam Luke as a mustachioed bot built from a stove) and some humans: Michael Philip Reed, Steve Negrete and Matt Smith. The original band included two other robots, The Jon (Jon Sprague) and Upgrade (Erin Burke), who have since left the band.
It’s hard to pick a favorite among their songs. There’s “Captain Albert Alexander”, about the life and death of a brave seafarer, or “Honeybee”, a robot’s love ballad (“You didn’t have to say my name / ignite my circuits and start a flame”), or even the catchy sing-along “Brass Goggles.”
Video game-inspired rock opera
Speaking of robots… Have you heard of The Protomen?
This rock band has so far released two acts of a rock opera loosely inspired by the Mega Man video game franchise. To anyone unfamiliar with it, Mega Man is a fictional robot built as an assistant by the scientist Dr. Light who is transformed into a fighting machine after Light’s partner, Dr. Wily, betrays him and turns his robotic creations against the world.
The Protomen take this basic idea – Dr. Light on the side of good, trying to elevate mankind and free people from suffering, and Dr. Wily on the side of evil, using the robots to bend people to his will – and they transform it into a gripping narrative with deep social themes. In the first act, Mega Man is the rebellious teenager, ignoring his father’s warnings and fighting against corruption to the sound of distorted hard rock. He confronts Wily’s right-hand robot, only to learn it is the long-lost “brother,” Protoman, whom he thought was dead. The two have a dramatic standoff, with Protoman condemning the people for not standing up for themselves.
And that’s just the first act.
The second act, released in 2009, goes back to the doctors’ younger days, showing the clash between Light and Wily and the betrayal that put Wily in control and turned Light into an outcast. Not only does the album continue the story, it does so while showcasing the band’s musical growth. Where Act 1 brought a wall of sound and blood-pumping rock, Act 2 is more refined and restrained. It starts as a sort of rallying cry and transforms into an ’80s-style rock anthem.
I’m looking forward to Act 3. Word is it will be their last, and it will be interesting to see how they top their previous release.
As the name might suggest, chap hop is a dandified form of hip hop, with trace elements of steampunk thrown in for good measure.
The genre has two leading performers: Professor Elemental and Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer. And given that they are pretty much the only chap hop performers, they’ve got a bit of bad blood between them.
On the one hand, Professor Elemental is a pith helmet-wearing rapper who loves a good cup of tea. Mr. B is a banjolele-strumming fellow who enjoys tweed jackets, cricket and pipe-smoking. They had an ongoing feud – the video above is a challenge from Elemental to Mr. B – but have supposedly made amends, making guest appearances in each others’ music videos.
If I had to choose, though, I would throw my support behind Professor Elemental. At times, Mr. B’s music can get so deep into parody that it loses some of its value as entertainment.
When regular swing music isn’t enough, there’s electro swing.
At its core, electro swing is a fusion of swing and more contemporary styles, such as electronic, house and hip hop. As swing has seen a revival (I’ll admit, I enjoy the lindy hop myself on occasion), many artists have found success sampling classic big band and swing tracks and remixing them into something both new and old.
A quick YouTube search turns up a slew of electro swing mixes, but my personal favorite among electro swing artists is a French group called Caravan Palace. With touches of Django Reinhardt and Daft Punk, the band holds true to traditional jazz themes while infusing some extra pizzazz.
I have yet to attend an event that incorporated electro swing into the mix, but from what I gather, it can be rather diabolical.
All right, full disclosure: I’m not a huge fan of Harry Potter.
That’s not to say I don’t like it, but I never got into the books. I’ve seen the movies, but I wasn’t blown away by them. I don’t hate Harry Potter, I just never got into the franchise.
But that’s OK because other people have, enough to create a whole genre of music centered around the stories’ universe. The whole thing started with the punk rock band Harry and the Potters and has grown since then, with other groups emerging with names like Draco and the Malfoys and the Whomping Willows. The genre has even garnered enough attention to have a documentary made about it.
To be honest, I don’t know much about wizard rock (or wrock, as it’s abbreviated). It’s the one genre on this list I have not really listened to before. Even so, it’s clearly popular enough to draw large, screaming crowds.
Gail Simone is a pretty big name in comics these days. She’s in the middle of a much-lauded run on DC’s “Batgirl,” and her newest book for that company, “The Movement,” is also racking up lots of fans on top of its critical praise. People appreciate her devotion to writing strong female characters and it’s won her devotees on both sides of the gender line. Accordingly, the Internet got pretty excited a couple of months ago when it was announced she would take over the writing duties on a rebooted “Red Sonja” title from Dynamite Entertainment.
The inaugural issue came out a few weeks ago, but its reviews were kind of lost in the shuffle thanks to the San Diego Comic-Con dominating the news. All the preceding hype did some good, though, as “Red Sonja” No. 1’s first print run of 35,000 copies is sold out. If you still want to get a copy but don’t like the idea of reading it digitally, then you’re in luck because a second printing was ordered and should be showing up in your local comic book shops around mid-month.
For the uninitiated, Sonja is a sanguine-haired warrior woman in the Hyborian Age, which puts her in the same milieu as Conan the Barbarian. In fact, Sonja’s first appearance was in a Marvel “Conan” comic and her modern incarnation is based on a character from a short story by “Conan” creator Robert E. Howard.
I’ve read various “Red Sonja” issues here and there, but none of them had the stick-to-your-ribs quality that has you breathlessly anticipating that next issue. The stories felt generic, the dialogue was flat, Sonja’s characterization was more concussive than cerebral—take your pick—so I’d come back in six months when there was a new writer and give the book another try.
Maybe I’m falling victim to fanboyism, but Simone appears to have triumphed where those others failed. Her Sonja is still stubborn and determined fighter, but everything feels sharper this time around. There’s little chaff among the dialogue—a spartan touch that adds to the hopelessness and impending doom throughout the issue. Rather than being little more than an emotional brute, Simone’s Sonja comes off more as a strategist and war leader. Really, she’s just a much more well-rounded character now than she was during previous writers’ stints with which I’m familiar.
In the last couple of pages, as an army approaches, Sonja makes peace with the idea of her oncoming end in that tropey way fantasy characters do. But just as the issue winds down and we expect some kind of fade to black, Sonja sees a familiar face among the opposing forces. A lost comrade? A dark mirror of Sonja herself? We know who this person is, but nothing about her or who she is to our eponymous hero.
I’m on the hook for the next issue. I’ve tried my best to avoid writing a Gail Simone hagiography, but I find little to dislike with “Red Sonja” No. 1. It’s a rousing tale with excellent art and character designs—a female friend commented to me that she’s glad that Sonja’s armor finally “covered her up a bit.” While there is some great grid-breaking panel work, the art’s not so good as to make it a draw on its own, but it serves as an excellent complement to the story.
At $3.99, “Red Sonja” No. 1 from Dynamite Entertainment is very much a book worth buying. I can almost guarantee you’ll come back next month.
As a gamer, it’s not often that I think “I hope they do this next” and actually see the developer deliver. But it seems that Irrational Games has done just that with its newly announced Bioshock Infinite DLC “Burial at Sea.”
When I finished Bioshock Infinite, my mind raced with the possibilities of additions to the story. Irrational had already announced they would be releasing downloadable content, so it couldn’t hurt to dream.
“They should continue the game’s themes and included the same characters in an alternate reality!” Check.
“I’d love to see the setting of the previous game rendered in this game’s engine!” Check.
“Being able to see Rapture in its pre-apocalyptic state would be so awesome!” Check.
Are the developers reading my mind? Maybe that is the ability given to one by some new vigor or plasmid. Most DLC releases I’ve played through recently have been underwhelming, to say the least. Most are obvious cash-grabs with very little substance. The problem often is that the story just doesn’t have anywhere else to go, unless the game ended with some frustrating cliffhanger. Bioshock Infinite’s creators wrote themselves into a good place with the alternate universe motif, which affords plenty of freedom even after the game’s very definitive ending. And continuing that theme seemed the logical way to go, but many developers seem averse to logic these days. I’ve been conditioned to expect mediocrity.
From the looks of things, Irrational somehow managed to create an interesting in-between experience that fans of the original Bioshock and Infinite would equally enjoy (if said fans were not already in love with both games). Booker’s back. Elizabeth’s back. Rapture’s back, too. Maybe Andrew Ryan…? Well, I better not get my hopes up, but add that one to the dream pile.
The kind of story “Burial at Sea” will offer is hard to call, considering the returning characters’ Bizarro World personalities cancel out much of what we already know about them. Plus, the original Bioshock and Infinite both had very different approaches to the “Egomaniac with a City” narrative. Can this hybrid of the two games bring anything new to the table?
Either way, I’m excited to play through what will apparently be a two-part series of Bioshock prequels. Part one of the series is lined up for the end of this year, and part two is scheduled for next year.
In 1928, when the world first met a mouse named Mickey, no one could have predicted the ways in which Walt Disney would change the world. Walt built not just an animation studio that produced movies entwined with the childhood of millions around the world, but an entertainment empire encompassing films, television, theme parks, hotels, cruise ships and record labels.
Walt was not only the original voice of Mickey, but also the face of the Disney company. He came into the living rooms of countless Americans every week through Walt Disney Presents. It’s difficult for me to imagine a time when Walt Disney himself was promoting the newest animation and walking the streets of Disneyland. He has become a legend, a myth. To many, he’s the visionary genius who set the bar so high that Disney’s competitors have always been playing catch up. To others, he was a relentless task master who expected his employees to go above and beyond.
This December, Walt makes his return to the big screen. It’s not cryogenics that brings Disney’s Big Cheese back to life, but rather Tom Hanks. This weekend, I watched the trailer for Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks.” I had heard last year that Hanks had been tapped for the part and thought, “Hmm, that could be interesting.” I didn’t know the direction the movie was taking. I at first thought it was going to be a biography of Walt’s life. However, this film focuses on the production of “Mary Poppins.”
After watching the trailer twice, I of course, had to immediately research the subject matter. The tension between Disney and Poppins author P.L. Travers (played by Emma Thompson) is the center of the film. I had no idea the story behind this beloved classic was not exactly a spoonful of sugar. In fact, the real life Travers fought for nearly two decades and several studios before agreeing to have her nanny adapted for the silver screen. In addition to the $100,000 payday, Travers also received final say on the script. This was an unprecedented move for someone working with Disney.
Hanks seems to have captured Disney’s charm, attempting to persuade Thompson’s Travers to trust the studio. Travers, on the other hand, is concerned about the way her beloved character is rendered on screen. She is insistent on having no animation in the film. She doesn’t like the music composed by the golden duo the Sherman Brothers (who penned some of Disney’s most well-known tunes). In real life, she was adamantly against Dick Van Dyke as Bert and thought Julie Andrews was far too pretty to play the no-nonsense caretaker.
I’m curious to see the approach Disney will take to Disney. It marks the first time someone portraying Walt Disney is a starring character in a Disney movie. I wonder if Disney will skip over some of the dicier points of the tiff. For instance, Travers wasn’t initially invited to the Poppins premiere and had to beg Disney to let her come.
After seeing the finished film (complete with dancing animated penguins), Travers was devastated and wept with disappointment in the theater while other movie-goers gave it a standing ovation. She demanded Disney strike the animation from the movie, to which he replied, “Pamela, that ship has sailed.”
“Saving Mr. Banks” sails into theaters nationwide on December 20.
In addition to July 4 being the nation’s 237th birthday, it also was the supposed birthday of the First Avenger, Steve Rogers.
He’s supposedly 93, in case you were wondering.
What better way to mark it than with an awesome shield inspired cake? I saw this cake on the Internet somewhere—maybe Facebook.
It seemed pretty daunting. I’m not so good with the baking (that’s Grandma’s area of expertise) and I’ve never decorated a cake before. Sure I’ve frosted plenty of cakes, and eaten plenty of frosting, but I’ve never attempted anything like this. But I was feeling ambitious, and it was for the Star Spangled Man with a plan, so I gave it a shot. That’s what Cap would do if he baked.
The only guide I had was a picture. There were no directions, just a picture of the finished cake with a slice cut out. Hmm. OK.
I went over to Kroger and then to Walmart to get supplies and then I came home. Grandma saw what I’d brought home and asked what I planned to do. I told her it was going to be big and messy, she volunteered to help. I wanted to play it safe first, so I went the route of the tried and true—box cakes and canned icing. You can’t screw that up.
I mixed up the batter (two boxes) then poured it into two more bowls. I colored it the best I could with food coloring and poured the colored batter into three round cake pans.
I cleaned up my mess while it baked and then set them out to cool while I ran errands.
When I came home the cakes were cool and ready to assemble (see what I did there.) I cut them the way I thought they should be, cutting the red and white cakes in half lengthwise and then cutting a circle in the center of the blue cake.
Assembling and frosting the cake took some doing, but I managed to get it done. Then I put it in the fridge because I was tired of dealing with it.
The next morning, after cleaning my whole house and getting sucked into a Jane Austen movie, I went back to the cake. I’d decided I would try the starry-dot method (not official name but that’s what I’m calling it) instead of fondant. I don’t like fondant and that’s just the way it is. I’d been playing with piping bags and frosting a bit earlier in the week and I watched a YouTube video. I could totally do this.
I went with the white first. The first problem I noticed was that the icing was getting warm and not forming as well. Hmm. Back into the fridge. First the white ring, then I colored red frosting and did two red rings, followed up with a white star in the center.
I colored some blue frosting and filled in around the star. The rest of the icing was around the sides. Voila!
It took two days to make and by the time it was all done I didn’t even get to cut the first slice. My sister cut the first slice because I had to run out early for a press conference. But the cake came to the office Tuesday. The newsroom has never met a cake it didn’t like, and this one was no exception judging by it’s quick disappearing act.
Now I’m plotting my next cake feat. I was thinking a full on TARDIS for the Doctor Who premiere in November, though the question is flat or standing? Maybe a flaming mockingjay for Catching Fire in November? Decisions, decisions.
But there will definitely be another shield cake coming in April when Captain America: The Winter Soldier drops.