Last year the Detroit Tigers’ triple A team The Toledo Mud Hens celebrated “Star Wars Days”, (“May the 4th be with you” and the 5th…as in “Revenge of the Fifth”), by trading up their standard uniforms for the poptastic Chewbacca style, this year it’s looks like they’re going to be calling on the Ghostbusters to bring them a boost in attendance on May 30th. The trend, (which appears to have started in T-town), has spread like wild fire across the country this year.
Since the Toledo team has gone in a different direction this season, the Kane County Cougars (a single A Chicago Cubs affiliate) has chosen to adopt the Chewie-wear this time around.
Not to be be out done by all this Wookie love, it looks like Darth will be hitting the field on June 28th with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, (Class A Milwaukee Brewers affiliate).
The Durham Bulls, (Triple A Tampa Bay Rays affiliates), and the Sacramento River Cats, (Triple A affiliates of the Oakland Athletics) will both be featuring everyone’s favorite droid, R2D2, (you may safely assume C-3po is not amused).
It should be noted the Durham Bulls will be wearing their version on what is becoming the universally official Star Wars Day, (May the 4th be with you), while Sacramento has chosen August 16th to wear their slight variation.
The Fresno Grizzlies, (Triple A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants), like the Toledo Mudhens, have decided to abandon the galaxy, far, far away and instead are looking to the toxic sewers of NYC for inspiration, (major fail if they don’t offer free pizza slices on August 2nd!)
Hot on the heels of Pixar’s recent announcement that a long anticipated follow up to Finding Nemo, Finding Dory, will be coming to theaters in November of 2015, comes word that the studio actually has more in development than just sequels.
Inside Out, the new film from director Pete Docter, will open in US theaters June 19, 2015.
At this point the most any of us know is that the film is set inside the mind of an imaginative young girl and the primary characters are expected to be her emotions, (think Andy and his toys and replace them with a girl and her circus of moods?)
Last year, John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, talked briefly about Docter’s plans for the movie, noting, “You look at people often times and they do something to make you go, ‘What are they thinking?’ or it’s like how a song gets stuck in your head and you just can’t get it out. Little quirky things like this that we all do. Certain emotions just seem to take us over, anger or happiness, where you start giggling and laughing and you can’t stop.”
There are several reasons we have great expectations for this flick, the first and foremost being the fact that, on paper, it sounds a little strange and lame. No, that’s not a dig, we sincerely mean it as a hopeful compliment!
The previous Pixar projects that sounded just as lame? How about an old man who attaches balloons to his house and flies off to South America with a precocious and lonely boy scout in tow? How about a tiny robot space janitor falling in love with a preprogramed, heavily armed drone whose only “directive” was to find signs of life on a polluted and abandoned planet Earth, or the widowed Clown Fish who, with the help of a Blue Tang suffering from short term memory loss, searches for his physically impaired and only son in the deepest depths of the ocean? On paper, They ALL sound like movies you couldn’t drag us to and yet they all eventually became some of our all time favorite films, animated or otherwise!
Another reason we have high hopes is the director, Pete Docter, who is the man behind the stories for Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Wall Eand the soon to be released Monster’s University, as well as directing duties on Monsters Inc. and Up, (which still makes us sob uncontrollably in the first ten minutes, damn you Docter!)
Before we get to these new flicks, Pixar/ Disney will be releasing The Good Dinosaur on May 30th, 2014, which asks the curious question, ” What if the cataclysmic asteroid that forever changed life on Earth actually missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct?”
It’s worth noting the Summer of 2015 is going to be OWNED by Disney with The Avengers 2, Star Wars VII, Pirates of The Caribbean 5and Inside Out all hitting the big screen during a 3 month window, the stockholders have got to be smiling extremely wide at this point.
• Dexter’s Beginning of the End is Near
Showtime confirmed last week that, like all good/bad things, the end has arrived for our favorite hero/villain.
The series debuted on October 1st of 2006 and has been a magnet for pay tv subscribers as well as an impressive amount of awards during it’s time on the cable network.
The 8th and final season of Dexter begins June 30th.
Showtime released this teaser this week and yeah, we are appropriately teased, as always we’re counting the days!
• Disney Wants The Force To Be With You, Indefinitely!
At this year’s Cinemacon in Las Vegas Disney announced they are planning on releasing a new Star Wars film every Summer beginning in 2015, with “Episode” films scheduled for every other year and “stand alone” stories to be released in the years between. Clearly the studio is building on the business model established by Stan Lee and the folks at Marvel, (now owned by Disney as well), and will be building a new “universe” of sorts that is expected to overlap and intertwine much in the same way we see Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and The Avengers interconnecting today.
As for all you naysayers out there who fretted so much when the “House of Mouse” wrestled the the galaxy rights from the death grip of Darth Lucas, we can only tell you we find your lack of faith disturbing. We actually have a very GOOD feeling about this!
• Jack White’s Recording Booth
This past weekend, in celebration of National Record Store Day, Jack White unveiled his one of a kind “Third Man Recording Booth”.
The refurbished 1947 Voice-o-Graph allows visitors of Third Man Records in Nasvhille to lay down up to two minutes of audio, a short song or voice message, which is then established on a 6″ phonograph disc. As far as we know this is the only machine of its kind that’s operational and open to the public.
This brief instructional video tells you all you need to know and features White’s Raconteurs bandmate Brendan Benson.
• Amazon’s New “Pilot Season” Concept, More Miss Than Hit
Amazon Instant Streaming saw some major traffic this weekend as buzz regarding the debut of their original programming spread across the web.
This past Friday Amazon made available, free of charge, 14 pilot episodes of potential programming, the future of these shows is said to be dependent largely on feedback, sharing and buzz created by you.
8 of the episodes are what can only be described as “Adult Programming”, (in a VERY NSFW kind of way), the other 6 are for the kiddies.
We watched it all, (the Adult stuff that is), and have put together a brief overview for you, as always, take it with a grain of salt, we don’t consider ourselves the arbiters of anything.
First, some thoughts:
• The success of many cable channels and, most recently, streaming services, now lives in the “original programming”. The trend started long ago with HBO and Showtime and eventually spread to channels like AMC, TNT, Comedy Central, The History Channel, etc. The demographic that Amazon has apparently targeted with these new shows seems decidedly young, at first blush it would appear they don’t have much interest in attracting a broader and more mature audience and are clearly chasing the youth dollar. We can only assume this is a decision that was made by the young executives at Amazon and we predict it will eventually come back to haunt them. Keep those resumes fresh and up to date, some of you will be looking for new jobs any second now and rightfully so.
• If these new shows have anything in common it’s that they all seem to be traveling down the well worn road of irreverence. The history of comedy is measured in trends from decade to decade and the trend of shock and all things inappropriate is precipitously close to peaking as the audience becomes increasingly weary of humor based solely on the “I can’t believe they just said that…” concept. The main reason for the impending shift is that few actually do this type of comedy well and for every Tosh O, South Park and Seth McFarland you have a hundred unfunny and offensive wannabes. Sadly, we live in a society that doesn’t have much reverence for anything these days which, in turn, makes irreverent humor not only expected but increasingly dull and unimaginative.
• When Amazon grows up and decides they want to play and compete with the big boys they’ll add a little drama to the mix. All of the pilots currently being offered are comedies which, when you’re up against shows like the Starz Network’s Boss, HBO’sGame of Thrones, AMC’s Mad Men and Netflix’s House of Cards, just doesn’t seem like the smartest way to go. We predict the viewing audience will take Amazon Streaming more seriously when the mega-retailer makes the decision to take their programming a little more seriously.
• We didn’t watch the children’s programming and therefore will offer no opinion on those shows. First, because an adults’ take on programming made exclusively for children is irrelevant. Secondly, we don’t currently have any kids on staff whose opinions we can value or trust, (the booger picking, paste eating, ankle sharks!) Third, we make it a point of ONLY watching children’s programming when under the influence of substances that were unfortunately not available when they would have been most useful, (scoff if you want but there is NO WAY the Teletubbies, HR Puffnstuff, Pee Wee’s Playhouse or…ummm…Lidsville(?!) were made by adults NOT under the influence!)
• All of this being said, a few of the new shows were much better than we expected. What follows are a few micro-reviews from our very opinionated Editor in Chief Scott Hopkins.
Onion News Empire
The Onion News folks started as a satirical underground newspaper before graduating to reasonable success in book form and, eventually, major comedy dominance on the internet. Since then they’ve seen their writing staff regularly co-opted by the likes of John Stewart and Stephen Colbert and have struggled to expand beyond print. The Onion Movie in 2008 was a horrible misfire and The Onion News Network on IFC failed to find a voice or audience after 11 episodes. Now we have the Onion News Empire, my pick for the best of the new shows being offered on Amazon Instant Streaming. I’ve always been a big Onion fan, by always straddling a thin line of irreverence and adsurdist humor they have a solid history and an established voice that is uniquely their own, often imitated by never duplicated and with Onion News Empire they have finally found a way to translate that specific sense of humor to a new medium. I truly laughed out loud, many times, watching this pilot, something I might add I rarely ever do, not only was I laughing out loud I actually had to wipe a few funny tears away, I honestly can’t tell you the last time I did that. The show’s concept is a riff on the HBO/ Aaron Sorkin series The Newsroom which has never even come close to being as entertaining as Onion News Empire. For my money, the secret to the Onion’s success over these many years is that they understand the importance of equal opportunity satire and rarely, if ever, alienate one side of the political aisle more than the other. The Daily Show and Colbert would be twice as successful if they’d followed that format . Onion News Network doesn’t take sides, unlike a few of the other offerings in Amazon Streaming’s original programming.
Talk about targeting a limited demographic, I’m sure the IT guys and gals in Silicon Valley were rolling in between their cubicles with this one but I can promise you they are the only ones that would or could. I have no doubt people would watch this as a free web series but there is no way it’s going to inspire anyone to switch from Netflix to Amazon, which would obviously be the main objective of Amazon’s foray into the original programming market.
It’s a musical, it’s a comedy, it’s two shows in one! I’m certain the creators of this series considered the unexpected success of Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog when they were putting this show together, what they missed was the fact that the songs in Whedon’s web series were memorable and worthy of download. There isn’t a single note in Browsers worth repeated listening. As for the premiss, a group of interns singing and stumbling their way through life at a very thinly disguised Huffington Post is cute enough but, again, this isn’t the type of show that is going to create a strong buzz with people eagerly awaiting future episodes. It also walks that political line which I have to believe would eventually tilt entirely to the left and thereby eliminate roughly 50% of it’s audience. In the end, this is a show only tone deaf occupiers would love.
Those Who Can’t
We’ve been here and we’ve done this, Always Sunny in Philadelphia to name one of too many. “OMG, did he really just say THAT?!” Zzzzzz….this junk is free all over youtube right now, no one will pay a dime to watch future episodes.
An excellent cast, strong writing, well directed, written and created by legendary cartoonist Gary Trudeau, who once referred to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as “Brown Sugar” in his comic strip Doonesbury. The targets of Trudeau’s humor in Alpha House, once again, are Republicans, or as they’re currently known in the comedy world, the ‘lowest hanging fruit’. We’ve got the closeted gay Republican, The Alcoholic Republican, The philandering Republican, in other words every political cliche’ in Trudeau’s very thin book of political satire. Yes, it’s well executed but there’s nothing new to see here and when you’re looking to reach the broadest audience possible targeting 45% of the electorate makes 0% sense. If you want to be in politics, be in politics, if you want to be in entertainment be in entertainment. It seems there are a lot of creative people still trying to get that lightening that was The West Wing to strike twice but it’s not likely to happen again as long as Democrats are in the Whitehouse, that kind of programming only works as entertainment- by way of protest- when the Conservatives are running the show, which they clearly are not these days. Speaking “truth to power” only works when you’re not the ones in “power”, this would be why the documentary 2016: Obama’s America made so much money last year, why West Wing commanded big ratings during the Bush years and why shows like Alpha House are destined to fail in a country currently under a Democratic president. This isn’t rocket science folks, it’s just show BUSINESS, stop investing in productions that alienate half of an audience, do you want to make a million or five hundred thousand? In a word, duh.
This animated series started like a bit of warmed over Adult Swim but, I have to admit, this one eventually won me over. This is a weird, funny show that actually had me laughing more than I do with most episodes of Archeron FX, which is definitely the same target audience. Two female mall cops who specialize in all things “Supanatural”, they are the Anti-X-Files, the Mulder & Scully of the cerebral wasteland that is suburban America. This show has strong “cult following” written all over it, especially if the slightly effete Crystal Skull is featured in future episodes, (nice touch with the rainbow!)
Wow, EPIC FAIL! It only gets a C- because it looked good and captured the basic vibe of the original movie but the casting was so unbelievably wrong that it very nearly earns an F from me. There was SO much potential for this to work and, if it did, this is EXACTLY the type of show that would have won converts to Amazon Streaming and loads of new subscribers. Ouch, guys, soooo close but, ouch! I could nit pick from actor to actor but the basic truth is, it’s ALL wrong. Out of all the shows this was the most painful to watch as it was very easy to see what it could be and equally hard to accept what it enviably is.
Sadly, this was a hard one to judge given 80% of the animation was not completed in time for Amazon’s big original programming push. From what I could tell this is expected to be a stop animation series. The dialog is smart and funny and the show has a certain charm that could easily win a cult following. Again, this is not a show for the broadest audience but it just might be broad enough, it’s hard to say with a barely presentable pilot. Still I gave it a high grade as I believe the potential is very high with this show. I doubt we’re going to see this one make the cut given it clearly wasn’t ready to compete on the web for a spot in the Amazon lineup.
• Netflix’s Hemlock Grove
Speaking of “original programming” , Netflix unveiled one of their new shows this past week as well and, we have to admit, it’s a little addictive. That being said, we’re still not sure how we feel about Netflix dropping an entire series all at once. On one hand it’s pretty cool being able to watch one episode after another but, at the same time, there’s a lot to be said for building buzz and a solid presence on message boards by way of the weekly anticipation you see with every other episodic series in the history of television. We give Netflix a lot of credit for testing the waters and experimenting with the concept, we’re just not 100% sure it’s going to work.
So, the show? We’re kind of sort of loving right now, we’re only 4 episodes in but so far it’s pretty damn good. Hemlock Grove is executive produced by horror guru Eli Roth and, as you’re about to see, is appropriately bloody and really, really gross, (maybe we should add another “really” to that sentence).
Yes, the series is slightly derivative and is bound to remind you of several movies and shows you’ve seen before but, comparisons aside, the writing is solid and the cast is, overall, quite good. To it’s credit the show has neither the gay camp of True Blood or American Horror Storyand doesn’t offer any covert messages of abstinence, monogamy or twinkling vampires like that other bizarrely successful film series.
This is a RED BAND TRAILER, AKA: NSFW, you were warned.
• Thor: The Dark World
The early buzz from recent private screenings of Iron Man 3 is unanimously positive and now we have our first real look at Thor: The Dark World today! Prepare to GEEK OUT Popsters!
Thanks for stopping by, see you next week with all the news that’s fit to POP! Until then, Cheers!