James Taylor and Paul Simon took to the stage in New York City on Tuesday night (20Jan15) to pay tribute to late jazz legend Michael Brecker. The music veterans led the line-up for The Nearness of You tribute concert in honour of acclaimed saxophonist Brecker at Manhattan venue Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Taylor, who was reportedly battling flu, played Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight with Brecker's brother, Randy, on the trumpet, while Simon performed Still Crazy After All These Years and The Boxer. They both returned to the stage to close the show for an audience which included Brecker's widow.
Speaking after the gig, Taylor credited his late friend with helping him overcome addiction issues, telling the Associated Press, "I miss him all the time. Michael saved my life and probably a lot of other people. He led me to freedom, really from addiction, and showed a number of us the way."
Brecker, who won 15 Grammy Awards throughout his career, passed away in 2007 at the age of 57 after a battle with a rare cancer called myelodysplastic syndrome.
The gig raised money to fund research into the deadly disease.
Comedian Stephen Colbert closed out nine years of his nightly The Colbert Report show in America on Thursday (18Dec14) with a star-studded finale. After welcoming regular guest Grimmy, aka the Grim Reaper, and killing him off to obtain immortality, singer/songwriter Randy Newman led a celebrity-packed singalong.
Bryan Cranston, Willie Nelson, Mandy Patinkin, Cyndi Lauper, Patrick Stewart, Barry Manilow, George Lucas, Sesame Street's Big Bird, James Franco and former R.E.M. star Michael Stipe were among the eclectic mix of stars crooning We'll Meet Again, while Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan, moviemaker J.J. Abrams and former U.S. President Bill Clinton joined in the fun via video.
The series ended with Colbert joining fellow 'immortals' Santa Claus, Abraham Lincoln and U.S. game show host Alex Trebek on the studio roof.
The host then hopped on a Santa sleigh and flew off into the night.
Colbert will replace David Letterman as host of The Late Show next year (15).
Pioneering country guitarist Velma Smith has died at the age of 87. The musician passed away on Thursday (31Jul14) in Madison, Tennessee.
Smith began performing on a local Kentucky radio station with her sister Mildred at the age of 12 and later went on to play with the likes of Ernest Tubb, Carl Smith and Roy Acuff.
However, it wasn't until the late 1950s that her career really took off as she became the first female rhythm guitar player to perform on records cut in Nashville, Tennessee.
She worked with artists such as Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings and Ray Price and her song credits include Hank Locklin's Please Help Me, I'm Falling in 1960 and Skeeter Davis' The End of the World in 1962.
She was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville in January (14) as part of the Class of 2014, which also featured Peter Frampton, Buddy Guy and Randy Bachman from Bachman Turner Overdrive.
Smith was married to Price's pal, fiddle player-turned-producer James 'Hal' Smith, from 1948 until his death in 2008.
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It's been a rough year for freshmen comedies. Despite critical raves, loyal-but-tiny fanbases, and heavily orchestrated Twitter campaigns, we lost a lot of potentially great series this year. Trophy Wife showed us a new kind of TV family, but may have been crippled by its ironic title from the start. Enlisted won the hearts of its few viewers and the support of the U.S. military, but couldn't overcome a weak timeslot and wonky scheduling. And despite an A-list star in Robin Williams, advertising comedy The Crazy Ones never found its audience. But while we've had to say our farewells to these shows, we don't have to wave goodbye forever to the comic talents they introduced us to. Here are a few of this season's breakout stars who we know have illustrious careers in their future.
Parker Young, Enlisted
We're always surprised to find that someone so chiseled can be as funny as Parker Young is in Enlisted's first and only season. As sweet and sincere baby brother Randy, Young tempered the swagger and sarcasm of older siblings Pete and Derrick and brought some serious heart to the show. Before booking the military comedy and a role on the slightly longer lasting but also canceled Suburgatory, the actor's credits consisted of guest spots here and there and — obviously — several modeling gigs. Now that the world knows he's not just a pretty face, we're hoping for big things from Parker.
Albert Tsai and Michaela Watkins, Trophy Wife
If Trophy Wife left us with one gift, it was that of little Albert Tsai, who has the timing aspiring comics would chop arms off for. Bert worked in conjunction with any and every other character on that show, but we're especially fond of his scenes with loopy mom Jackie. Michaela Watkins isn't exactly a Hollywood newbie, but Trophy Wife reintroduced her to some viewers who hadn't seen her regularly since her single season as a SNL cast member. Watkins got to deliver some of the show's finest one liners ("Wait. Robert Downey had a son?") and we're dying to see her back on our TVs soon.
James Wolk and Hamish Linklater, The Crazy Ones
Wolk is no stranger to Mad Men fans, who know him as the mysterious (and, as of late, heartbreaking) Bob Benson. And Linklater is a veteran stage actor who also played a significant role in The Newsroom's second season. But The Crazy Ones got us to fall in love with the two of them together, and we just can't let go. Zach Cropper and Andrew Keanelly — or Zandrew, if you will — had a bromance that, given time, would have rivaled that of even Turk and J.D. Wolk and Linklater are both skilled actors in their own right, but we can no longer imagine them apart. Thanks, CBS.
Soul man Smokey Robinson has become the latest music veteran to announce plans to record an album of duets. Smokey & Friends will feature new renditions of the singer's biggest hits with stars like Sir Elton John and James Taylor.
Elton will join Smokey on The Tracks of My Tears, while Taylor will guest on a cover of Marvin Gaye's Ain't That Peculiar, which Robinson co-wrote.
Former American Idol judge Randy Jackson will produce the album, which is scheduled for release in September (14).
More guests for the album will be announced in the coming weeks.
Sir Mick Jagger paid a musical tribute to his late girlfriend L'Wren Scott at a memorial service in New York. Scott took her own life in March (14) and a private funeral was held in Los Angeles later that month. Her close friends and family attended a memorial service at St. Bartholomew's Church in the city to celebrate the fashion designer's life on Friday (02May14).
The Rolling Stones frontman sang Bob Dylan's Just Like a Woman as a musical tribute to his longterm girlfriend. He and Scott's brother Randy Bambrough also spoke a few words to the guests. Jagger's son James and Scott's niece, Hannah Bambrough, both read poems, and the singer's grandchildren, Mazie and Zak, read Psalm 23 from the Bible.
R&B singer Lisa Fischer, who has been a back-up singer for the rockers for years, also performed her version of Amazing Grace. Jagger's bandmates Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards attended the service, along with actresses Julianne Moore, Ellen Barkin, Meg Ryan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Olivia Munn and Renee Zellweger, U.S. Vogue editor Anna Wintour, and film directors Martin Scorsese and Baz Luhrmann.
For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
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Last night's Golden Globes were full of surprise wins, strange moments, and bleeped-out speeches, but the real stars of the night weren't the films or shows that took home awards, they were the hosts. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler returned for a second year to drink wine, heckle celebrities, and make all of us wish that we could be their friend. This year, the Golden Globes were the award show everyone was most looking forward to, which meant that they had the difficult task of coming up with a show that topped everything they did last year. After all, last year had "drunk" Glenn Close, the stars of Dog President, and a James Cameron joke that still makes people laugh.
So, just how well did our favorite funny ladies do this time around? We've graded them on their jokes, sketches and props to determine whether or not Fey and Poehler managed to make this Golden Globes even funnier than the last. And considering how stunning they both looked last night, we think they're off to a pretty good start.
The Monologue: A-Fey and Poehler had a lot to live up to this year, as their 2013 monologue has been passed around the internet more times than any other awards show opening. But despite a shaky start - we were amused by the Tom Hanks/Tam Honks joke, but nobody in the room seemed to be - and some hilarious but surprisingly racy jokes, they delivered a solid monologue and proved why they're the best awards hosts around, and the opening was once again the best part of the night. The biggest laugh and biggest burn went to a joke about Gravity, "the story of how George Clooney would rather float off into space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age." Their other major burn? "Matthew McConaughey did amazing work this year. For his role in Dallas Buyers Club he lost forty-five pounds. Or, what actresses call 'being in a movie.'" They made a few callbacks to last year's awards, which included Poehler's goofy bit with Martin Scorsese, where she listed all of the Bobby's and Danny's who wanted to say hi to him in her Boston accent, and earning a high-five with a quip about Masters of Sex being the degree she earned in college.
One of their funniest jokes came at the expense of a slightly unexpected target, when Fey said that the movie Her "takes place in a not-so-distant future, which is perfect, because so does Joaquin Phoenix." Phoenix looked slightly confused, but seemed to be a good sport about it. Their other surprising target was Captain Phillips star Barkhad Abdi, who earned two separate jokes, including one from Fey about how The Blacklist is the list of people invited to her room later, which she punctuated with a Somali Pirate shout-out and by telling Abdi "I am the captain now." it probably shouldn't have worked, but for some reason it did, and Abdi's willingness to play along helped it land. It was just the start of some slightly more risque material, including the first of many genitalia jokes, with a reference to the prosthetic that Jonah Hill used in The Wolf of Wall Street "so you have that to look forward to the next time you eat at Planet Hollywood."
By far, the best part of their monologue was their shout out to Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who was nominated in both the film and television categories. Fey and Poehler made reference to her "changing" and sitting with the film actors, and the cameras cut to Louis-Dreyfus, wearing sunglasses, smoking a e-cigarette and pretending not to remember her friends. She then upped the ante by waving off an excited Reese Witherspoon, who tried to take a picture with her, and together, she, Fey and Poehler stole the show.
Randy Fey: AAs part of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgqick's introduction of their daughter, Miss Golden Globe, Sosie Bacon, Fey rushed out onstage to introduce Mr. Golden Globe, her adult son from a previous relationship, Randy aka Poehler in a tux and a ridiculous Bieber-inspired wig. After trading a few jokes about Randy's unwillingness to participate, Fey chided Randy to introduce himself to Sosie, which prompted Poehler to ask, "What are you, the Olympics?" It was a quick, amusing bit that they then took to the next level when Fey declared that Randy's estranged father was somewhere in the room, leading Poehler to march over to Idris Elba and ask if he was the father. Elba seemed completely game to have fathered Fey's child, and even a little disappointed when Fey dismissed the idea with a curt, "Think about it!" Poehler then went with the next best option, Harvey Weinstein, and judging by Fey's awkward silence, it seems like whatever Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom brings in at the box office will have to go towards Randy's college fund. Unfortunately, the cameras cut away from a hilarious shot of Poehler caressing Weinstein's face, but it was a great bit, and helped keep the show as weird as ever.
The Swift Joke: B+Remember when Fey and Poehler made a joke about Taylor Swift dating Michael J. Fox's son at last year's ceremony, and Swift didn't seem to think it was funny at all? Well, the hosts remembered, and Fey made reference to the most surprising celebrity feud of all time when she celebrated Poehler's Best Actress in a Comedy win with this statement: "I just want to say congratulations again to my friend Amy Poehler, I love you and there's a special place in hell for you." The joke is a call-back to the quote by Katie Couric that Swift used in a Vanity Fair article to express her dislike of Fey and Poehler's comments last year, "There's a special place in hell for women who don't support other women." And with that, let's hope the score between these three has finally been settled.
The Leo Joke: AOne of the funniest and most shocking jokes of the night came towards the end, after everyone had apparently hit the open bar a little too hard. When introducing presenter Leonard DiCaprio, Fey decided to go with this zinger: "Like a supermodel's vagina, let's all give a warm welcome to Leonard DiCaprio." Like the rest of us, DiCaprio found it funny, and was still laughing to himself when he arrived onstage to present. It might not be the kind of joke that anyone expected to hear at the Golden Globes, but it's definitely unforgettable.
The Lack of Fey and Poehler: CIf you've missed the show and are catching up through this recap, it might sound hard to believe, but there was actually a surprising lack of screen time for our favorite hosts. Sure, they had the monologue at the beginning and the Randy skit halfway through, but other than that, they only appeared periodically to introduce presenters, only to disappear backstage for about a half an hour at a time. We don't begrudge the ladies for wanting to take a quick break and share a martini with Emma Thompson, because we know that hosting can be very stressful, but we wish that Fey and Poehler had gotten a little more to do between awards. Think of the jokes they could've come up with after Jacqueline Bisset's disjointed and overly-censored acceptance speech. Or the delight that would've resulted from them sharing the stage with Diddy. Hopefully, they will celebrate the end of their hosting run next year by spending a lot more time onstage, drinking wine and making jokes. At the very least, someone should hand them some popcorn and let them heckle everyone's speeches next year. It'll certainly go over better than the awkward play-off music does.
Golden Globe Winner Amy Poehler: A+Setting aside the jokes, the monologue, and the Bieber wig, the best moment of the night had to be when Poehler finally won her first major award for her role as Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation. After celebrating in true Poehler fashion (making out with Bono, of course), she appeared to be genuinely surprised and delighted and delivered a speech that was both funny and heartwarming. And because she's the nicest woman in Hollywood, she took a moment to share her joy and her award with her thrilled cast members, by shouting out "Whoo, Parks!" while they all cheered and clapped. It may have taken a lot longer than we all would have liked, but Poehler is finally a Golden Globe winning actress. Looks like Jon Hamm will have to host that Loser's Party alone next year.
Final Grade: AIt might not have been as polished as last year's awards, but in the end, Fey and Poehler delivered their second time around, and helped continue the Golden Globes' tradition of being the funniest and most outrageous award show of all. Only one whole year to go until we get to see them hosting again.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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What's old is new on American Idol, it seems. Jennifer Lopez, who left the Fox singing competition after Season 11 will be back for Season 13, and this time she's being joined by new judge Harry Connick, Jr. Aussie country star Keith Urban will round out the judges table in the third spot, with Randy Jackson shifting over to his new role as a "mentor" to the contestants. Idol returns in January but begins auditions today, Sept. 3, in Boston, with subsequent stops scheduled in Atlanta, Austin, Detroit, Omaha, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. Whether the new judges panel will stop Idol's ratings slide is another matter
“American Idol has always been about discovering the next singing superstar, and next season our judging panel will deliver a most impressive combination of talent, wisdom, and personality to do just that,” said Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly in a statement. “Jennifer Lopez, the triple-threat global superstar who loves Idol and whom Idol fans love; Harry Connick, Jr., a bonafide musical genius and fantastic Idol mentor whose honesty and expertise can help turn these hopefuls into stars; Keith Urban, a multi-Grammy-winning artist who was such a positive force on the show last season. We are also very excited to have our friend Randy Jackson now in a new role as mentor, and the captain of our team – the heart and soul of Idol – Ryan Seacrest returning as host.”
Connick released his own statement following up an Fox's announcement, saying, “I have always been a huge fan of American Idol and really enjoyed my time as a mentor on the show. And I am honored that they’ve asked me to be a judge this season. As an entertainer, I am truly excited to bring my perspective to American Idol, and to help emerging performers find their way.”
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