Monday, May 30, 2011

HBO Gets Even More Social with HBO Connect

HBO Connect
HBO doesn't take its status as premium cable lightly. To them, being premium isn't just about taking your money, but about offering something valuable to subscribers, over and above programming - offering a premium (if I may be so obvious). Let me start off by saying that I've never hidden my affinity for HBO - I love the brand, I love the content they put out, and I'm proud to call myself a loyal subscriber. As an entertainment brand, HBO understands that being a fan isn't about tuning in once a week, for an hour, to watch your favourite characters. They know that today, if you're a fan, you want it all. You want True Blood 24/7. You want to know what Jessica's been up to, and know everything and anything Alexander Skarsgård is doing. HBO has been doing whatever it takes to keep up with its viewers' foray into the online world, and so I'm not too surprised about their newest venture into social media - HBO Connect.

TrueBlood Connect
The name alone says it all, HBO 'Connect'. It works to bring together and compile whatever's being said online, about HBO's various TV brands, and will also feature live commentaries and Q&A sessions from our favourite characters. Meaning, you'll get to watch True Blood while following a a plethora of fans talking about the episode in real time, which may even include stars of the show. People are already talking, so here's where fans would go to see what's being said. As a platform for passionate fans to interact more with the television brands they love, HBO is well on its way to turning single show subscribers into HBO brand ambassadors. Or maybe it's just me.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Hickie from Kenickie is like a Hallmark Card

"A hickie from Kenickie is like a Hallmark card, when you only care enough to send the very best!"
- Kenickie aka Jeff Conaway, Grease (1978)
I can't get that line out of my head, since I heard that Jeff Conaway passed away today. It's sad, especially because of the whole drugs and booze problem he had, but his iconic role as BFF to John Travolta's Danny Zucco will live on in DVD history. Seriously, Grease is on TV at least once a month - not that I'm complaining. Grease is a classic (or at least a guilty pleasure for musical-lovers to sing along to). Grease Lightning, baby. The hair, the clothes - so hot, even today.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's Official - I'm Breaking Up with Grey's Anatomy

I'll tell you what I don't give a shit about anymore - Grey's Anatomy. I was a loyal and faithful fan for six years, relishing each moment, even after my umpteenth viewing of an episode. But when they tried to fill the void left by T.R. Knight and Katherine Heigl's departures with uninspiring new faces, I got so very annoyed and lost a little of that emotional connection with the cast.

But, in the iconic words of Michael Coreleone, "Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in." The gripping, edge-of-your-seat, masterpiece of last year's season finale managed to 'clean house', (basically killing off some of the new characters no one liked) filled with intrigue, suspense, romance, and drama, like a classic Grey's episode used to be. But here we are at the end of Season 7, and it's fizzled once again. I hardly watched half the season before becoming so excruciatingly bored with it. There's really only so much time one has to watch TV (although I'm a bit of an exception). Time is precious and you have to fill it with what's important. So as much as it hurts me to do it (especially to McSteamy), I have to say this. It's over, we're done. - But let's face it, it's you, not me.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Trailer: The First Grader

Sometimes I feel that it's my responsibility to bring attention to films that otherwise get pushed to the sidelines because of soul-sucking blockbusters like Fast Five. So it's my duty to talk a little about an upcoming Maple Pictures' release I'm excited to see: The First Grader. As an East African (well, a second-generation East African, since I was actually born in Canada), I have a bit of a bias with this one even though I haven't seen it yet.

Based on a true story (aren't they always?), The First Grader is the inspirational story of an 84-year-old Kenyan villager who fights for his right to attend school that he couldn't afford to go to as a child. Just that synopsis alone is enough to pull at your heartstrings. The poor guy just wants to learn how to read - how can anyone deny him that?

I know it makes the Kenyan Government look pretty evil, denying an old man - a freedom fighter - an education he so desperately wants. But, the story itself seems more about showing the importance and value of education that North Americans take for granted. I've been there; I've visited those schoolrooms and I've seen the pride that is taken in something we find a nuisance. Even the smallest village in the middle of nowhere, with maybe 15 huts, has a school, and I think - and hope - that's the true spirit of the film. That no matter who you are, and no matter where you live, you have the RIGHT to an education.

The First Grader opens in Toronto on May 20th, in Montreal on May 27th and in Vancouver on June 3rd. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sink Your Fangs into the Latest True Blood Season 4 Promos

By now, if you're even a remotely dedicated True Blood fan, you will probably have seen the recently released Season 4 promos. And if not, shame on you. But in all seriousness, fang-banging fans only have one month of True Blood withdrawal to grudgingly get through before HBO takes us back to Bon Temps in what looks to be an epic season. Epic, I say, because, well, those of you Truebies who've read Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries know what's coming next. Now, why is it that I don't live in a place where I might find a naked Viking wandering aimlessly on the side of the road?!

Waiting sucks.

June 26th on HBO.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Twitter: Bridging the Gap Between Hollywood & the Fan

Twitter, social media love of my life, is pretty awesome. It's modern day fan-mail that puts you on the same level as whoever you're following. You can say whatever you want to anyone and they may just read it and write back or even retweet you. Even if that someone is Barack Obama or Judd Apatow. It's no longer enough for us to just send praise and fan-mail to our cultural idols. Today, we demand interaction and communication from those we 'follow', and there's no way around it. If you are an Apple fan and brand ambassador but they don't answer your customer service request tweet, you can do some serious damage to their image by spreading word. So basically, they better be interacting with us or we may just not care about them anymore.

On that note, I fully got retweeted by How to Make it in America and former One Tree Hill star, Bryan Greenberg the other day. Which is kind of cool (and oh-so-very nerdy for me to be just a little bit excited about it). Now if only Twitter had existed back when I was a Tiger-Beat-loving, Devon-Sawa-Obsessed teenybopper. An @ message or retweet from him may have just about put me in a coma.

Zooey Deschanel is New Girl, Coming to Fox this Fall

I'm a sucker for quirky and adorable hipster, Zooey Deschanel (500 Days of Summer, anyone?!). Freshly broken-up-with, Zooey ends up living with three, typically jock-y looking guys who let her move in because she's got hot, model friends. I guess the premise has been done before but it actually looks pretty funny and really, what sitcom hasn't already been done before at this point?! At least it's not a reboot like the 'new' Charlie's Angels.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Movie Review: Beginners
Beginners tells the story of Oliver, a man coming to terms with two life-changing events - his father coming out of the closet at age 75, after 44 years of marriage, and having to watch him deteriorate from terminal lung cancer only a few short years later. We see the story unfold three months after his father's death, through seamless flashbacks and screen-cuts of graphic images so the audience can actually feel Oliver's sadness through experiencing his memories.

While depressed and dealing with his loss, Oliver is coerced into attending a costume party with friends where he meets an unpredictable, young actress played by Mélanie Laurent. [Talk about a meet-cute, the woman he encounters has laryngitis and can't speak so their only interaction that night was through a notepad.] We get to watch their relationship blossom into love, although I don't suppose it would be too difficult to fall hard for a French-accented, gorgeous actress.

Fantastic performances all around with a stellar cast made up of Ewan McGregor, Inglourious Basterds' Mélanie Laurent (who was enchanting!), and Christopher Plummer. Plummer's performance was inspirational and heartbreaking, as a senior who has just come out-of-the-closet, embracing his new lifestyle only to die from cancer a few short years later. It was sort of beautiful seeing the way his relationship with a much younger boyfriend (Dr. Kovač from ER!) - made him act and feel instantly younger and full of life, even while dying. Honourable mention goes out to the adorable Jack Russell who managed to steal the scene on more than a few occasions - no one can resist a whimpering puppy.

Beginners opens June 3rd.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Favourite TV Moms (In Time for Mother's Day)

Carmela Soprano
The 'Real Housewives of New Jersey' Mom. Always made-up and ready for company, she's Tony Soprano's mob wife extraordinaire, sticking by her man through almost everything. Who wouldn't love to grow up with traditional Italian-American home cooking, and someone to do everything for your pampered and bratty ass, including, sort-of threatening the neighbour into writing a college recommendation letter for you. I guess it's the thought that counts.

Kitty Forman
From her annoying-yet-endearing laugh, to her tendency to smother her son, she proved to be the most adorable, old-fashioned mom. Although a nurse by profession, she made it her priority to cook and clean for her kids (and each and every one of her son's squatting friends), even convincing Red to take in Hyde when his mom left town. She just wanted a happy, loving family and even though she tried to get that with her never-ending family bonding suggestions (remember square dancing?!), you couldn't blame her for trying.

Lorelai Gilmore
With her eclectic fashion sense (you know you wanted to rummage through her closet), and her extensive knowledge of all things pop culture, she was the ultimate free-spirited mom AND best friend. Independent since the age of 16 when she got pregnant, she still managed to finish school and end up with a successful career. She was not only the most supportive mother on TV, but the mother-daughter dynamic between Lorelai and Rory is one for the ages. She's pretty much the mom you wish yours would be more like.

Nancy Botwin
Drug-dealing, adrenaline junkie, constantly putting her family in danger but always with the best of intentions. Even if she is always on the wrong side of the law, who wouldn't want a Mom with the weed-hookup? Although she's not exactly the greatest decision maker (she's the reason her family is perpetually on-the-run), she's trying to make the best of being a widow, and loves her kids to a fault, even sacrificing her freedom for the safety of her family. For that, we can overlook the fact that she's kind of a criminal, who's addicted to iced coffee and chunky-looking shoes.

And FYI, Nancy's shenanigans continue this summer when season 7 of Weeds starts June 27th.

Ruth Fisher
Matriarch (and mostly moral, center) of the Fisher family on Six Feet Under, she could be well-mannered and soft-spoken one minute, and a bohemian wild child the next. Always full of surprises (and new boyfriends), she made it her life's work to care for her family. But regardless of the drama, she always had their best interests at heart, and we loved her for it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Friday Night Lights - Late to the Game

I really don't like football. I don't even like watching the Superbowl (although I appreciate the junk food). But for some reason, what I do love, is watching stories about the lives of athletes. Maybe it's all those years of One Tree Hill and being consumed with the basketball-related, small-town, high school drama. Perhaps it's seeing underdogs overcoming obstacles that sparks an emotional reaction in me. Either way, after these Friday Night Lights alums (Minka Kelly, Taylor Kitsch, Aimee Teegarden) started getting all famous and buzz-worthy, I thought I'd try watching an episode to see what it was all about so I could finally stop saying, "Who the hell are these people?!"

I'm hooked. Every episode I've seen so far has brought me to tears. Yes, it's jam-packed with drama, but it's more about the realistic kinds of social issues that make up small-town, high school football-loving America. It doesn't help that the star quarterback, who's the nicest guy ever, is now paralyzed and stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of his life (á la Remember the Titans). And then there's the adorable and shy, second string quarterback, somehow managing to take care of his dementia-ridden grandmother while his dad is off in Iraq. It's always sad to see kids having to deal with things beyond their means, growing up alone and without role models. You end up getting consumed with their stories, seeing each character's unique perspective on their Football-loving town.

It takes a couple of episodes to get used to the show's production style, which is not typical of a TV drama. The camera work is shaky, as if someone is manually taping a home-movie. But it adds to the authenticity of Friday Night Lights, like you're right there in the game with them, getting a backstage pass into their complicated lives.