Here’s the poster for the new Muppets movie.
I have loved the Muppets for years.
From the age of 5, when Sesame Street’s Big Bird (so sad they couldn’t see his friend Snuffalapagus at first), Bert & Ernie, Grover (my absolute favourite Muppet still, with the possible exception of Animal or Fozzy bear), to The Muppet Show (1976-1981) with its silly banter, music hall setting, and pop culture send ups (the fact that the Star Wars cast went on the show gives you some idea how popular it was in its day, and for me, still is) to the movies like The Muppet Movie (1979) and Great Muppet Caper (1981), they were both cute, and irreverent, silly and heartfelt, and a delight to watch. The fact that their heyday was largely when I was growing up was one of the bright spots of a childhood spent absorbing much of the pop culture highlights of the day.
Now they’re back! Well, they never truly went away really thanks to the creative geniuses at Sesame Street, but hopefully this new movie will bring them back to the true prominence they deserve. It’s rare that any creation can speak to so many people at once – the lovers of all things cute and sentimental love the sweet underbelly of the Muppets while those of us who value sedition and irreverence are equally as rewarded.
I cannot wait to see this movie! Bring on January 1, 2012!

Community is back filming again!

So excited that Community has started filming season 3 – due to hit US screens in September – and to kick things off in style, some wag at the offices (this photo comes courtesy of Joel McHale’s Twitter feed) acknowledged their unforgiveable Emmys snub in the best way possible:

In other exciting news, John Goodman, the awesome star of Roseanne, and currently Damages, is joining Community for a limited episode arc as the Vice Dean. Can’t wait!
Here’s some stuff provided by Alison Brie’s twitter feed (who plays Annie Edison on the show) from the set of Community. It cracked me up and shows what a goofball Danny Pudi (Abed) is in his own time….
Danny ‘owling’ on set
Here, Danny grooves to NPR News on day 3 of filming…

Soft Universe- Pnau (review)

This is an enormously catchy, at times even euphoric , album.
The biggest appeal for me is the inherent catchiness of the melodies – infectiously upbeat in Everybody & Unite Us, and achingly beautiful in Something Beautiful, which sighs on the wings of great regret and sadness. The creative impulse behind the album was apparently Nick Littlemore’s break up with his girlfriend (he is one half of the duo along with old friend, Peter Mayes) but while you’d think that means it’s mired in the doldrums, and you’ll be ready to slash wrists or leap off buildings by the end of it, it’s actually a joyous affair suffused with the giddy sense that life has got better, and will continue that upward lunge.
It is the perfect soundtrack to going to and from work by the way since I tend to arrive feeling like the day will be wonderful, when often it is chaotically busy, crazy, mad and stressful, in common with many people who work for modern corporations, and feeling like that can only be a good thing. Listen to this album if only to remind yourself that good music can tame the nasty beast of modern reality and elevate you up above the morass.

Harry Potters and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

First my confession : I haven’t read the books! Yes I know start the stone throwing, vitriolic forum posts, upload videos to YouTube denouncing me, and get the rabble ready to storm the cyber battlements with poorly articulate and spelt brickbats.
All done? Feel better? Good. Now, I may not have read the books, but I have watched all the movies, and thoroughly enjoyed them. J K Rowling has created a complete, all encompassing, all absorbing world, and a protagonist in Harry who is both sympathetic and strong, with reactions to the overwhelming events that populate his life realistic and ringing true. He is a true hero, and as concerned with those he loves, as the ideals he believes in and will fight for.
In this movie, all of that comes to the fore, and it wraps up the most profitable saga in movie history with sincerity, heart, and action that leaves you breathless. But most of all, it neatly captures who Harry was, is, and who he becomes, and that life does move on beyond the epic great events of life, yes even with someone as iconic as Harry, and that it all makes much more sense when viewed in the context of all of life, and even death at one point. He is a true hero in that he truly believes in what he must do, and he finds out what the price is, doesn’t waver in paying it if it means that what he believes in, and those he loves are safeguarded.
This is exactly the ending you want for any series – it answers outstanding questions, gives the hero his defining moment and then shows you what results from that, reunites you one last time with the characters you love, and leaves you feeling sad that they will be gone, but happy that their world is intact and they are safe. I couldn’t ask for more.

Community – My New BFF Sitcom

I love a good sitcom.

But I adore truly great clever ones, and it has to be said, COMMUNITY is one of the best for years. It is edgy, clever, funny, takes risks, and still somehow manages to be sweet and touching without resorting to mawkishness. While the cast, all students at the fictional Greendale Community College, at first looks like a pragmatic exercise in politically correct casting, the writers never resort to easy cliches, and if they ever trade on a particular group’s cliches, it’s only to make a point, and it’s made so elegantly and with such humour, you don’t realise it’s been made till it sneaks up on you and you have one of those delicious “Aha!” moments that makes watching TV so special.

What has been so awesome about watching season 1 of this show is that feeds off pop culture, mostly through the pop culture addicted lens of Abed, in ways that leaving me gasping with admiration for the skill of the writers. The paintball episode, Modern Warfare where everyone competed for a sole priority registration slip, is an exquisitely good case in point employing with creative dexterity almost all the action/apocalypse/buddy movie cliches in a package so clever it told a story, displayed some real heart and soul, revealed some more about the characters, and in the case of Jeff and Britta, advanced their relationship, and did it all with an economy of style and visual lushness that made me want to hug my TV set. 

It was truly that good and I am scooting off to iTunes now to download and then feast on season 2.

Goodbye Ms Amy Winehouse

What an amazing talent. Yet sadly like so many amazing talents, she was so plagued by her inner demons, that the talent was overshadowed, and ultimately consumed by it. Such a tragedy for a lady who could have had so much, and a world robbed of such a precious gift.

RIP Amy. May you finally find peace.

Obituary by Caroline Sullivan from The Guardian

Leading a rock’n’roll life has proved fatal to many artists, but few could be considered as much of a loss to music as Amy Winehouse, who has been found dead at the age of 27, the cause not immediately clear. One of the outstanding singers of her generation, she had suffered from drug addiction, and the loss of hope that goes with it. Her husky, soul-steeped voice belied both her youth and her London origins – singing from the gut is not just the province of older black American performers.
Winehouse’s music spoke to people so persuasively that her second album, Back to Black, became Britain’s bestselling record of 2007 and reached number two in the US, making her one of only a few British female soloists to achieve that level of transatlantic recognition. Its success spurred sales of her initially overlooked first album, Frank (2003), so titled because of the diary-style lyrics that produced songs such as Stronger Than Me, which railed against a “gay ladyboy” ex-boyfriend. The two sold a total of more than 10m copies worldwide.
Born to a Jewish family in north Finchley, north London, Winehouse grew up listening to the jazz albums of her taxi-driver father, Mitch. He and her pharmacist mother, Janis, later divorced.
Amy caught the performing bug so early that by the age of eight she was attending stage school. She spent time at three, including the Sylvia Young theatre school, central London, from which she was expelled for “not applying herself”, and the Brit school in Croydon, south London. Rebellious instincts surfaced in her mid-teens: by 16, she had acquired her first tattoo and was smoking cannabis. “My parents pretty much realised that I would do whatever I wanted, and that was it, really,” she said later.
Her boyfriend of the time passed a cassette of her singing to a record company, which was impressed. “It was unlike anything that had ever come through my radar,” said songwriter Felix Howard, who went on to collaborate with Winehouse on Frank. She signed a deal with the world’s largest label, Universal, and was taken on by the management company run by Simon Fuller, the force behind Pop Idol and its television spin-offs. However, being in the bosom of the pop establishment turned Winehouse surly and defensive. When she was accused early on by the press of being one of Fuller’s pop puppets, she retorted: “He’s clever enough to know he can’t fuck with me.”  
If Winehouse was not entirely singular – Dusty Springfield and Maggie Bell preceded her as white British pop singers whose complicated personal lives yielded unguarded, richly soulful music – she certainly stood out from almost every other artist under 40. When Frank was released, just after her 20th birthday, the prevailing female pop sound was the manicured slickness epitomised by Girls Aloud. Winehouse’s disconcerting sultriness meant she was initially classified as a jazz vocalist. Despite being tipped by critics as a “buzz” act – borne out by two Brits nominations in 2004 – she did not catch the public’s fancy, and Frank peaked at number 13 in the charts.
It was when she finished promoting the album and set about writing the follow-up that a remarkable transformation took place. During this time she met her future husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, who worked on the periphery of the music business as an assistant on video shoots. The attraction was apparently instant, at least on Winehouse’s part, and when Fielder-Civil ended the relationship after a few months, she poured her depression into songs that would become Back to Black.
Of the months following their split, she said: “I had never felt the way I feel about him about anyone in my life. I thought we’d never see each other again. I wanted to die.”
The album was released in late 2006, and when Winehouse began a round of concerts and TV appearances that autumn, it was obvious that she had spent the recent past walking on the wild side. She had lost several stone and acquired armfuls of tattoos, a mountainous beehive hairdo and, it was rumoured, drug and alcohol problems.
Typically forthright, she drew attention to the latter in Back to Black’s first single, Rehab: “I don’t never want to drink again, I just need a friend… They tried to make me go to rehab, I said no, no, no.” Despite its subject, the song was infectiously upbeat, and became her first Top 10 hit, remaining in the charts for a near-record-breaking 57 weeks.
The whole album was also an instant, and huge, success. The jazz-lite that characterised Frank had been supplanted by sparky R&B, immediately hummable songs and, crucially, the performance of a lifetime from Winehouse, who sang as if her heart were damaged beyond repair. Critical acclaim was heaped on it – “One of the great breakthrough CDs of our time… when this lady sings about love, she means every word,” said the US Entertainment Weekly magazine – and it appeared on numerous best-of-the-year lists. Its appeal transcended language barriers, sending it to number one in 18 countries, including the UK.
A great imponderable was whether Back to Black would have connected so strongly with listeners if Winehouse had not simultaneously been playing out her emotional dramas in public. Still wracked by the failure of her relationship with Fielder-Civil, her behaviour was erratic: her weight dropped further and the monstrous beehive got even taller. She seemed to lack the inhibitions that stop most people from “acting out” in public, which made her a tabloid dream – drawn by the scent of disturbed celebrity, paparazzi were soon following her around the streets of north London.
Perversely, as her life became more complex, her success increased. She won the 2007 Brit award for best female artist, and Ivor Novello awards for Rehab and Love Is a Losing Game. In addition, she picked up Q magazine’s best album trophy, and was nominated for that year’s Mercury prize.
She unexpectedly reunited with Fielder-Civil in early 2007, and in May they married on impulse in Miami. If Winehouse had been fragile before, the marriage seemed to bring out the worst in her. She and her new husband became heavy drug users, and she was soon said to be injecting heroin. The couple were frequently photographed looking much the worse for wear, and Winehouse’s arms bore the marks of self-inflicted cuts. She collapsed from an overdose in the summer, and paid the first of several unsuccessful visits to rehab.
Fielder-Civil was arrested in November, and subsequently pleaded guilty to attacking a pub landlord and attempting to pervert the course of justice by offering him £200,000 to keep quiet about it. While he was on remand, Winehouse lurched on as best she could. She cancelled concerts, struck up a friendship with fellow junkie Pete Doherty and tried rehab again. In the midst of it all, her talent still unquenched, she won five Grammy awards in February 2008.
The couple’s relationship ended when Fielder-Civil was jailed the following July for 27 months. Despite initially saying she would wait for him, they divorced in 2009 and she moved temporarily to the Caribbean island of St Lucia, where she hoped to escape the pernicious influence of the drug crowd in Camden, north London. Her flat in Camden was conveniently close to her favourite pub, the Hawley Arms. While she claimed to have kicked drugs in St Lucia, she admitted that she was drinking to compensate – though not to excess, she insisted.
Several other relationships followed, the longest-lasting with Reg Traviss, director of the films Screwed and Psychosis. Winehouse also began to record the follow-up to Back to Black: the head of Universal, Lucian Grainge, pronounced the demos “fantastic”. She also launched her own label, Lioness, whose first signing was her 13-year-old goddaughter, Dionne Bromfield.
Nonetheless, Winehouse was constantly in one sort of trouble or another. She was arrested several times for public order offences, hospitalised for emphysema and treated for an infection caused by silicone breast implants. And, always, there was evidence that she had not conquered the demons that she battled throughout her career: last year the tabloid papers ran a photo of her unconscious on a bench outside a pub, and last month she behaved so erratically on stage in the Serbian capital of Belgrade that the rest of her summer tour was cancelled.
Her final public appearance came three days before her death, at a gig by Bromfield at the Roundhouse, Camden. Winehouse danced in dreamy circles, then disappeared without singing a note. Her last recording was a duet with Tony Bennett, to be released on his album Duets II in September.
During the chaotic last years of her life, she was frequently compared to other singers with tempestuous existences, such as Billie Holiday and Édith Piaf. She is survived by her parents and brother, Alex.
• Amy Jade Winehouse, pop singer-songwriter, born 14 September 1983; died 23 July 2011

News of the World…. The Art of Evasive Sleaze

Today (UK time), 19 July Rupert Murdoch & James faced a British parliamentary enquiry established to looking into the News of the World scandal, which grows wider and more damaging by the way, and while very little of anything was admitted to by them (like that was a surprise), comments in the Twittersphere were damn near hilarious….

“Rupert didn’t know anything about anything. “Nobody told me.” “It was like that when I got here.” “A Big boy did it and ran away”… (@PaulBurston)

“I give it five, maybe six minutes before Rupert denies ever having owned a newspaper.” (@benpobjie)

“Remember Dad one kick in the shins means yes, two means no.” (@craigreucassel)

“I do not have knowledge of that.” Having tshirts printed (@StMurphy)

“James is so grounded when they get home.” (@s_sidekick)

“Look away from the screen and imagine Tom Cruise delivering Jame’s dialogue. It works.” (@johnbonbailey)

“James Murodhc is doing hat thing when your mum catches you and you ramble on ending up with “the dog did it” (@WhichPennySmith)

“‘James, would you like a cup of tea?’ ‘I have no knowledge of liking tea, but I’m happy to find out if I do and get back to you.'” (@ncguk)

“Geeks, having trouble concentrating on the enquiry? Imagine it’s the Emperor and Darth Vader in front of the Jedi Council.” (@Simon Pegg)

... and it all ends with Murdoch getting hit with a pie by a Johnny Marbles at the enquiry. Farce plus!

Emmy Nominations are in!

I would like to say I am a connoisseur of hip quality TV, but the truth is I love and need it so much that I am, in all truth, a junkie. I need my fixes of my favourite shows like Nurse Jackie, Glee, Big Bang Theory, Modern Fanily and Parks & Recreation, and I need them often and now!

So as a junkie of pop culture, one of the big events of the year is the release of the Emmy nominations and this year’s are out and you can see them here:

My only moment of bug-eyed spluttering outrage was the omission of Community, one of the laugh out loud funniest shows on Tv right now. For shame Emmys, for shame…