Year in Concerts 2015

I had fun doing a little recap of all my concerts last year, that I wanted to do another one for this year’s many concerts.

1. PENTATONIX – On My Way Home Tour

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When I went to see these guys, I went with an old friend of mine and he said something along the lines of “Isn’t it funny that we’re seeing a group who will sound exactly like the CD?” Legit question because of course, these guys are acapella. What else were we supposed to expect from them at a live concert? And you know what? They delivered a concert, as if they were any other musical act, and just doing their thing. Unfortunately, short people problems so I had a tough time actually SEEING them but still a fun time. I hope next time to come to Toronto, they do the show at Massey Hall, which would be SO PERFECT for them with the acoustics and everything.

2. MAROON 5 – V Tour

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Can you believe this was my 8th time seeing these guys in concert? As always though, the concert never felt long enough, especially considering they are five albums in. I love them dearly, but I’d be happy if they went back to basics on their next album/tour. They put on a great show regardless and makes me a happy fan every time I see them (even if they don’t play my favourite ‘non-M5 but still sung by Adam Levine’ song, “Lost Stars”)

3. JESSIE J – Sweet Talker Tour

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A sign of my skills lacking this year in the concert department, I totally didn’t hear about Jessie J touring. When I finally found out, tickets to the Toronto show was sold out. As luck would have it though, the venue released more tickets a week before the show. DONE! First time seeing Jessie in concert and she did not disappoint at all. I mean, the girl was battling a cold and still KILLED IT with the vocals.

4. THE SCRIPT – No Sound Without Silence Tour

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It has been four years since I last saw The Script in concert. Partially my fault because I didn’t particularly like their #3 album. But in my opinion, No Sound Without Silence was a return to form and I couldn’t miss them coming through Toronto. Great guys, putting on a great show.

5. KELLY CLARKSON – Piece by Piece Tour

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I made it a point to avoid all Toronto traffic this summer because of the PanAm games and knowing that traffic was going to be crazy. My exception was to see Kelly. Not to mention, Pentatonix was opening for her. I thought I was safe heading into the city on the last day of the games but no such luck there. I missed PTX and made it JUST in time to see Kelly. Also, because the show was at the Molson Amphitheater, concerts have to end at a certain time, meaning judging by the setlists of other cities, we got gypped of three songs. Besides all the crummy stuff, it’s effin’ KELLY CLARKSON; she kills it every time. AND she did “Heartbeat Song” with PTX, so I didn’t miss them entirely.

6. KATE VOEGELE & TYLER HILTON

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What’s a year without seeing Tyler Hilton these days? This time, he was joined by another One Tree Hill alum, Kate Voegele! Both very chill music artists and as much as I love the big shows with full band and all that, sometimes all I need is an acoustic show like this one.

7. JANET JACKSON – Unbreakable Tour

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Janet is a complete legend, so who am I to miss out on seeing her perform her greatest hits and new material?

8. MATT NATHANSON

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At this point, I’m pretty sure it’s obvious how much I love seeing Matt Nathanson in concert. Even moreso when he does an acoustic show like this one. For added fun, Matt brought along a Wheel of Songs (see picture)! Songs from all his albums, as voted by fans, were put onto the wheel and fate (sometimes with a little help from Matt lol) decided some of the songs Matt would play. Like I said, fun times!

9. JAMES BAY 

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I got to end off my year going to see one of my favourite new artists this year, James Bay! I once again suffered through going to the Sound Academy (a terrible Toronto concert venue) to see James, only because I had missed him coming through town twice before this year. Again, short people problems, and I couldn’t fully enjoy the concert as a result.

It was once again a great year for concerts; majority of them being relatively inexpensive ones at that! With such a busy concert year, I’m surprised I still got in some travel, two Cons (SDCC and Heroes/Villains Fan Fest), TIFF, and two other shows (Shaping Sound, Cinderella the Musical). Now it’s still too early to call, but I’m guessing that next year won’t be so concert-busy. Trust me though, that’s a good thing, as I’m still planning to do SDCC (even though I didn’t get pre-reg badges) and I’ve got a New York trip on deck as well. So lots of fun times are still to be had in 2016!

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Music Monday: My Year in Concerts

As a music fan, I’ve always loved going to concerts. There’s just something about hearing music live that just makes me so happy and feels like everything is right in the world, if only for a couple hours. So for this Music Monday, I thought I’d feature the concerts I went to this year.

1. Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience Tour

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I wrote about my thoughts on this tour back when I saw it, but let me repeat – my dancer’s heart loved every single minute of it.

2. Lady AntebellumTake Me Downtown Tour

Lady Antebellum Take Me Downtown Tour

I’m very limited in my tastes when it comes to country music. Country pop I can deal with to an extent; I can’t handle real southern country twang. When I first heard Lady Antebellum, it was when they released ‘Need You Now’ and I remember thinking these guys are really cool and sound really great. I quickly became a fan, to say the least. After missing out on their Own the Night tour (which I’m still kinda bummed about because I absolutely LOVED that album), I had to make sure I got to see them the next time they were in town, which was for this tour. Though to be honest, I felt really out of place at the concert. Being a minority and a generally awkward person, I’m typically used to feeling out of place. For some reason, I felt VERY odd being one of few Asians at a country music concert (and not wearing plaid – believe me, there was A LOT of plaid). My being-out-of-place aside, Lady A are wonderful live and it was a great concert overall.

3. Gavin DeGraw

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For years, a friend and I had complained about Gavin not doing a show in Toronto. Lucky us this year, he did 2 separate shows. This first show he did was a solo show in support of his Make A Move album. I remember still being sick/jet-lagged from my trip, but I still had so much fun seeing Gavin perform. His opening acts were Rozzi Crane (signed to Adam Levine’s label) and Parachute (a pop-rock band I’ve followed for some time now), both of whom were really solid.

4. Justin Nozuka

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It had been years since I’d last seen Justin Nozuka in concert and when I found out he was releasing a new album and coming back to Toronto, I jumped right on it. Personally, I don’t really like the new album; it’s a little too mellow for my tastes. And most of the concert was comprised of the new material so I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more of the old stuff. I still cherished him performing ‘After Tonight’ midway through the show; it was quite a pick-me-up that got everybody grooving and singing along. I just wish there was a little more of it.

5. Michael Buble – To Be Loved Tour

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I love seeing Michael Buble in concert. I always say this but when you go see him, you get a little bit of a comedy show as well. It’s his natural sense of humour and self-deprecation. Once again, he brought out Naturally 7 (a very cool acapella group) as his opening act, and who later returned to do a couple songs acapella with Michael. And one of my favourites parts of the show was actually when Michael performed part of a song by himself, with no accompaniment and no mic – a feat all in itself considering he was playing in a huge arena.

6. Matt Nathanson & Gavin DeGraw

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I always love seeing Matt Nathanson in concert (this was my 5th time seeing him) and add to that, getting to see Gavin for a second time within 3 months? Yeah, it was a no brainer. Despite the fact that the show was at the Sound Academy, a venue in Toronto I have associated with bad memories. Even so, I had to go see this double headlining tour of two of my favourites. My friend and I actually got lucky and received a VIP upgrade when we got there, allowing us to go to the second floor of the club. But after about 20 minutes upstairs, we made our way back down to stand with the masses; it just felt weird standing up top and what’s the point of VIP if you don’t even get to meet the artists? Regardless of that, it was a fantastic show!

7. Tyler Hilton

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It wasn’t that long ago that my friends and I complained about Tyler never playing a show in Toronto, despite the fact that he was constantly in the area (his now fiancé, Megan Park, is from London, Ontario). Since seeing him in 2012 for the first time, this was show number 5. I remember Tyler was actually battling a bit of a cold and kinda losing his voice, but he powered through his (albeit shortened) set. AND to make up for the fact that he didn’t do as long a set as he normally does, he agreed to do a meet and greet, taking pictures with fans.

8. Jason Mraz and Raining Jane

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For his new album Yes!, Jason Mraz worked exclusively with a wonderfully talented female band, Raining Jane. It was more a collaborative album than a simple Jason Mraz album. That being said, the two took the album on the road, and I got the chance to see them at the historic Massey Hall. Massey Hall is a venue that is known for its amazing acoustics and ended up being a fantastic place for Jason and Jane.

9. Kris Allen and Boyce Avenue

Kris AllenTechnically, it was Boyce Avenue’s show, with Kris Allen supporting, but I was there to go see Kris since I had yet to see him live in concert. Plus, I wasn’t going to say no to a $30 concert ticket. Kris’ set was a short 45 minutes but he managed to squeeze quite a number of songs from all three albums, plus a couple cover songs (Sia’s ‘Chandelier’ and Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me’). ‘Monster’, a song from his 2nd album, is one of my favourites from Kris, but man, to hear it live? Kris and his band took it to another level. I even went so far as to compare it to hearing Maroon 5 perform ‘Sweetest Goodbye’ (my absolute favourite M5 song) live. Pure perfection. As for Boyce Avenue, I was familiar with their cover songs but not their original material. Honestly, I thought their originals were a little blah, and I actually got a little bored hearing them perform. Talented guys, just not into them.

10. Justin TimberlakeThe 20/20 Experience Tour (again!)

JT 20/20 TourIt only seemed appropriate that I end my concert year the same way I started it – seeing JT. The guy never ceases to amaze me and I always have SO much fun at his shows. I feel like I’m just gushing at this point, but what can I say, I’m a dancer at heart and loved singing/dancing along.

With 10 concerts, I feel like that’s the most shows I’ve ever been to in a year, and that’s not even including theatre shows, plus TIFF and SDCC. At this point, concert-going is like my life, so I can’t even keep track anymore. Here’s to another fun-filled, musical year in 2015!

Pop Cultured Summer 2014

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Summer is officially upon us. Sure, by the time May rolled around, Hollywood had already deemed it as summertime, based on the number of blockbusters we already got treated with. (For what it’s worth, how AWESOME was X-Men: Days of Future Past?!) For this avid TV fan, May marked the end of the regular TV season, so summer tends to slow down just the slightest bit, but there’s still so much to watch/see/do. So here is what I’m looking forward to this summer in movies, music, and yes, TV.

JUNE

  • 22 Jump Street: LOVED the first movie and seriously could not wait to watch this one.22 Jump Street
  • Suits S4: The student becomes the master and now it’s Harvey versus Mike. It’s undoubtedly weird to not see the two working alongside each other, but man have they set up some interesting dynamics to work with now that Mike is no longer with Pearson Specter.
  • Graceland S2: From Mike Ross to Mike Warren. I loved watching this show last summer and so happy to see it back this summer. This time, Mike’s got the whole house working to help him on a case.
  • Covert Affairs S5: What happens now that Annie Walker is no longer a “dead” rogue agent? I can’t wait to find out.
  • Michael Buble concert: I last saw Michael Buble in concert about 4 years ago. It was actually the first time I had seen him and was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had at it. Come for the music, stay for the added comedy show.

JULY

  • San Diego Comic Con!: SO FREAKIN’ EXCITED! I had so much fun last year with it being my first time, I am determined to have even more fun this year.
  • Matt Nathanson & Gavin DeGraw concert: After having complained before about not having seen Gavin DeGraw in concert, this will be the 2nd time this year that I get to see him. The fact that he’s touring with one of my personal concert faves Matt Nathanson is just icing on the cake. Guaranteed to be a great show.Matt&Gavin
  • Jason Mraz “Yes!” album: Why wouldn’t I be excited about a new Jason Mraz album? This one just happens to be a little extra special in that he worked on the album with a group of supremely talented female musicians, Raining Jane.
  • Lucy: The one movie this month that I’m quite excited about is this one, starring Scarlett Johansson as a woman who is accidentally caught in a dark deal that has turned her into a superhuman. Every once in a while it’s nice to see a movie that isn’t a remake, adaptation or sequel.
  • Extant: Halle Berry makes her foray into TV this series, starring as an astronaut who is trying to readjust to life on Earth after a year in space. Her experiences in the past year however, might now change the course of history.
  • Witches of East End S2: What happens to the Beauchamp ladies now that Dash and Killian’s powers have reappeared after the death of their mother and Joanna’s son has crossed realms? Frankly, I can’t wait to find out.
  • The Strain: Guillermo del Toro’s take on vampires is going to be interesting and probably scary horrifying.
  • Begin Again: I saw this movie, when it was called Can A Song Save Your Life? at the Toronto International Film Festival last September. Since then, I have been waiting anxiously to not only see the movie again but finally own the soundtrack. I LOVE the music in this movie and it’s been killing me not having the songs. Soon enough…

AUGUST

  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon, Vin Diesel as Groot – what’s not to get excited about? Previews for the movie make it seem a lot more light and fun than all the other movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and here’s hoping it’s as good as it seems.Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Movie-Production-Art
  • The F-Word (aka What If? in the U.S.): Daniel Radcliffe stars in this Canadian-made romantic comedy about a guy who seemingly meets the love of his life. The catch? She’s already got a boyfriend so they strike up a friendship instead. See, the F-word in question is friend, as in “the friend zone.” Silly Americans changing the name of the movie for nothing.
  • Step Up All In: Yes, this is the 5th movie in the Step Up series. This one includes actors/dancers from all the previous ones, though don’t be expecting to see Channing and Jenna (unless of course they do a super secret cameo). And let’s be real, I’m just a sucker for amazing dancing.

That’s what I’m looking forward to this summer, in a nutshell. What is everybody looking forward to?

Favourites of 2013

It’s that time of year, where everybody is getting ready for Christmas and the start of a new year. Meanwhile, entertainment outlets everywhere are doing their “best-of” lists to cap off the year. So to keep up with my own modified version of those traditions, I give you my favourites in music/movies/television of the past year.

MUSIC – ALBUMS

  • Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience [The Complete Experience] – My year in music was made all the better with JT releasing 2 new albums this year. Some people didn’t like them for various reasons (songs were too long, not dance-y enough, a little self-indulgent?), but this was hands down my absolute favourite album of the year. I may be biased as a JT fan, but as a music fan, I appreciate that he can take musical risks while still keeping his signature sound. It was perfection to my ears.
  • Megan Hilty, It Happens All the Time – Megan had been known as a Broadway actress before starring in the TV series Smash, and though the show ended up being not so great in its two-season run, it was very much agreed upon that Megan was the best part of it. So it came as no surprise that she managed to get an album recorded and released, filled with original songs and covers. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the album is, particularly with the music selection, as it wasn’t just showtunes. For the covers, I loved her version of Switchfoot’s “Dare You to Move” and then one of the originals “Walk Away” was actually a song that was co-written by Carrie Underwood and Ne-Yo! There is just an easy feeling when you hear the album and I just fell in love with it.
  • PJ Morton, New Orleans – I only came to know about PJ when he started playing with Maroon 5 during the Hands All Over days as an additional keyboardist/vocal to fill out their sound live. Since then, he’s continued working on his own music, while playing with the band in a bigger capacity (taking over for Jesse Carmichael on keyboard while he takes a break from music). PJ had signed to Young Money Records (Lil Wayne’s label) and this album is his first release with the label. For me, this was just a solid R&B album from beginning to end, that really had a throwback sound to it (almost a Stevie Wonder quality to it) but decidedly modern as well.
  • Sara Bareilles, The Blessed Unrest – I feel as though Sara is just one of those artists who are just so damn dependable to make good music. This is her third album and you can hear the progression in her songwriting from her first album to this one. “Brave” is just a fantastic first single that follows in the footsteps of “Love Song” and “King of Anything” being sort of a pop anthem. The rest of the album is filled with wonderful piano pop that often stretches the musicality of it (I’m not sure I made sense there). Point is: she stretches herself as an artist/musician but in a way that fits into her style and personality, so it doesn’t ever feel like she’s trying too hard to do something different.
  • Matt Nathanson, Last of the Great Pretenders – What I said about Sara being so damn dependable as an artist, certainly applies to Matt as well. That the two of them released their albums on the same day this summer was a perfectly awesome coincidence. With this album, his eighth, Matt draws up a 40-minute ode to San Francisco, with all of its eclectic influences.
  • Beyonce, BEYONCE – She surprised the entire world when she secretly released this album on iTunes. I have always respected Beyonce as an artist and have really enjoyed her songs, but can’t say that I’ve been a huge fan. So I have to give her props for everything she did with regards to this album. As a whole, I think it’s her best one yet. I liked that she took different risks with the songs and that it’s a unique sound, but still completely Beyonce. There might not be a typical radio single, but who cares? When the music’s good, that’s all that matters.

MUSIC – SONGS

  • Lorde, Royals – I admittedly was late to the party in terms of hearing this song. I had heard about it but didn’t hear the song itself until sometime in the summer. I was hooked from the first listen. There’s a dynamic about the song that was just so different from anything else.
  • Megan Hilty, Bittersweet Symphony – Season 2 of Smash was a mess but for the most part, the music was still good. For some reason though, Megan’s cover of this Verve song stuck out. I already raved about Megan and her album up top, but I just fell in love with her version of this song. It’s just SO GOOD, I can’t even explain why I love it so much. I’ve always loved this song, but how they did re-did this song with Megan singing, it almost sounds like a different song
  • Ben Hazlewood, Knock On My Window – This is a case of I’m not entirely sure why it’s one of my favourites this year; I just couldn’t stop listening to it. Ben was a contestant on the first season of The Voice Australia and this track came off of his EP that he released. The song itself is pop with a very cool groove to it…and now that I think about it, it reminds me of Maroon 5’s “One More Night.” THAT’S probably why I’m addicted to it.
  • Jay-Z ft. Justin Timberlake, Holy Grail – Jay-Z & JT were just on a roll with their collaborations this year. With all the dynamics of the song, it probably shouldn’t have worked but it did. Justin sounds very melancholy starting off the song, then the hip-hop beat kicks in, with a little Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit” sample put in, all serving as a backdrop to lyrics about the fickleness of fame. It is all kinds of awesome.
  • Glee, Make You Feel My Love + If I Die Young – I stuck it out until the end of season 4 of the show and I promised myself I wasn’t going to watch the show again (except the early episodes when it was good). Then tragedy struck with Cory Monteith’s untimely death. I was like everybody else, I wanted to see how the show would deal with such tragedy in their family, so I watched their tribute episode to him and his character. The episode itself was so emotional and it’s a wonder how any of them coped with such a loss. The two songs, sung in the episode by Lea Michele and Naya Rivera respectively, were particularly poignant and wrought with emotion that the tears were out of control just hearing them sing these songs.
  • Kelly Clarkson, My Favorite Things – I usually don’t listen to a lot of Christmas music, especially early on in the season; I usually limit it to a week or two leading up to Christmas. This year, all that changed and it’s completely Kelly Clarkson’s fault because she released a holiday album and one of my favourite songs on that album was this one. I’ve also never been a huge The Sound of Music fan, but good lord I love how Kelly jazzed up this song.

MOVIES

*This list is obviously based only on movies that I’ve been able to see this year. There’s many more movies that I haven’t gotten around to seeing or are too new (i.e. those darn Oscar-bait/contenders that just got released but are on several critics’ Best Of lists for the year).

  • Now You See Me – Fantastic word-of-mouth over the summer made my expectations high for when I did actually get around to watching it. It was a fun caper thriller featuring magic. The tone of the movie reminded me a lot of Ocean’s Eleven (with a slightly smaller cast of course) and though it wasn’t a perfect movie, it was highly enjoyable. Plus, bonus points for an original screenplay that’s not a remake/sequel/adaptation.
  • Thor: The Dark World – Getting Alan Taylor, best known these days for being a frequent director on Game of Thrones, to go behind the camera for this movie was a wise decision. Not to knock Kenneth Branagh for his work on the first film, but with this movie, you could really feel the scope of Asgard and the other realms. Add to the fact that there seemed to be a lot more going on in this movie than the first, everything just felt better and fuller, as if pressure had been lifted from having to make everything work. Bonus for me was getting to see Zachary Levi taking over for Josh Dallas as Fandral. Again, nothing against Josh, I just love Zac and seeing him on the big screen put a huge smile on my face.
  • Prisoners – First of all, look at the poster and check out the actors billed: almost all Academy Award nominees and/or winners. Not gonna lie, that alone made me go “Whoa” when I first heard about the movie. Then the trailer looked incredibly intense. Then when I finally got a chance to watch the movie, I saw for myself what all the talk was about after it premiered at TIFF this year. It’s a crime thriller that definitely borrowed influences from a bunch of different movies and the end result was just as what the trailer suggested – intense. Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal put in incredible performances in this movie. I myself am so looking forward to attending the In Conversation With Jake Gyllenhaal and Denis Villeneuve (the director of this movie, as well as Enemy, another movie starring Gyllenhaal) at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in early January, and hopefully they’ll talk about this movie
  • Gravity – Whether or not it is technically accurate doesn’t matter. Sandra Bullock gave the performance of her career here, essentially carrying the movie on her own, except for brief moments with George Clooney. The movie was exceptional in 3D, as director Alfonso Cuaron made you feel as if you were in space with Bullock. Everything was just visually stunning.
  • Philomena – I talked about this movie in my TIFF wrap-up post already, but I have to say it again, I’m really glad I was given the chance to see it. It’s not the typical movie I’d be interested in, yet after I watched it I was just so impressed by it. The fact that Steve Coogan, known mostly as a comedic actor, co-wrote the heartwarming script based on a true story, was a very welcome surprise and you also get to see a side of Dame Judi Dench you don’t normally see.
  • The Spectacular Now – I had listed this as one of the movies I was looking forward to watching in August, and boy did it ever live up to the praise. On the surface it is a love story, when Sutter (Miles Teller) the popular kid in school falls for Aimee (Shailene Woodley) the quiet girl – sounds cliche doesn’t it? On a deeper level, it’s Sutter’s coming-of-age story – how his unexpected relationship with Aimee changes him, his relationships with his family and friends, and his outlook on life. What made this movie stand out is that it’s not the Hollywood view of teenage life; this feels real with the awkwardness of dating and the anxiety of life after high school.
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – One of my most anticipated movies of the year and it did not disappoint. To some, Catching Fire (both the movie and the book) can seem like a rehash of the first movie with another Games and it serving as the bridge to the third (and fourth, for the movies). It’s not completely wrong to think that way because it’s kind of true. However, you can’t deny all the character development that occurs as we’re being set up for Mockingjay. Director Francis Lawrence also proved to be a great choice to take over for Gary Ross, as he brings a different style to the film.
  • Fruitvale Station – This movie is based on the true story of Oscar Grant, a young African-American man wrongly shot in a subway station in the Bay Area on New Year’s Day 2009. The film itself follows the final 24 hours of his life and shows him as a young man wanting to do right by his family, but has to contend with his past. Surprisingly, knowing what was going to happen didn’t make the fateful scene any less shocking because we just spent time getting to know him. It’s certainly a testament to writer-director Ryan Coogler and actor Michael B. Jordan for making us sympathize with Grant’s struggles in such a way that it still does shock us when the incident occurs.

TELEVISION (NEW SHOWS)

  • Orphan Black – I was one of the idiots who didn’t watch this show when it first aired. Despite reading tweets by entertainment writers telling me to watch it, I just didn’t know what it was; I may have also mixed it up with some other show in this brain of mine. Anyways, after getting proverbially hit over the head multiple times to watch this, I binge-watched it over one weekend and was immediately hooked after the first episode (hence the binge-watch). I mean it’s sort of a sci-fi show (it deals with clones after all!), but it also has all this character drama, a hint of a thriller, which also deals with psychological/sociological ideas. Plus, Tatiana Maslany! The girl plays SEVEN different characters with such ease, you forget that it’s just her. Also, being Canadian, I was so surprised to see that this is a Canadian made/set show. I know they say it’s a little ambiguous about where the show is set, but it’s fairly obvious it’s Toronto. The funny thing about all this is that at SDCC, my cousin was all about this show trying to get the autograph signing; she didn’t get it, but I ended up trying to take pictures of Tatiana, Dylan Bruce, and Jordan Gavaris for her during the signing, not realizing I was taking pictures of people I was about to obsess over! Now I can’t wait for my next Comic-Con (be it Toronto or San Diego) so I can try harder and meet these wonderful people!
  • Sleepy Hollow – A sort-of re-imagining of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, where Ichabod Crane wakes up in present day Sleepy Hollow to fight the Headless Horseman. Sounded awesome, with a dash of ridiculous, didn’t it? – which is kind of what it ended up being. It’s a show that ended up striking just the right balance of mythology, character, drama, action, supernatural, campy fun, and humour. Executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci definitely know something about that balance, having worked on Fringe, but Len Wiseman and Ken Olin also bring a lot to the table. And the cast – regulars Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie, Orlando Jones, Katia Winter; plus recurring stars Lyndie Greenwood, John Noble, John Cho – just make everything work.
  • Almost Human – I was so excited about this show when it got picked up at Upfronts back in May because it’s from J.H. Wyman, J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk, the three people who were very much responsible for my beloved Fringe. Then I saw the pilot at SDCC, which re-affirmed my excitement. It’s a futuristic take on the typical procedural and that in itself just makes things more interesting because it’s a new realm of crime and technology. Add to that, the fact that this is like a buddy-cop drama, with Karl Urban’s damaged human, Kennex, being forced to team up with Michael Ealy’s emotional and wickedly awesome robot, Dorian.
  • Trophy Wife – The name has been an issue; a case you thought ABC might have learned from when they aired Cougar Town, a show that was also MUCH more than its name suggested. At times, you can have a hard time grasping how Bradley Whitford’s Pete ended up with either of his two ex-wives – the cold and stern Diane + the carefree Jackie – or his current younger wife, Kate. That suspension of disbelief aside, it’s a really funny and cute show. The dynamics between the adults, as well as the kids, are terrific. They’re all such characters that somehow work extremely well together. And yes, Albert Tsai’s Bert almost always steals the show whenever he shows up.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine – I mentioned in my fall check-in post how this cast works phenomenally well together. It was like a well-oiled machine, right from the get-go, and I count on them for my weekly laughs. I just need other people to also watch this show.

TELEVISION (RETURNING SHOWS)

  • Nikita – I’m going to keep this short. My favourite show/obsession just ended its run as one of the most underrated series in recent memory. I’m going to miss it SO MUCH.
  • Arrow – If there’s a show that just continually tries to outdo itself, this is it. Through the second half of the first season and going into the second, the writers just know no bounds. Particularly with this second season, where it seems like DC just let them go nuts with the universe and include whatever character they want. I think it’s a real testament to everyone involved with the show that they can make people like me, who don’t know the source material, still be excited about a character reveal. They’ve just done such a great job building their version of Starling City, plus Oliver’s world and relationships, that it’s very easy to get wrapped up in what’s going on.
  • The Mindy Project – Mindy is on a roll. This rom-com + workplace comedy is non-stop laughs, not just from the leads but also by the supporting characters. I don’t know what to say about it, except that more people need to be watching it! I mean where else are you going to see Chris Messina dancing to an Aaliyah song? (Seriously, watch it for yourself. It is hilariously awesome.)
  • Suits – I love this show. There’s some legal stuff that happens on the show but that’s not important. The important thing is the relationships that occur between the characters and how they seemingly riff-off each other. That, plus the pop culture references! In all seriousness though, this is a show that is the very definition of a dramedy – a drama series that infuses a lot of humour and heart. One of the best examples from this season is how they handled what seemed like a throwaway storyline involving Louis and a cat, and gave it the same depth and weight as any other legal case.

That’s it from me. Here’s hoping for the best in 2014!

Pop Cultured Summer 2013 – July

Summer is usually a time reserved for sunshine, beaches, and vacations. For pop culture fans like me, it may mean the end of my regularly scheduled TV programming but the start of a batch of other summertime shows. It also means the air-conditioned movie theaters are filled with the latest blockbusters, and live music abounds at stadiums/arenas/amphitheaters everywhere. So as we continue on with what summer brings us, here’s what I’m looking forward to this month. (Also, Happy Canada Day!)

JULY

I can’t wait for what’s in store in July!! And funny thing is a lot of the things I’m looking forward to all happen within the same week. On July 16th, two of my favourite summer shows are back for their new seasons – Suits and Covert Affairs. Both shows are coming back from their respective game-changing finales that involved revelations and new relationships being made. July 14th marks the return of The Newsroom, the Aaron Sorkin drama that divided critics and audiences alike. Personally, I enjoyed the show last season and though there were some flaws, I found it nice to have some intelligent drama. We also get to enjoy the series premieres of two other shows – The Bridge, starring Diane Kruger and Demian Bachir as two police detectives working together to solve a series of murders plaguing the Texas/Mexico border; and Camp, which stars Rachel Griffiths as the head of a summer camp and the antics that abound (both premiere on July 10th).

Also on July 16th, Sara Bareilles releases her third album, The Blessed Unrest, while Matt Nathanson releases his latest, Last of the Great Pretenders. One of my favourite artists coming out of The Voice is season 2’s Tony Lucca, who having been signed to his coach Adam Levine’s 222 Records is finally releasing an EP (I know ‘finally’ gives off the sense that it’s been a really long time, though in reality it’s only been a year since season 2 aired – not going to lie I’m already starting to feel a little bit of Voice fatigue from this 2 seasons a year thing). On the concert front, I know I’ve mentioned it before but it needs to be said again – the Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z, Legends of the Summer tour kicks off in Toronto on July 17th!!! I changed/modified my travel plans for this concert, because simply put, it’s going to be AWESOME!

On the movie side of things, there aren’t a lot of “big movies” that I’m excited about. There’s Despicable Me 2 (I’ll be honest, I can’t say Despicable Me without saying “IT’S SO FLUFFY!!!”); R.I.P.D, which stars Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges as two cops protecting the living from the dead, seems interesting; and surprisingly, I’m only a little bit excited for The Wolverine, the latest movie starring Hugh Jackman’s X-Men character. The movies that I’m really interested in this month are the smaller movies. The Way, Way Back is a coming-of-age story brought to us by the Oscar-winning screenwriters of The Descendants, Nat Faxon (aka Ben Fox of the late FOX TV series, Ben and Kate) and Jim Rash (aka Dean Pelton of Community). I heard great things about Fruitvale Station, after it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival; it’s the true story of Oscar Grant, and follows his last day before he was tragically shot at the Fruitvale subway stop in the Bay Area. The other movie I’m interested in is The To Do List, which is simply due to the cast involved – Aubrey Plaza, Rachel Bilson, Scott Porter, Donald Glover, Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, Connie Britton, and Clark Gregg.

The pinnacle of July, and what ultimately got affected by JT & Jay-Z announcing their show on July 17th, is my first-time at San Diego Comic-Con! As a pop culture fan, I have spent so many years reading all the news coming out of SDCC, whether it be movie announcements or just some cool stuff having to do with my favourite TV shows, and wishing I was there taking it all in. Well this year, it’s happening! I will be getting my nerd on (no cosplay, I’m not THAT much of a nerd), hopefully getting to see some of my favourite actors/actresses, and experiencing all the craziness that is SDCC. Will I camp out for the infamous Hall H or Ballroom 20? TBD. News has been slowly trickling out as to what shows and movies will be having panels at the Con, prior to the official schedule release on July 4th, but there are some confirmations that have got me excited: new shows Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (yeah, me and everybody else is excited for this), Sleepy Hollow, and Almost Human; How I Met Your Mother (random, I know, but I still love this show damn it!), Grimm, Arrow and Nikita. The announcement of the Nikita panel is obviously bittersweet – I’m so excited to see pretty much the entire cast (Lyndie Greenwood, who plays Sonya, was the only one not listed in the press release) but it’s a reminder that it’s for the final season. [On another note, how sad is it going to be that I would have to fly out to San Diego to meet the cast, who film the show in Toronto?!] And as part of the SDCC celebrations, I’m so excited for NERDHQ, the nerd gathering run by Zac Levi and The Nerd Machine! Because it is my first time at SDCC, my objective is obviously to have lots of fun and trying to do everything I REALLY want to do/see, but I will try to make note of my experiences and blog about it here.