There's a lot going on in the world of Zhang Yimou these days. Only last week, it was announced that he'll be directing his first U.S. feature with Universal -- a rare instance of a Chinese director getting to steer an English-language film with an American studio. The project is an adaptation of Robert Ludlum's bestselling thriller, "The Parsifal Mosaic" -- not exactly the first match of director and material that comes to mind, but Zhang has already proven his deftness as a genre stylist, so we'll see. (Just as long as he fares better than his compatriot Chen Kaige did in "Killing Me Softly.")
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Tegan and Sara Quin made a very conscious decision to make their music more "accessible" with the release of their last album "Heartthrob" last year.
“Look at Adele and Coldplay, who are accessible to more people. For their fans, that’s really raw and emotional… I can’t change my voice. I’m never gonna sound like Katy Perry or Chris Martin or Adele,” Tegan told me back in May 2012. “There’s always going to be fans who wish we still sat on stools and didn’t have a band and played our shows that way… but now I want to share my music with as many people as I can.”
"Heartthrob" became one of the sister-duo's best-selling album to date, and yielded their biggest singles, and thrust them further into music's mainstream -- and main stage, big screen, small screen and into headlines. And even moreso lately, it seems, they're everywhere.
Here's six major reasons Tegan and Sara have been totally killing it so far in 2014:
1. "Everything Is Awesome." It is indeed. Anybody who has set foot in "The Lego Movie" and/or The Internet will be unable to deny the attractive power of the film's, erm, anthem "Everything Is Awesome."
Everything is cool when you're part of a team. And it took a team. Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo produced and co-wrote the soundtrack to "Lego Movie," including this brain-gum of a single. Tegan and Sara plus comedy troupe The Lonely Island all piled on to its "remix," which itself should be the topic of a masters thesis class in contemporary pop music. It not only makes fun of popular music tropes, but has its own lyrical subversion and performances that T&S knock out of the park.
2. Opening for Katy Perry. A few months ago, I had the privilege of seeing Katy Perry take the stage at the Hollywood Bowl, and some of her own personal favorite, hand-picked artists open the show. T&S, who have performed with Perry before, lit up the Hollywood Bowl with their typically hysterical banter. Their appreciation for each other, their acumen to warm a (literally) chilly and mainstream crowd and their kinship with Perry could kindle even the coldest cockles.
Perry has tapped T&S among her set openers for the forthcoming Prismatic World Tour, with Tegan and Sara's spots starting Sept. 9 in Vancouver. Don't expect "Everything Is Awesome" to make the setlist, though.
"Without the Lonely Island guys traveling with us, I can't really imagine it within our set. But that's not because I'm not proud of it," Sara Quin told Billboard.
3. "Don't Find Another Love." I have listened to this new song from the soundtrack to "Endless Love" about 700 times. It's equal parts Ellie Goulding, Local Natives and Diana Ross, and yet still inextricably Tegan and Sara. Upbeat and "wicked," it's simple and unapologetically sweet.
Do not see the movie. I'm sorry. Do listen to this amazing soundtrack, which also has some Immaculate Noise favorites like Nonono, Cults, The Tallest Man On Earth and The Bird And The Bee with The National's Matt Berninger. There is no pouty Pettyfer to contend with.
4. Oreos. God, as if I didn't love Oreos enough. Tegan and Sara retained their distinct style and voices for a fresh commercial for the milk-loving cookie co. And they didn't write this "Wonderfilled" jingle, ad company The Martin Agency did. How did they manage to find the perfect opportunity to line their pockets with fresh, delicious money without compromising their sound? Well, of course, it helps that their sound has drastically changed from their early career, but the dance-pop version of T&S is a no-brainer for partnerships like these.
This campaign started around the Grammys last month. Now give me a bite.
5. "Shudder to Think." Still hungry? How about their original song for Oscar-nominated "Dallas Buyers Club?" Beyond even that: 10% of the sales of the soundtrack went to (RED) in the global fight against AIDS. This burst of awesome has staying power into 2014 because "DBC" is up for a whopping six Academy Awards in March, including Best Picture. How about a Best Song nod for T&S soon, huh?
6. That Ellen Page name-check. The "Juno" actress and your new best friend gave a nine-minute speech on Valentine's Day as a coming-out, during a human rights conference. "I am here today because I am gay," Page said, then saluting others' efforts to "promote safety, inclusion, and well-being for LGBTQ youth."
"There are pervasive stereotypes about masculinity and femininity that define how we’re all supposed to act, dress, and speak, and they serve no one. Anyone who defies these so-called 'norms' becomes worthy of comment and scrutiny, and the LGBT community knows this all too well," Page said from the podium at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Time To THRIVE conference. "Yet there is courage all around us. The football hero Michael Sam; the actress Laverne Cox; the musicians Tegan and Sara Quin; the family that supports their daughter or son who has come out."
Tegan and Sara were "out" as lesbians in their teens. Fifteen years on, strangers still approach them and tell them their own stories of coming-out. T&S have been powerful and vocal activists and advocates for LGBT rights, starting by being who they are and being very talented. A hat-tip from a high-profile actress is not just lip service but a testament to power by example. A very cool moment.
Never underestimate the courage it takes to be yourself. Giant hugs to @EllenPage— Tegan and Sara (@teganandsara) February 15, 2014
I am starting to suspect that dream projects should never be made. I know that sounds counter-intuitive and incredibly pessimistic. Hear me out.
Certainly, there are movies I love that very talented people have worked tirelessly to realize, and I would be devastated if those films did not exist. I get it. I love "Apocalypse Now." I love that it smells desperate and sweaty in a way precisely because of the insane demands the production made on everyone. I love that it was finished. I adore every flaw, every eccentricity. I love it. But it is also true that there are many dream films that have been made that have turned out to be mystifyingly bad, bad in a way that can only be personal, and while I can't imagine what might have started me thinking about this topic recently, I thought it would be worth looking back at what's happened when people have backed a vision and given it everything and stood back and looked at the end result and thought…
… we are in so much trouble.
Exhibit A for me on this list is always Barry Levinson's "Toys."
In 2013, HBO debuted three new comedy series. One was Christopher Guest's first significant work in decades, featuring many of the regulars from his beloved improvised films. One was the first major solo project from Stephen Merchant, co-creator of "The Office" and "Extras." And one featured the creators of "Big Love" attempting to adapt a British series about the neglected nurses and patients in a hospital's elder care wing.
Going into that year, I doubt a casino would have even given you odds that the only one of the three to survive would be the latter, but that's exactly what's happened. Last month, HBO declined to go forward with Guest's "Family Tree" and Merchant's "Hello Ladies," and tonight the pay cabler decided to order a second season of "Getting On." It will again feature six episodes, and debut later this year.
It's time for Rush Week on "American Idol."
No. I don't know what "Rush Week" means either.
Apparently it will involve live performances and it will involve Randy Jackson and it will also feature the judges eliminating people even before they perform?
I'm confident that whoever the judges send home early from the Top 15 Women, Briana Oakley is going to perform. So she's my picture here.
Beyond that, click through and we'll experience this together.
Last night, I finished reading "A Storm Of Swords" finally, and one of the real tensions of reading the series for me is that I have grown very fond of the cast of "Game Of Thrones," and they've demonstrated such a penchant for killing off characters that I spend pretty much the entire time I read each book clenched and worried now that I'm into material that has not already appeared on the show.
As of the end of the third season of the show, Jon Snow has become a fairly important character simply by virtue of outlasting so many of the other members of his family. Without revealing his fate moving forward, I can say that each and every cast member I've had a chance to chat with has turned out to be very grounded about being part of a phenomenon and I haven't run into anyone yet who has displayed any attitude at all about it. It seems to be a largely diva-free cast, which would seem to be essential if you're trying to pull off something as complicated and large-scale as "Game Of Thrones" on the sort of uber-demanding schedule and budget that they have.
"Doctor Who's" Karen Gillan to star in ABC's "Selfie"
In the "My Fair Lady" inspired pilot from the creator of "Suburgatory," Gillan will play Eliza Dooley, whose social media antics results her being the subject of an embarrassing viral video.
If you love big-voiced R&B singers, it’s a good time for you. First came Ruben Studdard’s “Unconditional,” a few weeks ago, followed by Toni Braxton and Babyface’s “Love, Marriage & Divorce.” Now, to complete the set, comes “Music Speaks” from “American Idol” season 12 winner Candice Glover.
Olympics propels "Today" to No. 1 over "GMA"
The last time the "Today" show beat "Good Morning America" was during the London Olympics.
Kal Penn joins CBS' "Battle Creek," reunites with "House" creator
The crime drama from "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan will be run by "House" creator David Shore.
"NCIS: New Orleans" casts Scott Bakula's character's wife
"Person of Interest" vet Paige Turco will star on the CBS drama.
Haley Joel Osment joins the "Entourage" movie
No word on what the former "Sixth Sense" star will be playing, but his role will be "supporting."
Jimmy Kimmel fills in as KABC sports anchor
Watch Kimmel deliver the entire sports report for ABC's L.A. affiliate.
"The Simpsons'" Lego-themed episode will be called "Brick Like Me"
The 550th episode will air on May 4.
A "Pushing Daisies" musical!?
Says creator Bryan Fuller: "I would love to do a musical and make it all about Kristin Chenoweth and her character, Olive Snook. I think it would be incredible!"
Jason Biggs becomes a dad
The "Orange is the New Black" star and his wife welcomed a son named Sid on Saturday.
PBS tonight tells of "The Rise and Fall of Penn Station"
"American Experience" looks at the New York City landmark that was demolished in 1963.
Lady Antebellum’s members wear their pop influences on their collective sleeve, so it’s no surprise that the band is closing its shows with a very cool mash-up of Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and “Cups” from “Pitch Perfect.”