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Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

Owl City Performs with Hanson for the First Time Today

posted by jtotey
Owl City and Hanson perform on NBC's Today Show July 14, 2015. (NBC)

Owl City and Hanson perform on NBC’s Today Show July 14, 2015. (NBC)

Talk about the modern age. On Owl City’s newest album, Mobile Orchestra, Adam Young sings “Unbelievable” with the group Hanson. The album was just released last Friday, but the four of them never sang the song together until their performance on the Today show … today!

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This morning, Today host Willie Geist asked Young how that was even possible. Young went on to explain that the two group collaborated on the song with the magic of the internet but Young hadn’t met Hanson officially until yesterday when they practiced together for the first time. Fortunately for everyone involved, the performance went off without a hitch. See for yourself:

Like Young’s other hits like “Fireflies,” “Unbelieveable” doesn’t really “fit” in today’s music scene as it doesn’t talk about relationships or sex, but refreshingly, it does. Both Young and the Hanson brothers are Christians, but they aren’t really known for their faith, just their art. For Hanson, the topic has been a bit too personal for them, at least in previous years. For Young, his fifth album will be making a stronger statement than before.

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“I definitely wanted to write in a way that pointed more directly to my faith and how important it is to me,” Young said in a recent interview with Guideposts.org. “I wanted to write a couple of songs that were really vulnerable and honest. I just imagined if I was feeling really lonely or down in the dumps, what’s the kind of song that I could really use?”

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Two examples that come to mind immediately are “You’re Not Alone” and “My Everything” in which the singer makes it perfectly clear who he looks to for guidance in his life. In addition to the Hanson song, the new record also features a standout collaborations with country star Jake Owen, Britt Nicole, Aloe Blacc and Sarah Russell.

Owl City's "Mibile Ochestra" available Now. (Republic Records/Capitol CMG)

Owl City’s “Mibile Ochestra” available Now. (Republic Records/Capitol CMG)

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Mobile Orchestra Tracklisting:
1. Verge (feat. Aloe Blacc)
2. I Found Love
3. Thunderstruck (feat. Sarah Russell)
4. My Everything
5. Unbelievable (feat. Hanson)
6. Bird With A Broken Wing
7. Back Home (feat. Jake Owen)
8. Can’t Live Without You
9. You’re Not Alone (feat. Britt Nicole)
10. This Isn’t The End

And of course, with a new album comes a new concert series, right? Owl City will begin his fall tour on October 5 of this year with special guest, Rozzi Crane. Interested in going? Get your tickets here.

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Owl City October Tour Dates are:
5 – Nashville, TN at The Cannery
6 – Atlanta, GA at Center Stage
8 – Philadelphia, PA at The Trocadero Theatre
9 – Washington, D.C. At the 9:30 Club
10 – New York, NY at Irving Plaza
12 – Boston, MA at the Paradise Rock Club
13 – Lancaster, PA at the Chameleon Club
15 – Chicago, IL at the House of Blues
16 – Milwaukee, WI at The Rave II
17 – Minneapolis, MN at Varsity Theater
19 – Englewood, CO at Gothic Theatre
20 – Salt Lake City, UT at The Complex
22 – Seattle, WA at the Neptune Theatre
24 – San Francisco, CA at the Regency Ballroom
25 – San Diego, CA at the Observatory North Park
26 – Anaheim, CA at the House of Blues

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A Little ‘Minions’ Goes a Long Way

posted by jtotey
The Minions onto their new life with Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock). Universal

The Minions onto their new life with Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock). Universal

I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the new animated feature, Minions. Probably more than I should. It’s not the best movie. The story is pretty week and you do tend to tire of the Minions’ shenanigans about halfway through the film, but dang it – those little yellow guys are fun.

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If you haven’t been a fan of the two Despicable Me films that came before it, don’t bother with Minions. However, if you are, don’t expect to see the same type of movie. In fact, this movie’s biggest flaw is that it tries to be like the previous films. The Minions are at their best when they are just being themselves telling their story. And like their height, they would do better in shorts rather than full-length movies.

So, here’s the deal. This story is a prequel to Despicable Me 1 and 2. It begins at the evolutionary beginnings of the Minions lives and their un-ending quest to find an evil master to follow. The first five minutes or so is sort of a documentary on where these little guys came from and how they wear out their welcome over and over again only to end up holed in an ice cave craving to find another leader to follow.

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Kevin rises from the bunch and declares that he will go out in search of a new leader and asks for volunteers to go with him. Stuart volunteers without really knowing what he is getting himself into, but little mixed-colored eyes Bob is super-excited to go. The three venture out and eventually find themselves at an expo for super-villains in Orlando, Florida. It’s a super-secret underground event – literally.

There, the trio meet the lovely to look at but evil Scarlet Overkill, the first female super-villain. She recruits them to do her evil bidding – namely to steal the jeweled crown for the queen of England. Now, typically with a movie like this, the main characters would see the error of their ways of evilness and find a way to escape the clutches of the villain and make their way back to someone and live in happiness ever after. But in this case, they are villains and we know that they will still be villains by the end of the movie because they need to meet Gru and work for him in the next picture.

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Everything about this picture is fun. The 60’s vibe is fun and the soundtrack is great, although I would have appreciated more of a “groovy” feel instead of some of the music choices. Everything is bright and colorful, but the 3-D glasses are not worth the extra money. (This could have been a great film to have a lot of cheesy effects. The kids would have loved it.)

The movie works as long as the Minions are on their journey, but once the humans come on screen, it only muddies their adventure. There are few laughs about Kevin and his friends running into a crime-spree family, but overall, we don’t really care for the humans. Sandra Bullock plays Scarlet and while I can’t really fault the actress, there really isn’t much to her character. She should be a lot funnier, but she comes across as dull. Her motive to steal the crown is lame. Her inventive husband, played by John Hamm, has a few good lines too, but again, we just don’t care about them. And really, the characters we do care about, haven’t really done anything to pull on our heartstrings. They’re cute, but the film lacks heart.

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As the movie draws closer to its conclusion, the gags get bigger, Scarlet gets meaner and the whole thing just gets crazier for little to no payoff. But as the credits began to roll, the crowd in the theater went wild with applause. So, I guess the best way to sum it up is too say Universal hit a gold mine when they discovered the Minions, but they are really just one note characters who do their best when they can play smaller roles.

For parents, there isn’t really anything to be concerned with content-wise. The evolution portion will probably go over little one’s heads and being the fact that this is a fictional story to begin with, it sort of fits. There might be a fart joke or two and there is a scene with a Minion wearing a thong bathing suit, but is that really worth getting all riled up about? There isn’t any lines or antics that your kids will run off with and embarrass you at the grocery store later on. And though every character in this movie is technically a “bad guy,” your kids won’t buy for a minute that the Minions are bad nor will the little critters be a bad influence on your kids.

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‘WOW’ Entertains with Dance Album

posted by jtotey
(Word Records, Capitol Christian Music Group and Provident Label Group)

(Word Records, Capitol Christian Music Group and Provident Label Group)

The latest in the Word Records/Capitol Christian Music Group and Provident Label Group collaboration in the “WOW” series is “WOW Hits Party Mix” which features 30 remixed versions of some favorite hits. Each song is by a different artist, so like the other “Wow” records, there is a lot of variety. However, not every singer’s music transitions well into dance music. With that being said, there should be plenty for most to enjoy here, if dance music is your thing.

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One of the best song on the two CD release is also one of the oldest songs, “Baby Baby” from Amy Grant. It is taken from her “In Motion: The Remixes” album released last year. One reason is that the song already had a catchy beat and lends itself well to the new updating. Most of the other music is taken from the last year or so, so don’t be expecting a “greatest hits” type of album.

Other great songs include TobyMac’s “Me Without You,” Britt Nicole’s “Gold” and Tenth Avenue North’s “No Man is an Island” for the same reason. But perhaps the best song on collection is Love & the Outcome’s “He is With Us” which breaks from it’s regular tune and jumps into a happy dance. It’s nearly impossible not to listen without a smile on your face.

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Some remixed songs that turned out surprisingly well include music that you wouldn’t think would translate well. For Chris Tomlin, you would think that the producers would have chosen a more dance-friendly song like “God’s Great Dance Floor,” but instead they chose the slower, “Waterfall.” In my opinion, it sounds better than the original version. Same goes for Matt Maher’s “All the People Said Amen.” Who knew?

Other honorable mentions include “Write Your Story” by Francesca Battistelli, and “Need Your Now” by Plumb.

On the other end of the spectrum, this project’s biggest disappointment is the treatment given to United’s “Oceans.” Can’t imagine that tune as a dance hit? You’re right. The remix doesn’t do the song any favors. The second big disappointment goes to the treatment given to Mandisa’s “Overcomer” which actually slows down the song, almost to a halt (for effect I guess) and basically sucks the life out of it. Of all the singers represented on this set, I would think that Mandisa would be one of the best. Finally, there is the hymn “Because He Lives” by Crowder and features Bill Gaither. For a first run through, it’s fine, but it is very lengthy and loses its novelty quickly.

For hard rock fans there’s “Hero” by Skillet and “Run and Escape” by Red which don’t sound too far off from the original versions and hardly sound like dance music.

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CBS’s ‘Zoo’ is a Little Tame

posted by jtotey
Kristen Connolly and Billy Burke. Photo: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/CBS

Kristen Connolly and Billy Burke. Photo: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/CBS

This morning, CBS reported that its new summer show, Zoo, premiered with 8.07 million viewers making it the most-watched new scripted show of the summer. This isn’t surprising as the the story’s premise is intriguing and unlike anything else on TV this season. However, what was surprising is that a show about wild animals on the attack was actually sort of dull.

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Based on James Patterson’s bestselling novel, Zoo does show promise as a show to get hooked on, but the pilot was a lot more talk than action. The premise of the show about a wave of animal attacks across the globe. The show begins with news of lions escaping from a Los Angeles zoo and attacking people in downtown. News reporter Jamie Campbell (Kristen Connolly) is bent on finding the true cause of the attack while discovering a large disappearance of neighborhood cats. Meanwhile in Africa, Jackson Oz (James Wolk), an American zoologist leading safaris is experiencing lion attacks as well. After catching a glimpse of a lion’s eye, Oz is reminded of his late father’s theories about threats to the human race.

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As is to be expected, both Oz and Campbell have rubbed people the wrong way, so when they stumble along the truth, they have a hard time convincing others to listen to them.

As viewers, we already know that animals are starting to turn on the humans but what we don’t know is why. This might have something to do with the dullness of the first episode. We are ready to go with the action while the show is still setting up the storyline. That’s not to say that the show didn’t have it’s moment’s of tension or creepiness (like the scene with a tree full of house cats), but I was expecting more.

Patterson is a good author and has been very involved with this series, so I’m not ready to write off the show just yet. The show also promises that there is a lot more to the story to share in the coming weeks. The casting is great and the shots in Africa are beautiful to look at as well. One has to wonder if the show will have the same effect on zoos as Jaws did for beaches 40 years ago.

Zoo airs on 9:00 p.m. Tuesdays on CBS.

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