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Reviews of the most buzzed about TV show, album and movie of the summer

Reviews of the most buzzed about TV show, album and movie of the summer

June 14
10:25 2013

Daft Punk changing techno game again

Michael Felder/Staff Writer

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

When Daft Punk makes music, the world listens. And they should. After all, the group has been jamming for 20 years. The French duo of Thomas Bangalter, 38, and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, 39, are considered “founding fathers” of the electronic music genre as we know it, and it’s that same history that allowed the two to create this album.

Since they wrote the rules, Daft Punk is also in the perfect position to break them. Adding a slew of collaborators, along with some frustrations about the current state of the electronic genre, makes “Random Access Memories” possibly their most experimental and inviting project to date.

In a genre that is currently overrun with dubstep remixes and “waiting for the drop,” Daft Punk takes the kind of turn with “Memories” that might warrant a name change. Elements of funk, jazz and disco have always appeared in the group’s music, but it would be a challenge to find even a single 808 drumbeat or canned handclap on this album.

All things digital have been traded out for full instrumentation, with freshly sampled sound effects and an occasional live drum riff bringing an authentic feeling to this otherwise robotic pair. Tracks like “The Game of Love,” “Lose Yourself to Dance” and “Instant Crush” have a distinct mid-‘70s to late ‘80s sound that manages to sound timeless instead of dated. Even the design of the album cover is similar to Michael Jackson’s hit record, “Thriller.”

Sitting pretty between the live instruments are smooth vocoder verses and synthesized sound that make Daft Punk who they are. “Memories” is less Skrillex and more Breakbot, a French producer and DJ who is also fond of disco-infused sounds. This is not an album of club-bangers that blow your eardrums with every synthetic sound in the book.

Instead, the album keeps an electronic vibe without sacrificing the elusive “groove” that collaborators swear by, from Nile Rodgers, guitarist for disco-era R&B band Chic, and Pharrell Williams, a prominent producer and vocalist in the world of hip-hop.

“Memories” should prove divisive for longtime listeners.  Fans of the banging bass drums on past singles like “Around the World,” or the largely popular “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” may not find anything remotely recognizable. The spacy, conceptual nature of some tracks, like “Touch” and “Giorgio by Moroder” may leave some listeners feeling lost in between the beats, but represent the album’s most thought-provoking moments.

Despite a “no fist-pumping allowed” approach to one of the most anticipated comeback records in electronic music, Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” makes great use of the sounds of lost genres to create something for everyone. It’s a time capsule, an exciting homage to the era of disco, funk and live instrumentation that will make you dance all summer long.

“This is the End” mildly entertains

Preston Barta /Film Critic

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

What if you were stuck in a house with your friends as the world was ending? This is the intriguing idea that Seth Rogen and his writing and directing partner Evan Goldberg toy with in their latest comedy, “This is the End.” With all these apocalyptic movies in the summer’s lineup, it’s refreshing to see Rogen and Goldberg shake up the end of the world movie formula by tackling the subject on a new and daring comical ground.

“This is the End” follows six friends trapped in a house in Los Angeles after a series of bizarre and disastrous events unfold. As cabin fever takes its toll, supplies dwindle and friendships deteriorate, the group is forced to leave the house and face their fate for what’s outside.

After much success with “Superbad” (2007) and “Pineapple Express” (2008), Rogen joins Goldberg in the director’s chair for the first time and surround themselves with their own best friends: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and Michael Cera among many more. All of the actors are humorous in their parts as they play themselves. However, it’s apparent that their roles are exaggerated for effect.

It’s hard to believe that the goofy and awkward Cera (“Arrested Development”) is a whacked out sex fiend in real life. But no matter what his nature is outside the fence of Hollywood, Cera’s portrayal of himself undeniably takes the cake in terms of laughs. Robinson (“The Office”) and McBride (who brings his crazy antics from HBO’s “Eastbound & Down”) also steal the show with their comedic talents.

Perhaps the most amusing aspect of the film is how the group of friends is not afraid to poke fun at each other’s lifestyles and careers. Cinematic misfires such as “Your Highness” (2011) and “The Green Hornet” (2011) are made the central point of some jokes in the film. In one funny scene, McBride tells Rogen how his shocked and concerned behavior is “a better performance than [he has] given in [his] last six movies.”

While the film has its fair share of flaws, audiences can overlook them when they reflect on the overall fun experience this film is. Whether or not filmgoers get all of the pop culture references, believe the jokes go overboard at times or find the film’s themes to be too controversial, viewers will walk out of the theater laughing and smiling at something.

 “Arrested Development” season four does not live up to unrealistic expectations

Tyler Owens/Senior Staff Writer

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Expectations were high for the fourth season of the critically acclaimed TV show “Arrested Development,” which was released exclusively on Netflix.

Maybe those expectations were too high.

Each episode of season four follows the life of a member of the Bluth/Fünke family, and recaps his or her life over the seven years of the show’s inactivity and rise to glory. The 15 episodes piece each character’s experiences together into one plot line.

Outside of the show, the actors’ scheduling conflicts were no secret.

Through the first few episodes it becomes obvious that a lot of the actors were filmed separately, green screened and then edited into the shots. Voices were dubbed over in a feeble attempt to make it look like one actor and the other’s back-of-head double are having an actual conversation. The editing is so bad it seems intentional.

Most of the family members have retained their character traits through the years: Buster is still an over-the-top momma’s boy, Lucille is still cold hearted and Tobias’ vernacular gets him in more trouble than ever.

But some characters have developed quite considerably since 2006. For instance George-Michael has become somewhat of a ladies’ man and Michael is no longer the likable, bad-luck Bluth. Perhaps, because of his lies he is the worst of all.

The season starts out slow and it takes a while to develop into the intelligent humor fans adore, but it does eventually get there.

There is an ongoing debate of whether Portia de Rossi, who plays Lindsay Bluth- Fünke, has had plastic surgery, but no matter what the difference is, she is now barely recognizable.

Ron Howard, the narrator and producer, was inserted as a reoccurring character playing himself, which provides an opportunity for Imagine Entertainment to shamelessly plug itself in almost every episode.

The show pays homage to its popular jokes and reoccurring celebrity characters, but those have been merged with new pop culture jabs and appearances from Isla Fischer, Terry Crews, and Seth Rogan and Kristen Wiig doing a near perfect rendition of a young George and Lucille Bluth.

Season four may be a disappointment to some, but that’s only because the initial expectations were unrealistic. It’s hard for a show to maintain its identity through seven years of inactivity, and it’s hard to run a show without having the entire cast together at one time.

All obstacles and poor editing considered, season four of “Arrested Development” is well executed, and based upon several unanswered plot points it won’t be the last time fans get to enjoy the Bluth’s company.

However, after hints from Howard’s character and contrary to the original rumors, it may not be in big-screen form.

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