Monday, August 15, 2011

Muppet mania, the cover song edition, plus lots more fun stuff

A free preview of the Muppets-inspired "Green Album" is indeed the highlight around here today, but before that, there's a lot of fun news out there this morning, so let's just get right to it.

To start, no one I can think of is in more need of a genuinely funny comedy than Jason Bateman. Well, to be fair, I suppose there's at least a slight chance that it's "The Change- Up," but so far I've managed to avoid that, so I'll never know.

Much more likely should be something he's just signed up for with veryfunnywoman Melissa McCarthy, who's become one of the summer's true breakout stars with her rather outrageous (and sublimely funny) performance in "Bridesmaids." The two are set to star in "The ID Theft," and all I really know so far is that Bateman will play the victim of the titular ID theft by McCarthy's character. Stay tuned for more when I find it ...

And in other movie news, if I'm not mistaken, there are at least two Jeff Buckley biopics in the works, and now one of them has found its leading man.

Actor/singer-songwriter Reeve Carney, Broadway's Peter Parker in "Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark," has signed on to play Buckley in the as-yet-untitled biopic being directed by Jake Scott. The movie would certainly have to go better than that "Spider-Man" debacle has so far, and they apparently have full rights to Buckley's memoirs and music, so here's hoping something good springs from this.

After that it's almost exclusively about TV news before we finally get to the promised Muppets goodness, starting with a taste of what's to come on "The Office," courtesy of the seriously TV-obsessed James Hibbert of Entertainment Weekly.

With Steve Carell now gone, "The Office" should probably just be shuttered for good, in my opinion, but it does at least sound like they're trying to come up with some fun stuff for when James Spader takes over as the new boss. Here's a somewhat-spoilery taste:

* An established character will be promoted from within to take over as permanent Scranton branch manager subsequent to Robert California’s (Spader) promotion to CEO.
* Dwight will build a Productivity Machine that will evolve into something of a Doomsday Device.
* Riddled with hormones thanks to a second pregnancy, Pam will grow so paranoid she will come to rely on Dwight as the only individual she can trust to be honest with her.
* The entire Scranton warehouse staff will win the lottery and quit. (Something tells me somebody forget to offer Daryl his usual stake now that he’s no longer working in the warehouse.)

The Pam and Dwight stuff in particular should be a treat, so if you're interested, tune in again to find out how this all pans out on Sept. 22.

In other TV news, it's not terribly surprising that HBO is keeping its hands on director Todd Haynes, since it always holds on to talented people and his first HBO project, "Mildred Pierce," was just an Emmy nomination magnet (and awfully entertaining, if you haven't yet seen it.)

Now it seems he's signed for a full series, and one that could possibly reunite him with Julianne Moore. "Dope," based on the novel by Sara Gran, is about a recovering heroin junkie in 1950s New York, and certainly seems like material that's suited to Haynes' usually fully trippy style.

OK, I've buried this last TV bit at the end not just because it comes full circle with Jason Bateman news, but because as with all talk of an "Arrested Development" movie, it should be believed at your own peril. Screen Rant, however, has what it says is the plot line for an "AD" movie, so here goes.

According to the site, the movie follows the Bluth clan's attempts to make their own movie about their lives to compete with one narrator Ron Howard is working on. That said, it of course perfectly matches up with where the show itself left off, so this could just be another false start. Keep hope alive ...

Whew. This really has gone long enough already, I suppose, but there's at least one very funny video out there this morning, so I'll share it with you before we finally get to The Muppets. A YouTube user with the handle of pleatedpants and clearly enough time on his or her hands to match the imagination, has created this video that compiles scenes from "25 Actors Before They Were Famous in Three Minutes." It's pretty much as fun as that title implies, and definite highlights include Sarah Jessica Parker on "3-2-1 Contact" (huzzah!) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt on "Roseanne." Enjoy.

OK, I really do have some things to do before work today (including voting and swimming), so we're almost finished. To introduce the Muppets tribute album, there's first some fresh news about something the Jim Henson Company is cooking up with reality TV pioneers Bunim/Murray. And it sounds like a heck of a lot more fun than any reality TV show I've ever heard of.

"History Of," which as far as I can tell has yet to find a specific TV home, would have pop culture events re-enacted by Henson puppets, not necessarily, but possibly, including Muppets. According to The Wrap, Chris Regan, a former writer for "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," has signed on to be showrunner and the show will feature surprise celebrity cameos.

Not terribly surprising, since the Muppets and their friends will be everywhere in advance of the November release of "The Muppets," the new movie starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams and all their little friends. One other arm of the marketing machine is "The Green Album," a collection of Muppets favorites covered by popular artists of the day. There are hits (Weezer's faithful but fun "Rainbow Connection" and Andrew Bird's "Bein' Green"), and a few misses, but the whole things wraps up in around a half hour, just like an episode of "The Muppet Show."

NPR is streaming the album, due for release Aug. 23, now, and I've embedded their player below. First, the track listing, followed by the streamer itself, so enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Tuesday. Peace out.

1. Muppet Show Theme Song OK Go
2. Rainbow Connection (feat. Hayley Williams) Weezer
3. Mahna Mahna The Fray
4. Movin' Right Along Alkaline Trio
5. Our World My Morning Jacket
6. Mr. Bassman Sondre Lerche
7. Halfway Down the Stairs Amy Lee
8. Wishing Song The Airborne Toxic Event
9. Night Life Brandon Saller
10. Bein' Green Andrew Bird
11. I Hope That Something Better Comes Along Matt Nathanson
listen 12. I'm Going to Go Back There Someday Rachael Yamagata


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