Big releases: The Lego Movie, The Monuments Men (Feb. 7)
Big picture: Two monumental movies this week. One of them literally employs the building blocks of my childhood. The other employs the most charismatic ensemble cast in recent history to save precious artwork from war-zone destruction and Nazi theft. In The Monuments Men, George Clooney, John Goodman, Bill Murray and Matt Damon form the backbone of a special Second World War platoon charged with preserving art history and rescuing masterpieces. Based on a true story, these men are a true super-team (They’re basically the Avengers, but all their superpowers are "acting ability.") As for The Lego Movie, I’m a bit troubled. I remember when Lego was about building things with your imagination. Why we need talking Lego characters — Lego Batman, Lego Abraham Lincoln, Lego Wonder Woman, Lego Morgan Freeman — in their own feature film, I can’t begin to tell you. Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) voices Emmet, who is presumed to be to the Lego world what Neo was to The Matrix.
Forecast: With Clooney & Co., plus Cate Blanchett, it’s hard to imagine this movie monument failing. As for Lego, let’s put it this way. If The Monuments Men were sent into a modern war zone to save treasured works of art, they wouldn’t be charged with protecting copies of The Lego Movie (OK, maybe if it featured a Lego Clooney).
Honourable Mention: Vampire Academy. Vampires are busy these days! They’re creating roles for mono-emotional actresses (you owe them one Kristen Stewart!). They’re writing tedious "vampire diaries" for TV. And, as near as I can tell, one in every two vampires is sleeping with Anna Paquin... So I guess vampires deserve their own educational institution. Why not? Based on a bestselling series of young adult novels, Vampire Academy is Mean Girls meets Harry Potter meets Twilight. As one character sums it up: "The female. Especially one who lives off blood and magic, is going to have her mood swings." (Well, at least that finally explains Lindsay Lohan.)
Big Event: Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games (Feb. 7, CBC, 9 a.m.), The Walking Dead (Feb. 9, AMC, 10 p.m.)
Big picture: Remember the last time you gave a second thought to luge, skeleton and bobsled? That’s right! It was four years ago in Vancouver! Well, it’s time to "pretend to care" again! While advance competition begins on Feb. 6, the opening ceremonies take place on Feb. 7 at 10 a.m. on CBC. Ceremony co-hosts, Ron MacLean and Peter Mansbridge, will warm things up beforehand with a 60-minute preview. Meanwhile, The Walking Dead returns after a tragic mid-season finale that saw the death of beloved characters, the group fractured and the destruction of their longtime prison home.
Forecast: Am I the only one who’d like to see a hybrid of these two? The Walking Dead: Winter Olympic Games. Watching the undead ice-dance, run a biathlon or curl would probably be far more interesting than the real thing.
Honourable Mention: (Feb. 6, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, 11:30 p.m.). Say goodbye to Jay Leno! For real this time!!! (Unless Jimmy Fallon’s boyish grin fails to bring in the ratings — or Leno feels like another round of backstabbing.) To be fair, everything seems amicable this time around as Leno again passes the torch to a younger comic. Chances are Fallon’s brand of comedy will be far more accessible to middle America than Conan O’Brien’s was. Worse comes to worse, I say the show should take a cue from The Walking Dead’s popularity and recycle another former host. Introducing Zombie Johnny Carson!!! Sure, he might gnaw on Jennifer Lawrence’s arm, but he’s still got great charisma!
Big release on Feb. 4: Broken Bells (After the Disco)
Big picture: This all-star indie duo James Mercer (the Shins) and Brian Burton (a.k.a. Danger Mouse) return with their sophomore effort, which somehow manages to walk the fine line between funk and melancholy, while remaining riveting throughout. Their dreamy concept album is about exploring memories and whether we — and our lives — live up to our youthful expectations. As Mercer told Rolling Stone, Broken Bells was inspired by "what people in the ’50s and ’60s thought now was gonna be like." (In other words, I’m expecting an entire album of variations on The Jetsons theme song). This is an eclectic space disco layered with bass, synth, funk and psychedelic grooves — along with a heavy dose of nostalgia... and Mercer’s signature falsetto.
Forecast: After the Disco? This party is just getting started. Bound for many critics’ best 2014 albums’ list, Broken Bells are anything but broken.
Honourable Mention: Old Man Luedecke (I Never Sang Before I Met You). The talented, award-winning songwriter teams up with fellow Nova Scotian Joel Plaskett for the first time. Plaskett produces, plays instruments and offers guest vocals on this four-song EP. Speaking of "monuments men" this week, just check out these two Canadian artists’ back catalogue.