"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," but these days, a guide through the seemingly endless flurry of pop culture offerings is just what we need. With that in mind, here is what's on the radar screen in TV, music and film for the coming week.
-- Chris Lackner
BIG RELEASE: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (Aug. 21),
BIG PICTURE: This film promises that, "The city you know hides a world you can't see." No, it's not the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- or another scandalous video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. The Mortal Instruments, based on the bestselling series by author Cassandra Clare, takes the magic of Harry Potter and places it squarely in our supposedly mundane world. When Clary Fray (Lily Collins) witnesses a hooded figure murdering a demon in a nightclub -- a hunky young man only she can see (did I mention he wears a leather jacket, rides a motorcycle and has a dashing British accent?) -- she is pulled into a dangerous supernatural battleground. Apparently, she is part of a long line of demon hunters. When her mother is kidnapped by a sinister being, Clary picks up the family tradition of monster ass-kicking -- with the help of the hunky invisible guy, of course (every Hollywood teenager needs a romantic interest, no matter how empowered). Of course, humanity is on the brink of extinction and, of course, Clary is the key to our survival.
FORECAST: There's nothing like the growing chorus of all-powerful, gifted teenagers destined to fight the supernatural and save the world to make our own childhoods look boring and mundane. Harry Potter? Master wizard. Percy Jackson? Son of a god. Katniss? Hunger Games' champion. Buffy? Vampire Slayer. Clary? All-powerful monster hunter. Me? President of the high school chess club. Sigh.
HONOURABLE MENTION: The World's End (Aug. 23). From the makers of Sean of the Dead comes a truly epic pub crawl. Five childhood friends reunite to finish a legendary booze quest in their hometown -- which ends at fabled pub, The World's End. Similar to many of my own (and presumably Rob Ford's) pub crawls, they begin to think their hometown is secretly inhabited by robots bent on the world's destruction. The action-comedy stars Martin Freeman, Nick Frost, Rosamund Pike, Simon Pegg.
BIG EVENT: MTV Video Music Awards (Aug. 25, MTV Canada, 9 p.m. ET/PT)
BIG PICTURE: It's a great day for MTV, but a sad day for Brooklyn, New York's notorious hipster community. Did MTV ever consider what hosting their show in the mecca of non-conformist conformity would do to all the cool kids? Sure, Jay-Z and MGMT are from the neighbourhood, but when every mega pop star in the world descends on the sacred ground of cool, where will all the hipsters looking for an "authentic experience" go? New Jersey? (I hear Detroit has burned-out neighbourhoods to spare). Scheduled performers include Miley Cyrus, Kanye West, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Canada's own R&B star Robin Thicke. Cyrus and Thicke are rivals for Best Song of the Summer, thanks to their unavoidable songs We Can't Stop and Blurred Lines. The new social-media-driven category can be voted on by fans.
FORECAST: Don't worry Brooklyn. Any awards show that gives away "Moonmen" shouldn't be taken too seriously. Nor does the MTV Music Awards need to be. It pulls in numbers -- and a demographic -- most award shows would kill for. As for our homegrown star Thicke, he is up for four awards for his video for Blurred Lines, including Video of the Year and Best Male Video. His dad's fictional dad, Jason Seaver, would be proud.
BIG RELEASES ON AUG. 20: John Mayer (Paradise Valley), Sarah Neufeld (Hero Brother), Murray A. Lightburn (MASS:LIGHT)
BIG PICTURE: Oh, pop culture gods! You wily pranksters, you! On the same week as City of Bones comes Paradise Valley. (Definitely not in the same area code.) Heartbreaking troubadour John Mayer's new album features two can't-miss duets: Wildfire (featuring Frank Ocean) and Who You Love, with on-again, off-again girlfriend Katy Perry. My favourite song title is You're No One 'Til Someone Lets You Down. Given the amount of Mayer ex-girlfriends that have found fame (eg. Taylor Swift), I think he might be on to something. Meanwhile, Arcade Fire's violinist, Sarah Neufeld, releases her first solo effort -- an instrumental appetizer for fans anticipating the band's new fall album. Murray A. Lightburn (of The Dears) follows suit with a synth-laden solo departure from his Montreal band's brand of indie pop.
FORECAST: One big-market American solo artist and two Canadian solo debuts; Mayer wins this battle for publicity. It's hard to pack a better one-two punch than he did in the duet department. The bigger question: Will any major star ever make a true solo album again?
HONOURABLE MENTION: Braids (Flourish/Perish). The Calgary group returns with the sophomore effort to their Polaris Prize shortlisted debut Native Speaker (2011). This time around, they embrace a lush electronic landscape. Unlike a lot of empty electro-pop, these tunes are anchored by meaningful lyrics and the dreamlike, layered vocals of Raphaelle Standell-Preston.
-- Postmedia News