All posts by LDR

Viral Video Recap: House of Thrones, Louis CK Hosts ‘SNL’

House of Thrones. The best thing about this parody mashup of Game of Thrones and House of Cards? The guy playing Frank Underwood does a better Kevin Spacey than Spacey. Close your eyes when he says, “Why have one little old presidency when you can have seven entire kingdoms?” and you’ll fear for Westeros. (Brought to you by Toasty TV, the entertainment/video arm of…Quiznos. Because toasted sandwiches and comedy go hand in hand.)

Louis CK Hosts Saturday Night Live. Even a nine-minute monologue by the nation’s biggest comedian couldn’t save SNL from its new-cast growing pains. And Louis CK didn’t leave anything out of that opening set: God, female empowerment, the history of the “wife beater” tank top.

Lost in 30 Seconds. At Payley Fest, Entertainment Weekly asked Lost cast members to try to explain the meaning of the TV show in 30 seconds. It involved yelling. And Walt’s all grown up! Watch it here.


On-Location Vacation: ‘Game of Thrones’ in Northern Ireland

Ever since HBO’s Game of Thrones started filming in 2010, Northern Ireland has been cast as the site of bloody power plays and betrayal, of Iron Islands with impossibly craggy coastlines and caves that conceal shadowy births. Annie Leibovitz’s recent Vanity Fair cover shoot — those beautiful and austere portraits of the show’s cast in Ballintoy — reinforced the notion that when you play the game of thrones, you win…or you die.

It’s all pretty bleak until you drive down the Causeway Coastal Road, Northern Ireland’s answer to California’s Highway 1 or Australia’s Great Ocean Road, and take in the view beyond the viewfinder. To the left of the winding, narrow highway are high plateaus marked by hedges in orderly rows, and sloping hills dotted with stone cottages and sheep in varying shades of white, gray, and tan. Destinations roll by called Ballygally and Ballycastle and Larrybane, all sounding like teasing nicknames for stomachaches and herbs for overcoming ordinariness. The cows are as big as horses and all happily grass-fed — and to say that grass is greener on the other side would be accurate.

Northern Ireland’s natural beauty and charm are reason enough to visit, but if you’re reading this, you’re probably a fan of Game of Thrones. Maybe you’d even consider taking an on-location vacation; there are more than a few tours through the Seven Kingdoms nowadays. We crafted our own day trip along the coast and into County Antrim, looking for UNESCO and HBO sites alike, and nearly made it onto a set. Note: If a security guard asks you if you’re “with the unit,” just say yes. Always say yes.

Check out the gallery above for a tour of the Game of Thrones universe in Northern Ireland. (All photos by Laura Dannen Redman, October 2013)

If you go…

Cross the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, 30 meters above the sea.
Visit the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and stand tall atop the basalt columns.
Drive through the centuries-old avenue of Dark Hedges (but beware the Grey Lady, who’s said to appear at dusk).
Take the Game of Thrones road trip.

Clare House B&B (Ballycastle, from £30,
The Londonderry Arms Hotel (Carnlough, from £35,
Ballygally Castle (Ballygally, from £230,

The Red Door Tea Room
(Ballycastle, 14a Harbour Rd)
Roark’s Kitchen (Ballintoy Harbour, 56 Harbour Rd)

It’s Westeros Madness!

Since I missed the entry for the Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge, I’m going to play Westeros Madness instead. Thanks to, we can pit Tyrion Lannister (no. 1 seed, naturally) against his father, Tywin (no. 8, though no underdog here) in a true Game of Thrones. And I bet no. 5-seed Samwell Tarly won’t be able to talk his way past the bracket’s scrappiest grandma, no. 4-seed Olenna Tyrell. What about the battle of the would-be queens, Margaery Tyrell (no. 4) v. Sansa Stark (no. 5)?  Margaery’s devious, but Sansa has enough suppressed angst to take down a dragon.

Speaking of dragons: Why is Drogon only a no. 5 seed?! Let’s discuss.

The new season of Game of Thrones premieres April 6 on HBO. March Madness is going on now, I guess.

Is ‘Divergent’ the Next ‘Hunger Games’?

Given the year-long lull between Hunger Games films, YA addicts have been scrambling for a fix. It comes this weekend with the release of Divergent (March 21), the first film in a trilogy inspired by Veronica Roth’s dystopian-romance novels. (If you’re bringing a guy along, tell him there’s knife throwing and street fighting.)

But can the new series live up to the serious hype of The Hunger Games? We pit them against each other in our own Culture Binge Arena.

My Dystopia Is Worse Than Yours
The former city of Chicago, now centuries in the future, has been divided into five factions to keep the peace. People are  either members of Erudite (the intellegencia, also the city’s teachers and scientists), Amity (peaceful farmers), Candor (overly honest, loud-mouthed lawyers), Abnegation (the selfless, who form the city’s government), or Dauntless (the bold and brave, security forces).
Hunger Games Panem, a post-apocalyptic nation formed in the western reaches of the former United States, is divided into 12 Districts, each with its own function (agriculture, mining, fishing, textiles, making weapons, etc). A totalitarian ruler, President Snow, quashes any spark of rebellion by forcing two children from each district to fight to the death in the annual Hunger Games.
Advantage Hunger Games. That whole “kids fight to the death” thing is pretty bleak.

Four (Theo James) and Tris (Shailene Woodley)
Four (Theo James) and Tris (Shailene Woodley)

Fierce Heroines
Divergent Beatrice “Tris” Prior is a meek-and-mild member of Abnegation taps into her inner Xena Warrior Princess when she turns 16 and joins Dauntless. Played onscreen by 22-year-old Shailene Woodley, she of long, flowing hair and The Secret Life of the American Teenager.
Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen is a cool, no-nonsense hardass who supports her mother and younger sister by hunting game in the forest outside District 12. Played onscreen by Jennifer Lawrence, a 23-year-old Oscar winner and everyone’s wannabe best friend/spirit animal.
Advantage Are you kidding? Hunger Games.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence)
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence)

Girls with Skills
Hunger Games Katniss can shoot a bow like she’s an Olympic archer, build a fire, skin a squirrel, sing on key, and make boys cry.
Divergent Tris can toss knives, shoot a gun, fight dudes, withstand a tattoo needle, climb great heights, and resist mind-altering drugs.
Advantage Divergent.

Made-for-Movie Action Sequences
Climbing a Ferris wheel, ziplining from the top of Chicago’s Hancock building, jumping on and off trains, and navigating a fear landscape that’s basically a hallucinogen-induced obstacle course through your worst nightmares.
Hunger Games The Arena.
Advantage Draw.

Love Story
Hunger Games A love triangle that 1) is a strategic play to stay alive in the Arena, 2) keeps President Snow off their backs, and 3) is kinda sorta something special.
Divergent Relationships born of lusty teenage hormones and a full-back tattoo. Every. Touch. Is. MAGICAL!!!
Advantage Hunger Games.

Divergent Tris’s BFFs — Christina, Will, Al, Four — are all Dauntless warriors in their own right, each with an extra skill (Will is bright, Al is a gentle giant, Christina can sniff out the truth and run quickly, Four is a reluctant leader and a hunk).
Hunger Games Peeta bakes delicious pastries, Haymitch appreciates a fine whiskey, Rue is good at hiding, Cinna makes gorgeous dresses….oh, forget it. Katniss is on her own.
Advantage Divergent.

Divergent Jeanine Matthews (played by Kate Winslet), leader of the Erudite, has the biggest brain in the land and a utilitarian approach to the greater good. She’ll take drastic measures to rid the city of its factionless/homeless and its outliers, or Divergent.
Hunger Games President Snow (played by Donald Sutherland) gets a sick kick out of orchestrating the Hunger Games and squashing hope across Panem. His beard can’t be trusted either.
Advantage Hunger Games.

The Trilogy
Divergent Starts off strong. Second novel Insurgent is forgettable (and I just read it). Allegiant creates a clever world “outside the fence” but has an insanely disappointing ending.
Hunger Games Starts off strong. Second novel Catching Fire is a snooze fest until the Arena. Mockingjay is a mixed bag of high-stakes rebellion and long, long walks down alleyways.
Advantage Hunger Games.

Final tally: Hungers Games – 5. Divergent – 2. One draw.

The real winner: Lionsgate, for producing both film series and laughing all the way to the bank.

No, Courtney Love Didn’t Find Malaysia Flight 370 — But Tomnod Might

It’s been over a week since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared en route to Beijing, an unfathomable amount of time to completely lose a 100-ton Boeing 777 and 239 people.

Despite 26 countries helping with the search (and, perhaps, rescue), not much is known for certain, other than the flight’s last transmission was an hour after takeoff. And so, the conspiracy theories run rampant: Did the plane disintegrate mid-air? Was it hijacked by terrorists? Did it sneak past radar and land somewhere? Is this Lost come to life?!

Radar suggests that the airplane could have left its flight plan, banked west over Malaysia, and traveled as far north as the Kazakh–Turkmen border or as far south as the southern Indian Ocean. Flight 370 could be anywhere within 2 million square nautical miles, according to CNN. In other words, they need help looking.

Yesterday’s trending story was that Hole lead singer Courtney Love, a reliably loose cannon, thought she might have found Flight 370 while examining satellite imagery. She posted her findings on Facebook, with some handy arrows to illustrate:Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 10.22.26 PM
We’re all so desperate for news about Flight 370 — good or bad — that this finding exploded across the Twittersphere, with snarky asides cloaking an overwhelming desire for Courtney Love to be right.

Sadly, she wasn’t. Tomnod, the crowdsourcing site Love used to examine satellite imagery in Southeast Asia, looked into her claim and discounted it on Facebook:

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 1.43.49 PM
What’s more interesting than Love’s detective work is that millions of people are also using Tomnod to search for oil slicks, wreckage, rafts, or any other clues that will reveal the location of Flight 370. You can help. Colorado-based DigitalGlobe, a satellite imagery firm that has supplied Google Maps and Google Earth, bought Tomnod in 2013 and now uses it as its crowdsourcing arm, notably during an international crisis. (Read more about DigitalGlobe in this excellent Fast Company brief.)

With 2 million+ people searching 2 million square nautical miles, the wreckage territory seems slightly more manageable. Think you can handle 1 square mile? Visit now.

The Afterlife of Walter White: 8 Celebs Making Their Broadway Debut

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Bryan Cranston is still breaking bad even though Walter White, his meth-making antihero, is off the air. He played a half-blind career criminal in Cold Comes the Night, a small indie film that came out in January, and just this month made his Broadway debut as another character who defies convention: President Lyndon B. Johnson.

With his “heat-generating,”  “jet-fueled performance,” Cranston is one of many (many) Hollywood stars stepping onto the Great White Way this year. But don’t let their shimmery glow distract from the already proven talent on stage this spring. We round up the big names making their Broadway debut and pair them with shows you should also be paying attention to.

All the Way
On stage now
Broadway debut Bryan Cranston as President Lyndon B. Johnson
In short: Cranston steps in as LBJ in his chaotic first year as president, from the Kennedy assassination to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He makes words like “filibuster” thrilling.
Pair it with The Cripple of Inishmaan. In his post-Potter days, Daniel Radcliffe has become a seasoned stage veteran, taking risks (Equus), learning to dance (How to Succeed in Business), and now tapping into the psyche of a handicapped Irishman with big dreams in this dark comedy. In previews Apr 12; runs Apr 20–July 20.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella
On stage now
Broadway debuts
Carly Rae Jepsen as Cinderella; Fran Drescher as Madame, the wicked stepmother
In short: The Canadian pop star behind “Call Me Maybe” saw her own Cinderella dream come true when she stepped onto a Broadway stage in February, opposite Fran “The Nanny” Drescher. Seems like the glass slipper fits: Their runs have been extended through June 8. (I have now satisfied my pun quota for the day.)
Pair it with Aladdin. Let me count the ways this show will run for decades: 1) choreography by Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon), 2) iconic music by Alan Menken, 3) a genie (James Monroe Iglehart) who gets a standing ovation every time he performs “Friend Like Me,” 4) a magic carpet ride. It’s the biggest Disney musical since The Lion King. In previews now; opens Mar 20.

Bullets Over Broadway
In previews now; opens Apr 10
Broadway debut Zach Braff as naive playwright David Shayne
In short: Wherever you stand on the Woody Allen divide, don’t blame Scrubs alum Zach Braff, who brings his quirky-goofy charm to the musical adaptation of Allen’s gangster comedy. Susan Stroman (The Producers) directs.
Pair it with If/Then. Adele Dazeem! I mean, Idina Menzel! And Anthony Rapp, together again for the first time since Rent! Who cares what the show’s about?! (Bonus: If/Then is written by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kipp, who figured out a way to turn a story about bipolar disorder into hit rock-musical Next to Normal.) In previews now; opens Mar 30.

Of Mice and Men
In previews Mar 19; opens Apr 16
Broadway debuts James Franco as George; Chris O’Dowd as Lennie; Leighton Meester as Curley’s wife
In short: By now, wannabe Renaissance man James Franco has probably diagrammed the opening sentences of every chapter of John Steinbeck’s Depression-era novel to get into character. Meanwhile, O’Dowd is having a beer and watching Gossip Girl.
Pair it with A Raisin in the Sun. After his Tony-winning stint in Fences, Denzel Washington returns to Broadway (alongside fellow Tony winner Anika Noni Rose) in this stacked-cast revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s American classic. In previews now; opens Apr 3.

In previews Mar 21; opens Apr 24
Broadway debut Michelle Williams as Sally Bowles
In short: I hear “Michelle Williams in Cabaret,” I think “Renee Zellweger in Chicago.” Until now, Williams’s musical moments have been limited to a few Marilyn Monroe numbers and being mistaken for Michelle Williams in Destiny’s Child.  But she’s surrounded by big talent in her Broadway debut, including (squee!) Alan Cumming, who returns to Studio 54 as the Master of Ceremonies, the role that won him all the awards.
Pair it with Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Neil Patrick Harris as a transexual East Berlin glam-rocker? Yes, please. In previews Mar 29; opens Apr 22.

Viral Video Recap: President Obama vs. Zach Galifianakis, Joel McHale Remakes ‘True Detective’

If you watch anything today, make it this:

“Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifianakis and President Barack Obama. POTUS holds his own in the smack-talk department, though Galifianakis takes himself down pretty well. “Be short, fat and smell like Doritos and try to make it in Hollywood.”

Next Time on Escandalo. Jimmy Kimmel gets the stars of Scandal to reimagine their show as a telenovela. Dart guns are involved.

First Look at Andre 3000 as Jimi Hendrix in All Is By My Side. The biopic, written by John Ridley (12 Years a Slave), is making the film festival rounds but doesn’t have a US release date yet. Or the authorization from Hendrix’s notoriously stingy estate to use the guitar god’s music. Details, details.

Joel McHale and Jim Rash Recreate True Detective. I’ll admit, I had to turn the subtitles on more than once while watching TD. There isn’t a “McConaughey Drawl-to-English” option.

Image courtesy Funny or Die.