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New Star Wars doc unravels the series’ funniest and most enduring mystery

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Most Star Wars fans are familiar with the famous A New Hope blooper where a random, nameless Stormtrooper doinked their head on a Death Star bulkhead. A true classic.

The identity of the clumsy Imperial soldier has been a mystery for as long as the movie has existed. And now, a new Jamie Stangroom documentary titled The Empire Strikes Door (omg), is poised to solve it.

This whole thing looks like a hoot, from the “Every generation has an idiot” tagline to the lineup of legitimate Star Wars celebrities who apparently lent their time to getting this thing made. I can’t wait to watch. It’ll be out Sept. 25 on Stangroom’s YouTube page. Read more…

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MoviePass is dead (for real this time)

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MoviePass, the once uber-popular movie subscription service, is shutting down. For real.

In a press release published on Friday and first noticed by CNBC, Helios and Matheson Analytics — MoviePass’ parent company — announced the shutdown of the service. Subscriptions will cease to work on Saturday.

“MoviePass notified its subscribers that it would be interrupting the MoviePass service for all its subscribers effective September 14, 2019, because its efforts to recapitalize MoviePass have not been successful to date,” says the statement. “The Company is unable to predict if or when the MoviePass service will continue.” Read more…

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Seth Meyers uses hilarious sports mascot fails to explain Trump’s John Bolton mess

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Look, nobody seems to really know what happened between Donald Trump and recently-former national security adviser John Bolton — not even the TV hosts who were getting texts from Bolton himself live on air, contradicting Trump’s tweets claiming Bolton was fired. But Seth Meyers does his best in Wednesday night’s A Closer Look segment.

After touching on Trump’s “scary stories” about refugees from Hurricane Dorian’s swathe of destruction in the Bahamas (“He should hold his rallies in the dark, holding a flashlight under his face — he’s like a racist Stephen King”), Meyers gets into the really terrifying stuff about John Bolton.  Read more…

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Full-length ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ trailer: more Arnie, more plot, more callbacks

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On Aug. 29, 1997, Skynet became self-aware. On Aug. 30, 2019, a new trailer for Terminator: Dark Fate became available. And as in the teaser released in May, it would very much like to emphasise that the Rise Of The Machines/Genisys/Salvation timeline is as dead as… well, all of humanity in the future.

If you’d like to be surprised, look away now, because this trailer is packed with details designed to reassure you that this is the Terminator franchise, classic flavour. We get Mackenzie Davis’s I-come-from-the-future exposition explaining that Sarah Connor did not, in fact, avert Judgement Day; Linda Hamilton’s Connor smirking and wisecracking like the apocalypse-averting veteran she is (complete with a callback I’d rather have been surprised by); and some absolutely wild-looking fight scenes — including a moment where Gabriel Luna’s evil new-model nanomorph appears to split itself into two separate humanoids. Read more…

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Taylor Swift called out Trump for ignoring her Equality Act petition at the VMAs

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Taylor Swift opened the 2019 VMAs with a performance of her single “You Need To Calm Down” — in which she famously, finally, Said Gay Rights. She picked up the Video For Good award for the clip, peppered with celebrities and icons of queer pop culture, but allowed her co-executive producer and BFF Todrick Hall to give that acceptance speech. 

When she won the fan-voted Video Of The Year, however, she took the mic and proceeded to back up the video’s message, surrounded again by Hall as well as other members of the YNTCD cast such as Trinity the Tuck and Jade Jolie.

“In this video, several points were made, so you voting for the video means that you want a world where we’re all treated equally under the law, regardless of who we love, regardless of how we identify,” she said. Read more…

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‘Breaking Bad’ Netflix movie drops tense first trailer

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Where the hell is Jesse Pinkman?

That’s what cops want to know in the first teaser for the forthcoming Breaking Bad story, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.  And Skinny Pete isn’t saying a word.

“In the wake of his dramatic escape from captivity, Jesse must come to terms with his past in order to forge some kind of future,” a release from Netflix explains.

The thriller is written and directed by Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad, and will star Aaron Paul. 

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie hits Netflix Oct. 11 Read more…

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‘The Mandalorian’ Star Wars footage raises plenty of questions

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“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Those words, spoken by Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars about Mos Eisley spaceport on Tatooine, have passed into legend. They heralded the arrival of arguably the movie’s most iconic moments, the scenes where it mutates into a Sergio Leone-loving Space Western. Few remember what Kenobi said next: “We must be cautious.”

And cautious is exactly what the Star Wars franchise has been since then, returning to the Mos Eisley template fewer times than you might think. Mos Espa, the Tatooine spaceport in The Phantom Menace, offered pratfalls and podracing rather than tense Western standoffsThe Force Awakens and Rogue One had their desert planet moments, but both focused on those planets’ stormtrooper occupations at the expense of the scum-and-villainy underbelly. The first Star Wars movie to go full Space Western, Solo, was also the first Star Wars movie not to make its budget back at the box office.  Read more…

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The first reactions for ‘IT Chapter Two’ are in and everyone’s obsessed with Bill Hader

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Get your therapist on speed dial, because IT Chapter Two is nearly here to retraumatise you with everything from a scary clown to how harrowing growing up is — and the first reactions are in as critics and fans stream out of the first screenings.

The overall mood is: IT Chapter One, but more. If you found yourself picking holes in the first movie, you’ll probably be frustrated again; if you loved the personal stakes and the characters, there’s that in spades here, with performances from the adult Losers to rival any “serious” drama; and the ending might make you cry.

And if it made you lose sleep, you can look forward to more of that too. Read more…

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Ninja accuses Twitch of pushing porn on his unused account

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Ninja has beef with Twitch, the platform where he first found fame.

The superstar streamer whose real name is Richard Tyler Blevins now reps Microsoft’s competing Mixer, as of Aug. 1. But he left behind a community of 14.7 million followers on Twitch, and now he’s claiming Twitch is exploiting the community he built without his permission.

Blevins laid it all out in a video posted to Twitter on Sunday. He starts by explaining his new streaming situation on Mixer and describes what he says was a “smooth” transition off of Twitch. “Super professional, we haven’t said anything bad or negative about Twitch, obviously, because we haven’t needed to.” Read more…

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Original Content podcast: ‘Years and Years’ takes an unsettling look at the next decade

“Years and Years” is an unusual show. It’s a co-production of HBO and the BBC, and in the course of six hourlong episodes, it covers a span of more than 10 years in our near future.

During that time, we see the rise of a terrifying Trump-style politician in the United Kingdom named Vivian Rook (played by Emma Thompson), along with lots more political, economic and technological upheaval. All of this is seen through the eyes of Manchester’s Lyons family — grandmother Muriel and adult siblings Rory, Edith, Daniel and Rosie, plus their spouses and children.

No one in the family is a major power player; they simply watch everything change with a growing sense of dread. That, in large part, is what makes the show effective — it feels true to the experience of trying to get on with your life while the world shifts around you.

On the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, we spend the entire hour reviewing the show. We had some reservations about the finale — which seemed to abandon the strengths of the previous episodes — but even so, we were impressed by the series, and by the way it brought so many of our fears to life.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you want to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:

0:00 Intro
0:23 “Years and Years” review
30:07 “Years and Years” spoiler discussion

‘Moulin Rouge!’ on Broadway is one hell of a fun spectacle

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The spectacle of Moulin Rouge! begins not with the opening number, but from the moment you walk into the glamorous, immersive theater decked out with a giant windmill on one side and a larger-than-life elephant on the other. Then, as you actually focus on what is on the stage, you’re greeted with seductive dancers strutting around in their burlesque best, making eyes at patrons as they find their seats and begin to even attempt to take in all the wonder around them. 

Welcome to the Moulin Rouge.

This bombastic, enchanting and altogether magical Broadway musical, based on the Oscar-nominated 2001 film of the same name by Baz Lurhmann, is a love letter to love, most especially the all-consuming, desperate kind of love that songwriters have been trying to put into words over and over again for centuries.  Read more…

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‘Stranger Things’ Season 3 breaks viewership record, Netflix claims

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Did you watch Stranger Things 3 over Fourth of July weekend? If so, you’re not alone.

According to Netflix, the new season was such a popular viewing pick that it actually broke the service’s four-day record, with 40.7 million “household accounts” tuning in. And 18.2 million of those, or about 44 percent, have already completed all eight episodes.

.@Stranger_Things 3 is breaking Netflix records!

40.7 million household accounts have been watching the show since its July 4 global launch — more than any other film or series in its first four days. And 18.2 million have already finished the entire season.

— Netflix US (@netflix) July 8, 2019 Read more…

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‘Stranger Things’ fan theories explain why this character is totally still alive

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This post contains spoilers for Season 3 of Stranger Things

Our tears have not even dried yet after the devastating revelation that our beloved Sheriff Hopper died sacrificing himself in the Stranger Things Season 3 finale. 

But fans are already on the case with convincing theories about why he’s actually, probably, definitely still alive. The writers themselves even appear to have purposefully left that door open, with a conspicuous mention of an “American” prisoner at the Russian facility in the end credits scene.

But there are more subtle hints, too. And redditors are desperately scrounging for all of them to help us all remain in the denial phase of this grieving process. Read more…

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Former ‘Iceman’ writer shines a light on Marvel’s struggles with representation

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In January, there was much excitement around comic book writer Sina Grace, his Iceman series for Marvel Comics, and his latest creation: Shade, Marvel’s first drag queen superhero.

Much has changed since thenIceman is apparently done after five issues, Shade is now called Darkveil, and, with his Marvel work seemingly concluded, Grace has quite a bit to say about how the comics publisher operates behind the scenes, specifically with regard to a creative product that caters to audiences outside the heteronormative “standard” (if there really is such a thing, or ever was).

A little background may be in order: In 2015, an All New X-Men comic revealed that Bobby Drake, the human behind the mutant superhero Iceman, is gay. Then, two years later in 2017, Grace kicked off a solo Iceman series that further explored Bobby’s identity. Read more…

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‘Dead to Me’ lives, gets renewed for second season

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Netflix’s Dead to Me will live on to Season 2.

The addictive dark comedy starring Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini has been renewed for a second season, Deadline reports.

The return of 2 Broke Girls creator Liz Feldman’s twist-filled series was announced on Monday, although a premiere date is yet to be revealed. 

The series’ first season follows Jen (Applegate) who scrambles to solve her husband’s hit-and-run murder. In the meantime, she befriends Judy (Cardellini), who’s dealing with her own loss. 

But guys, there’s a big secret afoot, all leading to that crazy Season 1 finale.

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‘Game of Thrones’ finale defended by ‘Seinfeld’ star Jason Alexander

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Game of Thrones is done and dusted, wrapping up its polarising eighth and final season with an equally debated finale.

While many have criticised the final episode of the beloved HBO series, there are some who have jumped to defend it.

And if anyone knows a thing or two about polarising TV series finales, it’s the Seinfeld cast.

Star of the legendary sitcom Jason Alexander, better known as your ol’ pal George “Can’t-Stand-Ya” Constanza, has offered up kind words for the Game of Thrones crew on Twitter.

“I know a little something about finales and disappointed fans,” he wrote on Tuesday.

“My advice: live in joy that you are part of something that moves people so. You were all magnificent. My family and I loved it all. Thanks.” Read more…

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‘Game of Thrones’ season finale sets record as HBO’s most-viewed episode ever

Despite disappointing many longtime fans of the show, the “Game of Thrones” series finale set a new record for HBO as the most viewed episode in the network’s history. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the episode reached 13.6 million viewers during its initial airing on Sunday night, which rose to 19.3 million once replays and early streaming was included. The record was previously held for a short time by the season’s penultimate episode, which drew in 12.48 million viewers when first aired and a total of 18.4 million during its first night.

The eighth and last season of “Game of Thrones,” which premiered in 2011, averaged 44.2 million viewers through Sunday after streaming, on-demand, DVRs and replays were added in, or 10 million more than the season 7 average, said HBO .

The previous HBO series finale with the most viewers was “The Sopranos” with 11.9 million viewers, though that was in 2007, before streaming and other digital services took off.

 

Robert Pattinson is reportedly your next Batman

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Robert Pattinson is the next Dark Knight, it appears.

When Batman returns to the big screen in 2021, the face behind his trademark cowl will reportedly belong to the Twilight star, sources told Variety

The publisher reports the deal hasn’t been 100 percent sealed, but that Pattinson is expected to be confirmed soon. 

Deadline, however, reported the star has not yet been confirmed, noting that director Matt Reeves and Warner Bros merely have Pattinson on a short list alongside Tolkien star Nicholas Hoult.

Ben Affleck bowed out of his role in Warner Bros.’ DC Extended Universe with an announcement in late January. Read more…

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Stephen Colbert invokes ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in slamming Alabama’s abortion ban

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Alabama’s near-total abortion ban has made many of us furious, including Stephen Colbert, who tackled the legislation on The Late Show on Wednesday night. 

“That, is either an overreach by the Alabama GOP, or some pretty intense viral marketing for the new season of The Handmaid’s Tale,” Colbert quipped. 

“I don’t get it. If a TV show has to become reality, why can’t it be Star Trek, so they can beam me off this planet?”

The bill threatens doctors with 99-year jail terms if convicted of performing one in-state, and offers no exception for victims of rape or incest. 

“By the time those doctors get out of jail in Alabama, it will be 1895,” Colbert joked. If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. Read more…

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‘Saints Row: The Third’ is still one of the most batsh*t video games in existence

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Saints Row: The Third lives again.

The 2011 game comes to Nintendo Switch on May 10, and it’s the same ridiculously over-the-top story of superstardom, gang warfare, and government malfeasance you remember.

Or not? Even if we accept that time has actually flowed normally since early 2017 — a tall order when every day ages us all another 10 years, I know — it’s been a long time since Saints Row: The Third showed up. If you’re not familiar with the series, or just want to catch up, let’s talk about why it matters.

Finding the right footing

It’s always funny to think back on how Saints Row, the series, started as an opportunistic knock-off. Read more…

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George Clooney launches a PSA against ‘dumbf**kery’

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In light of the UN’s dire warning about the Earth’s accelerating extinction rate, George Clooney has stepped up for a PSA against people and their “dumbfuckery.”

“Dumbfuckery is highly contagious, affecting the minds of even the most stable geniuses,” the actor joked on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Tuesday night.

Focusing his attention on climate change, vaccinations, and the dinosaurs, it’s the kind of reminder that we shouldn’t need — but unfortunately do. Read more…

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Cersei teases aftermath after the battle in eerie ‘Game of Thrones’ preview

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If you can see through your tears, the scenes for next week on Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 4 is here. And it is all about the bloody aftermath that will seemingly follow the Long Night we just survived.

“We Have won the Great War,”  Daenerys says. “Now we will win the Last War.”

Surprisingly, this strongman tactic appears to work on the ice cold northerns, who seem to finally be warming up to their new dragon king. Read more…

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The first reactions to ‘Avengers: Endgame’ are in, and it’s one heck of a finale

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Welcome to the end.

The world premiere of Avengers: Endgame took place on Monday evening, with critics and industry peeps getting a look at the much-hyped film before it hits cinemas.

Based on the first reactions on social media, the epic, three-hour long Endgame is a satisfying conclusion to a series which began 21 films ago, with most reviewers leaving positive comments about the film.

As Mashable’s Angie Han and Ali Foreman noted, Endgame is quite the send off.

#AvengerEndgame is an immensely satisfying payoff, not just to Infinity War but to all the films that came before. This is why the MCU. (And I say this as someone who was not especially enamored of Infinity War, FWIW.) ♥️💙💜

— Angie J. Han (@ajhan) April 23, 2019 Read more…

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Douyu, China’s Twitch backed by Tencent, files for a $500M U.S. IPO

Douyu, a Chinese live streaming service focused on video games, has filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as it prepares to raise up to $500 million on the NYSE less than a year after its archrival floated on the same stock market.

Wuhan-based Douyu, whose name translates as “fighting fish”, is the second Twitch -like service backed by Tencent to go public in the United States. Its direct competitor Huya, who has a similarly fierce name “tiger’s teeth” and also counts Tencent as a major investor, raised $180 million from its NYSE listing last May.

It’s not surprising for Tencent to hedge its bets in esports streaming, given the giant relies heavily on video games to make money. For example, Tencent can use some of its portfolio companies’ ad slots to get the word out about its new releases. Indeed, Douyu’s filing shows it received a hefty 27.48 million yuan ($4.09 million) in advertising fees from Tencent last year.

As Douyu warns in its prospectus, its alliance with Tencent can be tenuous.

“Tencent may devote resources or attention to the other companies it has an interest in, including our direct or indirect competitors. As a result, we may not fully realize the benefits we expect from the strategic cooperation with Tencent. Failure to realize the intended benefits from the strategic cooperation with Tencent, or potential restrictions on our collaboration with other parties, could materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.”

But there are nuances in the giant’s ties to China’s top two live streaming services that could mean more affinity between Tencent and Douyu. The social media and gaming behemoth is currently Douyu’s largest shareholder with a 40.1 percent stake owned through its wholly-owned subsidiary Nectarine. Over at Huya, Tencent is the second-largest stakeholder behind YY, the pioneer in China’s live streaming sector that had spun off Huya.

When it comes to the financial terms, the rivaling pair is in a head-on race. In 2018, Douyu doubled its net revenues to $531.5 million. Huya held an edge as it earned $678.3 million in the same period, also doubling the amount from a year ago.

Huya may have learned a few things about monetizing live streaming from 14-year-old YY as it managed to pull in more revenues despite owning a smaller user base. While Douyu claimed 153.5 million monthly active users in the fourth quarter, Huya had 116.6 million.

How the two make money also diverge slightly. In the fourth quarter, 86 percent of Douyu’s revenues originated from virtual items that users tipped to their favorite streaming hosts, with the remaining earnings derived from advertising and more. By contrast, Huya relied almost exclusively on live streaming gifts, which made up 95.3 percent of total revenues.

douyu

Screenshot of a Douyu live streaming session 

As Douyu grows its coffers to spend on content as well as technologies following the impending IPO, competition in China’s live streaming landscape is set to heat up. Just earlier this month, Huya raised $327 million in a secondary offering to invest in content and R&D. Like many other businesses anchored in content, Huya and Douyu depend tremendously on quality creators to keep users loyal. Both have offered sizable checks to live streaming hosts, promising to grow the internet celebrities into bigger stars.

And they’ve extended the battlefield outside China as emerging media forms, most exemplified by short video services Douyin (TikTok’s China version) and Kuaishou, threaten to steal people’s eyeball time away. Both bite-size video apps now enjoy a much bigger user base than their live streaming counterparts.

“We intend to further explore overseas markets to expand our user base through both organic expansion and selective investments,” noted Douyu in its IPO filing.

In a similar move, Huya’s overseas expansion is also well underway. “In addition to our vigorous domestic growth, we have successfully leveraged our unique business model to enter new overseas markets. We believe we are delivering long-term value through strategic investments in overseas markets in 2019 and beyond,” said Huya chief executive Rongjie Dong in the company’s Q4 earnings report.

Revelation that Goombas might have arms and hands rocks video game world

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Not since Mario’s nipples has the video game world been rocked this hard by a revelation about anatomy: Goombas have arms and hands!

The discovery of these appendages comes courtesy of photos of a Goomba keshi rubber figure (an eraser) shared to Twitter by user Joe Piconi, which shows the Goomba with his arms and hands folded behind his back, thus giving him the armless appearance.

Goombas have arms and hands. They are folded neatly behind their backspic.twitter.com/nRXVi6u92f

— Joe Piconi (@joepiconi) April 19, 2019

This is a potentially stunning revelation given that, for decades, the Goombas have been able to do all kinds of activities, like baseball and bowling, without using these hidden arms.  Read more…

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Jimmy Fallon plays that game he truly hates with a brave Kate Beckinsale

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Plunge your hands into a box and try to guess what’s inside it without looking. It’s a truly horrific concept for a game, one that’s generated plenty of fun times on The Tonight Show.

But Jimmy Fallon always gets pretty squeamish playing “Can You Feel It,” as do his guests. On Wednesday, the late night show host invited The Widow star Kate Beckinsale to play, and there was plenty of screaming (mainly on Fallon’s part).

“It’s sticky and wet. It’s a poo! It’s a huge poo!” Beckinsale said of some innocent cinnamon buns.

“I hate this game so much,” Fallon said, hesitantly putting his hands into earthworm-filled dirt. Read more…

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World record holder Hugh Jackman demonstrates a record he didn’t quite break

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Apart from being Ryan Reynolds’ greatest all-time rival, Hugh Jackman is a Guinness World Record holder.

The Missing Link star dropped by The Tonight Show on Monday to trade jackets with Jimmy Fallon and talk world records.

Jackman holds the record for the longest career as a live action Marvel superhero: 16 years 228 days as X-Men‘s Wolverine — he shares the record with Patrick Stewart, who has played Professor Charles Xavier for the exact same amount of days.

But Jackman’s record isn’t the only title he’s tried for, as the star explained he and his brother clocked up many valiant attempts at Guinness glory — one of which is the most coins caught on one’s elbow.  Read more…

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Stephen Colbert calls the Mueller report conclusion ‘worse than the finale of ‘Lost”

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It was a lengthy, almost two-year wait for the Mueller report to be delivered, and Stephen Colbert thought it was, well, anticlimactic.

In a monologue opening The Late Show on Monday, Colbert said the report’s findings, which found that there was no proof of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia, was “worse than the finale of Lost.”

“What about the smoke monster, was it real or not? And if not, why have so many members of Trump’s campaign plead guilty to lying about meeting with the smoke monster?” Colbert quipped.

“Why couldn’t this have been like the ending of Seinfeld? Still disappointing, but at least they’re all in jail.” Read more…

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Apple TV+ makes Facebook Watch look like a joke

Apple flexed its wallet today in a way Facebook has been scared to do. Tech giants make money by the billions, not the millions, which should give them an easy way to break into premium video distribution: buy some must-see content. That’s the strategy I’ve been advocating for Facebook but that Apple actually took to heart. Tim Cook wrote lines of zeros on some checks, and suddenly Steven Spielberg, JJ Abrams, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Oprah became the well-known faces of Apple TV+.

Facebook Watch has…MTV’s The Real World? The other Olsen sister? Re-runs of Buffy The Vampire Slayer? Actually, Facebook Watch is dominated by the kind of low-quality viral video memes the social network announced it would kick out of its News Feed for wasting people’s time.

And so while Apple TV+ at least has a solid base camp from which to make the uphill climb to compete with Netflix, Facebook Watch feels like it’s tripping over its own feet.

Today, Apple gave a preview of its new video subscription service that will launch in fall offering unlimited access to old favorites and new exclusives for a monthly fee. Yet even without any screenshots or pricing info, Apple still got people excited by dangling its big-name content.

Spielberg is making short films out of the Amazing Stories anthology that inspired him as a child. Abrams is spinning a tale of a musician’s rise called Little Voice Witherspoon and Aniston star in The Morning Show about anchoring a news program. Oprah is bringing documentaries about workplace harassment and mental health. Apple even has the Seasame Street gang teaching kids how to code.

This tentpole tactic will see Apple try to draw users into a free trial of Apple TV+ with this must-see content and then convince them to stay. And a compelling, exclusive reason to watch is exactly what’s been missing from…Facebook Watch. Instead, it chose to fund a wide array of often unscripted reality and documentary shorts that never felt special or any better than what else was openly available on the Internet, let alone what you could get from a subscription. It now claims to have 75 million people Watching at least one minute per day, but it’s failed to spawn a zeitgeist moment. Even as Facebook has scrambled to add syndicated TV cult favorites like Firefly or soccer matches to free, ad-supported video service, it’s failed to sign on anything truly newsworthy.

That’s just not going to fly anymore. Tech has evolved past the days when media products could win just based on their design, theoretical virality, or the massive audiences they’re cross-promoted to. We’re anything but starved for things to watch or listen to. And if you want us to frequent one more app or sign up for one more subscription, you’ll need A-List talent that makes us take notice. Netflix has Stranger Things. HBO has Game Of Thrones. Amazon has the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Disney+ has…Marvel, Star Wars, and the princesses. And now Apple has the world’s top directors and actresses.

Video has become a battle of the rich. Apple didn’t pull any punches. Facebook will need to buy some new fighters if Watch is ever going to deserve a place in the ring.

Miley Cyrus celebrates ‘Hannah Montana’ anniversary with cute throwback photo

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It’s been 13 years since the first episode of Hannah Montana landed on the Disney Channel, and Miley Cyrus has marked the occasion with a sweet Twitter tribute.

The 26-year-old pop icon shared a photograph of her younger self, with a caption noting the significant date for the beloved series. 

“It’s the 13th anniversary of the first HM episode to air,” she wrote. The pilot episode of Hannah Montana, titled “Lilly, Do You Want to Know a Secret?” premiered on March 24, 2006.

According to Billboard, the image shows Cyrus at the Nashville airport, ready to fly to Los Angeles to the Hannah Montana set. So, she did hop off the plane at LAX, but we see no cardigan. Read more…

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‘Shazam!’ is a superhero movie for kids, and that’s a great thing

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It’s been a long time since superheroes could be dismissed as mere kid stuff, thanks to stories as intelligent as Black Panther or as disturbing as The Dark Knight or as gleefully inappropriate as Deadpool.

But lost in all the praise over how mature and thoughtful and boundary-pushing these films can be is the fact that, well, superheroes are kid stuff. Most of us first fell in love with these larger-than-life crusaders as children, over comic books or Saturday morning cartoons or family trips to the multiplex.

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus thinks she’s a good liar. Jimmy Fallon finds out.

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You know what, Julia Louis-Dreyfus could sell us anything.

But we’re not so sure how she is effective is at selling a lie, however, as exemplified when she stepped into a round of “Box of Lies” with The Tonight Show’s Jimmy Fallon on Thursday.

The Veep star is good fun, but boy, not so convincing when it comes to trying to dupe Fallon into thinking that she’s got a horse with a huge collection of sandals and high heels in front of her. Read more…

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PicsArt hits 130 million MAUs as Chinese flock to its photo editing app

If you’re like me, who isn’t big on social media, you’d think that the image filters that come inside most apps will do the job. But for many others, especially the younger crowd, making their photos stand out is a huge deal.

The demand is big enough that PicsArt, a rival to filtering companies VSCO and Snapseed, recently hit 130 million monthly active users worldwide, roughly a year after it amassed 100 million MAUs. Like VSCO, PicsArt now offers video overlays though images are still its focus.

Nearly 80 percent of PicsArt’s users are under the age of 35 and those under 18 are driving most of its growth. The “Gen Z” (the generation after millennials) users aren’t obsessed with the next big, big thing. Rather, they pride themselves on having niche interests, be it K-pop, celebrities, anime, sci-fi or space science, topics that come in the form of filters, effects, stickers and GIFs in PicsArt’s content library.

“PicsArt is helping to drive a trend I call visual storytelling. There’s a generation of young people who communicate through memes, short-form videos, images and stickers, and they rarely use words,” Tammy Nam, who joined PicsArt as its chief operating officer in July, told TechCrunch in an interview.

PicsArt has so far raised $45 million, according to data collected by Crunchbase. It picked up $20 million from a Series B round in 2016 to grow its Asia focus and told TechCrunch that it’s “actively considering fundraising to fuel [its] rapid growth even more.”

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PicsArt wants to help users stand out on social media, for instance, by virtually applying this rainbow makeup look on them. / Image: PicsArt via Weibo

The app doubles as a social platform, although the use case is much smaller compared to the size of Instagram, Facebook and other mainstream social media products. About 40 percent of PicsArt’s users post on the app, putting it in a unique position where it competes with the social media juggernauts on one hand, and serving as a platform-agnostic app to facilitate content creation for its rivals on the other.

What separates PicsArt from the giants, according to Nam, is that people who do share there tend to be content creators rather than passive consumers.

“On TikTok and Instagram, the majority of the people there are consumers. Almost 100 percent of the people on PicsArt are creating or editing something. For many users, coming on PicsArt is a built-in habit. They come in every week, and find the editing process Zen-like and peaceful.”

Trending in China

Most of PicsArt’s users live in the United States, but the app owes much of its recent success to China, its fastest growing market with more than 15 million MAUs. The regional growth, which has been 10-30 percent month-over-month recently, appears more remarkable when factoring in PicsArt’s zero user acquisition expense in a crowded market where pay-to-play is a norm for emerging startups.

“Many larger companies [in China] are spending a lot of money on advertising to gain market share. PicsArt has done zero paid marketing in China,” noted Nam.

Screenshot: TikTok-related stickers from PicsArt’s library

When people catch sight of an impressive image filtering effect online, many will inquire about the toolset behind it. Chinese users find out about the Armenian startup from photos and videos hashtagged #PicsArt, not different from how VSCO gets discovered from #vscocam on Instagram. It’s through such word of mouth that PicsArt broke into China, where users flocked to its Avengers-inspired disappearing superhero effect last May when the film was screening. China is now the company’s second largest market by revenue after the U.S.

Screenshot: PicsArts lets users easily apply the Avengers dispersion effect to their own photos

A hurdle that all media apps see in China is the country’s opaque guidelines on digital content. Companies in the business of disseminating information, from WeChat to TikTok, hire armies of content moderators to root out what the government deems inappropriate or illegal. PicsArt says it uses artificial intelligence to sterilize content and keeps a global moderator team that also keeps an eye on its China content.

Despite being headquartered in Silicon Valley, PicsArt has placed its research and development center in Armenia, home to founder Hovhannes Avoyan. This gives the startup access to much cheaper engineering talents in the country and neighboring Russia compared to what it can hire in the U.S. To date, 70 percent of the company’s 360 employees are working in engineering and product development (50 percent of whom are female), an investment it believes helps keep its creative tools up to date.

Most of PicsArt’s features are free to use, but the firm has also looked into getting paid. It rolled out a premium program last March that gives users more sophisticated functions and exclusive content. This segment has already leapfrogged advertising to be PicsArt’s largest revenue source, although in China, its budding market, paid subscriptions have been slow to come.

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PicsArt lets users do all sorts of creative work, including virtually posing with their idol. / Image: PicsArt via Weibo

“In China, people don’t want to pay because they don’t believe in the products. But if they understand your value, they are willing to pay, for example, they pay a lot for mobile games,” said Jennifer Liu, PicsArt China’s country manager.

And Nam is positive that Chinese users will come to appreciate the app’s value. “In order for this new generation to create really differentiated content, become influencers, or be more relevant on social media, they have to do edit their content. It’s just a natural way for them to do that.”

‘The Simpsons’ and Deadpool celebrate the completion of the Disney-Fox merger

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All your Fox are belong to us.

At the strike of 12:02 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Disney officially completed its takeover of 21st Century Fox.

The mammoth $71 billion acquisition includes Fox’s film and television units, plus its 60 percent stake in streaming giant Hulu, among interests in other businesses. 

As the acquisition kicked in, Marvel star Ryan Reynolds celebrated the Disney-Fox merger on Twitter.

“Feels like the first day of ‘Pool,” he wrote, with an image of his onscreen counterpart Deadpool sitting in a Disney-labelled school bus. Read more…

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‘Queer Eye’ gives Guillermo a makeover on Jimmy Kimmel, and it’s not just comedy

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Queer Eye is back, with Season 3 ready to mist up your eyes on Netflix.

So, Jimmy Kimmel invited four of the Fab Five, Antoni, Karamo, Tan, and Jonathan, to weave their magic for the late show host’s longtime sidekick, Guillermo.

Let’s start with that “bold t-shirt choice,” a portrait of a chihuahua mean to make you “bark for your confidence,” and a strong (very strong) Tequila Sunrise recipe.

It’s a genuinely heartwarming segment, due to the Fab Five’s signature respect for all of their subjects, even if it’s for a comedy show. Read more…

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‘Call of Duty: Mobile’ is officially coming to Android and iOS devices

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Get ready for head-to-head battles during your commute, as Activision and Tencent delivered details and a trailer for Call of Duty: Mobile on Monday.

Call of Duty: Mobile will take the form of a standalone, free-to-play, first-person game brimming with maps like Nuketown and Crash, along with characters and weapons from the COD series, including Black Ops and Modern Warfare. 

There’s no exact date for the game’s launch, but Activision and Tencent have announced that they’ll be releasing pre-launch beta versions of the game for folks who pre-register on the website and via Google Play. Once officially launched, the game will also be available on the iOS App Store too. Read more…

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‘Final Destination’ star Devon Sawa boards flight on the film’s anniversary. Seriously.

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19 years ago, Devon Sawa avoided an ill-fated flight in the now-cult film Final Destination.

Almost two decades to the date, the actor tweeted on Sunday that he’d just boarded a plane with the flight number 317. On March 17. 3/17. Oh no. 

That’s right folks. The actor at the centre of Final Destination, a film released on March 16, 2000 and whose entire premise of cheating death hinges on a premonition about a plane, said he boarded a flight on the film’s anniversary which matched the flight number to the date.  Read more…

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Mark Hamill went full dad joke with the Star Wars ‘Episode IX’ trailer

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Mark Hamill you rascal.

The Luke Skywalker actor had a good laugh at everyone’s expense on Saturday when he tweeted a look at his very own trailer for Star Wars Episode IX.  His very literal trailer that he hung out in when he wasn’t on set. 

People keep asking me over & over & over again- “When will they release the #EpisodeIX trailer?”
A) I don’t know.
B) Until they do, just be satisfied with this exclusive look at my own personal #StarWars trailer.#PatiencePadawans #IXWillBeFineAllInGoodTime pic.twitter.com/aBeXdF57X9

— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) March 16, 2019

(I’m not even sure this is the Episode IX trailer he used, not that it matters.) Read more…

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Stephen Colbert steps up his Trump impression after CPAC speech

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Stephen Colbert has already laid into Trump’s “epically weird” CPAC speech.

But there was one moment that the late show host had to talk about again: Trump’s admonishing of the people investigating him during his speech on Saturday.

And by talk, we mean totally mock the president with a new, weird impression that’s better if you just watch it (at 2:40). Colbert also tore into Trump’s press conference on Tuesday, where he answered questions about the investigations.

“It’s just so sad when his heart’s not in it, you know,” Colbert quipped. “He’s like an aging singer doing his 16th show of the week in Branson to a half-empty room.” Read more…

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Brie Larson had to learn how to make a ‘cool face’ as Captain Marvel

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We’d imagine you’d learn all sorts of things if you were cast as a Marvel superhero. 

But what you didn’t think of is how to look cool, as Brie Larson found out when she was training for the role of Captain Marvel.  

“I trained for nine months and got super strong,” Larson told Jimmy Kimmel Live. “But then you also have to learn weird things, like how to make a cool face.”

And yes, there is someone who teaches how to do just that. There’s a mix of bending your knees, clenching your fists, and turning your head first. No smiling, of course.

Speaking of being cool, Larson also wants to get on those trips to Italy that Magic Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson have a good time on. Read more…

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Thomas the Tank Engine is the upsetting ‘Resident Evil 2’ mod we heathens deserve

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There’s a new Tyrant in town and his name is Thomas the Tank Engine. 

The latest and greatest in the seemingly inevitable line of Thomas the Tank Engine mods for the Resident Evil 2 remake has arrived — and while its existence isn’t surprising, its application couldn’t be more perfect. 

The collaborative mod, created by developers ZombieAli and DJ Pop, replaces the wildly terrifying Mr. X — an unkillable creature that chases you for portions of the game — with an equally horrifying and tyrant-sized Thomas the Tank Engine. 

Complete with the Thomas & Friends theme song and some exceptionally menacing choo-choos, Mr. Thomas can bust through walls, catch fire, and stalk Claire and Leon to his heart’s content, just like his bumpy, hat-wearing predecessor. Read more…

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‘Hellboy’ unleashes apocalyptic trailer with monsters and blood aplenty

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Well, looks like some kind of apocalypse is here in the latest look at the forthcoming Hellboy film starring Stranger Things’ David Harbour.

Set to a cover of Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” the trailer offers up a pretty hectic look at the Dark Horse Comics-based film, with more than a few monsters for our pal to take care of. 

Plus, there’s some kind of sexy blood shower, who knows?

Directed by Neil Marshall and starring Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Penelope Mitchell, and Daniel Dae Kim, the film sees our main dude Hellboy attempting to thwart a powerful fifth century sorceress (Jovovich) with plans to y’know, destroy humankind. Classic. Read more…

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Lady Gaga talks about *that* Oscars performance with Bradley Cooper

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Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s utterly breathtaking performance of “Shallow” at the Oscars really had the internet talking, but as Gaga reiterated on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Wednesday, it is very much an act.

“Quite frankly, social media is the toilet of the internet. What it has done to pop culture is abysmal,” Gaga told the show (from 3:15).

“People saw love, and guess what, that’s what we wanted you to see. This is a love song, ‘Shallow.’ The movie, A Star Is Born, is a love story.”

Gaga added they both had worked on the performance all week, and Cooper as director made decisions like making sure the audience was lit throughout the song, among other details that helped with the illusion of love. Read more…

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Spike Lee was not cool with ‘Green Book’ winning Best Picture at the Oscars

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Spike Lee is also angry about Green Book winning Best Picture.

The BlacKkKlansman director was reported to have stood up and waved his hands in disgust during Sunday’s Oscars ceremony, when Julia Roberts announced Green Book as the winner of the night’s top prize.

As per the Associated Press

Lee reportedly tried to leave, but was stopped, and eventually returned to his seat. 

Spike Lee was visibly angry when “Green Book” was announced as the winner of best picture at the Oscars, waving his arms in disgust and appearing to try to storm out of the Dolby Theatre before he was stopped at the doors. He returned to his seat when the speeches were over.

— Andrew Dalton (@andyjamesdalton) February 25, 2019 Read more…

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Netflix’s ‘Roma’ wins three Oscars, including Best Director (but not Best Picture)

“Roma” took home three Academy Awards tonight — though not Best Picture, which went to “Green Book.”

Alfonso Cuarón did win an Oscar for directing the film. It was his second victory in the category, following his previous award for “Gravity.” And it marks the fifth time in six years that Best Director has gone to one of the “Three Amigos,” a trio of acclaimed Mexican directors that also includes Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro Iñárritu.

“Roma” is based on Cuarón’s childhood in Mexico City, as told through the eyes of the family’s maid Cleo. It went into the night with 10 nominations, tying “The Favourite” for the most nods, so it seemed well-positioned to bring home the first Best Picture award for a streaming film (it would also have been the first for a foreign language film).

Despite losing out on the biggest prize, it won the awards for Best Cinematography, Best Foreign Film and Best Director.

“Being up here doesn’t get old,” Cuarón said as he took the stage for the third time. He went on to thank the Academy for recognizing “a film centered around an indigenous woman — one of the 70 million domestic workers in the world without work rights, a character that had been historically relegated to the background in cinema.”

Netflix spent an estimated $25 to $30 million to campaign for “Roma” — a particularly impressive sum since the film cost $15 million to make. The company also dropped its previous insistence on simultaneously releasing films on streaming and in theaters. (Giving theaters just a few weeks of exclusivity still wasn’t enough to win over the major chains.)

While “Roma” was the big streaming success story for the night, Netflix’s “Period. End of Sentence.” won for Best Documentary (Short Subject). The streamer’s “Ballad of Buster Scruggs” also received three nominations, and Gillian Welch and David Rawlings took the stage to perform the movie’s Best Song contender “When The Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings,” though it didn’t win in any category.

Meanwhile, Hulu’s “Minding the Gap” was nominated for Best Documentary Feature, but lost to “Free Solo.”

Beyond the streaming news, “Black Panther” was the first superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture. Ultimately, it took home the awards for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design and Best Original Score. Also on the superhero front: “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse” won for Best Animated Feature.

And since I’ve written about “First Man” — hey, it won for Best Visual Effects!

The awards were given out at a ceremony without a host, for only the second time in Oscar history. Instead of a monologue, there was a performance by Queen, then a montage highlighting all kinds of movies from the past year, then Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph came out to make a few host-style jokes before presenting the first award.

And how did I feel about the results? Well …

If Green Book wins Best Picture I’m going to set this television on fire

— Anthony Ha (@anthonyha) February 25, 2019

Jimmy Fallon made Steph Curry drop weird phrases into NBA All-Star interviews

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Did Steph Curry’s interviews over the 2019 NBA All-Star weekend seem full of weird turns of phrase to you? It’s all Jimmy Fallon’s fault.

For a segment subbed “Drop It In,” The Tonight Show host had the basketball star slip strange words into his post-game chats, and Curry managed to weave them all in multiple times without breaking a sweat.

The phrases you’re looking for are “Energizer bunny,” “flipping pancakes” and “wham, bam, can of ham,” the latter of which we intend to weave into all conversations from now on. Read more…

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Good sport Josh Groban debuts a wedding album…that’s about weddings

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It seems like no matter what, the same things happen over and over at every wedding.

Like the best man’s speech, which is always full of inside jokes that no-one laughs at, or underestimating the demand for shrimp, we guess. 

Now, Josh Groban has an album full of songs for “every marital moment,” called Josh’t Married, which featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Wednesday. 

With songs like “You’re About To Get Married” and “We Told You Not To Bring Your Kids,” it’s a great addition to well, you know what. Read more…

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Seth Meyers breaks down Trump’s attacks on Democrats running for president

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As Democrats begin to nominate for the 2020 presidential election, it’s beginning to get the attention of Donald Trump.

The president fired off a tweet in response to Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s announcement in Minnesota on Sunday, making fun of her bid to fight global warming, as snow piled on her.

That got the attention of Seth Meyers on his segment “A Closer Look” on Monday, who broke down Trump’s attacks on Dems who are running for president. In Klobuchar’s case, Meyers pointed out the president’s misguided global warming comment.

“Why do we have to keep explaining to the president of the United States that weather and climate are two different things?” Meyers asked. Read more…

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Lady Gaga brought a rock ‘n’ roll vibe to ‘Shallow’ at the Grammys

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It’s “Shallow” but not as you’ve seen it before.

Clad in a silver, glittering bodysuit, Lady Gaga performed her Grammy-winner “Shallow” from the Oscar-nominated movie A Star Is Born at the 2019 Grammy Awards ceremony. 

Hitting the stage without co-star Bradley Cooper, Gaga was joined by co-writers Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt at Los Angeles’ Staples Center on Sunday.

Gaga took the song back to its rock ‘n’ roll roots for her performance to truly spectacular results. 

“Shallow” landed Gaga two Grammys for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Song Written for Visual Media, as well as nominations for both Song of the Year and Record of the Year.  Read more…

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Seth Meyers slams Virginia governor’s response to racist yearbook photo

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After a racist photo on his 1984 yearbook page surfaced on Friday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was called on to resign. So, he held a press conference to prove he’s not a racistIt didn’t go well.

It was almost too easy for Seth Meyers, who took “A Closer Look” at the controversy on Monday, and in particular, the governor’s backtracking on whether the image of a man wearing blackface, and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood, actually featured him. 

After apologising for being in the photo, Northam later changed his story, claiming he knew he wasn’t in it. Why? He pointed to another time he wore blackface, when he performed a Michael Jackson routine in a dance contest. Really. Read more…

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