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PopWatch Confessional: What makes you embrace your inner badass?

Let’s face it: If you spend your days voluntarily staring at a variety of glowing rectangles, chances are you’re probably not much of a daredevil. That said, the things you’re seeing and hearing via those rectangles might inspire you to wish you could change your ways—if only for a few minutes after the movie/show/song is over.

So in honor of Mockingjay — Part 1‘s rebelliously action-packed release this weekend, we’ve posed the following question to our staff this week: What’s the movie/TV show/song/book that makes you embrace your inner badass?

Ashley Fetters, EW.com news editor: I’ll never get over my first encounter with Lara Croft. I apologize in advance, purists: The iteration I loved was Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider, not the video-game character. But either way, I think it was the first time I’d ever seen strength and swagger look so damn cool on a woman. Today there are, like, 20 different badass movie women I routinely pretend to be when I’m at the gym (Run Lola Run‘s Lola when I’m on the treadmill, Demi Moore in G.I. Jane when I’m successfully executing 500 one-arm push-ups, etc.), but whenever I need to summon the guts to handle something that terrifies me, the question is still, WWLCD? READ FULL STORY

PopWatch Confessional: The karaoke song that conquered you

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10 years ago Sunday, RCA Records released “Since U Been Gone,” the lead single off of Kelly Clarkson’s album Breakaway. It wasn’t long before the song became one of America’s top belt-it-into-your-hairbrush anthems—and enterprising karaoke singers began attempting to put their own spin on it, only to discover a shocking truth: That ish is hard to sing.

In honor of Kelly’s big anniversary, we asked our staffers to ‘fess up about our experiences with the most surprisingly tough karaoke songs. Here are our answers—starting with the tune that inspired the question.

Lanford Beard, staff editor: I’m an alto, so a lot of Kelly Clarkson’s songs seem perfectly suited to my vocal sweet spot… until the chorus. “Since U Been Gone” is the most ear-piercing example of my former hubris. I don’t have a specific memory—maybe I’ve blacked it out?—but I still have a vivid sensation of getting to that earworm-y title phrase and sounding like a dying cat. At least with some other upper-register belters (Katy Perry’s “Firework,” for example), there’s wiggle room vocally—but when trying to emulate Kelly Clarkson’s crazy-good range, you will fail. Don’t be fooled by the American Idol’s beginnings on a glorified karaoke competition. Her original hits should pretty much all be filed under: “Don’t try this at home… and especially not at a karaoke bar.” READ FULL STORY

PopWatch Confessional: The embarrassing song that made you cry

Sunday marks the return of HBO’s The Newsroom, a series that isn’t exactly known for being subtle—especially in its first season, which featured a memorable scene set to Coldplay’s “Fix You.”

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PopWatch Confessional: What's the scariest thing you saw as a kid (that wasn't supposed to scare you)?

Ghosts, ghouls, vampires, demons—they’ve been frightening kids for centuries, and with good reason. But children’s brains are strange, malleable places that can perceive even the most unassuming figures—a cute, helpful Jedi Grand Master, a cuddly elephantine creature, a precocious baby dinosaur—as sinister agents of terror. Which brings us to today’s Halloween-inspired PopWatch Confessional: What’s the unintentionally scary thing that frightened you most when you were a kid? (Bonus: Reading through is a great way to stealthily learn how old we all are.)

Ashley Fetters, online news editor: I was about eight when I saw the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time. Not long afterward, I woke up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, convinced there was an evil, glowing Yoda lurking in my room. Yoda—arguably the nicest character in the entire franchise, and he’s the one I had nightmares about. I try not to read too much into that. READ FULL STORY

PopWatch Confessional: Which classic (or 'classic') film have you never seen?

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The Terminator was released 30 years ago this weekend—but our Hillary Busis hadn’t seen it until this past week. (Of course, she’s not alone; everyone has at least one shameful gap in their pop cultural knowledge. So we opened up the question to our staffers: What’s a classic (or “classic”) film that you’ve missed? Read through our choices—and feel free to chime in with your own.

Kyle Ryan, EW.com editor: It won Best Picture in 1962 and is No. 7 on the AFI’s “100 best films” list, but not only have I never seen Lawrence of Arabia, I can barely tell you what it’s about. Peter O’Toole’s in it, there’s a lot of sand and loose clothing… uh, I think it’s a glimpse into Middle Eastern colonialism in the 20th century? That’s a hoity-toity B.S. description that sounds knowledgeable—if only I could work in “hegemony”—but more or less says, “I haven’t seen this movie.” And I have virtually no desire to. Something about the sweeping epics of yesteryear turns me off, even though I vowed to watch Lawrence of Arabia after O’Toole died last year. I have, however, seen Mr. Mom roughly 1,000 times. READ FULL STORY

PopWatch Confessional: I'm bummed that Danity Kane broke up (again)

“I have a lot of different types of music on my iPod.” That’s my go-to response when people ask for my favorite band, clearly trying to learn something about me by the fact that I like Jason Mraz or that one Mystikal song. That sentence is how I avoid judgment. But it’s also true.

I was raised on The Beatles and Queen and Simon & Garfunkel, and today, I love Mumford & Sons and The Backstreet Boys and Bon Iver and Eminem. But in between, I’ve had many musical phases, and in 2005, I was a teenager who’d just gotten her first car—equipped with a sun roof—and needed some jams that were worthy of the windows-down treatment. Essentially, I was the target audience for Danity Kane.

Danity Kane was the P. Diddy-crafted girl band formed in 2004 on the hit MTV reality show Making the Band 3. After proving their skills, both vocally and on the dance floor, Aubrey O’Day, Wanita “D. Woods” Woodgett, Shannon Bex, Dawn Richard and Aundrea Fimbres walked away the winners of Making the Band 3 and were quickly signed to Bad Boy Records. After deciding on the name Danity Kane, they released their first self-titled album two years later in 2006, with the hit song “Showstopper.”

So, at the time, as much as I loved the Beatles and Queen, 16-year-old me needed something with a little more bass if I was going to drive my besties to the mall (or wherever we went at that age). Because, you know, everything is backwards when you’re a teen and blasting Danity Kane seemed more normal than blasting Queen. (Well, that and Beyoncé’s B’Day, of course. In fact, between those two albums, I almost never rolled my windows up.)

In the next few years, I formed a relationship with Danity Kane. It wasn’t anything serious. But here’s the thing about Danity Kane’s music: You could accept it for what it was. I wasn’t walking around asking for Danity Kane to win a Grammy. I wasn’t listening to the lyrics to try and discover something about the meaning of life. I was simply playing the music at my beach house and having a dance party with my best friends in between tanning sessions and picture-taking. … Again, we were 16.

I didn’t go out of my way to keep track of Danity Kane after that. But their second album, Welcome to the Dollhouse, renewed my love for them. This album was better than their first, and having come out just in time for one last spring break during my senior year of high school, Welcome to the Dollhouse made Danity Kane once again perfectly fit into the timeline of my adolescence. So perhaps it’s fitting that my going off to college marked the end of Danity Kane (the first end, at least).

I was 15 hours away from home at college when I watched things start to go south on Making the Band 4. I’m still not positive of what happened. Diddy wasn’t happy with the person that O’Day had become, and the rest of the group seemed unhappy with the group’s management. In the Making the Band 4 finale, O’Day and Woodgett left the band, therefore putting an end to Danity Kane’s run.  I was heartbroken when the band broke up, but I was even more heartbroken when I realized that not many people cared. None of my new college friends understood my loss, so I called home and reminisce about beach dance parties with my high school friends. Because of the lack of enthusiasm around me, I didn’t dwell on the breakup long, but from that point on, Danity Kane would always be associated with good memories and an all-too-short relationship.

Jump forward to 2014, and I started hearing word of a Danity Kane reunion. Before I knew it, they’d put out a new single, “Lemonade,” and just like that, I had a new summer jam. Despite the fact that they’d lost two band mates—Aundrea and D. Woods—their sound was everything I remembered it to be. Living in New York, I was no longer a teen and I no longer had a car, but “Lemonade” seemed like the perfect fit for apartment dance parties and the occasional subway ride to work. As I should have predicted, Danity Kane’s sound had matured along with me, but much like me, it hadn’t changed all that much.

Now, just a few months later, Danity Kane is no more. I don’t really care why—whether somebody allegedly punched somebody in the back of the head, or didn’t, or whatever—because all I know is that I was robbed of what could’ve been the best Danity Kane album to date, the Danity Kane album of my 20′s. As someone who still has dance parties often, I really could’ve used it. After years of being a fan of the girl group that only ever sort-of was, I’m left feeling a little, well, damaged.

PopWatch Confessional: I tried to play 'New Girl's fake drinking game

First, a reminder: You are not Zooey Deschanel. There are things Zooey Deschanel can get away with doing that you will never be able to get away with. One of those things is playing New Girl‘s fictional drinking game, True American.

True American is perhaps the pinnacle of absurd in-sitcom group games. That’s an area with surprisingly stiff competition—from Friends‘ apartment bet to Cougar Town‘s Penny Can to Parks and Recreation‘s Cones of Dunshire. But New Girl has managed to win out, mostly because it’s returned to the game in no less than three different episodes, adding more ridiculous conceits each time: The best include Moon Landing and Cotton Gin rules, the latter of which involves drinking actual gin. READ FULL STORY

PopWatch Confessional: I don't regret not seeing 'When Harry Met Sally'

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When crafting a romantic comedy, there are a few films that are widely considered to make up the gold standard—and believe it or not, they’re not generally associated with Nicholas Sparks. When people discuss the greatest romantic comedies of all time, they often talk about  Sleepless in Seattle, Annie Hall, and, inevitably, Rob Reiner’s 1989 rom-com When Harry Met Sally. With Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in the title roles, When Harry Met Sally gave viewers a lot more than a catchphrase (“I’ll have what she’s having”). It gave viewers a love story for the ages. And it’s one I have never experienced, because I have never seen When Harry Met Sally.

It’s a fact that I’m reminded of today, on the 25-year anniversary of the film’s limited release, when Vulture claims the film “revolutionized the romantic comedy” and Indiewire says it created a new standard for romantic comedies by being “as close to perfect as a latter-day example of the rom-com can be.” EW gave the collector’s DVD a great review in 2008. And yet here I sit, completely clueless—and honestly, not feeling that bad about it.

Sure, you could claim that my getting through a film minor and writing for Entertainment Weekly without ever having seen When Harry Met Sally is some sort of travesty or mistake. Why didn’t I rent it for my 13th birthday party? Why didn’t I watch it on Netflix in college? Why don’t I watch it right now? The answer is three-fold.

First, I can’t say that I ever felt that I needed to see When Harry Met Sally in order to be able to join a conversation about romantic comedies, or about movies, or about love, or about, you know, life. I’ve only seen the “faking it” scene from the film, but considering that that’s what people reference about 95 percent of the time, I rarely find myself feeling out of the loop.

Of course, I’ll never claim that [insert movie here] is the greatest rom-com of all time without seeing When Harry Met Sally first. I’m not crazy. But until the day comes around that I’m asked to identify the greatest rom-com of all time, I’m perfectly happy with my minimal WHMS experience.

Second, I’m now at that point where not watching it has made me feel like a rebel. So it’s likely I’ll keep not watching it solely because everyone and their mother wants me to.

But mostly, it’s because I’m not sure how I feel about Billy Crystal in a romantic role.

To me, Billy Crystal is a comedic genius and the host of all hosts, but I can’t quite handle the thought of him as a romantic lead. Blame my age, but I’ve only ever really experienced a purely comedic Crystal—and I’m not sure I’m ready to add romance to the equation. It has nothing to do with being attracted to Crystal. It’s more so that I feel that my love for him is so established that making him even the least bit romantic in my mind might throw everything off-balance. Pop-culturally, I kind of look at Crystal as my favorite uncle: I want to go to lunch with him, and I want him to make me laugh, but one thing I never want to do is watch him make out with someone. (And I’ll dare to say it: I’m not the biggest Meg Ryan fan, either.)

So if you add together all the aspects of When Harry Met Sally that I feel less-than-enthusiastic about, you might get a better idea of why I haven’t gone out of my way to spend two hours of my life watching it. Being less-than-enthusiastic about a film, even if it’s a classic, doesn’t make me all that likely to try and track it down on DVD. (And this is partly a side effect of my chosen line of work: As someone who sees a very large quantity of movies and is constantly going to the theater, I need a real reason to watch something that’s 25 years old as opposed to seeing something new.)

All this being said, I do understand that this is a classic film that I will watch one day and maybe fall madly in love with. I could very well look back at this post and think “Who was that person?!” I get it. Truly. But for right now, I’m perfectly fine not having what she’s having.

PopWatch Confessional: 'Summertime' is still my summertime jam

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DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince’s “Summertime” is a ridiculously obvious choice for a summertime jam, but that’s not really an issue as far as I’m concerned. Summer jams are about sharing moments with the people around you and basking in pure, unexamined pop pleasure. Overthinking things runs counter to the whole concept, as do the kind of status anxieties that often lie behind the desire to show off one’s knowledge of obscure music or ability to think outside the box.

“Summertime” is an obvious choice in the same way that margaritas are an obvious choice for a summertime beverage: because they’re so perfectly designed for it that arguing about it is pointless. You could strip “Summertime” of its title and “summer-summer-summertime” hook and it would still be incredibly well-suited to playing at a backyard barbecue, or poolside, or in a borrowed convertible. The song’s tempo (just a couple BPM slower than it seems like it should be), the lackadaisically ascending synth line lifted from Kool & the Gang’s “Summer Madness,” and Will Smith’s low-key flow all suggest warm weather that’s just too nice for you to want to waste it on trivial matters like staying on top of the beat. He could have been rapping about the economy or the situation in the Middle East and the song would still read as intensely summery. READ FULL STORY

PopWatch Confessional: My YA film heartthrobs are the dads

It began with The Twilight Saga and was officially driven home by this weekend’s The Fault in Our Stars: I have hit the age where the hottest guys in YA movies are the dads. READ FULL STORY

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