Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, February 15, 2019

Revving up for the Oscars with some royal reads

With the Oscar race well under way and plenty of bad vibes about the omitting of certain honors on the awards show, it might be good to clear the negative air by reading a few books that highlight some of the major nominees.

For example, we have two cinematic contenders that feature British royalty in very different ways. The Favourite focuses on the reign of Queen Anne and the influence that certain select friendships made upon her decisions. The fight over who gets to be Her Majesty's best friend,fueled by jealousy,greed and love, has earned the movie plenty of praise for it's examination of female power dynamics with doses of snarky humor.

This dark satire is up for several Oscars, including Best Actress(Olivia Coleman) and two Best Supporting Actress spots(Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone) as well.

Meanwhile, we also have Mary, Queen of Scots, a more conventional costume drama which stars Saoirse Ronan as the title matriarch who clashes with her English counterpart Elizabeth I(Margot Robbie).

The movie has received mixed reviews at best, with many critiquing the historical accuracy of the script and debating which of the two leading ladies gave the better performance. To be honest, I would see both of these movies and enjoy them for completely different reasons, which is how it should be.

What is bothersome is that one of the two categories that Mary, Queen of Scots is up for(Hair and Make-Up) won't be shown during the Oscars live broadcast. At least some of this movie's work will be featured in Best Costume Design that evening.

Anyhow, since three UK queens are being represented on Oscar night, I thought that finding a fictional representation for each of them would make for nice bedside reading as we wait for the Academy Awards:

THE LADY ELIZABETH: Author Alison Weir is a historian whose vast knowledge of the period is artfully woven through her novels featuring royal subject matter. This take on Elizabeth, the unexpected Tudor heir to the throne, follows her childhood and early days as a lady of her turbulent father's court.

From living down the legacy of her executed mother Anne Boleyn to being accepted at times and rejected at other due to the whims and/or political schemes of those vying for Henry the VIII's favor, Elizabeth proves herself to be a formidable survivor.

Yet, the emotional cost of hardening her will does take a toll on her. Watching the rise and fall of her father's regal brides, Elizabeth prefers not to be placed in such a precarious position as any man's future wife, despite having a few romantic longings herself. Weir does adore this period and it shows in her writing while making such facts come to page turning life for readers and offers a good introduction to this most iconic queen:

THE OTHER QUEEN: When it comes to female focused  novels about royal families, Philippa Gregory is certainly a true literary queen indeed.

Her novel about Mary, Queen of Scots is set during the period when she is held as a "guest" of George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and his wife, Bess of Hardwick. Bess hopes to earn herself a better place on the influence ladder by having Mary held on their estate while George finds his loyalties being slowly but surely divided.

Mary does what she can to use those standing in her way to escape from the trap her regal cousin has placed her in but to no avail as time drags on. Gregory tells the story from each of their points of view and captures the steadily growing twists and turns that fate has in store for all of them in the rather bitter end:

COURTING HER HIGHNESS: Renowned writer Eleanor Hibbert had several pen names for her work over the years and one of those was Jean Plaidy, who wrote this 1966 novel about Queen Anne as the last of a series chronicling the reign of the House of Stuart.

Fortunately, it's still readily available and can no doubt be read separately from the other titles in that series(although you might want to try a couple more).  The original title was The Queen's Favorites and yes , it does cover that point in Anne's reign when the influence of her best friend Sarah Churchill was challenged by the arrival of Abigail Hill.

While this novel may not have the sharp edges that the current film possesses, Plaidy/Hibbert was an author with strong narrative skills who knew how to make period pieces feel lively and engaging. I've read some of her work as Victoria Holt(gothic romances for the most part) and her take on royalty should be just as riveting and perhaps historically enlightening as well:

Well, this trio of books ought to be as entertaining as these Oscar nominated films are and hopefully one or two of the onscreen queens will be crowned with Academy Award gold that evening. As for more fictional film looks at British ladies in charge, you'll have to wait for the small screen as Starz plans to have a new Philippa Gregory adaptation on it's spring schedule.  

The Spanish Princess combines two of Gregory's books to bring a fresh face to the story of Catherine of Aragon, the first of the Tudor Queens to start off the pivotal path that the other wives of Henry VIII have had to follow. With any luck, maybe this miniseries might earn some Emmy love for next year, we shall see:

Monday, February 11, 2019

A freezing set of new reads fit for February

Despite the lack of snow at the moment, it's rather chilly in my neck of the woods which makes a few fear filled books seem all too perfect to curl up with.

My latest library haul had me grabbing a couple of literary fright fests that came out earlier last year. As much as I like Stephen King, sometimes it is best to catch up with him this way and The Outsider does have quite the spooky set-up.

Police detective Ralph Anderson is dead certain that well liked teacher and Little League coach Terry Maitland is the one responsible for the gruesome death of a young boy, with all of the evidence pointing right smack in that direction. Trouble is, there is also plenty of proof that Terry was nowhere near the victim and it's just as reliable as Anderson's case.

Before long, Anderson has to seek outside help in order to figure this strange situation out and things go from bad to worse to what the hell in no time flat. Can he and his new consultant Holly,a woman who is no stranger to unusual criminal doings, be able to solve this murder and perhaps others that have yet to happen?

King does enjoy genre blending and this mix of supernatural with straight forward police work does sound intriguing, to say the least. There are plans to turn this story into a HBO limited series in the near future but I would like to read the book first this time around.

Unlike some folks who vehemently dislike changes from script to screen(the big one for the upcoming Pet Semetery remake is not that bad, in my opinion), I'm at the stage in my entertainment life where a little compare and contrast is a good thing. Also, as time goes by,Stephen King continues to challenge his audience with newer sets of mind games and he should be appreciated for that effort indeed:

I paired that book with The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware, the second novel of hers that I've borrowed from the library. Our leading lady is Harriet, a fortune teller who is barely keeping her head above financial waters as a loan shark is breathing down her neck.

When a letter arrives saying that she's listed as a heir from a grandmother that she never knew, Harriet decides to take a chance and see if she can claim some of this fortune that fate seems to have tossed into her lap.

However, the matter proves to be more complicated than that and along with deceiving those assembled at Trepassen House who are actually family, she soon discovers that a tale of a trapped girl from the past may be a big part of what's going on with this remote estate. Solving this mystery could lead to riches or take Harriet down the path to ruin of a permanent sort.

Ware has been compared to Agatha Christie(The Woman in Cabin 10 did have some of that vibe) and this particular story feels as if Christie and Daphne Du Maurier decided to team up there. I do like a modern thriller with old fashioned themes,plus tarot cards play a huge part here and once upon a time, I dabbled in those as well. Fortunately, my tarot readings never stirred up the trouble that Ware's heroine finds herself in and hopefully can see a way out of before it's too late:

In addition to that deadly duo, a couple of upcoming thrillers arrived in my mailbox that should prove to be seasonably chilling as well.

I do have to admit that Serena Kent's Death in Provence may be more of a mild mystery sauce that a spicy suspense story. Penelope Kite decides to recover from divorcing her cheating husband David by buying an old house in need of repair that's located in the French provincial town of St. Merlot's

While settling in, Penelope stumbles across the body of one of her more disagreeable neighbors in the very swimming pool that they were disputing the ownership of. While the local police are doing an investigation, she can't help but use her resources as a former forensic assistant to get to the bottom of the matter before another body is fished out from the bottom of the pool.

Serena Kent happens to be the joint name of a husband and wife team who are planning to make this book the start of a lively new series. This combo of Miss Marple meets Under The Tuscan Sun could be one to watch for,especially as the warm weather returns.

Freshly out in paperback, The French Girl by Lexie Elliott has it's title maiden's body discovered after a ten year long disappearance, which sets off a number of fear factors for the six Oxford students who were the ones to last see her alive during a week spent at a remote farmhouse.

Out of that group, Kate feels the most tense, due to her jealousy of the girl named Severine back then which to Kate breaking up with her boyfriend Seb, and is reliving that time emotionally to the point of possibly seeing the ghost of Severine pop up in her current life.

Is it stress over the new business that she's starting up or does Kate know something about the death of Severine that she ought to confess? Reuniting with her old friends might aid her memory yet other forgotten remembrances might also return that could implicate them all?  While this does seem like poolside reading, The French Girl might be a good way to feel the heat of a murder yet unsolved during these frosty midwinter days:

So many mysteries to explore this early in the year and I'm still making plans for Spring Into Horror this April. At least that readathon will include mystery titles as well from one more than one subgenre there and while a mystery reading group might be fun to join, it also might be scarier than any page turning terror I've yet to encounter:

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

To play or not to play the list of Best Song Oscar nominees?

This year's Oscars are a bit shaky in their set-up, what with the whole "host-less" deal and talk about cutting down the number of awards being presented during the TV broadcast.

There were even plans to only have two out of the five Best Original Song nominees perform on stage(the two being preferred are the numbers from A Star Is Born and Black Panther).

Fortunately, Lady Gaga used her considerable clout to have the other nominees included, although there is still talk of them being only allowed ninety second versions. What is this nonsense? Bad enough that this is one of the categories that gets short changed regularly by the Academy with lackluster nominations(one year, only three songs were selected for consideration!) but shortening the time for the tunes that are not major hits is insulting to say the least.

In case they do go through with the mini version of these songs, I'm going to give all of the Best Song nominees a full outing here:


One of the things that amazes me about this attempt to limit the Best Song performances is that a tune from Mary Poppins Returns is on the chopping block.

Uh, folks, you do remember that this show is airing on a network owned by Disney,right?  Not a smart move to knock one of their major releases out of contention here,plus you ticked off Lin-Manuel Miranda(a pivotal MPR co-star and musical influencer) and he's pretty hard to bring down there.

As to the song itself, this is a melancholy melody that Mary Poppins sings to the new generation of Banks children in order to help them reconcile their grief over the loss of their mother and other changes in their lives. Sad but sweet, which makes me feel as if this is not going to be a winner in this category yet nevertheless it deserves to be heard:


This anthem for the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary RBG(which is nominated in that category) does have a lot going for it.

It's sung by Oscar winning singer/actress Jennifer Hudson and was written by multi-award winning composer Diane Warren, not to mention it's a solidly strong tribute to all people striving for a better tomorrow.

However, wins in the Best Song arena for documentaries are few and far between. The last time was back in 2006 for Melissa Etheridge's contribution to An Inconvenient Truth. Hudson has agreed to perform on Oscar night and she must be given a full amount of time to do proper justice to this song:


This tune from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is the true underdog here. While the movie has gotten two other Oscar noms(Best Adapted Screenplay and Costume Design), it's mostly been available on Netflix, with a very limited theatrical run at best.

The song does have a hokey charm mixed with a touch of humor(as I suspect the movie does as well) and is nicely done. Yet, even with fans of the Coen brothers on board, I don't see this number riding home with the big prize.

It should provide a nice change of pace during the Oscar performances and yes, it needs to be given it's full running time. This is a less than three minutes song, come on, guys!:


There was no doubt about this song from Black Panther being showcased on Oscar night and rightly so.

 Director Ryan Coogler(who was robbed of a Best Director nom, in my opinion) chose Kendrick Lamar as the producer of the Marvel movie soundtrack and having SZA as one of the singers along with Lamar brings a perfect harmony here.

This song is also up for the Grammys, which will be awarded this upcoming weekend, and a win for either Record or Song of the Year will heighten it's chances for that Oscar gold. Regardless of that, this is a beautifully engaging number that captures the spirit of the film it was created for elegantly:


Yes, this signature piece from A Star Is Born is the front runner and also a big nominee at the Grammys as well. Honestly, I'll be happy with either this or All The Stars getting the Oscar(third choice would be "I'll Fight").

Yet, this song has struck a serious chord with audiences and even those of us who haven't seen the movie yet. The lyrics perfectly encapsulate the doomed romance between our leads and Bradley Cooper has a damn good range that compliments Gaga's powerhouse vocals to the extreme.

At the moment, Cooper has agreed to perform with Gaga at the Oscars but word is that he's feeling a bit shy about doing this song live. Since he did sing in Vegas with her recently, I think that Cooper will manage just fine that night. Academy, do not try and cheat anyone out of their performance time or he might suddenly get too tense to sing and we know you don't want that!:

So, Academy, let the songs be sung and stop trying to cut what you think is boring short. Plenty of people are just as invested in seeing who wins Best Sound Editing, Best Short Film and the other technical awards. Instead of worrying about how long the show is, commit to giving your international viewers some incredible entertainment which is appropriate for a night that's supposed to celebrate the best in cinema! Quality over quantity , that's the ticket.

To wrap things up, I'd like to give an honorable mention to The Hate U Give, which had a wonderful theme song that deserved consideration. "We Won't Move" by Arlissa is well suited to this heartfelt yet realistic cinematic reflection of the times we live in now and it's a shame that it won't be among the Oscar contenders that night:

Friday, February 01, 2019

Wrapping up a thrilling Winter's Respite of reading

With today being February 1st, that marks the official end of Seasons of Reading's first big readathon of the year known as Winter's Respite. 

Overall, I did pretty well despite replacing one of my intended reads with another. That last minute choice was a real winner as Kiersten White's Slayer brought back those delightful memories of watching new episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

This YA novel is set well after Season 7 and dovetails with an event in the BTVS comics where Buffy had to destroy the Seed of Wonder,the source of all magic in our world. As that fateful act occurred, the last Slayer was chosen and she happens to be the daughter of two Watchers.

Nina(short for Athena) is also a twin and while her sister Artemis trains to be an active Watcher, Nina is fine with her role as a Healer. They are living with what remains of the Watchers Council in a transported castle in Ireland,wondering what the future holds for their ancient legacy as the majority of Slayers out there(including the elusive Buffy) have no need for them.

When a hellhound attacks their compound, Nina's powers emerge and to say that she is less than thrilled is an understatement. She has no love for Slayers, especially Buffy, and Artemis is shocked that she wasn't the one tapped for this honor. Things get more complicated when their stern mother shows up, along with a mother and son Watcher team that Nina has a complicated relationship with.

As Nina ventures outside the protective zone that her family and friends have arranged for her, she discovers that not all demons are evil,that the powers granted to her are both a blessing and a burden and that people can not be easily judged. She even gets to the point where her long running resentment towards Buffy(who only appears in shared dream experiences) simmers down and Nina starts to understand why the break between Slayers and Watchers came about:

White really recreates the vibe of the original series while adding a few new twists of her own(you have to love a bright yellow happiness demon who's a huge Coldplay fan). The emotional hurdles that Nina faces with determination and a sense of humor make her a suitable Slayer as well as a very relatable teenage girl.

For new fans and older ones, Slayer is a fresh new start to this series and is the first of a trilogy, which is a nice bonus to boot! I do like getting an inside look at the Watchers and a few inside jokes along the way are fun.

.My edition of this book came with a short story featuring Faith,that other outsider of a Slayer,which had a few hints of things to come. I hope that either Faith or Buffy appear directly in the next couple of books as two Slayers are always better than one in facing off challenges from without and within:

Around the same time, I finished The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie which is one of her Hercule Poirot stories.

Here, Poirot is being taunted by a killer who sends him warning of his intended crimes and leaves a gruesome calling card at each scene; a copy of the ABC railway guide that also brings him to each victim in alphabetical order.

Not only is Poirot working with the authorities, he also has the aid and support of Arthur Hastings, an old friend eager to stop this rash of murders before the body count grows higher.

 By the two of them looking into those connected with the recently deceased, ties between any of those targeted appear to be remote at best yet by the time a crime is announced for the letter D, those links begin to slowly but surely appear.

As I read more of the Poirot books, I can see why he's such a favorite among Christie fans(although I still prefer the subtle sleuthing skills of Miss Marple) and this particular story divides itself between Hasting's point of view and the third person, a necessary narrative move. I did enjoy the way the plot came together by the end and while I probably won't see the recent BBC adaptation of this book, I might check out the version featuring David Suchet,which ought to be just as engaging if not more so:

I rounded things off with Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty. This particular group of title characters meet up at a remote spa run by the strangely charismatic Masha who,along with her devoted assistant Yao, have a ten day treatment in mind for this bunch that switches tracks on them in more ways than one.

This story has plenty of twists worthy of a M. Knight Shymaylan movie(think more The Visit than The Sixth Sense) but is richly abundant with character development that enhances the up ending of their situations.

 One of my favorite characters is Frances, romance writer at a turning point in her career who is also dealing with the aftermath of a online scam that targeted her  heart along with her purse strings. Her forthright style comes in handy during certain tricky moments but her vulnerability about not only the crisis at hand, but where her path in personal and professional life is going, makes her truly endearing.

Also, the dynamics of the Marconi family, where daughter Zoe feels as if she has to always give more of herself to her parents during the anniversary of her twin brother's death, are strongly compelling. Not everyone has a dire tale to tell, as one couple deals with adjusting to unexpected wealth via a lottery ticket, a vain divorce lawyer has to decide whether or not to fully commit to his partner and a newly divorced woman is determined to remake herself in order to impress her ex-husband and his younger new wife.

This was quite the page turner and if it follows the adaptation route that Moriarty's Big Little Lies did, this story would make one hell of a miniseries there. At the very least, NPS is a good example of not diving into an intense intimate experience without looking into things a little further. However, it also showcases the notion of taking new chances on life and love, no matter what form those opportunities come in:

While I put aside The Clockmaker's Daughter(it just wasn't the time,pun slightly intended), I did finish up a couple of other books this month-The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes and The Matchmaker's List by Sonya Lalli. That puts my monthly total at eight books, which is a good start to my new year of reading if you ask me!

A huge thanks to Michelle Miller of SOR for another great readathon and I'm already making plans for the next one, Spring Into Horror. So far, a nice stack of scary reads are being piled up with a mix of cozy mysteries and female focused thrillers,plus a killer mermaid. So let us cheer for the fear to come with the warm weather and hopefully no real reader nightmares:

Monday, January 28, 2019

Preparing some literary Valentine's Day treats

With February just around the corner, Valentine's Day is not far behind and when it comes to gifts, a good book will certainly last longer than the traditional candy and flowers(although it's nice to get those,too).

For your holiday planning, I have a trio of fresh new novels that will be more than ready to entertain you on that day. First up is The Matchmaker's List by Sonya Lalli, where our leading lady is Raina, a young woman who promised her Nani(grandmother) that if she wasn't married by the time she was thirty, she would let her do a little matchmaking.

On her twenty-ninth birthday,however, Nani surprises her with the first of many eligible men for a first date and gives her a list of others to check out. From that first encounter(where her set-up suitor rejects her,then later calls for a date but is taking calls from another woman) to the next(a guy who is seeing someone his parents don't approve of) and such charmers as a man who takes her to eat "gluten free raw bread" and is dismayed that Raina doesn't have a dehydrator, this list has more minuses than a math class.

As much as she wants to please Nani, Raina is still not over Dev, her former boyfriend but with her best friend Shay getting married right on Raina's thirtieth birthday, the pressure is on and then some. Can Raina make both herself and Nani happy without a compromise that would compromise her heart?

I'm reading this book right now and so far, this is a charmingly engaging debut novel that offers food for thought and a few laughs along the way. This lively read has much to recommend it and the pages turn harmoniously in tune with the themes of modern love and emotional independence:

Next up is Sophie Kinsella's latest, I Owe You One. Fixie Farr is the one member of her family that is always relied upon to make things right and when her widowed mother takes a trip to Spain, Fixie is left in charge of the hardware store that they've run for years.

She gets little to no help from her brother Jake, who wants to turn the place into an overpriced posh shop, or sister Nicole, who thinks it should be a yoga center instead. With the added burden of a former love back in love and the promise of a new romance with investment banker Seb Marlowe, Fixie finds herself in need of some personal maintenance and repair.

Not only does this book sound as delightful as many of Kinsella's stories are, it puts me in mind of Persuasion, my favorite Jane Austen novel with it's put upon heroine needing to find her own way to true happiness. I don't know if that's what Kinsella had in mind here but the comparison sound letter perfect to me:

Speaking of Jane Austen, Soniah Kamal gives us Unmarriageable which, as the subtitle says, is Pride and Prejudice set in Pakistan.

Alys Binat is the Elizabeth Bennet of this story, a schoolteacher satisfied with her life and not looking for a husband. much to the chagrin of her marriage minded mother. Despite the downfall of the family fortunes(due to a swindle) and four other sisters on hand, she feels that her life is all the better for being single.

When an invite to the wedding of a family friend brings her sister Jana into the path of potential romantic partner Fahad "Bungles"Bengla, Alys is happy for her but not enough to put up with the rude manners of Valentine Darsee, Bungles' best friend. This blend of classic story telling with the still well kept traditions of a modern society has garnered plenty of praise from contented readers already and should spark more interest in new takes on P&P indeed:

 These books ought to be a treat to read no matter what time of year it is,yet it is nice when your reading embraces the themes of the season. The love of reading is a lifelong affair, one that you can't help sharing with others and what better occasion than the celebration of romance is there for such literary joy?:

Friday, January 25, 2019

A mixed bag of popcorn celebration at this year's Oscars

Earlier this week, the nominations for the 91st Academy Awards were announced and,as usual, the reactions have ranged from very happy to not pleased at all.

As a longtime movie fan(and Oscar viewer), my feelings went from "Well, that was to be expected" to "Yeah,nice!" and a few "Oh, come on!" True, it was great to see Black Panther be up for Best Picture but disappointed that were no noms for either the cast(Michael B. Jordan was robbed yet again!) or director Ryan Coogler.

I was also happy to see Rami Malek up for Best Actor in Bohemian Rhapsody (his performance makes the film work), Melissa McCarthy as Best Actress in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, a Best Director nom for Spike Lee's Black KKKlansman and the Ruth Bader Ginsburg movie RBG in the Best Documentary category.

However, some of the snubs are hard to ignore-why wasn't the Mr. Rogers film Won't You Be My Neighbor also up for Best Documentary, given that it was one of the most talked about movies of the year? How is it that John David Washington, the lead actor in Black KKKlansman, is not nominated but his co-star Adam Driver is?

What truly annoys me is the complete shut-out of Crazy Rich Asians, a movie that ,like Black Panther, reached out to an audience that has been under served by Hollywood for decades and was a breakout hit with movie goers and critics alike.

The movie made major box office money and has been nominated at such prestigious award shows as SAG, The Producer's Guild and the Golden Globes. So why was it completely disregarded by the Oscars? Not even a technical nom for Costume Design, Production or Sound, let alone a Best Adapted Screenplay!

 At the very least, Constance Wu and Michelle Yeoh should have been considered for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Yes, The Favourite is chock full of fabulous female performances but it's not the only place to find excellent actresses squaring off on screen:

A really nice surprise was the appearance of Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse in the Best Animated Feature category. This take on the many versions of Spider-Man from the Marvel comic book realm has gotten a ton of critical praise and fan love, plus a Golden Globe to boot.

While I haven't seen this movie yet, I do hope that it wins and the chances are pretty good that it will. Granted, Incredibles 2 was a well done sequel and the Wreck It Ralph follow-up did well enough at the box office. However, folks are a bit tired of the whole Disney/Pixar monopoly on this category and this cinematic introduction to Miles Morales could be just the thing to end that.

It would also be a nice little victory for Marvel, as they teamed up with Sony Pictures on this project and for an animated Spider-Man movie to get what their live action MCU films haven't been able to get from the Academy would be super sweet:

Trying to predict the winners in most Oscar categories can be a fool's game yet I feel quite confident in proclaiming that it's the year for Regina King to win Best Supporting Actress for If Beale Street Could Talk.

This adaptation of James Baldwin's acclaimed novel, which was written and directed by Moonlight filmmaker Barry Jenkins, has a good number of Oscar nominations including Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.

That helps greatly here but more importantly, King has a solid following with fans and her contemporaries in the field both for her big screen work and small screen appearances on shows such as Southland, American Crime Story(which won her two Emmys) and Seven Seconds(which gave her a Golden Globe recently).

Also, the category has two nominees from the same film(Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz from The Favourite) who will probably cancel each other out. This isn't a complete runaway as the actress from Roma might be a wild card contender and Amy Adams has been up for this award before but not yet gotten a win.

 However, the momentum appears to be for Regina King in this role as the mother of a young woman facing hard times in life and love, not to mention many will want to honor IBSCT and might feel that this award to her would be the best way to do that. She's a wonderful actress and it would be a great Oscar moment for her to receive the glory she deserves:

 Another win that I'm dead certain on for Oscar night is in the Best Original Song section. While "All The Stars" from Black Panther is a solid entry, the popular sentiment seems to be more with Lady Gaga's "Shallow" from A Star Is Born.

True, it's a bonus that ASIB has several other major noms, including Best Actor for Bradley Cooper(who was left out of the director category), Best Supporting Actor for Sam Elliot and Gaga herself for Best Actress. As she co-wrote the song, the award would go to her and in lieu of /along with Best Actress, that ought to be a grand highlight of her career.

I have yet to hear the nominated songs from Mary Poppins Returns and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs(which got quite a few noms) but they don't appear to be breakaway hits from their respective soundtracks. Neither is the song from RBG, so I do believe we will be treated with a most memorable song performance(wonder if Cooper will join her on stage for that) and a star worthy acceptance speech from Our Lady of Gaga indeed:

Well, one way or another, this year's Oscars should provide some food for thought and hopefully a good night of entertainment as well, regardless of the no host situation. Also hope that Melissa McCarthy is feeling fine about being up for a Razzie(as the lead in Happytime Murders) and an Oscar at the same time. It could be good luck as it certainly didn't Sandra Bullock when it happened to her.

In fact, I think she and Sandra should show up at the Razzies together for a good natured laugh and maybe hand out some DVDs for reconsideration(again, it worked for Sandra!):

Monday, January 21, 2019

Some cinematic springing ahead to the Movie Trailer Park

Between the frigid temperatures driving folks indoors and the lack of first night must-see material at the multiplex, movie going is in a bit of slump at the moment. That's usual for this time of year but with all of the fresh new trailers for future spring release cropping up, this cinematic chill should thaw soon enough.

For example, the first trailer for Jordan Peele's Us has already caused an emotional meltdown with fans of his groundbreaking(and Oscar winning) horror film Get Out. Lupita Nyong'o stars as Adelaide, who with her husband Gabe(Winston Duke) and their two kids, takes a trip to the beachside residence that brought her such happy memories from her childhood days.

However, not all of those memories are good ones as she and her loved ones find themselves targeted by a group of doppelgangers known as the Tethered. These sinister copies of themselves are bound and determined to destroy their family and friends but why and for what purpose?

Dozens of theories are being debated as I type this and there's even fan art already for this incredibly creative and terrifying film that I sincerely hope to see as soon as possible this March. I have some ideas of my own but it's best to wait for the movie to arrive before going into that(one notion: the scissors have something to do with the Fates!). So for now, I look forward to nervously nibbling on my popcorn with the rest of us out there:

Speaking of scary spring stories, a remake of Stephen King's Pet Sematary is set to arrive in April. Retelling a King book is always a tricky venture and in some cases, not necessary.

However, the original 1989 movie was quite clunky(with the exception of Fred Gwynne as Jud Crandall) to be kind about it and this version seems to strike the right eerie tone here.

 John Lithgow is the most major actor that I spotted in the cast, a good move since this sad tale of a doctor and his family that moved way too close to a highway and the title burial spot doesn't require any extra over the top acting.

 As a King fan myself, Pet Semetary was one of the hardest books to get through emotionally and taking on this story again without any camp is a challenge. Judging from the vibe that this trailer is putting out, I think that this time, they got it frighteningly right:

A book adaptation that is far less intense is the DC Comics big screen version of Shazam!, also set for April starring Zachary Levi as the larger than life alter ego of teenage foster kid Billy Batson.

Upon receiving his powers, Billy does a lot of things that most kids would do, with the help of his friend Freddy, but when former candidate for the Shazam spot Dr. Silvana(Mark Strong) shows up, Billy has to mature as fast as his new abilities in order to save the day.

This does look like some light hearted fun, which the DC superhero movies could seriously use right now. Given the surprise box office power that the engagingly goofy Aquaman has wielded over the past holiday season, Shazam! is in a prime position to showcase it's big ticket prowess:

Interestingly enough, the MCU will debut Captain Marvel in March and yes, there was once a tussle over which comic book franchise would retain that name for their character but it's all said and done at this point.

This movie holds the distinction of being the first female focused superhero movie for Marvel as Bree Larson plays Carol Danvers, an Air Force pilot who was infused with the essence of a Kree(a race of intergalactic warriors) in 1995 and joins in the fight against the Skrull, a group of shape shifting invaders.

Danvers has to leave Earth and become a member of Starforce in order to protect both worlds yet things may not be what they seem. With Avengers: Endgame on the horizon, this movie may be important for fans to watch but I also suspect that even those not caught up in the whole Infinity Wars saga may find some joy in seeing this super sonic warrior woman in action:

Spring time at the movies should be fun but summer movie season is not too far off (especially since they keep moving the starting line on that) and it'll be great to have some more Marvel-ous fun with Spiderman and friends with some good air conditioning to boot. We'll miss this winter chill then!: