Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Friday, July 29, 2005

The Devil's Rejects-Dark 70's redux

Last week,I went with my sister to see The Devil's Rejects and despite the first ten to fifteen minutes of the movie being shown with the bottom part of the screen cut off(prompting an audience member to yell"Hey,Asshole!" when the guy in the projector booth started to fix it during the film),it was quite an experience. I can't say I loved or hated this movie but I sure wasn't bored or freaked out.

What hooked me was how incredibly 1970s the whole thing was-I grew up in that time period(was about 11 years old in 1978 when this movie takes place)and the smallest of details were accurate-Baby Firefly's sing-song taunt of "Chinese,Japanese,Dirty Knees-Look at these!"(I think my sis was right about Sheri Moon Zombie having a fetish about showing her ass-did a hell of alot of that),another character's declaration of"I'm Willy Wonka and this is my chocolate factory!",the music choices,even the ice cream favor of "tutti-fucking-frutti"(do they even make that anymore?)brought up a whole heaping scoopful of memories.

At that age,I wasn't seeing movies like that(there was an incident where some of my older cousins told my mom that they were taking my brother and me to a Bad News Bears movie but we went to Enter the Dragon instead-love that part where Bruce was fighting the Slasher hand guy in the mirror maze)but DR has alot of the feel of those early to mid seventies indie exploitation films to the point where it could be easily mistaken for one. Rob Zombie was majorly influenced by the Texas Chainsaw Massacre style of "let's put on a show in the barn with Dad's home tools"and does some rather clever referencing of Mark Twain and Groucho Marx.

The highlight of the film is a showdown with the cops set to "Freebird" which really makes the movie and is one of the more memorable images I've seen onscreen this year. I didn't see House of a Thousand Corpses so I can't tell if DR is a sequel or a prequel(not going to watch it either way)but when Zombie comes out with another movie,I will be first in line. Speaking of lines,check out the title link for some interesting qoutes from the film.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Jane Austen adaptations brew a tempest in a teapot

Coming this fall is a new version of one of Jane Austen's most popular novels-Pride & Prejudice with Keira Knightly as Elizabeth Bennet and Dame Judy Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh. If you thought all JA fans would simply flock to this film with glee and giggles,you are so wrong,buddy. Like many fandoms,JA people do not always agree abour certain things-which book is the best,who should've married whom and which film/tv adaptation is the best or the worst.

Currently,I discovered a minor fracas stirring up at the ROP-a link to a blog objecting to the new P&P movie had a link to Pemberley calling it a "Communist regime of P.C. correctness"(am paraphrasing because the link was removed due to objections from the Pemberfolk). First off,I think that Communism and politcal correctness are polar opposites to each other and secondly,if you disagee with a group of people about a movie,calling them facists(which one of the blog founders did),does little to strengthen your position.

The whole debate is based on the trailer(which is playing before "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ' in some theaters) and as we all know,trailers are misleading and nine times out of ten,take scenes out of context and hype up whatever plot points the marketing execs think will sell the movie. All most people are saying is,wait until the movie is out(and some reviews are available)before prejudging it as terrible.

I've debated JA movies before on ROP and we get quite a heated discussion at times(I really hated the Patricia Rozema versions of Mansfield Park,which played up political themes that were not the focus of the book,blended Jane Austen's biography into the plot and rewrote the lead character because the director thought she was"boring"-afraid alot of JA fans find poor Fanny Price dull but to turn her into something she is and was not written as....grr,arggh!)but
the ROP does try to keep things civil which is what Jane would've wanted,IMO.

I've seen the trailer more than once and while it may not turn out to be as good as the A&E version(which I love,having it on VHS and two DVD editions),it might have some merit. The cast is mostly British,the sets look lovely and I saw quite a bit of the book in the scenes briefly shown to make it worth a look when it hits the theaters. The protest blog is called Save Austen's Pride & Prejudice Society-S.A.P.P.S . for short(their own initials,not a joke). They do have a link to the "blasphemous" trailer or you can clink the title link here and decide for yourself if this film will pollute the shades of Pemberley.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Smallville and Sunnydale hook-up

Woo to the MF hoo! I just looked at Kryptonsite(the best website for Smallville fans)and they have big news: James Marsters is joining the cast as Brainiac next season! I'm as happy as a kid on Christmas morning,people. As a huge BTVS fan,Spike has been my favorite bad boy on the series(and loved his stint on Angel season 5 as well). Seeing JM play another great villian is a joy to behold(Yes, I know that James Marsters is not really Spike and no,I don't have any fanfics written about him...did have an idea for one about Spike & Vampire Willow but refuse to go there for the good of all mankind),especially on this show.

I got into Smallville after Buffy was finally off the air-had seen the pilot episode(and the Christopher Reeve first appearance)but since both shows were on opposite each other,I had to stay loyal to the Scoobies. I did watch the premiere episode of Season 3,when Clark was on Red K and being a very badass farm boy out in Metropolis-had to admit,I thought seeing the dark side of Superman was pretty cool. I bought the S1 DVD to catch up and have become a fan of the show ever since then. It helps that I know a couple of Smallville watchers who helped me understand a few things(like why Clark ran away in the first place).

One of the best things about this show is that it makes Superman more accessable-some call it the Marvelization of the character but by focusing on Clark the average guy(so to speak)and slowly developing the hero he will become,gives you more of an interest and empathy with the character. Also,the casting has been great-the actors work so well together that suspension of disbelief comes easily(even with the Lana possessed by a witch storyline)to the audience.

Tom Wopat will be on the show,too-bit of a Dukes of Hazzard reunion there. What I look forward to most is seeing JM act with Michael Rosenbaum(yes,I do love "Sexy Lexy")-two of my favorite bad boys together....oh,and you can use the link in the title of this post to find out more about next season's Smallville. I have such a villian jones,it's too sad for words.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince-Rowling's Empire Strikes Back

I'm surpised that I'm actually alert at this hour of the morning-stayed up until 1:30 finishing the new Harry Potter(my copy arrived on Tuesday morning,about a half hour before I had to be at work)and all I call say is,wow.

First off,I'm not revealing any spoilers(saw the online Time magazine article while reading HP&HBP but it fortunately didn't give any certain plot points)but any longtime fan of this series will seriously want to bitchslap a certain someone by the time you finish this book. Yes, my dear Virginia,there is a major death that rocks the wizarding world but it gets you(and poor Harry) ready to throwdown for the finale.


I call this "Rowling's Empire Strikes Back" due not only to the dark nature of the story-alot is revealed about Voldemort's past(no,he is NOT Harry's father!),several romances brew to the surface with jealousy tactics initiated(a very memorable kissing scene,not exactly Luke & Leia style but quite surpising)and of course,big fat hairy betrayal. Some critics have mentioned the current SW"Revenge of the Sith" in comparison but that film is much too hollow and at times,obvious to the power of ten. Both Empire and Half Blood Prince end with sorrow and resolve by the survivors to carry on(which we certainly need these days).

To slightly sidetrack,one of the main reasons I dislike the new SW trilogy(besides Hayden Christenson's Mall Goth performance)is that they break down one of the best elements about the original films: mystery. You didn't know how the Empire came into power or who Darth Vader was under the mask or why this Obi-Wan guy seemed to be so important but part of the fun was that you didn't need to-just enough was set up so that you could dive into the characters and find out with them. Making the prequels is like explaining a joke-if you have to explain,it's not funny (or mysterious)anymore. My father always said mystery was a key to art and ROTS proves him right in the worst sense.

Back to the Half Blood Prince:my Bloomsbury edition has some interesting differences from the US copy-the cover art is not only different but printed on the book itself when you remove the jacket(I've only seen that for picture books over here),no chapter illustrations(and I have the kids copy!) and no table of contents. The chapter headings are the same but the page count is different(607 UK to 653 US)and the back flap info on the author mentions the story she wrote as a child about a rabbit named Rabbit.

Also,HBP is smaller in size-held it up to my copy of Order of the Phoenix and OOTP is Hagridlike. I plan to reread the HP books in reverse order now to stave off any pangs for the finale-now that's going to be as sweet as Return of the Jedi(hopefully Ewok-free).

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Beach Book Bingo

I just finished the new Sophie Kinsella book,Undomestic Goddess(Kinsella is best known for her Shopaholic series)and thought it was OK. The story is about a stressed-out lawyer named Samantha Sweeting(name's a little too cutsey)who after discovering a major error she made that cost the company 50 million ,has a panic attack and winds up in the middle of the countryside, taking a housekeeping job regardless of the fact that she can't cook or clean.

The storyline is rather sitcomish but Kinsella creates such a likability about her characters that you're willing to extend your suspence of disbelief more than usual. It's not that this is a non-Shopaholic title;I read Can You Keep A Secret? last year and it was a more solid story. Undomestic Goddess has it's moments of good characterization as when Samantha rushes to a birthday dinner in her honor,only to be greeted by her mother and brother calling in on their cell phones to cancel on her and later in the book when Sam's new friends throw her a much better party-corny but it works. If I were to compare UnG to a movie,I would match it with While You Were Sleeping-Sandra Bullock's charms carried that one(not to mention the esemble cast).

Another good fun read is Adored by Tilly Bagshawe(I love that name)-it's an old school style of Judith Krantz glamgirl writing about an up and coming actress/model,Sienna McMahon the granddaughter of Duke McMahon,who seeks fame and true love. Some might mention Jackie Collins but trust me,I've read some Jackie C and Adored is not as sleazy as Hollywood Wives. I know Jackie C likes to compare herself to Charles Dickens(writing for the common folk)but Dickens never had blowjob scenes or people humping in elevators in any of his books,so methinks the lady knows not of what she speaks.

Adored is out and out fun-a soap opera with sizzle. Tilly Bagshawe is the sister of Louise Bagshawe,the author of several Brit lit books;haven't read her yet but might grab The Go To Girl when my reading pile gets low. Tilly's next novel is about horseracing-don't know much about that but looking forward to checking it out.

If you want some more stimulating reading for your beach blanket time,here's a couple of non-fiction titles that are easy on the eyes but good food for thought(both are in paperback):

So Many Books,So Little Time by Sara Nelson-it's about a year of reading and how it relates to her life,also comments on various book trends such as that one book that's the flavor of the month which everyone seems to have in their hands except you. I was happy to discover that I liked many of the books that she does too(Crimson Petal and the White I totally adored but wasn't drawn to Michel Faber's earlier novel like Sara was)and many of the chapters are touching,such as the one about getting her son to enjoy Charlotte's Web. Sara Nelson now is Editor-in-Chief at Publishers Weekly(THE magazine in the book business)and they made a good pick in her,lady knows her stuff.

Shelf Life by Suzanne Shrempek Shea:If you want to know what it's like to work in an independant bookstore,look no further. Suzanne is the author of several novels who,while recovering from cancer treatments,gets a job at her local bookseller,Edwards Books in Spiringfield,Mass. She gives you the behind the counter scenes of bookstore life;working the register,setting up displays,store events and author signings,not to mention the interestingly
unusual customers you run across(one guy reads aloud the covers of each book he sees).Suzanne is a sweet lady(have had the pleasure of exchanging a few e-mails with her)and
her writing is as charming as she is.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory-Cinematic Sweet Treat

I went to see Charlie & the Chocolate Factory alone today(my sister had no interest in it-we'll see The Devil's Rejects next weekend,a real family film there!)and it was quite good. I read the Roald Dahl book more than once as a kid-still remember what the library copy looked like:the jacket was dominated by a large picture of a half unwrapped(and bitten into)candy bar with the title placed in the usual brand name label along with a Quentin Blake illustration of Willy Wonka-and also enjoyed the Gene Wilder musical version,too. The new Tim Burton version stays close to the book but has it's own deviations from it just like the earlier 70's film did.

Johnny Depp has a surrealist,dippy vibe as Willy Wonka-the wacky juvenile mindset of someone who's been alone with their own thoughts for way too long. There is no Michael Jackson comparison,IMO-in fact,I think the ending may have been reworked the way it was to offset any MJ comparisons. I won't spoil the plot but if you see it,you'll know what I mean.

It's been awhile for a great Tim Burton movie to come along-Planet of the Apes was a forced compromise between what Burton wanted and what the studio wanted,not to mention having Marky Mark as the lead. Johnny Depp seems to be his muse so this movie has a nice flow and interesting bits of zany,like the Disneylandesque singing puppet show that greets the kids entering the factory which winds up in flames,with Wonka gleefully applauding. Also,how they did all those musical numbers with Deep Roy(playing all Oompa-Loopas,CGI style) must've been hard as hell. Do agree that the subplot about Willy's mean dentist dad doesn't add much to the film but you do get Christopher Lee out of it,so what the hey!

Also saw the trailer for the next Burton-Depp collabration,The Corpse Bride(surpise,surpise)-it looks as good as Nightmare Before Christmas with a dash of BeetleJuice for flavor. Definately worth checking out.

And since it's Harry Potter eve,I'll leave you with a chapter heading from the new book(never you mind how I know): Snape Victorious. Since I'll get my copy on Monday(thank the gods that I don't have to work tomorrow-I've done my HP time,believe me),I don't know anymore than that.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Countdown to HP & the Half Blood Prince

Only a few more days to the release of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,the next-to-the last installment of the history making children's series. I just know that when I go to work today,I'll probaly be writing up some more pre-orders for it. Our store will be having a midnight party,just like the many other bookshops across the country(it's my day off so I won't be part of that) and it does give you some good cheer,even with the hecticness of the whole thing.

The fact that so many people of all ages all want to share a reading experience is pretty damn cool. Since my copy will be arriving after the 16th,I'm satisfying my fantasy need by reading InkSpell ,Cornelia Funke's sequel to InkHeart(it's an Advance Copy,the book will be out in October). I read InkHeart around the time that my dad died and it really helped me cope with his loss.

InkHeart is about a father and daughter,Mo and Meggie. Mo is a bookbinder with an unusual talent-when he reads a book aloud,characters and objects from that story appear in our world.
Unfortunately,the flip side of that is that people and things from our world pop into the book,sort of a twisted exchange program. Meggie's mother disappeared due to Mo's powers and became trapped in a book titled InkHeart,while a fire-eater called Dustfinger was stranded in this world along with the villians of the story who persue Mo to release a more dangerous being from the story .Meggie winds up going on a quest to save him. Funke's first book released in this country was the Thief Lord(which I have yet to read)which has been described as "Oliver Twist in Venice" and most recently,came out with Dragon Rider. She's not quite in the J.K. Rowling league but she has a big following in her home country of Germany and in Europe with a growing fanbase in the US.

One of the great ripple effects of Rowling's success is the opening of doors for many good writers of fantasy for young people that appeal to adults as well. When I went to BEA,the line to meet Lemony Snicket was HUGE,like the lines to a DisneyLand ride. It literally went to the back of the building(and this was at the Jacob Javits Center,so hopefully you get a sense of the size here). I love the Series of Unfortunate Events but that line was too much for me. That I live in a time where writers can get superstar treatment is pretty sweet.

So,while you're waiting for HP,check out InkHeart(it's in paperback)-what could be more fitting than a book about the magic of books to tide you over for your next Potter fix?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Bollywood lite

I bought the DVD of Bride & Prejudice this weekend(saw the movie with my sister and some of my JA ROP gang when it was in theaters)and it inspired me to read Bollywood Confidential by Sonia Singh. Sonia's first novel was titled Goddess for Hire about an L.A. girl of Indian descent who is tapped to be the newest incarnation of the goddess,Kali and since the book had sort of a Buffy theme,I rather enjoyed it.

Bride & Prejudice is not pure Bollywood,of course(not an expert in the subject)but then again,it was meant to be a hybrid of East/West and it works . I was hoping that one of the musical numbers cut out of the US version"Arrogance,Pride and Vanity" would be amongst the DVD extras but I've checked both the deleted scenes and extended musical numbers with no luck. The song appears on the soundtrack and many of us hoped it would be on the DVD but unless it's an Easter Egg,I'm not seeing it.

It's a great movie so I'm not that disappointed-Aishrawya Rai makes an excellant Lizzy Bennet aka Lalita. Martin Henderson is an OK Darcy-alittle too much of a nice guy at times. The biggest scene stealer is Mr. Kholi,which such lines as "As Gloria Estafan would say,the rhythm is gonna get you!" and his Arnold Horshak laugh,I cracked up every time he appears. Also,my favorite number is"No Life Without Wife" where Lalita's sisters mock her about Kholi's intentions towards her.

As for Bollywood Confidential,the story centers around Raveena Rai,a Hollywood D-list actress who goes to India to star in a Bollywood movie with the hope of using it to jumpstart her career. Raveena finds that her director is a cheapskate lech with a rep for getting his leading ladies flat on their back,her co-star Siddharth is one of the most adored celebs in India and is painfully shy,the script she was originally given has been tossed out on a whim and is being rewritten daily and her uncle Heeru,who she is staying with,lets birds fly in his house at all hours. Not that much different from Hollywood now is it?

I did enjoy the story and liked Raveena quite a bit-do wish that the book had been abit longer(it's less than 300 pages)and had more about life in India and some more Bollywood backstage. However,it's a well paced read and perhaps Singh will write another novel on the subject. She has a good sense of humor and can create very engaging characters. Also,in the "Black Bag" section of the book(it's an Avon paperback and they have their equilivent of DVD extras ),Sonia lists her ten favorite Bollywood movies and why she loves them. That was just as fun as the story. I recommend both the book and B&P as a nice double feature for a relaxing weekend.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Fantastic Four: a Marvelous movie

Today,my sister and I went to see The Fantastic Four,which despite many negative reviews,was a damn fine popcorn movie.As far as origin stories go,this one was well made and right to the point. Some of the best scenes were with Michael Chiklas as Ben Grimm,aka the Thing-one was truly touching as Ben's fiancee silently rejects him by placing her engagement ring on the ground(what a bitch) and as she walks away,Ben tries to pick it up but can't grip the ring with his stony fingers. Also enjoyed it when he punched Johnny Storm thru Reed Richards and knocked him into a billboard(Johnny Storm was a total horndog jerk but,of course,does the right thing when called to action).

Jessica Alba did a nice job as Sue Storm-I don't know why people pick on her so much. Granted,the woman's not Meryl Streep but I've seen her in Sin City and now in this movie and she can give a decent performance unlike a certain Oscar winning actress in a reject Roger Corman Black Scorpion outfit who does a lousy impersonation of Eartha Kitt's growl.

Julian McMahon was perfect as Doctor Doom-the man's cornering the market on bad guys ,what with Nip/Tuck and Charmed. I wouldn't mind if they cast him as the Joker for the next Batman movie. Speaking of which,most of the negative reviews complain that this movie isn't like Batman or Spiderman,therefore it sucks. Not every superhero movie is up to those standards,not to mention that there's less brooding and angst in the Fantastic Four set-up(except for Ben Grimm's plight but he does hook up with a better woman and kicks ass to boot),so the tone's gonna be different. Is it as good as Batman Begins? No. Is it as bad as Catwoman? Hell to the no,as Mrs. Bobby Brown would say(that show is so beyond disturbing). FF is worth seeing if you just want to go on a mental vacation or take the kids to a non-animated film.

Also saw the trailer for the new King Kong movie-while I like the fact that Peter Jackson's doing it as a period piece(updating it was a major flaw of the '70's remake),I'm not sure that I will want to see this in December. The original King Kong was shown on Channel 9 every Thanksgiving when I was a kid and we watched it faithfully(Son of Kong and Mighty Joe Young played after it). It was one of my father's favorite movies and I'm sure that I'm not the only one who feels sentimental towards the old school version and has no need for another one. Still,it may get folks not familar with the first movie to check it out and that's always a good thing.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Save Harry Potter from the activists!

Just read an article in the NYT about enviromentalists encouraging folks to buy the Canadian edition of the new Harry Potter instead of the US one because Scholastic doesn't use enough recycled paper for their books. Sigh-can't people just have something to enjoy without agenda driven manipulators spoiling the fun? Bad enough that religious groups attack poor Harry , claiming that the books are "satanic"(which justs shows that none of them have read the books at all-my mother's only seen the film versions and doesn't see how anyone could find HP a bad influence),now the Poison Ivy brigade has to hop on the Hogwarts Express to gain some publicity for their cause(and extra revenue for Raincoast Books,the Canadian publisher of HP).

I know J.K. Rowling supports using recycled paper but I doubt she would want anyone to boycott any edition of her work and Scholastic does use some recycled paper but not enough to please some people. I'm going to suggest something here-if you really want to have Half Blood Prince and do something meaningfull with the purchase,buy the UK edition. Show some support for what the folks in London(and the entire country)are going thru right now by boosting the UK sales of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Sure,you won't get the book on July 16 but you will boost the British economy and isn't that a meaningfull gesture?

I'm getting the UK edition(ordered it months ago,mainly because I just wanted a Brit copy)and have toyed with getting the US one as well but,you know what? I'm gonna wait for the Bloomsbury kids copy and if Amazon UK is smart,they'll sent up a fund to help those families injured or suffering loss from the bombing by encouraging their customers to spend X amount of money on certain items ,with a portion of the sales going to support the fund.

Not going to get politcal(that stuff is bad for my blood pressure)but even if you get Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince from your local B&N,don't feel guilty about it. In times like these, people need to let off some of the tension in a positive way-all work and no play makes Jack Nicholson grab an axe and attack Olive Oyl in the bathroom,not a good thing!

In all seriousness,look at it this way-Harry Potter is one of the few things that actually unites people worldwide,sharing the story of a young man's journey to adulthood thru a changing and chaotic reality-if that's not a good thing,I don't know what is.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Current state of reading and a prediction

I am proud of one thing that I did this holiday weekend;I finished three books and started two more more-woo to the hoo! You might not be impressed but if you saw the massive piles of books stacked neatly(and catagorized in a system that works for me)in my room and one of my chairs,I could get at the very least a high five.

The three books I completed were Hand Me Down by Lee Nicols,Carpe Demon by Julie Kenner and The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe. I prefer Rona's older novels(particularly Mazes and Monsters-even saw the TV movie version with a pre-Bosom Buddies Tom Hanks as the troubled youth who took his pseudo Dungeons-and-Dragons role-playing game too far)to her more recent ones-they just don't have the same zing,feel too updated.

Carpe Demon was pretty good-the subtitle of the book is"The adventures of a demon-hunting soccer mom" sums up the plot nicely. Not bad but I'm in no hurry for the next in the series(yes,it's gonna be a series)but am more anxious for the next Kim Harrison book after "Every Which Way but Dead". I like my vampire/demon hunter stories to be a bit more sexy. Still like Laurell K Hamilton despite the Skinamax styling of her last couple of Anita Blake books(no body minds the rampant sensuality of the Merry Gentry series but then again,it was worked into the plotline with much more logic)-a guilty pleasure should be both guilty and pleasuarable,after all.

Ok,enough of that-time to go over my current reading :for Braincandy,I'm reading The Frog Prince by Jane Porter(so far,so good),just started Popco by Scarlett Thomas and am making head way in a real intriguing title,The Town That Forgot to Breathe by Kenneth J.Harvey.
Harvey is a Canadian writer who is making his US debut with this book(available in October)-the story takes place in the island community of Bareneed,where the citizens are having visions of drowning victims and coming down with a mysterious illness that makes them literally forget to draw breath.

First off,I love the name Bareneed-you have to admire the subtlity. Also,the characters are well defined and feel realistic(which is tricky to do in a supernatural story). The publishers describe the author's writing style as "Stephen King meets Anne Proulx" which is fine but I would rather know more about the plot,people! Just saying. Fortunately,the book is very readable(hence the Stephen King reference)and sets a good sinister tone that doesn't broadcast what's to come next so you really have to keep reading . This book should do very well when it comes out,particularly if it gets good reviews and positive word-of-mouth ,which I am already to provide.

Popco is a UK novel also coming out in October(one of the best things about working in a bookstore is getting to read books not yet available-it's like having a sneak preview all to yourself) and is also a US debut for the author. Popco is the name of the toy company where our heroine,Alice,is working on creating the ultimate teen product. She's also deciphering a manuscript left by her grandfather that may lead to buried treasure or something even more valuable. I must confess that I grabbed this book mainly due to the title(also am a sucker for British writers)-Popco has a catchy sound that you can't help wanting to say. I like it so far and since it'll be out in paperback this fall,it has a good chance of selling. Folks tend to take a chance on a paperback with an unknown(to them)writer than a hardcover. There are excepts(The Historian is already high on the bestseller lists,I'm happy to see)but it does help new writers to have the first couple of books be more accessable,price wise.

For nonfiction,I'm reading Bait and Switch by Barbara Ehrenreich. It's her follow-up to Nickel and Dimed,only this time she checks out the plight of white collar workers. I usually don't read sociopolitical books but Nickel and Dimed wasn't preachy or statistic driven. Ehrnereich walked the walk and talked the talk which made the book so compelling. Bait and Switch is quite a hoot-at the part I'm reading,Ehrenreich is consulting"career coaches"who are supposed to help her find the right job but insist on giving her multiple personality tests,one of which the "coach" uses Wizard of Oz characters to demonstate different personality types(he even has dolls,I am not kidding) and being uberperky in a Stepford Wives sense. Kimberly(the coach that Barbara really,really can't stand)gives her such career advice as "don't you feel 37?" as a reason to lie about her age and to network by asking anyone she has contact with(such as her doctor or the doctor's receptionist) if they know of any job opportunities.

These "coaches" charge $600 and up for their services-only in America,folks. This book is gonna
be a winner,mark my words. Oh,and here's my prediction:War of the Worlds will not do as well at the box office next weekend as it did for the Fourth of July. From all the feedback I'm seeing at various posting boards,many people were disappointed by the movie and bad word of mouth will bring the profits down. This bodes well for the Fantastic Four-gonna be clobberin' time for Spielberg and Co.

Monday, July 04, 2005

All my reading groups are online

I've just finished reading Hand Me Down by Lee Nichols-it was the June Book of the Month pick at ChicklitBooks. Chick Lit books is run by Rian Montgomery(found the site by searching for info on a book called Next Big Thing by Johanna Edwards)and the title speaks for itself. Rian keeps the site very well updated and it's a good place to check out female friendly titles(I like that term,female friendly-have to figure out what the opposite of that would be).

The whole reading group/book club thing,I've only done online. There is a real Jane Austen Book Club(the Fowler book was great,hit all the right notes)and I've been part of it. It's at the Republic of Pemberley,THE best Jane Austen website around. How it works:

A title is selected by the adminstrators-they alternate between a JA book(the books are done in order of publication)and a non-JA but somewhat related book(example,we read a book about the way of life for Regency/Georgian women,The Gentlemen's Daughter).

A schedule is set to discuss certain chapter per week(week 1-chapters 1-5,etc)and at the end,there is a follow-up discussion. Folks are asked not to reveal any plot points beyond the chapters in discussion(there are always newbies who haven't read the book several hundred times like many of us). The reading group is referred to as Group Read(a separate board was recently made to accomedate the GR-before,we posted on either the actual board for the book in question or if it was a non-JA,the Library board).

The best thing about doing a reading group this way is the comfort factor-no worrying about whose house you're going to meet at,what to wear,are we having Chinese food again or what? You can sit in your jammies and post away to your heart's content or just read So-and So's post about why Mary Bennet is the most overlooked character in P&P or how Fanny Price really should've married Henry Crawford,who truly loved her(I firmly disagree on that one) . Those who have read the book usually select a Group Read Focus aka a theme to highlight certain sections of the story. I've done that myself and it makes rereading more fun-one of my GR themes was based on Nabokov's writings on Mansfield Park. Nabokov wasn't a big JA fan but did like MP and compared it to a fairy tale which is what I did. Fanny Price is a very controversal heroine for JA people-folks either like her or find her to be a total milksop. It was a honor for me to be one of the pro-Fanny brigade.

Since Pemberley takes time off in the summer(many of the members go to the Annual Meeting which is held around the country-I went to the one held in England back in '02 and it was one of the best experiences in my life),I decided to give the ChickLit read a chance. I post only moderately on forums(my sister and I share the computer) but try to keep my hand in it. Hand Me Down is a good read-the plot centers around Anne Olsen,the youngest of two highly sucessful sisters,Charlotte and Emily(yep,the names are supposed to be from the Brontes)whose fear of all things used extends to not wanting to date Ian,her sister Charlotte's high school ex, despite the chemistry between them. Lee Nichols herself answered some of our questions(nice-only had that once at ROP)and I'll probaly read her next book.

I think that one of the biggest selling points about the Oprah Book Club is that you avoid the whole "what to read next" discussion-she plunks the book down and that's that,no debate or hurt feelings. Most groups who met in the real world seem to have this struggle. At ROP,we get to suggest what non-JA title gets picked and at ChickLit,Rian set up a poll(there was a three-way tie,so some of us changed our votes to make things easier),which makes the whole process better.

The longest book I read in GR was Tom Jones. Not everyone was able to keep up(took alot of planning for the GR leader to set up a timetable for that baby)but those of us who did had a great time. Another good thing about ROP GRs is that everyone is welcome and if you don't join in one GR,you can wait for the next one without any points taken away. Atleast,that's how I feel about it. Maybe,I'll join one of those reading groups that meet in person someday but for now,the internet provides plenty of good book talk for me.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Holy IMAX,Batman!

Just got back from seeing my first IMAX movie,Batman Begins. My sister and I had already seen BB but wanted to check out the IMAX format. My sister goes to the movies with me alot(she's younger than me)and our tastes have somewhat merged but we still keep our own personal preferences. She flat-out refused to see Revenge of the Sith("Fuck Star Wars" became her mantra for awhile)due to her being annoyed by the massive product placement and excessive media hype.
I'm at the point where Darth Vader soda bottles and mini"Lava Planet" M&Ms amuse me so I went by myself and was expectedly semi-entertained.

We both enjoyed BB so the only qualm I briefly had was the price of admission-I didn't realize that IMAX movies cost more(I'm a bargain matinee kind of gal)but figured this was a new experience so I put my penny pinching doubts aside and selected our seats on a computer screen(how very sci-fi it felt). We sat in row M and were amazed at how big the screen. Real BIG. Times Square Billboard big(like the Coca-Cola one General Zod was thrown into in Superman II).

I've read about how CinemaScope impacted audiences in the fifties and now I understand what that must of been like:having an imaginary world swallow you up and hold you tight in it's reality for a moment in time. The sights and sounds are enhanced a thousandfold and gives you truly a "Ride at the Movies."

Christian Bale makes an excellant Batman and is actor enough to be a great Bruce Wayne. I knew even before the movie came out that it would be good with him-if you've ever seen Equaliberium(and I recommend that you do,it's much better than the critics say and has a sweet throwdown sequence near the end),you know CB has the chops to be the ultimate kick-ass dark hero. Also loved him in American Psycho(the rare film that improves upon the book)and one of my favorite scenes in the Shaft remake is when his yuppie character stomps a fellow prisoner into the ground after being shoe-jacked. I only hope that the actor who plays the Joker in the next movie(my personal pick is Gale Harold,best known as Brian Kenny in the US version of Queer as Folk)is a true worthy opponent to this Darknight Detective.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is also coming out in IMAX(another movie my sis refuses to see)-find hard to imagine how that sucker's gonna look. Think I'll watch in the usual multiplex format. Oh,and the best thing about IMAX? No commercials or excessive trailers(have seen the PSA for Nat'l Amusement Cinemas starring the cast of Two and a Half Men so many times,I know the dialogue by heart)-just a promo announcing"You're watching an IMAX MOVIE,DAMNIT!" and then on with the show. Worth every penny.