Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sing a song of sorrow for Andy Hallett

Very sad news today,folks-one of the most popular co-stars from the Buffy The Vampire Slayer spin-off series Angel,has passed away. Andy Hallett was only 33 years old and had been battling congestive heart disease for the past five years.

Hallett came to the show in it's second season,playing the proprietor of a underworld karaoke bar called Caritas. Caritas was a neutral zone for demons and other various supernatural beings to hang out at,with the added bonus of being given guidance by The Host,who could see a person's inner dilemma and potential future when they sing:

At first,The Host was just a go-to guy for Angel and friends to get some psychic advice from but he didn't work exclusively for them. Even the evil lawyers from Wolfram and Hart(the Big Bads of the show)were encouraged to strut their stuff once in a while:

As the series went on,The Host became more of a major player and more was known about him. His true name was Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan(called Lorne for short)and Pylea,his demon dimension of origin was the setting for the second season finale:

Even when Caritas was gone,Lorne still managed to find a way to use his musical talents,even making it out to Las Vegas as a headliner. Unfortunately,he was being used by a crooked casino owner to steal the fates of people in his audience but Angel managed to save him from that little hell on earth.

Despite his sinister set-up,Lorne put on a great stage show,complete with his own showgirls called The Lornettes:

Andy Hallett was best known for his work on Angel,which include contributing two of his songs performed on the show to the official Angel soundtrack. He made numerous appearances at Buffy related conventions and also appeared in an indie film made by another Buffy alumnus,Amber Benson, called Chance in 2002

Lorne,aka The Host,was a well loved character on Angel and thanks to the talents of Andy Hallett, he gave the show some real heart and soul. It's a crying shame that someone so young and gifted had to leave this world so soon,but at least he was able to make it a better place by sharing his love of music and enhancing the lives of many who were moved by his excellent acting skills.

I'm sure that I am not alone in sending my condolences to Hallett's family and friends during this sad time. His legacy may be a brief one but it will survive in the hearts of Angel fans for a long,long time:

Monday, March 30, 2009

To 3-D or not to 3-D? That is becoming the box office answer to the question

The big money maker at the multiplex this past weekend was Monsters Vs. Aliens,which raked in 58 million and counting. A part of the success of the movie is being attributed to it's 3D effects,which makes the folks at Dreamworks happy as clams who easily managed to not be put on the menu at Red Lobster.

3D has been making a comeback in the last several years,with not only Dreamworks but Pixar jumping on the bandwagon as well. It's interesting to note that this visual gimmick is once again sliding back into cinema's good graces during a time of severe culture upheaval. The 1950s and early sixties were the heyday of 3D,using it for horror and sci-fi films just like we are doing now.

While I do recognize that it's an obvious gimmick,3-D is not without it's charms. Like spicy condiments and moments of clarity from Paula Abdul,a little goes a long way.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released in IMAX with 3-D,which I got to see with my sister last year,and it was visually amazing. The 3D portion was done during the major showdown sequence at the Ministry of Magic,where it enhanced the action rather than distracted from it.

The bonus of viewing that section of the film on such a ginormous screen to boot was the extra sprinkles on the movie cupcake:

When used in the right way and in moderation,3-D can rock but ever looming overhead is the inevitable overkill which turns this technology into a mock worthy trick. Horror movies are notorious for this,from the classic House of Wax(not the one with Paris Hilton) to the sixth Nightmare on Elm Street flick called Freddy's Dead:The Final Nightmare-as if!

Most of the current 3-D mania is being targeted at kids' movies but horror is not immune from it. As recently as January,gore fans were offered up a remake of My Bloody Valentine in 3-D(the original didn't have that feature,by the way)which didn't set the world on fire or the box office but not for lack of trying:

All of the potential blame for 3-D over exposure can't be placed on fright flicks' doorstep,however. There's an awful lot of animated movies being given third dimensional upgrades lately,some set to appear in a theater near you this upcoming Christmas.

Hopefully,these films are good enough to stand on their own and can be worth watching with or without those funky red and blue glasses. Of course,it will be the quantity of profit rather than the quality of the work that will determine the fate of 3-D films(as it was in past)but it would be cool to have a bit of both.

Alas,I fear that we'll be getting more of the likes of Journey To The Center of the Earth:3D instead of Harry Potter level material-with any luck,I'll be proven wrong:

Friday, March 27, 2009

Some Frivolous Friday videos

Since these are tough times that try the very end of men and women's souls,I thought it might be fun to have my own blog version of Casual Friday once in awhile. Nothing fancy,just a few interesting pop culture odds and ends that don't quite fit into a major post but are worth mentioning(or at least having a laugh about)

So,this new feature will be called Frivolous Friday and if you like it,let me know and I'll even take suggestions on things to highlight for future FF posts. Ok,let's get this party start,shall we?


I've been noticing this new series of TV ads for Tampax's Pearl line,with Mother Nature showing up like an annoying aunt cheerfully handing over that special "monthly gift" to perky young gals on the go. Yes,it's somewhat funny but having your womanhood treated like an unwanted fruitcake being forced on you by an aging shrew doesn't go down too smoothly there.

The latest one has a romance theme,with a seafaring dream setting and a come on line that Homer Simpson would love:


One of my late night guilty pleasures of late has been watching reruns of Reba on Lifetime;I didn't know that Reba McEntire was so funny! The show's kind of hokey at times but it can be a real hoot,especially when Reba and family have to endure the hyperactive antics of Barbara Jean,her ex-husband's wife who persists in becoming every one's best buddy. Melissa Peterman played that zany sidekick gal very well indeed:


The movie Troll 2 would appear at first to be just another one of those senseless sequels that you can find in the bargain bin of any video store and is so bad enough that they'll actually pay you to take it off their hands.

However,a rather strong cult following has sprung up around this freaky little flick that the need for a documentary to be made about it has been fulfilled. Currently,The Best Worst Movie is hitting the film festival circuit,starting with the South by Southwest(SXSW)and may be lurking towards a theater near you. I have to admit that I haven't seen Troll 2 but this fervent fan love sure makes me want to:


A major contender for the Worst Movie Ever crown is The Room,a favorite amongst such Hollywood folks such as Kristen Bell and the fellas at Tim and Eric's Awesome Show. My sister managed to see this sucker and swears that it is beyond horrible(and she's seen Halle Berry in Catwoman so she knows the depths of cinematic badness).

I've seen plenty of stinkers but not sure that I have the inner strength to withstand this monument to self indulgence that even Ed Wood himself would be floored by:


To wrap things up,here is the newest installment of It's Just Some Random Guy's look at Watchmen and the upcoming Wolverine movie. This round,Logan throws down with The Comedian and finds very little to laugh at. Hope you all like this clip and perhaps we'll have some more Frivolous Fridays in the future:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Heroes takes a chill,A.I. goes to Motown and Little Dorrit on PBS

American Idol's theme last night was Motown and on hand to provide some mentoring was Smokey Robinson(along with an appearance by Berry Gordy)who seemed to be on automatic pilot at times.

He certainly was for Megan,when she really needed some good advice about singing "For Once In My Life" with a cabaret flair. Megan,don't you know that Simon HATES that style more than life itself?

Even without Simon's prejudice,her rendition of the song was all over the place,with the main problem being that you need a strong personality to pull it off and her approach was just too laid back. Sorry,hon,but I have to give you another Sanjaya Award this week:



There were several good performances(some that I feel were better than the judges deemed to be so,in between pulling out crayons from underneath Paula's tutu-ick!)but once again,Adam Lambert stopped the show by taking it down a notch. His unplugged version of "Tracks of my Tears" did the song justice and let him stay true to his own sense of style(he looked a little like Kurt Russell when he played Elvis onscreen). Go,Adam,go and if you want to put that black nail polish back on,you do that:

Heroes returned this week,revealing the identity of Rebel(not too surprised to see that it's Micah)who was nearly betrayed by Tracy,due to a back door deal with HRG.

She finally managed to showcase the extent of her freezing ability to save Micah from capture,along with a bit of redemption there for her past selfishness. Since there is supposed to be at least one more sister left in the bunch,this may not be the last we see of Ali Larter on this series. She certainly went out with style this time around:


Masterpiece Classic continues their Tales of Charles Dickens with a new miniseries of Little Dorrit beginning this Sunday night. Claire Foy stars as Amy Dorrit,the young lady of the title,who must make her own hard way in the world amidst odd characters and a troubling family mystery.

This should be quite a treat,especially since Andrew Davies adapted the screenplay and there are a slew of old school and fresh faced English actors on deck for this production. Should be a very comforting way to spend a Sunday night,indeed:


THE NUMBER ONE LADIE'S DETECTIVE AGENCY: Just a friendly reminder that the adventures of Mma Ramotse also begin this Sunday night. I know it will be tricky to try and see this show along with Little Dorrit(which you can view online at the PBS website the day after the first episode airs)or whatever else is your usual weekend fare but the effort will be well worth it:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Foreign horror films that are universally fearful

Coming next on my Netflix queue is the Swedish vampire film,"Let The Right One In". It's considered by many to be the anti-Twilight,with the main characters being teens that are slightly younger than Bella or Edward(one of them,at least)in a love story that's way darker and much bloodier.

Let the Right One In starts with Oskar,a boy being the main target of the local bullies,who takes out his frustrations by stabbing trees. This action catches the eye of Eli,another outsider who has her own issues to deal and a rather gruesome way of handling them:

Now,I'm not of the opinion that just because something artistic was made outside of the U.S.,that automatically makes it superior(a theory that is just as annoying as "only indie movies are real,therefore better").

However,there are some damn interesting horror films out there that give folks an interesting look at another culture via one of the strongest emotions that all of us share,fear. It's merely a matter of shifting thru the various cinematic offerings to find those that click with your inner scaredy cat and sharpen your perspective to boot.

With that in mind,I thought that I would share with you some of the foreign fear flicks that I've come across which have given me some chills both outward and inward.

To start with,let's look at The Stendhal Syndrome that stars Asia Argento in a story about a traumatized cop who is afflicted by this phenomenon that causes a person to vividly hallucinate around major works of art. The movie was directed by Dario Argento,(yes,he's her dad)a well known master of the giallo genre in Italy and the fearlessness of this family neatly counterbalances the terrors the two of them unfold onscreen:

Night Watch is an adaptation of the first of a dark fantasy series by Russian author Sergei Lukyanenko,about folks who are keeping up an ancient battle between the forces of good and evil(called the Light and the Dark)by seeking a new player in the game who may be claimed by either side.

The second film,Day Watch, has already been made and hopefully the last two books will become movies as well. It would be a shame to have such an amazingly creative world snapped shut just as it was reaching it's maximum potential. At least this delay does give me time to click into Day Watch and see more of this hauntingly metahuman mythos unfold:

Brotherhood of the Wolf combines historical drama with a bit of real history along with some werewolf hijinks. Think of it as Last of the Mohicans meets Wolfen,with French accents.

A rash of violent killings in the countryside of pre-Revolutionary France causes the authorities to send a pair of unusually experienced men to investigate. Their findings are strange and deadly,on more than one level,with a trail that leads to a nest of sinister secrets and horrors yet to come.

The story is loosely based on a legendary reign of terror by the Beast of Geveudan back in the mid 1760s which is still debated about to this day. This is rather an epic version of a monster movie,but one that actually pays off:

With any luck,Let The Right One In will actually live up to the hype that's been just as pervasive as the clamor for Twilight has been. In truth,I think that both movies would make quite the double feature-how do you like your vampires,Miss,sweet or savory? Variety is the spice of life,even for the undead:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Some pop culture sweets for these sour times

While I was reading the newspaper this morning(the online edition),I came across an interesting little article about an inexpensive way of coping with the increasing amount of ill tidings we've been dealing with lately.

Seems that candy sales have soared in these hard times with folks turning to low cost old school treats such as Gummy Bears,Tootsie Rolls and Hershey's Kisses. Having a bit of a sweet tooth myself,the need for sugary goodness to smooth a few of the worries away is completely understandable and gives me an idea for a fun topic today,a form of brain candy if you will.

Here for the tasting are some clips from the pop culture sections of candy land,a mixed batch of sweet,scary,soulful and silly rushes of sugary delight. A little something for everyone,I hope:


One of the funniest episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was "Band Candy",where the evil menace came in the mostly harmless form of enchanted chocolate bars to be sold by Sunnydale High students to raise money for the band. As it usually is with fund raising candies,all of the parents brought and ate the chocolates which reverted all of the adults in town to their former teenage selves,a humorously horrifying eye opener for Buffy and friends:


Some sweets are simply not appealing to all tastes,like licorice,violet gum or marzipan(which my sister likes,for some strange reason). Once on Gilmore Girls,Richard and Emily gleefully offered Lorelai and Rory specially made pieces of marizpan from Switzerland for dessert,which they considered to be better than chocolate. The girls,however,found it to be nothing more than a mouthful of misery:


Before I gave up on Smallville,there was an amusing use of product placement that involved Clark's old buddy Pete. Pete came back to town and gained some Mr. Fantastic abilities from chewing some kryptonite laced chewing gum,courtesy of Stride. Apparently,it never occurred to anyone in the marketing department that suggesting their product could be easily tainted with a toxic substance might not be a good ad campaign theme for them:


Both the book and film of Joanne Harris' Chocolat indulged in the notion of candy being a source of release and renewal for those going thru life on automatic pilot. The high point of this notion takes place near the end when the resentful small town official who has been waging a campaign against Vivanne's chocolaterie breaks into her shop one night to destroy her unorthodox Easter window display.

He winds up consuming the very sweets that have angered him for so long and starts to let his heart heal,along with the other residents of the village who receive a truly uplifting sermon that Sunday which sweetens their lives:


There are tons of songs with candy references in them,from the Willy Wonka classic "The Candyman" to Marcy Playground's "Sex and Candy",but my ultimate choice of sugar salute is for Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy." It's fun,peppy and has giant peppermint sticks for the band to dance around in the video(not that peppermint is ideal for the beach,in my opinion-a shot of cherry cola might be more refreshing). Sweets to the sweet,friends:

Monday, March 23, 2009

Springing into the season with some Austen audio delights

With the official arrival of spring,many a reader's fancy turns to love and who better than Jane Austen to stimulate some of her infamous lively wit and wisdom for such a passionate topic? I've been listening to a couple of audio editions of beloved Austen titles lately and to my surprise,everything old is new again.

Emma is presented as a BBC Radio production,with not only a narrator but a full cast of actors portraying the vast array of Highbury residents. Lead by actress Angharad Rees,the sparkling dialogue of the book is used to paint a marvelous mental portrait of Emma Woodhouse and her attempts to bring order to her little world.

Background music and appropriate sound effects fill out the setting nicely,making this audio book version as vividly alive as your favorite film adaptation(mine being the 1996 made for TV movie with Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong). Emma may be a hard character to love,but the BBC Radio edition is impossible to not adore:

The best known Austen classic is,of course,Pride & Prejudice,which BBC audio books has in a "cover to cover" edition,giving the text the complete and through spotlight that it richly deserves.

Narrated by distinguished British actress Irene Sutcliffe,the strengths of the story are played out via a direct but not dull reading straight from the book. Sutcliffe gives the words a distinct theatrical flair without resorting to over dramatization or underplaying the impact of the plot points. Her story telling skills added true taste and flavor to an often told tale:

The trendiness of Jane Austen may wax and wane in the fluctuating,Twitter-pated paced pop culture realm but she never really goes out of style. As long as there are folks willing to laugh at as well as indulge in the follies of life and love,Our Dear Jane will always be with us in one form or another.

Both of these audio takes on Austen not only help to keep Jane's influence strong,they also give two of her most spirited leading ladies an impressive showcase to strut their stuff:

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Little Sleep is a dazzling dream of a detective novel

Mark Genevich is not your average PI;the concentration skills he needs for this job are tested on a daily basis due to his narcolepsy.

Mark developed this illness after a car crash which also left him with some lingering physical and facial damage as well and he has the most severe symptoms of this infliction,including waking hallucinations and bouts of total paralysis.

The majority of the cases that he takes on at his South Boston office don't involve much legwork but when Jennifer Times walks in to ask him who stole her fingertips,Mark has to find some get up and go. Jennifer is a local celebrity,a contestant on a major televised singing competition called American Star,plus her daddy is the District Attorney.

While Jennifer's finger snatching is a figment of Mark's imagination,she is at the heart of a mystery that has a quite few odd clues. A set of old photographs of a partially naked girl who resembles Jennifer appear on Mark's desk with some strange notes that he took during a consultation that he doesn't remember. Mark tries to contact Jennifer,thinking that she's the one who left the pics but she claims to have no idea what he's talking about:

As Mark tries to figure out what is really going on,in between his "little sleeps" and intensive hallucinations,more facts keep slipping in thru the cracks.

Turns out that Mark's late father was an old childhood friend of DA Times and that,along with another pal of theirs,may have a secret from their past which threatens to come alive. Perhaps as a blackmail attempt aimed at Jennifer's new found fame or something even more sinisterly strange and sad.

The Little Sleep is a first novel by Paul Tremblay,whose words snap,crackle and pop across the pages. He brings a touch of old school noir to his characters while keeping up some modern sensibilities and sharp bits of dialogue flavored with snappy verbal zest.

This nifty little noir brought to mind a book that I read long ago that was just as smartly stimulating,Jen Banbury's Like A Hole In The Head.

Both stories paid homage to the classic 1940's take on the genre(Banbury's leading character was more of a James. M. Cain character,a regular gal trying to finagle her way to an easy score and getting in way over her head)while making their own unique marks upon the literary scene.

Unlike Banbury,however,The Little Sleep is not a one shot deal. Tremblay is planning on another book featuring Mark Genevich,which I am looking forward to. Mark's droll sense of humor and unassuming cleverness give him a cooler than Columbo edge,plus his struggles with memory and time bring a solidifying urgency to his inner and outer plights with life:

The Little Sleep is available in paperback,that will make it less harder for an economically anxious reader to hold off on giving it a try. It's a fast paced and at times,fiercely funny trip down the rabbit hole. Hopefully,more good reviews will help to place this book in more hands and wind up being positive enough to place on the author's fridge to encourage him to give us more:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A.I. goes to the Grand Old Opry,South Park's new superhero and more Legend of the Seeker is on the way

Looks like I spoke too soon about the season one finale of Legend of the Seeker. Turns out that we have a few more episodes to go,with the last one airing around April 25(my birthday,sweet!)-so,my bad on the LOTS info there, folks.

The good news is that there is plenty of great Seeker action heading our way. The latest episode,"Conversion",showed us the flip side of Kahlan's Confessor powers as the evil Darken Rahl and his wizard Giller unwittingly released the "blood rage" within her(known also as the Con Dar)that had Rahl on the run.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show and/or the books,let me explain.Kahlan has the ability to take over a person's mind and make him or her a devoted slave to her will which also means that the "confessed" can't lie to Kahlan about anything.

Confessors are only able to do this on a one-to-one basis and they use their power strictly as a means of doing good for others. They can also detect the truth in a person's statements without touching them and are frequently employed in settling disputes(I bet Judge Judy would make a great confessor).

Naturally,a power like this is highly desired by the bad guys,so Darken Rahl and Giller try to take the unexpected golden opportunity provided by a captured Kahlan and a set of ancient magic tools to steal her abilities and transfer them to Rahl. Big mistake,boys. What they got instead was reminiscent of the wrath of Dark Willow from season six of Buffy:

That's not the end of the bad girl action on LOTS;the next episode features the return of Mistress Denna,the Mord Sith who nearly broke Richard with her twisted little torture games. To top off the sorcery sundae,there's also a major revelation about Richard's past made as well. The hits just keep on coming for this guy:

The theme for American Idol this week was country music,specifically songs done by members of the Grand Ole Opry.

Most of the performances ranged from pretty good to just okay,with a nice comeback for Anoop due to his great rendition of "You Are Always On My Mind" and a smack to the head for Paula for her advice to Scott about using the piano as a "crutch" and that he needs to be more of a showman on stage.

Hey,Paula,did you forget that he's blind? Simon sure didn't,which is why he called you out on that and rightly so. Sorry to see Alexis go,her "Jolene" number wasn't that bad,in my opinion.

The most unforgettable performance of the night came from Adam Lambert,who did a very goth glam version of "Ring of Fire." I knew that something was up when Adam hit the stage in that Ziggy Stardust outfit of his and that whole bit was so bizarrely brilliant that I'm suspending the Sanjaya awards this week. Instead,I'm saluting Adam with a bonus video of Johnny Cash's "Hurt."

Randy compared Adam's "Ring Of Fire" to Nine Inch Nails doing a country song and it seemed apropos to showcase Cash doing his cover of that particular NIN tune:



South Park did a superhero spoof this week,with Cartman trying to stir up interest in his crime fighting alter ego,The Coon(a raccoon avenger complete with claws)but getting overshadowed by the more seriously minded Mysterion. Professor Chaos and his handy minion General Disarray join into the rivalry,with Cartman naturally being the greater threat to the safety of the town:

Not a big episode,perhaps,but a very amusing one that didn't get into the regular South Park habit of "what did you learn,Dorothy?" Not that I mind that,but this satire on trendy dark heroes made it's points in a much more fun way:


THE AMAZING RACE: The teams were still in Russia this week and they faced one chilling challenge on this leg. The last Roadblock had one member of each team run a mini marathon to the Pit Stop in their underwear.

If the freezing cold temperatures weren't bad enough,the choice of undergarments by several of the contestants was interesting,to say the least. Just proves that all those reminders by your mom about the state of your undies before going out in public are useful after all:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency is about to set up shop on HBO

No doubt that there are plenty of detective shows both on network and cable TV as it is,so that the announcement of one titled "The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency"coming to HBO on March 29 may not impress folks much.

However,they may be pleasantly surprised to discover the homespun delights of this show;based on the series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith,the setting of this show is in Botswana where Precious Ramotswe(played by singer Jill Scott)decides to use the inheritance left to her by her beloved father to open her own detective agency.

Precious' techniques are more Columbo than CSI. While she does do her research and undercover work,her approach is more common sense based. She gets to know her clients and their adversaries well enough to give them considerate yet strong willed when needed solutions to their situations:

Precious is joined in her efforts to bring peace and order by Mma Makutski(Anika Noni Rose),a well educated and thrifty woman and given emotional support by Mr. J.L. B. Matekoni(Lucian Msamati),the owner of Speedy Motors auto repair garage where Precious brings her worn out white van that she refuses to give up on to often.

The pilot film for this series was co-written and directed by Anthony Minghella and it was the last project he completed before passing away last year. The show was filmed on location in Botswana,using many of the residents as crew members.

That's a very hopeful sign of good things to come;McCall Smith writes such wonderfully descriptive passages about the country that it feels like one of the main characters and such a strong sense of place is a major ingredient for this robust recipe to succeed with savoriness for a new audience.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency debuted on BBC One in 2008 and has done well in the ratings over there,despite some mixed reactions from the critics. Hopefully,it will do the same in the U.S. or even better. Mma Precious Ramotswe is the one of the last true ladies left in the literary game of life and I think that many folks would be well benefited by getting to know her:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Some party tunes for your St. Patrick's Day pubcrawl

Since I am Irish(on both sides of my family)every day of the year and have no taste for alcohol,I can honestly admit that a long standing tradition of St. Patrick's Day is to go out and celebrate with a beer or two.

While I don't advocate getting so wasted that you become a danger to yourself and others,I'm not about to get all Carrie Nation on anyone either. As long you're of legal age and have a designated driver on hand,having a few drinks today is not the worst thing that you can do. Just don't overdo it,okay?

As a public service to those about to party hearty,here are a few pumped up Irish themed songs to have a bar room singalong to. Even those like me who will be sitting on the sober sidelines with a pitcher of iced tea that's not from Long Island can rock out as well.

TUBTHUMPING: This one hit wonder from Chumbawamba is a modern day classic,with it's insistent lively chorus and tonal ranges from high to low,much like a night of drinking I would imagine. My favorite bit is the girl with somber glasses on that mellowly chimes in with "pissing the night away" every so often. She's just so oddly perfect:

JUMP AROUND: The main reason that I dig this song is that it always reminds me of Colin Farrell as Bullseye in Daredevil. This House of Pain ditty plays in the background of his first scene,where he shows off his impressive yet evil throwing skills. A very apt choice for a villain's intro:

COME ON,EILEEN:It wouldn't be a great St. Pat's songfest without a pleading love song ,now would it? The homespun charm of this video,with the band members and their supporting players roaming around some very real looking city streets clad in overalls,always delights me:

MUSTANG SALLY: Yes,this is an American song but when it was sung by The Commitments as part of the movie soundtrack back in 1991,it's as Irish as the Blarney Stone. No doubt this film has hit many a Netflix queue lately,to have in time for today,but the story about these hopeful working class kids and their band is fine fodder for thought anytime:

DANNY BOY: No salute to Irish bar music would be complete without this time honored ditty. While some may seek some silly solace in the Leprechaun Rap,I think that this Muppet Show performance is much sweeter and proves than music is truly the universal language. Happy St. Patrick's Day,folks!:

Monday, March 16, 2009

A slew of superhero silliness

Judging by the box office take this past weekend,you might think that Watchmen is slipping out of the pop culture spotlight. It's descent to the second spot on the top grossing movies is obviously due to the release of the much more kid friendly flick Race to Witch Mountain.

That's to be expected,but I don't think that the movie will be blinked out of moviegoer's sights just yet. For one thing,there's quite a few parodies of Watchmen going around the internet,which tells me that interest in the film and graphic novel is alive and well.

The best known current parody is "Saturday Morning Watchmen" created by Harry Partridge and it's beyond hilarious. Even if you haven't read the book or seen the movie yet,this look at what a slightly cleaned up kiddie show version of this story will get you giggling(unless you're Alan Moore,then it's your worst fears come to life):

Rorschach,being the darkest character,is naturally the subject of plenty of skits. In this infomercial spoof, he puts out an album of classic tunes with his own unique take on life added in:

Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan get spotlighted in this sitcom skit(what,no Comedian? He'd be a no brainer for this kind of thing!)that combines the film with the never ending reason that Charlie Sheen still cashes a paycheck on CBS:

Speaking of the big blue guy,Just Some Random Guy follows up his Wolverine vs. Watchmen with Rorschach and has Logan square off against Dr. Manhattan in round two. The funny thing is that it's not really brains against brawn,rather it's a lack of personal armaments that wins the day:

Let me round this out with a couple of clips that merrily mock the old school Superfriends. One of the former commercial bumps from Cartoon Network had the Powerpuff Girls rescuing Wonder Woman and Aquaman from the Legion of Doom. Yeah,that talking to fish trick is not always handy to have as a means of last resort there:

This SNL skit is classic in many ways;not only does it have a mix of DC and Marvel characters at a house warming party for Superman and Lois Lane,it also features a number of old school Not Ready For Prime Time Players such as John Belushi as The Hulk,Dan Ackroyd as The Flash and Bill Murray as both Supes and Clark Kent.

Bonus points for having Margot Kidder as Lois,but ,hey,the humor back then was far from subtle but it was super silly in a good way:

Friday, March 13, 2009

Remake mania goes from small screen to big with Stephen King's IT

The trend towards remakes in Hollywood takes an interesting turn,as plans are in the works to make a theatrical film version of Stephen King's IT,which was originally a TV miniseries back in the 1990s. We've seen TV shows made into major league movies before, but I think this is the first time a made for television film was given the silver screen do over.

I remember when the miniseries first came on the air and was frankly surprised that ABC would even try to make this story suitable for television. If you think Watchmen was hard to adapt,imagine putting on prime time TV a terror tale about a monster that feeds on children and loves to impersonate a clown-that goes really well with McDonald's commercials!

The book is also an epic sized read,slightly less longer than The Stand,and filled with many details both great and small that even a twelve hour miniseries couldn't completely capture(the ABC mini was only a little over three hours).

The mini received mixed reactions(especially in my house,with me trying to explain to my dad and brother how the ending was much cooler in the book)but everyone agreed that the best thing about the film was the casting of Tim Curry as Pennywise,the evil clown persona that the monster favored as it's public face.

For those of you who don't know the plot,I'll give you a brief rundown. The story begins in the small town of Derry,Maine in 1958 as a group of pre-teens discover that the number of missing and murdered kids in the area is due to the presence of an ancient being who rises up every twenty eight years to feed.

Fear is what the monster truly craves and since children are easier to scare(plus,their fears are far less complicated than adults),those are Pennywise's preferred prey. The seven outsider kids form "the Loser's Club" and band together to destroy IT once and for all:

The kids manage to defeat Pennywise but their victory is short lived;another twenty eight years go by and Pennywise is back on the scene. The surviving members of the Loser's Club return to Derry to finish what they started but not without some fight from their old nemesis:

I'm of two minds about this intended remake;on the one hand,it might actually do what most new versions of previously adapted from other media films are meant to achieve-give the proper respect to the source material and feature the highlights of the story in the best way possible.

On the other side of the coin, big screen treatment is no guarantee of quality. Stephen King fans can count the many ways that Hollywood has not done right by his works but to keep things simple,I'll just refer to Dreamcatcher.

The film came out in 2003,with a screenplay written by William Goldman and Lawrence Kasdan(who also directed the movie)and had some reputable actors in the cast which included Morgan Freeman,Jason Lee and Timothy Olyphant.

Regardless of all that,the movie was considered a train wreck by both audiences and critics alike. Some even find it to be bad on a mock worthy Mystery Science Theater 3000 level. So,even with the best special effects around and a stellar cast,Stephen King's IT could have not only a so-so miniseries but a box office bomb of a major motion picture on it's resume as well.

If there is any author who can handle another remake of his work,it's Stephen King. The man has dealt with the good,the bad and the downright pitiful(a couple of times at his own hands)cinematic representations of his books and short stories over the decades.

At this stage in the game,I'm sure that King is not particularly worried about this new take on IT and perhaps I should feel the same way. The new version might be worth watching for either a great scary time at the movies or another bad idea made larger than life. Hey,at the very least,it might help Stephen King get that star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that he wants,so let's keep an open mind on IT for now:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sylar's family reunion,American Idol's first official theme night and TAR's first blind U-Turn

The Amazing Race held their most recent leg in Siberia,where the main Detour challenges involved construction work(a choice between stacking wood or making window shutters to be put on a house)and a Roadblock that combined bobsledding with a "spell the name of a Russian playwright" task(it was Chekhov).

The biggest twist introduced to the Race this time was a blind U-Turn; in the past,a team that gave the U-Turn to another had to identify themselves via photo at the marked clue box,which naturally lead to extra bouts of rivalry on the road.

To spice things up more,now a team can anonymously make the couple they most want to slow down go back to do the other Detour choice.

The first ones to take advantage of this was Margie and her deaf son Luke to Amanda and Kris. Not the types that you would think of to pull this off,but,hey-it's the quiet ones you have to watch,as they say:

On Heroes,Sylar finally found his father(played by former Smallville MB,John Glover)who is dying of cancer and not threatened at first by his son showing up and declaring that he wants to kill him.

However,as the two of them chat while engaging in a taxidermy lesson, it turns out that the old man has some fight left in him after all and that the deadly apple doesn't fall far from the tree(sorry about the picture quality,folks):

Other developments include Claire losing her "free pass" in the government roundup,Nathan's flying power being exposed by Danko(good,I'm so sick of Nathan already)and Hiro and Ando coming to save Matt Parkman,only it's Parkman,Jr. that they have to protect. We'll have to wait a couple of weeks for a new episode but it may be worth the wait. From the promos,it looks as if Tracy is well on her way to becoming a real ice queen:

The Top 13 had their first big theme night on American Idol this week,with Michael Jackson songs being their first hurdle to overcome. As an extra cherry on the song sundae,a new development was announced called Judges Save. If all of the judges agree,a person can be spared from Elimination despite the people's vote.

Each contestant only gets one save and this practice will end once they reach the Top Five. That new spin didn't save Jasmine and Jorge(who weren't that bad but not so great this time out)and I was worried about Anoop for a moment,but he managed to pull thru there for another week.

No one was really out and out horrible this week,so a reluctant Sanjaya award goes to Megan for her ultra cutesy rendition of "Rocking Robin". I'm sorry about this,Megan but it couldn't be helped-I do think you're a good singer but this performance looked more like an audition for Yo Gabba Gabba than a ready for primetime number:




CHOPPED: Food Network has come up with a new cooking competition show that crossbreeds the Quickfire challenges from Top Chef with the occasionally odd ingredients from Iron Chef. Four chefs start off three rounds of cooking,having to use whatever is given to them in mysterious black baskets,and at the end of each round,one of them is "chopped" for having the least successful dish.

The winner of the whole deal gets ten grand,not to mention some sweet publicity from their appearance. Ted Allen hosts and I have to say that it's a fun bit of fast and furious cooking to watch:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Will the new Witch Mountain movie be worth racing to?

Another remake of a classic is hitting the theaters on Friday,which is being called a "reimaging" due to the radical shift of the storyline. In the case of Race To Witch Mountain,that's actually a correct term.

This new version focuses more on a secondary character,a taxi driver named Jack(played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson)who happens to pick up two extraterrestrial twins on the run from a Men in Black type who need to get to Witch Mountain to prevent an alien invasion of Earth.

Jack even gets a love interest thrown in,and the chance to punch a creepy faced space invader out. That's fine and it'll probably be a fun family movie. The only regret I'm having is the loss of the spotlight on the twin brother and sister( called Seth and Sara here instead of Tony and Tia)who were intended to be the featured players from the start.

Alexander Key's 1968 novel,which was much darker than the early Disney film adaptations made from it were,had the orphaned teen twins Tony and Tia Malone trying to find out more about their past in order to know why they were both had paranormal abilities such as telepathy,telekinesis and communication with animals and what their ultimate purpose in life was.

While I didn't read the book and granted,the original Disney takes on the story were much more lighthearted than the source material,the emphasis was still on the kids and their outsider status. Both their peers and adults had trouble dealing with the Malones and their otherworldly powers,whether used rightly or wrongly:

This new version just appears to be more of a star vehicle for Dwayne Johnson,the more I see and hear about it. Don't get me wrong,I like Johnson as a movie star and have enjoyed plenty of movies that he's been in such as The Scorpion King,The Rundown and even the remake of Walking Tall.

He's a new generation Schwarzenegger,with a similar sense of humor about himself and a steady confidence in what his strong points as an actor are. I even think that he's much more relatable and relaxed than Arnold and good on him for building a solid career in film after leaving the WWE.

But,I still feel that the story really belongs to the kids. Sure,Johnson will get folks to go on opening weekend and they'll have a lot of bang for their buck,but the true charm and attraction of the original tale is being lost in the sci-fi shuffle:

Perhaps I'm being too fussy about this;after all,the follow-up Witch Mountain movies(one of which was intended to be a pilot episode for a TV series) had just as much hunt and chase action as this new one seems to have. If anything,a renewed interest in both the book and the earlier movies may be stirred up by the potential success of the latest entry into the Witch Mountain cannon. We shall have to wait and see:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Legend of the Seeker's finale leads me to seek out past pop culture sword & sorcery riffs

The first season of Legend of the Seeker is due to wrap up this weekend(yes,it has been renewed for a second go round)and should be airing on a TV screen near you,unless your local station preempts it for sports like mine has lately. Then again,there is always Hulu which has all of the episodes available.

Since I prefer to try and catch my favorite shows on the tube first,I'll be patient and wait for Saturday night. In the meanwhile,let's take a look at some of the previous fantasy related pop culture and occasional references that have influenced me to watch this show and perhaps may have induced you to do so as well.

First up is a little known series called Wizards and Warriors,which only had an eight episode run back in 1983. It's leading man was a still sober Jeff Conaway as Prince Erik,who had to do battle with evil Prince Dirk Blackpool(a rather sexy Duncan Regehr) and his wicked wizard Vector.

Erik also had to put with Princess Ariel(Julia Duffy,who went onto Newhart after this show got sacked),his spoiled bride-to-be. Wizards and Warriors had a very tongue in cheek approach to the sword and sorcery genre that was clearly ahead of it's time but did set up a path for others(Hercules,Xena) to follow in the future:

Another '80's attempt at fantasy fare was The Charmings,a sitcom that had Snow White's family magically stuck in modern day L.A.,complete with Wicked Queen stepmother and Magic Mirror. The story was a goof on fairy tales but did have plenty of "medieval fish out of water" jokes that gave it at least two seasons(even with changing Snow Whites in midstream):

TV's not the only source of sword and sorcery mirth;one of the best sequences in the underrated movie Cable Guy was Steven and Chip's visit to the infamous theme restaurant Medieval Times where they wound up doing battle for the amusement of the crowd. Not only does it have cool cameos by Andy Dick and Janeane Garofalo,but an awesome Star Trek riff that still cracks me up to this day:

Swerving back to TV land,even the Gilmore Girls had a run-in or two with the Renaissance crowd,particularly when Luke's wacky sister Liz got married and held a Ye Olde Faire ceremony in Stars Hollow.

It gave Luke a chance to go out with Lorelai(who showed off her impressive linguistic Renaissance skills)and even share a romantic moment with her on the dance floor:

Even tho Legend of the Seeker isn't as whimsical as some of these clips are,it does have a bit of humor at times to offset the dramatic tones of the ongoing storyline,which is always a welcome sight for the viewer. I would like to watch the finale on TV but no matter where it's shown,this first season of LOTS appears to be concluding on quite a heart stopping high note:

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Top Ten Things I learned from watching Watchmen

The long awaited graphic novel adaptation of Alan Moore's legendary Watchmen debuted this weekend and I splurged at the box office by buying an IMAX ticket(gotta stimulate that economy,folks!),which in this case,was worth every penny.

The visual look of the film is stunningly beautiful,with an almost hypnotic allure that makes you not give a damn about what effects were computer generated and what weren't.

Not only did the movie showcase the talents of the artists who drew and laid out the original images from the book,they also managed to add some original touches of their own. Those touches may not be noticed right off the bat but they're are the reason that this film will get some serious repeat business.

Those original touches apply to the screenplay,which is strongly faithful to the source material,and actually enhance the story for a more visual medium.

The basic premise of the plot is all there;the murder of a former superhero,the charismatic sociopath known as The Comedian(played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan),launches an investigation into his death lead by the brutally anti-social vigilante Rorschach( Jackie Earle Haley). Roschach's theory about a killer targeting old members of the team once known as Watchmen turns out to hold water and leads to the uncovering of a larger scheme that involves the fate of the entire world.

One of the smarter moves made by the film makers was to cast character actors along with fresh new faces in the major roles,allowing the audience to focus more on the people they were portraying rather than celebrity images. The biggest standout performance comes from Jackie Earle Haley,who is riveting as Rorschach both in and out of his mask.

Other good acting chops come from Jeffrey Dean Morgan,Billy Crudup as the seemingly all powerful but emotionally disconnected Dr. Manhattan and Patrick Wilson as the nebbish Nite Owl II. Malin Akerman does a good job as the second generation Silk Spectre but the actress who plays her mother/superhero predecessor(Carla Gugino,who also appeared in Sin City)at times packs more of an emotional punch in her much smaller role:

The major plot change from the original graphic novel is one that I won't spoil for those who want to discover it on their own,but I will say it doesn't damage the intended outcome of the story. If anything,it makes the plot line more linear for a conventional film audience and also doesn't dumb anything down. In my opinion,the switchover brings more of a personal edge to the final showdown.

Ultimately,Watchmen is an Either/Or film(either you love it or you don't)and while it may not satisfy everyone,no one can say that this wasn't a well made film of a hard to adapt beloved genre piece.

My only quibbles would go to some of the make-up effects for certain historical figures in the film(Nixon at one point was starting to look like a Spitting Image puppet) and a little more running time to add more of the in depth bits of the original story but all in all,Watchmen is an excellent film and one that I hopes opens doors for folks wanting to take more creative chances in Hollywood.

Since there won't be any follow-ups to Watchmen,the opportunities for newer ,riskier projects in the same vein are wide open. Until those come along,here are the Top Ten thing that the Watchmen can teach you about superhero life:

10) When starting out in the superhero business,a well chosen name works wonders:

9) Men get arrested, dogs get put down.

8) You know you have problems when the only person you can confide in about a personal crisis is an old archenemy.

7) The couple that fights crime together stays together:

6) When teleporting a friend to Mars,it's a good idea to have breathing air ready for her before she arrives.

5) It doesn't take a genius to see that the world has problems but it takes a room full of morons to think that they're small enough for them to handle.

4) When in jail with Rorschach,remember one thing-he's NOT locked in with you,you are locked in with HIM!

3) A good friend will let you know when you're being difficult:

2) Never compromise,even in the face of Armageddon:

1) If both of your movies are equal in awesomeness,there's no need to fight over which one has the cooler outsider: