Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, July 31, 2009

Clearing the trailer park for Bad Movie Month

Next month is August,which brings not only those pesky back-to-school sale ads and
more dreary days of heat,but also starts up a small tradition here at LRG called Bad Movie Month. Each Friday in August,we will be showcasing those cinematic stinkers that often crop up either at a theater near you at this time of the year or go straight to DVD,cable or Netflix,whichever comes first.

B movies have had their champions over time,most of whom hosted late night viewings on syndicated TV shows that focused on the horror/sci fi genres. In honor of those enterprising men and women,Bad Movie Month would like to whet your awful movie appetite by saluting the best hosts that bring you the worst.

First up is Vampira,best known for her silent scary performance in the infamous Ed Wood classic clunker,Plan Nine From Outer Space. Her true name was Maila Nurmi and she gained some local fame from her show that garnered some coverage in Time magazine and a few variety show guest spots. Her work with Ed Wood came after the cancellation of her TV show but that bit part has given her true immortality:

Following in Vampira's slow moving footsteps was Elvira,Mistress of the Dark. Maila tried to sue the comedienne Cassandra Peterson(who plays Elvira)for copyright infringement but didn't wash with the courts.

Peterson's Elvira had her own special nuances that made her stand out from Vampira(and not just her prominent bustline either). Her raunchy puns and wisecracking persona won her plenty of fans,plus a Coors Halloween promo campaign and a couple of movies that made her the lead(the first of which got a decent run in theaters):

One of my favorite drive in hosts is Joe Bob Briggs,the all American alter ego of John Bloom,who started out as a syndicated movie review column in Texas and later became the master of ceremonies for several cable TV horror movie programs. He's written several books(a couple of which,like the first collection of Joe Bob columns, is sadly out of print)and is still in demand for his wide knowledge of offbeat cinema laced with wit and good humor.

I first saw him on The Movie Channel back in the 1990s,with Joe Bob Briggs' Drive In Theater. It was a real family favorite in my house:

Joe Bob went from there to TNT's Monstervision,a series that is sorely missed. One of the best things about a Joe Bob review is the breakdown of sexy,gory and goofy bits of business that most folks fast forward to see without any unnecessary time wasted on the plot:

While I never got the chance to watch Al "Grampa" Lewis host Super Scary Saturdays,he was one of my favorite characters on The Munsters. He had plenty of work well after that series was canceled,including guest spots on Howard Stern's radio show in the late eighties.

His best loved performances were always in the Grampa Munster persona and having him on a show like this must have seemed like a match made in bad movie heaven:

The recent reigning champions of this field are the gang at Mystery Science Theater 3000,who expanded the whole world of movie mockery into a little pop culture empire of their own. Some fans debate over which host was better,Joel or Mike,but I like them pretty much the same.

Altho I must confess a slight preference for the Mike years,with Pearl and her merry band of henchmen plaguing the Satellite of Love crew with comically cruel disinterest and really wretched films:

Thank you for attending our retrospective on campy movie hosts and please tune into this year's installment of Bad Movie Month,where LRG takes a gander at the Tommy Wiseau phenomenon known as The Room. With any luck,Bad Movie Month can inspire you to make some interesting choices for your next Movie Night with friends on hand for some serious mockery:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

TC Masters Championships,Part One,True Blood troubles and Designstar kitchen disasters

Looks like we are not yet done with Top Chef Masters;the first of three championship rounds began last night,with the infamous mise en place relay race. The remaining chefs were divided into two teams(Salt and Pepper)and the Quickfire was monitored by Judge Tom. Hubert Keller managed to get the win for his team in the last part of the mise en place,which was whipping egg whites into a foam that clung to the bottom of the bowl even when turned over.

After that,the chefs were asked to make their signature dishes for one another. They all had a lovely meal together which naturally lead to the Elimination challenge,which was to recreate one of the signature dishes and add his or her own unique take on it.

Art Smith was assigned via knife draw Suzanne Tracht's ground sirloin with fried egg on top. His spin on that was to use ground lamb and have a "scotch egg" in the middle of it,more like a meatball than the stretched out burger Suzanne had made. Unfortunately,the lamb was a tad dry and the egg was overcooked.

Suzanne,in turn,had Art's fish dish to make over and she had some problems with it,too. The main complaint was that the grouper was cold upon serving,due perhaps to her having plating the food way too early. While the judges did agree that grouper is tough to cook,the potato gnocchi on the side was just as cold. She wound up with the least amount of stars,so Suzanne had to pack her knives and go.

Rick Bayless was a strong contender for the win,with his revision of Michael Chiarello's quail with bacon entree. Bayless cooked whole quails with a parsnip and prosciutto stuffing that had everyone in a savory swoon. Not only was he praised for not going on his typical Mexican cooking route,Bayless was also given pats on the back for his respect of Michael's original dish.

Anita Lo was the big winner,however,for her interpretation of Hubert Keller's lobster cappuccino with corn madelaine. The corn chawanmushi and champagne gelee wowed even Hubert and the lobster biscuit sandwich on the end of the platter had returning judge Jay Rayner doing the whole "we're not worthy" bit during the deliberations.

Round Two of the TC championships has the chefs doing a gourmet burger Quickfire,which should be no hassle for Hubert who has a $5,000 hamburger on the menu of one of his restaurants! I'm a burger fan myself,but for five grand,that sucker better be diamond studded,with some rubies and emeralds on the side:

It was the dreaded kitchen makeover challenge on Design Star this week,rather soon to toss the contestants into,in my opinion. At least one team managed to have everything done on time,which is a challenge in and of itself there. I thought it looked great,even tho Vern Yip hated the color scheme and said it looked like "a rainbow threw up in there."

Kudos to Torie for using that coppertone vinyl flooring as the backsplash. It was a lovely touch and despite the overabundance of knickknacks on just about all of the spare surfaces,that kitchen was a success.

The same can't be said for the second kitchen. Many projects were not completed,including the attempt at tiling the backsplash(Judge Candice was totally correct when she mentioned that for DS kitchens,tile is a four letter word to be avoided at all costs)and the marble counter tops having huge gaps in the seams. Tashica dropped the ball yet again by not having any of the accessories on display before time was up.

Amy wound up going home,since she was the team leader. No one was happy to see Tashica stay on,you could tell by the lack of reactions in the Green room. Going to be a tough row to hoe for Tashica for awhile. Next week has the white room challenge,which may give her a chance to prove that she's got some real talent...or not,as the case may be:

On True Blood,Sookie is seriously in over her head as her infiltration of the Fellowship of the Sun's headquarters turns out to be a trap. Gabriel is not much of a backup there and Bill's coming to the rescue may be delayed by the reappearance of his sire Lorena(nice going there,Eric!). Maybe her brother Jason can take time out from making googly eyes at the Reverend's wife long enough to be of some help here,then again,this is Jason Stackhouse we're talking about:

Back in Bon Temps,things are quickly going to hell in a handbasket as Tara and Eggs begin to realize that Maryann is working a mess of major league bad mojo on them,plus Sam finds out the hard way that Daphne is not to be trusted(I knew that she was going to lead him into trouble,just knew it!). Unfortunately for all concerned,none of them appears to have the power to stop Maryann's psycho magical sexathons or to escape her clutches before it's too late:

The clips for the next episode show that Sam survives this latest ordeal,but from what's in this Season Two trailer shown recently at the San Diego Comic Con,we haven't seen the worst of it yet:


THE NEXT FOOD NETWORK STAR: The Final Two have been chosen and Debbie is not of them,yay! Her food didn't match up to her presentation skills in the Julie & Julia inspiration dinner,so she was out. I'm rooting for Melissa to win,she's really improved both her cooking skills and her style over the course of this show and I think she would make a great Food Network Star:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The juicy joys of Julie & Julia

On my list of Most Highly Anticipated Summer Movies is the adaptation of Julie & Julia,Julie Powell's foodie memoir about how she changed her life by taking on the challenge of making every recipe in Julia Child's classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking within a year and sharing her setbacks and triumphs in the kitchen to the world via her blog,The Julie/Julia Project.

I have fond memories of first reading J&J back in my bookseller days(it was my personal inspiration for starting this blog)and am glad to see this story get the big screen Hollywood treatment. Not to mention the revived interest in the life and times of Julia Child herself that all of this fan fare is creating.

In addition to Powell's book,the filmmakers included Julia Child's own memoir of her early days of culinary education,My Life In France, into the screenplay.

Co-written by Alex Prud'homme,Julia talks about living in France with her newly wed husband Paul,who was sent there as part of a post WWII diplomatic artists' outreach program,and how she became fascinated with the way of life over there,plus started to develop her love of food.

She began training at the famed Cordon Bleu,insisting on not doing the standard housewife sessions but wanting to learn the true professional methods of cooking. She was the only woman in the class,but quickly was accepted by her fellow chefs and gained more confidence to pursue her interest in sharing her knowledge with a wider audience.

In reading Child's memoir(along with recently rereading J&J),the parallels between the experiences of both Julias are more obvious. They were women of a certain age(by the standards of their respective eras)who dared to tackle big challenges with one goal in common,to find a sense of higher purpose in their lives.

They also had some limited kitchen space(Child in her barely heated Paris apartment,Powell in a barely renovated Brooklyn loft)to try out their recipes at home. Each Julia also had the support of family and friends,who served as taste testers for every new dish.

Both Julias also felt the need to talk about their culinary passions on a major media stage,Child with her instructional TV shows,Powell with her blog and then later her book. While Powell hasn't had her own Food Network show yet,she's made quite a few media appearances even before Julie & Julia went to print. That makes her as well seasoned as Child was in that department and who knows,the FN might knock on her door with an offer.

While these two ladies never got the chance to meet face to face,I imagine that they would have had quite a lively conversation,perhaps over a hot stove as they whipped up the perfect chicken together:

In the end,it's all about the book. The one link that binds the Julias to each other,the infamous Mastering The Art of French Cooking. Like many people,cookbooks never seemed to be anything other than instructional manuals for food to me. Both Julias have changed my mind about that.

Julia Child,in her memoir,talks about the cookbooks that drove her passion to know more about French cooking such as La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange and Ali-Bab's Encyclopedia of Practical Gastronomy. Those books,which she devoured eagerly,lead her to write her own that in turn caught Julie Powell's imagination and desire to pass the warmhearted wisdom of those words forward. Quite the circle of life there.

It just goes to show that you really shouldn't judge a book by it's genre. A whole unexpected outlook on the wider world can be seen thru the window of what might seem to be a small subject that totally expands your horizons in a delightfully delicious way:

MMmmm,just thinking about all of this makes my mouth and my mind water. I don't know if my budget will allow me to see J&J when it hits the theaters next week,but I wouldn't be surprised if popcorn won't be enough to satisfy the hunger cravings that the movie will be stirring amongst the audiences who do. You might want to eat a full meal before catching a matinee showing,folks. Either way,bon appetit to book and food lovers alike this summer at the movies:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tim Burton's new take on Alice In Wonderland and other fractured fairy tales

Making the rounds in theaters and online,Tim Burton's first teaser for his reimagined version of Alice In Wonderland sure looks like a real dizzying doozy. Early word on the plot is that Alice is now a grown up young lady( Mia Wasikowska) who returns to Wonderland after fleeing a garden party where she is about to receive an unwanted marriage proposal.

She winds up in Wonderland,which is in the midst of a battle for control between the Red Queen(Helena Bonham Carter)and the White Queen(Anne Hathaway)with the Mad Hatter(Johnny Depp)as the man in the middle. Alice is seen as the potential savior of this dire situation and must remember the details of her first trip as a child in order to save the day:

The movie is not due out until March of 2010,giving fervent fantasy fans plenty of time to crave the cinematic eye candy feast(in 3D,no less)for future consumption. In the mean time,I thought it would help to make the wait easier by focusing on some other reworked fairy tale/fantasy classics from childhood that had more of a mind on the adults rather than the kids in the audience.

A great example of that is The Wiz,which did well on Broadway but the 1978 film adaptation didn't translate well into box office gold or critical praise. It's become more of a cult favorite with fans instead,for good reason.

Turning New York City into an urbanized version of Oz was visually interesting and the music is excellent,but making Dorothy a 20 something schoolteacher veneered pretty far off the mark for the character(not to mention that Ross was rather long in the tooth to play an ingenue type there):

Another tact taken on fairy tale remakes is to add a realistic tone and setting for the plot,along with more of a mature focus on the romantic angle of the story.

That worked rather well for the Drew Barrymore star vehicle,Ever After,meant to be the "true story" of Cinderella. While Drew's character was called Danielle,she still had the basic Cindy set up of wicked stepmother(Anjelica Huston)and stepsisters,plus the having to work as a servant bit and a Prince Henry,who is charming enough to fit the bill.

The main changes were that the story is set in Renaissance era of France,with Leonardo Di Vinci taking the place of Cinderella's fairy godmother. Also,Danielle had some feminist flair added to her persona,making her a stronger heroine for both the audience and the prince to root for:

Highlighting the darker folklore versions of the more kid friendly classics is another path that many have followed,with varying degrees of success.

One such film is Snow White: A Tale of Terror,which went straight to cable and video. Sigourney Weaver did get an Emmy nom as well as Golden Globe consideration for her performance as the Wicked Queen,who blended witchcraft with psychosis,with a dash of post postpartum depression for that extra touch that means so much:

An even grander scale version of the dark side of fairy tale land,The Brothers Grimm was released as a late summer entry that did decently moneywise but garnered a number of mixed reviews from critics.

I always enjoyed it,especially due to the gorgeous visuals that director Terry Gilliam is known for. The story has the famous brothers as traveling con men who wind up being called on to fight a very real evil magical threat that targets the innocent,along with a potential love interest. While the running time could've done with a little more trimming,the richness of the tale is most inviting:

As Tim Burton makes a place for himself on the mantelpiece of Lewis Carroll's continuing legacy,let us rejoice in the splendor of imagination that such tales still hold for us. After all,this is a recession and making something new arise from old material is the fashion of the day,plus it can bring some much needed revival to our spirits in times like this:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Jennifer's Body:a new twist in terror or just another bridesmaid of Frankenstein?

There's been some growing hype about the upcoming horror film Jennifer's Body,which is due out in September,that stars Megan Fox as a cheerleader who gets demonically possessed and starts devouring all the young horny males in her path. The only one who seems to realize this is Needy, the nerdy best friend(Amanda Seyfried)of Jennifer's that ultimately tries to take her down.

Part of the big promo for this flick is that Diablo Cody,of Juno fame,wrote the screenplay and the director is a woman named Karyn Kusama(her last movie was the live action version of Aeon Flux),which is supposed to be a big leap into horror movies made with a feminine point of view.

As a long time fan of the genre,I'm so far not impressed and while plenty of guys and gals will be flocking to this movie come the fall(mainly due to Megan Fox's fanbase),it's not breaking any new ground there:

For example,the whole concept of "Teen Girl Gets Sexy Evil,With Body Count" has been done before in less prominent fear films. Teeth,made in 2007,was an indie flick that did well on the film festival circuit and debuted on DVD in '08.

The premise of that story was that a teenage abstinence spokesgirl(played by Jess Weixler)had more than one reason not to get sexually active,due to the deadly physical condition she was born with but remained undetected until now. It's a freaky little film in more ways than one:

Earlier than that,the Canadian cult film Ginger Snaps made plenty of points and metaphors about the budding sexuality of young women and monsters being unleashed. It even spawned a couple of sequels and there was talk of a TV series being made based on the films,but that didn't pan out.

The plot has quite a few links to Jennifer's Body,as a pair of sisters become divided from one another after the elder has a close encounter of the lycanthorpic kind and goes on a woman who kill with the wolves spree. This winds up leading to a major showdown,of course,which forces the still human heroine to make hard choices in order to stop her former loved one's reign of terror:

The great grandmother of all current wicked high school girl stories is Carrie,Stephen King's original Prom Queen of Hell. While she didn't turn into a full fledged bimbolina upon the discovery of her telekinetic powers,Carrie White did have her makeover moment of glory before that bucket of pig's blood rained on her parade.

Carrie not only paved the way for a new wave of teen horror,but also was one of the few honest portrayals of how vicious young women can be towards each other in a mainstream film. If you think about it,Carrie could be seen as the template for the likes of Heathers, Mean Girls and other teen gal rivalry ilk:

As Carol J. Clover once noted in her book Men,Women and Chainsaws,many of the groundbreaking themes found in mainstream movies such as Thelma and Louise and The Accused were first fleshed out in smaller genre flicks like Ms. 45 and I Spit on Your Grave. The same thing appears to be happening here. Funny how history keeps repeating itself;then again,this is Hollywood we're talking about.

Some will say "But,Lady T,this is all about women now! Women are taking charge of the horror genre,that's fresh and new!" Well,tell that to Mary Harron,Kathryn Bigelow and Mary Lambert,not to mention ladies like Charlaine Harris and Tanya Huff who have seen their vampire novels become successful TV series. Sisters have been doing it for themselves in the scare department for quite some time now,folks.

While I don't wish Jennifer's Body any ill will,I would prefer that the PR push for the film didn't act like Diablo Cody and company are reinventing the wheel. In fact,Jennifer and her literal man eating moves aren't anything that Buffy and the Scoobies couldn't handle in forty minutes or less. Girl power horror seekers might be better off watching a few BTVS reruns instead:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Doubling the pleasure of Jane Austen Addiction with two giveaway winners

Since my blogging week started with sharing the thoughts of Laurie Viera Rigler,author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict,it feels so right to end up getting the privilege of sharing her wonderful novels with two of my readers.

Before I announce the winners,I'd like to thank Laurie for her time and generosity with the interview and the JAA giveaway,plus the good folks at Win A Book/West of Mars for spreading the good word here.

Okay,let's get started with Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict(multiple spotlights dance around the stage as drum roll gets louder)..and the winner is...ALYCE!(applause,she is handed a bouquet of roses and given a gold sash with "JANE AUSTEN ADDICT" written in silver thread to wear)

Congratulations,Alyce and joining you in the winner's circle with a shiny new copy of Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict will be(more drum roll and spotlights,hopeful contenders clutch each other's hands)....LEXIE!(more applause,she gets a tiara set in her hair and a sparkly specter to hold as she takes her victory walk on the runway)

Congratulations,ladies and to claim your prize(sans tiara and sashes,I'm afraid),please e-mail me at livingreadgirl@yahoo.com with your mailing addresses,which will be passed on to the proper parties.

My thanks to everyone who entered this contest,and while I can't give out more books,there is something that I am able to provide as a consultation prize. For your entertainment and amusement,fellow Austen addicts,here are a few choice video clips from your favorite film adaptations.

Many people expressed a fondness for Sense and Sensibility,particularly the renowned 1995 version adapted by Emma Thompson(who played Elinor beautifully,in my opinion)with Alan Rickman as Col. Brandon.

Being an admirer of Brandon myself,it was wonderful to have an excuse to look him up. First up is the scene where he first lays eyes upon Marianne,as she plays and sings "Weep You No More Sad Fountains"(Kate Winslet has a lovely singing voice,btw. She should use it more often):

Later on in the course of the story,Marianne finally starts to appreciate Brandon's charms,especially in his poetry reading:

However,as Sir John Middleton might say,we must not let Miss Marianne get all of the attention from her suitors here. Elinor deserves a moment or two of romantic glory and she gets it very nicely(along with some much needed comfort)in this early bit of business with Edward Ferrars,who is most eager to be of use to the Dashwood ladies in any capacity,even as an badly treated servant:

The latest adaptation of Northanger Abbey received some praise,particularly for J. J. Feild as the delightfully teasing Henry Tilney.

Henry Tilney may not get as much clamor as Mr. Darcy does,but he does have a devoted fan base amongst Austen admirers. One of the reasons for that can seen in this clip,as Mr. Tilney encounters the newly arrived Catherine Morland and Mrs. Allen and endeavors to make an excellent first impression,with his keen fashion sense and flirtatious manner on the dance floor:

Speaking of Darcy,we've had more than one request for him. While I haven't seen the 1980 P&P miniseries with David Rintoul courting Elizabeth Gravie's Lizzie Bennet,it does seem like the two of them stir up quite a bit of chemistry together,judging from this pivotal dance at the Netherfield ball:

As for Colin Firth,there are so many great moments with him as Darcy that only a tribute video would do to satisfy all of us(yes,the lake scene is included as well):

I hope all of you have a lovely weekend and will come back to see what else is brewing on the pop culture horizons. As for me,I plan to spend some quality Austen time with my DVDs,plus finishing my reread of S&S into the bargain. The heights that Jane Austen's words can take your imagination to are a dizzying delight indeed:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Next Food Network Star's Debbie dilemma,Design Star debuts and TC Masters make mystery meals

The chefs for this last qualifying round of Top Chef Masters were Art Smith,Jonathan Waxman,Michael Cimarusti and Roy Yamaguchi,and their Quickfire Challenge was to make a dish using ingredients selected from only one aisle of the grocery store. Roy wound up with the pasta section but managed to add some of his Asian style of cooking to the plate. The judging committee(made up of Whole Foods employees)thought it was weird but tasty.

Michael also had to shop in unfamiliar territory;he's more of a seafood specialist and leaves pastry to his wife,who would've been proud to see him take an early win for his chocolate parfait with ginger and sesame crackers.

For the Elimination,each chef packed a "mystery box" of items for another member of the bunch(chosen by the patented TC knife pull)and make a meal using at least seven out of eleven goodies provided to serve to a group of culinary students,plus the judges. Michael didn't get fish but still put together a tasty dish of lamb with a sunchoke puree that Gael Greene adored.

Unfortunately,he ran out of time and didn't get to put his orange sauce on all of the plates before they went out. He took it in stride,which was cool of him.

Jonathan Waxman's plate of pork sausage with pork chop and cauliflower celery root puree may not have been pretty,but it certainly tasted good. Waxman kept joking about his bad eyesight and his advanced age yet,he seemed as lively as any of the other guys here and very well respected.

Art Smith took the win here,a bit of an upset due to the pattern of TC Masters winning both the QF and the Elimination. His fried chicken done two ways really pleased everyone,plus the mango pie(or cobbler,if you prefer)was the perfect topper to his edible offering.

Next week is the finale to see whose charity gets the $100,000 prize and the first challenge thrown to the chefs is a favorite of mine,the mise en place relay race! Awe to the some:

The new season of Design Star premiered this week,with a number of changes such as new judges(Candice Olsen and Genevieve Gorder),the ten contestants voting in the eleventh contender and having the judges decide who the winner will be instead of having the audience vote,yet some things remained the same.

Their standard first challenge is to decorate the home provided for them and many of the rooms were great. I particularly loved the crisp elegance that Tori and Jany gave to one of the bedrooms,with the lush arrangement of the beds and the color tones chosen for the room. The judges liked it,but most felt it was not adventurous enough.

The master bedroom was where disaster struck. Natalee and Tashica had ten grand to spend here but the end results didn't show that at all. Their concept was good,Hollywood glam,but the execution was pitiful to say the least.

Peeling paint on the floor,curtains hung up with duct tape,bedspreads that were chopped in half and not sewn up at the seams,shall I go on? Oh,yeah,can't forget the white scrap of cloth chosen as the rug! Natalee was sent packing,which was just as well,considering she nearly had a full body meltdown during this round:

I was very disappointed in Jamika this week;for the Final Four on The Next Food Network Star,it was all about rolling with the punches. Both of the challenges had to do with dealing with the unexpected and she really dropped the ball both times.

While it was right for Jamika to go,Debbie is still up to her old tricks and needs to follow Jamika right out the door. During the elimination round,she had her usual Asian flavorings taken away and Bobby Flay himself gave her some Mediterranean food stuffs to work with. One of them did not make it into her dish and when Bobby asked her about that,she out and out lied to his face.

To top that,when questioned about that at Judge's table,she lied about it AGAIN! What the what,seriously? I'm sorry,but at the beginning of this season,Bob Tuschman said that integrity was one of the important elements in selecting a FNS and flat out fudging like that is not a check mark in the plus column there:


HELL'S KITCHEN: I've seen motley crews before on this show,but this latest batch of bozos take more than the cake. From one guy who nearly came to blows with JP to both teams lousing up the second service so badly that Ramsey resorted to giving out cold shrimp cocktails,this opening round was a screw up of epic proportions. The worst one of the Gang Who Couldn't Saute Straight is Joseph,a former Marine who dared to challenge Gordon to a fist fight in the parking lot. Stupid move,buddy boy and yes,you are a bitch:

TRUE BLOOD: No,I didn't forget about my current favorite vampire series,folks. My favorite part of this episode was seeing a glimpse into Eric's past and watching his initiation into the ranks of the undead:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Remarkable musical remakes

My sister Stephanie has more of an eclectic taste in music than I do;she even started up a blog called Slapdash Jukebox Deluxe recently to showcase her offbeat favorites. Many times we don't enjoy the same tunes but every now and then,she introduces me to something that even makes my predictable pop music loving toes tap.

One of those surprise songs was a cover version of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face",sung by former American Idol contender Chris Daughtry. This rendition was performed for a German radio station and not meant to be officially released,as far as I know,but it certainly displays the talent of both artists very well here. Daughtry gives the song a sturdy and soulful edge that elevates it beyond the flashy pop tune that it seems to be at first:

That got me to thinking about cover songs that are just as pleasurable to listen to as the originals,even if they take the music and lyrics to a different place than it was intended to go.

Another good example of this was also shown to me by Steph;Utada Hikaru's take on Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" brings a beautifully sad energy to the song,making it ring with poignancy and a more subtle power:

Alanis Morrisette's emo version of the Black Eye Peas'"My Humps" is clearly intended as satire,but her vocal range and the clever spoofing of the video is seriously smart and styling. You can't help but tip your hat to her for this well executed mockery:

On a recent episode of Rescue Me,a cover version of the infamous Sinatra song,"New York,New York" was used for a key montage moment towards the end. Cat Power,aka Chan Marshall,was the singer and her smoky jazz take on what many consider to be an all time classic really added some extra mellow dramatic flavor to that scene:

Meryl Streep's singing of "The Winner Takes It All" for the movie version of Mamma Mia! may not appear to be much different from the original ABBA rendition,but if you give it a good listen,you might catch the real acting job that she does with it.

She makes the song sound like an inner monologue,full of true regret about lost love from her past and the bitter acceptance of how her matters of the heart turned out. It may not be Shakespeare,yet Streep gives the lyrics just as much emotional reticence as any of those renowned speeches:

While many song remakes are a bad idea( Constantine Maroulis singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" comes instantly to mind,even with his big Broadway success),others are not as awful as one might think. A fresh voice can add something new to the mix or highlight certain emotional facets to the song that were overlooked the first time out. Better still,if done right,a cover version can just be fun: