Thursday, March 31, 2011
A turmoil in a tea cup for a TAR team,another Sanjaya award for an American Idol and the Top Chef All-Stars winner is...
The finale for Top Chef All-Stars arrived at last,with Mikey Isabella and Richard Blais ready to duke it out,culinary style,for the big win.
The challenge was "the restaurant of your dreams",with the main stipulation being to serve a four course meal for about seventy people(including two panels of judges).
Both contenders had their choice of three sous chefs from amongst their former competitors but that was no easy task there. All of the TC All-Star players had to make an amuse bouche as part of a blind taste test that Richard and Mikey had to use to pick their crew.
Mikey wound up with Carla,Tiffani from Season One and Jamie,who he called his "angels" while Richard came up with Spike,Angelo and Antonia. With one hour to plan and five to cook,both groups didn't waste any time in getting things underway.
Richard called his restaurant "Tongue & Cheek",wanting to blend a touch of whimsy into his solidly prepared dishes.
That notion came through in the amuse bouche that he added as an unofficial fifth course. The raw oyster with lemon horseradish ice cream and salsa verde rocked the world of everyone who tasted it.
His official first course of hamachi went over fine but it was his second course that had the diners and judges alike singing his savory praises. Richard's pork belly with black cod cutlet and bone marrow was a busy plate but beautifully executed and a real favorite with the judges.
Mikey's restaurant was named "Restaurant Iz",going for a mix of Italian style with a refined form of pub food.
His opener was a beet salad with mozzarella,truffles and a chocolate vinaigrette that pleased someone but underwhelmed others. All agreed that was a good starter,nonetheless.
The course that was Mikey's high point was his third;a braised pork shoulder with roasted cabbage,turnips and pepperoni sauce. Judge Gail could not stop talking about that sauce,seriously. She was completely over the moon for it,just blurting out "Pepperoni sauce!" at times.
In typical Top Chef fashion,it came down to the desserts to settle upon the winner. Mikey's rosemary caramel custard coated with pine nuts along side a blend of citrus,apple and cherry was nicely done but Judge Tom wasn't thrilled with the firmness of the custard.
At first,Richard's cornbread with foie gras ice cream(he originally planned to make Captain Crunch ice cream but had second thoughts about it) dessert looked like a dud,since the ice cream was more of a freeze dried consistency that turned off the first set of judges.
By the time the second panel showed up,however,Richard had reworked the ice cream to make it more creamy and subtle. It was a close race to be sure,but that last minute adjustment made all the difference.
So,congratulations to Richard for a hard earned victory. Next week will be the reunion show where Elia gets in Judge Tom's face,followed by the second season premiere of Top Chef Masters,hosted by Curtis Stone.
This All Star season was fun to watch,with my only regret being that Anthony Bourdain wasn't able to be part of the final rounds(guess his schedule didn't work out that way,oh well!). I'm looking forward to seeing Top Chef Masters and hope all of you will,too.
On the latest leg of The Amazing Race:Unfinished Business,each team had to take a quick tea tasting before learning that their next location was in India. That small tea break turned out to be the prelude for the first Roadblock,which was to find that particular tea amidst five hundred bowls of brew in a dining hall.
It took just about every team a long time to complete this task,with Margie and Luke being last ones to finish. Luke became overwhelmed and nearly undone by the end yet he did find the right tea at long last.
The flavor of that special tea was peach mango,which will be an official Amazing Race blend coming out from Snapple. I doubt that Margie and Luke will be trying any of it in the future,since they were eliminated,thanks to the time lost at that Roadblock. I'm not a fan of fruit flavored teas myself but might give this one a taste just to see how distinctive this brew is:
It was Elton John week on American Idol,with plenty of mixed results in the performances. While the judges might find Haley's take on "Bennie and the Jets" to be amazing,it sounded more like the crooning of the lost lovechild of Richard Cheese to my ears.
However,I'm afraid that we can all agree that Naima deserves this week's Sanjaya award for her noble attempt at doing "I'm Still Standing" in reggae style.
Jennifer Lopez was right to appreciate the artistic choice here but also correct in realizing that this was not the song to tweak in this manner. Sorry,Naima,but this was a flop that hopefully won't be fatal for you come tonight's double elimination:
THIS WON'T STAND UP ANYWHERE
IN TIPTOP FORM
CAMELOT: Yes,it's another retelling of the King Arthur story and it premieres on Starz tomorrow night(not an April Fool's joke,I swear!). This rendition appears to be a bit more rough and tumble than the usual take on the tale,which might make it worth a look:
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Food related pop culture may seem like a stale staple these days but there's always something new to savor on the horizon. For example,HBO is sending forth a most intriguing promo for their upcoming miniseries,A Game of Thrones,that is literally mouth watering.
A set of specially themed food trucks,with menus created by Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio,will be setting up shop in New York and L.A. to offer up a taste of Westeros,the fictional country of the fantasy novels by George R.R. Martin that the show is based upon. If you're interested in checking them out,their schedules can be found at either the official website or their Facebook page.
I'm just starting the books myself and looking forward to the show,which begins on April 17, and this unexpected approach in enticing both old fans and new sounds great. Getting the flavor of this world,whether it's King's Landing,the Riverlands or the dreaded Wall,in this hands on way adds to the excitement of discovering this engaging realm of enchantment:
Just when you thought there couldn't be any more culinary competition shows out there,another tasty treat is plated for your viewing pleasure. Season Two of Last Cake Standing will begin this Sunday,to be hosted by Justin Willman of Cupcake Wars and on the judging panel,FNC regular Keegan Gerhard and our favorite high priestess of pastry,Kerry Vincent.
Eight of the top pastry chefs who have made memorable appearances on Food Network Challenges will be competing for a grand prize of $100,000 and that competition should be fierce. Folks such as Jason Ellis,Jorg Amsler,Marina Sousa and Richard Ruskell are amongst those ready to do battle with batter in tasks that call for even higher stakes than ever before:
One of the people to watch out for in this year's LCS is Orlando Serrano,who has been on FNC at least ten times and won so many of those challenges that a special red coat was awarded to him.
He's been on an amazing streak,with cakes that truly bring to life such animated delights as Shrek and Toy Story 3 as well as events like Mardi Gras or concepts like urban legends. His latest victory was Easter themed,to make an extreme cake for the new movie Hop,and it was really sweet to see his bunny get to rock out there. Good luck,Orlando,altho it may be your competitors who need it more:
I hope that these delicious bits of pop culture whet your appetite for more but do be mindful of those who find the subject less than palatable. Edible enthusiasm can cause others to find ways to shut down the topic faster than a microwave can heat up your leftovers,with a touch of crankiness on the side:
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Maybe I'm watching too much TV these days but there seems to be a rather twisted element going on in many of the commercials that have sadly caught my eye within the past few months. Adding humor to ads is a time honored practice that can lighten up a company's image or make their newest product look hip and modern.
However,like many other artistic fields,humor requires a delicate balance of mirth and mockery when it's included in mainstream marketing. The wrong note can turn away plenty of potential customers,not to mention average viewers,from even considering the focal item in question.
We first saw signs of this during the ad campaign onslaught for the Super Bowl,where the most upsetting series of commercials came from Groupon who decided to parody celebrity advocated causes such as Timothy Hutton enjoying a discount on meals at a Tibetan restaurant,despite the troubles in that country and Elizabeth Hurley being thrilled about paying less for her Brazilian hot wax,thanks to the rain forest's destruction.
While the concept would have been amusing on a comedy show,advertising your discount plans in a "let them eat cake" fashion was rather off-putting. Groupon wound up pulling these ads due to public pressure. Times may be tough but most folks don't want to save money at the personal expense of others:
Other offbeat TV ads haven't caught the outrage lightning but are just as disturbing. For example,this Staples ad shows a family arriving home to find that their house has been robbed yet their computer wasn't good enough for the thieves to take with them.
Mom and Dad then go off to buy a better computer,which makes them both agree that this new one is good enough to be stolen. Yeah,that's what I look for when I want a brand new piece of technology-something that would make me a bigger target for criminals,whoo hoo!:
There is a pair of cell phone ads from Virgin Mobile that are on the level of a horror movie,altho a pretty cheesy one. They revolve around a determined Stalker Girl who hides out first in a tree and then in the closet of the guy she's fixated on,using her Android phone to keep track of his every move.
Stalker Girl's intensity,not to mention her gritted teeth grin, gives me chills instead of giggles and frankly,it would be surprising if by the third commercial in this series, she's not holding a bloody axe in one hand as she uses the other to update her Twitter feed about how she refuses to be ignored anymore:
TOO CLOSETED FOR COMFORT
You're not even safe during a Jello commercial these days;the new campaign for their Temptations line of "adults only" desserts has parents out and out scaring their kids away from touching them.
A lot of flack from outraged viewers caused the company to pull one commercial where Mommy and Daddy were telling their children a horrible story about how bad kids who eat Mommy's Strawberry Cheesecake treat would be trapped in a pit of snakes forever and ever. Such a lovely bed time tale,the kind that Mommie Dearest might tell.
At the moment,the Temptations commercial currently on the air has Mom turning a warning about eating the chocolate mousse variety into a campfire scare that has the kids hiding out in fear while she and Dad happily share their mousse together. A riff on fighting with the kids over dessert can be funny but does it have to be traumatizing to boot?:
Perhaps I'm being a little too sensitive about this. After all,these are just ads, why take them seriously at all,right? Yet,shouldn't a commercial make you want to at least consider buying the product and not have a negative mental aftertaste clinging to it whenever you see it either live or on TV?
All I know is that the very idea of commercials with such a walk on the dark side used to be the stuff that skits on comedy series were made of. When they're being made for real,the punchline is no longer funny:
Monday, March 28, 2011
The HBO debut of the new miniseries version of Mildred Pierce last night starts off with a less than glamorous look at it's leading lady,unlike the 1940's Hollywood rendition that had Joan Crawford bemoaning her sad situation all dressed up in furs and finery in it's early scenes.
The first shots that we see of Mildred(Kate Winslet) here are of her hands,as she's working in the kitchen making those pies and cakes for sale to the neighbors that her family has come to rely on for money since her husband Bert's realty business went bust.
Mildred's circumstances are in part due to the time period in which the story is set,the Depression days of the 1930s,but many a woman today can certainly sympathize with what she has to deal with by kicking out her unfaithful and shiftless spouse while assuming command of her household and the care of two kids.
To matters worse,Mildred declares her independence and seeks a job just when employment is at it's lowest with a very limited number of skills to boot. Accepting that spot she's fixed in is hardest,particularly when there are folks who are more than willing to rub Mildred's predicament in her face:
Eventually Mildred swallows her pride and takes a waitress job,which with the encouragement of friends old(Melissa Leo as Lucy)and new(Mare Winningham as Ida)she finds ways to make even money than she expected to.
Soon enough,Mildred gains enough confidence and savvy to start a restaurant of her own,thanks in part to using a connection with her husband's former business partner Wally to swing a great deal on the location. Her self esteem rises to the point where she even gives in to an impulse to hook up with a charming customer named Monty(Guy Pierce):
That burst of emotional confidence doesn't fully extend to her personal life,however,as Mildred insists on hiding her profession and other messy details from her daughters,in particular the precocious Veda(played in her younger years by Morgan Turner and to be portrayed by Evan Rachel Wood in later chapters).
Veda's ingrained sense of entitlement combined with her subtle determination to uncover whatever secrets that her mother wishes to conceal sets the tone for many a battle between mother and child,with Veda gaining the upper hand way too often. Mildred does attempt to sway her daughter's attitude about things from time to time but when it comes to Veda,snobbery is as natural to her as breathing:
At this point,the Mildred Pierce miniseries is very much in sync with the original James M. Cain novel that director Todd Haynes and writer Jonathan Raymond have collaborated on to adapt for the small screen. Haynes is a big fan of period pieces,as he showed audiences with Far From Heaven back in 2002,and the details of the world as it was during the 30s in California are lovingly brought to life.
The actors seemed to click well together,with the minor hitch of Veda's pretentious dialogue sounding a little stilted at times. Yet,the chemistry between Winslet and all of her co-stars is spot on and the realistic tone of the film gives the pulp fiction material a stronger sense of gravity than it had before.
Part Three is set to air this upcoming Sunday(after a preview showing of the first fifteen minutes of another made-for-HBO series,A Game of Thrones)and based on what I've seen thus far,Mildred Pierce will continue to be visiting my home for quite some time here.
This series may not be the Joan Crawford classic that folks are used to,but there's much to be savored in this take on the Cain story especially the trials and tribulations of Mildred's attempts to make a life for herself and her children in harsh economic times.
Plenty of people today can all too easily relate to Mildred and her need to work hard for the money,but not always getting treated right. One of the hallmarks of lasting literature is it's ability to be identifiable to readers beyond the generation in which it was written for. Haynes and company have showcased that vital component of Mildred Pierce very well here and hopefully that will hold up as we walk along side Mildred in those well worn shoes of hers:
Friday, March 25, 2011
With the announcement that a PG-13 version of this year's Academy Award winning film,The King's Speech,is to be given a theatrical re-release and the start date being April 1,you might at first be inclined to think that this very idea is some sort of cinematic joke. Sadly,however,this happens to be all too true.
The justification for this voluntary re-editing of a film that's won numerous honors in more than one country is to help teenagers,according to the official statement:"“The action enables those to whom it speaks most directly — young people who are troubled by stuttering, bullying and similar trials — to see it.” Well to begin with,it's fairly obvious that The King's Speech was never marketed at young people to begin with.
Also,since this is an inspirational story based upon true facts,attempting to whitewash some of those elements only serves as a determent to the intent of providing positive support to those who are in need of it.
What is the reason that The King's Speech received an R rating in the first place? Ironically enough,since the movie won Best Original Screenplay,it's language. There is one scene between the king and his speech therapist where profanity is being used as part of a verbal excuse and that's the bit which will be severely clipped:
Sure,there are a few "adult themes" here and there but it's hearing Colin Firth spew a few swear words that was the main bone of contention for the MPAA. No graphic sex or violence,just a handful of impolite terms that are no surprise to anyone under or over the age of twenty-one.
Guess what,MPAA members-Colin Firth is less than thrilled that you want to sanction a watered down edition of the film that gave him an Oscar for Best Actor and as to his faithful fans from his Mr. Darcy days,we've already heard him say the F word onscreen before and it didn't bother us at all. If we can be grown-ups about this,so can you.
What is really annoying about this is the blatant disregard for the intelligence of the movie going audience-granted,there are folks who pay little attention to ad campaigns or the ratings and walk into movies not expecting certain things to happen,just as there are those who take little children along with them to watch Saw IV(I've seen this with my own eyes,sad to say).
Yet,that is no excuse for censorship and for the studio to shamelessly re-market a so-called tamer cut of such an acclaimed film is appalling to say the least. There is a very marked difference between what a movie's rating claims to be and what it actually means and by playing their game,TWC is only enabling the MPAA to keep on keepin' on:
WHAT MOVIE RATINGS SAY THEY ARE(OLD SCHOOL STYLE):
NEW SCHOOL REVIEW OF WHAT THEY ACTUALLY MEAN(A LITTLE BIT RAUNCHY-YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!):
"So,we shouldn't have a ratings system at all,then,huh?" No,I think that a ranking of film content for parents is fine in general but it needs to be consistent and agenda free. Cherry picking what should be shielded from the eyes and ears of "impressionable" viewers based upon personal politics is just plain wrong.
A huge part of the hypocrisy here is how independent films are the hardest hit by the strict guidelines of the MPAA,while major studio releases particularly have someone on the board holding their hand during the re-editing process. Yes,many things are not fair in life but when it's this obvious,that cut stings the worst:
Despite all of this,I still want to see The King's Speech but will wait for it on DVD in it's original R rated glory. Seeing a compromised version on the big screen is too much of a letdown and a rather nasty blemish on the artistic face of this highly touted film.
Perhaps the studio will reconsider their decision or the box office coffers for this cleaned up release will hold a pitiful amount of coin that makes another such attempt not financially worthwhile.
Even if neither option happens,I sincerely hope that this is not the beginning of a new Hollywood trend. The MPAA ratings system is bad enough as it is without becoming completely cartoonish for all concerned:
Thursday, March 24, 2011
The Quickfire for the Final Three on Top Chef All-Stars was quite the doozy. The chefs were given several classic QF challenges to choose for one another,with Mikey getting first pick due to winning the last round. He gave Antonia Canned Foods and she had Richard do the Hot Dog one while Richard in return thought One Pot Dish would trip Mikey up(no such luck,my friend!).
As an extra twist,midway through their cooking time,each one of them had to assign a classic TC Challenge twist with the choices being Cooking with One Hand,No Utensils or Double Apron Buddy(Carla made a surprise appearance for that one). Antonia worked with Carla and Richard went one handed,leaving Mikey with the no tools option that didn't affect him much since most of his cutting work was already done.
When time was up,guest judge Wolfgang Puck tasted all of the dishes and while he liked most of what was made,Mikey was declared the winner. His take on pork and beans,using a pork shoulder and black beans,was good enough to earn him another five grand and a small advantage for the Elimination round.
For that challenge,Wolfgang Puck joined Michelle Bernstein and Iron Chef alumnus Morimoto as one of the three masters for each TC contender to make a Last Supper for. Mikey not only got to choose who he was to cook for but he was allowed to select for his competition as well.
For himself,Mikey picked Michelle Bernstein whose last meal would be fried chicken and biscuits with gravy. She did tell Mike that he could use some creative license here,so he made an egg yolk filled empanada instead of a biscuit and served that with mustard gravy.
The empanada went over fine,but the chicken received mixed reviews. Mikey cooked the chicken first in a sous vide(water bath)and then fried it,which made the coating not as crispy and falling off the meat.
Antonia had to cook for Morimoto and she set out to make a Bento box like his mother used to prepare for him as a kid. She originally planned to serve hamachi sashimi but the fish tasted like it was going bad so Antonia switched to tuna at the last minute.
The tuna wasn't a real problem as it turned out. The dilemma was that while some of the items in the box were great,all of them together didn't click as a whole. Morimoto found the miso soup to be too salty while Judge Gail thought the spices on the fish were much too powerful for the plate.
Richard was left with Wolfgang Puck,who wanted a goulash and spaetzle,with an apple strudel for dessert. He was a nervous wreck about this,particularly since he had never made a strudel before. The goulash was excellent,with the only complaint from Wolfgang being that the spaetzle was a little tough.
The apple strudel was a home run for Richard,with everyone agreeing that the dish showcased the best of his modern techniques without compromising the traditional flavors that Wolfgang was hoping for.
Once the meal was over,Richard was quickly told that he was going to the finale. That made him breathe a well earned sigh of relief but only for a moment there.
Meanwhile,Antonia and Mikey were given one last TC twist to get that spot next to Richard in the Final Two. They had forty five minutes to make a "one bite" dish,as a final last impression.
Antonia made seared grouper in a coconut curry sauce that many of the judges thought was too spicy. Some liked the bold punch of flavor,such as Padma and Morimoto,but others like Judge Tom and Michelle Bernstein felt it was too much for one small plate.
Therefore,it will be a Mikey vs. Richard culinary throwdown next week, His surf and turf serving of tempura lobster with beef tartare and olive caramel won him enough technical points as the voting came down to a tie.
*SIGH* I felt so bad for Antonia,again she came this close to victory and was shown the door for a second time. On the other hand,we did get a Mikey/Antonia head to head match-up but not the one that counted for the big win. Sorry to see you go,Antonia but you did your very best and no one could ask for more than that.
For the finale,it looks like a Restaurant Wars set-up,with many of their former competitors returning as sous chefs. Guess I'll root for Richard but my heart still belongs to Team Antonia,which means that I don't want Mikey to win,cousin or not. He made sure to throw a few extra curve balls in her way in order to go one on one with Richard and you know what they say-be careful what you wish for!
Kent and Vysin managed to catch up to the other teams on The Amazing Race:Unfinished Business but were informed that a thirty minute penalty would be waiting for them at the end of this leg. That made them more anxious to reach the Double U-Turn,which would send two teams back to complete the other side of the Detour Challenge.
Since the Cheerleaders Jamie and Cara were literally right behind them,Team Goth choose to give them the U-Turn. The gals insisted on them making the Globetrotters go back instead but Kent and Vysin apologized and U Turned them right in their face.
The ladies then gave the Globetrotters the other U Turn,which didn't slow them down much at all. Since Lara and Jamie seemed to have some leftover bad karma from their last time on the race(sniping at cab drivers and such),that last Road Block was what really did those gals in. They went home instead of Team Goth,who I'm still rooting for even if they didn't disclose all of their troubles right away(get over it,Ron!):
It was Motown Week on American Idol and there were a lot of good performances,including an unexpected delight in country twang toned Scotty pulling off Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life" quite nicely.
The weakest numbers came from Stephano,who did a very bland rendition of Lionel Ritchie's "Hello" and Haley,who was at vocal war with her back-up singers at times during "You Really Got a Hold On Me"-hon,it's tricky to stand out with a group song like that but it can be done and done well,trust me on this one.
A real stand out last night was Naima,who not only sang "Dancing in the Street" but choreographed her own dance number to it as well. Those billowing pant legs of hers made me wonder if she would have trouble on stage but Naima was in fine form and voice there:
MILDRED PIERCE: This five part miniseries has it's two hour debut this Sunday night on HBO and so far,the advance word has been good. For those familiar with the celebrated Joan Crawford version,be prepared for an altogether different take on the story,which is closer to the original James M. Cain novel than it's earlier Hollywood incarnation:
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Last night,ABC aired a special called "Best In Film",which featured the results of a People magazine/ABC News poll about what folks considered to be the top five in several cinematic categories such as "Best Comedy" and "Greatest Movie Character."
All in all,the show was decent viewing(too many plugs for Blu Ray releases slipped in there)and a good excuse to talk about your favorite films. A few categories didn't make it into the special such as Best Horror-The Exorcist was the number one pick there-and Best Political/Historical(one of the many odd hybrid sections mashed in to the selection process).
Now,if I was making up lists like this,a category that I would have liked to see people vote for and discuss would be "Best Retelling of a Legend"-those stories that have been passed down from one generation to the next,with a steady number of film adaptations attached to them.
Here now,for your amusement,are the Top Five LRG picks for Best Retelling of a Legend,in reverse order. Some of these films may not be faithful to their source material but all of them stayed true to the spirit of the tale,which helped to ensure it's being passed on:
This version of the classic vampire novel wasn't a big box office hit but it did hit the mark with many budding fans of the genre,such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer alumna Marti Noxon,who cites the movie as the inspiration for BTVS's fifth season opener "Buffy Vs. Dracula."
The changes from the book are manifold,since it combined the well known stage play adaptation that leading man Frank Langella also starred in and received a Tony nomination for. The theatrical take on Dracula is known for bringing romance to the myth of the vampire,which the '79 film had in abundance,and can be seen as the template for the success of lovelorn vamp characters such as Twilight's Edward and Tru Blood's Bill Compton.
What makes this film stand above the numerous adaptations of Dracula is Langella's performance. His mix of sinister menace and brooding passion,with a touch of commanding as well as compelling desire,captures the essence of the legendary Count for his countless admirers throughout the ages:
4-ROMEO + JULIET(1996)
Putting a more modern spin on literary classics,particularly the works of Shakespeare,wasn't a radical notion by the time this film was introduced to audiences yet it's bold visual flair and strong performances brought the Bard full throttle into the MTV age.
The pop culture pomp and circumstance of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet set off a slew of other Shakespeare inspired films aimed at the teen market,some which did better than others in that department.
The best thing about this particular edition of the timeless star crossed lovers and their sad story is just how cool it was to be able to have a Shakespearean experience that you could dance to:
John Boorman's earthy take on the King Arthur legend was not the your father's old fashioned notion of Camelot,that's for sure. The film has a strong operatic air to it,especially in the soundtrack,and was seen as over the top by critics of that day.
Yet,the merging of the Arthurian mythos with the grittiness of sex and violence that modern filmmakers were now free to use gave the story a whole new relevance and nuance to it. While the look of the film is still admired today,it's the fresh take on the story that makes Excalibur a notable achievement in fantasy films:
2-THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD(1938)
While there have been many Hollywood leading men,with the most recent being Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe,donning the tights of Sherwood Forest's main Merry Man,none of them can hold a candle to Errol Flynn who made that role one of his best.
It's not just Flynn that makes the movie such a great take on the Robin Hood legend. The solidly built plot points of the script,the marvelous ensemble of actors assembled including Claude Rains,Basil Rathbone and of course,Olivia de Havillard and the well choreographed action sequences all helped to create a rousing film that those who wish to tread the same path should look to before taking up artistic arms:
1-THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS(1992)
Why director Michael Mann was not nominated for Best Director for his breathtaking version of the James Fenimore Cooper novel(combined with influences from a 1936 Hollywood adaptation starring Randolph Scott)at the Oscars that year is a debate best left to film scholars.
Instead,let us look at the ways in which this movie captured the spirit of raw Americana that is associated with novels set in the early days of our country. The film showcases the beauty of the wilderness and highlights the sense of independence in it's heroes and villains that is a defining trait of early Americans,especially on screen.
The plot also allows for discussion about the politics of conquest,both between the invaders and the original settlers,as well as the price paid by those caught in the middle of these power struggles. With such a elegantly woven creative canvas,Last of the Mohicans is assured of not being allowed to fade away from the annuals of classic American fiction:
Well,I hoped all of you enjoyed this list and I'll be adding a poll on the side so that you can vote on which one of these films is your favorite. The best part of storytelling is the hope that the tale is worth repeating as time goes on and while many of them don't appear to have that worry,you can't be too sure that a clunker will come along that ruins it for everyone. Then again,even a awful adaptation can inspire others to make a better one:
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
In this third volume of Quirk Classics' Pride & Prejudice & Zombies series,entitled Dreadfully Ever After,we meet up with Elizabeth and Darcy a few years into their marriage which seems to be coming to an emotional crossroads.
It seems that Mrs. Darcy regrets having to give up the joys of battle against the still threatening menace of unmentionables as part of her duties as a respectable wife. That combined with a dread of becoming a mother has caused a breech between this once loving couple just before the greatest challenge to their future is thrust upon them.
While walking home,Mr. Darcy receives a most unfortunate bite from a local boy whom he failed to realize was a recent member of the dreadful race. Elizabeth manages to keep her husband alive and conceals the real cause of his injuries for as long as possible,yet has no choice but to turn to the one person who can help him avoid joining the army of the undead- the formidable Lady Catherine De Bourgh:
Lady Catherine's plan is to have Elizabeth go into London disguised as a wealthy widow in order to seduce a nobleman who has access to the only known cure for the dreadful condition.
Accompanied by her father and sister Kitty(along with an unexpected visitor or two),Elizabeth reluctantly goes along with this scheme. While the insult to her honor is difficult to bear,the gruesome alternative of beheading and burning the body of her beloved husband is much worse.
In the meanwhile,Darcy begins a slow recovery at Rosings,with his cousin Anne keeping a scarily close watch on him. As Darcy struggles to retain his humanity,the cold comfort that Anne offers has it's charms as well as chills:
Elizabeth and company are able to make a social connection with the targeted nobleman and his foolish son,the younger catching the flirtatious eye of Kitty but not her heart.
As the Bennet clan gets deeper and deeper into the intrigue involving the antidote for the curse of Zed,which has Bedlam hospital and the re-crowning of Mad King George as pivotal points within the plot,it turns out that there is more at stake than the returning of Mr. Darcy to his former mortal state.
Opportunities of revenge and betrayal are being carried out,using the untimely timeliness of Darcy's plight as the perfect excuse. However,crossing swords with any one of the Bennet sisters,metaphorically or literally speaking, is not an occasion to be dealt with lightly:
This finale to the P&P&Z saga is written by Steve Hockensmith,who also penned the prequel Dawn of the Dreadfuls that came out around this time last year. Like that earlier book, Dreadfully Ever After is more of a Jane Austen themed work rather than a literary remix of Austen's novels.
DEA is amusing,particularly if you enjoyed DOTD,and the illustrations that accompany it are delightfully grim. I especially liked how Anne De Bourgh was portrayed,both in print and picture form. She's given a giddy gothic nature here that makes her a much livelier character,oddly enough,and an intriguing one as well.
Dreadfully Ever After is on sale today and Quirk Classics is holding a giveaway contest in it's honor. Just click "Like" at their Facebook page for the book and you could win one of eight specially made "antidote" necklaces created by Carol Linn(aka Specialmeat)at Etsy. The prizes will be given out in April.
Also,later this week,a book trailer for DEA will be online but don't wait until then to snatch up a copy of this frightfully entertaining read. The P&P&Z series is now complete but perhaps we are not totally finished with it-there are the marvelous monster movie versions to be savored over,hopefully soon at a theater near you:
UPDATE: The trailer for Dreadfully Ever After is now available and just as eerily entertaining as the earlier one for DOTD-bon appetite!:
Monday, March 21, 2011
With the rise and fall of comic book based superhero lore in film and television over the past few years,one constant remains the same;when it comes to quality,women are still last in line.
For example,a preview picture of what the new TV series version of Wonder Woman(to be played by Adrienne Palicki)will be costume clad in was posted online at Entertainment Weekly recently,causing a stir of the wrong sort.
As you can see,this outfit belies the assurances of producer David E. Kelley that this latest TV take on the Amazon Princess will be a serious,camp free production. Granted,the newest comic book redesign of WW's super heroine ensemble does have her in pants but not shiny blue ones!
It's bad enough that the major studios won't even consider a big budget Wonder Woman film(yet have no qualms about a Superman reboot)at this point without having a new small screen rendition give Diana Prince a tacky Halloween outlet store costume to wear into battle.*sigh* Where is Tim Gunn when you need him the most?:
Entertainment Weekly also ran a feature in their new print edition that gave actress Lindsey Hollister a chance to discuss her work as the leading lady of notoriously bad director Uwe Boll's alleged satire Blubberella.
The movie is supposed to be a parody of the Bloodrayne films that Boll also makes(Bloodrayne 3 was being filmed,along with a couple of other cinematic clunkers,at the same time as Blubberella)and naturally has an overabundance of fat jokes.
Hollister does come across as sincere when she says that the title bothers her and that she tried to inject some positive images of large sized women into the film. However,this is Uwe Boll at the helm and the man is not known for subtlety or restraint,not to mention taste of any sort.
As a plus size gal myself,I get why Hollister thought this project might give some sort of notice and from what little can be gleamed from the trailer,she seems to be making a real effort in giving an entertaining performance. I just hope that this film does lead Hollister to better things rather than become the sad highlight of her career:
It's amazing to me how even guys get better parodies than women,particularly in superhero fare. While I loved Kick Ass and the upcoming movie Super, the middle aged edition of that concept starring Rainn Wilson,looks pretty good,part of me can't help but say "Why can't we have something like that for female friendly audiences?"
Don't give me that "this is a male centric fantasy" argument,okay? I'm not eating that doublespeak,folks. I've been to my fair share of comic book/fantasy conventions and despite what some may think,not all of the ladies who go there in costume are doing that simply to impress the men.
We can do more both in the somewhat serious and downright silly film fronts on this subject than being sidekicks or damsels in distress,if only given half a chance. Hell,there are plenty of people who would love to see a Hit Girl movie,even more than will be checking out Super on opening weekend and that demographic is equal parts guy and girl:
There is one potential bright spot on the horizon,in the form of Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch,set to open up in a theater near you this Friday.
While the movie uses an original screenplay instead of being based on previous published material,it's fantasy/action themes of female empowerment and creative endurance of hardships is a pop culture path that's been walked down many a time. Snyder himself defines Sucker Punch as "Alice in Wonderland with machine guns."
How well Sucker Punch will do,in terms of profit as well as impact upon pop culture,may be too soon to tell yet it's not totally uncalled for to see this film as a promise of better things to come for superheroines. Snyder has had strong female characters in his earlier works and a bold visual flair combined with storytelling prowess that could herald the way for other fantasy female focused projects if it sets off the right sparks.
Let's keep our collective fingers crossed but even if this movie doesn't hit the mark here,holding on to hope is still our best option. Sooner or later,Hollywood will be sucker punched by superheroines,comic book or otherwise,and left in wonder at how they ever managed to overlook them before and then our victory will be truly of the sweet:
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