Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Friday, October 28, 2005

Saw II:A Cut Above The Rest

I went to the first showing of Saw II with Little Sister and it was quite a wild ride. S2 opens up
subtly with another death mask trap that does not end well for the poor joker but sets the gross
out factor for the story nicely.

The basic plot here is that Detective Matthews(Donnie"Sixth Sense"Wahlberg) becomes the focus
of serial killer Jigsaw as his candidate for Juvenile Hall son is selected for the latest House of Horrors along with previous survivor Amanda(a kickass Shawnee Smith)and several other folks
who are more closely connected than they know or care once it's revealed that if they don't work
together,the nerve gas pumped into the building will soon kill them.

We do get some backstory on Jigsaw and fortunately,it doesn't hog screentime and actually plays
a part in the finale. Little Sister compared Jigsaw to a Batman villian and she's right,in the psycho
-logical sense. JS is not hidden in the shadows here,he's a wheelchair bound cancer patient who
nonetheless menaces you,despite his weakened state. He insists on holding an audience with Matthews and just the asking for a drink of water makes you root abit more for the bad guy.

You don't have to had seen the earlier Saw(which is a great twisted film)to enjoy this film but
be warned-totally not for the faint of heart at all. If this becomes a franchise,hopefully the next
film will have the same level of clever plotting and gruesome tableaux. If not,perhaps it may
usher in a new batch of old school horror films that will do more than visually gross out and
send up more murderous mind games..a sinister Sudoku,if you will.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Happy Horrorween!

Ok,one of the best holidays of the year is fast upon us and I felt it was a good excuse to write about
some of my favorite scare flicks to recommend for your viewing pleasure. The only film out in theaters that looks any good is Saw II(A History of Violence is chilling as well but not really in the
horror genre)which I'll be reviewing here but meanwhile,here are some treats for your goodie

Old School:

You can never go wrong with The Bride Of Frankenstein-Boris Karloff,the all-time king of horror in my book,has some of his best screen moments here. My favorite is his meeting with Dr. Pretorious in the crypt,casually making a deal to get Frankie a date. Ernest Thesiger is one
of those great weird actors who folks like James Whale always managed to grab hold off for
the right roles at the right time,along with Una O'Connor,a perfect sidekicking dame.

Another good Karloff movie is The Mummy,in which Boris does more than shamble about in
make-up. He truly emotes as Im Ho Tep,who seeks to reunite with the reincarnation of his
lost love. A major influence on the Brendan Frasiser versions(particularly The Mummy Returns-check out the timewarp pool of water scenes) which the director freely acknowledges
in the DVD extras.

Vampires A Go Go:

Yep,gotta mention some bloodsucking box office babes(which I will get plenty of in tonight's Smallville,with Kryptonite sorority vampire girls lead by a gal named Buffy Sanders-no joke).
Instead of picking a classic,I'll go with a teen vamp double feature-Fright Night and Lost Boys.

Fright Night has Chris Sarandon as the Vamp Next Door who has to deal with Noisy Neighbor
Charlie(William Ragsdale) when Charlie is more interested in his nocturnal habits than sexing up his girlfriend Amy(a pre-Married With Children Amanda Bearse). One of the highlights of
the film is Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent,a faded Hammer movie style actor reduced to
hosting the local late night creature feature on TV. Peter Vincent is recruited by Charlie to
aid him in his vampire hunt,along with Charlie's goofy buddy Evil Ed(Stephen Geoffreys).

The humor mixed into the horror really works well here,without diluting the effects of either.
Sarandon's vampire(named Jerry Dandridge,of all things)is very charming and menancing and
one of his coolest scenes involves seducing Amy on the dance floor of a club with a great mirror
wall take. I enjoy Evil Ed quite abit-Geoffreys gleefully chews the scenery,particularly in his
bits with McDowall ,and it's a shame that for the sequel(which is not worth spit),they didn't
revive his character as it was hinted at the end of the film.

Lost Boys-just look at the cover,folks. If you don't see the prototypes for Angel,Spike & Drusilla,what can I tell you? Also,any horror flick that gets referenced in a Tarantino film
is worth watching(bonus points if you know what movie and who says it).

Modern Day Menaces:

Underworld is one movie you should definately see before the follow-up,Underworld Evolution
comes out. There are a couple of edtions available on DVD but even if you just get the theaticial
cut,this film will draw you in to it's familar -yet-original take on both the vampire and werewolf
legends with the haunting prescene of Kate Beckinsale as the vampire warrior Selene.

High Tension throws back to the 70's gritty gore stylings with it's strong heroine and brutal
suspense scenes. The DVD offers both the Amercian dubbed version and the French subtitled
uncut one, with an interview with the director who has quite an interesting take on the story.

Also,you can just click on AMC's Monsterfest and enjoy the show. AMC has more modern flicks
than old b&ws(which is a shame)but the selection can be pretty sweet. Whatever you watch,
may your movies be scary and all your Halloweens be a fright:)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Quill Awards cause quivers in the book world

Well,Matea Gold's write-up on the Quills is now online(conviently linked for your perusal)and it's
a pretty good article on the whole shebang. The ceremony will be on tonight at 7:oo,in the NY area
and should be on elsewhere-check your local listings,folks!

I got one qoute in and yes,the blog is mentioned(Thank You,Ms. Gold)by name. Hopefully,I get
some more readers and the Quills will garner enough interest to continue. The key to that(for
The Quills)is marketing. Publishers Weekly had alot of ads and articles about it but in someways,
that's preaching to the converted. In my opinion,a good write-up in Entertainment Weekly would
have increased the number of people voting after the nominees were announced. I set up a Quills
display in my store(as did many chain and indies)with promotional flyers but more of a push will
be necessary to keep the momentum up.

Since many genres are highlighted,advertising should also be placed in the speciality magazines and websites. The Quills are off to a good start but it's never too early to plan for next year.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Paranormal Romance:Trick or Treat?

Little Sister has a new way of mocking me(the province of younger siblings)by reading aloud
passages from my paperback copy of Incubus Dreams by Laurell K Hamilton. Granted,certain
lines sound goofy when spoken such as "His sorrow spilled into us like evil chocolate over my
ice cream"(not exactly word for word but I'm afraid "evil chocolate" is straight from the page)
but there's a reason some pleasures are guilty,people!

I will confess my devotion to the Anita Blake series(and the Merry Gentry books,which are
LKH's version of Angel to her Buffy)-many fans are now turned off from the increasing sexual
content of the Blake books and frankly,the cover art doesn't help much to lessen the red hot
doings of the characters. LKH has had more than one publisher so her earlier titles didn't have
the Showtime AfterHours look they do nowadays. Alot of them looked downright cartoony so
the sexed up covers are actually an improvement.

At this point,some of you are going"What the hell is paranormal romance and how kinky is it?"
It's simple,really-Girl meets Boy Vampire/Werewolf/Demon and relationship probelms bloom
with the added bonus of fighting a mutual enemy and sometimes saving the world. Also, you
can have Girl Vampire/Psychic/Witch meet Boy or a combo of both. It's become a new niche
in the Chick Lit market.

PR focues alot on vampires(for which you can blame Anne Rice)but you can also have fairies,
elves,mulitple varieties of werepeople(but no were-giraffes,despite Little Sister's insistence
and cartoon drawings),demons,time travelers and leprechauns. Ok,kidding about leprechauns
but you never know who's trying to publish whatever mythological love triangle story that's
not been done yet.

PR can get very creative with the subjects: some stand outs include Carpe Demon by Julie
Kenner(Soccer Mom comes out of Demon Slayer retirement to save suburbania) andGoddess for Hire by Sonia Singh(Young Indian gal in L.A. becomes the latest incarnation of the Hindi
goddess,Kali). Other writers worth checking are:

MaryJanice Davidson:I've only read her Undead series,which features Elizabeth"Betsy" Taylor
as a reluctant Queen of the Vampires who copes with her newly given status by indulging her
passion for shoe shopping. Think Clueless meets UnderWorld and you get the idea. Very fast
and funny reads.

Charlaine Harris: Best known for the Southern Vampire series or,as I refer to them,the Sookie
Stackhouse books. Sookie is a telepath who is socially isolated by her powers but finds true love
with local vampire Bill(even she finds that name damn funny for a vamp)and gets entangled
with vampire politics and other supernatural doings. Nice lite reading with a good sense of

Kim Harrison:Kim's very new to the game(her website is linked above)-she has only three books in her Rachel Morgan series. Rachel's a newly freelance bounty hunter witch working
with a vampire partner and a fairy consultant. She's also been tricked into alliances with a
demon and meet her current boyfriend when they were both turned into animals that were
thrown into a fighting ring. Not as sexed up as the Anita books but just as compelling.

One of the selling points of these books are the strong female leads-some of these ladies may
be a little airheaded at times but all of them are fighters when push comes to shove. The mytho-
loigies are fairly loose at times but the good books keep grounded with whatever set of rules
are laid down early on. Most of the settings are in the real world with the premise that other worldly beings are among us and have legal rights/status.

So, for a more grown-up Halloween treat,pick up one of these books for a great night on the
town. Much cheaper than dinner and a movie and you won't have to worry about calling the
next day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Hot off the presses!

This just in-I was interviewed today by L.A. Times reporter Maeta Gold in regards to the Quills Awards(guess I was Googled!)and I should be qouted in an article due this weekend. We spoke via cellphone and hopefully,I said something real qoute worthy. I plan to link the article as soon as it becomes available online.

For anyone who cares,my real life name is going to be used but not the name of my store(gotta
hold off the papparazzi somehow)and fingers crossed,my humble blog may be mentioned. Most
of what I said to her is in my book awards post but I did drop a Desparate Housewives reference
off the top of my head so we'll see what will survive the editing process.

Back to your regularly schelduled blog,already in progress.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Worth a walk In Her Shoes

So,I finally got to see In Her Shoes yesterday(went alone because Little Sister would rather skip thru a bed of red hot coals in a pair of jellies than sit thru a "chick flick",besides we both saw Serenity last week so our movie qouta is filled for a bit),braving the rain and picking up the Veronica Mars season 1 DVD set(no surprise there).

The plot is not much changed from the book:older ,responsible sister Rose(beautifully played by Toni Collette) clashes with younger, sexy but insecure sis Maggie(Cameron Diaz,displaying more than one talent) which leads to reuniting with long banished grandmother Ella(Shirley Maclaine,who can do these kinds of roles in her sleep at this point). In the book,Maggie had a brief interlude at Princeton but in the interest of limited movie time,that was ditched but her educational reawakening was well woven into the film.

Fans of the book will be happyto see that the two poems important to the story are kept in("One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop and e.e.cummings' "i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)")and provide some of the most emotionally impacting scenes in the film.

Thank the gods that Curtis Hansen and Susannah Grant were the director and writer for IHS.In other hands,all the tired female friendly film cliches would've been overflowing:the fake get happy spontaneous moment(usually involving bad lip synching..paging Ashlee Simpson!),the overdone flashbacks with diabetes inducing soundtrack,the makeover montage complete with girl power approved background music...none of that here,folks.

The flashbacks are restricted along with On screen Narration. The actors are allowed to tell the story in a more natural way without being given a cinematic safety net. One sequence in particular springs to mind,when Rose is determined to click the light off before getting intimate with her current love interest and he is as determined to keep it on. No goofy lines and/or comic music cues,the actors say everything they need to with their faces. Very grown-up here.

So many of these "chick lit" tales are bashed for feeding women unfeminista fantasies but if you look past the pink covers or the Hollywood casting(*cough*get over yourself,Lisa Schwarzbaum*cough*),you'll find some really good stories about things that do matter,like making peace with your past,finding the right person to love you for the right reasons and how to get along with your sister even if she keeps borrowing your stuff and wrecking it. In Her Shoes is not just a great chick flick,it's a wonderful family film to share with your nearest anddearest. I wouldn't force Little Sister to see it but there's always DVD for a second chance:)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

And the winner is....

Autumn is not only a great time to admire the changing leaves,it's also book award season. The Man Booker Prize(personally,I prefer the old name of just Booker but,hey,gotta please those
sponsors!)was given to The Sea by John Banville,the National Book Award nominees were
announced yesterday(with E.L. Doctorow and Joan Didion taking the lead in the Fiction/Nonfiction
catagories)and this morning,the Nobel lit prize went to playwright Harold Pinter. Whew,Jane
stop this crazy thing!

Also,the winners of the Quills were announced at a ceremony that will be broadcast on NBC(Sat,
Oct 22). What are the Quills? It's a new book award that will hopefully become the Golden Globes
of the book world. Basically,there are many more catagories than your average book award group
gives,such as Romance,Sports,History,etc. The children's lit is divided by age range(toddler to
teen) and certain genres that most literacy groups overlook get attention(graphic novels,humor,
audio books)and some respect.

The nominees were chosen by librarians and booksellers across the country(yours truly being one of them)and people were given the chance to vote online for the winners. It's very People's
Choice Awards in that respect but frankly,I was pleased as punch to be a small part of this. For
too long,most major book awards have been very inhouse and non connecting to the average
reader. Particularly,the National Book awards which usually have novels nominated that most
avid readers have never heard of and alot of times,the commitee that nominates pick their friends or like minded authors so you can look at the list and go"Who the hell is that? I never
heard of that book."

Just look at the novel list this year-Doctorow is the only one on the list anyone on the street might know and he's pretty much a shoo-in. I have heard of Trance by Christopher Sorrentino
(Publishers Weekly did an article on his book tour-didn't see any reviews)and Veronica by
Mary Gaitskill but otherwise,I'm not impressed. Don't get me wrong-not saying that only
bestsellers should be honored but I feel that there needs to be a healthy mix of popular and
arthouse titles to be recognised for their achievements.

The Quills are just beginning and I'm sure many will be quick to jump on the negativity bandwagon with comments like"They only pick bestsellers and celebs like Jon Stewart and
J.K. Rowling." "What kind of a name is Quills?" "What junky catagories-Romance? Cooking?"
My comeback is simple-"You can stay in the ivory tower all you want but some of us would
like to do what E.M. Forster strove for-only connect." I look forward to the day where the
Quills will be as highly anticpated as the Oscars are. For now,I'll just settle for being there
at the beginning. If you want to check out the Quills winners,just click the title link.

Meanwhile,I will enjoy this very rainy day with some good books(just started The Great Stink by Clare Clark and boy,is it twisted!) and some just for fun(rereading Incubus Dreams by
Laurell K. Hamilton,for the Halloween spirit). Now,where's my bookmark?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Give me liberty or give me a library!

I've been checking out Miss Snark's blog from time to time(pretty damn funny at times,plus I sympathize with her George Clooney love-with me,just exchange Matt Damon or James Marsters for GC but I digress)and one of the posts fired up my pistons. One of Miss Snark's regular readers(she has dubbed them Snarklings) actually got on her case for recommending that people
go to the library to check out books she likes!

Miss Snark handily took this genius down a few pegs(check title link to read the post)but I was amazed at what a snob this person was for proclaiming that to truly support an "artist",you need to shell out the bucks. Does this person think libraries get their books for free? Also,many people
can't afford to buy the latest hardcover releases(not even humble bookstore workers like myself who have plenty of ARCs in their own personal library)or no access to a bookstore at all in their area.

When I was a kid,my father would take my brother and me to the library every Saturday. IT was a beautiful building with long winding stairs,wooden banisters and a separate floor just for the children's books. The Young Adult section was a small room downstairs,where music albums were available as well. Unfortunately,the city tore it down several years ago,due to opening up a more modern branch and the budget crunch did my former library in. I still miss it-it was a castle of dreams that held not just mine but other's fond memories as well.

We moved(did abit of that)to another section of town and there was a library next door to the local planeterium. There was also a historical house within the same area that you could take a tour in for free(weird to see roped-off rooms that you could gawk at but not take a seat). I pratically lived there-nearly got locked in one afternoon. I didn't realize it was late until they started turning the lights off!

Sad to say,I've not been in a library for years but I still wholeheartedly support them. Many are underfunded and not as well stocked as they should be but that's no excuse for not using them,
mainly for educational services. I see so many parents and kids looking for school report materials that we simply don't have being a small store and we always tell them"You should
go to the library". I blame the parents because alot of them have most of the excuses"I don't want to have to return the stuff...My kid has only this much amount of time to get this done...the library doesn't have good enough books" etc. Children learn by example and one
of the best things my dad taught me was how to use a library. It's an important skill-don't
neglect your child in knowing how to track down the books they would like to read or locate
the information necessary to complete their assignments. That's more enpowering than any
playdate can provide.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Outsiders Complete Novel DVD:Nostaglia 101

It's been awhile since I saw The Outsiders but found it hard to resist the Special Edition,due to
fond memories of reading S.E.Hinton back in the day. Is it a must-buy? That's debatable but it
certainly is worth a look.

The movie itself is on Disc 1(you can get the original release version on a no-frills single DVD,almost got one by mistake)and most of the changes are early on in the film,with a scene
between brothers Ponyboy and Sodapop that took place in the bed they share. It's a good bit
of dialogue that was cut due to people snickering at two boys sharing a bed(not understanding
that the family is so poor that siblings had to share furniture). Also,more Elvis songs are added
to the soundtrack,replacing some of the Carmine Coppola soundtrack(Francis Ford felt that
music of the time period would suit the story action more and it does give some foundation for
the characters).

Disc 1 also offers a choice of commentaries:one by FFC or one by several cast members,including Diane Lane and Matt Dillon. I'm not into commentaries(find them to be too distracting)so I didn't listen. I did check out most of the special features on Disc 2,which has deleted scenes(my favorite),the original theaterical trailer and an old NBC News report on the high school class who sent FFC a letter with a petition to make the Outsiders into a movie. The
teacher thought it would be an interesting class project and didn't expect the results that came about-nice to watch that.

S.E. Hinton herself has a featurette,showcasing the Tulsa locations used for the movie. She was a hands-on advisor to the movie and even has a small part in the film. Hinton tells a great story about how Coppola offered to show her one of the locations he picked by taking her on his bike-turns out he meant a two wheeler,not a motor bike! The casting featurette is amusing,showing the likes of Kate Capshaw(who looked too old,IMO),Adam Baldwin and Catherine Mary Stuart auditioning for roles in the film.

There are also readings of the novel by your choice of cast members:Diane Lane does a good job,Patrick Swayze seems to be abit too serious,Matt Dillon is the most humble,noting that he looks nothing like the description of his character Dallas Winston. I didn't listen to them all but Leif Garrett is among the readers(and if you don't know who the hell he is,go to IMDB and do some homework).

The best featurette is "Staying Gold"which is a look at the making of The Outsiders and the cast reunion twenty years later held by FFC for them to view the new version. FFC is a really great host and everyone present was happy,with plenty of good memories about making the movie. The viewing room they used looked like a real comfy den and you don't feel like you're gawking
at celebrities,rather peeking in on a reunion of old friends sharing a golden moment.

So,I would recommend getting this set-it's a nice piece of filmmaking with a solid set of extras. If you wind up showing the movie to someone too young to remember Matt Dillon from any other movie than that stupid Herbie remake,if they goof on it-remind them that this is based on a really cool book. Also,names like Ponyboy and Cherry are not as bad as being named Kal-El Coppola Cage(Some people should not be allowed to name others without committee approval).