Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Friday, June 30, 2006

Eat This Book with relish!

Ryan Nerz's Eat This Book covers his year on the competitive eating circuit,working with the IFOCE(International Federation of Competitive Eating)as promoter,judge and emcee of several events. Eating contests are as Americana as country music,baseball and apple pie but doesn't get the respect that's afforded even to the pie. Nerz gives you an indepth look at the growing phenomena and subculture appeal of this world.

One of the first notions to be quickly debunked is that competitive eaters are just literal gluttons for punishment-many of them train themselves as diligently as any competitor would for the Olympics. Known as gurgitators,many of these folks have the same type of charisma and style as any WWE contender such as Eric"Badlands" Booker(who works as a train conductor and also makes rap albums),"Crazy Legs" Conti,who once ate his way out of a giant"coffin" of popcorn and Ed " Cookie" Javis,one of the best known fellas on the circuit that sports a massive jacket proclaiming each and every of his victories on the circuit

The history of competitive eating is covered as well as the foundation of the IFOCE by the Shea brothers(a full chapter is given to those who found the IFOCE too demanding and decided to form their own off-shoot leagues)who put in place rules and procedures to keep the contestants safe and make things as fair as can be. Other controversaries include the increasingly strong dominance of the sport by Japanese contestants like Takeru Kobayashi and prescence of female champions like Sonya Thomas(dubbed "The Black Widow") and Carlene LeFerve,who competes along side her husband Rich. There's also many folks who claim that competitive eating promotes obesity despite the fact that many of the best gurgitators are thin and most of the folks on the circuit keep a eye on their health.

This is a fun and interesting look from an inside man's point of view. Nerz tells great stories about many of the events and players with some tongue in cheek but never condescends to his subject. Rather,he gleefully embraces it and shows the reader that competitive eating is not just the Rodney Dangerfield of sports-it deserves some respect.

One of the most intriguing things about this book to me was the variety of foodstuffs that are comsumed in these contests. It's not just Nathan's hotdogs and White Castle hamburgers;folks have devoured in record time such goodies as deep fried asparagus,sticks of butter,chicken nuggets,pizza,Spam,cow brains,reindeer sausage and mayonnaise,for starters. There's an appendix at the back of the book listing an number of IFOCE records and quite a few of them are impressive. It's hard not to be amazed at someone being able to eat five pounds of corned beef and cabbage in just ten minutes or forty-four Maine lobsters in twelve minutes..

If you want to know more about the IFOCE or Ryan Nerz,just click the title link above to check out the Eat This Book website,which has great pictures and links to many of the online communities for and about competitive eating. If you're in need of a good read while waiting for your barbeque grill to heat this holiday weekend,Eat This Book is the hot spot for your mental menu.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Heat from Hell's Kitchen,Blade on the boob tube and finally,Rescue Me revisited!

Last night,I watched the two hour premiere of Blade:the series on Spike,which has the same type of programming subtley as F/X does. Didn't expect to see a vampire take an axe to the knee,for one thing(not that I'm complaining at all here,folks!). Kirk"Sticky" Jones(I so don't get that nickname)certainly doesn't have Wesley Snipes' charisma but he's not too bad.

Most of the acting chops here go to his co-star,Jill Wagner. She plays Krista,an Army vet who sets out to find her twin brother's killer and by the end,becomes a vampire double agent who may or may not help Blade defeat the head vamp,Marcus Van Scriver. Wagner brings some strong believibility to the part which ups her plotline,making it rather compelling and interesting.

It also helps that Neil Jackson,who plays Marcus,is suitably sinister and sexy.One of my favorite scenes had him and Krista verbally facing off as she aims a rifle at him from a nearby rooftop. We also get Randy Quiad here as a Van Helsing type,making an uncredited appearance. Not sure if he's going to be a regular or not.

Anyway,this show has some promise so I'll stay tuned,for now. I am not expecting this to be the next Buffy by any means but it's so far,so good. Let's see if Blade can stay sharp and avoid some of those Charmed pitfalls.

After a full course of Top Chef drama,my appetite's been whetted for some more competitive cooking hijinks so I sampled some of Hell's Kitchen. I knew Gordon Ramsey was a tough talker but damn!It's like cooking for the drill instructor from Full Metal Jacket-"Chef,YES,Chef!" I get a kick out of those overdone graphics used for the opening credits and commerical breaks,not to mention the in-your-face use of the HK logo,the likes of which is rarely seen outside of the WWE.

I do,however,already hate one of the players,Sara. She pratically cackles with evil glee when one of her fellow chefs is getting ripped a new one by Ramsey and her sneaky sabotage of Virginia puts her right into the backstabber catagory. With any luck,it won't be long until her picture goes up in flames as she leaves.

and now for Rescue Me-last week's episode had Tommy and Janet doing what I would term a "hate fuck" scene and others see as rape. Hate fuck(pardon the profanity)is a term I've heard used to describe rough sex between two people who are so angry at each other that it leads to sex. Granted that I haven't watched this show from the very beginning but from what I've seen,that whole bit was not too far out of character for either Tommy or Janet and even with Marissa Tomei popping in for some payback business,I don't expect to see a happy reunion for this couple.

I haven't seen this much debate over rough sex since the season six Buffy episode Seeing Red(which I don't intend to revive here,if I can help it). Until we all agree that fictional characters don't always have to do nice things or be "likable" to be interesting,this will never end.

That said,I knew that Susan Sarandon's character was going to snatch Franco's kid after he was dumb enough to make it easier for her by telling her about his illegal takeback of his daughter. Her whole justification of that is crap-yes,girls marry their fathers and look for mother figures when there are none but what kind of a role model is a wannabe mom who steals someone else's child and blackmails the birth parent into letting her do so? A pretty nasty one,IMO!

The 4400 cliffhanger with Maia being taken is real nerve racking. I don't think that she'll be off the show(Maia's too popular for that)but it makes one thing clear-when ever Alice Krige shows up,there's trouble right next to her! Just check out her track record at IMDB and you'll see what I mean. Also,Isobel caught on to Daniel's game real quick,didn't she? Those Jedi powers of hers rival anything that wimpy Hayden Christenson tried to pull in Revenge of the Sith.

Well,tonight's the premiere for the much hyped It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia with Danny DeVito at the helm. I only watched a couple of shows last season and it seemed pretty funny. Hopefully,this season's bunch will be as good as the promos they keep playing(love the one at the restaurant where Daddy DeVito keeps telling his kids not to have sex with each other-"I don't want any retard grandkids!").

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Sample some small screen Superman,animated style!

With Superman Returns slamming down at a multiplex near you today,many folks like myself will wait for the weekend to check it out. This gives you plenty of time to catch up with other Son of Kypton fare,like the latest edition of Superman:The Animated Series which has the last 18 episodes of the show. S:TAS was created by the same team that gave us Batman:the Animated Series and one of the featurettes has the whole gang assembled for some really good feedback on the show.

There are three sets of two-part episodes included-Little Girl,Lost(which brings
Supergirl into the mix),Apokolips...Now! and Legacy(both of them deal with Darkseid and his posse). Darkseid truly dominates the series at this point,way more than Lex
Luthor and particularly in Legacy,drives Superman to some pretty dark places. It's still in the kid friendly realm but one of the great things about this series(as in Batman)is the refusal to totally water down the content or give in to simple"what did we learn,children?"morality.

The show's not all gloom and doom. There are two episodes with superhero guest stars like Green Lantern(Kyle Rayner version)and Aquaman. The GL show is more fun than the Aquaman one,which has many plot points amazingly similar to the Aqua episode of Smallville this past season. Another fun episode is Knight Time(also a favorite of producer Alan Burnett)where Superman impersonates Batman after Bruce Wayne goes missing for awhile,leaving Gotham vulnerable to criminals. It's a nice blend of both
shows,plus plenty of humor and interesting villian cameos.

There are several commentaries available,one of which I did listen to. It was for the second half of Apokolips..Now!(I recommend watching the episodes first before putting on the commentary,especially if you haven't seen the shows before). There's alot of tribute talk about Jack Kirby,who passed away while the series was being made,(the look of character Dan"Terrible" Turpin is based on Kirby)and the conculsion of AN! is dedicated to him. Kirby was the original creator of Darkseid and the New Gods and his influence on the creative minds at work here like Bruce Timm and Paul Dini(one of my favorites)clearly shows.

Another special feature is a preview of the new documentary,Look up in the sky!The amazing story of Superman put out by Bryan Singer and Kevin Burns. It's a nice taste of the final product(and yes,there are Smallville clips,my fellow fanboys and girls).More satisfying is Superman;Behind The Cape,that has voice actor David Kaufman hosting a chat with Bruce Timm,Paul Dini,Alan Burnett and Glen Murakami. The fellas give a nice overview of the arch of the final episodes and list their best and worst episodes(atleast by fan feedback standards).

So,is it neccessary to have watched the earlier shows in order to enjoy this new set? No,but if you love DC comics and modern takes on classic characters,the entire series is a keeper for your video library. It's not as lengthy as Batman was but packs quite a punch nonetheless. Also,there's an array of great celebrity voices such as Tim Daly as Supes,Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor and odd surpises like Ed Asner going the vocals for Granny Goodness! Too bad they didn't get these guys to do the Teen Titans revamp(I so hate the anime style and kiddie cuteness given to the likes of Raven,plus the theme song makes me want to slam my head against the wall)but hey,atleast there's some folks out there getting it right.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tomorrow They Will Kiss:Tune into this terrific debut

Tomorrow They Will Kiss by Eduardo Santiago chronicles the tale of three Cuban women who emigrate to Union City,NJ in the sixties and wind up working together at the same doll factory. Graciela,Imperio and Caridad all use to live in Palmagria,a
small town where keeping an eye on everybody else's business was the norm,even before Fidel Castro's revolution changed life as they knew it.

Graciela was always considered to be different and the centerpiece of local gossip. With this new start in the US,she hopes to get away from the past but with Imperio and Caridad around to drop hints and pass judgements on her,it's not easy.

The one thing all three ladies(and their new friends in America)agree on are the telenovelas that play every night that give them all a safe topic to talk about when tensions rise over things like who should sit in the front seat of the van that takes them all to the factory or Graciela's growing relationship with Barry O'Reilly,their supervisor at work. In a way,Graciela's life is very similar to the heroine of a telenovela;she entered a loveless marriage to escape her parent's house and thenwas denounced as a tramp for alledgedly taking up with another man,Pepe,who now works for the Revoluntionary cause.

Unlike many of her fellow Cubans who see their new life in America as temporary, Graciela decides to make changes and start down a new path by going to school to learn English and Fashion Design. This bothers Imperio and Caridad,who seem to enjoy focusing on Graciela's failings as a way to both feel superior and to make their unhappy marriages look better by comparison. It's almost as if they need Graciela to be the star of their real world morality play,neverminding her feelings or their own behavior towards her and the other people in their life such as Berta,an older woman with bad legs whose health is getting worse. Imperio openly scorns her slowness to her face while Graciela takes the time to help Berta out and be a true friend to her.

This is Eduardo Santiago's first novel,which is hard to believe given the skill and care given to the characters as well as the touching humanity shown by and to the supporting players of this piece. It's also a loving tribute to the world of pre Castro Cuba as well as the newly formed Cuban-American community that decide to stick by each other,regardless of who and where they came from back home.

Tomorrow They Will Kiss is a beautifully written tale that captures the heart and soul of women who may be friends for better or worse but who ultimately must find true happiness on their own terms. This is a must for reading groups(chances are that you know one or two people very much like the ladies of the story)and a great book that'll have you waiting for Santiago's next one as anxiously as you would for the
next episode of your favorite primetime drama.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sister Act From Hell

Along with picking up Mommie Dearest:Hollywood Royalty Edition(which has a great write-up at Now,A Warning??!),I added this little gem to my DVD library-a two disc
edition of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? This horror movie hook-up of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford,two of the most ambitious and bitter rivals of the old school studio Hollywood system,is one of those you-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it deals. It also marks the beginning of the trend of starring grand old dames in cheese ball fright films such as Hush,Hush Sweet Charlotte(Davis again,with Olivia DeHavillard)and Who Slew Auntie Roo(Shelley Winters)

The plot of the story is about two showbiz sisters;Baby Jane Hudson,a former spoiled child star who never had the talent to make it on her own when she grew up(in the early scenes when we see the childhood version of BJ,I had Jon Benet flashbacks)and her older sister Blanche,who came into her own fame as an adult actress. Blanche's career was cut short by a car accident which left her crippled and BJ being blamed for it.

Years later,the gals are still sharing a household but Blanche plans to move out and have her crazy,drunken sister sent off to an asylum. However wacky BJ might be,she's not totally out of it. BJ plots to revive her old career and keeps sister Blanche a prisoner with such charming torments as serving up dead pets and pests for dinner.

Both ladies go to town with these parts-Crawford was well known for playing long suffering victims at that point and Davis was always a bold and brash type. It's no secret that they had quite a feud going so that extra bit of tension enhances the characterizations nicely. Davis recieved an Oscar nomination for Best Actress that year but lost out(she always claimed Crawford blackballed her) and you can see why.

In her portrayal of Baby Jane,Davis is not just a one note performer. Her character sways from a cold,convinning plotter to lost little girl in the blink of an eye. At times,you can't help but root for her. Some compared her performance to Gloria Swanson's in Sunset Boulevard and I think it's similar but SW had a way better script and style.

The extras include a commentary by Charles Busch and John"Lypsinka"Epperson(who also
appear on the Mommie Dearest DVD)and several featurettes,the best of which is "Bette and Joan:Blind Ambition" which chronicles their careers together. Bette Davis is featured solo in the "All About Bette" doc that's narrated by Jodie Foster and Joan Crawford is highlighted in an old BBC profile that includes an interview with her(all the better to avoid the whole MD deal,I suspect). The funkiest extra is a clip from the Andy Williams show in 1962,where Bette,clad in a icy blue glittery gown,sings the theme song to WEHTBJ as cheerful as cheerful can be.

If you haven't seen this movie,this is a great way to do so and if you're already a fan,you must own this set as soon may be(click the title link for more info). When you see a story like this,with two big league stars slugging it out for screen time,you wonder if any of the gals we have today could compete with the likes of Joan and Bette in the hokiest of flicks. Will we one day see Sandra Bullock and Julie Roberts duke it out in a gothic horror show or even Susan Sarandon and Meryl Streep have a big screen schoolyard showdown? Time will tell,folks.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Adam Sandler's new flick Click,well,doesn't!

Today,Little Sister and I went to our local multiplex and went our separate ways-she to Nacho Libre,me to Click. Jack Black is one of my favorites but Nacho looks too hokey for me,plus it was directed by Jared Hess of Napoleon Dynamite fame. Hess might be a good director but ND didn't impress me one bit.

Click stars Adam Sandler as Michael Newman,an overworked architect striving for a promotion from boss David Hasselhoff so much that he keeps putting his wife(played by Kate Beckinsale)and kids on hold. One night,Michael goes to a Bed,Bath and Beyond to buy an universal remote control(he drives right past a couple of electronic stores to get to BB&B,which makes as sense as the plot of Lake House does)and winds up with one that controls the world around him. Christopher Walken plays the All-Seeing Looney that movies like this get and warns Michael to be careful with his new found toy and that it's "nonreturnable."

Michael has fun at first,putting annoying people on mute and fast forwarding thru mundane things like showers,traffic and foreplay. Eventually,the fast fowarding gets out of hand and Michael soon discovers the mess he's making of his life. This is what I call a Sweet Slob movie;sort of a hybrid of two genres-the middle class morality tale and the goofy,vulgar humor that core fans know and love. Sandler's done this before with films like The Wedding Singer and Big Daddy,which were fun.

However,Click starts to drag at the dramatic parts(particularly later in the story)so cheap laughs from cheesy F/X and gross out jokes(a running gag that has a dog humping a large stuffed toy)are punched in to spark the plot up but it's short term relief at best. Poor Beckinsale is wasted here but does look the best out of the cast in old age make-up. Walken is ,well,Walken but even his wacky stylings seem to be on mute here.

When it comes to movies like this,Jim Carrey does it much better. Sandler's a likable guy but when it comes to drama,he doesn't seem to be able to pull it off. Towards the end of the movie,I felt like I was watching a dinner theatre version of
Mr. Saturday Night with Henry Winkler in very bad old age make-up(the younger versions of him and Julie Kavner don't look any better) Click wasn't horrible but it wasn't that great either. It should do well at the box office this weekend(the audience I saw it with loved it)but when it goes to cable,I'm going to just click right past it.

On the bright side,I saw the trailer for Talladega Nights:The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and it looks damn funny. Will Ferrell wasn't my favorite SNL actor at first but he's grown on me,especially after Anchorman. Click the title link to see for yourself. I defy anyone to resist a movie with kids named Walker and Texas Ranger,plus this may be one of best lines you'll hear onscreen this summer:"Help me,Tom Cruise-use your witchcraft to put the fire out!"

Thursday, June 22, 2006

We interrupt this blog for some moral outrage...

On Thursdays,I usually write about TV but I saw a story at Galleycat that got my pistons fired up so much,I felt the need to discuss it here. My two cents on the Rescue Me Tommy/Janet rough sex scene will just have to wait(believe me,I have some stuff to say there)until this particular itch is scratched.

Barry Eisler,a mystery writer who has a series of novels with a reoccuring lead,John Rain,shared an e-mail correspondance he exchanged with an independant bookseller in the Midwest(who is referred to as "G")who had Eisler and two other authors do a book signing event for his store. G sent him a e-mail in which he expressed his displeasure at Eisler for mentioning that he had to leave to do a stock signing at the local Barnes & Noble and for asking directions to the store.

This lead to a few more e-mails back and forth,which I won't summerize(there's a link to the blog entry in the title above)but the nasty tone of G's writing is highly insulting. I'll paste one qoute here to give you an idea:

"Put another way, bookselling is a very small club. Independents talk to one another regularly. We love to make people stars, it’s why we do what we do. The chains are always late to the party, the wholesale outlets even later. Independents may not do the volume, but we definitely pick the people when we want to. Conversely, much like John Rain, when we want to kill an author we can always make it look like natural causes. There’s always a different book to push."

G always tells Barry how the chains undercut the indies by ignoring on sale dates(certain books are only allowed to be sold on a date given by the publisher and bookstores can get into legal trouble if they sell a title before then)and by signing his books for them was an insult to the folks who went to the indie event.

First off,I've experienced the whole on sale date mess at my former job and yes,the chains usually get a slap on the wrist for putting out a book too soon while an indie store would get harsher treatment but that's something for a bookseller to fight over with the publisher,not the author.I sincerely doubt that many writers are aware of this and while you might want to let them in on it,to use it as an accusation towards the author is inappropiate.

Eisler made a slight faux pas in mentioning the B&N signing and asking for directions but it wasn't the kind of thing to threaten the man over. It's the type of situation where you would just take the person aside and say"Dude,these people are kind of sensitive about that...ex-nay on the chain-ay" not " Fortunately, we’re in the Midwest so we can laugh it off. If we were in Japan, I’d have killed you to avenge the family honor. Really, truly."

Also,it's nonsense for a professional book seller to be upset about an author going to more than one store in the area for a signing. Author appearance locations are not a state secret and it's just good business sense for both writer and publisher to have signings at as many bookstores in whatever city they're pushing in. G claims in a follow-up letter that he's not insulted by Eisler going to B&N but then tells him that other independants would've gone after him for mentioning it"We walk the walk. We know who you are." This whole Sopranos undertone is what gets me. Why would you speak to someone in this manner and then say you're just trying to help them?

As Loki says in Dogma"My God,I've heard a rant like this before."-I'm all for independant bookstores but I refuse to see the chains as Satan Incarnate and feel that this holier-than-thou attitude is only hurting,not helping the indie cause. Yes,many books and authors owe a debt of thanks to the handsellers and book buyers of small stores for giving them a leg up but the chains also contribute a little something with their discounts and larger stock. This shouldn't be an either-or deal here. If actors can go from big budget studio films to small time indie flicks and vice versa without too many qualms,why can't the same be done within the book industry?

The rudeness is what gets me-what kind of business person goes out of their way to insult someone who they might want to work with again? Frank McCourt once told a story about how some independant bookpeople were mad at him for doing a B&N credit card ad-they said to him"We made you." He replied"No,my mother and father made me." Good for him! Not everyone is a straight shooter like that but sometimes,it is warranted. Eisler doesn't seem to have any hard feelings about this but I think that maybe some folks should take a look at this post(and the reactions to it)and before they start to climb on their soap box to holler at someone,think for a moment.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Happy Birthday,Dear Chick Lit! Happy B-day to you..

There's an article in USA Today about Chick Lit being officially ten years old as a genre(click the title above to read the whole piece),marking the arrival of Bridget Jones' Diary in bookstores as the starting point. Jennifer Weiner is qouted(at Jennifer's blog,she mentions that she was misqouted about being a single mom but blames that on doing the interview over the cell phone. I've done a cell phone interview myself and yes,that happens)as well as Rian Montgomery of Chick Lit Books(who is nestled amongst my regular links).

Bridget Jones is a good place to start from-I fully remember when the book came out and all the feminists were squawking about how such a novel would drag womankind back to the Stone Age. What bloody nonsense! In some ways,I prefer the British version of chick lit,it seems less uptight and gives in to the funny right away. One of my current favorites in the field is Sophie Kinsella,best known for the Shopoholics series. Even her non Becky Bloomwood books,like Can You Keep A Secret and Undomestic Goddess,are fun reads in a wacky English sitcom kind of way.

I also adore Anna Maxted,whose books in this country suffer from the hideous "pink cover" syndrome that hasn't yet been cured. Maxted's novels deal with rather weighty topics like date rape,anorexia and the death of a parent yet are not Lifetime channel tear jerker fodder. She approaches her characters and subjects with humor,candor and empathy. Anna's new novel,A Tale of Two Sisters,is due out this summer sans the cartoony glibness decorating her earlier works so I hope more folks take a chance and give her a try.

American Chick Lit has it's share of controversary with what I call Working Girl Expose-The Devil Wears Prada and The Nanny Diaries. I didn't read Devil(the movie looks fabulous)but did grab a copy of Nanny Diaries on my trip to England awhile back(it has a very stylish Mary Poppins type of artwork on the cover). It wasn't a bad book but it was clearly a one shot deal,writing wise. I had customers who thought the authors were terrible"betraying" the former employers. Those former employers should've thanked their lucky stars that ND was written as a novel since the behavior mentioned was very believable.

Chick Lit has taken many twists and turns with subgenres such as Mommy Lit and Paranormal Romance sprouting up and fending back the social critics who feel the need
to put someone down in order to hoist themselves up on their own snooty pedestals. I've been in favor of adopting the term Female Friendly(a lost cause,I know) to include all of us gals and now I have one for the fellas:Male Minded. Alliteration is a great marketing tool and one that I will shamelessly exploit for the good of all.

So,to sum up-what's next? Who knows but one thing is certain;as long as there are ladies who love to read for fun,there'll be books out there for them. Perhaps one day,a chick lit title might rise above it's humble beginnings and recieve critical acclaim-hey,if Silence Of The Lambs could sweep the Oscars and Susan Lucci could finally get a damn Daytime Emmy Award after nearly 20 years,anything is possible!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Extra,extra,read all about it! Superman Returns stuff is here!

Even a hermit isolated in a David Blaine like begging-for-attention cube knows that Superman Returns will be hitting the big screen by next week. The product placement has already begun,with bottles of Pepsi and Frito-Lay chips bearing Brandon Routh's blue clad heir to the Christopher Reeve throne image. I personally love the uber advertising given to such movies,in a"aw,isn't that cute" kind of way. I know it's all very commerical(and therefore evil to many folks)but it's hard to resist certain things,like desserts with names like Death By Chocolate.

I was wondering what was currently available for sale so I did some looking and found a Superman collectable site(linked in the title above) that has some Superman Returns goodies for sale already,like Krazy Kryptonite shown here. It seems to be a Silly Putty kind of toy that kids can use when they're pretending to be Lex Luthor"Die,Superjerk,hahaha!"

Or you could play Monopoly the Metropolis way,with game pieces shaped like the famous Superman chest "S",the Daily Planet globe,Clark's glasses and ,of course,
Kryptonite! There seems to be alot of Kyptonite products,which I get but how fun is it to have a radioactive rock that kills the hero of the story? I like villians myself here and Lex Luthor is one of the top bad MFs in comicdom but gee weez,Mr. White!

Also,there are plenty of DVD releases that tie in nicely with the whole Man of Steel theme,like the third volume of Superman:The Animated Series(which I will be getting and reviewing for this blog),a direct to video cartoon called Superman-Brainiac Attacks! and season two of Justice League.

All these sets will include a "Movie Money Pass" that takes ten dollars off your ticket admission to see Superman Returns. Don't throw them away if you buy one of these sets-they do actually work. That's how I got to see Catwoman and The Bourne Supremacy for free,on the same day!

Whether you love it or hate it,movie tie in items are here to stay. I say enjoy them while you can and keep the ones you really like. Some might scoff at Superman stuff but hey,it's not like you own a Lake House t-shirt or a Garfield:Tale of Two Kitties litterbox(why they thought there was a need for a Garfield sequel,I don't think I want to know). Superman is classic Americana and what's classier than a set of Superman Returns temporary tattoos?(I know,I know,I need help!)

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Thirteenth Tale:a lucky find for fall reading

The Thirteenth Tale of this novel's title is a long sort after missing short story from a collection by mysterious and beloved author Vida Winter. Miss Winter has made it a habit to give different versions of her past to inquiring members of the press
over the years but now she has decided to have her true story told before her death.

Enter Margaret Lea,who works with her father in an antiquarian bookstore and has never read any of Vida's books,preferring 19 century literature to modern works. She
has dabbled in writing biographies academically,which catches Miss Winter's eye and causes Vida to ask Margaret to be her official biographer. Margaret is reluctant at first(given Vida's former false versions)but is hooked by the mention of twins,which prompts her to agree to work on the book,provided that she is given time to prove certain facts of Miss Winter's story.

Margaret's interest in twins comes from her childhood discovery of a death certificate for her own twin sister,who died in infancy. Her parents kept this a secret from her,which helped to explain why Margaret's mother is so emotionally distant. As Miss Winter's tale unfolds of her eccentric family,the Angelfields,with it's nods to such gothic classics as Jane Eyre,Rebecca and The Turning of the Screw,the reader is drawn into an intricate web of narrative wonder that keeps you turning page after page after page.

Diane Setterfield is a first time novelist who clearly adores the old school dramatic saga style of writing that would make a lesser author stumble and trip over the neccessary red herrings and atmospheric trappings of such a story. Instead,she makes it all seem as natural as breathing. Not to mention that she gives us a plot twist that should have M.Night Shyamalan chomping at the bit to obtain the film rights to this clever and caring book about lost souls who find a way to either reconnect or make peace with the past.

The Thirteenth Tale is due in stores on September 12(please click the title link for more info)and it would be a crying shame to let this book pass you on by. Pre-order it where ever you can and keep it in mind when your reading group comes back from summer vacation. It's a perfect book to curl up with on those chilly autumn nights that'll bring some added spark to the season.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Talk about your misfit toys,indeed!

Just when the old cliche"now I've seen everything"rises to your lips,something decides to pop around the corner to make that statement null and void. With all the media fuss about Ann Coulter this past week,I did some web searching and found this:
The Official Ann Coulter Talking Doll. You push her button and she says a number of charming statements like"Liberals can't just come out and say they want to take more of our money, kill babies, and discriminate on the basis of race." and
"Liberals hate America, they hate flag-wavers, they hate abortion opponents, they hate all religions except Islam, post 9/11. Even Islamic terrorists don't hate America like Liberals do. They don't have the energy. If they had that much energy, they'd have indoor plumbing by now." Sounds like the perfect addition to your daughter's set of Barbies,now doesn't it?

Politics aside,I think there's a market for wacky celebrity talking dolls. Hey,if they can make movie character figures like my American Psycho Patrick Bateman who repeats R-rated dialogue,why not have talking dolls who actually say the things that the real person they're copying would say? Let's look at a few examples:

The Born Again Anne Rice Doll: She could be clad in the lacy granny outfits with a little cross around her neck and a copy of Christ The Lord in her hand,that when you try to remove it,either defends herself against criticism from Amazon readers"you have strained my Dickensean principles to the max. I'm justifiably proud of being read by intellectual giants and waitresses in trailer parks,in fact, I love it, but who in the world are you?" or qoutes from her own Amazon recommendations like this one for the film version of Interview With The Vampire"This is the author talking. The film is shattering. For me, and of course I lack objectivity, it is The Red Shoes of Horror Films." Plus,you get a CD soundtrack of Lestat:The Musicial with your purchase,free!

The Britney Spears Baby Momma Drama Doll:The Mrs. Federline doll comes with baby that easily fits into her arms while almost falling and no carseat. Push down her head and get the latest lines from her Matt Lauer Dateline interview"You have a life. And if you don't, you have to realize that we're people and that we ... just need privacy and we need our respect. And those are things that you have to have as a human being." while defending her parenting skills "We're country." Visits from the Dept of Child Welfare not included.

The Tom Cruise Wild n' Crazy Guy Doll:This action figure has more than one playset to choose from: The Oprah Bouncing Couch,The Matt Lauer Showdown and Wacky Press Junket. Hear the best of Tom's amazingly weird statements such as“You’re glib”, “You don’t know the history of psychiatry. I do.” and my favorite "I'm gonna eat the placenta. I thought that would be good. Very nutritious. I'm gonna eat the cord and the placenta right there." Accompanying Katie Holmes figure has no release date at this time.

Put in your pre-orders while supplies last and look out for these future items: The Grey's Anatomy Bed Hopping Game,The Brangelina Namibia Baby Playset and The American Idol Dartboard,with your choice of either Randy,Paula or Simon,with special bonus board that includes all three with Ryan Seacrest in the center. Only in America,folks!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Talk about your boob tube here!

On Tuesday Night Book Club,one of the members said(in regards to the chosen book,Good In Bed)"I'm only into the first twenty pages." Well,I couldn't stand this show for the first twenty minutes and switched right over to Rescue Me(it's a good thing RM is replayed at 11,so I was able to catch up on what I missed at the beginning). With all the narration and drama bomb set-ups given to each woman,I was expecting Dr. Phil to walk in at any moment. Not to mention what a vicous nag newlywed Ashley was,hounding her husband about making repairs to get ready for their house warming party that week,while they're still unpacking and moving in,mind you! I hope that guy keeps a videotape of this episode-it'll help him out in divorce court.

Also,it was apparent that even the group leader didn't read Good In Bed-she seemed to think that saying the title over and over was reason enough to get into some sex talk. Good In Bed,btw,is not some sexed-up romp-it's about an overweight woman who finds out that her ex-boyrfriend has used their relationship as fodder for his magazine column,which makes him look like a prince and her look like a maniac depressive. GIB was Jennifer Weiner's first novel and it's worth a real book club's time and talk. As for the Tuesday Night Book Club,if I wanted to sit around and watch whiny,overprivileged women drinking margaritas and complaining about their orgasms, TBS has Sex and the City in permanent rerun mode.

AFI had their latest movie list special on last night(click the title link to check out the picks)of the 100 most "inspirational" films. Another term for that is Oscar bait-the vast majority of them were either major nominees and/or winners. I can't help watching these AFI lists-sure,it's mostly a bunch of clips with celebrities like Jessica Alba,Ron Howard and George Foreman putting in their two cents but it's a good excuse to have some movie memories on primetime. There's usually always a pick that brings up a "You've got to be kidding!" response-Dances With Wolves did it for me this time. DWW is one of those things that strike such a big pop culture cord at the time and when you look back at it,your first response is "what was I thinking?"

Speaking of what were they thinking,many folks expected some kind of trouble when the Tonight show announced that George Carlin and Ann Coulter were to be guests last night. I watched it for that reason and am here to tell you that nothing major happened. Carlin did look rather pained at times while Ann gleefully prattled on how much of a conservative badass she and her friends are. My guess is that George is working on one hell of a routine after that encounter. Coulter pretty much just handed him a sack of comedy gold.

The 4400 had it's new season start off with a bang,with Isobel having to choose between her life and Lily's. Poor Lily-it's probaly just as well,her death frees up more plot time needed for Isobel(who might have a crush on Sean). It also looks like Jordan Collier's returning from the dead and the rebel 4400 folk are just getting started with their underground terrorist tactics. Should be some sweet summer TV.

Finally,if you have HBO,I highly recommend catching Lewis Black's new comedy special called Red,White and Screwed. It's Black at his best and in perfect rant form. I haven't the Dane Cook Tourgasm show yet(I know Cook's the hot ticket in town but I just have not watched him onstage yet) or Lucky Louie but will do so soon. It's pretty easy,with all the HBO offshoot channels available.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Lost and Found:Showing the real side of reality TV

The title of Carolyn Parkuhurst's new book,Lost and Found,is the name of the reality show which brings all the characters together,such as Laura and Cassie,a mother-daughter team looking to reconnect after Cassie's secret pregnancy results in a home birth and giving up the baby for adoption. Other teams include Juliet and Dallas,former child stars looking to use Lost and Found as a way to make a career
comeback,Abby and Justin,Christianized ex-gays who get the nickname of Team Brimstone for all of their preaching,and brothers Carl and Jeff,who wound up on the show due to Jeff's revealing that Carl's three year old son had a major illness that required Carl to donate part of his liver to save him.

Lost and Found is a scavenger hunt in which teams of two must search for objects in different parts of the world and carry their found items with them on the way(one of their items,a parrot,is replaced at each travel point). The teams have to decipher clues and complete various tasks while not losing or damaging any of the special items. The winners get to split a million dollars and get their fifteen minutes.

Secrets are the driving force of the story;everyone wants to keep theirs private while the producers and host Barbara Fox are anxiously awaiting the drama bombs that they hope will go off on camera to keep the show afloat. Attempts are made to draw the players out emotionally,such as a show twist where the original teams are given the chance to choose new partners. Others come rather unexpectedly and have profound results on the future of the couples involved.

You can't,however,demonize the media here-many of the players did disclose their hidden truths to the producers,hoping that it would get them on the show. Not to mention that some of them,like Justin,thought they could make choices that wouldn't backfire on them with a camera crew by their side,at all times.

Parkhurst is clearly a fan of reality shows-she catches the flavor and rhythm of the game(which is very similar to The Amazing Race)along with the breezy yet heartfelt confessional style of the people(who are not only characters in the novel but"characters" on the show itself). She doesn't take the easy way out with her plot points and gets you to root for even the most unlikable folks without falling back on any cliches.

If you're looking for something to do while your favorite programs are on summer hiatus or just want a truly gripping read,seek out a copy of Lost and Found. It's one prize worth claiming that makes everyone a winner.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What,we're not controversal enough for you?!

Entertainment Weekly's newest main feature lists the 25 Most Controversal Films (click the title link to check it out),according to their standards. It's a pretty decent line-up and while I agree with most of it,there's a couple of films that should have been added on to it. Here are my nominees for the Notorious Film Festival:

Dogma(1999)-Kevin Smith's take on religion mixed with the vulgarly funny antics of Jay and Silent Bob sparked protests(Kevin Smith tells a great story on his college tour DVD about how he and a buddy slipped into a group that was picketing the local theater and filmed by the local news)but to change distributors as well.

The plot is smarter than you think-it's about two banished angels who discover a way to get around God's sentence of exile on Earth which would send them back to Heaven. However,to do so would undermine the infallibility of God and thus destory the known universe. Well,why is that a probelm,someone might ask. Well,in addition to that,there's also certain other elements such as God being a woman(played by Alanis Morrisette),Jesus being black(according to Apostle Rufus,played by Chris Rock) and discussions on the nature of faith with several shots taken at the Catholic Church.

It's one of my favorite Kevin Smith films,not only for the ideas presented but for Jason Mewes' hilarious antics(his John Hughes rant is one of the highlights of the movie). The cast is full of great esemble players such as Jason Lee,Ben Affleck ,Matt Damon and creative choices such as Alan Rickman,George Carlin and Salma Hayek. The Special Edition DVD is one to watch-the extras rock,plus the menus put you in just the right mood.

Cruising(1980)-Al Pacino plays a cop who must go undercover to catch a serial killer in the underground S&M gay night club scene. The film was protested by not only those who found the subject matter offensive but by the gay community who didn't appreciate any of the depictions of gays in this setting(sort of a warm-up for the Basic Instinct debate). I was too young to see this movie and it's hard to find. The VHS tape went out of print and there are no plans to have it out on DVD that I know of.

It would be interesting to see it now,especially to point out the pitiful sterotyping and ultra bleakness of the story(it is a William Friedkin movie and he's not known for making cuddly Care Bear stories). If anyone has seen it or remembers some of the scenes,please let me know if it's worth a look.

Fight Club(1999)-Chuck Palahnuik's novel was given the balls to the wall treatment in this David Fincher adaptation starring Ed Norton and pre-Branglina Brad Pitt as the leaders of an underground anarchy group that gets totally out of control. When I saw Fight Club onscreen,I was blown away by the sheer boldness,from the brutal beatings handed out to the insane dialogue("My God. I haven't been fucked like that since grade school." is still a favorite line of mine)and the handy hints on bomb making that I didn't expect to see in a big studio commericial film.

Even today,there are folks who hold their own private fight clubs loosely based on the film. Hopefully,they won't be setting up any Project Mayhem activities as well. This is another film that you really should get the Special Edition of-it has mock PSA videos made by the characters,plus a booklet that goes over the media outcry for and against the film.

United 93 made the EW list and if they do another,most likely Oliver Stone's World Trade Center will be on that one,it's obvious. The best controversal films are not just about showing shocking images,they have thought provoking ideas to mull over after the movie ends. That's the best legacy any artform can leave behind.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Showdown:A sure fire bet for summer fun

Tilly Bagshawe's new novel,Showdown,introduces us to Bobby Cameron,a young horse trainer who has just inherited his father's old school cowboy ranch,Highwood. The land is rich with oil but by refusing to sell out to mining companies has left the ranch high with debt. Bobby's Thoughbred horse coaching is all that's kept Highwood from going under which leads him to take a job in England where he meets up our heroine,Milly Lockwood Groves.

Milly is a totally devoted horsewoman at age 17, who only wants to become a professional jockey but is banned from even riding after a bad accident which spooked her usually supportive father. This please Milly's mother,who traps her in debutante hell,as well as her jealous and lazy brother Jasper who has just hooked up with Rachel Delaney,a lifelong riding rival of Milly's.

Milly instantly falls in love with Bobby who gradually comes to feel the same but refuses to take advantage of such a young girl. He does however start secretly training Milly to ride again and believes she would make a great quarter horse racer. Eventually,the two of them convince Milly's father to let her go back to Highwood with him to get some real training in exchange for Milly's helping out at the ranch. Bobby winds taking on an unscrupulous partner,Todd Cranborn,to not only keep Highwood going but to start up a quarter horse training farm. Todd's true interest is in the oil beneath Highwood's hills and is not above seducing Milly in more ways than one.

Showdown is a much sleeker story than Adored,which displays Bagshawe's steady hold on the reins of the plot. The modern world of horse racing presented here is quite intriguing,with some interesting tie-ins to the recent Barbaro incident at this year's Kentucky Derby. The real hook here is the characters-Bagshawe whips up a compelling supporting cast whose interests give you plenty to root for. One of my favorite people in Showdown is Amy Price,the beleaguered daughter of Milly's racing sponsor who not only becomes Milly's friend but wants to become a published poet.

Showdown is a true horse opera,in the best sense of the word. Full of scheming lovers,juicy insider tidbits and up to the minute pop culture references,this story is a perfect pick for anyone looking for a good glam read this summer. You'll have fun,fun,fun even if your daddy takes your T-bird away! Also,don't forget to grab a copy of Adored if you haven't read it yet-a double dose of Tilly Bagshawe is a great cure for the summertime blues.

Friday, June 09, 2006

One Slice of Triple Layer Cheesecake Vampire Novel coming up!

A few weeks ago,Little Sister and I went to a rummage sale where I spotted this book amongst the piles of paperbacks on sale. My Lord Vampire by Debbie Raliegh(have to admit that I like it that the author calls herself Debbie instead of Deborah,atleast for some of her books. Click the title link if you want to see what else she's written)is a Regency era vampire romance tale which has quite a premise:seems that all vampires dwell in The Veil,an alternate dimension created by Nefri(who's some sort of Queen of the Damned type)who used a magical Medallion to do so. The Medallion has since been split into three parts and passed on to three mortal women who are bound to their Medallion piece and must willingly give it up to someone-it can't just be taken from them.

Three vampires break free of the Veil and decide to go after the Medallion Maidens to claim the gems. This of course leads to three "champion" vamps sent to protect the gals and wind up falling in love with the ladies. As you guessed,My Lord Vampire is only part one of a trilogy. Lucky for me,Booksfree had the other two titles available and are shipping them to me as I write this. Since these are rather short books(less than three hundred pages),I thought it would be best to read them all at once-kind of like drinking rum straight from the bottle or just eating an entire box of Entenmann's donuts. Totally decadent.

Part of the reason I bought MLV was that I knew Little Sister would razz me on it(plus it didn't look half bad at the less than a dollar price). She loves to tease me about the many sexed up hijinks of the Laurell K. Hamilton books(which I can not resist at all,despite the increasingly rampant vampire/werebeing/fairy bedroom escapades)and even got a friend of ours who went to a horror convention have Julie Benz(Darla from Buffy and Angel)sign a picture to me saying"Yes,Vampire babies do exist".

It is a pet peeve of mine,when the vampire legends get distilled with notions of vampires having kids and turning any creature into a vampire(the vampire pomeranian in the last Blade movie was too damn much,not to mention it gave a better performance than Parker Posey or Triple H). I can be flexible-had no trouble with the Connor deal in Angel-but it does rankle me when it looks like the genre is going to get the Batman & Robin treatment(Poison Ivy,anyone?).

Sometimes,your inner geek can't help but pop out and make her voice heard to the high heavens. However,you also have to know when to give in and just go with the flow. You'll just be missing out of some fun otherwise. My sis can keep calling these books Cheesecake Vampire Novels all she wants,I'm still going to enjoy them just the same(plus,the mockery adds some spice to my indulgence).

Thursday, June 08, 2006

TV funhouse time

Rescue Me is only two shows in and already they've dropped a major drama bomb,with Tommy finding out about his brother and Janet(how stupid were they to think that their under-the-table antics wouldn't give them away?)which lead to one hell of a major beatdown. The clips from next week make it look like Garrity's going up on the chopping block for his relationship with Tommy's sister(who took her sweet time about getting interested in why two of her brothers were facing off) and more of the Susan Sarandon storyline.

Lou is the fella who's really a ticking time bomb here-broke,depressed and lonely and trying like hell to hide his probelms from everyone. That speech he made to his animal doctor buddy about the mess his life has become and how death was starting to look like a viable option was so damn sad. I don't know where they're going with this plotline but it's not going to be a pretty place,that I can say for sure.

In other F/X series news,three celebrity guest stars for the fall season of Nip/Tuck have been announced. The offices of McMahon/Troy will be visited by Larry Hagman,Kathleen Turner and Brooke Shields,as a shrink. I guess a certain Mr.Cruise will be boycotting N/T and revving up his troops to pressure the network in case there's an out and out rip on Scientology. It would be foolish of him,since the Nip/Tuck team is just as twisted as the South Park gang in seeking artistic revenge.

Coming to Adult Swim this summer is Pee Wee's Playhouse,the cult kiddie hit created by Paul Reubens(who I always thought got a bum deal from the media). PWPH also has it's share of "Before they were stars" regulars like Laurence Fishburne(Cowboy Curtis!),Phil Hartman and Nastasha Lyonne. This show was one of the better Saturday morning shows and it's great to finally have it back on TV. Please click the title link if you want some more info about it. It's due to start on June 10th at an 11:00 time slot.

Tonight,the MTV Movie Awards will be on-I don't mind the fact that the show is taped days in advance but do they have to announce the winners ahead of time? Granted this isn't like leaking the Oscars but it does reduce some of the flavor of an awards show by letting everybody know who won before it starts. I'll be watching mainly to see some of the comedy bits and musical performances but it would be nice to wonder about who won Best Villian(I can't believe that wuss took the prize)or Best Frightened Performance. Oh well,that's MTV for you!

And finally,I'm hearing some buzz about NBC's fall show,Heroes,which stars Milo Ventimiglia(Jesse from Gilmore Girls)as one of several people who suddenly have superhuman powers such as flying,teleporting and invulnerablity. NBC has a four and and a half minute preview on it's website which looks real damn good. Since I'm a sucker for superhero shows,I will give this one a chance(particularly since it's not up against Smallville). Maybe Stan Lee will guest star,who knows?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bookland in the house!

There's plenty to talk about in the world of books and I don't mean the latest DVC lawsuit;am I the only one who's sick of hearing about someone taking Dan Brown to court yet again? It's starting to become a cliche-"Hey,this guy says Dan Brown copied his footnotes from his Secret Stuff About God book! Guess this must be a day that ends in Y." I know that plagarism's a very bad thing but it's getting to be The Boy Who Cried Cheating at this point. Let's move on and see what else is hitting the shelves.

Zadie Smith's book,On Beauty,has won the Orange Prize For Fiction,beating out the likes of Sarah Waters(Night Watch),Ali Smith(The Accidental)and Nicole Strauss(The History of Love). Congrats to Zadie-On Beauty's been getting alot of praise and while I didn't even finish White Teeth,she is a good writer. Maybe I'll give OB a shot when it's in paperback.

Reviews for Sara Gruen's Water For Elephants are starting to pop up and so far,it's been well recieved. The NYT Sunday Book Review did a nice write-up(I do disagree with the reviewer calling Sara's prose"servicable"but it was a positive piece,regardless). Entertainment Weekly gave WFE a grade of B and said it has"a ringmaster's crowd pleasing pace"(now,that's more like it!). If you haven't added Water For Elephants to your summer reading list yet,what are you waiting for?

Speaking of summer reading,I'm truly enjoying the new Tilly Bagshawe book,Showdown. This time,Tilly covers the horse racing scene with a tale about an American cowboy and an English heiress who share a deep passion for horses and decide to team up to make both their dreams come true. Looks like Tilly has another winner here-her first novel,Adored,is now available in paperback which makes it easier to put the both of them in your beach bag and still have room for your suntan lotion.

Also on my pile of summer books is Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst. Her new novel follows the contestants of a Amazing Race like reality show and how it changes their lives. Since I love AR and have been curious about Parkhurst after hearing so much good feedback about Dogs of Babel,this works out perfectly. I plan to have full reviews of both Showdown and L&F,so watch this space!

I have a couple of other books for my summer reading for the fall,Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund and Mary by Janis Cooke Newman. Abundance is a novel about Marie Antoinette,which should tie in nicely with the new Sophia Coppola biopic coming around that time(never mind the boos from the Cannes crowd,it didn't hurt the DVC movie's box office take one bit). PW's already given it a starred review,which is a good sign of things to come.

Mary is also a novel-this one is about Mary Todd Lincoln who's writing her life story while living in an insane asylum where her son has placed her. Mary recounts her life before and after Lincoln along with details about conditions in the asylum. This book got some buzz at BEA and it sounds rather intriguing-I didn't know that Mrs. Lincoln had been institutionalized,for one thing. That's what I love about reading historical novels,you learn something while being entertained.

Enough of this blogging,time to hit the books! See you at the bookstore real soon,ya hear?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Happy Satan Day!

Yes,folks,the dreaded date of 6/06/06 is upon us(cue scary music)and so far,all we have to show for it is the release of the Omen remake,which is gathering up bad reviews by the dozens. It's not often that we get such an numerically sinister day like this and in order to enjoy it to the fullest,I have put together a list of satanic related entertainment to groove to. Let's begin,shall we?

Music: It sets the proper tone and yes,you could pull out that Motley Crue CD and Shout at the Devil,but why not try something completely different? The group Fantomas,headed by Mike Patton of Faith No More,Mr.Bungle and most recently,Peeping Tom,has a album full of twisted takes on classic film soundtracks called The Director's Cut. TDC pays tributes to films like The Godfather and Night of the Hunter but has many horror movie themes such as Rosemary's Baby,Henry:Portrait of a Serial Killer and The Omen. Fantomas is not an easy listening band by any means(Little Sister,who is a fan of their work,proudly calls some of it"zoo noises")but they do justice to the music and TDC will get any party started off with a bang.

Television:A while ago,Fox had on a daughter of the Devil series called Point Pleasant,starring Elisabeth Harnois as Christina,who washed up in a sleepy New Jersey town(insert obvious NJ joke here)not knowing that she's meant to start up the whole Armageddon deal. It had a good concept but not enough follow thru,which is a shame since the show also had Grant Show as Lucas Boyd,the other mysterious stranger in town who,of course,works for Christina's real daddy and is intent on pushing her down the dark path to Hellspawnville. Show was one of the highlights of PP,he really enjoyed his part and played it to the hilt. Marti Noxon,one of the writer/producer of Buffy,was the big kahuna here and also wrote a few of the episodes.

Alas,the ratings were lethal and Point Pleasant only lasted about 13 episodes on the air. The series is available on DVD,with five shows that were never broadcast. Definately worth a look at,if only to savor the flavor of Grant Show.

Another Fox series that dealt with Satan was Brimstone,which had Peter Horton as deceased cop Ezekiel Stone,released from Hell to track down 113 escaped souls. His bargain with the Devil(played wonderfully evil by a pre-Smallville John Glover)is that if Stone gets them all,he gets a shot at redemptation. Most of the AWOL souls had special powers gained from their stay in Hades which made confronting them rather risky. Brimstone was fun,due to the chemistry between Glover and Horton and the mix at times of dark humor and pathos.

It too was canceled after 13 episodes(more sinister numbers)but it is not out on DVD. Occasionally The Sci-Fi channel puts it on and there's gotta be a download somewhere. Keep your eyes open for it.

Books:One of the best and funniest collaborations in print,Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is a neat take on the whole AntiChrist story. It's about an angel and a demon who decide to interfere with the upbringing of the son of Satan only the kid they're watching is not the one. The real bad seed was misplaced and has no clue that he's supposed to do anything but be a regular middle class English boy. Eventually,The Four Horsemen arrive as bikers,ready to rock and roll with the Apocalypse and wackiness ensues. A must read any time of the year.

This book may be hard to find but you'll be glad you did-The M.D. by Thomas Disch has been highly praised by the likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. It's the story of Billy,who is visited by the god Mercury at age six and given a caduceus that lets Billy "cure" people in pretty nasty ways,such as having his grandmother's teeth all fall out and making his aunt nauseous at the very taste of alcohol. Things get even more dicey when Billy grows up and becomes a doctor with deadly abilities to remake the world. Disch may not be a household name but he deserves to be.

Movies:Sure,there are plenty to choose from at the video store relating to this subject but here's a couple of suggestions that might make your pick easier:

The Devil's Advocate,starring Keanu Reeves as Kevin,a young John Grisham type of lawyer who gets recruited into Al Pacino's Hell On Earth big league law firm. Charlize Theron plays Kevin's wife who winds up losing her mind due to gruesome visions of the devil's minions amongst their new friends and surroundings. Pacino gives one of his better over-the-top performances here(Reeves actually has to tell him to turn it down a notch at one point!)and the only drawback to the film is the removal of background artwork displayed in Pacino's office, which is part of the big F/X climax,due to the artist threatening to sue the studio,claiming he was "mislead" about the film's contents(that didn't stop him from cashing the check they gave him tho). A juicy little horror flick with plenty of thrills and chills.

Little Nicky is your usual Adam Sandler goofy movie but there are some hits along with the misses,jokewise. I particularly love Rhys Ifans as the more clever and cruelest of Satan's boys,who enjoys schnapps with his pizza and cameos from Quentin Tarantino and Ozzy Osbourne. Also,Harvey Keitel as Poppa Satan and Rodney Dangerfield as Grandpa Lucifer are pretty damn funny(not to mention what gets done to Hitler as a daily punishment).

It's not a great film by any means(too many damn product placement bits for Popeye's chicken shoved in there)but it has a good share of laughs and how can you resist the sons of the Devil battling for the fate of the world with a pillow fight? Plus,you get a pre-Medium Patricia Arquette as Nicky's love interest and a heavenly bit with Reese Witherspoon. Tempting,no?

Well,whatever you do today,be of good cheer and remember to pack lightly when you're traveling down the Highway to Hell.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Expected One:A Welcome Guest At The Summer Reading Table

Kathleen McGowan's The Expected One may seem like the Da Vinci Code's little sister but do not be mislead;this story has it's own unique twists and turns. Maureen Paschal,a journalist and author of a book about the truth behind the legends of many historical"notorious" women,finds herself involved with a secret society that reveres Mary Magdalene and believes that Maureen is one of the decedents of Mary's children,"The Expected One"who will lead them to long lost journals that tell the true tale about Jesus and Mary.

Maureen has plenty of good reason to investigate this notion,she's had visions of Mary since childhood that have increased after finding a mysterious nine pointed ring during her book research in Israel. On the advice of her documentary film making friend,Tammy Wisdom and with her cousin and childhood confidante,Father Peter Healy,she sets off to France to met with Beringer Sinclair,a wealthy patron who has had a lifelong interest in bringing the truth about Mary Magdalene to life.

There are,of course,villians in this book and while it is hinted that the Catholic Church is not open to updating Mary's role,the real threat comes from a group known as the Order of the Righteous,who see John The Baptist as the real Messiah and find all women to be chattel. Their current leader counts Oliver Cromwell as one of his forebearers and is more than willing to kill those who oppose the Order.

There is plenty of art history and discussion about the Cathars but it doesn't bog the plot down at all,rather it adds to swift pacing of the book. Whether you believe the initial basis of the novel to be true or not,McGowan gives you a great read that's packed with strong characterization and suspense filled moments. This is to be the first of a trilogy(McGowan originally self-published the books known as the Magdalene Line)and I for one am eager to get my hands on part two!

The Expected One is a thrilling,thought provoking novel that entertains as well as educates. It will be available by late July(click the title link for more info)so be sure to get your pre-orders in before rushing off to your summer getaway. This is one unexpected visitor that you'll be glad to have stop by and sit a spell with you on the beach or quiet spot to retreat from the heat.

Friday, June 02, 2006

I sense a theme coming on.....

I just watched a trailer for an upcoming fall flick called Holiday starring Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz. They play two single women(one in England,the other in America)who have just broken up with bad boyfriends and decide to swap homes with each other in order to get away from the extra emotional baggage,with Christmas being right around the corner. They wind up falling in love with men they meet during the switch,Jude Law and Jack Black. This looks like your typical high gloss chick flick and yet,my spider sense was tingling. Why,you ask?

The answer is: Swapping Lives by Jane Green. I read the UK edition(the US release date is June 13)and the plot lines are quite similar;two women(one single,the other married with children)from different countries(the US and England)decide to swap homes and lifestyles for a magazine article and to check out the greener grass on the other side. Some romantic hijinks ensue. Maybe I'm jumping the gun here but it looks like something's in the air themewise and this is only the beginning.

Granted,it's not the most original premise but it's a good one and England may be a rather safe choice of travel destination these days but it's just different enough to provide a taste of culture clash. Jane Green's books have a good following and are well written to boot so I have no doubts as to how well Swapping Lives will do and it sets the stage for this exchange program theme to blossom. The movie Holiday is a Nancy Meyers project-yep,the same lady who made What Women Want,Baby Boom and Something's Gotta Give. You know this is in the hands of someone who can expertly whip up romantic comedy catnip that'll attract female film goers from near and far,especially with Jude Law as one of the male leads.

Another thing to consider is why this theme and why now? I'm not a big romance reader but even if it's mixed into chick lit and the paranormal genre,I don't shy away from it,not completely and I suspect alot of other gals feel the same way. We may not dive into the latest Nora Roberts or Eloisa James but we do like to live vicariously thru others the same way our bolder sisters do who proudly proclaim their joy at finding a good love story that doesn't have a Too Stupid To Live heroine or hero. This little life switch theme might seem more stylish to some but it translates well to any reader,regardless of locale. I know Jane Green's version does it well and we'll have to see if Holiday is actually any good later on. For now, I'll just keep my eyes open and my ears to the ground to see if my hunch is right on or out to lunch,having a tuna sandwich.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Settling into summer TV

Last night I caught Round one of Gameshow Marathon,with hostess Ricki Lake presiding over a celebrity charity version of The Price Is Right(I spotted Adam Carolla in the audience,looking impatient as he wasn't called to "come on down!"). It was mostly ladies' night as the only ones to make to the Showcase Showdown were Kathy Najimy and Brande Roderick(Brande was alarmingly braindead at times-I thought Ricki was going to smack her as she kept asking dippy things about her showcase"Is it a boat trip? Do I get a boat and a trip?" Just shut up and bid,woman!). Tonight's entry is Let's Make a Deal,so seeing the likes of Lance Bass in a banana suit might be fun. Also, I like Paige Davis,the Trading Spaces gal-she plays a mean game of Plinko!

However,there is a two hour marathon of "The Office" over on NBC,with the Dunder Mifflin fire episode included. This is a hard choice...goofy celebs on game show or "Ryan started the fire!"? It's a hard call but I may have to go with the Office;one of the other episodes is the Tim Meadow's guest spot as a prospective client who Michael and Jan take to Chili's and I'd rather see Tim hanging with Steve Carell than with Ricki Lake in a costume trying to decide if he wants what's behind Curtain number Two or Three.

Rescue Me had it's season opener and boy,oh,boy! It's going to be a race to see what freaks out Tommy the most-Garrity dating his sister or soon-to-be ex,Janet hooking up with his brother. Susan Sarandon is due to be on the show as sort of a firehouse version of her Bull Durham character but I hope she doesn't overwhelm the show. I'm also wondering what Tommy's main hallucination fix is going to be this go-around(looks like it's the hit and run guy who killed his son and was then executed by Tommy's father's friend). Anyway,this season has already started off with a bang,especially with the resurrection of the seemingly dead little girl which has me eager for the next episode.

Coming soon is Tuesday Night Book Club,a Desparate Real Housewives of Orange County type of show that follows the antics of a ladies' reading group. I'm more than willing to give this one a shot but if there's no real time given to any book talk,I am so out of there. I have heard that Jennifer Weiner's Good In Bed will be one of the reading choices(GIB was her first novel and it's the one that hooked me into adding Weiner to my list of favorite female friendly authors) so I have some hope there. This is supposed to be a reality show and if it wants to survive,it better be really good on some level.

And finally,we must not forget the two big award shows due this June: the Tonys and The MTV Movie Awards. I haven't been interested in the Tonys for awhile now(too much focus on the musicals and not much for the dramas)but if there's a number from Lestat,I might tune in. It did get a couple of noms,after all! As for the MTV Awards,you always know you're in for some trashy fun-with a mix of folks such as Christina Aguilera,Dane Cook and Gnarls Barkley,it should be a evening with atleast one wacky memorable moment to replay on YouTube.