Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tyra Banks,Norbit and other weighty media issues

I wasn't going to do this but between the upcoming release of Norbit and this Tyra Banks swimsuit drama,I had to rant a little about how fat women are depicted in the media. Tyra Banks will be going on her daily talk show tomorrow,to discuss some magazine photos of her that have caused people to say she's overweight. Here's a clip of what's to come:

First off,in what alternate universe is Tyra Banks fat? She may not be as thin as she was a decade ago but she certainly doesn't have to shop at Lane Bryant! Also,she seems to be in pretty good physical shape there. The only major flaw with Tyra is that she's rather self involved and occasionally wacky but that's what makes her entertaining and she wouldn't be the same Tyra without those quirks. Would you really want,for example, Simon Cowell to be a nice guy who never upsets the AI contestants? Hell to the no!

Anyway,back to the main topic-this Tyra business is coming out just as the ads for Eddie Murphy's new comedy Norbit are increasing on TV. Norbit is a movie about a timid guy who winds up marrying a mean,abusive woman but really is in love with a former childhood sweetheart. Not a bad idea for a comedy but the mean gal in question(named "Rasputia")is played by Eddie Murphy in drag and a fat suit,with most of the jokes being about her body size. Take a gander at this promo piece and you'll see what I mean:

And this is one of the Norbit trailers:

Now,maybe I'm being oversensitive and projecting a bit but come on! Why do we still have to make fat women the visual punchline? And why did Eddie Murphy have to don another fat suit to play this part? He's done this routine in the Nutty Professor films already,which he recieved plenty of props for. You couldn't hire an actress to play Rasputia? Maybe some of them looked at the script and said no or Eddie just likes to get in more screen time,I don't know.

Also sick of this whole fat suit thing;I didn't like it in Shallow Hal(which had plenty of obnoxious fat girl stuff,despite the happy ending)and hate it when folks put one on to do "special reports" on how fat people are treated differently in society(that means you,too,Tyra!). You want to know what it's like,folks? Just put a hidden camera on a plus size person going out in public with a skinny person to come in afterwards to get the same treatment as the larger lady and you'll see the difference.

What I'm really trying to say is that I would like to see some realistic depictions of fat people in film and TV,not just as loud,obnoxious folks or the objects of pity. There are some,such as Sookie on Gilmore Girls(she's a tad wacky but no more so than anyone else in the cast)played by Melissa McCarthy and Monique does her bit on TV and in films but I just wish there was more. Perhaps that way,I wouldn't feel so tense when the fat chick jokes start flying.

Yes,fat men get picked on but not to the extent that the ladies are. Riddle me this;have you ever seen an American made film where a man fell in love with an overweight woman where her body size wasn't an issue or mentioned atleast once? If there is one,please tell me. Men of all shapes and sizes seem to wind up with a lady love onscreen while it's slim pickings for the gals.

It's no secret that I am a plus size person(if you think that picture of the Teena Marie album cover is really me,I have some swamp land in Florida to sell you.)and this may be my own personal agenda but I don't think I'm entirely alone on this. Not to mention that big women spend just as much do-re-mi in the pop culture marketplace as our more slender sisters. Don't count us out,folks! To end this rant on a good note,let's watch this tribute to passion for pleasantly plump princesses everywhere:

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Grammy,Grammy,who's gonna get a Grammy?

Coming up soon are the 49th Annual Grammy Music Awards and while my taste in tunes is pretty standard,I thought it would be fun to check out some of the nominees to gauge the chances of the singer walking away with a trophy or two. Let the music play:

Carrie Underwood/Jesus,Take the Wheel

Carrie was one of my favorite contestants on American Idol and it's nice to see her have such a thriving country music career. This litte ditty has racked up a number of noms,including Song of the Year and Best Female Country Vocal Performance. The song is one of those storytelling tunes and the first half of it sounds like the spoken word version of The Britney Spears Story:

Weird Al Yankovic/Straight Outta Lynwood

Weird Al is still goin strong,with his latest album up for Best Comedy Recording. You have to hand to Weird Al,the man keeps up with the times and is the current reigning master of the parody song. The first single off of SOL is this ode to Chamillionaire's Riding Dirty called "White and Nerdy" which is so spot on that it's scary:

Weird Al's original songs don't get as much attention as the parodies and they should. Take a listen to "Don't Download This Song":

Lamb of God/"Redneck"

You'd think that with a name like Lamb of God,this might be a Christian Rock band or a "inspirational" group but no,no,no! This here's a heavy metal band,up for Best Metal Performance. While their name might be a tad misleading,it's certainly better than some of the band names in this catagory like Stone Sour. Stone Sour? What the hell is that-since when do people taste stones?:

Gnarls Barkley/"Crazy"

One of the biggest debuts of the years was Gnarls Barkley,with this single "Crazy" and their album,St. Elsewhere,which is up for Album of the Year,along with a nom for Record of the Year. I first heard this song being performed on the MTV Movie Awards and fell head over heels in love with it. Here is that performance and who would've thought that imperial stormtroopers had a burning desire to play backup guitar?:

Peter Frampton/"Black Hole Sun"

No joke-Peter Frampton did a cover of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun". Sounds as likely as Dolly Parton doing a cover of Metallica's "One" but yes,it's true. It's up for Best Rock Instumental Performance:

Black Eyed Peas/"My Humps"

One of the most annoying,overplayed ringtones of 2006 is competiting with the Pussycat Dolls "Stickwitu" for Best Pop Performance by Duo or Group. Truly a challenge to pick between these two deathknells to feminine dignity. To be honest,I haven't listened to "My Humps' in its entirety before,but now that I have,I wish I hadn't. That won't stop me from sharing the pain with the rest of you:

KT Tunstall/"Black Horse and the Cherry Tree"

I wasn't fond of Katherine McPhee on AI but I do have to thank her for giving this song and artist the push needed to expose her to the wider world. Tunstall is up for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and rightly so,in my opinion. She's up against Pink for Stupid Girls,another song I love,which makes it hard to choose but in a good way. This more than makes up for the likes of "my Humps":

The Grammys will be airing on February 11 and it's just been announced that the show will open with a reunion of The Police. Very nice! That means that this may be an awards show worth watching.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Movie Poster Madness

The new year has barely started,yet we're getting a rather interesting crop of poster art at the multiplexes these days. Let's take a gander at some:

Catch and Release: The new Jennifer Garner flick has a very pleasing look to it that says"yes,I'm a female friendly movie but not your average Lifetime Channel slot filler." In fact,this poster resembles quite a few book covers that I've seen for titles destined to be reading group favorites. Compare and contrast the C&R poster with this Elizabeth Berg paperback:

See what I mean? Smart move,studio art department! A good way to encourage folks who normally avoid "chick flicks" by dressing the movie up in more stylish clothes. Catch and Release has so far not really benefited from the Clinton & Stacy WNTW treatment at the box office but it does look good in the 360 degree mirror.

Black Snake Moan: This movie was recently shown at Sundance(and highly recommended by upcoming author and blog buddy Robin Brande)and I've seen it recently displayed in theaters,along with a huge lobby stand display as well. This is definately a movie poster that demands that you sit up and take notice.

One thing that I do notice,other than the pulp fiction/1970s exploitation vibe of the poster,is the lack of imagery for Justin Timberlake. Yes,his name is on there,with Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci but I've also found solo BSM posters that are strictly Ricci or Jackson. I'm not a Justin Timberlake fan by any stretch of the imagination("Sexyback" turns me off)but you would think that his people would've wanted his boytoy mug plastered on the promo art here.

Grindhouse:Speaking of 1970's pulp fiction films,the designs for the upcoming Tarantino/Rodriguez double feature are truly awe inspiring. With the wonderfully gaudy and gruesome images and beatdown fading given to these posters should provide plenty of bang for the buck,in terms of getting folks even more psyched to see this kickass film on opening day.

Also,it's nice to see poster art that's not all slick and computer generated looking. This reminds me of some of the posters I saw as a kid;my folks took me to see Barberella and there were stills of scenes from the movie displayed with the poster(the one I recall the best had Jane Fonda getting her legs chomped on by killer dolls). I don't know if they do that for Grindhouse but they should.

Hostel II: You just have to admire the subtley here,folks. Yep,can't imagine what kind of a movie we'd be seeing here...especially if we could figure out what the bloody hell we're looking at!!! Or if it's human or animal(or both!)...*shudder*

Hey,I've sat thru my share of scare flicks but damn! Eli Roth deserves alot of credit here,for knowing how to target his audience in a really startling and original way. Most horror fans get jaded to grisly visuals after a certain point but this little number should jolt even the most die hard gore hound walking thru the theater lobby.

The Number 23: And speaking of numbers(yes,another ham handed segue. I've got a million of them.),here is Jim Carrey in a more updated version of his Charlie Manson character from In Living Color. This does look like it might be a decent movie,with one of the best darkly twisted Jim Carrey performances since Cable Guy(a vastly under rated dark comedy)but I do have to admit that this extreme close-up will bring to mind some of Carrey's more humorous roles.

Bridge to Terabithia: Okay,here's a more pleasant poster to look at..or is it? This children's book adaptation is due in theaters on Friday and all the ads I've seen for it make this story seem like a sweet fantasy about the power of imagination creating a magical world for two friends. That's pretty accurate but(spoiler alert),in the book,one of these kids winds up meeting their maker and dealing with such a loss is the real point of the story. That doesn't seem to be focused on here and many of the people who have read the book(I didn't) will be disappointed if that's not the case here.

It's also not fair to those who don't know the story and think"Oh,this looks like one of those Narnia movies,my kid will have a nice time!" and then having to get into a big discussion about death afterwards. Kind of sneaky advertising there,if you ask me. Way to go,Walden Media!

Until next time,folks-put plenty of butter on your popcorn and save me an aisle seat!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Find out why This Film Is Not Yet Rated

One of the most talked about film documentaries of 2006 was hardly seen in theaters due not only to it's NC-17 rating but,in my opinion,to it's subject matter that hit very close to home for Hollywood. This Film Is Not Yet Rated takes a good long look at the MPAA's rating system and the people behind it whose interest in monopolizing
approval of film content is more about money and power plays rather than the usual"we must protect the children" company line spooned out sanctimously by the likes of Jack Valenti.

Director Kirby Dick hired a private detective to find out the names of the folks who actually rate the films;their identities are given more guardian ship than a person in the FBI Witness Protection Program. The reason cited for that is to keep the raters free from "pressure" by outside forces,yet many of them deal directly with studio personnal all the time. Can you say contradiction? I knew that you could!

Kirby also speaks with many film makers frustrated by the MPAA's vague guidelines and biased ideas of what content needs to be cut to make a movie an R or a PG-13,such as Kevin Smith,John Waters,Trey Parker,Kimberly Pierce and Mary Harron. While a big studio release may get tons of notes on what needs to be removed to get a rating that will allow the movie to be shown in the major film chains,an indie flick usually gets some pretty noncommittal feedback on what needs to go. Most of the editing asked for to get a rating that will let a movie get wide release and some decent advertisng money is all about sex,baby. Especially if it's gay sex. Violence,in most respects,is A-ok but too much body hair in the wrong places,eeek!

Here's a good description of what the MPAA ratings truly mean:

The movie goes into some of the history of film ratings,starting with the Hays office and gets into the major league lobbying done in Washington by the film industry to make sure that they get paid for their product,come hell or highwater. The portrait painted of former MPAA president and spokesman Jack Valenti is as flattering as the famous one of Dorian Gray:

Kirby submitted his movie to be rated by the MPAA and his dealings with them are darkly humorous,particularly when he goes to the appeals board to challenge the NC-17 given. The shroud of secrecy insisted upon here is amazingly draconian-the way that these people carry on,you'd think they were deciding the fate of the free world instead of should this movie be R rated or not:

This Film Is Not Yet Rated is a thought provoking take on film censorship and the manipulation of power given to a group whose motives are suspect,to say the least. I rented the DVD from Netflix(one of the movie's distributors,along with IFC)and if you click the title link above,it'll take you to the official website where you can purchase TFINYR(it's also available at Target). Do watch the deleted scenes as well,the insights given are just as juicy and clever as what made it into the full length feature. Too bad this movie isn't up for Best Documentary at the Oscars this year;guess some people don't want to truly question their section of the status quo.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Heroes returns,The Dresden Files open and Top Chef sets up their Season Finale

Part One of the Top Chef season 2 finale took the four finalists to Hawaii,where they were greeted by Miss Hawaii upon their arrival and flown by helicopter to a special lunch with the judges and guest judge Alan Wong. The meal consisted of several traditional Hawaiian foods which lead to the big Elimination Challenge. They were asked to cook two of the dishes they had at the luncheon for Chef Wong's birthday luau,using the native flavors but adding their own personal spin to it.

This showdown took place two months after the Marcel shaving incident so Elia and Ilan had time to grow back some hair. That time apart,however,didn't make them stop hating on Marcel. Tensions were not as bad as before but still there,simmering just slightly under the surface. Contestants were allowed to bring their own favorite recipe supplies so Marcel finally got a chance to use his cooking chemistry kit.

Marcel's pineapple poi was a big hit,thanks to the use of Xanthan gum(a high tech version of cornstarch,from what I gather). Elia mixed some Mediterranean flavors in her food,which made her dishs seem less Hawaiian. Ilan succeeded with his Spanish take on the food but the saffron in his dessert was considered to be overpowering. Sam was sort of middle of the road and as Judge Tom pointed,the food wasn't really cooked at all,just served up raw.

When it came time for the two finalists to be announced by the judges,Elia and Ilan brought a batch of bad sportsmanship to the table by trying to sandbag Marcel with lame accusations of cheating. When pressed to come up with an example,Elia mentioned that Marcel had moved a pot that she was going to use off of an unlit burner. Ooo,how evilll! Did that affect her dish? No,as she said so herself. Here's that bit in the kitchen,along with a crack made at Ilan,who burned something midway thru:

Moving a pot is not cheating,Elia. Use it or lose it,babe. Judge Tom wound up telling her that he was sick of this mess and didn't care what happened in the kitchen,only the food. Ilan had been griping about Marcel with Elia and Sam before being called back to the Judges' Table and pushed Elia into saying something about Marcel. Sam was the one who suggested a cheating charge but when it came time,he tried to keep out of it(just as he did before with the shaving party). Ilan tried to rope him in but Sam advised him to wait and see what the outcome was going to be.

The results were that Sam and Elia were out,which means Marcel and Ilan will be going head to head next week to take the Top Chef crown. That menu should read"Ladies and gentlemen,for your dining pleasure tonight,our chefs will be serving up Roasted Bone ala Bloodsport with a side of Snide Remark soup." I was so glad to see Elia go-her two faced behavior towards Marcel really bothered me-and was surprised by Sam's dismissal. He wasn't one of my favorites and a tad sneaky at times but still a decent chef. Sam did win the Fan Favorite contest,so he gets a cool ten grand for his trouble there.

When this season started,I never expected to be rooting for Marcel to win. Ilan's fixation on Marcel over the course of the show is disturbing,to say the least. Marcel is annoying and can make plenty of social errors but he didn't go out of his way to stomp on someone else's dish in front of guests or mock someone by calling them a virgin or encourage other people to gang up on one person. Guess who did all of those things? If you said Ilan,you win the kewpie doll! Also heard that Marcel was recently assaulted in Las Vegas;a girl came up to him in a nightclub and asked him if he was Marcel from Top Chef. He said yes and got clocked in the head with a bottle that required him to need 30 stitches! That does it,Go Marcel,Go!

Heroes is back and quite a few interesting developments,with Hiro finding his sword(well,almost)and meeting up with Nathan"Flying Man" again,Peter waking up from his mini coma and running into Mr. Invisible and Claire struggling to keep her dad in the dark about her non-erased memory. Is it surprising that Niki/Jessica is having trouble staying well-adjusted in the slammer? Ali Larter has really developed some nice acting chops with this character and I'm looking forward to seeing a truly kickass prison break on TV,especially after Jessica's sinister little bon mot at the end of the show:

The SciFi channel debuted The Dresden Files last Sunday,which stars Paul Blackthorne as Harry Dresden,a wizard detective who aids the police with his mystical knowhow and assistence from ghostly mentor Bob. The show is based on Jim Butcher's series of books and while I haven't read them,this show should increase Butcher's fanbase nicely. The tone is pretty low key but it has alot of promise.

You can watch the first episode online at the SciFi channel website but here's a little YouTube taste of it. Seeing a group of gothed-out bird people make sure that their young charge has enough whipped cream on his ice cream sundae stuck me as darn funny,plus this nifty gizmo known as a "doombox"-very nice!:

Random Notes:

American Idol: New York proved to be a mass breeding ground for the wacky,as folks like Ian Bernardo(who also auditioned for "So You Think You Can Dance")demonstrated so well. Carole Bayer Sager was the guest judge this time out and she seemed to hold up under the madness. Paula's outfit in this clip would've looked complete if she had worn a cross around her neck,so all-girl's school!

Ian looked modest compared to Isadora,whose psychic powers didn't alert her to what the judges would say about her performance:

Veronica Mars: New episodes of VM started this week,with a decent mystery about a missing lab monkey and a look into the Dean's alledged suicide. It looks like Mac is getting a boyfriend(yes!)and that the LoVe train is back on track. Poor Phiz;Veronica should really give that guy a chance. He seems cool and doesn't hang out with jerks who think that taking Polaroids of their privates and tossing them out of the window for folks to find in the street funny(that Dick Casablancas,what a reliable tool!).

Ugly Betty:Glad to see Daniel back at Mode and is it just me or is he starting to crush a little on Betty? Sure,he's encouraging her to hook up with Henry(along with the rest of us)but that moment on the bridge between the two of them had some sparkage. Rebecca Romijin made her uberdramatic entrance as the newly remade Alexis Meade and she'll fit right in with her smirking evil self:

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

On The Shelf with John Marks

John Marks' new novel,Fangland,is not his first;The Wall,which came out in 1998,was a New York Times Notable and his second,War Torn,was named by Publishers Weekly as one of the best of 2003. A good portion of his life has been in journalism,starting at the Plano Star Courier and most recently,ending his stint as one of Morley Safer's producer on 60 Minutes.

All his newsmedia experience comes into play to help shape the horror of Fangland,a new post modern take on the Dracula legend. As Evangeline Harker seeks out the mysterious Ion Torgu as the subject of an interview with her news show,The Hour,in a remote part of Romania,more than hackles are raised. To get more of a grip on the various themes in Fangland,I sent a few questions to John Marks who is much more forthcoming than his literary menance:

1) Why did you decide to use Dracula as a template for this novel?

Dracula is one of those books that imprinted itself so deeply in my
mind that it exists as a kind of template for all my creative thought, and maybe more than that, it has become one of those lenses through which I see life in general. This may be a horrible confession, and I''ve never tried to tease out all of its implications, but I've read the book so many times and seen so many different versions of it on TV and at the movies, and many of them at an impressionable age, that Stoker's book is hard to separate from my overall identity. Yikes! But am I wrong in also thinking that the same holds true for millions of us? It would be hard to find a more influential novel in the Twentieth Century. I've read, for instance, that no character from a novel has been adapted more times to the movies than the Count.

So the long answer is that Dracula was lurking back there in my conscious and subconscious mind all along, waiting for the right opportunity, and the moment arrived when I began to think about the place"60 Minutes," where I worked, and its relation to the horrors of the Twentieth Century. Longbefore I began to write, at work, on the job, I began to see the ways that our work as world-hopping TV producers might take us into places not so different than the Transylvania visited by Jonathan Harker in the original,and I became intrigued by the notion that one of us might bring something back into our well-secluded, well-protected halls that could not easily be expunged, a piece of the terrible violence of the world that one can normally keep at a distance in the editing room. And, in some sense, my feeling about the Dracula story and my workplace extended to my sense of the country at that moment-the way that the US had gone out in the world,adventuring in terrifying and dangerous places on the earth and in its mind,in the process bringing that terror back home.

2) Do you consider Fangland to be a horror novel or a sociopolitical fantasy?

Truly, it's both. For it to work, it has to be. That was always the challenge of the book. Could I take on the form of the horror form, do it justice, and at the same time, with the help of the gut-level,visceral energy you get with horror, reach into the other stuff, the sociopolitical fantasy, as you call it?

To me, the best novel about print journalism still has to be Evelyn Waugh's Scoop. It works beautifully as a satire about the mentality of the writer, and the Westerner, in the field, playing all the angles, a tool of chance and opportunity. But I've never read a really good novel about the life of the mind of the TV producer--the known facts about television journalism already suggest self-satire to such anextent that sending it up feels redundant. I had to find a way to get past the surface ridiculousness, and horror gave me my shot.

3)Is Ion Torgu based on anyone you've encountered in your professional life as a 60 Minutes producer?

At one level, Torgu is based on everyone I ever met as a "60 Minutes"
producer. He represents every danger and possibility that presents
itself inthe act of wooing and winning a subject to go on camera. But he's also a stand-in for places as much as personalities. For instance, I did a story on the Bosnian city of Mostar for 60, and while we were there, the city had a restless, unhappy feel. More than once, local people told us that theviolence that had destroyed the city in 1993 could break out again at any moment. And when you took a glance around the landscape, buildings pock-marked everywhere with bullet holes, sidewalks laced with shrapnel marks, and you saw the cafes full of unemployed young men, drinking espresso and waiting interminably for something, anything to happen, you knew it was true. My associate producer and I were on edge for much of the time we were there, but when we left, unlike Evangeline, we could leave behind our fear.

No way that Mostar could follow us back to home base. In that respect, fear becomes one of the drugs of the profession. You can go into hairy places and situations where bad things have happened and are still happening, get a jolt of that terror, put it in a bottle and take it back to the darkness and safety of the editing bays. You can experience a certain kind of fear, then control it. So that's a huge piece of the reality of Torgu.

4) Xenophobia was a key fear factor in the original Dracula;do you think that this theme is making a strong cultural comeback in the arts?

I do, across the board in the arts, whether you look at the overtly
political stuff in the theater, the plays that refer directly or
indirectly to Guantanamo and its ramifications, or at something as obvious as the TV series "24." And then I see it even more clearly in horror in the movies.

After seeing the remake of George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead," a friend of mine pointed out that the opening credit sequence intercuts shots of the world falling apart in a zombie attack with shots of Muslims bowing at prayer and other brief images that suggest an entire alien universe set to invade. My favorite horror film of the last year, one of my favorite films period of 2006, was "The Descent," about a group of women who spelunk into a hole in the hills and come across a tribe of humanoid, albino creatures who are none too friendly. They also happen to look like the starved poor in any region of the earth, and the notion of those creatures living right beneath us, ready to engulf us if we dip at all beneath the surface, has a powerful resonance right now. But maybe one reason for Dracula's long success is the enduring gulf that lies between much of the world and the so-called West.

Our xenophobia is a reflection of a deep structure in our lives-we live off and around and through a world submerged in suffering and want, and lots of us don't have to experience that reality firsthand. But it swims in our dreams nevertheless.

5) Was becoming a novelist always one of your goals?

Yes, since I was in about third grade. I had one of those wonderful teachers, Mrs. Brooks, who saw a gift and encouraged it. From that time on,strange as it may seem, I never wanted to be anything else. My first books,sheets of paper stapled together and covered in crayon pictures and words,had to do with the Civil War, which was my obsession around the time that I started to write.

6) Who are some of your favorite writers?

When I was younger, I read and loved Stephen King and J.R.R.Tolkien,gulped them down. Later on, I had the same reaction to Joseph Conrad,(particularly his amazing novel Nostromo), Vladimir Nabokov, ( especially Lolita, , Pale Fire and Pnin) and Thomas Mann. A Brazilian writer named Clarice Lispector also made a big impact. Finally, I'm a German major,soI've been hugely influenced by a few German language writers, Thomas Bernhard and his incredible novel Extinction, most anything by W.G.Sebald, Joseph Roth, whose novel The Radetzky March has a slight echo in Fangland,and lots and lots of Kafka and Nitezsche, who are fantastic stylists in the German language.

7) Given your choice,would Fangland be better adapted as a feature film or a TV miniseries?

In the new era of serial television, I could easily see it as a TV series,done HBO style with no horrific stone unturned. Lots of characters argue as well for the long form. On the other hand, the book has a dream-like qualitythat might translate very well into a shorter, more concise form, a sort of ferocious dance between Evangeline and Torgu, shorn of the more sprawling plot lines. I could even see it as a ballet. That would be amazing, but it seems unlikely.

Much thanks to John Marks,for giving me his time here and for his insights as well. If you would like to know more about Fangland,please click the title link above to check out the book's official website. This is one novel that gives your mental teeth plenty to sink into.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Oscar,Oscar! The nominations are here!

Yes,true believers,I was up early this morn to hear firsthand the nominations for this year's Academy Awards. Salma Hayek did the honors with the President of the Academy and it was lovely to see her get excited that her good buddy Penelope Cruz was a Best Actress contender. Quite a few surprises and some "See,I told you!" moments here,so let's look at the good,the bad and the "what were they thinking?"


Forest Whitaker getting a nod for Last King of Scotland was expected as well as Leo DiCaprio being a nominee but not for Blood Diamond! Hollywood really seems to like that movie(it looked like a big social cause soapbox flick to me),since Dijmon Hounsou got a Best Supporting nom for it as well. Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep will battle it out for Best Actress,with Mirren being the arthouse favorite. Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy are both rocking the Best Supporting sections for Dreamgirls but not Beyonce or Jamie Fox. Dreamgirls does have 8 nominations,three of which are for Best Song. I was hoping that"Love You,I Do" would be showcased along with "Listen" and someone must have heard me because both of them are.

Martin Scorsese is up as director for The Departed and maybe the movie gods will smile down upon him for a win. The list of nominess for Best Animated Film are the same as the list for the Golden Globes:Happy Feet,Cars and Monster House.

A Few Stunners:

While Dreamgirls has the most nominations,it is not up for Best Picture or Director! It didn't even get Best Adapted Screenplay and that seemed like a no brainer to me. Jack Nicholson also looked like a shoo-in for Best Supporting for The Departed but Marky Mark Wahlberg is in his place instead.

Pan's Labyrinth,the beautiful fable of a film by Guillermo Del Toro,not only recieved a Best Foreign Film nom but also a few others: Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction,Best Score,Best Cinematography and Best Makeup. I saw PL over the weekend and it deserves every single one of these honors,plus more. It's a moving tribute to finding hope in the midst of horror. The visual styling of this film is like a cross between Jim Henson's Dark Crystal and a Chronicles of Narnia book:

United 93 managed to get a Best Director nod for Paul Greenglass and Apopcalypto scared up some Sound noms along with a Best Make-up. Ryan Gosling's much praised performance in Half Nelson was a bit of a long shot for Best Actor but he made it.


Alan Arkin is a Best Supporting Actor nominee and the only adult star of the film to get Oscar credit(Abigail Breslin is up for Best Supporting Actress). Superman Returns has a Best Visual Effects nom,which means we'll be seeing that shot of Brandon Routh saving the airplane with Lois trapped onboard yet again.


It would've been nice if Emily Blunt had gotten recognization for her work in The Devil Wears Prada and if the Snakes on a Plane theme were to be sung at the Kodak Theater. Alas,it was not meant to be! It certainly would've been sweet if Sacha Baron Cohen had gotten a Best Actor nom for Borat(he'll have to make do with Best Adapted Screenplay). Bill Condon deserved to be mentioned for Dreamgirls and why DG is not a Best Picture contender,I can't figure it out for the life of me. Guess folks either love Babel more or decided that Little Miss Sunshine was the token commerical choice this year.


Little Miss Sunshine has quite a few noms-in addition to acting and Best Picture,it is also up for Original Screenplay. LMS is the Little Engine Who Could Steal The Show here,which would be very nice.

The Departed,The Queen and Babel have alot going for them too but I suspect that those films will get a few bones tossed to them but not any big sweeps.


The other songs nominated that were not in Dreamgirls are the Randy Newman song"Our Town" from Cars and Melissa Etheridge's musical contribution to An Inconvenient Truth called "I Need To Wake Up". So do I,because while I think Melissa's a great singer and songwriter,I can't believe a song from a tree hugging documentary got nominated!

Before you throw any non-threatening to the environment debris at me,hear me out: yes,global warming is a viable theory and I have no probelm with it being discussed in schools or anywhere else but I am not a big "save the trees" person. AIT will probaly get Best Documentary and that's fine with me. Best Song,however,is a whole other ball of wax there. If not SOAP,then the Borat movie's Kazakhstan anthem should've been up there. Take a listen to both tunes and you tell me which one would be more of a toe tapper on Oscar night:

If you want to see the rest of the nominations,please click the title link above. This year,Ellen DeGeneres will be our hostess for the Awards on February 25th. Good luck to her and all of the nominees!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Oprah's back in the book club saddle again

On Friday,January 26,Oprah will be announcing her first Book Club selection of 2007. It's been awhile since her last pick(Night by Eli Wiesel) and after that whole James Frey mess,I'll be surprised if she goes for another memoir. The only clue so far about the new book pick is that it's a Harpercollins title. Amazon already has a pre-order listing for it and are covering all bases by having every format type available(hardcover,paperback,audio and large print).

So,with that in mind,here are some of my guesses as to what might be the brand new Oprah book of the year. I used to do this when I worked at my former bookstore job and occasionally was right(Back Roads by Tawni O'Dell and Midwives by Chris Bohjalian were two of my better hunches). I would even bet a nickel with one of my co-workers,which we never really collected on but it was a fun bookworm brainteaser.

Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris would be an interesting choice. I read this book last year and it's a wonderful Patricia Highsmith type of novel,about a nearly retired private schoolteacher's game of cat and mouse with a returning student. It's not as touchy-feely as some of Oprah's previous picks but there are some twisted family secrets as well as a look at the changing face of boarding school life.

G&P just came out in paperback,which makes it a good choice for those who hate to lug around a hardcover(not to mention shell out $26.95 at the cash register). It's a long shot but you never know. If you haven't read it yet,keep it in mind when you're in desparate need of a thumping good thriller.

It certainly would be a nice feather in Vikram Chandra's hat if Oprah selected his new epic,Sacred Games. She has chosen lengthy reads before(The Corrections,Anna Karenina,I Know This Much Is True)and one of her earlier picks,A Fine Balance,takes place in Mumbai where Sacred Games is also set. A literary look at Mumbai past and present would be a great discussion topic.

It is a hardcover so some would squawk but otherwise,this is a prime pick. Oprah hasn't done contemporary fiction for a long while now and this would certainly get her back on track. I'm still reading Sacred Games(it's taking me longer than I thought)and will review it at some point on this blog but it's not due to lack of interest,folks. Sacred Games is an intense character study of two men making their way in the devious and deadly world they've been placed in. A really top notch novel.

However,if Oprah is still in memoir mode(she did select another one after Million Little Pieces,after all),The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner is tailor made for her. A real life rags to riches story that's been made into a hit film with Will Smith which will probaly recieve some Oscar nominations.

Oprah's already done a show promoting both the movie and the book but that doesn't mean she can't select TPOH as her 2007 selection. Unlike the MLP debacle,there's no question about the authenticity of this story and if Will Smith does get an Oscar nom,follow-up show!

My final guess is The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty for the following reasons: it's not only a classic but a Pulitzer Prize winner as well(as was To Kill A Mockingbird),it takes place in the South,particularly New Orleans and it's available in large print. In fact,the only listing I could find for TOD on the Harpercollins website was for the large print edition,which leads me to think that maybe a special new edition is waiting in the wings with a certain oval label!

Oh,well-we'll all know by Friday afternoon. Good luck to whatever the next newly appointed read Oprah will deem worthy of promoting and may it not suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that has plagued other picks in the past.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A shameless plug and an update on Marcelgate

On Monday,Galleycat(mediabistro's publishing blog)asked it's readers to send in musical parodies of books after being less than thrilled with the ones printed in last Sunday's New York Times Book Review section. The results have been posted online today and one of them was written by...ME!(yes,I'm having an Elle Woods moment here,folks). I wrote a riff on This Is Not Chick Lit,using the Jets song from West Side Story. Even went to YouTube to refresh my memory of the song and while the clip I actually watched is no longer up,this one
is good enough to give your ears a reminder of how the tune goes:

If you want to read my version,just click the title link above. My little ditty is the last and hopefully,not the least. The other submissions are really good as well;my favorite is author Marta Acosta's"Helen Burns theme" from Jane Eyre! The Musical(her novel,Happy Hour at Casa Dracula,is still on my Booksfree waiting list. Quite a popular read there.)My second runner-up would be Kelly Wittman's take on the book and movie version of Scott Spencer's Endless Love. My thanks to Ron Hogan for not only selecting my song but putting a link to this blog there as well.

Yesterday,in my Tv Thursday wrap-up,I spoke about the recent Top Chef incident where Marcel was getting some blanket party treatment. This episode of TC has sparked alot of talk at the Bravo blogs and Television Without Pity's forum boards. Well,things have taken a turn for the worst,people. An enterprising soul at the TWOP Top Chef forum took some stills of the show,around the scenes of the Marcel attack that clearly show Elia laughing as Marcel fled from Cliff's clutches and her head is UNSHAVEN! Which means that she and Ilan shaved their skulls AFTER Marcel was jumped on and not before! Take a look:

Also,in Judge Tom's blog,he revealed his true feelings about what happened:

"I could see how a goofy drunken idea ("Wouldn't it be funny if we shaved our heads,") escalated into a stupid, thoughtless one ("Wouldn't it be funny if we shaved Marcel's head") and from there into an act of ugly stupidity: ("Let's hold Marcel down and shave his head.") It was like watching an instructional video in bad group dynamics -- four apparently decent individuals (three if you buy Elia's argument that she was clueless), fueled by alcohol and subconscious anger, became one collective disaster gleefully terrorizing the designated odd-man-out.

In a flash I understood how frat pranks can morph into ugly acts of hazing, or how a rowdy bachelor party can become the scene of a crime. The sight of Sam yukking it up or Ilan yelling, "Get him! Get him!" from behind the camera was just as disturbing as the sight of Cliff tackling a stunned and terrified Marcel on the floor. And I'm not willing to hold Elia blameless just because she wasn't in the room -- I know she heard the others entreating her to join them, so she must have heard Marcel calling out for help. The whole thing brought to mind that famous quote, "All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing." Any one of them could have spoken up and said, "This isn't cool, guys. Knock it off."

But they didn't, so as far as I was concerned they were all to blame and I was ready to send the lot of them home and let Marcel win by default."

His idea to punish the four of them was vetoed by the show's producers(a bad call)and he had to settle for sending Cliff home instead. Cliff probaly would've been kicked off anyway for his lackluster dish at the Elimination. Who wants to eat beef with lentil puree at a romantic dinner or at any meal,period? Glad to see that the whole mess bothered him more than what we saw on the show.

I also appreciated what the Top Chef Season 1 winner,Harold,had to say regarding this situation:

"Suddenly it’s an uncomfortable boys locker room experience. Whether you were the victim, the aggressor, or just watching. You saw it in high school. And I’m still appalled. I don’t even know what to say. Everyone does stupid stuff when they’ve had a couple of cocktails. Sure. But if someone tries to hold me down and shave my head, nothing good is going to come of that. Nothing I’ve seen about Marcel leads me to believe that he’d just take that. I sure as hell would not have.

This is a show about food. I know that a lot of people want to blame the producers for making this a show that’s more about the drama than it is about the food. And some people want to say that this cast just has no sense of maturity. It’s both. Of course everyone behaved badly. So shave heads, kick people off, get drunk, the whole thing...I don’t know.

As a viewer, as a former contestant, I’m personally invested in the show, on a lot of different levels. And I’m disappointed. In just about everyone."

Amen to that. I'm still going to watch the finale but when Top Chef 3 comes around,I hope that the next batch of contestants sees this as a "What Not To Do" lesson in group behavior and competition. Otherwise,I might as well be watching Animal Planet;atleast when there's an attack,it's survival instinct not emotional stupidity from grown people.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Golden Globes,American Idol and Top Chef steps over to the bad side

The Golden Globes started off the evening right by giving Jennifer Hudson the Best Supporting Actress award for Dreamgirls(congrats also to Eddie Murphy for getting Best Supporting Actor)and her speech was one of the best ones given that night. America Ferrara's tearful acceptance of her trophy for Best Actress in a comedy(loved it when she thanked her mom,who was sitting right at her table)was just as heartfelt.

I was pretty happy for everyone who won-it would've been nice if Heroes had taken Best Drama and I didn't see Babel so that movie winning Best Drama wasn't impressive but Dreamgirls getting Best Musical is a sure sign that it'll be in the Best Picture race this year at the Oscars. Sasha Baron Cohen also has a good shot at being up for an Oscar nom,too-hey,if Johnny Depp can get a nod for Captain Jack Sparrow and Marisa Tomei win for My Cousin Vinny,Borat's capable of being up there,too.

The only uncomfortable moments of the show were Cameron Diaz's dress-did she lose a bet or something?-and Warren Beatty's speech when he got his Cecil B. Demile award.
Beatty looked out of it most of the night and his speech seemed to have the same running time as Reds. Also,his attempt at a Borat impression was painful,to say the least. Forrest Whitaker had trouble speaking too,but that was probaly due to total shock at actually winning.

I do have to wonder:was Prince really late to the Golden Globes or did he just not want to be near Justin Timberlake? I certainly don't blame him for that.

American Idol is back,once again to find some golden voices amongst the dross. There sure were some slim pickings in Minnesota and Seattle. I can't decide who was weirder or worse: The gal who sang like the Cowardly Lion,The kid who juggled with sticks,the fella dressed like Apollo Creed that sang an aria,the AI fangirl who claimed to have a degree in"vocal performance"(hoped you keep the reciepts from that school,hon-you definately deserve a refund!)or the gal who called herself "The Hotness". Carlos Mencia has a few words for you,Hotness,about false advertising.

Next week,we'll see what musical bounty there was to be found in New York. Perhaps some of the folks in this clip will be showcased there:

Top Chef began as usual with a Quickfire Challenge to create a sweet or savory dish with chocolate. Everyone did well with that,except for Ilan who thought that chicken liver would make a great truffle filling(in what universe,I'd like to know!). Sam won the QF which gave him first choice of protein to use for the Elimination challenge,to cook a five course romantic dinner for 30 people. The dinner itself went smoothly,despite the crowded kitchen conditions and minor squabbling amongst the chefs. Elia freaked that she wasn't able to cut out chocolate hearts for her dessert but it tasted fine anyway.

The real trauma drama occured in the wee hours after the dinner. Four of the chefs got drunk and two of them decided to shave their heads(Elia and Ilan). Then,they came up with the bright idea of holding Marcel down and shaving his hair off. Cliff woke him up and manhandled him to the floor while one of the others(I believe it was Ilan)held a camera on him and shouted for someone to shave him.

Fortunately,no one shaved Marcel. He did manage to break loose from Cliff and spent the rest of the night in the bathroom after punching the camera away from his face(I really hope Ilan was the one who was holding the camera then). The next morning, Judge Tom came in and told Cliff that,due to breaking the rules about touching anyone in an agressive manner,he was out of the competition. Cliff packed up and left but not before apologizing to Marcel. That apology was as sincere as a three dollar bill,in my opinion,but Marcel accepted it.

I have to say that I really have alot more respect for Marcel. Yes,he's an annoying guy but that's no excuse for what happened,none at all. Marcel would have been well within his rights to call the cops and have Cliff charged with assault. He also would've been justified in going in the kitchen and getting a frying pan to smack Cliff and his co-horts with but he didn't. Marcel wasn't too hurt beyond some rug burns on his arms but he could've been. He could've been nasty and gloating towards Cliff when he was canned but he didn't. Marcel went up to Cliff and said"Sorry it ended like this..no hard feelings." That shows me that Marcel has some character. He may still be a difficult person to deal with but he does have some good qualities and I really wouldn't mind it if he won the whole competition.

I lost quite abit of the respect I did have for Elia;her hair shaving bit after being upset over the dessert reminded me of the Thanksgiving episode where she was bothered by what Judge Tom said about her QF dish. Elia was ubermoody and wound smearing chocolate all over her face and having a mini food fight with Carlos and Betty, That was all in good fun but everyone was sober,too. I'm not about to get all Carrie Nation here but all of the boozing the chefs have done this season has not helped matters any. Elia is a perfectionist who beats herself up with real or percieved failures regarding her cooking who then does something wacky to blow off steam. Yes,her hair will grow back but what does this say about her becoming a top chef? Would you want to work in a kitchen for someone who freaks out when things go wrong and might decide to chill out by breaking some plates or throwing food? I know I wouldn't want to.

Also,Elia was friends with Marcel for a long time during the competition but all of a sudden,she buddies up with Ilan(who is a bad influence,IMO)and thinks it's funny to pick on Marcel? I know they were all drunk but come on! Sam was mostly on the sidelines during this mess but he didn't help Marcel either. All four of the remaining chefs are going to Hawaii for the finale(no reunion show is planned here,just as well)which airs in two parts. Hard to say who will win and I'm not sure I can really feel good about rooting for anybody besides Marcel.

The Judges' table did discuss the incident before and after meeting with the chefs and frankly,they should've been way harsher towards Sam,Ilan and Elia. Too bad Judge Judy wasn't there,she knows how to lay the smackdown on those who deserve it.

Random Notes:

The Office: Dwight's falling on his sword for Angela was sweet and touching. Andy should seriously watch his back;that look Angela gave him is the kind that folks have when they're planning to burn you at the stake and throw gasoline on you to make the flames go higher.

Ugly Betty:How cruel was Sofia to poor Daniel,who didn't deserve to be the object of a cheezy"how to land a man in 60 days!' article? I thought MYW was supposed to be more sophisticated than that. I'm sure that Betty will comfort him and get him to go back to Mode(otherwise,there's no show!). Glad to see Amanda defend her former lover by pummeling Sofia with her purse in the elevator,ha!

Surreal Life-Fame Games: The only reason I think this show exists is to provide fodder for The Soup. Check out this promo and see if you argee:

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Why does the devil read Prada? Because She Can!

Bridie Clark's upcoming first novel,Because She Can,starts off with our heroine Claire Truman getting two great opportunities at the same time;the chance to date college crush Randall Cox and a job offer from Vivian Grant,a Judith Reganesque publisher with a bad reputation.

Despite the numerous warnings from her publishing friends and retiring mentor,Claire takes the job with Vivian(due to being offered more money,plus a promotion),vowing to stick it out for atleast a year.

To say that Claire bit off more than she could chew is an understatement. Vivian's treatment of her staff is so bad that former employees had to form a support group to recover from the trauma. Vivian not only overloads people with work,she demands instant results and even has her office soundproofed for her screaming tirades at who ever happens to be the scapegoat of the moment. She also is foul mouthed and sex crazed(the kind of person who gets mad at you if you find stories about her sex life during office hours offensive). Most of the books she puts out have sleazy sexual themes and one of her book launch parties takes place at a strip club,where Vivian dresses up in hooker gear.

Claire is the fair haired child for awhile but soon enough,she's on the recieving end of Vivian's wrath due in part to Lulu,another editor who loves being Vivian's favorite flunky. Claire gets calls at all hours(and tons of angry messages on her machine),her office with a window view taken away and stress so bad that it's the perfect diet plan for an anorexic.

As for Claire's love life,Randall seems to be madly in love with her but spends more time at work than in the relationship. His mother adores Claire(to a scary level)and practically pushs them into a commitment. Claire starts to feel more of a connection with one of her authors,Luke Mayville,who is related to her former,kinder boss. Luke's book is the one thing that keeps Claire sane at her job from hell and brings the two of them closer to each other than to the folks they're dating.

This story is pretty entertaining,even if some of the plot points are easy to spot. Vivian Grant may seem like a cartoon villian at first but in many ways,she's all too real. Bridie Clark did work for Judith Regan and while the book is not officially about her,most people will play connect the dots here. I'm sure that Regan is not the only evil boss out there but regardless,Vivian Grant is such a viciously amusing doppelganger that if a movie deal is made,some smart actress might want to get her Meryl Streep merit badge by tackling the part.

Because She Can is not only a good publishing insider read but a nice take on why it doesn't always pay to be passive in pursuit of your own desires. Claire takes her time about taking charge of her life but when she does,you're happy for her. Because She Can is due out in early February(please click the title link above for more details),so keep any eye out for it and if you know someone trapped in employment hell,give them a copy. It's sure to cheer them up!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Adult Swim presents Dethklok,the most heavy and humorous Metal band ever!

One of the hottest new shows on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup is Metalocalypse,which takes place in a slightly furturistic society that literally hangs on the every word of Dethklok,a heavy metal band so popular that a secret government/society cabal is investigating them. Let's meet the members of Dethklok,shall we?:

There are many things to love about Metalocalypse;the artwork which makes it seem like all of the characters are living in an Iron Maiden album cover,the pounding music that imitates every metal band that ever played and yet is it's own unique sound or the dead-on parodies of celebrity culture,like this take on dating:

This episode shows Dethklok's version of foreign diplomacy as well as finding a practical use for those annoying cellphones:

If you think those Super Bowl ads are overdone media extravaganzas,then check out the Dethklok jingle for Duncan Hills coffee and get a real taste of overkill:

Metal music is not the only type that Dethklok can play. Witness their version of Mississippi Delta Blues(after a tricky negotiation with the Devil at the crossroads):

A number of real life musicians have lent their voices to Metalocalypse,such as King Diamond,James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett(Metallica)and Cannibal Corpse's George"Corpsegrinder" Fisher. Jedi Master and animated Joker Mark Hamill speaks for several characters on the show and cameo vocals have been contributed by the likes of Larraine Newman and Andy Richter. A DVD of the first season is expected to be out by summer of 2007,along with a "DethAlbum" that will feature extended versions of the songs on the show with possibly some new tunes in the mix.

Metalocalypse is not for the squamish or those who prefer lite FM(not that I have anything against lite FM,sometimes you need a little musical mush)but that's why it's on Adult Swim. So,if you want to relive those glory days of heavy metal mania,click on to the title link above to visit the Metalocalypse website or catch the show during it's current Monday to Friday airings at 12:15. Oh,and I must leave you with one of the best opening credits themes ever:

Monday, January 15, 2007

Red River flows with a heartbreaking history lesson

I didn't read Lalita Tademy's earlier novel Cane River but the good news for folks like me is that not only is it not necessary to do so in order to enjoy her follow up book,Red River,but that you will have another story of the Tademy family to look forward to.

The plot of Red River takes place in Colfax,Lousiana during the Reconstruction period,where the newly elected Republican sheriff enlists the aid of local black men to help him take his new office with promises that Federal troops are on their way to protect them and their families from retalitation from angry whites in the area.

Israel Smith is one of these men who take up the cause,despite the worries of his wife Lucy and his own concerns at involving his young sons,David and Noby,in this stand. Along with Sam Tademy(who one day plans to start up a school for black children),Israel and the rest of the volunteers backing up the elected whites slowly come to realize that help is not forth coming and must decide if staying or going is the best course of action.

Soon enough,it doesn't matter who is actually in on the side of the Republican men as all of the black residents of Colfax are targets of vicious and violent white men who slaughter a good number of men holding their ground at the courthouse(even shooting those who are literally smoked out and wave flags of surrender)as their women and children flee for their lives out in the wild.

Tademy based this story on her family's actual history(as she did with Cane River)and even adds historical photos which bring a strong sense of poignancy to the fictionalized characters. What happened in Colfax was considered a"riot" by early historians but Tademy exposes that pathetic attempt at whitewashing the horrors that went on without bashing you over the head with the facts. Rather,she makes the struggles of those who stayed and those who went as indentifable as what happened to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina today,or any other life changing event that marks an entire community and it's decendants.

Red River is a beautifully sad but compelling read and if Oprah was still running her book club,Lalita Tademy would join Wally Lamb in the Two for Two Book Selection Club. If you're interested in finding out more about Tademy's books or the lady herself,you can visit her official website by clicking the title link above. This is a tale worth telling,if only to honor those who came before us and to not forget how injustices were,and can still be,unpunished.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Bandidas are bringing cowgirls back

One thing I've learned about from watching cooking competition shows is the concept of fusion food,which is the combining of cusine from two different cultures(like Chinese & Vietnamese)to create an interesting new taste sensation. In the new DVD release Bandidas,we are served up a film fusion of Mexican and French cinematic styles. Not the most likely combo you'd expect to encounter(sort of like having a Swedish/Greek platter)but it does have some flair to it.

Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz star as two gals,Maria and Sara,from the opposite sides of town(Salma's the rich bitch,Penelope is the Mary Ann)who team up to rob from the rich and give to their poor fellow townspeople who have had their land stolen by evil American Tyler Jackson(Dwight Yoakam).

Tyler also killed both of the girl's daddies (or tried to,Penelope's dad survives a gunshot to the chest)and plans to rip off the entire nation of Mexico to set up a railroad. Maria and Sara get some bank robber training from Bill Buck(Sam Shepard,yes,THE Sam Shepard)and later on,blackmail a 19th century CSI type(Steve Zahn)into giving them a hand.

The movie is cute fun but not what you expect,good or bad. The ladies do have a couple of fights that involve hairpulling but nothing too sexy goes on beyond a kissing lesson by Sara to Maria using Steve Zahn as a practice dummy. The only one who gets naked in this movie is Zahn,mainly for punchline purposes. Also,the humor is pretty broad at times,almost like watching a live action cartoon. Maria and Sara are given some quirky characteristics(Sara hiccups when nervous,Maria has a whole Dr. Doolittle thing with horses)but any attempt at dramatics is about as seriously played as any TV soap opera.

Dwight Yoakam's performance in this movie is very Snidely Whiplash;I kept waiting for him to twirl his mustache as he tied one of the ladies up to the railroad tracks.Actually,his whole demeanor reminded me of Gary Oldman in The Fifth Element which is not that surprising since Luc Besson co-wrote the Bandidas script. Trust me,watch TFE after Bandidas and you'll swear that these fellas are like evil peas in a pod:

So,is Bandidas worth a look? Let me put it to you this way-it's not as great of a cowgirl film as Cattle Annie and Little Britches but it's not as awful as Bad Girls by any means. If you're in the mood for a silly,fun flick with some South of the Border action,this is the one for you. Please click the title link for more info about the DVD or just watch this trailer to keep Bandidas in mind when heading out to the video store near you:

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Black Donnellys,more Dirt and Top Chef's restaurant wars

The big Top Chef challenge this week was to set up a restaurant within 24 hours. Marcel and Sam got to pick who would be on their team as the prize for winning the Quickfire. Marcel chose Elia and Cliff,leaving Mike and Ilan(who still has a mad hate on for Marcel)for Sam to work with.

Sam's group decided to go Italian and named their place Lalalina(a combo of the names of their wives and girlfriends)but for some reason,didn't buy wine to serve with the food. Not a smart idea,fellas! Not having wine for Italian cusine is like not having jelly with your peanut butter;you can still eat it but it's not going to be as good as it could be with it. Marcel and co first wanted to have a Mediterranean place but changed their minds and went with Elia's idea of an upscale diner. The name M.E.C. is from their initials which is okay but not too creative.

There was no winner chosen after this challenge,due to both teams being dead even in lacking finesse. Cliff was the Front of the House for his team and kept the judges waiting for nearly twenty minutes,with barely any contact or customer service to keep them content. Atleast M.E.C. had beer for them to drink while they waited. When they went to Lalalina,Padma found an olive pit on the table(no one thought to have a dish to put those in)and all of them were grossed out by Sam's dessert that was made of watermelon,cream and blue cheese. I'm not a big fan of watermelon but cream and blue cheese with it sounds nasty to me. Elia created a lemon Oreo pie for her dessert which was just as weird but I'd try that over the watermelon gunk anyday.

Mike wound up hitting the road,due to his lackadasial performance. He was the one who bought all the dishes for his team and had a hundred bucks leftover to boot. When the judges asked him why he didn't get something to put the olive pits in,he kept bleating"I followed the list!" Dude,even with a list,sometime you have to think on the fly and go outside the box. Mike was pretty weak in this challenge but I would've sent Cliff home. His people skills sucked and when the judges asked him if he should go,he not only insisted on staying but threw both Elia and Marcel under the bus and suggested a loser be chosen"between the two of them"! Way to be loyal to your team there,Cliff.

Next week's show seems to have some serious shenanagans as a prank played on someone(I'm guessing Marcel)goes awry. All this ganging up on Marcel stuff is getting way overboard-Stephan on season 1 of TC was just as bad but nobody dogpiled on him. Elia is the only one on his side and she needs to step up her own game and not let guys like Cliff and Ilan bully her,too. Ilan's telling her to blame Marcel in front of the judges if her team lost the challenge was petty and mean.

I watched the Heroes Season Summary DVD but all it had to offer was a very long promo with no new clips of the next episode or any other interesting tidbits that fans of the show are familar with. What it does have is the pilot episode of The Black Donnellys,a midseason crime drama about a quartet of Irish brothers in Hell's Kitchen who wind up being major league criminals. Jonathan Tucker stars as Tommy,the brother with artistic talent who wants to move beyond the wild and crazy lifestyle of his siblings. The show looks pretty good and the slapdash narrative pace of it reminds me abit of Boondock Saints.

There was also a promo for a Jeff Goldblum cop drama called Raines,where his character solves murders by having imaginary conversations with the victim. Goldblum's deadpan wit is tailormade for a project like this and I hope it gets on the air sometime soon. Otherwise,this disc is not really worth a Netflix rental.

Watched the second episode of Dirt and I'm convinced that this show needs more of Don Konkey;his vision of about-to-be-cremated starlet Keira Kelly wrapped in flaming skeletal arms was the only memorable scene of the show. Lucy Spiller's big idea to combo both magazines to save her job was something I saw a mile away,particularly from the first episode.

Also,can we have less shots of Lucy with her penlight vibrator? She doesn't come off as aroused when she uses that thing,her facial expression is more like akin to someone taking way too much fiber in their diet.

Random Notes:

Smallville: We finally get a new episode tonight but the bad news is that Tori Spelling is the guest star. She plays a gossip columnist with some wicked watery skills(bad acting a obvious given)who clashes with Chloe. Hey,if Paris Hilton couldn't destroy Veronica Mars with her wooden line reading,I guess that the show can stomach some of Spelling onscreen:

Gilmore Girls: The show's still in repeats for two more weeks but since I didn't watch "Knit,People,Knit" when it was first on(A Charlie Brown Christmas was on that night and CBC can not be ignored in December!),it was good to catch up on. Luke was right to get in Anna's face about April and Christopher is just so clueless about how to fit into Stars Hollow that he needs to get himself a "Small Town for Dummies" manual or something. Here's a nice college of clips from that episode:

And here's a look at Paris and Doyle"scorching the floorboards" from that show:

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Fantasy films are like a box of chocolates,you never know what you're gonna get!

Most of the upcoming big movies in 2007 most folks know about(more than they want to in some cases)but there are always those little movies that may not get as much love,yet can be just as or even better silver screen entertainment. Here's a few that you might want to keep an eye out for:


Yes,this is FF2 and Doctor Doom will be making an reappearance(plenty of evil Julian McMahon goodness,yum!)along with the title character who resembles Arnie Schwarznegger's nemesis in T2. The original cast and director is back,which is always a good sign of a decent sequel. I really liked the first movie;it wasn't as good as the Spiderman movies or the X-Men flicks but still gave you a good time:


B&C is based on a teen novel by Annette Curtis Klause(who is coming out with a vampire novel later this year called The Silver Kiss)about a female werewolf who must choose between a arranged marriage with one of her pack or being with a human boyfriend. I haven't read the book so I don't know how close to it the movie is going to be. It does look like the characters are abit older(the film was produced by the team who made Underworld so it makes sense that they would want a slightly more adult target audience). This trailer does make me want to read the book as well as see the movie,which means that the marketing folks are doing their jobs pretty good:


Hillary Swank follows up her noble teacher bit in Freedom Writers with this movie that has her as a debunker of miracles being bombarded with major league signs of the apocolypse. Sounds like fun on a stick,especially with all of these scenes of flying locusts that bring me such fond memories of Exorcist II:The Heretic. Stephen Rea is also in this sucker as a priest who starts this whole ball of hella-scariness rolling:


My main man Julian McMahon is here as Sandra Bullock's husband who dies in a fiery car crash but Sandra keeps having the replay button pushed to the day before he meets his maker. This story seems like a cross between Groundhog's Day and Final Destination but any chance to see Julian on the big screen is worth it to me:

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

What other Broadway shows can reality tv recast?

I caught part of NBC's "Grease: You're the one that I want" ,which was very much"let's put on a show!" and some talented people did emerge(not to mention plenty of wacky folk-one woman would've been fine if they were casting drag queens for the part of Sandy)but in the end,I clicked on the new Surreal Life show,Fame Games. Remember when VH1 just had stuff like Pop-Up Video? Nowadays,they're running neck in neck with MTV for the sleaziest shows they can get on the air.

I did wonder what would happen if the Grease casting call took off,ratings wise,what other Broadway shows would follow in its' footsteps? Here's a few ideas of mine:


Why not revive a show that's famously gone down in flames? Perhaps part of the probelm was the actors;goodness knows that there are plenty of goth kids hanging out at the Hot Topic or the food court in countless malls across this great land of ours,looking to honor Anne Rice's creations with song:


Another show that went badly on it's first outing but hey,with High School Musical being so popular right now,this is sure to be a winner. Also,Stephen King's name still sells tickets-why not have him as one of the judges?


It's time to bring this version of L. Frank Baum's classic back on stage(and hopefully give those Michael Jackson jokes a rest). Maybe they can cast a Dorothy who's age appropriate-nothing against Diana Ross but she was way long in the tooth for this part:


Yes,kids,there really was a Superman musical on Broadway and it's high time that the Man of Steel start using his pipes for something other than superbreath. If we can't get a Smallville:The Movie at the multiplex,we should atleast have him humming a few tunes for us on stage. Don't fine young people like these deserve a chance to strut their stuff for a wider audience?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Fangland gives you a passport to enter nightmare country

In John Marks' new novel,Fangland,the classic story of Dracula gets a transfusion of modern day terror as news show producer Evangeline Harker travels to Romania to snag an interview for The Hour(a 60 Minutes kind of show)with elusive crime lord Ion Torgu. Torgu is rumored to be have his hands into many dirty dealings and planning to open up a Dracula theme park in Transylvania.

On her way to find Torgu,Evangeline meets up with Clemmie Spence,a missionary who hints at seeing evil wipe out whole villages during her travels and insists on pressing a cross necklace on Evangeline before she encounters Torgu. Ion Torgu first comes off as a harmless looking old man with bad teeth but soon after he isolates Evangeline in a sinister remote hotel,his true and deadly intentions towards her are slowly but horrifyingly revealed.

Yes,there are vampires here but not your traditional ones. While they do drink blood(no fangs but the recurrent prescence of a knife in a bucket chills your bones),what they actually crave are the ghosts of atrocities past. Torgu chants a dark litany of historical places where many lives were lost and his song of death hypnotizes his victims into following him.

This bizarre tune causes electronic distortions that are transmitted into the audio system at The Hour's headquarters in New York after the arrival of mysterious tapes weeks after the disappearance of Evangeline along with the delivery of several large crates that no one is sure what to do with except for Stimson Beevers,who has been getting strange and secretive e-mails from Evangeline or so he thinks.

The novel is formatted similarly in style to Dracula(being told thru journals,e-mails and diaries)but has it's own original take on the story that explores some of the current fears we have in today's world with a distinctly dark flair. Some of the most nerve racking moments take place in Romania,in scenes that rival any of the terrors seen in such movies as Hostel,not in gory content but the fear of being helpless in a place far from home.

Fangland also taps into the dog-eat-dog world of television newsmagazine,a realm he's familar with as a former 60 Minutes producer. While you may be tempted to try to figure out which real life newscaster Marks is referring to(and horror buffs will play Connect The Dots to Dracula's characters),it's best to just hold on and let the book take you on it's wild and imaginative ride into a frightfest of the mind. Fangland is due on the shelves by January 11(please click the title link for more info)and this is one ticket to terror that you'll want to have punched.