Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Friday, August 31, 2007

Before you go back to school,Bad Movie Month advises you not to be Overdrawn at the Memory Bank

As Bad Movie Month draws to a close,we must salute the champions of bad cinema known as Mystery Science Theater 3000(fondly called MST3K by many),who made sitting thru the likes of Manos,The Hands of Fate,a humorous and tolerable experience. Whether it was Joel and his trusty bots,Tom Servo and Crow or later on,Mike Nelson,MST3K endured more bad movies than an army of film critics and always came out the other side sane,snarky and smiling all the way.

There are so many MST3K films to choose from but ,since Labor Day is almost here,the PBS produced movie, Overdrawn at the Memory Bank,seemed to fit just right. Raul Julia stars in this pre-Matrix virtual reality flick as Aram Fingal(boy,do the guys have alot of fun with that name!),a data processor bored with his corporate job so much that he "scrolls cinemas" at his work computer. Basically,Fingal's a furturistic Dilbert who downloads music from Napster on the company dime.

Fingal gets busted and has to go to "rehab"(insert Amy Winehouse joke here)for a mandatory vacation which involves "doppeling". Doppeling has folks getting their brains jacked into VR trips as animals(anteaters seem to be very undesirable). Fingal is all set to be Daisy the Baboon,when some bratty kid on a field trip switches his location tag,causing some merry mishaps for the poor guy. On the bright side, atleast he didn't wind up with mustard on his brain!

Fingal's dopple goes wrong and with his body being misplaced,he becomes a ghost in the machine. His Dopple Tech,Appollonia James(who named these characters,Prince?)tries to keep track of him by appearing to him online as his dead mom,complete with a bowl of nice hot soup. However,the evil head of the corporation decides to make his presence known:

Fingal starts trying to reprogram the mainframe computer,along with creating a Casablanca like world within it. Things get wackier and more convoluted,as Fingal's hijinks start affecting the corporation's control of reality and Appollonia is caught between a rock and a hard place in trying to protect one side and please the other:

In between all of these movie madness,the MSTie gang treats us to a nice spoof of PBS pledge drives hosted by Pearl Forrester who is out to make a few bucks to pay the ponies with. As much fun as the original Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank were,I must confess that the silly sinister antics of Pearl,that"evil gal who wants to rule the world" along with her faithfully foolish flunkies,Bobo and Brain Guy,totally crack me up bigtime. Check out this duet between Pearl and the Observer for the special,"Pearl!Pearl!Pearl!Pearl!Pearl!":

Instead of torturing you with the rest of ODATMB,let's watch a nice Gumby short instead! I always loved it when the MSTies ripped on old school movie shorts and Robot Rumpus is one of the best. Have a nice Labor Day Weekend,folks and I'll be seeing you in September!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Design Star performs for Wayne Newton,Heroes on DVD and Food Network follies

This week,the Final Four contestants on Design Star had to divide into two teams and redesign two rooms in Wayne Newton's guest house. Will and Todd took on the living room and created a huge version of a lazy susan for the sofa to sit on,to give folks an option of switching perspectives in the area. While that's not my idea of comfy quarters,Wayne totally dug it and the platform did work(it really needed a better way to move around than just having someone push it with their feet).

The big drama was in the kitchen makeover. Robb and Kim were supposed to work together but Robb seemed to think that Kim was just there to be his personal assistant and refused to listen to any of her suggestions or ideas because she didn't have any previous experience in kitchen remodeling.

Funny,because later on during the challenge,the carpenter had to raise up the entire counterspace due to the new dishwasher not fitting in properly,which Kim had pointed out earlier to Robb,who took the measurements and STILL DID IT WRONG! Not to mention that he was out and out rude to her,telling she should just"ride on my coattails" to get the project done! Listening to him talk down to Kim like that reminded me of those old "Weekend Update" debates between Jane and Dan:

The kitchen turned out alright and Wayne loved it,even tho the fridge wasn't installed in time(due to poor time management,Robb!). I felt bad for Kim,since this was the second kitchen challenge on the show that she had to work with someone who claimed that they knew exactly how to get things done but still came up short. She didn't take any crap off of Robb and handled the whole thing in a very mature and ladlylike manner.

Robb's attitude was made plain to the judges during the panel and his show was not only cancelled,it was kicked to the curb! Mr. Charming took it well,with his comment that the judges were "fools"-way to make yourself look like a good sport there,Robb!

Will was up for elimination,due to his lackluster on camera presentation(part of the challenge was giving a video demo of the room)but fortunatly,the judges realized that it would be easier for Will to brush up on his public speaking skills than for Robb to change his crappy arrogant attitude in the limited amount of time left for this competition.

Heroes: Season One came out on DVD this week and I recieved my set yesterday,with the joy one usually has on Christmas morning. So far,I've watched the unaired pilot episode,which runs about 72 minutes and has a terrorist subplot that was scrapped and retooled partially into Radioactive Ted's storyline,played the Mind Reader Game and checked out a couple of Behind The Scenes featurettes.

The best featurette was a profile on Tim Sale,the artist who created all of the Issac Mendez paintings for the show. He was also a technical adviser for the character as well,giving his input on how the loft should look(Santiago Cabrera gives a little tour of the set)and helping the actor with the right way to handle his brushes.

I was surprised to learn that Tim Sale is colorblind and that all of the paintings were originally done in black and white. The color was added on later,after each painting was digitally scanned and then blown up and printed on canvas. Given the fate of Issac Mendez last season,I don't know if any of Tim's artwork will be as well showcased as it was for Season two. However,with this show,most fans know by now to never say never!

My only complaint is that scene selection is not available for the episodes. Look,guys,I appreciate the whole concept of watching an episode in it's intended entirety but sometimes,a girl would just like to watch her favorite Peter Petrelli or Sylar scene right on the spot there,you know? I'm sure there are plenty of fellas who would also like to click right to their favorite Ali Larter or Save The Cheerleader bit there,too! Maybe for Season Two,we could have that option,okay?:


Food Network has started to become a regular staple in my household viewing lately,so like me to get into something once everyone else has already gotten onboard! I have learned a few things there,one is not to watch when you're hungry,two is that Rachael Ray is amazingly cheerful and yet not annoying,and three,don't put honey in the fridge because it will freeze and crystallize on you.

With all the shows they have to offer,here is a tasting menu of some of my favorite FN entrees:


This show goes across country to feature those small town/big city eateries that are the foundation of All American food are still thriving today. A good program to watch before you go out of town,looking for an interesting place to have a regional meal:


Someone mistook my mother for Paula Deen,which lead us to watch FN in the first place,and Mom has become quite a fan of hers(she even whipped up a mini cheesecake recipe of Paula's and gave them out at work. They were a huge hit.). Paula has more than one show on FN but her Party airs over the weekends and look like a real good time had by all:


Emeril is the only cooking show with a talk show vibe that I know of,and the man is just as entertaining on his own as with a guest. I personally prefer to watch Emeril interview Patton Oswalt than Leno or Letterman anytime:


I've only seen a couple of the cake ones but I totally love it. Having four chefs create themed food items in a limited amount of time for not only a chance at winning ten grand but showcasing their skills as well,rocks. The scariest part of the cake challenges is when the finished pastries have to be moved to the judging table-extremely nerve wracking! I loved the Snow White cake made for the Disney Princess Challenge the best:

Random Notes/Fall Preview Edition

Two of the new shows on the Fall line-up both share a supernatural theme done with whimsical style. Let's take a look and see which one floats our boat:

PUSHING DAISIES: ABC is giving a huge push to this show,which is a Barry Sonnenfield production that feels more like a Tim Burton movie to me. I like the concept of Ned's lethal Midas touch causing romantic havoc in his life and the casting feels right. Just hope that everything turns up roses for the viewers after a few episodes and that the bloom doesn't fade away midseason:

REAPER: Kevin Smith is the creative drive behind this CW show,that has twenty one year old Sam discovering that his parents sold his soul to the devil,who wants him to be a bounty hunter for escaped residents of Hell. Sounds like a cross between Brimstone and a Judd Apatow movie to me,but I think it could work:

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A few September book selections to add to your back-to-school shopping

I know that most folks around this time of year are scrambling to stock their kids up with school supplies before end of Labor Day,not to mention grabbing a few goodies at summer clearance sales along the way. However,you should not overlook the need to upgrade your current reading as well. It's just as important to spruce up your mental wardrobe as it is your physical one,in my opinion.

Here to give you some suggestions is my list of What To Watch Out For At A Bookstore(or library) Near You. Think of this as a Literary Coming Attractions;I'd be reviewing most of these titles(one I have already) next month and if the feedback is good,I'll be giving a preview of my October and November picks later this fall.


I'm in the middle of reading Caspian Rain right now and this is one book that you really need to keep an eye for,because it is amazing. Gina B. Nahai's fourth novel takes place in Tehran before the Revolution,where twelve year old Yaas is recounting the sad marriage of her parents who come from two different social classes of Iranian Jews.

Things are bad enough in Yaas' household to begin with but when her father falls in love with a well to do woman from a Muslim family and wants to get a divorce to be with her,more than just the world around them is falling apart. To top everything off,Yaas becomes seriously ill and takes it upon herself to keep her family together.

I'll be giving a full review of Caspain Rain soon but I can safely say at this point in my reading that you won't want to miss out on this. If you're looking to surprise your book club with a fantastic topical read that is brimming over with universal themes of love and family,this novel is like the porridge that Goldilocks chose. The book is due to be released by September 14(it may be available as soon as September 7,since I don't think it's a hard sell date)and please give it the chance it deserves.


Robin Brande's Evolution,Me and Other Freaks of Nature is just hitting the stores now and while I gave it an early rave reviewhere,it never hurts to add a reminder,especially since the whole theme of the novel is very appropiate for back to school discussions and a fun read to boot:

Another major book for the teen market is Jenny Downham's Before I Die,a first novel that did well in the author's native homeland of England. The plot centers around Tessa,a sixteen year old girl who is slowly dying but wants to complete her To Do Before I Die list while there's still time.

I know that sounds grim,but from what I've been hearing,it's more of an uplifting experience for both the characters and the reader. Also,this may be another one of those great crossover to the realm of adult reading books from some of the advanced word that I've read,we may have this year's Lovely Bones and/or Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time on our hands here. Before I Die is set to come out on September 25,and I'll try to have a review of it up before then.


Heartsick is a first novel by Chelsea Cain that tells the twisted tale of Archie Sheridan,a police detective who was captured and tortured by the beautifully evil Gretchen Lowell for ten days. Archie managed to convince her not to kill him and she surrendered herself to the authorities but still haunts Archie,even behind prison walls. Now,Archie has no choice but to go to the devil he knows to hunt down another devil he doesn't .

I have to admit that I just grabbed this book on whim at BEA,but the more I've heard about it,the harder it's become not to just toss everything aside and gobble this bad boy all up in one shot. I think I'll save it for Labor Day weekend instead;Heartsick hits the stands on September 4 and should make quite a splash. I also have to admit that Gretchen really creeps me out. Take a look at these promos and tell me if you don't agree that she gives Catherine Tramell a run for her money:




Jane Porter's Odd Mom Out has Manhattanite Marta move her advertising business and nine year old daughter Eva to Seattle,to be closer to her ailing mother. Marta tries to fit in with the PTA moms at Eva's school but that tight knit group refuses to let such a free wheeling and thinking mother in their midst. It's due out on September 27 and looks like it might be the best way to help those still bereft Gilmore Girls fans out there cope without another season to watch this fall.

Lorna Landvik's latest novel,The View From Mount Joy,gives us a reunion between two former high school sweethearts,Joe and Kristi,who have taken very different paths in life since then. Joe is now a mild mannered grocer while Kristi has become a peppy religious radio personality who wants to run for President.

Kristi's renewed presence in Joe's life has him looking over his and wondering if he's been Mr. Nice Guy for far too long. The View From Mount Joy should be out by September 4 and if you've never read a Landvik novel before,take the time to do so right here. You won't regret it,I promise.

Hope this highlights a few good reads that you might not have known about and gives you some pleasant mental moments during this busy time of year. Enjoy!

Monday, August 27, 2007

An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England is a red hot read for all seasons

With summer slowly fading into autumn,there will be a few weeks of flux in terms of looking for just the right book to help ease your mind along into that right seasonal mode. One of those books that should just hit the spot is Brock Clarke's new novel,An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England,which introduces you to one of the best literary sad sacks of our time and his name is Sam Pulsifer.

When Sam was eighteen,he "accidently" set fire to Emily Dickinson's house in Amherst which unintentionally killed two of the tour guides(who were using one of the bedrooms for some afterhours fun). After Sam's prison term was up,he went on with his life,got married,had two children and kept his family totally in the dark about his past,even to the point of claiming that his mother and father were dead and gone.

One day,Sam gets a surprise visitor at his doorstep,Thomas Coleman,the son of the two folks who died in the Dickinson house fire. Thomas demands an apology from Sam,which he delievers on the spot,but that's not good enough or even convincing enough to calm Coleman down. He starts a campaign to ruin Sam's life and force him to admit the truth about his past,starting with Sam's wife Anne Marie. Sam returns from a business trip to find that Anne Marie now believes that Sam has been cheating on her with Thomas' wife(a fiction created by Thomas to get Sam to confess)and instead of setting her straight about the whole mess,lets her believe the lie and goes home to his parents still living in Amherst.

Turns out that Thomas may be the least of Sam's probelms,as he comes home to find that his school teacher mother has given up on books and taken up drinking with his father instead. Also,as soon as Sam moves back into Amherst,writer's houses are being torched in the area,coincidently certain writer's homes that were specially requested by folks who wrote to Sam after his conviction and whose letters were saved
by Sam's father,who was not shy about sharing them with others.

Naturally,Sam is the number one suspect and while being dogged by arson detective Wilson to admit his guilt,Sam starts up his own investigation(which he admits is not easy,since his mother didn't allow him to read mysteries when he was younger and he doesn't really know all the rules there) to find out who did. During his hunt for the real firestarter and to get Thomas Coleman out of his life,Sam stumbles upon a number of secrets and lies about the lives of those around as well as Morgan Taylor,the ringleader of a group of bond analysts Sam knew in prison,who are looking for material to write a successful memoir about and wants Sam to train them in the art of literary arson.

The plot description I've just given may make this book sound like a thriller but it plays out more like one of those great Alexander Payne movies,where the run of the mill leading man gets in way over his head in a chain of events that he shouldn't have gotten mixed up in the first place. Sam is a self described "bumbler" who goes with the flow much too often,mainly to avoid confrontation and says whatever pops into his head out loud at times when he really,really shouldn't. He also has some very clever insights into the true nature of folks who insist on acting literary as opposed to being really appreciative of what literature is and isn't.

Clarke makes Sam very believable and someone to root for,despite the number of times that you may want him to snap out of his self imposed complancy,for his own good. Clarke also slips in some very wicked satire about the current state of the book world today,with it's memoir mania,insistence upon holding up depressing narratives as "art" and stylish hatred of the classics being taught in college courses.

Arsonist's Guide is a clever,witty read that doesn't sacrifice good characterization for an easy punchline and gives the reader an intelligently elegant tale about what can happen to those who live inside their heads for so long without truly reaching out to deal with the people in their life outside the mind. Don't make the mistake of thinking that this is just a fall read;Clarke's novel is available right now and is truly a Book For All Seasons.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bad Movie Month books you a reading room that has Flowers In The Attic

Many of us fondly remember those first guilty pleasures of our youth such as the cartoon shows that you swore that you weren't really watching but just happen to be on because your younger brother or sister was "really into" them,the sadly romantic movie that you joked about with your friends yet tears come to your eyes during the big climatic moment(and not tears of laughter either)and the soap operas that your "mom" was so into but you knew the complete genealogy of the entire cast of characters better than the writers of the show did.

V.C. Andrews' tales of the Dollanganger family were my first taste of Gothic potboilers(which prepped me quite nicely for Anne Rice and later Laurell K. Hamilton)and I was addicted to those books like Amy Winehouse is to Tanqueray. I further indulged my jones for Andrews by devouring My Sweet Audrina and the first two volumes of her Casteel series,Heaven and Dark Angel.

Andrews passed away in 1986 and was such a popular writer that her publisher continued to put out similar series titles under her name(Andrew Neiderman,who is still doing that to this day). I outgrew the Andrews books,but when the movie version of the one that started it all,Flowers in the Attic,arrived at theaters,I was interested enough to want to check it out.

I didn't see it until it made it's debut on cable,which saved me from wasting good money on this hokey horrorshow of a film. Kristy Swanson starred as Cathy,the eldest daughter of the doomed quartet of children,and her performance here makes her work in Buffy The Vampire Slayer look like Academy Award winning material. Louise Fletcher co-starred as the evil grandmother,which was yet another opportunity for Fletcher to grab a quick buck by channeling her old Nurse Ratched routine:

One of the major flaws of the film is the dialogue,which is the kind that sounds fine when you're reading it but hearing it actually spoken aloud makes you cringe. Listen to this scene,where big brother Christopher explains to his little brother and sister about how the bible teaches us about there's a time for everything,even having ice cream,so they shouldn't mind being locked up in an attic while Mommy waits for Grandpa to drop dead and inherit all of his money:

One of the major changes in the storyline from book to film was the downplaying of the very intimate relationship between Cathy and Chris,which ticked off alot of fans of the book. Yes,incest is not the most tasteful of subjects but it was a key element of the plot and if you're going to make a film version of a really controversal book like this,why not go for it? It's like adapting Gone With The Wind and making it look like Scarlet O'Hara only saw Ashley Wilkes as a good friend of the family. The most we got of Cathy and Chris's forbidden love were scenes like this:

There are folks out there who are demanding that FITA be remade into a film that does the book justice but maybe it's best to let sleeping dogs lie here. Or better yet,hope and pray for a Broadway musical version that will sweep the nation! Okay,that didn't work for Carrie or Lestat, but you don't know until you try,right? It might even go a little something like this:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Design Star lose it's Sparkle(Josh,that is),moral dilemmas abound for The 4400 and Top Chef goes into round two of Restaurant Wars

Since the Elimination Challenge for this episode was a do-over from the last time,Top Chef decided to take it up a notch to make things more interesting,starting with the Quickfire. Tom and Padma announced that the teams would have a "Mise En Place Relay Race"(a fancy way of saying that they would go head to head in kitchen prep line stuff). The teams were given two minutes to decide which of their members would compete against each other to do the following:shuck oysters,chop onions,dismantle whole chickens and beat eggs into a firm foam.

The prize for the winning team was the use of a sommelier(guess who?)and extra money for wine,so everyone was geared up to take the win. Team April got a good start with Brian kicking Howie's butt at oyster shucking(it was pretty close,tho-Howie did his best there)but when it came to onion chopping,Sara M was hell on heels with those wicked blade skills of hers. Casey took forever and a New Year's Day to get her onions done(they were big onions,but still!)which slowed things down,since your team couldn't move on to the next bit until your member was finished with theirs first.

Team Garage won and got Season One's Stephen(I knew it,I knew it!)to help them choose wines and even served them up at their renamed restaurant,Quatre. Both teams were also given interior design makeover tips from Christopher Ciccone,Madonna's brother,who had been a guest at the restaurants during round one and was not shy about his opinion of the food and service. There was a new guest judge,Zachary Zakarian,who ate with Padma and Ted Allen while Judge Tom hung out in the kitchen this time out,to see how both were run.

Team Quatre really took the criticisms they recieved(especially after reading a print out of Andrea Strong's comments given to both groups)and made serious changes to their menus,which had to have a choice of two items per course this time out. Howie's risotto was wisely taken off and lighter dishes like Dale's poussin and mint gnocchi were a big hit with the judges. Former contestants Joey and Sara N stopped in for a bite and seemed to like everything(even tho Joey felt his lamb,made by Howie,was undercooked). Dale not only ran the front of the house well,he even was confident enough to ask Stephen to take his usual rapidfire chatter towards the customers down abit(in a very nice way,I might add).

Team April suffered from overconfidence and it showed in the food. Tre cooked most of the dishes and while his potatoes were not oversmoked this time,his salmon dish was so bad that it was called a "car wreck in Times Square". Casey's monkfish was so overcooked that at Judges' Table, Zachary told her"when you buy the fish,it's already dead. you don't need to kill it." OUCH! Team April also had a couple of former competitors stop by (Camile and Lia)but I don't know if they liked the bread pudding that Tre whipped up that was said to be very soggy and flat.

Judge Tom asked if anyone else knew about making that kind of dessert and CJ(who only made a salty lobster salad)said that he knew and tasted the dish but thought "Tre could handle it." Zachary took him to task,asking him"Why didn't you watch his back?". It was a good question,especially since Judge Tom pointed out that CJ had picked this team and then took a backseat in terms of leadership. Not cool,CJ,not cool at all.

As you can probaly tell,Team Quatre won and Sara M was selected as the individual winner,since she was executive chef. I haven't been crazy about her during most of this competition but between her lighting fast knife skills and tight quality control in the kitchen(Gordon Ramsey would've been proud),she really was impressive here. Good going there,Sara!

Since exec chefs were the ones considered to make or break their restaurant here,Tre was chosen to pack his knives and go. I was surprised that we didn't get a double elimination here but maybe they're saving that for next time.

Brian really should've been taken off the front of the house duty,since he wasn't much better than he was last time and didn't even contribute a dish to the menu(unlike Dale,who was picked on by Ted Allen for wearing a polo shirt during service. Come on,dude,it's hot! If Dale had been wearing a wife beater,I would've understood the complaint better). CJ's lack of leadership and not giving Tre some real help with that bread pudding was certainly grounds for dismissal,in my book.

Poor Tre,I really thought he would make it to the Finals. He took it well,atleast. We'll have to wait until September to see what happens next,since Bravo wants to stretch this season out and will be rerunning the Top Chef Season One vs. Season Two cook-off next week.

Design Star did their double dip in elimination early,starting with Christina getting kicked to the curb for creating a design for a wedding reception that was more about the bride wanted than the groom(even the bride thought Christina's design was way too girly!). Robb is very obnoxious but he had the right idea about creating an equal decor to please both the bride and groom here. The couple wanted a "rockabilly meets traditional" kind of look and they got it,I guess.

Sparkle Josh had his show cancelled,mainly because he didn't seem very confident,particularly after the judges asked each designer"Who is your biggest competition?" and Josh wasn't able to name anybody. Will and Robb came to verbal blows,since Robb told the judges that Will was the "weakest link" on the team.

That was so not true,Will worked hard to get this reception done right and on time. He even pointed out that the poker chip towers flanking the entranceway had colors which clashed with the whole color scheme that Robb promised the couple,in plenty of time for Robb to fix the probelm,I might add! Robb was just mad that when asked,at the Judge's panel,Will said he didn't like the way the floor plan had been set up.If anyone wasted time,it was surfer dude Todd,who kept bouncing off the walls during the early part of the reception room set-up,even knocking a big table over as he leaped on it. Hey,bozo,this is Design Star,not Jackass!

Things are hopping on The 4400,as Richard got a visit from Lily(who turned out to be an illusion sent by a Original Recipe person,courtesy of Kyle)and managed to get some closure there,along with returning Isabelle to her current adult self,Tom was fully possessed by the Marked and Shawn went to Jordan for an endorsement of his test for folks to see if they should take Promicin or not.

Jordan was vehemently opposed to pre-testing for Promicin takers,saying that a "generation of sacrifice" was needed to have peace on earth,since people with powers and those without would just fight each other and that a "fully evolved species" would be the best to run the world. Gee,I think I heard of someone else with that idea and he had some buddies in brownshirts to help him there,too.

I've been conflicted about whether or not Jordan is a bad guy in this series but with this stance on Promicin use,he's set himself squarely in the villian's camp. True, P-postive and P-negative people would have trouble getting along but in the grand scheme of things,balance is neccessary to maintain the flow of the universe. Up needs down,black needs white and special abilities are only useful if they can be used to help those who need special help,otherwise what is the point of it? Not to mention that there's nothing to prevent super powered folk from fighting each other for dominance-maybe Sylar should stop by and show Jordan a thing or about that!

Tom's new Marked Man status will be dealt with more on the next episode and it should be something to see him go all full tilt boogie evil:

Random Notes/Fall Preview Edition:

Heroes: The DVD set for season one will be out soon,with plenty of extras like this scene from the unaired pilot episode where Issac Mendez tried to one-up Van Gogh in the self destructive artist cliche contest:

More new cast members have been announce,such as Nichelle Nichol(aka Lt. Uhura from old school Star Trek)and Veronica Mars herself,Kristen Bell. Bell is signed on for about 13 episodes and is said to have a "pivotal" role this season,along with an undisclosed super power,yes! NBC is starting to give us some promos for the new season and I,for one,am pretty darn jazzed up about it:

Ugly Betty: Speaking of promos,ABC got Mika to rework his song"Big Girl(You Are Beautiful)" as a tie-in to UB,pushing both the new season and the first season DVD set,released this week. Smart move,guys-Mika's sound fits in like a glove to the show's style and sass. Check out both versions and you'll see what I mean:

Take One

Bettiefied Version

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The politics of reading and why I think Barnes & Noble is right not to stock the O.J. book

I've been on a bit of a literary kick this week,blogwise,and mostly,it's been very much on the positive side,but you take the bad with the good at times to even things out. Today,I read a USA Today article about the new president of the American Association of Publishers,former congresswoman Pat Schroeder who was commenting on an AP-Ipsos poll that said liberals are bigger readers than conservatives and in her opinion,this was the reason why:

"The Karl Roves of the world have built a generation that just wants a couple slogans: 'No, don't raise my taxes, no new taxes,"' Pat Schroeder, president of the American Association of Publishers, said in a recent interview. "It's pretty hard to write a book saying, 'No new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes' on every page."

And she had this to say about why liberals read so much:

"She said liberals tend to be policy wonks who "can't say anything in less than paragraphs. We really want the whole picture, want to peel the onion."

Putting the politics aside for a moment,why is it that folks seem to take surveys and polls as the gospel truth? All of the results of any poll ever taken are based on a set number of people who have actually replied to the whole thing(not counting those who don't answer certain questions) and on the assumation that every person responding was being honest. Can you get some degree of accuracy from a poll? Yes,of course,but they all have to report a certain margin of error ,which should make you alittle more skeptical about the results given.

And why do we constantly have to set up divisions amongst readers,based on gender,age and now,political persuasion? People who are into arts should be supportive of one another,not playing these damn high school games of cultural cliques and Heathers hijinks. Many book people claim to be very open minded because they read so much,yet if they see someone interested in a book or genre that doesn't fit into their idea of what a "cultured" person is,instead of trying to find out what is so appealing to that reader,they just slap'em on the back with a label that says" Dunce Hat Needed!"-sort of an intellectual version of a "Kick Me" sign.

It's pretty narrow minded,in my opinion,to judge a person based on what they read as indicative of their entire persona and character. And even if some of what he/she reads is a true reflection of who they are,so what? This is a democracy,regardless of what party you do or don't officially belong to,and freedom of thought is not just for those who think they know what's best for everyone,it's for everyone,period!

I don't read political books of any stripe,mainly because I find many of them to be a)boring and b)a soapbox for the author's personal viewpoint on the subject instead of a well rounded look at the whole issue. That doesn't mean that I don't have political opinions or keep my head totally in the sand,it just means that I prefer to use other means of information gathering to make up my mind. That also doesn't mean that those who do read political books are right or wrong for doing so,it's just their personal preference and if they get more out of it than I do,that's great and I respect that.

A truly open minded person should not be quick to judge others based on what they read,watch or listen to. That notion can backfire on you in surprising ways:

Another big story is the release of the OJ book,due in October,under the title,"I DID IT: CONFESSIONS OF THE KILLER" and Barnes & Noble's refusal to keep it in stock at their brick and motar stores. If you want to buy it from B&N,they will either special order it for you or you can get it from their website. Borders will have the book on the shelves but they're not going out of their way to promote it.

I support Barnes & Noble's decision and no doubt,many will say that was based on placating angry customers who might give their staff a hard time about it during store hours instead of standing on moral high ground but what difference does that make?(for the record,I'm in favor of any policy that makes life easier for booksellers,especially those who have to deal directly with the public on a daily basis). The book is going to be out there,like it or not,and if someone wants it badly enough,he/she can either wait for it to be shipped or go elsewhere to get it more quickly.

I don't what sort of discount Beaufort gives to retailers(the general rate from most of the major publishers is 40%,even if you buy copies from a distributor instead of the company directly)but it might affect how indie bookstores decide to stock it or not. Some might do it,simply because B&N won't or if the demand is large,it may be financially prudent for them to do so. Nothing wrong with that,since the old axiom of "if I don't sell it,someone else will" is very true and if you need to pay the bills,sometimes you have to do something distasteful to make ends meet.

However,I also don't think that just because you can do something,that doesn't mean you should. Yes,Barnes & Noble has a huge enough overhead that they can afford to do this,but they also had the option of taking the money and running all the way to the bank here and they decided not to. Showing a little restraint and reserve in what you want to offer to the public at large is a sign of character,in my opinion.

So,in a few weeks,we'll see what the ultimate fate of this book is in the marketplace and while there's not a question in my mind that the people putting it out there have the best intentions at heart,the timing is the worst,ever(if there ever is a "right" time for this Thing That Wouldn't Leave). If we're taking sides,I have to stand with Denise Brown,who makes a damn good argument against it:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Time for serious book reading at the movies this fall

The fall movie season will soon be upon us,which means folks will be offered up a more hearty fare of films at the multplex(not to mention plenty of Oscar bait strewn about to snare a few nominations come award show time). A good number of these flicks will be adaptations of well known and not so well known books. Most folks have already set their sights on some of these like The Golden Compass and The Jane Austen Book Club, but let's look at a few that might not be on everyone's radar just yet.


That title's quite a mouthful there,isn't it? The western will be attempting to make yet another comeback,with a couple of book based films,one of which uses Ron Hansen's 1983 novel. Brad Pitt stars as Jesse James,with Casey Affleck as the coward of the title. It's been awhile since Brad's done a period piece and if he makes Jesse James as compelling as his character Tristan from Legends of the Fall was,you'll see quite a gender mix in audiences for this movie:

3:10 TO YUMA

Western number Two has Christian Bale escorting bad guy Russell Crowe to a train transporting Crowe to jail which of course,doesn't work out smoothly(when do these things ever do?). Elmore Leonard wrote the short story on which the movie gets it's plot,so there should be some great dialogue to go along with the kickass action:


And for something completely different...Keira Knightley is one of the leading ladies in this visualization of Ian McEwan's heartbreaking novel of false accusation and the consequences of a betrayal that may never be truly made up for. Joe Wright,who directed Keira in the newest big screen version of P&P,is at the helm here and the combination of him and Knightley in this film may hopefully do this book the justice it deserves onscreen:


Charles Baxter's modern day take on Midsummer Night's Dream is now an ensemble piece about finding love with the likes of Morgan Freeman,Greg Kinnear,Selma Blair and Jane Alexander making up the cast. This is a film that I hope gathers an audience for the book,which was one of those little literary gems that never quite got the attention it deserved. All of us at my former bookstore job read it and while it wasn't everyone's cup of tea,Feast of Love is certainly a quality brew:


Now this book,on the other hand,needs no introduction as most folks who aren't even major league readers know about the Little Novel That Could,and Did Become A Book Club Hit. I must confess that I have not read The Kite Runner(*pauses for shocked response from the audience*)and like a good number of filmgoers this fall,I'll probaly see the movie first. It does look promising,from what the trailer shows,so far. We shall see:


The last and, I suspect many will say ,the least of the literary adaptations we'll look at today is that Ye Olde World Lit staple,Beowulf. The film is not based on any one particular translation(I just used the recent Seamus Heaney book jacket here because it looks very cool)and with a script written by Roger Avery and Neil Gaiman,you shouldn't expect a very Shakespearan like stage version of the epic poem here. Nope,and especially with Angelina Jolie as Grendal's red hot demon momma,you can be safely assured that this is not your daddy's Beowulf,no siree!:

Monday, August 20, 2007

Let Amy Bloom take you Away on a literary quest of the heart

In Amy Bloom's new novel,Away,we begin our journey in the Lower East Side of New York during the mid-1920s,as Lillian Leyb seeks work as a seamstress for the Goldfadn Theater company. Lillian is a recent immigrant from Russia,fleeing the haunting memories of her family who were brutally slaugthered during a pogom on her village. She was the only known survivor of her household,her young daughter Sophie having not been found yet assumed dead.

Lillian not only gets the seamstress job,she also winds up becoming the duel mistress of the leading man of the company,Meyer Burstein,and his charismatic father,Reuben(she's more of a beard to Meyer,who has other interests in romance that are not socially acceptable in that time period). Her commitment to both men is casual and yet somewhat more passionate when it comes to Reuben,who is fine with this arrangement but would prefer to keep his life as neatly compartmentalized as possible.

A newly arrived from the old country cousin of Lillian,Raisele,takes up residence with her and drops quite an emotional bombshell in her lap;Sophie is alive and may well be living in Siberia with former neighbors of her's,the Pinskys.

This news lights a fire in Lillian's soul and she sets out to find her daughter alone. With no help from her lovers and alittle from a friend who is more emotionally shut down than she is,Lillian makes her way across country and her first pitstop is in Seattle,where she takes work as a maid to Gumdrop Brown,a savvy prostitute planning to be more than just the favorite girl of her pimp cousin,Snooky Salt.

There are other memorable characters that Lillian encounters on her journey,from grieving widower Arthur Gilpin,who has her sent to a women's detention center in Prince Rupert,Alaska"for her own good" to Chinky Chang,a fellow inmate and leading lady in her family's traveling grifter show and even to a house in the wilderness where three young children can barely tend to each other as they wait for an adult to come home to take over where their deceased mother has left off. Despite such opportunities to make some new bonds,Lillian refuses to give up on her ultimate goal of seeing Sophie again.

This is the first time I've ever read anything by Amy Bloom and it turns out that every good thing that I have heard about her writing is true. She has a poet's way with words,invoking a myriad of images in less than two or three sentences at a time.

Bloom's book is not a lengthy one,yet the impact of the story and the amazing depth given to even those you could call bit players in this piece(entire concluding storylines of certain folk are added in to create a comforting,but not always happily ever after,closure that in another author's hands,would spin off into several other books of their own) is truly magical. This is the kind of writing that could intimidate a would be writer with it's power and assuredness,but Bloom's energy and spirit is more inviting than off putting. One can take inspiration in such clarity of vision and verbal beauty without indulging in pangs of needless envy.

Away is due to be released this week,and a more perfect way to prepare yourself for some serious fall reading,I'm having a hard time imaging. Bloom's brillance is not just limited to the literary world,she is one of the co-creators of the new Lifetime series,State of Mind,starring Lili Taylor as a psychiatist trying to get her own life back on track.

The show has been getting some very positive feedback and it's nice to see some smart and stylish writing offered up here to showcase the talents of a talented yet not always appreciated actress(like Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer,which shares one of it's producers,Michael M. Robbins,with SOM and now Holly Hunter in Saving Grace). Bloom's talent is clearly big enough to spread round such a bounty of storytelling riches to both readers and viewers the world over.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Brighten up your Bad Movie Month with Color of Night

Bruce Willis has made many a good movie but is just as well known for his bad ones such as the infamous Hudson Hawk,the godawful adaptation of Bonfire of the Vanities and the so bad it's good sci fi romp,The Fifth Element. While Bruce is one of our favorite All American actors here at LRG,we still have to tease him alittle and undoubtedly his face gets a rosy shade of blush whenever Color of Night pops up on cable(for more reasons than one).

Bruce plays shrink Dr. Bill Capa,whose lack of bedside manner causes one of his patients(played by Kathleen Wilhoite,the go-to girl for wacky acting)to leap out of his huge office window-wouldn't a psychiatrist think twice about having half of his office taken up by a window on the top floor?-which traumatizes him so much that he goes colorblind. Capa can no longer see the color red,and that premise is used sparingly as a visual gimmick during the story.

Capa leaves New York to visit his good buddy Dr. Bob Moore(played by sexy Scott Bakula of Quantam Leap fame)in California. Dr. Bob has a best selling book and a Monday night group therapy session of folks who seemed to have specialized in OverActing 101; kinky artist Casey(Kevin J. O'Connor,who later starred in Lord of Illusions with Bakula),anal retentive Clark(Brad Dourif)and slutty Sondra(Lesley Ann Warren). Lance Hendrikson is here,too,as a gruff guy mourning his dead wife and child but he keeps his performance at an even keel.

Oh,and there's "Richie",the youngest member of the group who has a "gender identity issue". Richie has abit of a secret there,which is more of a crying shame than a crying game,if you know what I mean. Even if you've been watching nothing but Scooby Doo cartoons all of your life,Richie's big secret is painfully clear.

Two things happen on Capa's trip;Dr. Bob gets brutally murdered and conviently, Bill must take over the Monday Night group which is chockfull of suspects. If that wasn't enough,Capa literally runs into Rose(Jane March,best known for the notorious art house period piece,The Lover) who becomes his mysterious Miss Fender Bender and magically shows up on his doorstep to have hot sex with him. Rose's other amazing abilities include being very limber while underwater and never wearing a scrap of underwear. She can be instantly naked on command,or off command for that matter.

The big hype about this movie was the hot and heavy sex scenes,where you could catch a glimpse of Bruce's Willis in action(alas,even in the Director's Cut on DVD,it only has a cameo appearance). The big sexers bits were trimmed for US release,while the rest of the free world got a good look at what Bruce had to offer below decks,not to mention some Lesley Ann Warren girl on girl moments. I wish Hollywood wasn't so squimish about their leading men bringing out their guns for show and tell. After seeing Kevin's Bacon strip in Wild Things,I had a better appreciation of his thespian skills,I can tell you that!

Ok,mind out of the gutter and back into this mess of a story. Capa tries to figure out who the killer is(egged on by cop Reuben Blades in one of the most cheerfully obnoxious performances I've ever seen on film)and gets a couple of casual,everyday death threats like a rattlesnake in his mailbox and this car chase scene made extra thrilling by the fact that it's a RED car coming after him!:

You know a movie's bad when one of the characters actually gets to say to a shrink,"You know...you're pretty fucking dense" and it's the truest statement in the entire film. Bruce is the only actor in the movie who sets his tone on moderate(along with Hendrikson and Eric LaSalle,in a brief role as another cop on the case)while the rest of the cast doesn't just chew the scenery,they wolf it down and spew it back up all over the audience. Bodies pile up and there's more needless gore onscreen(including a mock crucifixation moment) than in most of the direct to video slasher movies lying in wait at your local video store.

Color of Night won several Razzie awards and surpisingly,a Golden Globe for it's theme song sung by Lauren Christy( the song was up for the Razzies,too,but beaten out by "Marry the Mole!" from Thumbelina). Christy's a good singer(I once owned her debut album,after hearing selections from it being played in previews at one of my local cinemas)but this song is as overblown and pseudo melodramatic as the movie itself:

So,if you're truly desparate to watch anything other than a test pattern on TV,Color of Night is just perfect. Too bad that the real star performance of the film wasn't honored by any of award shows-perhaps one day, Bruce's Willis will get the acclaim it deserves and with a much better script,too.