Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Are these musical divas being creatively expressive or simply courting controversy?

Talk has been buzzing quite a bit on the music video scene lately since the release of Lady Gaga and Beyonce's new mini-movie of "Telephone." Many of the fans are thrilled with this hot topic take on the song while others are expressing shock,along with the usual "what about the children?!" rhetoric thrown in.

Personally,I like the song better than the video(it's too campy even by John Waters standards for my taste)and if some folks don't want their kids to see it,that's their right as parents as along they don't infringe on anyone else's right to view it for their next dance party.

Also,it's really hard for me to take most of the outrage seriously since this video is the ultimate tongue-in-cheek parody of a parody film. No doubt Lady Gaga and Beyonce had fun doing this but I hope their next video duet is less of an R rated cartoon and more like a Tarantino R rated flick instead(he's obviously a fan due to lending Gaga that infamous getaway vehicle from Kill Bill):

Chicks with controversial music videos are far from being an unusual sight on the pop music landscape but it's interesting to see just what people find offensive regarding content and presentation of theme at the time said video hits the airwaves.

The Queen of Video Controversy is still Madonna,who has run the gambit on scandalous imagery and while her bag of tricks is running low,can not be completely counted out of the game.

One of the last videos that Madonna released which had the attention of the media's talking heads was back in 2001 and like Telephone,it had a twisted Thelma and Louise vibe to it. "What It Feels Like for a Girl" took a more gritty approach to the material,mainly influenced by it's director Guy Ritchie(who was Madonna's husband at the time)and holds a rather haunting energy to it even after all this time:

While Telephone is ringing up the charts,fueled by it's talk of the town video antics,coverage on it may be dialed back due to the new "did you see that?!" sensation on the music video scene.

Erykah Badu's first single off her new album is called "Window Seat" and it has her visiting Dealy Plaza in Dallas,the infamous site of the JFK assassination. As she makes her way along the busy streets,Badu undresses until she is totally naked(her lady parts are covered by pixelation)and when she gets to that well known grassy knoll,a shot rings out and Badu falls down as if hit,with the words "group think" bleeding in blue from her head.

While I get the whole symbolism behind the strip tease here(shedding inhibitions and emotional baggage),again the song is better without the visuals here,in my opinion. Badu's artistic intent is clearly heartfelt but with the combo of her impromptu nudity and the chilling JFK connection,her message may get lost in translation:

What will be interesting to see is whether the Kennedy allusions or the nudity will stir up the most outrage. Naked singers have been showing up for quite some time now;even Badu was inspired by a recent Matt & Kim video where the band stripped down in Times Square.

It's kind of sad that when nudity is presented in a nonsexual manner such as in 2002's "Thank You" by Alanis Morrisette,it really seems to rile folks up more than any sleazy sex scene in a movie or on TV. What that says about our society speaks volumes:

While both "Telephone" and "Window Seat" may get some sales and major league publicity for both right and wrong reasons,it's truly up to the viewer whether or not there is any actual artistic value to the video showcase for the song.

The song is the thing here and as much as I love to be dazzled by a singer's imagination on film,sometime a simple straightforward performance of the tune in question is the one that goes over best. If you have a beautiful creation to begin with,a fanciful setting is not necessary to display it for others. They will admire it's loveliness even in the most mundane of surroundings and remember all the more fondly for it:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner joins a long list of supporting players telling their own story

Coming out this June is a new Twilight related story by Stephanie Meyer,one that happens to tie in nicely with the Eclipse movie due to be out in theaters as well. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner focuses on a member of vengeful vampire Victoria's army of newborns who are recruited in her campaign against the Cullens in Eclipse and has a sadly brief moment in the spotlight towards the end of that encounter.

Similar to the Hogwarts guidebooks that J.K. Rowling put out between Harry Potters,a portion of the proceeds from the sales of the Bree Tanner novella will go to charity( towards relief for Haiti via the Red Cross). The book will also be available to read online,starting June 7th and ending July 5th.

While that's convenient enough for those who would rather just check it out rather than own it,some folks will still find something to squawk about here,namely the notion that stories about secondary characters are not worth the trouble of telling in the first place.

Having a supporting character tell their side of the story is nothing new in the fiction game and while not every attempt to get another bite out of the original story apple isn't always successful,this creative concept is not a wholly bad idea. One author whose had this done to her party of players numerous times over is Jane Austen.

There have been books showcasing the youngest Dashwood sister and the ward of Col. Brandon who Willoughby ran into long before he met Marianne,Lady Catherine and her daughter and even Col. Fitzwilliam from P&P has a book that makes him a matchmaker for his cousin Darcy.

One of the better received by both devoted Austen fans and critics alike takes on this subgenre is Joan Aiken's Jane Fairfax,which gives the reserved young lady from Emma more of a voice. Part of the reason for that book's merit is the wise choice of choosing a character like Jane Fairfax to expand upon.

Not only is she a key figure in more than one sub plot,she's also the object of much speculation by many of the other characters and being the kind of person who speaks only when deemed necessary, there's a heap of mystery surrounding Jane Fairfax even after some of the veil is lifted away from her secret life and loves:

On the flip side,even well established authors can stumble when setting their sights on a second string story character. Colleen McCullough's The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet has had so much scorn heaped upon it from all sides that it's almost become the literary equivalent of a box office bomb like Gigli or Glitter.

In a weird way,that reaction makes me want to read it just to see if it's as bad as everyone claims. Poor Mary;she's the odd one out in the pack of perky Bennet sisters who desperately craves to have her big moment.

Unfortunately for Mary,her artistic expressions in public tend to inspire stunned silences and hasty removals from the center stage,a jinx that clings to her solo fictional performances as well:

There have quite a few highly praised literary fiction offerings which open up the scope of classic novels from a character on the sidelines,such as Jon Clinch's Finn,March by Geraldine Brooks(which won the Pulitzer back in 2006) and Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea.

Most of them are not meant to appeal directly to a specialized fan base but it does help to know something about the source of the author's inspiration in order to appreciate their take on it fully.

While I never made it all the way through Moby Dick, Sena Jeter Naslund made the path to her inspired by the tale of the white whale novel ,Ahab's Wife, rather smooth sailing indeed. The true strength of the story is that even without that connection to Melville,the book is a completely compelling work of art on it's own merits. Naslund really set the bar high in this category but left the door open for others to follow in her wake:

Don't get me wrong, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner is probably not going to reach such lofty heights but it may be worth a look and shouldn't be quickly dismissed. When push comes to shove,a character on the side lines of a story can have plenty to say and be more amusing than you think:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Beware of Birdemic,the newest cult movie menance

Cult films do not arise from strategic marketing or a Producers like plan to make a movie bad enough that investors would never have to be paid back. The best of the worst come from sincere attempts by the artistically inept who at times manage to bring about a cinematic sense of wonder and amazement such as the likes of Spielberg,Lucas,Peter Jackson and M. Knight Shyamalan-the only difference being that folks tend to say "What?" rather than "Whoa!"

The newest heir to the movie mediocrity throne is Birdemic:Shock and Terror,a "romantic thriller"(according to the director)with a standard love story you'd find in a typical Hollywood film right down to the bad acting that gets caught up in a wave of violent attacks by our suddenly ferocious feathered friends. If this sounds like a certain Hitchcock classic to you,you're not entirely wrong but did that movie have a cool theme song like Birdemic? I think not!:

Birdemic is the bizarre brainchild of James Nguyen,who worked on this movie for about four years and even tried to get it accepted at the Sundance film festival. It wound up being screened elsewhere and gaining a huge audience that spread the good word on just how bad it was.

The movie has been getting quite a bit of media buzz lately,with the likes of Awesome Show's Tim and Eric being major fans of Birdemic(they hosted a special screening of the film in Austin) as well as write-ups in the New York Times,Time Out New York,USA Today,Entertainment Weekly and even an ABC World News Tonight segment.

Things are certainly looking up for Nguyen,who has gone from a ten thousand dollar budget for Birdemic to a million dollar one for his next project charmingly titled "Peephole:The Perverted". He could be the Ed Wood of the millennium,folks-don't say I didn't warn you:

I have not been fortunate enough to experience Birdemic in any theater near me,but it is on my Saved list at Netflix. The movie was brought by Severin Films who plan to release it in a new DVD edition(the previous one from Moviehead Pictures is no longer available). I hope that the wait isn't too long because there are some questions about Birdemic that need answering,like why are eagles and vultures the only birds attacking everyone and is bottled water and cheese really the best items to stock up on as your group is on the run from flocks of deadly fake flying fiends?:

They say that genre films can reflect the times they were made in and that holds true for the top as well as the bottom of the barrel. Birdemic may just be the cult movie flavor of the month or the freshest trend setter on the block destined to pave the way for other hopeless movie making hopefuls. One thing is for certain;thanks to Birdemic,wire coat hangers are not just a Joan Crawford joke anymore:

Friday, March 26, 2010

The horrifying history of Queen Victoria,Demon Hunter

Haunting bookshelves of late,the monster mash-up literary craze is more than just rewriting English Lit standards to include giggleworthy gore. Historical figures are having lively fictional makeovers as warriors who chose to slay the supernatural threats to their home and country,with Abe Lincoln defending the nation from vampires and now Queen Victoria taking up the cause to wipe out the demon menace plotting against her throne.

The young Victoria first realizes that there's more than meets the evil eye when she is attacked by a succubus on the night before her coronation and is defended by Maggie Brown,the leader of the Prokectorate,whose duty it is to save the monarchy from the uprising of the demon forces entrenched in Europe for centuries.

While the now Queen Victoria is most distressed by this revelation,she has more pressing matters to attend to such as taking charge of England's social problems and finding the right mate to help her do so. Victoria also wishes to remove her mother's manipulative adviser John Conroy from his position of powerful influence and she's not alone in her suspicions about Conroy but unaware of just how monstrously sinister his alliances are.

Victoria's heart is also a distraction as she falls in love with Prince Albert,who shares an understanding with her about the nature of personal and national politics as well as a true love connection:

Even with a happy marriage and proper political allies in place,Victoria can not ignore the dangers of the otherworldly hordes(which include werewolves,zombies and a variety pack of demonic foes)who seek to control not only the nobility but the downtrodden of the nation by halting social reforms that would quell the revolution they so dearly need to make their ultimate power play.

Since Albert is a strong supporter of reform,he is a prime target and in front of Victoria's eyes,kidnapped by vicious shapeshifters. No longer willing to let others do the dirty work of demon defense,Victoria takes up arms with Maggie Brown and the rest of the Prokectorate in order to save Albert herself.

While Victoria does have some real strength behind her convictions,there are other reasons she has yet to discover why she and her husband are conspired both against and for the powers of darkness,some of which may be revealed by the psychic visions of Maggie's son,John:

Queen Victoria,Demon Hunter was written by A.E. Moorat(a pen name for British author Andrew Holmes) and has the advantage of being freshly imagined material that brings life to several side characters that slowly but surely make connections and gruesome contributions to the plight of the major players in this story.

While the plot line is compelling,the gore show factor is just as prominent as the crown upon Victoria's head. This book is not for the squeamish but anyone who can take a rat attack or two,plus several zombie feeding frenzies in stride should be able to enjoy the rollicking pace of this offbeat adventure that gives new meaning to the phrase,"girl power":

It is said that Moorat is at work on another history horror novel with the focus being on Henry the VIII as a werewolf. While I do look forward to that,I also hope that Victoria gets another tale from the darkside as well. Queen Victoria,Demon Hunter feels like the start of a series and it would good to see more of Victoria in action both on and off the battlefield of the damned:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Team Big Brother ends their run on TAR,Miley Cyrus mentors on Idol and celebs clamor to sip Joel McHale's Soup

The latest leg of The Amazing Race stayed in France but that didn't prevent most of the teams from being lost in translation and location. Just about everyone had trouble finding the right Taittinger champagne estate for their Detour challenge with Team Tiara(Brent and Caite)not even getting to the right Joan of Arc statue in order to reach the Roadblock. Alertness went on vacation here,it seems like.

None of those slowdowns by the others gave Team Big Brother(Jeff and Jordan)any advantages;the two of them started off last and never managed to catch up. The closest they got was when Team Tiara was struggling to find that set of grapes in the vineyard after screwing up the glass pyramid challenge,something that Jeff and Jordan also flunked out on. So long,Team Big Brother-on the bright side,a)Phil didn't have to eliminate you in the vineyard after dark and b)Team Tiara will be the ones to wear the Goofy Couple crown for the next leg:

Theme weeks on American Idol tend to introduce mentors for the contenders to take tips from and this time around,it was Miley Cyrus,giving her expertise(for better or,for an unfortunate few,worse). The theme was originally supposed to be Teen Music but a last minute change made it Billboard #1 Hit songs instead. Regardless of why the sudden switcheroo came about,Miley's advice didn't seem to help or hinder much.

The performances can best be described as The Good,the Bland and the Godawful,with Randy on the verge of losing his cool at times(he's gotten much sharper in his critiques lately) and Simon practically checking his watch to see how soon he can ditch this gig for The X Factor. He and Randy did perk up for Crystal Bowersox,who took back her glory from Siobhan this week with a powerful rendition of "Me and Bobby McGee." As much as I am a fierce Siobhan supporter,this was Crystal's night to shine:

There were plenty of contenders for the Sanjaya award this week,with Tim Urban Pat Boone-ing his way thru Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and Andrew Garcia's workmanlike performance of "Heard it Thru The Grapevine" but this honor rightfully goes to Paige Miles for her truly tortured version of "Against All Odds."

Not trying to kick you when you're down,Paige,but I think Simon was right when he said you seemed to have thrown in the towel weeks ago. Some might feel that you were cheated of a Judges' Save but Simon was doing you the courtesy of not going through that sorry excuse to stretch out the time and letting you what was what there. Oh well,at least you got a Sanjaya award as a parting gift:



One of the best ways to catch up on TV madness is The Soup,with it's snarktastic host Joel McHale,whose droll comic timing can also be seen on the NBC sitcom Community. The Soup on E!,however,is still the strongest display of his talents which makes this clip show the hot spot for celebs of all stripes stop by to get their five minutes with Joel(as well as plug their projects).

We've seen the likes of cast members from Lost and Mad Men,not to mention Seth Green and whoever is not on The Celebrity Apprentice this week touch base here but having a recent Oscar nominee like Gabourey Sidibe pop in is quite the pop culture coup. She's not the only one demanding to have a sip of The Soup but at least this one was one honor that Sandra Bullock couldn't get to first:





LEGEND OF THE SEEKER: Speaking of surprise visits from Oscar nominees,Richard and friends meet up with a powerful young woman who may or may not be The Creator of Life. Whoever she is,2002 Best Actress contender Keisha Castle-Hughes is no stranger to divine roles due to her follow-up to her acclaimed work in Whale Rider being the Virgin Mary in The Nativity Story back in 2006.

This should be a great episode,since the major threat to our heroes has been the Keeper of the Underworld's campaign to destroy the world of the living and who better to battle death than the source of life itself? So looking forward to this showdown:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Catching up on a couple of Oscar contenders in the women's coming of age division

One good thing about the Academy Awards being moved up to early spring is the rush to video releases for many of the films that you didn't get to see the first time around. My newest Netflix movie to watch is Precious,which received two Oscars as well as other top movie industry honors and gave it's debut leading lady Gabourey Sidibe her first(and hopefully not last) Best Actress nomination.

Next to Mo'Nique's performance as the viciously evil mother(which won her Oscar gold for Best Supporting Actress),Gabourey's screen presence is one of the major attractions of the film and makes me very eager to see the movie,despite the harsh elements of the plot. Many have written her off already in terms of a future film career due to her looks and large size but that says more about them that does about Ms. Sidibe.

A truly talented actor can make you believe in the humanity within his or her character and relate to that person even if their life experiences are vastly different from your own. Having not seen the movie yet but based on the few clips I've seen and various praise from others both in and outside of the profession,Gabourey has that in abundance.

Based on what I've seen of Gabby,in interviews and elsewhere,this is a young lady who knows herself pretty well and is comfortable in her own skin,something that quite a few women twice her age haven't achieved yet. Perhaps it would do some of those naysayers some good to take a few lessons in self esteem by following her example:

Joining Precious on the New Releases shelf next week is An Education,which also gave it's lead actress Carey Mulligan her first Oscar nod as well. Mulligan has a few more acting jobs listed on her resume than Sidibe but these gals share more than key spots on the Oscar circuit.

While their two characters are literally worlds apart in circumstance and moment in time,they both are at the crossroads between girlhood and womanhood,dealing with choices both made for and by them that will affect their lives for years to come. An Education even drew some flak slightly similar to the fuss raised about Precious in depicting the sexual treatment of the young female characters.

In Mulligan's case,her character had better social and educational opportunities than Precious but still faced being the object of inappropiate adult affection which seemed to be silently condoned by her parents. Funny and sad how the setting may be different but the situation remains the same:

With the widening of the Oscar Best Picture pool,we may get more of these well done young women coming of age films bubbling up to the pop culture surface without having to resort to trendy tactics for attention.

Yes,I'm referring to Juno,the last flick in this genre to bask in the Oscar glow. The success of that film seems to have inspired more of the small screen folks than the big,with shows like The Secret Life of the American Teenager and Life Unexpected sprouting up under the shade of Juno's snarky umbrella. Don't get me wrong,it was a decent movie but one that seemed more concerned with how cool the characters sounded than with the outcome of their actions:

I hope to see An Education next week and to be on the lookout for more quality films dealing with a young women's introduction to life and love in the future. In some ways,this is a good trend to encourage as it's a vast improvement from stories where younger women scheme to claim all the hard earned property and love interests from older women. While I know that does happen in real life,it's more artistically meaningful to see a leading lady try and embrace their own power rather than leech off from someone else:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Just how Kick Ass will this latest comic book comedy be?

Superhero films in 2009 didn't have such a great time at the multiplex,with the lackluster reception given to Watchmen and X-Men:Origins:Wolverine but along with the highly anticipated sequel to Iron Man this May,the genre may be getting a real shot in the arm from the upcoming parody action flick,Kick-Ass.

Kick-Ass is based on a creator owned comic by Mark Millar and John Romita,Jr and tells the story of Dave Lizewski(Aaron Johnson),an average teenage boy who decides to become a masked vigilante despite having no extraordinary powers or dark motivation.

An internet video of his antics skyrockets him to fame and inspires other ordinary citizens to follow in his dubious footsteps. While all of this attention certainly gives Dave a much needed ego boost,things get ugly as the local crime syndicate decides to fight back against this wave of do-gooderism which may leave more than a few cuts and bruises for these heroes to heal up from:

Mixing humor into any genre known for it's straightforward approach to the material is risky business but when properly balanced,can produce a sharp new freshness into well worn out plot lines and standard cliches.

For example,Horror films enjoyed a nice revival from the Scream flicks(the first two,anyway-the third one was abysmal) but satirical over saturation from the likes of the Scary Movie franchise nearly clipped it's wings there.

Timing is a important factor to consider,one of the many reasons that 1999's Mystery Men wound up becoming a cult favorite rather than a big box office hit. Some of the jokes are hit and miss,but there's so much charming wackiness bouncing around that makes this movie hard to resist for some of us at least. Perhaps if it had come out a couple of years later,more audiences would've been willing to give these secondhand heroes a try:

Nothing can truly save a badly written script,however,especially one that combines three potentially unstable plot elements. My Super Ex-Girlfriend not only sloppily sandwiched together a superhero/secret identity story with a romantic comedy theme,it tossed in the meant to be funny fury of revenge twist that instead of making the humor snap,crackle and pop,only managed to turn the movie sour in a non flavorful way.

As much as I adore Uma Thurman,she has the worst luck when it comes to fantasy films,comic book based or not. While her villainous turn in Batman and Robin brought that caped clunker a bit of campy relief,Uma's unlucky in love super heroine came across as more of a menace to society,with the generic alter ego name of G-Girl to boot. It just goes to show that no matter how many top notch leading ladies or crisp comedians cast as supporting players(along with up to the minute F/X)you have on hand, a poorly thought out concept film will still stink up the place:

Either fittingly or ironically,one of the best humorous takes on the superhero genre was the animated feature The Incredibles. Blending in a sitcom style family with a snarky yet sweet look at how society loves both the rise and fall of those who chose to protect them,Pixar revived interest in superheroes for more than one generation and won over critics and audiences alike.

Despite all of it's success,an Incredibles sequel has not been made and I hope it stays that way. While some cinematic follow-ups raise the bar even higher than their original films did,most of them tend to crash and burn,dragging any more attempts at their chosen genre down with it. In this instance,it's better to leave The Incredibles as the perfect Pixar gem that it is rather than muck up the afterglow of the movie's goodness with a pitiful part two:

At this point,it's too soon to tell if Kick Ass will win,lose or draw at the box office(the film opens up April 16)but judging by the trailer,it does seem to have a firm grip on it's intended satirical targets.

Also,the down to earth,everyman empowerment vibe of the story may find a very receptive audience who appreciates that a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do,even if curtains for the bad guy in question are not the gently wafting lacy kind. Stay tuned,folks and let us hope for the best:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Can fervent fan love help Legend of the Seeker stay on a steady syndicate course?

There's good news and bad news for devoted Legend of the Seeker fans;while a third season of the show is being planned for,the current distributors(Tribune Station Group)are dropping it from their marketplaces. This means that ABC Studios,who produces the series,are scrambling about for a new place that the Seeker and friends can call home.

Understandably,many of the faithful viewers have been concerned about this and as one of them,my small contribution to the cause is in this tribute to the fan base by using fan created videos to show why LOTS is a wonderful fantasy series that rightfully deserves a strong time slot on any syndicated station for season three and beyond.

With the first season available on DVD and many of the current episodes online at Hulu,catching up on LOTS is easy enough but for those who haven't seen any of it as well as the already Confessed(pardon the inside joke),here are some of the key ingredients that make this show more than just another sword and sorcery stew:

STRONG WOMEN CHARACTERS: Despite the rough treatment that ladies receive in both the TV series and the Terry Goodkind Sword of Truth novels on which it was based,women on LOTS have shown their inner and outer strengths and prevailed on the battlefield and off.

While the slightly reformed former Mord Sith Cara(well played by Tabrett Bethell and one of my favorite characters)has gotten more screen time this season,the ultimate woman warrior of LOTS is Kahlan Amnell,the Confessor who loves her duty to save the world as much as she loves Richard and yet still manages to hold on to hope and honor,despite what ever challenges are thrown her way:

DOOMED ROMANCE: Along with various quests to save their world from evil,the main barrier between Richard Cypher and his beloved Kahlan is her Confessor powers that would destroy his free will which keeps the two of them from following their hearts and running off into the sunset together.

Granted,this latest take on the "will they/won't they" romance is a tried and true cliche standard yet with the charming chemistry between the actors(Craig Horner and Bridget Regan),this love affair at arm's length has a fresh vibrancy to it and honestly tugs at your heart strings as you root for those two crazy kids to make it work:

AWESOME ACTION: It would be foolish to act as if LOTS was all about hearts and flowers when some of the best sequences on the show are the fights,many of which rival any action packed major motion picture Hollywood has to offer up with or without 3-D.

The most memorable combat scenes on LOTS are those that mix magic with hand to hand fighting,giving the outcome of the attack the opportunity for numerous plot twists and turns. The combination of spells with a variety of fighting techniques is pure pop culture catnip. Why Quentin Tarantino hasn't tried to direct one of these episodes yet is a mystery to me,folks:

THE VERY BEST AT BEING BAD: Every great hero has to have a villain worth fighting and Legend of the Seeker has them in abundance. Whether they are ultimate Big Bads,such as this season's Keeper of the Underworld,or occasionally reoccurring foes like the witch Shota or Denna,the first Mord Sith mistress that Richard ever tangled with,evil has been rather well represented here and has at times, been devilishly entertaining.

One of the most popular villains was Season one's Big Bad,Darken Rahl who vowed to rule all of the Midlands by hook,crook and dark magic galore. As played by Craig Parker,Rahl is a cruelly charming fiend who many love to hate even now in the second season where he has become an undead ally in the current conflict that threatens to destroy all life on earth. While the Sisters of the Dark are no slouchers in the sinister doings department,it's still Darken Rahl that gives us shivers down our spine:

HEARTFELT HUMOR: Unlike previous fantasy series such as Hercules and Xena,Legend of the Seeker holds a firmer balance between straightforward seriousness and a sense of humor that helps to lighten up the tension when necessary. Nothing against campy fun but it can dilute the suspension of disbelief factor that a show like this needs to keep things in focus.

While fans who watched the show before or not having read the books and readers who joined in to see how the small screen adaptation would work disagree on numerous details,they both share a sincere and savvy love of the genre that allows them to have a laugh at some of the typical tropes that crop up on a regular basis:

My thanks to all of the fans who created these funtastic salutes to the series and hopefully the Save Our Seeker campaign will help the show from becoming a fantasy flash in the pan. Good escapist entertainment is harder to find than you think these days and showing your support for a small show like this is vital to it's survival. With any luck and a lot of fan love,Legend of the Seeker may yet continue to thrive on the TV landscape for many seasons to come:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Do chick travel flicks require light packing or heavy baggage to be worth the trip?

The official trailer for Eat,Pray,Love was released this week,a film both eagerly awaited and reluctantly accepted by those who either adored the Elizabeth Gilbert memoir upon which it was based or found the book to be a self congratulatory pseudo-spiritual ego fest.

I haven't read the book and frankly,have no real interest in it other than the cultural phenomenon that EPL has become. After all,you don't get a star like Julia Roberts to be in the film story of your life by making a quiet splash on the pop culture scene. This will no doubt be a big summer film,marketing itself to older audiences that prefer something smarter than the average big bell and whistles 3-D blockbusters set to dominate most of the multiplexes by July 4th:

Eat,Pray,Love was an Oprah favorite(not an official book club selection but she did devote at least two episodes to EPL and will probably have Julia Roberts on to promote the movie before the summer)and many a reading group chose to share and discuss all of the insights that Gilbert gained on her one year journey thru India,Italy and Bali as she regained her self esteem by developing an interest in Eastern religion,enjoying good meals and figuring out her love life.

This wasn't the first book,however,that had an upper middle class,middle aged woman sorting out her life by traveling overseas. A few years earlier,Frances Mayes wowed the literary world and book clubs as well with Under The Tuscan Sun,her memoir about buying and restoring an old villa in the countryside of Central Italy and how that helped her find both inner peace and outer happiness. The film starred Diane Lane and did decently at the box office as well as a regular go-to film on the female friendly cable channel circuit:

I did try to read Under the Tuscan Sun but couldn't get beyond the first twenty pages and eventually gave up. I don't regret that or care to give it another go-round(or even check out the movie),mainly because something about women like Mayes or Gilbert just don't connect with me.

Nothing against either one of them;I'm sure that their emotional insights are sincere but many of us don't have the financial luxury or freedom in our personal and professional obligations to just throw everything in a suitcase and start life over in a exciting foreign setting. Some may enjoy living that experience vicariously through others but as Shania Twain once sang,that don't impress me much.

Someone who did impress me quite a bit recently was Julia Child,whose memoir,My Life in France,came out in a shiny new reprint due to last summer's release of Julie and Julia.

Julia's chronicles of her days in post-WWII France,where she developed a true love of French cuisine and a burning desire to share that joy with her fellow Americans was the basis for that half of the film that dealt with the woman behind Julie Powell's inspiration for her year long cooking and blog experiment and one of the benefits of J&J being adapted for the silver screen was having Julia Child's own writing resurface for a fresh new audience of readers.

Both the book and half of the film featuring Child gives one the true sense of what this no nonsense yet sensitive woman experienced as she embraced savory sensations that lead her to her life's purpose and labored over the cook book that she collaborated on that change the culinary culture forever as well as maintain a supporting and loving relationship with family and friends. Julia Child made quite a few strides for women in her day as well as her profession,in an unselfconscious way that is still encouraging to many of us seeking our own path to personal joy:

No doubt a couple of you are saying "Come on,Lady T-it's not like Julia Child was some struggling housewife stuck in the slums there!" True,but both she and her husband were government employees and believe you me,that doesn't land you on easy street,folks. The main attraction about Child's life and times is that she was a substantive person with a strong sense of herself to begin with who just needed to find her niche,no small task during the fifties and early sixties either in Europe or America.

Strength of character is a compelling trait that makes one follow a fictional or based on a true story character into a narrative and encourages others to follow in their footsteps. Not every female in a foreign land book or film needs to have the depth of Out of Africa,for example,but you have to admit that substance does linger on longer than style in some cases:

So,while I hope everyone who wants to and gets to see Eat,Pray,Love at the movies this summer has a wonderful time,I think it's best that I sit this one out. If the film does drum up some business in a big way,more real life women on the road pictures may be heading our way from Hollywood and that may get some literary ladies well deserved screen time.

As for me(and maybe a few others out there),I'll keep my eyes open for that steady in her stride gal who is willing to share her story of how to get things going by going to explore new horizons on the world map.

Oddly enough,one of the books and films that did inspire me to visit England with a Jane Austen group several years ago was 84,Charing Cross Road whose author didn't get to meet the British bookseller she corresponded with before he passed away but thanks to the success of her book based on their letters,managed to see the England they both love. Slow and steady really can win the race,that's one of the things Helene Hanff taught me and a good lesson for all to learn:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

TAR takes a U-Turn with a French twist,A.I.'s Rolling Stones night and is the hype for F/X's new show Justified?

A tough break for Joe and Heidi on The Amazing Race this week,as Joe's bragging about how great his team was,even with his aching knee,drew some unwanted attention and landed them a U-Turn at the worst possible moment.

Everyone went to France,where the Detour challenges were reenactments of WWI warfare that required each team to retrieve a message either by crawling under barbed wire or translating Morse code.

Most of the teams went for the crawl but a blind U-Turn was set up at the next clue box and Team Cop Buddy got there first. The whole point of this being a "blind" setback was anonymity but since there were only three teams in play then and the father-daughter team of Steve and Allison reached the clue box about the same time,it wasn't much of a mystery who made Joe and Heidi go back and try their luck at Morse code.

Sadly,they weren't able to decipher the message and Phil had to go out to them in the trenches to eliminate them from the race. Sorry,folks but loose lips sink more than ships these days:

A new action series debuted on F/X this past Tuesday and it got a lot of praise even before it aired. Justified stars Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens,a US Marshall who is relocated back to his home state of Kentucky after a troublesome shooting of a suspect in public and winds up dealing with some of his former friends and foes on the other side of the law.

One of Justified's producers is Elmore Leonard,whose short story "Fire in the Hole" was the basis for the pilot episode. The dialogue and characterizations are certainly vintage Leonard material with plenty of meat on the plot line bone for the actors to chew on for a season or two. Not sure if this will be a regular stop on my TV dial but Justified is certainly worth watching,especially if you like old school lawmen dealing with the wild west antics of the modern day world:

It was Rolling Stones night on American Idol and while most of the Top 12 gave us decent performances(some better than expected), yet another stand out musical moment came from Siobhan Magnus.

While I like Michael Lynche,Lee Dewzye and Andrew Garcia,not to mention that Crystal Bowersox is an incredible indie performer,my allegiance to Siobhan must be officially declared. Her voice and poise on stage are of star quality,second only to Crystal who is honestly humble about her chances here.

Many have said this is a girl's year on Idol and truly most of the strength left in this show belongs to the ladies. Siobhan's take on "Paint It Black" was what an Idol theme night should be about;making the song your own while honoring the spirit of the original singer and bringing real emotion and power to your performance to move audiences both old and new:

The Sanjaya award rightly goes to Tim Urban this week,for truly earning a spot in the Bottom Three for his bizarrely bland version of "Under My Thumb". Bad enough that he chose to do this song of all the ones he could have picked but to throw in a reggae beat was the sour cherry on top of this ill tasting song sundae.

Tim,while I get your reasoning that it would've been foolish of you to try and emulate Mick Jagger on stage,that is no excuse for doing a Pat Boone version with a genre twist that's also a million miles away from who you are as an artist. Lucky for you that Lacey bored more people with her airy-fairy rendition of "Ruby Tuesday" and had to sing the Song of Shame on her way out the door. Then again,your reworking of this song was more shameful,so good on you,I guess:




LEGEND OF THE SEEKER: New episodes are back and more trouble from the Sisters of the Dark is upon Richard as the resurrected Sister Nicci uses a binding spell to connect her life force to Kahlan's. People really seem to have a lot of difficulty staying dead this season,particularly the evil ones,but at least you can say there's never a dull moment on this show:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Are fashionista follies more interesting as fictional or reality entertainment?

While many of the big Oscar winning and nominated films on DVD have long waiting lists for rentals,one overlooked by the Academy flick that received quite a bit of pop culture curiosity will be my latest Netflix one to watch. The September Issue is a documentary about the behind the scenes flurry of activity that went into creating the 2007 fall issue of Vogue magazine,the high point of fashion coverage for the industry.

A major attraction for audiences is getting a gander at Anna Wintour,the infamous editor of Vogue who is considered to be the template for the coldly controlling boss Miranda Priestly in both the book and film version of The Devil Wears Prada. Wintour is like many mover and shaker types in big business,loved and hated by those who work for,with and against her,so seeing just how true the word on the street is about Wintour should be worth watching:

It's funny that fictional depictions of the fashion industry such as The Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty have lead the way to reality TV and nonfiction films about this stylish subject and now the fantasy version seems to be going out of fashion. Ugly Betty is now finishing out it's final season after being moved around from one time slot to another and while there was talk of making a DWP TV show for Fox,that plan has made it's way into the trash bin for good.

Perhaps it's for the best-while I adored Ugly Betty for the first couple of seasons,the never ending soap opera antics of the characters began to tire me out by the middle of the third season(not to mention that whimsy has a really short shelf life,especially when it's used as the major tent pole of any series).

The Devil Wears Prada may have given some devoted to fashion much displeasure over the less than dazzling look it gave to their world when it comes to interpersonal relationships but it did open a door into a very influential realm of commerce that affects just about everyone on some level for many of us who felt left out of that designer loop and found a way to connect to it.

Competition shows like Project Runway helped humanize the world of fashion design and for compelling workplace drama,truth is really stranger than fiction,folks. One of my guilty pleasures when it comes to TV has been The Rachel Zoe Project,which covers the life and times of personal stylist to the stars Rachel Zoe and her two assistants,the forever cranky Taylor and sweet yet occasionally emo Brad.

Rachel's dippy personality and "let them eat cake" view on the world is amusing but she does have a sharp eye when it comes to matching the right clothes and gems to her clients as well as cultivating those crucial connections with established and promising designers in the field. Too bad she doesn't take that tact when it comes to handling real life stuff like stressing herself out so much that she needed medical attention(turned out not to be life threatening but not a trivial concern either):

The most interesting and frustrating part of the show for me is the tensions that arise between Rachel and her assistants,many of which could be easily solved or avoided by direct communication. Unfortunately,Rachel seems to be allergic to making unpopular decisions or confrontations in that department.

A prime example is when a scheduling conflict required Rachel to leave one of her assistants at home while bringing the other to Paris for Fashion Week. Instead of simply choosing either Brad or Taylor,she sent out vague signals which lead to mind games which lead to disruptive disharmony that left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. Office politics may be dressed up differently but are still the same no matter where you go,apparently:

The newest fashion related reality show on the scene is Kell on Earth,which stars fashion PR queen Kelly Cutrone whose handling of her business is practically the polar opposite of Rachel Zoe. The flock of young assistants at her agency,The People's Revolution, seem to be divided up between Those Who Perform and Those Who Primp as dilemmas arise over setting up suitable gift bags for clients and how to organize mailing out invites to events.

I haven't watched this show much but every time I do tune in,I have to agree with Kell about how her newbies need to get it in gear. It may be old school thinking but common sense should tell you that Twittering about a job interview is not a good way to get hired and that it's expected of interns to know the basics of their work,not just the right foundation base for their make-up. The mini-dramas write themselves here,seriously:

Fashion is ultimately about the illusion of beauty but when the veil is ripped off and the heavy stitching that keeps that world together is revealed,there's a harshly glittering allure to it which is as in vogue as the newest couture line on the runways of New York,Paris and Milan. Even for the fashion challenged like me,this double sided mirror view of the glamorous world of wardrobe maintenance reflects upon us all in equal merit and measure:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dawn of the Dreadfuls book trailer makes it's way down the primrose prequel path

With some of the success of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters being due to it's wickedly clever creature feature trailer,it only stands to reason that the good folks at Quirk Classics would follow the same sinister recipe for their newest Austen related terror title coming out very soon.

Yes,the official trailer for Pride & Prejudice & Zombies:Dawn of the Dreadfuls has hit the internet with a bloody vengeance and made quite a splash indeed. It has all of the thrills,chills and zombie massacre action that any Gentle Reader and horror movie aficionado could want and then some:

While the new DOD trailer is most exciting,the true challenge here is seeing how those who enjoy the original PP&Z will take to this book which is in a rather tricky category of fiction both of page and screen status,the prequel. Prequels,for those not quite sure of the meaning of the term,are stories that come after a well established book/film but the plot lines are set in a time earlier than the original story.

A good example of that is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,the first sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark that takes place about a year earlier and gives Dr. Jones a new locale and cast of characters to work with as he stumbles into an adventure in India. Many other film franchises followed suit,since this format allowed them to only recast certain actors and a little more leeway with story lines. Some have come to see Temple of Doom as the one that started that ball rolling,for better or for worse:

Others,however,claim that honor for The Godfather,Part II,which gives us the back story of deceased mafia patriarch Vito Corleone(played by Robert DeNiro)along side the continuing saga of his youngest son Michael,who keeps the family criminal empire alive by hook,crook and dark betrayal upon betrayal.

The prequel portions of the film are really meant to be a point/counterpoint to Michael's struggles to hold together the business and family connections that his father built up,only to find that price for both creating and maintaining such a position of power is a heavy one,regardless of generations. The strength of both sides of this saga coin is that either one would make a fine film on it's own yet together,they make a masterpiece:

Prequels in the hands of Hollywood do not guarantee that even the lead actors are exempt from being recast. Tom Clancy's Hunt for Red October film adaptation was followed up by it's literary prequel Patriot Games but the pivotal Jack Ryan character was played here by Harrison Ford,who was a tad older than Alec Baldwin who originated the part in the earlier film.

Ford took over the Jack Ryan series,which turned out well for the most part and his style of acting did suit the character but it's interestingly ironic that in order to keep these films going,Jack Ryan had to become the action thriller version of Benjamin Button:

A long awaited prequel is the live action version of The Hobbit,J.R.R. Tolkien's classic fantasy novel that predates the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was made into an animated feature film back in the mid-seventies by the Rankin-Bass crew and still has quite a bit of cult movie chic to it today.

Guillermo Del Tor is said to be on tap for the director's chair for the new Hobbit instead of Peter Jackson,which I think will work out fine. Del Toro has the same kind of visual wonderment style as Jackson,only with a more pronounced approach to creating awe and amazement on screen which should suit past and future fans of The Hobbit to a T:

Dawn of the Dreadfuls may brook some opposition from a few fans who are a bit more particular about these things,but the lighthearted and the lively amongst us will be able to thoroughly enjoy this giggle worthy gruesome romp with the Bennet girls yet again. For those of you still in doubt,console yourselves with the fact that at least this is a prequel rather than a sequel(which even many of uninitiated into Austen fare know she didn't write),so mellow your harshness,please: