Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Top Chef :JD's bake sale blues, TAR's fruity fresh start and meet No Ordinary Family

The Quickfire challenge on Top Chef Just Desserts was really quite the challenge,as the chefs were given a hour and a half to put together a wedding cake. The actual cake layers were already baked,so what they had to do was create fillings and get creative with the decorating.

Erika won this round,for a mocha explosion with a Kahlua butter cream. Malika had trouble with her timing yet again(this is getting to be a bad habit of hers)and managed to only have one layer ready. At least she made the effort-Seth chose to make a mini "engagement" cake,since he didn't have wedding cake experience. Dude,you don't get to pick and choose your challenges,okay?

For the Elimination challenge,everyone was divided into two teams via a cookie jar draw(this show's equivalent of the traditional TC knife pull)and assigned to make goodies for a school bake sale. One team would try to raise money for the glee club while the other went for the pep squad,both groups wanting the chance to take an out of school trip-the glees to New York,the peps to cheer camp.

The team that made the most money at the sale would be declared the winner. Of course,Bravo and friends gave both groups the extra cash to attend both outings once the contest was over,plus a donation of five grand to the school as well.

Team Pep Squad won the challenge,with one of the top treats on the table being Erika's chocolate chip chunk with walnuts cookie. It was a recipe that she had first created as a kid and so good that the special guest judge for this episode,Sylvia Weinstock,insisted upon getting several times.

Malika made up for her QF blunder by turning out a tasty toffee fudge brownie. She did use someone else's recipe(which she acknowledged at the judge's table)but adding the toffee was her own twist on it.

That brownie recipe belonged to Eric,who won for his peanut butter crispy bar coated in dark chocolate. He went through a bit of a struggle in making the bar,as Heather on Team Glee decided to take all the peanut butter in the pantry for herself and had the nerve to refuse to share!

What little peanut butter Eric ended up,he made up for by mixing nutella into the batch. That enriched the flavors of the bar and gave him a truly sweet victory.

As for Team Glee,there were a lot of misfires. Zac made a strawberry shortcake with rainbow sprinkles that was dried out,Yigit had a ginger chocolate pudding with way too much ginger and Danielle's coconut cupcake with salted caramel frosting was even drier that Zac's shortcake biscuits.

Seth once again flouted the challenge and made a coffee flavored "financier's" cake that was far from kid friendly here. Sorry I don't have a picture of that but for some reason,the Bravo recipe website for this show has very few selections from certain contestants and barely none for others(Seth,being one of them)-makes you wonder there,now doesn't it?

The chef who went home here was Heather C,she of the peanut butter hoarding for her plain Jane peanut butter cookie. She had originally wanted to make a whoopie pie but Team Glee insisted that her idea would be redundant(thinking of Yigit's pudding with marshmallow-who makes pudding for a bake sale,seriously?) and for her to make a cookie instead.

Her team denied that at judge's table,which was not good sportsmanship in my opinion. Even if Heather was pushed into the cookie caper,she could have done something different with it-maybe a peanut butter cookie sandwich-yet the main flavor of that cookie was,as one judge pointed out,resentment.

Next week,the chefs have a ice cream sundae dilemma that hopefully won't make anyone melt down again(yes,Seth,we're looking at you!)

The seventeenth season of The Amazing Race started up on Sunday,with a special new twist added to the show. For the team that came in first on the opening leg of the race,they were awarded an "Express Pass" that will allow them to bypass any upcoming challenges they wish to avoid and move onward to the Pitstop.

This privilege is only good up to the eighth leg,so it will be interesting to see if the couple that won this prize,Jill and Thomas,will last long enough to use it fully.

The team that caught everyone's eye was Claire and Brook,home shopping hostesses who had a spot of trouble during the Roadblock in England. The whole purpose of that challenge was to shoot watermelons at a suit of armor until it was knocked down and then you could get your clue.

Claire choose to do it but wound up getting slammed in the face with one of the melons. After a small recovery,she managed to complete the assignment and become the fourth team to make the Pitstop. Good going,ladies-with any luck,the rest of the Race will be smooth sailing for you two from here on out:

No Ordinary Family debuted this week,starring Michael Chiklis and Julie Benz as Jim and Stephanie Powell,who along with their two teenage kids,Daphne and JJ,go on a trip to Brazil as a chance to bring their drifting apart family together. Lo and behold,a plane crash into strangely glowing waters gives all of them super powers.

Jim has increased strength and the ability to catch bullets in midair;Julie is gifted with Flash level speed while Daphne can read minds and JJ develops an incredibly high intelligence. Once they all realize and tell each other about their brand new abilities,the odds for this dysfunctional family to flourish are raised up and away.

While this may seem like a live action version of The Incredibles,this show does have some good possibilities to become more than a one season wonder. Chiklis and Benz are no strangers to fantasy fare and while the tone of this series is not as intense as Heroes was,turning that trope of ordinary people with extraordinary powers might connect more with a mainstream audience than that series did.

It does help that Chiklis' character is a police sketch artist,giving him reasonable proximity to info about criminals and Benz's research scientist mom has a handy edge in clicking into the big conspiracy racket there. What will ultimately make or break this show is the writing and character chemistry,some of which looks promising. It'll take a few more episodes to see if this family act can keep things going here:


CHOPPED CHAMPIONS: For this competition between past winners of this Food Network series,the returning chefs went into a five round foodie fight with the finale prize of fifty thousand dollars at stake.

Out of the four who made it to the last showdown,the fan favorite was Madison Cowan,who charmed not only his fellow chefs and the judges with his soulful ways and creative cooking skills but audiences as well.

Many of us were rooting for him to win and triumph he did. They say nice guys finish last but Madison is the exception to that rule,proving that gentlemanly behavior is still alive and kicking in the world.Congratulations are in order to Madison and best wishes to him and his lovely daughter,whom all of his hopes are pinned on. Cheers to you,sir:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The horror of love

Ever notice how some of the best horror stories are also really great tragic tales of love as well? True,the Bronte sisters caught on to that notion faster than many of us but they tended to focus more on the love than the terror by the end of their books. As time and the growth of the horror genre went on,the linkage has become more obvious.

From the twisted attraction between clever cannibal Hannibal Lector and determined to prove herself FBI agent Clarice Starling to the bizarre bonding of imprisoned author Paul Sheldon and his "number one fan" Annie Wilkes and the truly fatal attraction of Dan and his part time lover Alex,the consequences of romance gone wrong has been a key component in many horror films,books and TV series.

From the supernatural to all too real scary stories,love and horror have held hands and strolled into our nightmares for a long time now and as another early Halloween treat,we here at LRG have pulled together some of our favorite caught in a bad romance moments and couples:

THE MONSTER AND HIS MATE: The classics are a good place to start as any,especially when such a lovelorn gem of terror as The Bride of Frankenstein is waiting in the wings.

The despair of being alone and unloved is the motivational spur used by Dr. Pretorious to manipulate both Dr. Frankenstein and his alleged monster into making a female version of his creation.

While the science ultimately succeeds,there clearly is no chemistry arising from the newly made maiden and her intended lover. You really have to feel for the poor guy;he couldn't have done worst than if he had answered an ad on Craig's List:

COMPUTER DATING FROM THE HELLMOUTH: On an early episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer,Willow had a reaction similar to Frankenstein's bride,only without the screaming,upon her face-to-face meeting with her cyber boyfriend,who she thought was a nice guy named Malcolm.

Turns out that he was actually a demon given a robot body by his band of deluded followers and that his idea of true love involved deception and murder,with delight in spreading chaos via the internet as a bonus.

This wasn't the first off the beaten path romance that Willow(or any of her Sunnydale pals)would be part of-she did fall in love with a werewolf and a witch-but it was the one that ended with much less heartbreak than the others did. However,that cloud of romantic doom that lingered over the Buffy and her main Scoobies during the seven seasons of the show can be said to be officially acknowledged here:

BLOOD ON THE DANCE FLOOR: Vampires have long held the eternal romance crown in this category and since the 1985 vamp flick Fright Night was in part a homage to the old school style of horror film,it's no wonder that this trope was threaded into the plot's framework.

Newly arrived vampire Jerry Dandridge was just concerned about covering his gory tracks,thanks to the interference of the teen next door Charlie, but when he realized that Charlie's girlfriend Amy bore a striking resemblance to a former flame from his past ,the stakes really went higher.

The seduction of Amy began as she and Charlie ran into a nightclub to avoid Jerry but the vampire's hypnotic lure drew her out onto the dance floor and into his incredibly sexy embrace. I know that there are plans in the works to remake this film but I highly doubt that any new edition will be able to capture the sensuous energy of this sequence or the tingle of fear and desire during the mirror moment of truth for Amy:

QUITE THE SINGING CARROT TO DANGLE THERE: For wimpy flower shop clerk Seymour,the only true inducement that his chatty plant pal was able to use to get him to find fresh human chow in Little Shop of Horrors was the chance to win the heart of his beloved Audrey. Fortunately,Audrey's taste in men was on par with her wardrobe choices,so putting her brutal beau on the menu wasn't all too bad.

When Seymour got cold feet again regarding providing that made of man fertilizer,his leafy companion countered that move by tricking Audrey into a dinner date where she was the main course. That ploy was the deal breaker between Seymour and that mean green mother from outer space-chomping on a fella's fiance is truly crossing a line,after all:

It looks like love and horror will still continue to work together as friends,if not lovers,in order to make those themes of out of control passion and misguided emotions hit home for their audiences.

Whose to say this isn't an ideal pairing,really? Love can be pretty scary,even without any monsters,real or imagined,to make things more complicated than they usually are.

Then again,some frightening situations are better than others; anyone can be in a love triangle but if your choices are both vampires,the selection can boil down to which flavor of bloodsucker you prefer-blonde brooding or darkly devious. Talk about being caught between the fangs of a dilemma there!:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I'll take Comedic Political Clashes for 300,Alex

Pop culture and politics had a bit of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup moment recently,as Stephen Colbert's testimony before a congressional committee caused quite a stir.

It was his typical brand of mock seriousness combined with his heartfelt opinion regarding the use of illegal immigrant labor in the farming industry.Granted,Colbert is not truly an expert in this field and the main purpose of having him speak before the committee was to use his star power as a ratings lightning rod for this issue but it does seem like the people behind this production had only good intentions in mind:

Comedy and politics are no strangers to each other,however most of the time these two warring factors tend to hook up on fictional playing fields. Goofiness often comes into play,especially for films aimed at the broadest targets such as the 1993 Goldie Hawn star vehicle,Protocol.

Goldie's character,Sunny Davis, sweet natured cocktail waitress was caught up in a political whirlwind as she was granted a diplomat's position after a bit of heroics at her former place of work saved the life of a foreign dignitary.

Things were resolved in apple pie order by the end of the film but not without Sunny putting her two cents in before Congress about where and who the ultimate responsibility for that whole mess belonged to:

One of the most popular "everyman in Washington" comedies of the past decade was Dave,that had Kevin Kline in duel roles as the elected President of the United States and his average American lookalike Dave Kovic,who had to take over the job for real due to the true President dying unexpectedly.

Part of the appeal of Dave was seeing how common sense solutions could be found to major problems such as hiring a regular tax man to help balance the budget. Just how realistic that approach would be is hard for me to tell but it is an amusing thought to have there:

Even lackluster movies like the sad sequel to Legally Blonde can't resist the regular guy/gal tact in handling big league politics. For most of LB2: Red,White and Blonde,Elle Woods is all about getting a bill passed that protects her little dog Bruiser.

When her big moment comes to present Bruiser's Bill to Congress,however,Elle recycles that bit from the first movie where her vast knowledge of hair care helped to save the day. That scene is certainly not in the same league as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,folks,but some of what is said there is well meaning at best:

So,while you may not be pleased at our elected officials resorting to publicity stunts to get their point across,it's a good idea to simply not make matters worse by throwing more fuel onto the fire. Yes,it would be better and far more efficient to have those who truly know what they're talking about speak at such important venues,raising the roof about celebrity interference only diverts much needed attention away from other serious concerns.

Perhaps,comedy mixed with politics should stick to the realm of entertainment instead of turning real life proceedings into reality TV. Using a fictional format has proven to be a better way for getting your point made with your audience tuning in instead of out to your message:

Monday, September 27, 2010

A few nonfiction films worth checking out as cinematic self education

While some of the movies being released this fall are aimed at a more "serious" audience, many folks do tend to tune out anything that doesn't offer a sweet escape from reality right away.

That's doesn't mean you should feel bad about seeing a film strictly for fun but a fact based movie,whether it's a documentary or simply a "based on the true story" feature,can be just as inviting and intriguing to enjoy.

One documentary is certainly getting a lot of promotional love from critics and the media these days,due to it's theme of our troubled educational system. Waiting for "Superman" goes over the vast inequalities of public education and focuses on families trying to get their kids into a better situation as well as educators in the field working on solutions.

Even if you no longer have children of school age,this is a concern for all of us as education helps to create the present and future society in which we all share:

For those who think that cooking competitions are all hot oven hype,the dead seriousness of the 16 chefs who spend three days of baking,sculpting and strenuous sugar art in order to win the top prize of Master Craftsman in France as depicted in Kings of Pastry may change your culinary outlook there.

This isn't about personality clashes or game playing for the cameras;the real drama is in each piece of pastry that doesn't measure up in taste or a collapsing sweet sculpture which could cost someone the chance to showcase their skills as one of the best in their field and in the world:

For a fictional take on the facts,let's start with Howl,starring James Franco as controversial beat poet Allen Ginsberg as his most infamous work is being tried in court as part of an obscenity case against indie book store owner and publisher Lawrence Ferlingetti in 1957.

The movie blends pieces of Ginberg's life and times in New York as he begins his literary career,along with the trial and an animated depiction of the title poem.

I'm not into the whole beat generation thing myself but this flick looks like a good introduction to that scene and an unique way to get a handle on what it was all about:

Last but certainly not least,animal lovers and sports fans alike can get together to watch Secretariat,with Diane Lane as owner Penny Chenery ,who along with eccentric trainer Lucien Laurin(John Malkovich), reared the legendary race horse that won the American Triple Crown back in 1973.

That horse was the first to do so in twenty five years,amidst several odds including bias against women in horse racing circles,the financial woes of the stables that Penny took over from her ailing father and the sheer boldness in attempting to have one horse win all three races.

Yes,this is a Disney movie so the tone is your typical triumph over adversary but isn't that a good vibe to tune into every once in a while?:

Whether partaking of one of these movies or any other nonfiction flick,be sure not to assume that all of the facts are fully featured on film. Even a documentary feature can have their material shaped to suit the filmmaker's agenda and while it's a nice start to learning more about a certain subject,scoping out the sources on your own is a smart idea(also,don't be too quick to believe everything you find on Wikipedia either,folks):

Friday, September 24, 2010

A burning issue to consider during Banned Books Week this year

Tomorrow is the start of Banned Books Week(September 25-October 2),the literary community's annual look at how the freedom to read has been and still is under siege. Freedom of thought is one of our most valued rights and part of that deal includes allowing people of all ages to choose their reading material without fear of reprisal.

Freedom of expression is another cherished right and as Peter Parker's Uncle Ben once wisely said,"With great power comes great responsibility." Normally,I don't get political on this blog(there are more than enough places online for folks to have those discussions)but for Banned Books Week this year,it's necessary for me to address the red hot elephant in the room.

Yes,we have to talk about book burning,that ugly sizzler of a subject,which made the news over the end of summer. While not getting into the whole ongoing debate that spurred a certain person to call for a nationwide bonfire of a well known religious text,it's safe to say that destroying anyone's spiritual writings is wrong for whatever reason.

Of all the ways in which to suppress reading that there are,book burning is the ultimate attack upon not only lovers of literature but authors and ideas themselves. It's a horrific notion that is scarier to bibliophiles that any imaged monster or evil curse could ever hope to achieve:

In order to make something less frightening,it's good to take it apart and see what really makes this terror run. To begin with,why fire? You could just as easily destroy books with water or scissors(not trying to give some misguided soul out there any ideas,I swear!) or any other method that allows for a major public display of force there.

Fire,as well demonstrated in the classic Ray Bradbury novel Fahrenheit 451, has strong symbolic meaning along with it's capacity to render objects into ashes. It represents positive as well as negative influences upon humanity and in the right hands,can be a source of progress and protection for those seeking a better way of life:

A key element that gives book burning any solid ground to stand on is mob mentality. Many of us would prefer to believe that we are not so easily persuadable as to be swept up into group based hatred but even the best of us can fall sway to fears from peers.

This mindset has been used by both those wanting to do the right thing for all as well as those only concerned with gaining power and delighting in chaos. Beware the urge to follow in lockstep,regardless of what the theme may be,because such social movements have not only lead to the burning of books but of people,too:

Part of the fear that drives people to book burning is of change;from the world around them to their companions in life.

Seeking to be educated is a time honored path towards finding personal happiness but some of the major obstacles along the way are those who want everyone in their social sphere to stay in their place and go no further than their own backyard.

Trying to keep someone planted firmly on your level is actually a sign of insecurity rather than pride in your origins as many will maintain as a defense for such emotional sabotage. Direct and indirect opposition like this can quickly backfire,however,adding more fuel to the fire driving that special someone in life farther away from you than any book can:

As we celebrate our freedom to read,let us hope that book burning becomes one of those bits of history that we are no longer doomed to repeat. It's hard enough for local libraries to get the proper funding they need these days without having to worry about their collections going up in smoke.

The written word is each generation's lasting legacy to the next and it would be a sin and a shame to render such rich treasures into trash. Keep the fires burning in your heart instead of on the book shelves:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Top Chef:JD gets their drink on,werewolf worries for Vampire Diaries and an unexpected Mad Men daddy-daughter day

For the second Quickfire challenge on Top Chef:Just Desserts,the chefs were tasked to make a sweet treat using penny candy,which sounds like an ideal concept there.

Danielle went back to her childhood and made a grown up version of "worms in dirt" with a chocolate mousse and lemon gummy candy,plus malted milk balls and lemon soda on the side. That savvy sugar rush gave her the win and immunity,but her victory was quickly overshadowed in the aftermath of Seth's hysterics.

Seems that Seth's sorbet wasn't ready in time and wound up being served in melted form. He was planning his whole dish around sweets that his mom(who has some health problems)likes and when it didn't fully work out,Seth broke down before and during the judging. Guest judge Elizabeth Falkner even went over to comfort him at one point but he was pretty desolate over that dud of a dessert:

That could've blown over quickly but for the Elimination Challenge,everyone had to make a dessert based on a cocktail and pick their ingredients from behind the bar at Tar Pit restaurant(where the sweets would be served).

Seth freaked out over not finding pink grapefruit and wound up yelling at his fellow contenders,most of whom were just trying to encourage him to find something else to use. This guy is just making enemies all over the place and it's only the second episode,geez!

As to the challenge,Eric made it to the winner's circle for his pineapple upside down cake with bourbon,along with Yigit for his panna cotta with basil ice cream.

The big winner,however,was Ericka for her margarita "bomb"-a creamy creation with tequila mousse,lime cookie and creme brule with Grand Marnier.

Erika was particularly clever in her presentation of the dish,realizing that her fully rounded bombs were one short for service,so she sliced them in half in order to have enough for all.

In the Bottom Three was Seth for a blueberry gimlet cake that resembled edible clay,in my opinion,and Malika for her blood orange and blackberry mojito cake. It was way too sugary,which may have been due to yet another timing issue for her.

The one sent packing this time was Tim,for a basil pudding with orange and lime granita. The dish turned unappealing rather fast,becoming what most of the judges called "scrambled egg soup." Tim thought that might have been due to the brief brule on top of the pudding. Regardless,that pudding made tapioca look sexy in comparison.

Next week,a wedding cake must be made and hopefully,Seth will not be alone in his freak outs for this one.

In addition to the regular batch of blood drinkers and witches on The Vampire Diaries,another supernatural menace will be making their presence known in Mystic Falls this week. Yes,it's werewolf time and our local pack will be made up of troubled Tyler Lockwood and his mysterious Uncle Mason,for now anyway.

One of the things that I really like about this show is that they don't leave the audience hanging for too long when it comes to introducing new plot points. Hopefully,the werewolf transformation scenes will come across much better than in previous prime time lupine outings(I adored Oz on Buffy the Vampire Slayer but in wolf form,the guy looked like a were version of a Planet of the Apes resident).

Also,I hope that the whole "werewolf bite is lethal to vampires" bit isn't a cheap way to wipe out newly vamped Caroline and cheat us out of a major mother-daughter confrontation moment to come:

Speaking of daughters, Don Draper's little girl Sally unexpectedly showed up at his work on Mad Men this past Sunday. Sally is starting to grow up fast,which is displeasing her emotional freak of a mother(I don't care what time period it is,threatening to cut off your preteen's fingers if she dares to pleasure herself ever is beyond mental,folks),so she ran to her father to see if he would take her in.

Unfortunately for Sally,her dad is barely able to keep himself together let alone one of his kids(I suspect that if it was one of his sons,Don might seriously consider the notion of single parenthood for awhile there).

Between the divorce and having to see a psychiatrist before she hits the main level of adolescence,Sally is truly caught in middle with neither the rock or the hard place willing to take the lead in guiding her to emotionally safe waters.

Don's attempts to use new love interest Faye as a lifeguard here was another poor choice. The only one who seems to get a clue about what Sally's feeling is receptionist Megan,a very sympathetic soul that might make for a good stepmother in Sally's future-stranger things have happened!:


THE AMAZING RACE: Season 17 is set to launch this weekend,with quite a wild early challenge on deck. It involves aiming a slingshot and watermelons at suits of armor in a field,with one of the racers getting some serious blow-back right in her face. Granted,some of the people who enter this competition whine too much about the hardness of the tasks but you really have to give this poor gal a major pass in that department here:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Celebrating longtime love in song and on screen

Over this past weekend,I got the chance to watch a classic musical that I've heard about for years but never saw before,Gigi. It's a rather charming film,especially when you consider the main point of the plot is about an older man falling in love with the young girl intended to be his mistress.

The tone of the whole piece is delightfully sweet,with deft touches of cynical social satire mixed in to off set any candy coated gloss clinging to the characters.

One of the best numbers was a duet between Gigi's grandmother(Hermione Gingold)and the uncle of her intended suitor(Maurice Chevailer),who were once lovers back in their youth and fondly recall their last days of courtship(one of them being more accurate with the details than the other):

The bittersweet beauty of that duet got me to thinking about what other love songs dealt with romance amongst the older set,in all of it's forms. After all,romance is not exclusively meant for young people only,folks. Whether it's the fondness of a couple wedded for years or simply seeing each other on the side,a duet between longtime partners in love can hold a lot of resonance and well honed harmony.

Memories of a former love also count,which is why our look at longtime lovers begins with this bit from Xanadu. "Whenever You're Away From Me" was one of the last hurrahs for Gene Kelly on film,teaming his aging entertainer character Danny McGuire with the ghostly muse of his once true love(Olivia Newton-John,who keeps up pretty well with such a pro on the dance floor).

This melodic memory piece is a real highlight that every Xanadu fan cherishes as much as they do the eighties:

Amidst all of the hair hopping teen hijinks in the musical version of Hairspray was a small subplot regarding the grown-ups that made for a perfect excuse for Christopher Walken and John Travolta to do a dance of love together.

"You're Timeless" was a way for devoted husband Wilbur to reassure his plus size wife Edna that she was still and always would be the apple of his eye(after she caught him in what looked like a compromising position with another woman).

Edna eventually came around and reaffirmed her love for him as well,giving both of these sideline supporting players a catch to shine on their own. It may not be one of the first songs that come to mind when thinking of Hairspray but it's subject matter is truly timeless in it's appeal and delivery:

One of the things that Fiddler on the Roof is not always known for is it's quieter moments but one of the most touching moments comes when Teyve asks his wife of twenty five years "Do You Love Me?" Arranged marriages may be a concept of the past best left behind,yet it is nice to think that some of those couples perhaps did find love for one another over time:

For the film version of the Broadway musical,The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,Dolly Parton wrote a few original numbers,some of which didn't make it into the finished movie.

One that did tied into the plot twist that had Dolly's Miss Mona and Sheriff Ed Dodd(Burt Reynolds)as secret lovers who enjoyed their private romps and were determined to keep them out of sight of their contemporaries.

"Sneakin' Around" is a fun little ditty that showcases the simple pleasures of a pair of born rascals who in a different time and place could've shared their love out in the open without fear of reprisal. While the fates are certainly fickle about these things,they can also share a good laugh about the situation as well:

Film moments like these are meant to serve as inspiration and seeing love survive beyond the first blush of youth is very inspiring,especially for those looking to reach that stage of life linked arm in arm with that special someone themselves when the time comes. Having a musical accompaniment to such a golden period for a lucky couple is not an absolute necessity but it does make for a great serving of gravy goodness to savor there:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Will Game of Thrones be the next major fantasy frenzy on TV?

Along with many other coming attractions quickly showcased during the third season finale of True Blood,HBO gave some promo love to their upcoming fantasy series due in early 2011,Game of Thrones.

Based on the popular set of seven books in the Song of Fire & Ice series by George R.R. Martin,the show chronicles the clash between the territories of a mythical kingdom and the various families struggling to keep or claim power.

The cast includes some rather well known actors who are no strangers to the fantasy genre such as Sean Bean,Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage and judging by the early reception from fans and newcomers alike,Game of Thrones has the makings of a hit,so far anyway:

Hype and a good cast,however,are not always reliable indicators of quality viewing. From what I understand,these books are rather intricate in their plotting(finding a simple synopsis of the story line is about as easy as getting a straight answer from a politician),which may make it difficult for those unfamiliar with them to latch onto the story right off the bat.

Another small stumbling block may be the lack of magic involved here. George R.R. Martin has said he prefers to focus more on people instead and that these stories are meant for adults,not a bad way to put a new twist on things.

Yet,when most people hear the term fantasy,they expect a little razzle-dazzle of some sort to be included. There are a few mystical elements blended in the background that should pop up in the HBO adaptation,plus quite a bit of combat action,so folks looking for otherworldly thrills should take to this sword play saga just fine:

It does help that the author is fully behind the series and that the fan base for Game of Thrones is incredibly strong. Board,card and role playing game versions of the books have been made,with more no doubt to arise based upon the HBO adaptation.

Martin's creative style does lend itself well to television,as it turns out. In addition to writing other fantasy novels and anthologies that he's edited,George R.R. Martin has done scripts for sci-fi/fantasy shows such as the revived edition of The Twilight Zone back in the mid-eighties and the popular Beauty and the Beast. He wrote over a dozen episodes of that series,combining romance and realism for those enthralled with seeing such a classic love story come to life every week:

With all of that in mind,A Game of Thrones is at least worth one look. The first episodes will start airing by next spring,giving us plenty of time to prepare for what's to come. Hopefully it will fulfill the hopes of it's faithful fans and give a much needed boost to viewers of fantasy fare seeking a new place on the tube to call home:

Monday, September 20, 2010

A few bewitching reads to put you into the Halloween spirit

With the month of October soon to be upon us,it's important to note that fright fests are not only found on screens big and small but can be sinisterly showcased in the most terrifying arena of them all: the human mind.

Scary stories can become even more twisted on the page,flavored with your imagination as each fearful moment unfolds chapter by chapter before your very eyes. Of course,it doesn't hurt to add a few laughs in or change up some of the set in place dynamics of your genre in order to add a little extra spice to the scare sauce there.

So,for your reading pleasure,here are a handful of sinister suggestions to get you in that Halloween state of mind well before the costume party begins. All of these titles are in paperback,by the way,to make them slide into your trick or treat bag that much easier:


Fans of the living dead have a couple of fun titles to munch on this year,starting off with Night of the Living Trekkies by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall. The plot of this new Quirk Classics novel has a band of intrepid Star Trek fans going forth to attend GulfCon,a major Trek convention in the Deep South,only to find that their fellow Klingon and Captain Kirk devotees have turned into an army of ferocious flesh eaters.

Naturally,they do what any red blooded fantasy follower would do:use their arcane knowledge and mock combat skills to attack this invading force that grows faster in number and threat than Tribbles ever would. Zombies and Star Trek may appear to be an odd pairing but just think of this as a hilarious hybrid of Shaun of the Dead and Galaxy Quest,folks,and you'll be fine:

Jesse Peterson takes a slightly more down to earth approach to this material in Married With Zombies. Combative couple Sarah and David are too busy fighting with each other to notice the rise of the undead around them until a visit to their marriage counselor ends in a literal bloodbath.

Now,the stakes are even higher for this pair of all out of lovebirds,as they struggle to survive both the zombie apocalypse and each other. Combining romance with the living dead is certainly a new twist,one that could make any future film versions more of a true date night there.

Much like a long term marriage,the zombie genre does need to keep things interesting and a little love can make the undead madness fresh and fun for everyone involved,indeed:


Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series introduces the reader to Alexia Tarabotti,a sensible spinster in a Victorian era London where werewolves and vampires are somewhat accepted members of polite society.

Miss Tarabotti is not altogether human herself,being a "preternatural"(born without a soul)which makes her less susceptible to the hynoptic influence of certain immortals.This,however,does not make her safe from the various plots and strange schemes hatching between human and inhuman forces at work alike. Armed with otherworldly allies and a trusty parasol,Miss Tarabotti seeks to bring order to chaos and find a proper time for tea along the way.

The books are a blend of steampunk sensibilities and comedy of manners,suitable for many literary tastes,with a dash of romance and intrigue rounding it off nicely. The newest book in the series,Blameless,has just been released but it would be wise to start off with Soulless and then proceed to Changeless before taking the third tome up.

While some of the tone in these tales is rather tongue in cheek,manners are a serious consideration for Carriger's characters. If you think about it,being properly introduced to a vampire before he or she requests to partake of your blood is a pretty reasonable social standard to uphold:


When we last left the tormented duet of Detective Archie Sheridan and beautifully evil serial killer Gretchen Lowell from Chelsea Cain's Heartsick and Sweetheart,the two of them had come to a gruesome understanding-Archie will not end his own life as long as Gretchen doesn't end anyone else's.

In Evil At Heart, that pact seems to be in place as Gretchen's celebrity status grows,with a legion of fans cheerfully counting off every day that she's loose on the world.

However,a string of murders that have victims bearing Gretchen's signature heart motif is causing Archie to wonder if Gretchen is back to her old tricks or is someone following in her blood soaked footsteps? The answer may be more horrifying than the questions sprouting up in this diabolical dance of death between hunter and prey:


With the debut of the American remake of the Swedish horror sensation,Let The Right One In ,due on October 1st,some might be surprised to know that both films are based upon a novel by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvuist and available to read in translation.

Whether you prefer the new version of this story or choose to stick with the first film that depicts the developing relationship between a bullied young boy and the alluring vampire child next door,checking out this haunting modern day fable of twisted love in it's original fictional format should be a real blood chiller:

Reading about horror may be a safe alternative to experiencing Halloween hi-jinks live and in person,but it doesn't have to hurt if you put down your book and get a taste of(tame)terror there. Halloween is meant to be live action fun and a great way to use your imagination in the interest of home grown entertainment.

You can pick your pop culture poison in many varieties but if you choose to step out of the fictional realm to create a real world prank,be sure to careful in your creativity and make sure your target audience is willing to have a laugh at their expense. Fun and fright shows should walk hand in hand on All Hallow's Eve,a great tradition to keep alive for future generations of fear fans: