Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, September 30, 2011

Checking out some 2012 cinematic space in the Movie Trailer Park

While it is a tad soon to be looking towards the next year in film,ignoring it is as impossible as overlooking that display of Halloween candy that's been in your local superstore since Labor Day.

A good number of the trailers for 2012 are already online and/or at a theater near you,so we might as well shift through a handful of them to spot any sweet bargains coming down the pop culture pike.

First up is One For The Money,starring Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum,a Jersey girl seeking steady work who stumbles into a career in bounty hunting. This film is based on the first book in Janet Evanovich's popular mystery series and no doubt many of the fans are as we speak debating the pluses and the minuses of the casting choices.

While I haven't read the books,this does look like a zippy little flick and goodness knows Heigl could use a decent hit film here. She's a talented actress who has been stuck in the romcom doldrums for a long while and this could be her golden ticket to bigger and better things:

On the sequel front,Kate Beckinsale returns as vampire warrior woman Selene in Underworld:Awakening,where her character has been comatose for a dozen years and is revived in the future.

She soon discovers that humanity is well aware of the vampire/lycan presence in the world and are going after both supernatural races in order to destroy them. Naturally,this doesn't bode well with Selene and she joins the fray,in 3D no less.

As much as I dig seeing Beckinsale in kickass mode,how successful this movie will be in terms of story is rather questionable which is probably why it's a midwinter release in the first place:

In the remake department,The Woman in Black has Daniel Radcliffe front and center as Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer who journeys to a small town in the English countryside to settle the affairs of a reclusive resident.

Her ancestral house is said to be haunted by the specter of the title,whose visitations are often followed by the death of a child. With Kipps having a young son to protect from the vengeful grasp of the supposed spirit,the terror hits far closer to home than preferred.

The trailer is uber-creepy(in the best sense of the term) and since the original film was a made for TV production in the UK(based on a 1983 novel by Susan Hill),this new version will feel fresh to American audiences,not to mention having Harry Potter in a more mature role is a nice bonus to boot:

Since the Harry Potter films are now complete and the end of the Twilight saga is on the Hollywood horizon,YA fantasy fans can set their sights on The Hunger Games,due to arrive next spring.

Despite the endless arguments about which actress should have been signed on as Katniss,Jennifer Lawrence is a fine choice and will do credit to the role.

I suspect that if times are as tough as they are right now,The Hunger Games will strongly resonate with mass audiences who feel that they're in just as much as a life or death struggle as the kids chosen to fight for the televised amusement of a repressive and strictly class system structured society.

Not trying to be negative here,just observing how the popularity of certain sci-fi/fantasy tropes can be a real reflection of the mindset of a particular time period:

It looks like we have plenty to look forward to,movie wise,and I hope that at least
a couple of these trailers offer us treats instead of tricks. It would be nice to see
something a bit unexpected at the multiplex,making that bang for your buck a honest bargain for once:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Top Chef JD samples some sweet sabotage,a second shot of 2 Broke Girls and some new TAR twists

Strange tastes were the theme of this week's Top Chef Just Desserts,as the Quickfire Challenge was to make a dessert featuring a root vegetable(which each chef had to dig out of a planter box).

The guest judge for this round was Jordan Kahn,an innovator in the field of savory desserts. This challenge threw some for a loop while others had non pastry kitchen experience that gave them a bit of an edge here.

The winner of this round,plus five grand and immunity,was Sally. Her mango pudding with turmeric(a veggie she was happy to get)and curried popcorn hit all of the right notes here.

There seems to be a little tension between her and Katzie,since the night before Katzie got insulted at Sally's teasing during dinner. If I were Katzie,I'd keep my eye on everyone since more than one person has been jealous of her past two wins.

For the Elimination Challenge,a new guest judge was brought in and given quite a warm welcome. Adam Horovitz,better known as Ad Rock of the Beastie Boys,was on deck here with one hell of a daunting dessert task.

A "Beastie Boys" pantry was rolled out,with food items that have been referenced in various BB songs(plenty of booze was on hand)but none of it was standard dessert fare. Each chef had to pick two ingredients to make treats to be served at a street art festival and in an act of "sabotage",they were allowed to add an extra item to another chef's menu.

Chris went for a pair of truly tough products to whip into a sweet dish,pork and beans and pate pizza. His sabotaged selection was canned ravioli,courtesy of Megan.

He wound up with a pork & bean brownie served with a pizza/ravioli stick and pine nut cream. The flavor profile was definitely weird but it somehow seemed to work out,since he made to the Top Three for this round.

Joining him was Sally,who chose cheddar cheese and prosciutto with Carlos adding a whole chicken to her plate. She turned all of that into a version of toffee cake with cheddar cheese ice cream and sweetened fried chicken skin on the side.

The winner,however,was Matthew who started off with whiskey and cornbread. His good buddy Chris added mashed potatoes and gravy onto his pile and was worried that he was going to be responsible for getting Matthew sent home.

Matthew managed to pull off a mashed potato cornbread cheesecake with gravy foam on top and whiskey caramel. The key element to winning this round was embracing the odd flavors rather than masking them.

Headlining the Bottom Three was Megan,with her Chivas cake that crumbled too quickly. The Brass Monkey sorbet that went with it didn't have enough of a boozy taste to it and the caramelized onions on the side made no sense at all.

Katzie's sabotage ingredient was Gorgonzola and provolone cheese,thanks to Orlando(see,I told her that she needed to watch out for someone other than Sally!)but she was her own worst enemy by choosing to make pomme frites with a variety of dipping sauces and sugars.

Not only were the cheese flavors muted in the sauces,the lack of cohesion in the whole offering was extremely off key. Main reason why-no matter what fancy name you call it,french fries just don't fit into dessert.

Rebecca was the one sent home,due to her ham and falafel panna cotta being overwhelmed with garlic,a not so sweet surprise there. Plus,her .40 ice cream wasn't very intoxicating either. She's a big Beastie fan(Ad Rock signed her cast)so this setback was extra sad.

Next week,it's time to make the donuts and ten grand is on the line. This promises to be a real make or break moment,so stay tuned,folks!

After watching the premiere of 2 Broke Girls online(hey,I had to watch the Hell's Kitchen finale that night,okay?),I decided to give the show a chance and saw it on TV at it's regular day and time this week.

It's been awhile since I gave a sitcom a real shot but so far,2BG is worth it. The basic ongoing premise is that wisecracking yet moody Max is planning to earn enough money to open a cupcake shop with sheltered yet marketing smart Caroline.

With the additional bonus of them becoming roommates after Max's boyfriend is tossed out for cheating on her,the show has a lot of comedic material for the ladies to make a full on funny wardrobe from. At this point,they're doing a lot better than expected and the chemistry between the leads(Kat Demmings and Beth Behrs)is pretty tight,I'll be checking in with the girls for a while here:

The 19th season of The Amazing Race started off this Sunday with a bit of drama before anyone could even board a plane. Vegas showgirls Lisa and Kaylani were in a panic when one of them lost their passport mid route to the airport. Kaylani had dropped it at a gas station and by the time the girls retraced their steps,her passport was gone.

Lucky for her,the guy who found it checked in with the gas station attendant(who had given a couple of other teams directions earlier)and he got it to her in the nick of time. Talk about some seriously sweet relief,folks!:

The ladies did better after that as they and the other teams landed in the city of Taipei in Taiwan and despite having to do a "Hazard" task for being the last ones to head out,they were the ninth team to arrive at the Pit Stop.

The last team to show up was Bill and Cathi,who got nearly hopelessly lost trying to find the Road Block challenge in Taipei. Phil informed them that this was a non elimination leg,which means they have a Speed Bump to perform on the next stop.

He then let them know that for the first time on TAR,the next Pit Stop would be a double elimination. No risk,no reward as they say and boy,this one is a real doozy of a dilemma to face there:


THE NEXT IRON CHEF: A new season will begin soon and this time,there are a number of big time Food Network regulars competing for the honor to battle in Kitchen Stadium,including a couple of former Top Chef contenders as well. Sounds like a real battle royale a-brewin' and one worth tuning
in for:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Open Letter to Disney,regarding classic film re-releases

Dear Disney folk,

Recently,for the first time in a long while,you gave one of your classic animated movies a theatrical re-release with the addition of 3D onto the original film. This new version of The Lion King has done very well at the box office,hitting the number one spot for two weekends in a row.

Congrats to you on that and while I know that part of your motivation for doing so was to build up interest and anticipation for the new Blu-Ray edition being shipped out this week,it's still great to see a Disney re-release back in theaters again:

One of the joys of my childhood was being taken to a classic Disney animated feature by my parents and seeing such films as Lady and the Tramp,Fantasia and Cinderella on the big screen like that for the first time made me a lifelong fan.

This was a pleasure that I was able to share with my younger sister and many other of your faithful followers looked forward to introducing their kids to the wonderful world of Disney this way. These were cinematic events worth sharing and creating fond memories of:

It's been over ten years since you stopped doing this and with the rise of the home video market and cable TV,that decision is financially understandable.

However,this new reissue of The Lion King proves that people have missed seeing these films in theaters and are more than willing to prove it with their dollars. Considering the hard economic times we're in right now,that speaks volumes.

Reviving the re-release of your cherished animated films,both traditional and modern classics,sounds like a sure fire money making machine to me. It's a move both your shareholders and devoted fans would applaud.

Plus,it would initiate legions of new fans into the Disney fold and pump up interest in some of your lesser known but worth watching features(which would be great for your DVD/Blu Ray sales as well):

So,folks,the ball is in your cinematic court. One word of advice;go easy on the 3D thing. I know it's the Hollywood flavor of the month but it can lead to major mistakes that you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy there:


Lady T and the rest of the Mickey Mouseketeers

Monday, September 26, 2011

On the Shelf with Ernest Cline

One of the surprise literary hits of the season has been Ready Player One,a sci-fi novel set in a future where just about all of humanity escapes from the misery of the real world by living out their wildest dreams in OASIS,the ultimate in online virtual reality games.

The focal point of the plot is for young Wade Watts to discover the hidden Easter egg hidden within the game in order to inherit the company that still controls it.

As written by Ernest Cline,this book is a rollicking adventure that salutes not only video games but those who possess a vast knowledge of pop culture trivia(with an emphasis on the 1980s). The advance praise for the book was truly well deserved.

RPO is Cline's debut novel,which has already been optioned for film,and his previous credits include the screenplay for the cult movie Fanboys. He is currently on book tour,driving a Back to the Future style DeLorean decked out with a touch of Ghostbusters ECCO mobile,and we here at LRG were lucky enough to get a few words with him about RPO,the influence of the '80s and other geek subjects galore:

1) The plot of your novel,Ready Player One,is centered around an online video game played worldwide. How would you persuade someone who is either not into video games or unfamiliar with them to read the book?

Through hypnosis and subliminal advertising? I'm kidding. I honestly don't think you need to be at all familiar with video games to enjoy the book, any more than you need to be familiar with archaeology to enjoy an Indiana Jones movie.

A lot of people who don't play video games (like Charlaine Harris) have told me they still love the book, and that it works for them as a pure thriller about an epic high-stakes treasure hunt. I hope it does, because that's one of the things I was trying hard to accomplish with the story.

2) You wrote the screenplay for the 2009 cult film Fanboys-did you ever consider writing Ready Player One solely for the movies?

I briefly considered it, but then as the story took shape in my head, I eventually decided it would have to be told as a novel, and that it could probably never work as a movie.

Which is ironic, because I sold the film rights to Warner Bros the day after I sold the book to Random House. And since I was attached to write the first draft of the screenplay, it became my job to figure out how to adapt my unfilmable novel into a film. It was a really difficult job, but ultimately a very rewarding one. I have high hopes the movie:

3) Pop culture trivia from the 1980s is a key element in the book. What do you think accounts for the still strong appeal of that decade upon this generation?

I think my generation is nostalgic for the 80s because that was when we grew up, so many of our childhood memories are wrapped up with the pop culture of that decade. I think it was the same for our parents and their nostalgia for the 50s and 60s. But there was also something really unique about the 1980s.

It was the dawn of the video game and home computer era. We were the first generation to grow up with computers and video game consoles in our homes, and that also left a huge impression on us.

4) What is your favorite book,movie and video game from the '80s?

I have a hard time narrowing it down to just one favorite, but I can give you three of my favorites:

Book: Life, the Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams
Movie: Real Genius
Video Game: Defender

5) Do you find it more encouraging or distressing that more and more people are willing to immerse themselves in the latest technology as soon as it's on the market?

I think it's natural, as strange as that may sound. We live our whole lives surrounded and assisted by technology now, so there will always be a huge demand for the latest and greatest gadget or application.

But there will also always be people who shun technology altogether. I think you have to find a balance between the two:

6) Are there any plans for a RPO sequel?

I have a rough outline of what the story might be, but I want to tackle a several other projects before I can actually start writing the book.

7) Total geek question-War Games or The Last Starfighter?

I can't answer this question! I love them both to pieces. You might as well ask me to choose between Joan Jett and Pat Benatar. I can't do it.

Since that is a hard choice to make,we will conclude by thanking Ernest Cline for his time and generosity,as well as wish him best of luck on his tour. If you're interested in seeing his amazing car for yourself,he will be making one more stop in Seattle next month.

Even if you don't get to check out the DeLorean,Ready Player One is a must read for geeks and non geeks alike who love a good old fashioned quest tale.

Guys like Ernest Cline do their part to hold up the torch of solid storytelling by blending the best of the old and the new school of pop culture delights with compelling characters and engaging dialogue,plus page turning narrative. Of course,a cool car doesn't hurt either:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Let 's get virtual with Banned Books Week this year!

Tomorrow is the official start of Banned Books Week(which runs from September 24 to October 1),that special time of the year where readers and book providers remind everyone about the importance of not taking freedom of speech and free choice of reading material too lightly.

For 2011,a new high tech approach is being taken to get the word out. The folks behind BBW are encouraging video contributions for a Virtual Read Out available on YouTube. What they're looking for are brief clips of people reading aloud from a banned book for a minimum of two minutes.

A good number of VRO videos are now online,some officially submitted to the BBW YouTube channel and others taking the initiative on their own.

For your listening pleasure,I have gathered up a few that I find to be particularly note worthy as well as good recommendations for reading this week.

First up is And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson,with lovely illustrations by Henry Cole. This charming penguin tale is being read here by a librarian who is kind enough to hold up the book so that the artwork can be viewed along with the excerpt. Hard to believe that such a nice story about penguin love can cause so much ruckus,isn't it folks?:

Next on our Virtual Read Out list is To Kill a Mockingbird,Harper Lee's now classic tale of small town racism and the search for justice.

Despite it's Pulitzer Prize winning status,not to mention the ground breaking film adaptation which won three Academy Awards,this book is still under fire today.

I finally took the time to read it last summer and was thrilled to discover the intimate portrait of that time and place that Harper Lee invoked and it's relevancy to our modern world.

A pair of teens from the Arlington County Library are reading from this one and despite the noise in the background,Atticus' speech and the power of his words are being clearly heard:

We have a double dip into George Orwell for our next pair of videos. YA author Sarah Darer Littman does a reading from Animal Farm,that farmyard allegory of how a new regime doesn't also mean a new attitude when it comes to making things better for everyone.

To bookend that,Martin Prince not only reads a section from 1984,he also gives a bit of background info regarding the censorship history surrounding this book.

These two titles may seem like standard high school fare but there are many folks out there determined not to let young adults even get a whiff of the notions in either one of them:



If you're interested in seeing more of these videos,please check out the official YouTube channel
or simply see what other celebrated yet censored titles are being showcased there.

Also,keep in mind that while most of the groups trying to yank books off of school and city library shelves claim that it's all about "protecting the children",they will not stop only there. If they could bar adults from any book that provokes thought or discusses ideas that they don't approve of,they happily would.

Our freedom to read is an important aspect of our country and society,which should be protected for the children so that they can hold that banner high for their own kids in the future:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Top Chef JD gets wet and wild,X Factor marks the spot and The Vampire Diaries turn a new page

Things went back to their regular Quickfire mode on Top Chef:Just Desserts this week,as Judge Gail and special guest Pichet Ong tasked the contenders to whip up a uniquely favored candy bar.

A good number of interesting candy bars were made(including one that had Earl Grey tea!)but the one chosen as the winner of immunity for the next round belonged to Sally.

Her secret weapon was adding forbidden black rice,a favorite of Pichet's to the blend of peanut butter,cocoa nibs and chocolate ganache in her bar.

The Elimination challenge was yet another team one,as all of the chefs had to make sweets to be served at a local water park. Creativity and fitting your food style to the needs of the patrons visiting a place like this on a hot summer day were the key components of of the challenge.

Out of the three teams on deck here,only one managed to make picture perfect summer snacks. Megan's strawberry soda float with white peach and basil sorbet turned out better than expected and Rebecca knocked the socks off of the judges with her lemon ice cream sandwiches.

They were made up of lemon snicker doodles with lemon ice cream and a touch of lemon drops. Sounds sweet to me,in the best sense of that term.

The best of the bunch belonged to Katzie,for her Baked Alaska with spumoni on a stick. Very clever and apparently rather tasty.

She won this round,a second victory for her and the jealous grumblings from her competitors are already getting louder here. Come on,folks-don't hate the player,hate the game!

One of the guys up on the chopping block here was Carlos,due to his ice cream pop made with Capt. Crunch cereal and sprinkled with Fruity Pebbles on top being way too sweet to eat. I like cereal,too but there is something to be said about having too much of a good thing.

Orlando's root beet float was more like a root beer docked,as only the foam had any actual root beer flavoring to it. The main complaint was that it was too heavy of a snack to go over well in the heat. His whole team pretty much made treats that were more restaurant than theme park friendly.

Amanda went home,however,for her very theme park style sweet. Her funnel cake tried to be flavorful with a pineapple topping but it kept getting hard too fast. One judge said it was more like a pretzel and that was not meant as a compliment.

Next time,Ad Rock from the Beastie Boys shows up and gives the chefs a pantry of strange items to make desserts with. Gives a whole new meaning to the word challenge,it seems to me!

The Vampire Diaries started up their third season with the usual round of angst as Tyler and Caroline engage in a bit of "will they-won't they" romantic tension while Elena endeavors to get through her eighteen birthday without Stefan.

Damon's search for his brother,who is currently at the slaughter happy side of newly empowered Klaus,came to a messy end as his TV reporter girlfriend became a casualty of their secret war.

Elena is determined,nonetheless,to find Stefan and bring him back into the fold,so to speak. She may not like this new Stefan,who has rediscovered his gruesome taste for human blood and literally tearing into people but love's a funny thing as they say:

The X Factor debuted last night,reuniting Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul on the judges panel with L.A. Reid and Nicole Sherzinger(whose spot was occasionally filled by Cheryl Cole)along for the ride. The show is similar to American Idol,except that the age ranges of the contestants are more varied.

One fine example was Stacy Francis,a 42 year old single mom who was told for many years that she was too old to start a singing career. Her heartfelt rendition of the classic song "Natural Woman" proved all those naysayers wrong and then some:

Unfortunately,just like Idol,this show brought out plenty of the crazies to the audition rounds,too. The worst of the worst was a guy named Geo who accompanied his bad singing with a truly unwanted display of his physical shortcomings.

It was so bad that at one point,Paula Abdul got up and walked away in order to be sick in the privacy of her dressing room. Poor Paula,I did feel sorry for her there.(this may not be work safe;you have been warned):


SWEET GENIUS: This new cooking competition show begins tonight,offering thematic challenges to those seeking to win the ten grand prize. Since the host has a bit of mad scientist vibe about him,this might be
worth checking out:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Netflix Outrage,Part Two:The Qwikster Quandary

Ever since Netflix announced that they would be dividing up their DVD rental and online streaming services,folks have been in quite an uproar. With massive amounts of people canceling their subscription and their stock prices taking a huge hit in the bargain,the company has gone into emergency placating mode.

Issuing e-mail apologies to their remaining customers,Netflix has now announced that their DVD division will be separate on the internet as well,by creating a new site called "Qwikster". When that change over will officially begin is still unknown yet people are far from pleased at this new development:

Granted,the new name is so goofy that even a character from a kid's show would be truly embarrassed to have to answer to it and the pricing is going to remain the same,yet this doesn't bother me as much as it does others out there. Sorry,guys and gals,but this isn't as big of a deal as you're making this out to be.

Every company pulls this off once in a while;switching up their tried and true product in order to make it fresh and new,not to mention the major media blitz that such moves tend to generate. They don't always last and sometimes the cost of lost business appears to not have been worth it.

However,most companies are smart enough to figure that out eventually and get back to bringing you what you truly want. In some ways,Netflix is offering both New Coke and Classic Coke at the same time:

Of course,some folks are simply going to continue to see this as an abomination not to be tolerated,like Zuma or Crystal Pepsi. While I wasn't a fan of either one,their existence wasn't as earth shattering to the social order as many claimed it to be(although they were pretty bad):

More than likely,this whole Netflix deal will turn out to be another case of "the more things change,the more they stay the same." Chances are that they won't even keep the name Qwikster(due to it already being the Twitter handle for a stoner)and while that official apology was at best a meek attempt to calm their troubled waters,Netflix is not totally out of the game. Think about it this way,at least they're giving us a good laugh at their expense:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A few pop culture lessons about customer service

This past Sunday,the few remaining Borders bookstore outlets left open had to shut their doors for good and at one location,a farewell list of sorts was displayed.

Titled "Ode to a Book Store Death",the collection of employee pet peeves included many that I've personally dealt with and no doubt anyone whose has worked in retail and/or customer service has as well,in one form or another.

Now,some might see this as unnecessary griping but in truth,many of these issues would be easily resolved if folks learned how to be a little more courteous in their consumer interactions. Yes,there are rude people on both sides of the counter but the old saying about reaping what you sow holds true as well.

With that in mind,let us turn to a few examples in pop culture land that might help to teach us all how to be better customers. Rudeness does get results but as these clips show,manners make a more distinctive impression:

FINGER SNAPPING IS UNACCEPTABLE: Whether you're trying to get the attention of a store clerk,a busy cashier or an even busier waitress,repeated finger snaps are guaranteed to instantly put that person whose assistance you need in a bad mood.

It would be wiser to wait for that person to catch their breath and then request their help in a polite yet determined way. Otherwise,you run the risk of being served the rough side of their tongue:

SERVICE WITH A SMILE CAN BE A HEALTH HAZARD: While it is more professional for staff members to withhold their annoyances with co-workers until the customer leaves,some situations just don't allow for that to happen naturally or calmly.

If you wind up being caught in the customer service crossfire,your best bet is to not make any sudden moves,especially if the owner's on the literal warpath:

TAKE OUT YOUR FRUSTRATIONS AT THE RIGHT PARTY: If you're having a problem with a particular employee at your local shop, giving his or her co-workers a hard time about that person isn't going to make them take your grievance more seriously.

Odds are that you will instead have even more allies against you as soon you leave the premises,which could be bad news if you happen to forget one of your personal items on the way out:

A LITTLE CHARM GOES A LONG WAY: Delays at a crowded cash register are stressful,not only for the folks waiting in line but the harried clerk who has already rung up all of your purchases and is just counting the minutes until her shift is over.

Convincing her to bend the rules is not easy when the last thing that hard working gal wants to deal with is a later hassle with her boss about it. However,a nice smile and a sweetly sincere joke can make that decision easier to make:

Class dismissed,but before we go let me impart a few words of wisdom to those still out there in the retail trenches. There are just some customers who can not be gainsaid in their consumer conquest of your work place.

He or she tends to approach shopping like a general planning a major battle and when you come across that unstoppable force,it's in your best interest to simply fall in line and follow orders. It's safer,trust me on this:

Monday, September 19, 2011

A few excellent Emmy moments

So,for the first time in a long while,I watched the Emmy awards in it's entirety. Since it's rare that they ever honor the shows that I actually enjoy,I felt no pop culture guilt about skipping the annual TV love fest after several years but last night seemed to be the right time to tune in.

And I'm glad that I did,despite an awkward moment or two there.A number of worthy folk received their just desserts and it was a pleasure to witness that on live TV.

My ultimate favorite was the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy category,that started out with the first nominee on the list,Amy Poehler,hitting the stage as soon as her name was read aloud.

Her sister nominees followed suit,until they were all lined up like beauty pageant contenders. The winner was Melissa McCarthy for Mike and Molly,a first time nominee yet no stranger to fans of Gilmore Girls and Samantha Who?,not to mention her unexpected star turn in the Hollywood hit Bridesmaids last spring. I was over the moon to see her honored with such style and grace as befitting a truly talented lady:

Another wonderful win was granted to Peter Dinklage,for his brilliant work as Tyrion Lannister in HBO's Game of Thrones.
Dinklage's award came right after Martin Scorsese won Best Director for the pilot episode of Boardwalk Empire,which left him a tad awe struck.

However,it wouldn't be surprising to see both of them working together on a project someday. Dinklage has always done impressive work for feature films as well as television but I hope it will be awhile before he goes back to the silver screen.

His presence on GOT is vital,especially for the remaining seasons of the series and there's no way he can be replaced. His smooth talking skills are the envy of many a actor out there and rightfully so:

Speaking of HBO,their miniseries version of Mildred Pierce earned Kate Winslet and Guy Pierce awards in the acting category. Mildred Pierce was the expected winner for Best Movie/Miniseries but didn't claim that prize(more on than in a minute).

Winslet's win was predicted early and while no one was shocked at Pierce getting the nod here,his acceptance speech was a little eye brow raising. Making bold use of the double entendre,Pierce joked about his love scenes with Winslet to the blushing delight of all,including his wife who apparently has a great sense of humor:

The best gift of the night was Downton Abbey taking four awards,one for writer Julian Fellowes,one for Maggie Smith as Violet,the Dowager Duchess and the real jewel in the crown, Best Movie/Miniseries.

As much as I appreciate how well cable channels have elevated the TV movie format and kept the miniseries alive,it was nice to see PBS take this one home. Downton Abbey and it's blend of old school drama with new world perceptions is an artistic achievement that's most entertainingly addicting.

Not only did it leave many of us champing at the bit for season two,this small screen saga is a prime example of what treasures television was meant to offer us in it's inception:

So,all in all,this was a decent showing at the Emmys. True,there are many things that we could have done without such as that Lonely Island Boys number,Charlie Sheen's Two and a Half Men mea culpa moment(guess that talk about Major League 3 was just talk,huh,Charlie?)and Steve Carell not getting props for his last season on The Office.

Yet,good things did happen and rejoicing in them is the best way to go here. Awkward can be amusing at times and worth recalling as well,even if you're on the unexpected receiving end of the joke. Taking it in stride is part of show business,after all:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ernest Cline takes you back to the future with Ready Player One

The leading man of Ernest Cline's debut novel,Ready Player One,is named Wade Watts,an eighteen year old orphan living in "The Stacks"(a trailer park made up of stacked up trailers,the low rent equivalent of a high rise apartment)in the year 2044.

The USA,along with most of the world,has fallen into crippling poverty and decay,with the hard times seeming to be never ending. The only true escape left for all to enjoy is OASIS,the ultimate in interactive virtual reality available online the world over.

Wade,like so many others,lives most of his life online and hopes one day to discover the Easter Egg planted within OASIS by it's eccentric creator James Halliday,who died five years earlier,and claim the biggest prize out there;complete control over OASIS and the company's vast fortune.

As Wade and his fellow egg hunters(known as "gunters")do their vast research on pop culture pleasures of the past,with a strong emphasis on the 1980s,which is crucial to finding Halliday's egg,he develops a crush on a blogger girl called Art3mis who he's never met in the real or virtual world.

His dreams start becoming all too real when Wade acts on a hunch and winds up being the first person to discover the first of three keys that lead to the egg. Not only is Wade on the path to making more of his life both real and online,he also runs into Art3mis,who is only a step or two behind him in the search,and along with a few other gunter friends,make real progress in the hunt:

Their quest is not a safe one,as a vast corporation known as IOI is out to claim the egg and take over OASIS in order to turn it into a huge money making machine that will leave only a select few able to enter. IOI has an army of online henchmen at their disposal and their corporate exec leader tries to make Wade an offer he can't refuse and yet he does,with very tragic results.

Such a setback doesn't deter Wade,especially since he and Art3mis become close allies in the egg hunt. Their connection seems to be mutual and feels realer than the video game world they're in:

At one point,Wade declares his true feelings for her but Art3mis shuts him down. She doesn't want to be distracted from the hunt or turn Wade's attention away from it as well.

Also,there is a more than likely possibility that Art3mis is not who she seems,given that the majority of people logged into OASIS are nothing like their online avatars in the outside world.

Wade then channels his frustrations into the hunt which is getting more competitive as others in the race make huge strides ahead of him. While things look as if they're falling apart,Wade's distance from Art3mis is not for long:

A crisis point is reached,where the fate of more than one reality is at stake and the only chance to save OASIS from the clutches of corporate evil lies within a daring plan. The lives here may be virtual but the risks are all too real and for Wade,well worth fighting for.

Author Ernest Cline's other major writing credit is the script for the 2009 flick Fanboys and it's clear that he knows his geek speak thoroughly. The various references to everything from Monty Python to classic arcade games may be daunting but they don't hold you back from fully engaging the story.

Cline's storytelling skills are commendable,as he creates a fictional world that feels very plausible at times and fills it with compelling characters who face dangers that are physical,virtual and emotional(sometimes all at once). It's quite the juggling act but Cline catches each ball with ease and keeps you in suspense for more.

The book has been out since August and is available at a bookseller near you. Quite a lot of advance praise came with it and for once,the hype is well earned. Ready Player One is a great literary adventure that you can take in the comfort of your home and a triumph for genre geeks of all stripes everywhere: