Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, March 29, 2013

The Great Australian Bake Off has one tough cookie of a judge in Kerry Vincent

As some of you may know,a good friend of this blog is Kerry Vincent,one of my favorite culinary judges best known for her firm yet fair assessments on shows such as Food Network Challenge and Last Cake Standing.

 Some call her the Simon Cowell of cakes but I prefer to refer to her as  Professor McGonagall(due to her striking resemblance to Maggie Smith,in my opinion).

 It's been awhile since Kerry has been on TV,the last time I recall seeing her was on HGTV's The White Room Challenge where she judged a living space created with chefs in mind. However, she will be back on the air this weekend but,alas not in the States. Kerry will be sharing her sugary charms back in her homeland of Australia as one of the judges of The Great Australian Bake-Off:

  This pastry showdown is part of an international series of cooking competition shows that started with The Great British Bake Off in 2010.

A group of ten home chefs go through a set of timed events in order to win the honor of being the top baker in the land,as well as winning a kitchen makeover and a luxury vacation. With the British Bake-Off being in it's third season,hopes are high that the Australian version will be just as sweetly successful:

The US version of this series will be debuting in late May under the title The American Baking Competition(don't know why they didn't go with the obvious Great American Bake-Off,unless that name was already taken).

 Sadly,Kerry will not be on that show,which has Jeff Foxworthy as the host with Marcela Valladolid and Paul Hollywood as the judges. Marcela has a FN show,Mexican Made Easy and Paul is one of the original judges on The Great British Bake-Off,so some continuity there but it would be nice if Kerry could join in the mix at some point. Adding her insights seems easy as apple pie to me:

Kerry will be sharing her judging duties on The Great Australian Bake-Off with Dan Lepard,another Aussie whose work is well known abroad with several cook books and the culinary correspondent for such UK newspapers as The Guardian and the Observer.

 Between the two of them,this show should be quite the slice of  competitive cake indeed. My only regret is that I won't be able to see Kerry in action here,but I wouldn't begrudge her fellow country men and women from benefiting from her vast array of knowledge and style.

 The Great Australian Bake-Off will be starting for overseas viewers next month and I wish the competitors the very best of luck. Good to see Kerry back on TV doing one of the things she does best in the baking world and next time,may she be stateside:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

TAR teams feel the pinch,Worst Cooks show off their skills and Katherine returns to The Vampire Diaries

The latest leg of The Amazing Race took the teams to Botswana,where they had to work with a group of Kalahari Bush men to complete both the Roadblock and Detour challenges.

 The Roadblock had one person learn how to dig up a scorpion and place it in a jar. Most of the contenders were pretty squeamish about this one,particularly Joey from Team YouTube,who gave the locals quite a bit of laughs with over his over the top antics about the whole thing:

The Detour was a choice between building a snare and starting a fire,with most folks switching to the snare after failing to catch a spark. Max and Katie seemed to struggle the hardest with the fire,mainly due to being disgusted with the materials they had to work with.

If the two of them had spent a little less time with their gross-out feelings(manure happens to be an excellent source of fuel,btw) and more on the game,they might not have come in last place for this leg. Hope you get over those delicate sensibilities soon,folks-things are only going to get messier from here on out:

It was down to the Final Four on Worst Cooks in America, with Rasheeda and Susan for Chef Anne's team and Chet and Alina representing Bobby Flay. For their last Skill Drill,the teams had to instruct their teachers on how to prepare an entree.

 They had to communicate over microphones and figure out what was in the dish by looking over an actual completed serving. The team who helped their mentor create the closest version of the original would win:

It was a tight finish,but the victory went to Chef Anne's recruits. Then,family and friends of the chef contenders came out for the last Main Dish challenge. Each team had to prepare a meal(Chef Anne assigned pasta,Bobby gave his crew chicken) for their loved ones as a blind tasting test.

Rasheeda's twin sister and Susan's son were able to guess which dish their kinfolk made but Bobby's bunch reversed sides on this one. Alina wound up winning this round(I think the extra butter she used for her chicken cutlet paid off) and Rasheeda will be joining for the finale this upcoming Sunday:

 If I had to bet on the outcome,my money would be on Rasheeda. She's put in some serious effort in improving her culinary skills,plus Chef Anne has not been a three time winner for nothing here. On the other hand, Bobby Flay is no slouch in the kitchen but Alina's tendency to go free range with her cooking methods may sink that ship for him. Either way,it'll be worth watching:

Katherine will be returning to Mystic Falls on The Vampire Diaries tonight,with Elijah also back in town,most likely in his case to stop Silas from releasing all kinds of hell on earth.Katherine's motives are far more self centered,as she seems willing to negotiate some sort of trade for the elusive cure.

Rebekah has made no bones about wanting to become human again,while Elena in her newly emotionless state is happy to let anyone else but her take the cure. Regardless of who gets it,the main thing is that Silas doesn't want it until the pesky section of the other side is wiped out and that is not good for anybody mortal or immortal.

Rebekah's desire for regaining the mortal life she never got to fully enjoy makes her even more vulnerable to manipulation,in my opinion,despite her snide shows of strength to others. If I were Silas,I would be focusing on recruiting her as an assistant than Klaus(who doesn't like to be threatened) in this end game but we shall soon see how all of that turns out:


GAME OF THRONES: The season three premiere is coming to us sooner than winter is to Westeros and enemies are lining up on all sides to keep the power struggles going. If you thought last year was tough,just wait until the real showdowns begin:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Helene Wecker is quite the literary matchmaker for The Golem and the Jinni

Helene Wecker's debut novel,The Golem and the Jinni,has two creatures of  different mythical lore making their unlikely meeting in a city well known for unusual encounters,New York. The year is 1899 and a golem,who was made in the form of a woman for an European immigrate to be his bride in America,arrives alone as her would-be husband dies aboard ship.

Due to her golem powers,she is able to sense the needs and desires of everyone around her but without being bound to a master,making her way in this world seems impossible. One man,Rabbi Meyer, out of the many in this strange new city is able to see what she truly is and offers her guidance.

The Golem is given the name Chava and finds a job in a local bakery,where her limitless energy has a suitable outlet. Rabbi Meyer's assistance is beneficial to her as well as him,yet he has lingering doubts about how long she can control her true nature.

Since Chava was given curiosity and intelligence as part of her persona,her restless spirit is even more challenged by the need to conform to the standards expected of her as both a human and a widow living on her own. Finding tasks to fill up the long hours of the night(she has no need for sleep),Chava does her best to maintain a stable life yet begins to dread the night and wonders if she should continue onward with her existence:


Meanwhile, Arbeely, a tinsmith in the section of the city called Little Syria,is incredibly surprised one day as he starts to repair a copper flask and releases a jinni from his long term captivity.

The Jinni has no recollection of how he was imprisoned,only recalling being bound to human form by a wizard via an iron manacle that he can't remove. He takes the name Ahmad and goes to work for Arbeely,using what magic he has left to not only increase the productivity of the tinsmith's shop but to fashion items out of gold and silver with only his two amazingly heated hands.

Ahmad fills his restless nights by exploring the city and while he enjoys discovering the wonders of this new land,part of him longs to be truly free from all of the confines imposed on him by the human world:

 Chava and Ahmad run into each other by chance,one fateful evening,realizing that neither one of them is mortal yet not understanding what the other being is. They soon strike up a friendship,with Ahmad showing Chava the sights of the city that he has enjoyed alone and which are becoming fresh and new to him through the eyes of his companion.

Chava is happy to have someone else to confine in,as well as getting to explore more of the city with an escort that will draw any suspicious notice of her away from unwanted observers. The two of them tend to debate the boundaries set before them as supernatural beings ,plus the moral restrictions of the mortal world that humans(particularly in Ahmad's view) seem determined to be ruled by:

Their relationship is complex enough without outside interference,yet forces begin to array against them. The central figure that threatens their safety is Chava's creator,an unscrupulous mystic whose obsession with achieving immortality drives him to America to see what has become of his most unique golem.

Despite the differences that encourage them to part company for a time,Chava and Ahmad wind up having to find a way to protect each other(as well as those around them)from the mutual threat facing them both,even at the cost of what they cherish most,the chance for true freedom.

Helene Wecker spins a golden tapestry of story telling within these pages,blending historical fiction with fantasy fare(plus a touch of philosophy) with incredible ease. Weaving together two diverse cultures in such a suitable setting as New York,with both the human and supernatural characters equally as engaging,she casts a literary spell that kept me up until the wee small hours of the morning to complete this marvelous book.

I highly doubt that I will be the only reader enchanted by this innovative novel that expands the borders of  these well worn genres and breaks new ground for others to follow. Granted,this book is not out until late April and we have yet a ways to go with new books this year,however I feel in my bones that The Golem and the Jinni will be high on many lists of Best Books of 2013.

 The release date for TGATJ is April 23,which happens to be a couple of days before my birthday and I could get no better early present than this captivating look at the nature of humanity and the bonds of true friendship through a pair of most unlikely soul mates. If you're looking for a literary treat this spring, this is the one to put in your book basket:

Monday, March 25, 2013

How sensible is it to suppress books about suppression?

The ugly head of censorship is rearing up in the Chicago school system,as seventh grade students have been deemed not ready to handle the likes of Persepolis in the classroom.

 Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel memoir of her troubled childhood
in Iran(which was made into an animated feature film) during the early times of the regime change was part of a curriculum designed for grades 7 through 11 but has been pulled from  from the lower grades(juniors and senior classes,along with Advance Placement students,are still allowed to have the book in their courses),due to the "graphic depictions of violence" within it's pages.

As someone who has read Persepolis(and it's sequel,Persepolis 2),the violence in this story is not only necessary but an accurate description of what many people went through then and are still subjected to now in this part of the world and it's  all the more shocking for being true to life. Considering how many acts of violence young people see both in other fictional formats and in the media,the whole notion of shielding them from a story that displays the full emotional impact of such actions is a disservice to the educational system.

 Fortunately,the students and teachers(plus other supporters of free speech)are not taking this lying down. Protests regarding this decision have been held and local booksellers have reported increased demand for the book,which will hopefully open more than one set of eyes to it's true message of overcoming adversity against all odds:

 Meanwhile,concern has been raised regarding certain books for third graders in NYC schools that discuss troubles in the Middle East. While these books have not been banned,protests from those who believe that the children are too young to learn about this subject have been strongly made.

 One of the titles in question is The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter,who has written and illustrated many books for children in this age range. I remember this book from my bookselling days and it's the true story of Alia Muhammad Baker,who saved the entire literary collection of her city's library from destruction(which numbered 30 thousand volumes)without any assistance from the officials in charge.

Anyone with a love of reading or who just understands the value of protecting literature for present and future generations would want young people to know about such a brave lady,in my opinion. I don't see any relevent reason for not allowing teachers to  introduce the realities of this section of the world in such a thoughtful and appropriate way:

Another of Jeanette Winter's books is also called into question here,Nasreen's Secret School. The story is narrated by a grandmother in Afghanistan who is raising her granddaughter alone,due to the family being separated by Taliban invasion.

 The girl has remained silent from the shock but by taking her to an all girl's school that must be kept secret from the authorities, since educating women is forbidden, Nasreen's grandmother hopes that the child will be able to open up to others as well as get the knowledge that she rightly deserves. Such a powerful tale(which won a Jane Addams award in 2010) that showcases the value of education for young women sounds ideal for any age,if you ask me:

While I'm not about to lecture anyone on the politics regarding our nation's involvement with the Middle East, we can all agree,even reluctantly,that our connections to the conflicts in those countries are not about to be severed any time soon. Therefore, giving our kids access to information about what life is like for folks over there and how it affects them and us is only sensible as well as smart.

 Particularly for young women and girls,to show them how hard others of their gender have to struggle to be educated and respected, these books should be inspiring beacons of hope. Let's not dampen their fighting spirit by keeping these pages closed to them,boys and girls alike. Knowledge is power and that power can be used wisely by those who are properly educated:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Picking over a plate of Classic Character Rehash

As I mentioned in my TV Thursday post the other day,I did catch the premiere of Bates Motel,the modern day re-imagining of Psycho's bad boy next door Norman Bates(and his still breathing mother). While the show may be better than I first thought it would be, there are lingering clouds of doubt hovering in my mind about the long term strength of this new series.

 Joining Norman in the back from the pop culture beyond genre later this season will be Hannibal, a prime time prequel that follows FBI profiler Will Graham(Hugh Dancy) in the early days of his career and the beginnings of his professional partnership with renowned psychiatrist and secretive serial killer Dr. Lecter(Mads Mikkelson) .

For those of you wondering "Hey,where's Clarice?",this connection between Lecter and Graham came well before Silence of the Lambs,in author Thomas Harris' earlier novel Red Dragon. That book has been adapted twice for the silver screen(the superior version being 1986's Manhunter,in my opinion) and based on what I've seen so far in the promo for Hannibal,the small screen rendition promises to offer a nearly similar amount of sinister suspense and startling gore(you have been warned):

With all of the reboots and remakes churning out of Hollywood for the movie houses these past few years,it's no wonder that the same set of replays would be made for TV as well.

TV is no stranger to reviving familiar pop culture figures,whether it's superheroes(Smallville),space explorers(Battlestar Galactica) or fashionistas(The Carrie Diaries). In fact,it can be seen as a creative challenge for both writers and actors to place their own spin on such well known story lines and quotable characters.

 However, making something so ingrained within the pop culture psyche fresh and new is truly a tall order there of Brobdingnagian proportions:

My main problem with both Bates Motel and Hannibal is that by going back,it's hard to appreciate their moving forward. Ultimately,their fates are sealed beforehand,since the reason that they're so famous is for their infamous deeds. Therefore, the possibility of redemption is null and void in order for these shows to have any workability at all.

To get a idea of what works well in the sphere of character restarts,let's look at Elementary,the latest contemporary take on Sherlock Holmes. The show has done well with audiences and critics alike,despite a few quibbles from diehard fans regarding some of the changes made from the Arthur Conan Doyle template,and is a smart and snarky mystery series with true dramatic bite.

 Considering that this is the third Sherlock Holmes retake we've seen within the past decade(that includes two blockbuster films with Robert Downey Jr. and a touch of steampunk sensibility as well as a lauded BBC series),how is it that the time honored detective manages to step a step ahead of the game here?

One clear advantage that Holmes has is that he is an open ended character. Granted,he does have certain traits and supporting players to take along with him for each new outing but as long as there are puzzling crimes to be solved,Sherlock Holmes takes root easily anywhere he goes. Even in this latest version,despite change of country,time period and gender(for his protege Watson),the dectective's uncanny mental skills and off beat relationship with others are still as sharp and surprising as ever:

 While certain encounters with characters and situations are unavoidable for any Holmes adaptation,they don't have to hold back the leading man or determine his fictional fate. In fact,during the original heyday of Sherlock Holmes,Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a story that killed his famous detective off,mainly because he was tired of writing about him. Otherwise,he could have gone on forever with tales of Holmes,which even ACD's mother wished he would.

 That send-off,however,didn't keep Sherlock Holmes down for long and for generations, the return of Baker Street's greatest crime fighter has delighted mystery lovers and given them new memorable moments of suspense.

 That is the trick to reviving classic characters for most mediums,I think,subverting predisposed expectations. For example, I didn't believe that Once Upon a Time had a chance in hell of sustaining their story line beyond the first season but they certainly have. By expanding their universe with other fantasy characters and taking the whole "what if I made my own happy ending?" concept to greater depths,all the doors of possibility are open for this lot to walk on through.

  While I wish the best of luck to Norman and Hannibal,they may want to take a page from this set of fairy tales(or Holmes' handbook) and see if they can spin any yarns that will even make the most jaded of pop culture players sit up and take notice,as well as want more:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A TAR team checks out,Caroline's love troubles on The Vampire Diaries and checking into the Bates Motel

Despite dad David's leg injuries on The Amazing Race, their team has been number one for three rounds in a row and going strong.

 However, David requires surgery to fix his torn ligament so for this latest leg,they flew to the next stop(Hanoi,Vietnam)and went right to the Pit Stop mat to check out of the Race.

It's such a shame that Connor and his dad,both cancer survivors, had to leave just when they had a good streak of luck but as they know from experience,health issues are not to be avoided lightly. The only consolation(along with the first place prizes that they won) is that obnoxious John and Jessica were eliminated before them. Maybe they'll get another chance in a redemption TAR series,these guys certainly deserve it:

 Their bad luck turned out to be a blessing for Chuck and Wynona,who really struggled on this leg. Their opening challenge(a dance which required hand holding) gave them trouble and a time delay against the other teams that flew right by them.

 Then,they wound up being U-Turned,which slowed them down even further. This was an anonymous Double U-Turn,so Chuck seems to think that Joey and Meghan(Team YouTube) were the ones who backtracked them but they were also forced to do the other Detour challenge as well. In the end,Chuck and Wynona were the last to arrive but saved for another leg,thanks to David and Conner's departure. Use that second chance well,folks!

With all of the attention upon Elena lately on The Vampire Diaries, we ought to take a moment to look at her best vamp gal pal Caroline,who is going through quite a romantic rough patch of her own.

 Between Tyler being on the run from Klaus,who has no intentions of killing him right away,and her unresolved feelings for the Original bad boy,Caroline is torn up more than an old school grunge style pair of jeans.

 Granted,she's been able to help out her friends when they need it the most,but she may have a price to pay for putting aside her emotional issues for the sake of others. Especially now,as Klaus is being recruited by Stefan to deal with Silas,who may be more of a threat than the Originals ever were. Apocalypse or no apocalypse, Caroline still should take a moment to resolve her crisis of the heart before more heartbreak ensues:

Out of sheer curiosity(plus reports of high ratings for it's debut),I caught a replay of Bates Motel. This supposed prequel to Psycho is more of a reinterpretation than a remake,as the series is set in modern times with a number of significant changes from the source material.

As the show begins,a teenage Norman(Freddy Highmore) has just moved to a small town in Oregon with mother Norma(Vera Famiga)six months after the death of his father. Norma plans to "start over" by reviving a rundown motel that she bought due to a foreclosure that has the previous owner out for blood and a whole lot more.

There's also the fear of an older Bates brother who may be stopping by to deliver his special brand of trouble. Norman,meanwhile,tries to fit with at school and make new friends(particularly a band of girls that seem eager to adopt him as their mascot) but Mother blocks him at every turn.

You don't have to have had seen the Hitchcock film to know where this is going and yet,there is an intriguing creepiness about the show and the characters,plus a blend of subtle build-ups and gruesome goings-on that do make you want to watch a little more of the proceedings here.

 Yes,there is a murder in the first episode(and a rather well deserved one at that) but it's clear that Norman won't be running the place alone for some time to come. I may extend my stay at  Bates Motel for a big longer to see how off the beaten track this series is willing to go:


MAD MEN: The sixth season premiere is coming in April and there's a lot of baggage for the gang at Sterling Cooper Draper Price to handle as they set up shop in a new office.  Of course, the dirty laundry that most fans will want to rummage through is Don's and who knows if he's back to his old bag of tricks or on a whole new path of self destruction. Either way, it'll be quite a ride:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Setting up the superhero section of the movie trailer park

The summer movie season is still several months away,yet the hype for superhero film fare is hitting us at a fast and furious pace. Once again,DC and Marvel will be squaring off at the multiplexes for their conquest of the box office,with the only other challenge being an unexpected sequel to rise up from the ranks.

First up,however,on our docket is the newest reboot of the Superman franchise simply titled Man of Steel. Henry Cavill dons the red cape and bright blue suit as the adult Clark Kent/Kal-el with Amy Adams being the Lois Lane at his side.

The casting is pretty impressive here,with Kevin Costner as Pa Kent,Russell Crowe as Jor-El,Laurence Fishburne playing Perry White and yes,folks,we do have General Zod(Michael Shannon) as well.

 There's no word on the plot lines just yet but it does seem to be a touch of Smallville angst in the mix,judging by the scenes of Clark struggling with his powers as a teen in the current trailer. With Zack Snyder at the directing helm,hopes are sky high for this to be the definitive Superman saga and I for one am keeping my fingers crossed tight:

Marvel is coming forth with their now standard multiple movie releases,which include a Thor follow-up and a fresh reboot for Wolverine. However,the main target for cinematic attention is Iron Man 3,with Robert Downey Jr. reprising his role as Tony Stark,less than a year after the triumph of The Avengers movie.

A major behind the scenes change is Shane Black in the director's chair(Jon Favreau,who directed the first two IM flicks,decided to take a producer's back seat on this one). Since Black is no stranger to mounting up big action films and he also co-wrote on this one, the switch might be a good thing here.

The Big Bads of this entry are Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin(who is not being portrayed as Chinese in order to negate any stereotyping,thank goodness)and Guy Pierce as a mad scientist type that unleashes a deadly virus that could destroy our hero better than any high tech weapon. Third time is supposed to be the charm,so let's keep a good thought for this final piece of the trilogy puzzle:

A truly pleasant surprise is the long awaited sequel to 2010's Kick Ass,which has it's cult following to thank for Kick Ass 2. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is back as the title good guy and Chloe Grace Moretz reprises her role as the legendary Hit Girl,along with a whole new crew of heroes and villains to face off against.

One of their allies is Colonel Stars and Stripes,played by Jim Carrey,who may steal the show here,along with the return of wannabe bad guy Red Mist(Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who claims a new evil moniker to match his thirst for revenge.

 As a fan of the first film,I wasn't sure if another one would be made despite how awe to the some Kick Ass was but sometimes,the little guys do get the win they deserve and with any luck, this will have been worth the wait:

So,it looks like we're heading for a another superhero summer,folks. Who will come out on top of the box office heap(and actually be a good movie in the bargain) is too soon to call. Then again,if it's anything like last year's crop of superhero flicks,we may be in for a real wild ride in the best sense of the term(not to mention being opening weekend worthy of our dwindling dollars these days):

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sample some of Leprechaun's lethal lucky charms

For St. Patrick's Day,the Syfy channel has a habit of marathon showings of the first two fright flicks in the silly scare series Leprechaun,which started out in theaters and then set it's pot of gruesome gold in the direct to video end of the B movie rainbow.

Some might feel that this isn't the most tasteful way to celebrate Irish heritage but speaking as an American of Irish decent(on both sides of the family tree) with a wicked sense of humor,these goofy gorefests are perfectly suited to the day,in my opinion. Let's take a look over of this hokey horror series and see the fear behind the four leaf clover:

LEPRECHAUN THE FIRST:The original movie is best known as the dubious debut of future Friends star Jennifer Aniston but the real star of the show is Warwick Davis,who plays the title character throughout the six films that make up this funky franchise.

 Davis is to the Leprechaun movies what Robert Englund was to the Nightmare on Elm Street series;a gifted character actor whose wicked gift of gab holds your interest(much more so than the guys and gals you're expected to be rooting for at times)and makes it worth watching,no matter how silly things might get:

LEPRECHAUN 2,A MOST UNLUCKY LADY: The first film was such a surprise success,box office wise,that a sequel was put out into multiplexes as quick as could be. However,it didn't garner as much profit so this was the last one to be given a theatrical release.

For some strange reason,this one happens to be my favorite of the bunch. There's no real connection to the first movie at all(other than the title menace) and it's just as silly but some backstory is provided as the main focus of the plot involves the Leprechaun claiming the descendant of a man who cheated him of a wife a thousand years earlier as his bride.

The weird mythos set up allows for the gruesome green groom to get hitched to any girl of his choosing,provided that she sneezes three times without anyone giving a "God bless you" upon the third achoo and he can only wed a woman every thousand years. Yes,the Leprechaun is also determined to protect his precious gold as well yet adding in an extra bit of jeopardy ,like a bashful bride who would rather bash his ghoulish little head in ,raises the entertainment stakes quite nicely:

LEP IN THE HOOD,UP TO NO GOOD: During it's tenure in the direct to video market,Leprechaun has been placed in several new locations such as Las Vegas(Part 3),outer space(Part 4,which we'll see of more in a moment)and twice to "the hood"(primarily,I suspect,for budget reasons).

The first urban trip for the Leprechaun threw in another stolen object for him to chase after,a magic flute that a group of would be rap artists want to use to launch their careers. By the end of that movie,it was the gold hungry green guy who took the stage and rocked the house with his madman lyrics,plus a back-up chorus of enchanted fly girls at his side:

SPACED OUT SCARES: The oddest entry in this series has to be Leprechaun 4:In Space,which takes the humorous tone of the films to truly Mystery Science Theater 3000 depths.

The story line has the Leprechaun's attempts to woo a space princess being interrupted by a band of interstellar marines. The princess is brought aboard their ship,where a cyborg mad scientist plans to use her DNA to regenerate his body,and of course our main green man sneaks along for the ride,in a rather unusual spot to say the least.

The  best low down on this strange sequel comes from the delightful B movie tribute series Good Bad Flicks and it's almost as fun as watching this sci-fi sucker on a very late night indeed:

There has been talk of rebooting the Leprechaun series,replacing Warwick Davis with Dylan Postl(who plays a similar character in his role as a WWE wrestler). Personally, I highly doubt that Postl aka Hornswoggle can pull this off.

 Granted,the draw of a strong core fan audience does help but not every pro wrestler who hits the film circuit can sustain his or her following in the cinematic arena. Warwick Davis may no longer be interested in keeping up this role(he can be currently seen in Jack the Giant Slayer and has other more distinguished film credits such as Willow and parts in the Star Wars and  Harry Potter series) and that's fine.

However,trying to reclaim the awful allure of these films is as foolish as stealing a pot of gold from an angry leprechaun,even if you're armed with iron and four leaf clovers(they never did set a solid standard for destroying the green guy in any of these films). It takes a certain charm to make such a small sized villain seem larger than life and some pieces of gold are best left where you've found them,no matter how shiny they may be:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A TAR team passes up their Express Pass,Worst Cooks baking blues and The Vampire Diaries' Elena's new attitude

John and Jessica on The Amazing Race had already bought themselves a bit of bad karma by being stingy with their extra Express Pass but who knew that fate would cash that slip in so quickly!

 On the latest leg in Bali,one of the Detour challenges was to go to find a house and put together a fruit arrangement to be taken to a local temple for blessing. John and Jessica took that option but went to the wrong house(the one they wanted was across the street)and started to make a flower arrangement in someone else's backyard. Fortunately,the folks living there were good natured enough to steer them in the right direction:

Things then went from bad to worse,as they had trouble completing either side of the Detour,wasting valuable time and yet John refused to use their Express Pass. His whole reason for that brilliant decision was that he wanted to save it for later on in the game.

Dude,at this point,the only way you were going to get to later was to finish up the here and now with the Pass! By the time they reached the last Roadblock,it was pitch dark out and John,for some strange reason,thought he could use the Pass.

Granted,I haven't watched every season of TAR but even I know that the EP is for Detours only. Well,John and Jessica did leave their mark on the race as the first couple to be eliminated while holding an Express Pass. Quite the dubious honor,indeed:

The gang on Worst Cooks in America received a baking lesson from Sweet Genius Ron Ben-Israel(who bought a mild touch of his usual whimsy to the proceedings) and then were tasked to make celebration cakes for two different clients.

 Chef Anne's crew had to make a retirement cake for a lady named Rita who was interested in doing some traveling. Recruit Bowtie Mike(who got sick last time from his ice cream overindulgence) chose to decorate his cake with an Eiffel Tower fondant cut-out that looked like a kindergartener's clay project,plus it's not a good idea to use raisins to spell out words on frosting,not at all!

Bobby's team were assigned a pair of seven year old boys to make a birthday cake for but most of the results weren't worth putting a candle on. Carla's mess-terpiece was a fine example of her "fake and bake" technique,which involved a Frankenstein approach to repairing the broken layers of her cake with caramel sauce and candy.

The boys tried to be nice about it,but the best thing that they could say about Carla's creation was that the candy tasted better than the actual cake:

Next week,the recruits go food shopping and must use clues to figure out what to buy. While these rhyming hints don't seem to be as easy as pie,Sherlock Holmes would find these couplet of clues less than challenging so the confusion on one team is rather confusing to me:

The Vampire Diaries return tonight,with Elena feeling like a brand new girl after Damon's sire bond made her shut down her human emotions. While he only did that to relieve the deep pain of little brother Jeremy's death(wonder if he'll be able to come back from the beyond at all,as his body was burned along with the family home) yet the consequences of that well meaning decision are bound to be dire.

 Stefan is ,of course,most concerned about how Elena's dark side will manifest as his own bloody past as The Ripper can attest to. Personally,I hope Elena's soulless state stays around long enough to confront her evil doppelganger Katherine(who was responsible for Jeremy's demise) and have the mother of all showdowns with her:


G.L.O.W-THE STORY OF THE GORGEOUS LADIES OF WRESTLING: If you are fortunate enough to have the Logo channel on your cable dial,keep an eye out for this "Where are they now?" look at the pro wrestling divas of the 1980s whose acts are still hard to follow:

Monday, March 11, 2013

Booking a double date with Mr. Darcy

Along with the books I have assigned myself for this year's Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge,there are a few "extra credit" titles that are part of my discipline as a Darcy Disciple. Just recently,I have finished an interesting pair of P&P themed novels that may seem worlds apart but have quite a bit in common with each other.

 The first, Yours Affectionately ,Jane Austen, is a follow-up by Sally Smith O'Rourke to her time travel novel,The Man Who Loved Jane Austen,and even if you haven't read the first book(like me), you will be easily able to catch up on the prior story as well as want to check it out afterward.

 The leading man in both books is Fitz Darcy,a modern day American who happened to find a portal at his English estate where he encountered Jane Austen and fell in love with her yet had to return to his own time alone.

 Part of the reason that Fitz even ran into Jane in the first place was due to Eliza Knight,who discovered a hidden letter to him from the legendary Miss Austen in a vanity set she purchased. Eliza does have feelings for Fitz and hopes that he can return her affections yet the shadow of his time with Jane Austen lingers over them both.

When another unexpected communication from Jane appears in their lives(due to a new time traveler with connections to both Austen and Darcy), Eliza fears the worst for her chances of real romance with Darcy:

 Fitz,in return, is worried about his future with Eliza as well as Jane's past being altered to destroy more than one life. Other complications arise,in the form of a disappointed Austen scholar who was counting on using the discovered letter as proof to the "real" identity of Austen's Mr. Darcy. Fitz and Eliza decide to go back to England to untangle this time travel mess before it brings about a change in more than one fate that can't be  stopped.

Fans of the first book may appreciate this sequel better than a newcomer like myself but the writing is truly charming and at times, sweetly engaging. All in all,this is a fine Austen flavored read that bridges the gap between curiosity about the love life of Jane Austen and those who wish to experience her literary legacy from both near and afar:

Victoria Connelly's A Weekend With Mr. Darcy is the first in a trio of novels known as Austen Addicts and so far, the first bite of this Austen apple is rather addicting.

 The action of the plot takes place at a Jane Austen convention in England, where professor Katherine Roberts is proud to speak at yet a little concerned about folks finding out about her fan love for the spicy Regency romances of Lorna Warwick.

Katherine had high hopes of meeting her favorite author at the event,especially since the two of them have started a lively friendship via correspondence. Turns out that Lorna is there but in her true form as Warwick Lawton,who prefers to keep his true identity as a best selling romance writer under wraps.

He and Katherine do run into each other and despite a prejudiced first impression,the two of them do manage to hit it off. However, Lawton is torn between keeping his secret and telling Katherine the truth before things get too serious and she gets hurt.

Another complicated romance in the making at this convention finds dissatisfied with life Robin Love hoping to clear her mind by indulging in her favorite fictional world for awhile. Unfortunately, one of her real world worries tags along with her,her clueless boyfriend Jace.

Jace has no interest in Austen or for anything that truly interests Robin but is determined to stick with her,especially when it looks as if she might have a true soul mate at the convention. Robin's love for Austen might help her find solace from her troubles but she also needs to find the courage of her convictions to end one unhappy relationship before starting up another:

The mix of dueling love stories with the ins and out of the Jane Austen convention(which is very well portrayed as attendees of such events,like myself ,can attest to) makes for a delightful dance across the pages that is as enchanting as any ball  that the Bennet sisters would wish an invite to. Katherine and Robin's new found friendship and romances have a good deal of Austen energy that stirs the modern and the old school sensibilities of their situations in a simmering stew that warms both heart and mind:

 Both books are available in print editions and e-book,suitable for all forms of TBR piles and book shelves of your personal selection. While each story deals with the love of Austen's past and present day adherence to her emotional guidance in very different ways,what brings them together is the respect for Jane Austen's principles in love for her fictional folk.

 Reinventing Austen,particularly her most iconic couple Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy,is no small task for any writer to engage in but when it is done well, the effort is well worth praising and passing the good word on so that all can share in the goodness and the hyper media:

Friday, March 08, 2013

Is Oz The Great and Powerful lacking in girl power?

The big premiere of Sam Raimi's Wizard of Oz prequel,Oz the Great and Powerful,is this weekend and while it naturally is the recipient of reviews both good and bad,there may be one force out there that could doom this flick's box office chances worse than any storm.

A major critique of the plot is that the three witches of Oz(played by Mila Kunis,Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz) are not only fighting over who controls the Emerald City but who gets the Wizard as their main man as well.

Spoiler warning,people!(this info comes from reviews of the film,not from an actual viewing) Oz(James Franco) is basically a fraud and a bit of a player with the ladies,who is fleeing from a Kansas circus upon flirting with the wrong gal at the start of the story.

When in Oz,he's told that Glinda is the bad influence in town and must be destroyed. Low and behold,she happens to resemble the gal he couldn't commit to back in the real world and one of the witches is so put out by his switching sides that she turns green with envy.

Granted,I'm not a prude and/or against a re-imagined version of a classic tale but the thought of Oz being in a love triangle with the witches sort of doesn't set right with me. Considering how iconic Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West are,I would hate to think that they've been reduced to cat fight antics:

Part of the problem may be that this film is not directly based on any of the L. Frank Baum's Oz books and had to take great pains not to connect too many dots to the beloved 1939 MGM film version.

As some have pointed out,Baum's series contained a number of strong female characters due to the influence of early feminist figures in the author's own life. A pivotal key element in the appeal of the World of Oz is the female friendly aspects of this fantasy realm and it's not that difficult to make a good movie from this material that bolsters up both genders. Yet,Hollywood manages to achieve that low end of the bar again and again. For example,why not include Princess Ozma?

 She's the rightful heir to the throne in the books and was disguised as a boy by a spell from the wicked witch Mombi for quite some time until regaining her true form. It might have been interesting and a smart break from the MGM mold by having the Wizard help to find Ozma and restore her to her father's throne. The princess of Oz has had little exposure to film adaptations,apart from anime and limited live action roles including 1985's Return to Oz,and this might have paved a real yellow brick road of renewal for the character if they had taken that creative turn:

One reason for not going down this route might have been some uneasiness about having another child protagonist at the helm and one that could be seen as too much of a tomboy,I suppose. Maybe adding Ozma to the mix never came up in the script development at all,which is a real shame if you think about it.

However,it's too bad for both the audience and the film makers that such an opportunity to bring forth a young fantasy figure that embodies the best of both genders in terms of positive traits. The time is more than ripe for such a character as Game of Thrones has proven with Arya Stark,who is a fan favorite amongst those who have read the books and those who have only seen the show,not a easy trick to pull off there:

Other factors may contribute to the rise or fall of the take that Oz the Great and Powerful will reap at multiplexes this weekend,including the major snow storm hitting my neck of the woods. Frankly,I wouldn't mind seeing this movie but discovering the gender politics involved here does dilute some of the expected joy of revisiting such a time honored tale.

Then again,if this movie does well,perhaps a better reworking like Gregory Maquire's Wicked series will get a green light from a big studio(the musical version alone would satisfy many fans). We shall see soon enough how this turns out but it's too bad that the wonderful witchy women of Oz seem  to be positioned as arm candy for a commitment phobe of a cad,like something out of a bad reality show than fun for kids of all ages: