Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Have yourself a merry musical Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving just two days away,I thought it would be good to sign off before the holiday(don't worry, I shall return either Friday or next Monday) by leaving all of you with a few festive tunes.

With Lady Gaga playing holiday hostess yet again this year with another Thanksgiving special,along side the Muppets, music from televised specials on that day seemed to be the appropriate choice.

So,let's start off with Gaga,as her special for 2012 got off to a grand old school start with a duet as she and Tony Bennett proclaimed "The Lady Is A Tramp":

Next up on our musical menu is Mariah Carey,who did a Thanksgiving special in 1993 to promote her latest album at the time,Music Box. I know that Mariah wasn't quite the proper lady during her stint as an American Idol judge recently but at least she does have the vocal talent that gives her some authority in this arena.

In addition to performing the newer tunes from Music Box such as "Hero" and "Dreamlover", she also showcased several big hits from her past like "Vision of Love" and "Someday"-I hope that someday Mariah gets another choice to be a real music mentor and not waste her energy in a silly diva feud:

For a more current diva dish, we turn to Taylor Swift and her Thanksgiving concert special in 2012 for her then new album Speak Now.

That record was considered to be a major crossover for her as Taylor began to make more of an impact on the mainstream pop circuit. As part of the promotion for Speak Now, she did a number of impromptu concerts in places like a double decker tour bus in Hollywood and an airport lounge.

The special included such singles from the album as "Mine" "Mean"(which won her a couple of Grammy awards that year) and "Back to December". I know some people find her to be a little too sweet but I feel that she's more comfortable in her own skin than certain other singers around her age and a tad more mature to boot:

 Have a Happy Thanksgiving,folks and what ever music you choose to play at dinner time, please make sure that it contributes to the spirit of the day in an appetizing way:

Monday, November 25, 2013

The LRG Best Books of 2013

Yes, I know the year is not yet over for pop culture delights but this is the time when we start to look back on what has come forth from the  four corners of the entertainment spectrum(movies,music,TV and books) to divide it up into Best and Worst.

Since I prefer to be positive, the literary round-up here at LRG focuses on what I consider to be the best that I've read within 2013.

Most of this list is devoted to novels but there is at least one nonfiction titles in the pack and with the holiday shopping season practically dragging us to the stores any moment now, this set of great books might be useful for your gift giving needs(or to suggest to someone looking to buy you a suitable stocking stuffer):


 One of the best book surprises I received this year was picking up Helene Wecker's debut novel,The Golem and the Jinni,which is currently a top contender at Good Reads for Best of the Year.

The title characters of the book meet by chance in New York of 1899, where Chava, a female golem created to be a wife but is widowed before she arrives in America and Ahmad, a jinn trapped in a copper flask who is released into a strange new world, become unlikely friends.

Their mutual outsider status brings them together in good ways and bad, as a man from the Old World enters their lives in order to exploit their powers and threatens to destroy what joy they have managed to find in life. A brilliant mix of cross cultural fantasy and historical fiction, this charming story is a rare gem to be treasured for years to come:

Much of my reading has been supplemented by Library Thing's Early Reviewers program, which introduced me to Farewell, Dorothy Parker by Ellen Meister. The leading lady of this novel is Violet, a movie critic who seems to have a sharp tongue when it comes to her work but not in her actual life.

A visit to the Algonquin Hotel,in order to be inspired by the great writers who used to gather there, brings Violet in contact with the spirit of Dorothy Parker whose razor wit and keen insights have not been dulled by death. Mrs. Parker decides to take Violet under her ghostly wing and nudge her reluctant protege into taking more chances in life and love.

This book has both humor and pathos, with a tribute to the legacy of Dorothy Parker that embraces her bittersweet sense of dark comedy to a T:


With the many biographies that have already been written about iconic authors such as Jane Austen, it can be difficult to find new ways to present the life and times of the artist that many feel they know all too well.

Paula Byrne,however, has been more than able to capture this particular brand of literary lightning in her biographical jar entitled The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things.

 Byrne tells the life story of Austen in a non linear fashion, using objects such as a card of lace, an amber cross and a shawl to display the many influences and situations that inspired Austen's writing as well as what sort of woman she really was as opposed to the way others wished to see her. Whether you're new to Jane Austen or an experienced Janeite, this book offers plenty to talk about,with a nice play on show and tell:


For a searingly smart look at modern times, two authors come to mind for me and one of them is Elizabeth Strout. Her new novel this year was The Burgess Boys, where two brothers have no choice but to return to their hometown of Shirley Falls to offer their legal assistance to their nephew who inadvertently committed a hate crime.

Both men are haunted by the accidental death of their father during their childhood,which one of them still blames himself for. During the chaos caused by the upcoming trial, more than one family secret spills out into the open and works to set a new course of action for each sibling to take. A sad yet strong story that examines how deeply we really perceive our place in life.

 The other author is Wally Lamb, well known thanks to Oprah but also his own powerful brand of writing. This past weekend, I finished his latest novel We are Water, which follows a family that is both falling apart and trying to get back together.

As artist Annie Oh is planning her wedding to her art dealer Viveca, her three children-the troubled Andrew and his twin sister Ariane, with giddy baby sister Marissa-and former husband Orion have to tackle with the issue of whether or not to attend.

In addition to this new marriage, Annie is also struggling with the many secrets of her past that have impacted upon her family in numerous ways, not to mention that the former Oh residence may be haunted by the ghost of a possibly murdered artist. Wally Lamb is an author whose work I have never been able to find fault with and this hard to put down portrait of the power of secrets is among his best work in my humble opinion:


As they say, it is the quiet ones you have to watch and the heroine of Tracy Chevalier's The Last Runaway is a stellar example of that.

Quaker girl Honor Bright only emigrated to America in 1850 to see her sister Grace wed but due to an unexpected illness, Honor wound arriving alone to the farm in Ohio to inform her intended in-laws that Grace had died en route.

With no means of returning to England(and not much inclination to do so), Honor finds herself marrying into a local family and becoming a member of the Underground Railroad,something that brings her new friends as well as enemies. Honor's difficulty in deception winds up working both for and against her but soon enough she has to see the truth of her situation and make others do so in kind.

This soft spoken yet strong willed leading lady fits into Chevalier's cannon of women who contribute a small yet vital part in changing the world around them and it was good to see her set foot upon American story shores this time around.

A true life figure from the background of Sigmund Freud's life comes into the forefront in Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman's recent novel,aptly titled Freud's Mistress.

After Minna Berays loses her position as lady's companion, her best option is to stay with her married sister Martha in Vienna during 1895. She is mainly welcomed as a helpmeet for the many children in the Freud household but the real attraction for her to remain is the attention that her brother-in-law gives to her intellectual nature.

There is more than a meeting of the minds going on between Minna and Sigmund, with their seemingly mutual passion bringing their messy emotions far too close to home. This engaging look at a woman who took part in some of the major developments in psychological theory but didn't benefit greatly from them makes for an intriguing look into the mind of a famous man by how he treated those supposed to be closest to him:

There are so many more wonderful books that I got to read but these are definitely the cream of the crop on my shelves here. With a brand new year of books coming soon, not to mention a few literary presents that I hopefully will be getting by the end of this season, my reading bag should be quite overflowing with a bounty of reading that will requite some careful planning in order to keep them all together as snugly as possible. Wish me literary luck, folks!:


Friday, November 22, 2013

A preview of what's to come for 2014 at the Movie Trailer Park

With Thanksgiving a few days away as well as the huge holiday push for major movies to hit the screen this season in time to snag an Oscar nod or two, it might be more relaxing to see what lies ahead at the multiplex for early next year.

 To start, let's take a look at Labor Day, starring Kate Winslet as a distraught divorced mother who finds unexpected romance when an escaped convict (Josh Brolin) enlists her help in hiding out from the authorities. Not only do the two of them bond, the young boy caught in the middle between them also begins to feel as if he has a real father in his life at last.

The film is based on Joyce Maynard's 2009 novel,which I read and highly enjoyed. Far from the standard thriller set up that the plot seems to be, the story was an engaging emotional journey that I sincerely hope is well translated to the screen. Labor Day will be in wide release by January,so we shall see soon enough:

Another book that I read long ago was Winter's Tale,which is set to be out in theaters by Valentine's Day. Colin Farrell takes the lead role as Peter Lake,a thief in turn of the century New York whose heart is stolen by Beverly(Jessica Brown-Findley), a sickly yet sweet natured society girl.

While fleeing from ruthless gangster Pearly Soames(Russell Crowe), Peter falls through time and finds himself in modern day NYC with no memory of his past. With only a mysterious white horse and a few familiar hints of his former life, Peter becomes determined to reclaim what was once his.

Akiva Goldman is both writing the screenplay based upon Mark Helprin's 1983 novel and directing as well, saying that project is a "labor of love" for him. Granted, he's an experienced writer but with this being his directing debut, the chance that it might prove to be too much of a big rig to handle on his first go-around. I'm hoping for the best on this one:

In addition to his supporting part in Winter's Tale, Russell Crowe is also at the helm of another big movie for spring 2014,the biblical epic Noah.

 Crowe plays the legenday ark builder, who along with his wife (Jennifer Connelly,who also appears in Winter's Tale) and children, which include Hermoine herself(Emma Watson), undergo the divine task of preserving all of the wild life that can be stored on board the massive vessel.

Frankly,folks, I don't know what to make of this one. This whole genre is ripe for parody and/or propaganda but since Darren Aronosky is in the director's chair here(he also co-wrote the script), this might actually be a step beyond the cinematic norm. If he does for Bible stories what he did for ballet with Black Swan, Noah could be a weirdly interesting ride to take this March:

What most trend watchers will be keeping an eye on in March is how well Divergent does in theaters,as it will be the first adaptation of Veronica Roth's sci-fi YA trilogy to hit the mainstream movie going circuit.

In the futuristic world of this story, people are divided up into certain groups according to their particular strengths and weaknesses that make it easier for their government to control them. When Tris(Shailene Woodley) becomes of age, she discovers that her talents allow her to blend in with any faction she chooses which makes her a threat to the established order.

She tries to hide her unusual abilities by joining Dauntless,known for their bravery but even amongst that group, Tris finds others like her who long to rebel against those in power,who are also looking to shake things up for their own dark purposes. The success or failure of this movie will determine if it will be the next Hunger Games and I have to say that it does look promising:

While checking out what is currently at the cinema is good, it never hurts to see what's ahead and judging by some of these coming attractions, we may have some fun film times to look forward to. At the very least, it's a welcome distraction from debating about casting Ben Affleck for the Superman Vs. Batman movie(personally, I have no problem with him being the Dark Knight and yes, I thought he made a great Daredevil):

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Top Chef gets piggy with it,Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D step into The Dark World and more secrets revealed on Sleepy Hollow

To start things off hot and spicy, the Quickfire on Top Chef this week tasked the culinary contenders with making a hot sauce.

The guest judge for this round was Dr. John,who is best known to many as the inspiration for the Muppets' character Dr. Teeth(who is actually easier to understand verbally than his human counterpart).

Brian won immunity here with his sauce that had a mixture of lime,yuzu and jalapeno. Not into hot sauce myself(just not a spicy girl) but that sounds pretty heated to me.

Then the Elimination challenge was announced and it was a doozy. A pair of local chefs,including guest judge Donald Link, rolled out a 300 pound pig for the contenders to carve up amongst themselves.

They had to each make a dish using one part of the pig that all together would represent the whole animal. This is a traditional NOLA feast called Boucherie and they had to make enough food for at least 150 people.

Everyone was rather civilized about the pig procedure,as those familiar with butchering an animal this large divided and most of the chefs were willing to share a section. The food was so good that Judge Tom insisted that this was the best offering he had every sampled during all of his TC seasons and he does not hand out compliments like that lightly!

Shirley was one of the folks who landed in the Winner's Circle for her dumplings with grilled kidney and a crispy pork fat salad.

Making some crispy bits was a smart idea as many of the diners expected some form of chitterlings with a pork fest like this and her dish certainly delivered on that front.

Nina was poised for another win,thanks to her braised pig's head ragu served with roasted corn and mustard greens.

 The dish was a play off of a stew her family made and that love showed in the flavors.

The win this time,however,went to Carlos. He and another chef made tacos but his fried chorizo version that went along side a pozole verde(soup) hit the spot just right.

I think this is his first big win and while I'm still rooting for Nina, it was nice to see someone else get their moment to shine in the spotlight here.

In the Bottom Three,Justin and Stephanie had similar problems with their proteins. She overcooked the meat so much that most of it was drained of flavor(which went all in her broth). You do have to be careful with pork but this was a real case of over thought that lead to overkill.

Justin's pork liver salsa was tasty but the wood roasted pork breast slices for his open faced taco were bone dry. He got a bit defensive about that,but hey, dude, it's better to show a positive acceptance of your food flaws in this competition in the long run, believe me. A negative attitude gets you nowhere fast.

Lucky for him, Louis was the person tapped to pack his knives and go.  The slow grilled pork was nicely done but the popcorn added to the plate made for a confusing taste combo there.

So,it's off to Last Chance Kitchen for him and next week will be Restaurant Wars, a fan favorite well worth waiting for. I will be taking Thanksgiving day off from the blog but might do a run down on it the day after,we shall see.

On Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D this week, the plot tied into the recent release of Thor:The Dark World as Coulson's crew was on clean up duty.

Even for those like me who haven't seen the movie(my entertainment budget is rather tight these days), the story line was cohesive enough as the search to find pieces of an ancient bezerker staff  before a group of pagan anarchists did lead to some interesting character developments between Ward, Melinda May and even Coulson,who is getting more and more worried about his "magical place" recovery.

Also dug Peter McNichol as a professor of Norse mythology with an unexpected insight into the magic behind the myths and I hope he shows up again. Not to mention that Melinda May should be allowed to keep that power staff,because she was exceptionally awesome wielding that thing. Oh, and I agree with the gals, Thor is dreamy:

Things are far from slowing down on Sleepy Hollow, as Crane began his interrogation of the Horseman which was made easier by the return of undead Andy. Turns out Andy is a necromancer with the ability to speak for the dead,a power that he has limited control over.

While Crane and Mills began their good cop, bad cop routine, Captain Irving met up with a newly released Jennifer and the two of them went forth to prevent the Hessians from breaking the Horseman out of his captivity.

During their talk, Crane found out that the Horseman shares an intimate connection with him and her name is Katrina:

The real identity of the Headless Horseman is Abraham Bones,aka Bram who was once engaged to Katrina back in the day until she broke it off due to falling in love with Crane.

It makes sense,as the original Ichabod Crane tale strongly hints that Bram donned the HH mantle in order to scare his rival in romance away. This of course make the Horseman's pursuit of Crane all the more personal here but it appears that revenge is merely the carrot on the stick that Moloch is using to control this embodiment of death.

Really enjoy seeing Jennifer become more of a regular cast member and it seems as if we have the rescue of Katrina from purgatory to look forward to as well. I know this series has only twelve episodes in this run and that we are close to the end but do wish for an extended episode or two. The wait for season two will be hard to bear indeed:


THE RETURN OF THE TURKEY DAY MARATHON: Fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 have been rejoicing at the news that the series' tradition of marathon bad movie viewing on Thanksgiving has been revived online. Shout! will be hosting the web space for this year's Turkey Day festivities and original host Joel will be doing the dubious honors.

While it would be great to have the MiSTie celebration back on the small screen, it's still a wonderful holiday surprise and for a taste of what to expect, check this merry montage of clips out:

Monday, November 18, 2013

A culinary carnival of Thanksgiving cooking shows

Continuing our Thanksgiving theme this month, we turn to the one place where this holiday is practically revered, the cooking show.

For foodie folk, this special day of feasting is like Christmas,New Year's and the Fourth of July all rolled into one. After all, the dinner is the center ring for this pop culture circus of culinary delights and many people rely on these programs for guidance and/or fresh new menu ideas.

To start things off properly, who better to tune into than Julia Child? While she was a French chef extraordinaire, the first lady of cooking didn't neglect this holiday ever, Whether it was on her own or teamed with friends like Jacques Pepin, Child always had plenty of advice to offer her fans and was even willing to approve of frozen turkeys(but she and Jacques would prefer that you take out the timer jammed into them):

While not a formerly trained chef, Rachael Ray has become as beloved as Julia Child in some respects(you can throw tomatoes at me for that but I stand by that statement!) and plenty of home cooks look to her for holiday help.

Even on her signature show,30 Minute Meals, Rachael offered up good savory suggestions on how to make a moist bird for your Thanksgiving table(granted,just the breast but that's the part I like best anyway):

Another major celebrity chef on this scene is Emeril Lagasse,who is currently doing guest judge duties on this New Orleans based season of Top Chef.

He's best known for his former Food Network show,Emeril Live where he "bammed" out some great meals and kicked it up a notch for Thanksgiving,not neglecting the sides dishes either. Hey, it can't all be turkey and gravy, you know:

Speaking of Food Network, they spend most of November on this tasty topic and round things off with their annual Thanksgiving Live(which is actually filmed well in advance of the actual day).

Alton Brown hosts this turkey telethon of on the spot advice,with cooking demos from the roster of FN hosts with a few flavorful surprises along the way. He also lent his special brand of entertaining instructions for the holiday on his former gig at Good Eats where brining is considering a step above basting:

If you truly need daily help for your holiday planning, The Chew is all over this day like whipped cream on pumpkin pie.

 With an array of edible expertise from Iron Chefs Mario Batali and Michael Symon,plus Carla Hall,a Top Chef alumna, tips for everything from table settings to desserts are in abundance.

The fun part of tuning into The Chew are the lively discussions which not only give you a variety of options but tell you a little something about each chef as well The individual demos are a big draw and often times have a side order of backseat cooking to go along with it:

Whether or not you look to TV for your menu suggestions, the most important thing about any cooking show at any time of year is to feel like you're hanging out with a great set of foodie friends. Even a very competitive series like Chopped can embrace the good feelings of the season and make your mealtime seem like a party(as well as be thankful for not having weird ingredients to work with), So, here's to the cooking show and all of the nose baths they make you long for:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Totally bummed by the cancellation of Totally Biased

A sad and surprising announcement came yesterday,as the late night comedy series Totally Biased with W.Kamau Bell was abruptly cancelled.

The show,which began on the F/X channel and then was moved to it's secondary station FXX,was in the midst of a second season and really hitting it's stride when the plug was pulled  and as someone who's been watching since episode one, this was a real disappointment.

W.Kamau Bell's brand of topical humor and snarky social justice,which was laced with good natured energy, made this show instantly watchable. His style of comedy reminds me of George Carlin and Chris Rock(who is the executive producer of TBWWKB) and could be rightfully seen as a new generation edition to the standards set by The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. For those of you who haven't seen Totally Biased,let me offer you some video samples:

CHEERIOS LOVE: One of the internet controversies that Bell took to heart was the kerfuffle over the charming Cheerios ad with the biracial family. As it reflected his own family(as well as many others out there), finding out the tastelessness of the responses to such a delightful commercial did leave a sour aftertaste that was eased with his snarky sweet take on the whole thing:

MAN ON THE STREET STRUT: A regular segment on Totally Biased had man on the street interviews, covering such topics relevant to NYC as stop and frisk,the Barney's shopping arrests and this look at how women really feel about being "cat called" while walking out in public:

CRANKY CITIZEN DWAYNE: Many of the writers on Totally Biased had special segments of their own such as Janine Brito, Hari Kondabolu, Guy Branum and Frank Coniff but most fans would agree that any bit with Dwayne Kennedy was one to watch for.

He started off with "Cranky Moments",which took on the success of The Butler and the name of the youngest Oscar nominee and then morphed into "Citizen Dwayne", who visited a Civil War re-enactment  and a Redskins bar to suggest new names for the team. His entertaining outrage was one of the highlights of the show and hopefully, we'll see more of him on TV soon somewhere:

There were so many great things about Totally Biased that I will miss,like the debate segments where folks actually had reasonable conversations about religion and politics and interviews with both famous and not well known in the mainstream people as well as comedy performances by rising stars.

Whether it's early demise was due to ratings,the loss of part of it's audience from the switch in channels or it's very competitive time slot, Totally Biased should have been given more of a chance to develop and grow. Networks are very,very fickle these days but clearly this show had an audience willing to follow it and was a smart and savvy section of satire to boot. I am sure that this won't be the last we see of W.Kamau Bell and company yet with any luck, the wait for his return won't be long:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Top Chef throws a potluck party,Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D suspicions and Sleepy Hollow's Headless Horsman returns

There was doubt early on in this week's Top Chef about how long one of the contenders would last, as Nicholas came down with a nasty bout of strep and had to sit out the Quickfire.

This was a particularly tricky QF,as special guest Kermit Ruffles conducted a musical chairs culinary challenge. The chefs had to change stations while he played the trumpet and then scramble over to the one near them when the music stopped,disrupting the cooking process for whatever dish had been started up.

Not the most cohesive way to make anything but Brian managed to pull it off well enough to earn the win and immunity for the next round.

 His duck with mussels and Asian flavors was a real palate pleaser, even with the extra help from his fellow competitors. Kind of hard to really judge the results,in my opinion,but it worked out as well as could be expected there.

Then Kermit announced that the Elimination Challenge would be held at his restaurant,where the chefs were to serve a potluck dinner for his friends and fellow musicians.

Everyone broke up into teams,with the last one leaving an open spot for Nicholas in case he recovered in time to join in. There was a real risk of him being eliminated for his illness but he bounced back in time to join his group in the kitchen.

Most of the teams did a good job,which made picking the best and the worst all the more difficult. The team on top,however,was the green team that had Stephanie,Carrie and Carlos with Nina once again making gnocchi.

She's done this  quite a few times now but fortunately the results are always tasty. This version had semolina and sausage,which all assembled enjoyed immensely.

The winner,however, was Stephanie for her fried baby artichoke with anchovy aoli. Artichoke is one of those edibles that can taste horrible if not done right and she really hit all the right notes with this preparation.

As much as I like Nina, it was nice to see someone else win here and Stephanie was thrilled,saying that she hasn't won anything since high school,so this was an extra big deal for her.

 The gray team was called before the judges first but their joy quickly disappeared as it was made clear that they were on the bottom for this round.

Nicholas' fish was quite tasteless and overcooked while the  caramel glazed ribs with potato and peanut gremolata that Travis whipped up with Brian had a burnt texture to them. It was not looking pretty for anyone there.

Yet it was Patty who packed her knives and headed off to Last Chance Kitchen instead of the guys. Her watermelon salad came out bland,due to forgetting the chili threads needed to accent the flavors,especially the szechuan pepper that no one at Judges' Table could taste in the dish.

 The goat cheese espuma didn't help matters much. Also, the chunks of fruit were cut clunky and the whole thing was a watery mess. Sorry,Patty,better luck next time! Travis was getting a little snarky about having to pick out Nicholas' fish(way to be a team player,buddy!) and if his attitude keeps getting worse, I won't be alone in wishing him so long there.

Despite the repeated phrase,"Trust the system",the gang on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D were not exactly in unquestioning mode as they reported in to the Hub.

With Fitz and Ward sent off on a mission that had no plans to pick them up(unbeknownst to them),Skye recruiting Simmons to help her access unauthorized info to assist the guys and Coulson harboring major doubts about his "Tahiti" recovery, a myriad of new plot possibilities have been opened.

After all,Skye is not a by-the-book type of gal and even Melinda May had some sympathy for her when those files about her family(looks like they were professionally taken out) came to light. It also appears to be that some of the higher-ups are worried about Coulson bonding with his group as tightly as he has thus far. I do hope that this is a sign of better things to come since plenty of fans are getting itchy for some major action to unfold:

Even with the crazy twists and turns that make up the story lines on Sleepy Hollow, the show is good about taking a little time out for humor,especially at Crane's bewilderment at modern day life.

This episode,which had plenty of gruesome doings from the Headless Horseman, offered up some great comic gems as Crane's annoyance at the misinformation about Paul Revere being given to grade school kids on a tour(it would be awesome to take a colonial history trip with him!).

 It was also great that a lively debate about Thomas Jefferson was neatly slipped in to express his disbelief about that founding father's dalliance with Sally Hemmings which ended in a reluctant acceptance. That's one of the pillars that hold this series up strong without leaning too hard upon it:

The main focus of the plot this week was the return of the Headless Horseman, who slaughtered the Freemasons ready to assist Crane and Mills, and Captain Irving took a more proactive part in this long game by reclaiming the severed skull of THH before the rest of him came for what was his.

The plan to outwit their enemy worked for now but he's not the only one this intrepid trio has to worry about. Since this is a short season,I imagine that we'll see some answers to the many questions posed here but perhaps not to the one most of us are wondering about-how is it that the Horseman is such a good shot?:


THE CHASE:This British quiz show ,that has Mark "The Beast" Labbett take on all comers in a battle of trivia wit ,has done well in it's US debut on Game Show Network,so much so that a second season is now airing. If you're in the mood for a snarkier version of Jeopardy, The Beast is a worthy adversary indeed:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Should we really be shocked to find shooting in a PG-13 movie?

A new survey to be published in the American Pediatrics journal is making pop culture news this week,as it reveals that movies rated PG-13 seem to have an awful lot of violence(particularly gun violence) in them.

This might be news to some but I'm sure that I'm not alone in saying "Really? You don't say! Perhaps you should tell me something I already don't know!" Don't get me wrong, I get that not everyone has the time or inclination to take note on media content but if you're honestly that concerned about what your kids see or don't see, maybe you should be a little more attentive there.

Many of us are no stranger to the convoluted reasoning of the MPAA for cracking down harder on sexuality than violence over the years, especially film makers who have to jump through the various hoops set up for them in order to get a rating that would allow them mass market distribution and advertising.

 I suspect part of the reason for the focus on this study is to point yet another finger at Hollywood to blame for the very tragic real life shootings that have occurred during the last few years. That to me is just sad as such information could be used to benefit both artists and audiences in a positive way instead of becoming an excuse to avoid making any real world changes that matter:

Frankly,the folks running this study would have saved themselves a lot of time by just watching Kirby Dick's documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated, a smart and savvy look at the hypocrisy of the movie ratings industry.

This film was released in 2006 and not much has changed since then, as big studio movies still get preference over independent ones in terms of ratings leniency and saying the "F" word too many times(even if the actual act is not shown on scene) is more frowned upon than gratuitous gunplay:

Even as we speak, a new bit of nonsense over a movie rating is going on. The Weinstein Company is currently contesting the MPAA over slapping an R rating on Philomena, which stars Judi Dench as a woman seeking out the child she gave up long ago.

Why is this film rated R? Not for violence or sexual content but because of "strong language". Yep, someone said that word that isn't fudge too many times and oh,no, we must protect the children from that!

 Never mind that this is not a film aimed at a younger crowd to begin with or that England,where it was made and first distributed, has no problem with it at all. Such puritanical hand wringing makes us look so immature on what is supposed to be a grown up subject:

Hopefully,something good will come of this film industry fuss,namely a reorganization of the MPAA's practices and standards. It's about time that we abandon this ruse of "what's best for the children" when it's truly the adults who have the problem.

After all, there is much more access to information about what is and is not in any film and many of the ratings warning boxes these days pretty much spoon feed you the type of material to expect in whatever you plan to watch.

 I've seen listings for "vampire/sci-fi/action violence" and "drug use", plus nudity and anything else that might shock your grandma. Take the time to read all about it if you're truly a concerned parent and then apply that to your own family only!

As for the MPAA, it would be nice if a sensible approach was instituted to the ratings system that respected the intelligence of movie goers instead of acting like a bunch of grumpy old men kicking people off their lawn and who knows, it might happen sooner rather than later. We shall see:

Monday, November 11, 2013

Feasting on some family feuding, Thanksgiving style.

While today happens to be Veterans Day(and best wishes of the day to all of our fine folk in military service,past and present), my thoughts are turning to the other major holiday event November is known for.

 Thanksgiving over the years has become a bit of a side note as retailers and other consumer interests tend to brush it aside in order to start the mad scramble of holiday gift buying season. However, to me the beauty of Thanksgiving is that it allows you to simply enjoy a good meal with those you love and reflect on the good things that are right on hand in your life.

Even in pop culture,Thanksgiving has been less emphasized in favor of the glitz and glamor of Christmas,so I intend to write a few posts this month about what can be found that celebrates Turkey Day as a way of stirring up the good gravy pot of vibes that day brings.

TV has been one of the better mainstays of Thanksgiving spirit,with a good numbers of regular series having at least one episode dedicated to the hectic nature that big family gatherings serve up along with pumpkin pie and stuffing. Of course, some of the best TV Thanksgiving moments focus on fighting or fretting about the day and here are a handful of classic examples of that tasty trope:

FRIENDS: This show had a good number of Turkey Day episodes,particularly since Monica was a chef and very controlling about the menu. One of the better ones was when she announced to her parents that she and Chandler were an item, not knowing that Ross had blamed him for a pot smoking incident while they were at college.

That gave the Geller elders a somewhat bad opinion of Chandler,which was quickly remedied when Monica revealed what Ross had done,along with a few other secrets he was currently keeping from them. That lead to a lightning round of confessions that spread to everyone else present and made Phoebe's hidden lust for Jacques Cousteau not so bad in comparison:

EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND:  One of the things that Ray's wife Debra felt superior about whenever their two families got together was how well her mom and dad got along with each other. That balloon of bliss was shot down one Thanksgiving as Ray overheard them talking about going to a marriage therapy seminar instead of the faboulous vacation they claimed to be going on.

That revelation disconcerted Debra greatly and her understandable yet over the top distress caused a major turkey fumble. Those suckers are slippery even if you're not agitated at someone during prep:

GILMORE GIRLS: The blend of humor and drama that this series did so well is nicely highlighted in their ultimate Turkey Day episode entitled "A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving". The deep frying happens at Sookie's house,where she lets her husband cook the bird only to discover to her culinary horror just how he plans to make it.

The situation gets even worse for Sookie as Jackson's less than sophisticated clan troop in for dinner and encourage the Thunderdome antics of the turkey drop. One of the many reasons that Lorelai and Rory should relax over their hectic holiday schedule comes from this delightful disaster:

CHEERS:  Family is not just the one you're born into,as this particular episode  demonstrated when the "Thanksgiving orphans" at the bar head over to Carla's house for a Turkey Day feast together. The mishaps in the kitchen lead to a long wait to eat and the simmering frustrations boil over into a good old fashioned food fight that Diane in her pilgrim gear should've well appreciated:

 I hope this whets your appetite for more Thanksgiving fun as the kitchen timer counts down to that day. It would be nice if more Hollywood fare featured Thanksgiving as a focal point for a good film these days but every now and then, they do come up with something suitable and sometimes served with a sweet slice of social justice pie:


Thursday, November 07, 2013

Top Chef gets creamed by cheese,a new ally at Sleepy Hollow and more Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D action

The guest judge for this week on Top Chef was John Besh,who took the chefs on a field trip for their Quickfire challenge. The lot of them headed out to farm country,where the main task was to make a dish highlighting the Creole tomato.

Twenty minutes of time was given and Padma even had one of the cars packed with cooking utensils and kitchen ware to make things that much easier.

Some of the chefs felt underwhelmed by being assigned a tomato as the main focus while others rose to the challenge. Just cooking outdoors alone was tricky but nothing that hasn't been done here before.

 Nina once again proved why she's a front runner here by winning immunity for the next round with her chilled watermelon and tomato soup. She also was allowed to take first pick of what course to prepare for the Elimination challenge.

For the Elim,the chefs had to make a three course meal for John's executive chefs at his restaurant,La Provence,and use Philly cream cheese in their dish(the only other dairy available to them for this round was milk and cream).

Nina went with appetizers and the rest of the gang used the classic TC knife pull to find out what course was to be their lot. Ten grand was offered up as the big prize for this win,courtesy of,you guessed it, Philly cream cheese! I'm not a fan of this particular food item but hey, ten grand is at least worth trying for.

Justin made it to the Top Three here for his duck breast with mushrooms and corn puree.

His protein was a real stand out from the rest and the judges praised him for embracing the farm to table concept of the challenge.

There was some doubt about Nicholas' dessert,which was a carrot funnel cake with peach flavored cream cheese added in,would turn out yet it managed to be tasty enough to earn him a spot in the winner's circle.

 No one really went for the instant go-to for dessert with cream cheese,the cheesecake-maybe due to the baking time?

The win,however,went to Nina for her fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with an eggplant cream cheese puree. The confident simplicity of that ap just pleased the judges to no end.

Nina's starting to get nervous about coming out on top so much and I do agree that she might need to watch her back as time goes on. She's a nice enough person that I don't think will attract too many enemies but she also possesses a no nonsense streak that might irk some of the more overly sensitive of the bunch.

Speaking of which,Travis landed in the Bottom Three this time for his lamb chops which were not evenly cooked.

 The clunkiness of the veggies on his plate didn't help much and the awkward cutting for the chops(which he insisted was on purpose) made him a real contender to get the boot here. He whined a little at judges' table,which is starting to be a regular thing with him.

Lucky for him,Sara's lamb chops weren't any better. She really had trouble stuffing them with the cream cheese mix,due to the pastry bag giving her grief.

That part of the prep hit a delay snag that caused a ripple effect in her whole cooking time and she pretty much apologized for the plate.

Fortunately for them both, it was Bene who had to pack his knives and go for steaming his veggie sides. By doing that, they came out soggy and made the chicken on his plate an afterthought at best.

Well, he'll be in Last Chance Kitchen and have his second shot at the game there. Would love to see Travis join him at some point,his lack of accepting criticism is very unappealing here.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returned this week,with a nice change of pace as Agents Fitz and Simmons became the focal point of the plot.

 The team was on a routine mission to discover what was causing a group of men to spontaneously explode and create a dangerous energy field in their wake. The cause happened to be an alien helmet that the guys had picked up from a rescue clean-up in NYC( watch The Avengers movie for better context) that transmitted a virus via electro magnetic impulse.

The upshot was that Simmons(whose first name is Gemma,we finally learned) wound up infected and Fitz's claims of pure friendship with her proved to be much more than that. He became very heroic by insisting on helping her despite the quarantine and if Ward hadn't beaten him to it, I do believe that he would have jumped out of the plane in order to save her from an unnecessary sacrifice of her life.

Putting the spotlight on the supporting players was a good choice yet the show still has a ways to go here. However, I am willing to be patient and let the ultimate focus of the season reveal it's self in good time because that's the grown-up thing to do(slight pun on the clip below there):

Sleepy Hollow also returned,with Abbie and Crane making more emotional connections as the danger around them grows stronger.

Crane was kidnapped by a mysterious group of men,who turned out to be modern day Freemasons, and had to relive a part of his past that still haunts him greatly in order to win their trust.

What made him feel most guilty was not being able to save the man who encouraged him to switch sides from death. His commanding officer(who was a demon in disguise) followed him and when he realized that Crane was letting his prisoner go, that brave man was shot in the back. This regret is considered by Crane to be a grievous sin on his soul:

Meanwhile,Abbie went looking for help after a vision from Katrina(who I am still not sure is alive or dead in that purgatory realm of hers) and even recruited her sister Jennifer to track Crane down.

The two of them found a "sin eater", a man able to remove the dark deeds of others from their souls. Henry Parrish was reluctant to get involved but the nature of his calling drew him into the search and the chance of unbinding Crane from the Headless Horseman.

I'm really liking the world building going on here and glad to see a new comer to the fight,plus Jennifer on board as well. I've tried a few new shows this season but so far, Sleepy Hollow is the best of the bunch even with the off beat premise of the plot. Folks need to take a few notes from this particular playbook to see how it's done:


DOWNTON ABBEY: Season 4 is only a couple of months away,yet all of the DA fans in the US are anxious to see how the show will hold up without Matthew Crawley. As much as we would've liked to have Dan Stevens remain at Downton, I am sure that the series will survive his loss as will all of us: