Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Purple Wedding aftermath on GOT,Don goes back to work on Mad Men and more special guest star action at Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Doing my TV Thursday coverage a little sooner this week,due to my having some personal business that needs attending to before the weekend(for those following The Year of Freddy Fear posts, the next installment should be underway tomorrow).

So,let's get on with Game of Thrones, which was quiet in some respects unless you were in Meereen where Dany's slave revolt went off without a hitch or any mercy for the unjust(sorry,Barristan,but I'm with the Mother of Dragons on this one). Meanwhile in King's Landing, Tyrion is wondering just how long he has to live until the trial(Jaime is not much help here,despite his attempt at reasoning with Cersei) as Margery wonders about her chances at still becoming queen.

She got a little insight into that from her grandmother Olenna,who isn't called the Queen of Thorns for nothing,folks. Interesting how both Margery and Sansa(now headed to the Eyrie with Littlefinger) are being made hostages to fortune by those who claim to care the most about them-just how well that's going to work out for all concerned will be surprising to them indeed:

Don Draper finally got back to work on Mad Men this week and it's about time since the whole creative department is swirling down the sprout,thanks to that creep Lou.

Don's return was rather abrupt as Roger mainly asked him back in order to have someone in his corner(Jim Cutler is slowly trying to ease him out the door and Roger knows it on some level).  I do wish that Joan had been more supportive but I can see how the current status quo has helped her gain a few steps up the corporate ladder and as a single mom, she needs to keep moving forward.

Naturally, the remaining partners put Don on a short leash for now and we'll see just how long he can tow the line before shaking things up in the right way(keeping my fingers crossed here!):

I am so glad that I finally saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier (my cinematic birthday present!) for many reasons,including a better appreciation of Maria Hill's appearance on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last night.

Between her determination to put the current past behind her and Coulson's need to retain some semblance of order for himself and what's left of his team(nice how Skye was able to leave them a message about Ward's true affiliation), the dramatic action was pretty tight. The physical action was nicely pulled off as well, with Col. Talbot making himself more of a problem than a solution and Skye and Coulson escaping from Deathlok and Ward via flying car, sweet! The best part of the character interaction for me was Melinda May returning to the fold but not without getting some much needed answers:


THE LEFTOVERS: HBO will be launching this miniseries event(based on the novel by Tom Perotta) at the end of June and the premise is rather promising. The title refers to those left on Earth after a "rapture" type of event and how one community is dealing with the social and emotional aftermath. Should be a real water-cooler conversation maker this summer, no doubt about it:

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Gathering up some May and June books for a summer reading basket

We are on the verge of May,with June close behind it, and for many pop culture followers that means a start towards the big summer season of entertainment.

It's no coincidence that this late spring season blooms with blockbuster films,promising TV shows and a garden's worth of bustling new books begging to be scooped up for warm weather reading. Not to mention the various gift giving opportunities that this time of year sets store by,with brides,graduates and your parents all in need of a good read.

So, let's get things going with a short yet snappy list of upcoming titles for your( or someone you know) pleasure:


 June brings us a second season of Stephen King's Under the Dome and it's only fitting that another page turner from the modern master of horror hits the shelves as well.

Mr. Mercedes has a bit of a ripped from the headlines vibe, as retired police officer Bill Hodges finds himself drawn into the investigation of a publicly performed act of violence.  Months after the heinous act, Bill receives a letter from a man claiming to be the deadly driver who took several lives in that incident and vows to do it again, with a higher body count promised this time.

Bill feels compelled to stop this even worse event about to happen and with the help of a pair of unlikely allies, races against time and the odds to stop a maniac longing to feel alive with the rush of death to others by his hand. This should be a chilling entertainment that will go along well with Under The Dome,like a fine wine of fear(June):

The Starz cable channel will be airing their miniseries adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander,the first in her popular series of books where accidental time traveler Claire Randall and her highlander lover Jamie Fraser fight against all odds to be together.

For those currently into the books, the latest addition to that saga is Written in My Own Heart's Blood, where Jamie and Claire are caught up in the chaos of the American Revolution while their daughter Brianna is facing a sea of troubles with her family in twentieth century Scotland. With both of their worlds threatening to collide, the Fraser clan must find a way to save themselves in and out of time.

It'll be a while before I get to this one( finished Outlander a couple of months ago and saving the second book, Dragonfly in Amber, for summer reading), full fledged fans of the Outlander saga will be happy to have more new names to learn(June):


Adults who love to indulge in the teen suspense soap Pretty Little Liars will be happy to see that PLL author Sara Shepard has an upcoming novel aimed at her older audience. The Heiresses are the ladies intended for the fortune of the Saybrook Diamonds,with the current president of the company Poppy falling from her office window to her untimely demise.

Her surviving cousins fear they are next, given that each of them is sent a note reading "one heiress down,four to go" not long after Poppy's mysterious death.
Will their secrets and lies lead them to the killer or is the enemy more closer than they realize? While I haven't seen or read PLL, this does sound like the sweet spot for summer time suspense and it's good that this author fully embraces fans of all ages (May).

 In C.J. Hauser's debut novel The From-Aways, a pair of young women find their fate in a sleepy Maine town that offers them a fair share of hope and heartbreak.

 Leah is eager to give up her New York journalism dreams to marry Henry and move to his home town of Menamon,but despite finding some solace in her work as a local reporter, she begins to doubt the speed in which she entered the married state.

Meanwhile,Quinn arrives in Menamon to meet her folk singer father for the first time and as she crosses paths with Leah via the newspaper office where they both work, each woman winds up influencing the other to the point where their carefully arranged lives are prone to unravel at the slightest touch. I have an advance copy of this book from Library Thing and it's definitely high on my summer stack of must-reads and most likely,will be on others as well(June).


The subtitle of Molly Wizenberg's upcoming memoir Delancey is "a man, a woman, a restaurant,a marriage" and that is pretty much the whole story in a nifty little nutshell.

Molly and her husband Brandon started up their pizza place in Seattle with very little practical experience and not so great timing, as the economy was beginning it's downward spiral. While she thought it was a scheme that wouldn't last long, Molly soon realized that this was one project that was finding a fast and furious foot hold in their lives and had to be dealt with as such.

If you think that owning a restaurant is a piece of cake, this tidy tome should disabuse you of that notion right quick yet it's not intended to sway anyone away from truly taking on such a culinary challenge, if you're willing to work for it and make it a real labor of love(May):


Joshua Ferris revives the dark comic tone of his best known work And Then We Came to the End in his new novel To Rise Again at a Decent Hour as a moody dentist discovers that his life is being hijacked by the Internet.

Paul O'Rourke has enough troubles in his daily routine as it is,with bouts of insomnia and dealing with an exe at work, when a mysterious someone sets up a Twitter account,website and Facebook page in his name that cause a series of misunderstandings and disruptions to his current state of affairs.

As Paul struggles to find out the who and why of this increasing maddening matter, he comes across a secret organization that feels entitled to rearrange his life for their own purposes. Sounds like The Office meets Jason Bourne, a story that Michael Scott certainly would approve of (May):

The heroine of Jennifer Weiner's upcoming novel,All Fall Down, is Allison Weiss, a working mother who copes with her daily share of burdens via pills, something she regards as a necessary evil in order to function well enough to keep her hectic life smooth.

However, despite her insistence that the pills are not addicting, Allison starts to find that they're not enough to take edge off of the pressures in her world such as being the sole provider for her family,her father's Alzheimer growing steadily worse and the emotional gaps in her household growing wider than the Grand Canyon.

Weiner has tackled many tough subjects before in her work and before you dismiss this book as Lifetime channel movie material, take a closer look at the heart felt depiction of a woman trying to "have it all", an impossible dream that even modern millennial women still feel compelled to achieve and see just how emotional meaningful such a desperate pursuit is(June):


In Eyes on You by Kate White, Robin Trainer is mounting a comeback of her career as an entertainment reporter with a hot new book and a  show earning
respectable ratings, her situation looks rather promising.

That glittering vision quickly sharpens into deadly glass as a series of threats emerge from nasty notes to tampering with her facial make-up that causes Robin to fear for more than just her rise to the top of the media heap.

As the trail of clues point to an enemy in her midst, can Robin find her foe before she's cancelled in more ways than one? Author Kate White is known for her successful string of suspense stories and Eyes on You appears to be another gem to be added onto her novelist necklace(June):

Many more wonderful books will join these tempting tomes and whether you're shopping for yourself or a good friend, don't forget to prepare your summer reading list first. While there are plenty of pop culture distractions out there, keeping up with your reading is a must, even if you're not a student anymore:

Monday, April 28, 2014

My birthday adventure with Captain America at the Alamo Drafthouse

Last Friday happened to be my birthday and part of the fun of the day was having a girl's night out(with my sister and a mutual friend of ours) to see Captain America:The Winter Soldier at an Alamo Drafthouse theater that opened up in our area several months ago.

This was the first time any of us had gone to an ADH movie theater and my expectations were high,due to the reputation this chain has for catering to film fans. This particular location has replaced a multiplex(called Movie Land, I kid you not) that was around for just about forever in my mind and while the bones of the former theater are still present, the changes brought about by the ADH are most welcome indeed.

The color scheme is a down to earth blend of earth tones,with old school film reels as light fixtures and framed poster art in the lobby, that makes the screening rooms warm and inviting. One of the best improvements made here is the pre-show which had a minimum of trailers and a lively mix of appropriately themed content. The awaiting audience was treated to a variety of Captain America fare that included b&w Republic serial clips,TV ads for action figure versions of the character and 1960s cartoons that showcased the Avengers,plus that classic theme song where he "throws his mighty shield"-such a great way to get into the right frame of mind for superhero fare:

There were only three movie trailers shown and naturally, two of them were Marvel movies with X-Men: Days of Future Past appearing to be the best of the bunch(Amazing Spider Man 2 doesn't look bad either and while Godzilla seems cool, I'm kinda of neutral about it).

For fans of the X Men series, this storyline is a major one in the comic book canon and from what I've been seeing, they have made all the right moves in terms of setting up the realities that the characters have to deal as well as the logistics of what needs to be done in order to make this film compelling on an emotional level as well as entertainment. True, looks can be deceiving but I think that Marvel has another winner on their hands here:

 As to Captain America:The Winter Soldier itself, plenty has been said about the movie already,so my two cents will be brief. The plotting was nicely done and it's a credit to the writing that even those not familiar with the previous Captain America or Avengers film(or even the TV series Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) such as my sis and our friend could follow along and get right into the storyline.

Chris Evans truly has a knack for making a comic book hero believable and just without any over the top emoting or posturing. Samuel L. Jackson is incredible as always and the only true Nick Fury on film,in my not so humble opinion(and yes, Redford was fine here as well).  Anthony Mackie's Falcon is a very welcome addition and looking forward to seeing more of his character(which was revived from the comic book archives) and how is it that Black Widow doesn't have her own movie yet?

She is incredibly awesome here and it's safe to say that Scarlett Johansson pretty much owns this character. Don't get me wrong, I think the powers that be have done well with her(unlike DC, who has yet to produce a viable Wonder Woman) but Black Widow deserves to be more than a connecting character for other Marvelverse folk to tag along behind-give the lady her own franchise already!:

My overall first  impression of the Alamo Drafthouse experience was an extremely positive one and I hope to attend another screening there sometime in the future.

 The atmosphere that both the surroundings and the staff offered made this outing a pleasantly memorable one,with comfortable seating, attentive service and popcorn brought to you in a silver bowl that tastes just like the kind you used to make at home with a oil based popper,adding a extra flavor of nostalgia with the melted butter topping.

The only slight critique I can give is that they do repeat the rules of behavior for the theater(no talking or texting during the film and no late entrances once the movie has started) a lot but on the other hand, there was a pack of kids sitting a couple of rows ahead of my party and they behaved better than most young people I've ever sat through a movie with. Yes, I know how old that makes me sound but that aspect was greatly appreciated by all, so maybe the repetition was a good thing after all.

I am no stranger to high end movie theaters, having gone to the Ziegfield in Manhattan and the Angelika in Greenwich Village but the ADH is the best of both worlds with it's blend of arthouse standards and mainstream friendliness that invites you into a warmly enchanting movie going experience that made this particular birthday one of the best that I've ever had.

 If you have a chance to go to an Alamo Drafthouse, take that opportunity as soon as maybe and enjoy yourself to the fullest, as that is the true purpose of this pop culture paradise:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A conquering heroine on GOT,Peggy's attitude problem on Mad Men and Skye's dilemma on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

While things are currently in chaos at King's Landing(and no, I'm not getting into that whole debate over Jaime and Cersei's scene since it was disturbing on too many levels there),let us look further out on Game of Thrones towards Meereen, where Dany and her vast army is preparing to take another slave city.

The role of conquering hero has done very well for our beloved khaleesi so far and it was a stroke of brilliance to address the slaves atop the wall rather than the masters of Meereen as she made her declaration of intent. However, it's one thing to liberate the oppressed and quite another to handle the consequences that much needed change in the social order that such freedom brings. Dany has done well with her growing power but eventually the true responsibilities of a leader are going to catch up with her sooner rather than later:

We're far from done with King's Landing,however,and our man Tyrion knows he's in a world of trouble but also knows his options are limited here. It doesn't help that Sansa is now long gone,thanks to Littlefinger who has a considerable role in this situation(not a spoiler,just fairly obvious at this point).

 I so feel bad for Tyrion,who never was given much respect by his family to begin with and upon the demise of Joffrey, will be getting the lion's share of scorn and then some before this is all over and done with.

 Other troubles are brewing all around Westeros but the Lannister family drama is going to blind those in charge from seeing the danger coming as we shall see in the next few episodes:

One of the few bright spots on this week's episode of Mad Men was Don managing to come to terms with Sally after she found out his work situation(an incident that impacted Don's secretary Dawn as well) but most of the Valentine's Day theme of the sub plots were far from lovable.

Peggy's romantic frustrations were taken out on her secretary Shirley over a gift of roses that Peggy was quick to think were meant for her,despite their being placed at Shirley's desk. Not only did she take them off to her office and put Shirley in an awkward position about asking for them back, she then got all moody about the roses and then went through a "you can have them,oh, wait, no you can't" routine than forced Shirley to tell her the truth(that they were from her own fiance). Peggy's response was to make a scene and then force a personnel switch that worked out in the end for both Dawn and Shirley but was still rude and wrong in more ways than one.

I so wish that someone(Joan,perhaps) could've told her "Get over yourself and get over Ted already! Plus, you said Shirley embarrassed you? No, dear, you embarrassed yourself.":

Skye found out a hard truth on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this week as the team divided up to deal with one of the dangerous escapees from the Fridge,leaving her alone with Ward whose mission from Hydra was to get that password from her.

The death of Agent Koenig( RIP,Patton Oswalt, you at least had a couple of good episodes there) has placed Skye in a position where she has to deal with Ward by playing into his game up to the point of no return and how she's going to pull that off solo is bound to be her biggest test of skill to date.

 I personally think she can handle but do wish that Melinda May was on hand for some back-up(she might still be part of the big picture there,we'll see). In the mean while, this first season is getting ready to wrap up and with any luck, the finale will lead to a second season and beyond:


BAD TEACHER: The sitcom based on the Cameron Diaz crass comedy debuts tonight and I may check it out mainly out of idle curiosity. Advance word has been mixed about it but some how this premise could actually work on the small screen,given a good cast and a few tweaks to the plot points:

Monday, April 21, 2014

A birthday book buying dilemma

 This upcoming Friday is my birthday and I have a few celebratory plans for it,including a girl's night out at the movies( I'm going to attend the local Alamo Drafthouse theater in my area for the very first time and yes, I will be reviewing my experience early next week) and a visit to the bookstore.

While it is safe to say that I need a new book as much as Lady Gaga needs another wild n' crazy outfit,most of what I read these days is either review copies or second hand purchases,plus paperbacks on loan from Booksfree(the literary version of Netflix). It has some time since I walked into a bookshop and bought a shiny new copy of anything; not complaining,folks,just stating the facts there.

 Anyhow, I do have a few page turning desires but a few doubts about them as well. For example, the paperback edition of Gone,Girl, the highly acclaimed mystery thriller by Gillian Flynn goes on sale tomorrow and I think it's safe to say that I will be able to pick up a copy on Friday.

With the movie adaptation due out later this year, the impetus to read this book is quite high and believe it or not, I have managed to stay spoiler free on this one so far. The set-up for the plot,where a prominent business man is suspected of causing his wife's disappearance, has a nice ripped from the headlines vibe going for it and plenty of accolades from critics and regular readers alike speak volumes for the quality of the writing.

However, I can be one of those people who appreciates a literary phenom much better long after the hype has died down. Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible was a book I had around for years until one day, I just snatched it and couldn't put it down. Perhaps things will be different with Gone,Girl and no, I have no problem with reading the book first as director David Fincher is already saying that the ending of the film will deviate from the book(whether that's for better or worse is yet to be seen there):

Another big paperback novel that I'm considering is The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, which chronicles the life and times of a group of teenagers who met in a summer camp for the arts in 1974. As they go out into the world to pursue their creative dreams, reality offers each of them a far different set of choices than they ever imagine having to deal with.

I've read a number of reviews and most were either overflowing with praise or a tad hesitant about it's virtues. The concept does interest me(no pun intended,honest!) and as I've just started reading Mary McCarthy's The Group, this might be a nice compare and contrast for me there. Plus, word of mouth on The Interesting has been pretty positive for the most part:

However, I am tempted to take the plunge into hardcover territory with Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction last week. I have never read Tartt before(or either of the other writers whose books I'm dithering between here) but her reputation for excellence makes her the Meryl Streep of literary fiction.

The story follows a young man named Theo,who witnessed the death of his mother during a bombing at an art museum and still holds on to the painting that he claimed during that moment of chaos. Before it even won the Pulitzer, this book was on just about every Best of the Year list and folks are practically singing it's praises from coast to coast.

Another plus for me is that it's a novel of considerable length and that is pure catnip to me. I love a good long novel the way some people enjoy a three hour movie,too much is never enough. Since Tartt is known to take a good long while with her books, the chances are that if I like The Goldfinch, I'll have more than enough time to catch up on the rest of her works before she releases a new one:

I know this isn't a vastly important decision to make and no doubt, some might say "Oh, just get all three and be done with it!" Well, I do have a budget there,not to mention that owning a book comes with some responsibility.

Let's compare it to a movie; would you really want to buy every DVD of a highly touted film out there or just keep the ones you know that you'll watch more than once? The beauty of rentals is that you can sample the goods without full purchase and yet still pay a fair price for the service.

Of course, this isn't all about dollars and sense. Book buying on a special day like this can mark the occasion well and while I'm not hitting any big numbers age wise, I would like to try something new that offers me a bit of challenge along with entertainment to further my growing maturity. If anyone out there has a suggestion for me, I'll be happy to hear it(and take note) and unlike a certainly spoiled boy king, I won't be reluctant to accept such generosity:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

GOT's Purple Wedding party surprise,Mad Men at the beginning of the end and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. giving out bad days

The most talked about(as well as long awaited) moment of the TV week belongs to Game of Thrones for delivering the Purple Wedding, where horrid King Joffrey chokes out his last command.

His death may seem too soon,given that this is only the second episode of the season, but it sets off a whole chain of events that spells the downfall of the Lannisters. I won't say anything too spoilery but trust me when I tell you that you haven't seen anything yet, folks.

 The reaction videos have been fun to watch and for those who are wondering why the demise of a fictional character(especially a young one) is bringing such joy to the masses, allow me to explain.

GOT fans have gone through a lot of misery with the series as they have had to see many of their heroes fall upon the sword,starting with the death of Ned Stark(at the unexpected command of Joffrey) in season one and last year's Red Wedding,which slaughtered a good deal of Stark supporters along with Robb and his mother.

Such suffering is reflective of the "anyone can die at any time" element of the source material and it does make for suspenseful story telling but for viewers who haven't read the books, this can be wearying on the resolve to keep on with the show. Also, trust me; the little bastard had it coming. So let us have our vicious victory dance for now yet keep an eye on poor Tyrion,who will be most sorely tested(and most unfairly, I might add) due to the gruesome aftermath of this family affair:

Also airing that night was the season seven premiere of Mad Men, which picked up only a few months where they left off as Don is trying to make a bi-coastal marriage work and Peggy is struggling to be heard in more than one area of her life.

Joan is also having a rough time in being taken seriously but her arsenal is a bit more extensive there. A strong feeling of transition pervades over the episode  and even though we're only getting part of the series finale(the first seven episodes are airing now,with the remainder to be shown in 2015), this set-up holds a lot of promise for a well thought out conclusion and I for one look forward to more:

 Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to rock n' roll with last week's amazing new developments as Coulson takes his crew out to a hidden base(manned by special guest star Patton Oswalt) in hopes of discovering some hope for the future while Ward and Garrett go on the road with their evil plans.

Have to say that Ward being a bad guy is a nice change-up for the character and he is a formidable threat,since he has plenty of inside knowledge from his time with Coulson and the gang that is aiding the cause of Hydra all too well.

Plus, Garrett is quite the entertaining mastermind there and seeing him and Ward work their wicked mojo on their unsuspecting allies is awesome to watch(in a bad way,of course):

 However, Ward's loyalty is going to be tested,as he joins up with Coulson and company next week to get that secret password from Skye by any means necessary. It's pretty obvious that his feelings for her are causing some doubts to arise regarding following Hydra's lead(and particular Garrett,to whom he owes a major debt to) but how that will play out is anyone's guess.

 Skye would not be the first gal in the Whedonverse to have an evil boyfriend and if this goes along those lines, things will not go well for the course of true love there(not to mention Melinda May putting her two cents of kickass into that discussion!):


THE AMAZING RACE: ALL STARS: So far, the competition has been friendly but that appears to not be lasting as a couple of teams get down and dirty with their tactics and why am I not surprised at Brendon and Rachel being all involved in this?:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Some page turning and pulse pounding pop culture anniversaries to savor this season

Part of my writing focus this year is connected to two anniversaries,with A Nightmare on Elm Street being 30 years of age and Mansfield Park by Jane Austen reaching it's 200th year of engagement.

It got me to wondering about other books and films that are celebrating their pop culture milestones in 2014 and while they're a good number of them in both categories, I chose a simple quartet made up of two from each category that are good enough to start with.

This week marks the 75th anniversary of John Steinbeck's masterpiece,The Grapes of Wrath, which describes the struggles of suddenly down on their luck folks in Oklahoma during the Great Depression,particularly the Joad family that travels to California to seek work after their homestead is lost due to drought and foreclosure.

The book details the frustration,fear and stubborn determination of the Joads, as well as other families they encounter along the way, to make sense out of the financial shake-ups that have turned their world upside down. It also chronicles the greed and opportunistic tactics of those still somewhat in charge of things who have no qualms about exploiting the desperate "Okies" for profit via unfair labor practices and consider the very idea of these people asking for basic human rights a rude presumption on their part. Amazing how current this all sounds, doesn't it?:

While Victorian author Elizabeth Gaskell was known for her novels of social commentary such as North and South or Ruth, she did also write family dramas like Wives and Daughters, which started out in serial form in 1864 and celebrates it's 150 years in publication. The book was not finished when Gaskell passed on so her editor added an explanation of what she had intended.

The novel is a multi-character piece,with most of the focal points placed at the door of young Molly Gibson, the only child of the local doctor who does her best to please her father and his flighty new wife( and even more flighty new stepsister). She is constantly being protected by just about every male in her life from the harshness of reality but Molly is much smart and stronger than she is given credit for by both the men and women in her life.

A number of secrets and lies swirl about her from the new  family arrangement as well from her well to do neighbors,the family of Squire Hamley whose son Roger she finds a kinship with and possibly much more. I plan to read the book later this year but have already watched the 1999 miniseries version(adapted by the brilliant Andrew Davies) and for anyone who is still craving a little extra Downton Abbey time would do well to enjoy the best of a great writer's last work:

1994 was a pretty good year for films and a real game changer that hit mainstream movie goers hard was Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction which is now 20 years old, believe it or not.

While Tarantino had made an impact with his earlier crime film Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction took things to the next level as it's blend of gritty noir,pop culture riffs and poetic use of profane language painted a mural of underworld characters that were just as relatable as your everyday usual set of co-workers and friends(only with guns, drugs and reliable places to clean up after an accidental shooting).

What Tarantino and his creative cohorts did was truly flip the script by setting high drama in what many considered to be the realm of lowlifes to discover nobility and sense of purpose amongst the most unlikely of criminal minds. The critical acclaim(which lead to several Oscar nominations and a Best Original Screenplay win for Tarantino and his then writing partner Roger Avery) and box office success of the movie lead to plenty of other similarly styled movies, some of which were good but topping the epic power of Samuel L. Jackson as hit man extraordinaire Jules Winfield was not to be:

Also released that year was The Professional, French director Luc Besson's follow-up to his cult hit La Femme Nikita. This tale of a reclusive hit man who finds himself the guardian of a young girl whose entire family is wiped out by a pack of drug dealers lead by a corrupt DEA agent(Gary Oldman, in one of his best bad guy roles) earned positive feedback from critics but not as much audience acclaim.

It did do well financially but may have been lost in the shuffle of other films of that nature at the time and eventually gained a cult following. There's also an extended version of the film that was released overseas(it was trimmed for the US) that is available on home video and is considered by some to be the better version.

Either way, The Professional offers an engaging look at the cost of a life of violence that neither condones nor condemns the choices that it's leads make, instead it makes them real flesh and blood figures in an action adventure story. The movie is oddly touching at times, with Natalie Portman making one hell of a debut as Mathilda,the vulnerable yet hardened by life school girl determined to learn the tricks of her reluctant protector's trade. Her steady footsteps in this film made a path for the likes of Chloe Grace Moretz to follow with Hit Girl, which is more than enough reason to honor it's 20th anniversary:

Granted, it does make you feel your age when you look back at some of these pop culture place holders but on the other hand, it also makes you take into consideration the impact made in their respective genres that have added some much needed flavor to our multimedia menu. The influences of these and many other artistic entertainments can be pointed out way too much at times but honoring what came before makes one a better artist and/or appreciator of the arts.

Let's close this out with a ear out for a classic tune celebrating forty years on the dance floor, ABBA's "Waterloo" and see it's glory in a classic scene from Muriel's Wedding,another great film from 1994-talk about full circle, folks! Nostalgia may be deemed as nerd country but even us nerds can have our moment in the spotlight as the mean girls look on and despair:

Friday, April 11, 2014

Why I approve of Emma Approved

Following up a pop culture success,whether it be film,book or TV, can be a rather sticky wicket to begin with but when you have at least two out of those three platforms to tackle(along with social media), that challenge becomes as daunting as any midair rescue attempted by a superhero.

For many Jane Austen fans, Emma Woodhouse is more of an antihero,as her likability factor can be troublesome as even her creator once mentioned. Yet, plenty of people were thrilled to hear that the folks behind the highly popular as well as Emmy award winning Lizzie Bennet Diaries were going to bring to online life Austen's Emma,considered to be one of the key books of her literary career.

 Emma Approved turns this classic heroine into a modern day matchmaker/life coach,who runs her own agency with the help of brother-in-law/business partner Alex Knightley. Emma films her workaday world in a pseudo-documentary style(ala The Office), with a Twitter account and regular blog that details her fashion choices and other dilemmas.

 The plot lines have followed the book in a more modernized tone,with certain characters only being mentioned yet present off screen and others such as eager protege Harriet Smith(who is Emma's executive assistant) having their own video channels. Now, some have expressed doubts about the quality of this series as opposed to the LBD but such comparisons,in my opinion, do not take into account the differences between the source materials.

 For one thing, Emma Woodhouse is more of an independent heroine in some respects than Lizzie Bennet; as the adored younger daughter of a wealthy yet indulgent father,Emma in her own words "neither lacks fortune or consequence" in regards to her future and not being weighed down by having to pursue a husband for the sake of her family's future, she is more free to plan her own destiny.

 Of course, in Austen's time even Emma had certain restrictions on her decorum and opportunities but if she did find herself in the present, starting up her own company that would allow her free reign to do what she loves best(meddling in the lives of others) would be an instant go-to as well as a mega sized stadium for her ego :

Now, I won't deny that EA has had a few story telling bumps along the way(that section with her sister Izzy did stretch out a bit longer than necessary) but on the whole, this series has it's own unique blend of charm and wit that is just as appealing as the LBD was.

For one, having Alex Knightley as a constant presence is wonderful as this version has given him much more of a playful side than most of the past Knightleys and his chemistry with Emma is spot on. Both actors play off each other well and their odd couple energy is reminiscent of classic screwball comedies:

Also, EA has shown that it can handle the serious dramatic turns of the story such as the confused love triangle section where Emma sincerely believes that she is making love happen for Harriet and new client Senator Elton(nice upgrade for that character!) but all along, Elton has his eyes on Emma as his romantic prize.

This confrontation between Emma and Elton is one of the high points in the plot as it not only exposes the phoniness of his character but forces the heroine to face the fact that not all of her plans are perfect,especially when other people are involved. It does take time for Emma to learn this during the course of the novel but this first step is crucial and it was taken well:

 I know that many fans out there have been champing at the bit to see more of the supporting players of Highbury in this production and the wait has definitely been worth it as Miss Maddy Bates, the lovable chatterbox that looks after her mother, is now part of the scene.

The engaging quirks of the character(who make jams with flavors that would daunt the judges on Chopped) are nicely done,plus making her a financial adviser brings her right into Emma's little corporate corner.

 And yes, her niece Jane Fairfax has been much talked about but still a no-show( she'll be here, I'm sure since Frank Churchill has already made his presence known), however Maddy Bates is a welcome sight for diehard Emma fans to see and hear:

We've also had a LBD boost recently by introducing Caroline Lee as the newly engaged and soon to be Mrs. Elton( crossovers have been done here before,as Gigi Darcy was a major player in the summer series Sanditon). Caroline's catty ways make her an ideal Mrs. Elton,not to mention a budding bridezilla.

Finally, for the tender heart of this tale, we turn to Harriet. Her sweet nature and naivety are blended with believability without making the character appear weak minded. In fact, she's proven to be quite capable in more than one arena and her music club( a suitable switch from the riddles that the original character collected) adds a fun musical touch to the proceedings.

Now, I must confess something-Emma is my least favorite Austen novel(in fact, Emma Woodhouse would be fourth on my list of favorite JA leading ladies) for I have found her to be difficult to like or relate to, being more of a mild mannered Anne Eliot/Elinor Dashwood nature.

 However, by reading the book several times as well as watching a good number of the film adaptations(my personal picks are the Kate Beckinsale BBC version and Clueless), Miss Woodhouse has grown on me and I can appreciate her emotional growth and development as the story reaches it's conclusion.

I think that a new generation of readers and viewers will be able to do the same upon watching Emma Approved and while it may not be picture perfect, maybe it can be just as engaging as LBD was for everyone if they just give it a chance to shine on it's own terms:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Kill Bill moment on Game of Thrones,Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. reset the game and a truly scary Kitchen Nightmares

The fourth season of Game of Thrones set up a number of new plot points,particularly in King's Landing where the wedding of Joffery and Margery is set to take place very soon and Jamie is being made to feel like an unwanted guest by just about every member of his family.

Other developing details include Jon Snow facing up to his commanders in the Night's Watch for his time as a wildling and Dany preparing to conquer yet another city in order to free their slaves. However, the stand out moment of the night belongs to Arya as she got a juicy taste of revenge.

During her travels with the Hound(who hopes to get money from her wacky aunt in the Vale upon delivery), Arya ran into one of the men from Harranhal who captured her group of intended initiates heading for the Wall,the very man that took her sword Needle and killed one of her friends.

Well,during that rest stop, The Hound got into with that fella and his merry band of cutthroats and during the fight that ensued, Arya seized her chance for payback and got it in full,not to mention Needle back. As one of the few remaining Starks out there, Arya certainly has the true ice of her warrior clan's bloodline flowing through her veins and woe to those willing to underestimate this deadly daddy's girl( rather gory stuff ahead, you have been warned!):

So,while there is plenty to anticipate this season, King's Landing is going to become awfully important this time around and while I won't give anything away, do keep an eye on those wedding preparations,folks.

Some might think it's good to be a Lannister but trust me when I say that a whole flock of angry chickens are coming home to roost,along with ravens bearing some ill tidings indeed:

Some serious flipping of the script happened on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this week and while it may not have been a big surprise who the Clairvoyant was(what are special guest stars for, after all?), discovering who was truly on his side most certainly was!

Most of these new plot points are due to the new Captain America movie(nice way to keep the continuity going,people!) and I do hope at some point, some of these characters make their way onto the silver screen because they definitely deserve it. Melinda May having to confess to Coulson about her orders to watch him for any possible signs of deterioration due to his time in "Tahiti" was a solid bit of acting there and the whole "Hydra is attacking from inside S.H.I.E.L.D" deal should play out rather strongly for the remainder of the season:

I hate to say "I told you so" but it's hard not to gloat a little as those who have been disgruntled with the show are now starting to see the bigger picture and climbing happily on board(so season six Buffy there!).

When it comes to a Whedon series, you must trust Joss or his designated appointees because it will be worth the wait! Next week, the new MAOS episode will be playing after an encore of this one and basking in the glory of the Marvel goodness should make for a lively Tuesday(not something you'd ever think would happen and yet there it is):

Last week, I watched the previous season's finale of Kitchen Nightmares, where Gordon Ramsey did something that he rarely does on this show; give up before he even starts a makeover for a troubled restaurant.

It's hard to blame him,since the husband and wife owners of Amy's Baking Company are so over the top wacky in their behavior that even Dr. Phil(whose show they appeared on this week) had a hard time talking sense to them.

The internet outrage that followed this episode has been just as gonzo as these two owners,who scream,argue and deny any wrongdoing for their food failures and bad employee/customer relations, and has prompted the show to start their second season with a two hour special about this chaotic couple:

While I don't think that harassing these people is the way to go here(simply staying away from their restaurant would be more effective), part of the problem is that they themselves are courting the bad publicity by constantly reacting to the internet and making public appearances to complain about how all the "haters" are out to get them. Maybe if you spent that energy on improving your business instead of chasing the back end of the PR train,everyone would be better served.

 I've watched both the US and the UK Kitchen Nightmares and there have been some outrageous folks on either side of the pond but Amy's Baking Company really takes the cake. Why people who do agree to be on a show like this act up is beyond me-hello, YOU asked him to come and help you out, not the other way around! If things are so great, why did you contact KN in the first place?

Will I watch the KN opener tomorrow? *sigh* yes*hangs head in shame*-I'm a sucker for such shenanigans, folks but hey,give me credit for admitting it:


HELL'S KITCHEN: Ramsey does a double shift as the latest season of HK is under way with a wedding challenge set for tonight. The man's blood pressure must be skyrocketing, I swear!: