Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, April 29, 2016

My Bookish Birthday Bash,Part One

Earlier this week, I celebrated my birthday by going to the movies(saw Melissa McCarthy in The Boss, which was pretty good) and doing a little shopping, a nice time there.

What was even nicer was starting my special day with a trio of great books given to me by my sister Stephanie. Granted, I chose them but she gave them to me and I thank her heartily for that.

Since my selections were inspired by BookTube recommendations, let me show all of you the first of my literary gifts with a video review that showcases each one as neatly as a ribbon bow:

A Little Life: Heaps of praise have been lavished upon this novel, along with award nominations and high spots on best of the year lists in 2015. Hanya Yanagihara's story is about a set of four friends living in modern day New York, with the enigmatic Jude as the center of their bond.

Jude holds a devastating secret about his past that causes him great physical and emotional pain that all of his friends at one time or another attempt to rescue him from. Not a cheerful book by any definition yet from what I've read so far, it certainly is a well written one.

While there are many reviews that speak highly of ALL,I've also seen  several that have caused the readers to actually throw the book across the room(something I've never done but understand completely). Such a wide range of opinion made me curious to check this out for myself and I felt that The Poptimist gives the most succinct description of the appeal of this story:

Americanah: Having read Purple Hibiscus recently and throughly enjoying it, I was eager to own at least one of Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche's novels, in order to read it without worrying about long I had it on loan.

This celebrated as well as award winning novel follows a young couple fleeing their war torn homeland of Nigeria to find a better life together yet circumstances force them to settle down in two different countries apart from each other.

Imfemulu is able to go to America, thanks to a scholarship, while her childhood sweetheart Obinze is refused a visa and must make do with a makeshift life in London. As each of them struggles to fit into their new social sphere, the hope that they will find a way to reunite becomes hard to hold onto.

 Before I tackle this book, Adiche's second novel, Half a Yellow Sun, is on my reading list next(on loan from Booksfree) as I have heard that it's better to read her works in order of publication, despite them not being interconnected. Since I did that with Donna Tartt, that sounds right to me.  The heartfelt desire to read more of this amazing author feels best expressed by MercysBookishMusings to me:

Crazy Rich Asians: For something a bit on the lighter side, I wanted to check out Kevin Kwan's social satire which has been compared quite favorably to Pride and Prejudice. The leading lady of this book is Rachel, who expects the typical meet-the-parents situation when her boyfriend Nick invites her to spend the summer at his family home in Singapore.

Turns out that Nick's family is incredibly wealthy and she's put under serious scrutiny from his commanding mother Eleanor, as well as the snarky socialites in their social circle who are not happy about an outsider snapping up one of the most eligible bachelors in their midst.

Kwan has followed this up with a sequel called China Rich Girlfriend and a third book featuring these characters is also in the works, so starting at the beginning sounds good to me. One of the first places that I heard about this book was over at Rincey Reads(she's also read China Rich Girlfriend) and I bet she'll read the third as well:

A pretty good haul there, most would say and yet, my book themed birthday fun has only just begun. Later, I received a gift card that went to some more literary presents and with a local rummage sale taking place this weekend, my book party will continue for a little bit longer.

So, this is a "to be continued" but I must mention that one of my birthday buys was the cast album of Hamilton, a show that promises to be even more sold out that Cats ever was.

Watching this innovative project go from an off-Broadway experiment to a must-see hit that won it's creator Lin-Manuel Miranda a Pulitzer Prize really gives you hope in the American artistic dream.

 I have been listening to this wonderful musical in brief chunks, not wanting to rush through and miss out on all of the glorious details and part of my motivation for taking the plunge here was the Hamilton book tag that's been going around online. Hey, what's a party without music,right?:

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A pop culture remembrance of Prince

It's been a week now since the news that the artist known as Prince has passed away at the far too soon age of 57. The out pouring of sorrow at his death is  just as massive as the lamentations made for David Bowie earlier this year and hopefully, we will be given a break from such sadness for the rest of the year.

With many things having been said already about the brilliant glory of his talent, my look back at Prince will focus on other media platforms of his, starting with the pop culture classic Purple Rain. 

This was his film debut and for most of the public back in 1984, this was their first introduction to Prince's blend of stylish glam,sexual charisma and musical prowess. The plot is a basic "singer-struggling-to-be-a-star" format but Prince brought his vivid on screen presence to the film and made it immensely watchable.

  In addition to showcasing Prince and his band The Revolution, audiences were also introduced to Morris Day and the Time as well as Apollonia, who played his love interest and was one of the many female artists that he gave creative support to over the years.

The movie was a smash hit that year and it's safe to say that out of the four movies that Prince made, this was the best of the bunch. It's the one movie that defines him to most of the fans and it's not a surprise that a number of theater chains held special showings of Purple Rain over the past weekend.

I am surprised that none of the songs were nominated at the Oscars that year. Yes, Purple Rain did win for Best Original Song Score(a category that has since been retired) but certainly songs such as the title number or "When Doves Cry" deserved to be at least considered there:

I have to say that my favorite Prince pop culture outing is his array of songs for the 1989 soundtrack of Batman, most of which were written directly for the Tim Burton film. Sure, some folks don't see it as a major part of his discography but fans like me adore it nonetheless.

What's amazingly cool about this soundtrack is that Prince didn't simply deliver the standard hit single or two to highlight the hero moments in the film or as end credit background noise.

Instead, he turned the whole thing into a mini rock opera, having each song be attributed to characters in the film as well as a couple he invented for the narrative arch. One of those he created was "Gemini", a combination of good and evil to represent that Batman and Joker were two sides of the same coin(he's featured in "Batdance" which I'll get to later).

Batman and Bruce Wayne had their own numbers(" The Future" and "The Arms of Orion") along with Vicki Vale("Lemon Crush") and of course, the Joker. Naturally, the Joker songs are Prince at his most wicked best, with "Electric Chair" being my personal favorite:

Out of the Joker songs, "Party Man" is better known as it was used in a pivotal scene in the movie and it's a fun romp as well. Yes, "Bat Dance" is rather odd, I will admit, but to be fair, it was clearly meant to be an end piece for the entire album and not a solo release.

I know that the video for it alone seems to sum up for many people what that album was all about but I beg you to give it a full listen. It's one of the few albums that I have listened to in it's entirety in my life and believe me, there is some sizzling meat on those bat bones to savor.

The  twists and turns of the lyrics combined with the mix of movie dialogue makes the entire record a very unique experience ,sort of an alternate version of Burton's Batman with a much darker and raunchier tone that still compliments the cinematic work quite nicely. Not an easy trick to pull off yet Prince made this look so wickedly easy:

Apart from his films, Prince didn't make a lot of appearances outside of award shows on the pop culture scene. He was on an episode of Muppets Tonight in 1997 and was the focus of a Super Bowl Special episode of New Girl in 2014.

One of his last big TV appearances was an SNL performance and Saturday Night Live did a great tribute to him, with songs that he performed on the series over the years, plus clips of a reoccurring skit called "The Prince Show"(with Beyonce as co-host). It's a shame we didn't see more of him on the small screen beyond that yet at least there are some left to cherish.

Prince Rogers Nelson was one of those artists who truly defined the word "unique" and his loss is keenly felt by many in that community,even Broadway where two of the biggest shows of the season paid tribute to his greatness. My mere words can't express what a treasure we no longer have with us, so let's sit back and let Jennifer Hudson and company honor his legacy properly:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A sinister success with my Spring Into Horror reading goals

When it comes to readathons, I try to keep my goals as realistic as possible. Setting aside three books for the Seasons of Reading Spring Into Horror this past week felt reachable and for the most part, it was.

 Getting too ambitious or too lax with your reading is something that I'm sure most of my fellow participants worry about as well. However, sometimes the books just make that concern a complete non-issue.

For example, The Library at Mount Char was such a riveting page turner that one night, I had to force myself to stop reading and get some sleep. Debut author Scott Hawkins has not only created an amazingly original world filled with bizarrely interesting characters, his pacing is truly at the fast and furious level.

The main focus of the plot is a shift in reality, as a godlike figure known as Father to the group of "librarians" that he recruited as children has disappeared and his vault of knowledge has a mystical barrier set around it, causing pain to any of it's former occupants who attempt to get in.

Carolyn, whose field of study is languages, goes out into the human world for help in regaining control of the library,along with finding out what happened to Father. As it turns out, the fate of the world is at stake and things are not what they seem just about every other moment. That's as much detail as I want to give you, since it is best to walk into this story without any too many expectations.

It's rare for me to read a book that has me pleasantly surprised,even if the action is on the gruesome side at times. Why this novel hasn't gotten more acclaim is the real surprise there. To offer up more of an enticing description, I will say that The Library at Mount Char feels like Neil Gaiman meets a Ronnie James Dio video, in particular his song "Last In Line":

After that, I started my double dose of Stephen King with the first two volumes in his Bill Hodges trilogy of crime novels. Mr. Mercedes introduces us to Bill, a retired cop whose days have been filled with dark thoughts and daytime TV.

His spirits are revived by a letter from the man who claims to be the infamous "Mercedes Killer", who stole that brand of expensive car in order to mow down a long line of people waiting overnight for a job fair. That case was one of the last ones that Bill wasn't able to close and Mr. Mercedes is eager to gloat about his success,declaring that he won't need to do it again, as well as urging Bill to consider suicide.

That charming missive kickstarts Bill into looking back into the case, finding new leads and making a few new friends along the way. This infuriates Mr. Mercedes,aka Brady Hartsfield, to no end, especially during his online chats with Bill at a privacy website called Under Debbie's Blue Umbrella and Brady begins to make new and deadly plans of his own in retaliation

In reading this book again, I was reminded in a good way of the relationship between Clint Eastwood's aging Secret Service man and John Malkovich's determined assassin in the 1993 thriller In The Line of Fire. While that twisted bond had more opportunities for actual face time, the film showcases the journey of each man towards that inevitable confrontation with disaster, similar to what happens in Mr. Mercedes. I have no doubt King saw this movie and appreciated the excellent writing here.

In The Line of Fire is a good companion piece for Mr. Mercedes as both deal with the dark fame that comes from being involved in causing or preventing a public tragedy, a subject that's become all too hauntingly real these days and yet, a bit more scary than any movie monster ever imagined:

The tone is somewhat different in Finders,Keepers which begins in 1978 as reclusive author John Rothstein is robbed and murdered by a gang of three men lead by Morris Bellamy, who has a personal score to settle with the writer.

Morris is a fan of the trilogy of Jimmy Gold novels that Rothstein wrote early in his career but angrily disappointed that the author had his hero "sell out" and willing to kill to prove his point. The real motive for the Rothstein robbery is the huge stack of notebooks that the author has been writing in secretly for years, with some of them being follow-ups to the Jimmy Gold saga.

Before Morris can read any of the notebooks, he winds up doing a long term in prison for a completely different crime. The only thing that keeps him from utter despair is that he buried both the books and the money in a trunk under a tree near his old family home. His main goal in life is to reclaim his ill gotten treasure and share it with no one.

 Unfortunately for him, that secret stash is discovered by Pete Saubers, a boy whose family is going through hard times due to his dad being a victim of the Mercedes Killer. At first, the money is all that Pete is interested in and he finds a way to secretly give that to his family.

However, as the years go by, Pete realizes the true worth of the notebooks and has become a John Rothstein fan himself. While he would like to donate the books, his family still needs more money to achieve their dreams, so Pete goes in search of a bookseller who might be able to get him the right price without asking too many questions.

At the point that I'm at in the book, Bill Hodges is being introduced to this situation by Peter's younger sister Tina, who knows that something is wrong and wants to get him help before the worst can happen. It's a good thing that she does,Peter may be a smart kid but he's really starting to get in way over his head,especially since Morris is now out of prison and eager to claim what he considers his just reward.

The in-depth character development and pacing in Finders,Keepers is,I suspect, due in part to King being a fan of mystery writer John D. Macdonald,to whom the book is dedicated. It was no coincidence that Mr. Mercedes has a dedication to iconic pulp fiction author James M. Cain(complete with a quote from Cain's classic The Postman Always Rings Twice) with it's sharply paced tension. The third volume to this trilogy,End of Watch, is due out in June and a good hint as to how that story will proceed will be in the dedication as well.

 Back to Finders,Keepers- Stephen King's Misery is an obvious connection but I do think that Annie Wilkes and Morris Bellamy would have quite a lot to talk about when it comes to their favorite authors disappointing them:

I am finishing up Finders,Keepers well after the Spring Into Horror readathon is done with but as they say, two out of three isn't bad. The Seasons of Reading challenges are great fun, particularly since you also get to connect with other readers out there who are eager to share their thoughts about books that you may not have heard of or are well familiar with.

 Getting new recommendations is just one of the bonuses of taking part in a readathon and sharing that bookish bounty with others is rewarding in and of itself:

Friday, April 22, 2016

A post modern birthday party fit for the Bard

On April 23, it will be the 400th birthday celebration for the legacy of William Shakespeare, the prolific playwright and poet whose works still live on today.

How well are they living, is the question. Some may feel that his collected writings are simply strangely worded stories and poems that only stuffy English professor types care for.

The fact that many of his plays are assigned reading for high school students tends to make folks think of Shakespeare as the bookish version of "eat your vegetables", something that's supposed to be good for you but not very tasty. Fortunately, we have many fine examples of  pop culture creators who are keeping Shakespeare as fresh and fun with a dash of post modern flavor that excites and inspires. In honor of his birthday, let us peruse a a fine assortment of  millennial Shakespearean delights:

KEEPING IT OLD SCHOOL: The YouTube series Thug Notes has covered a good number of Shakespeare's plays with Professor Sparky Sweets giving you the real on such works as Romeo and Juliet, King Lear and Hamlet. I thought Macbeth would be a good starting point, getting the tragic side of Shakespeare up front and center.

The mix of humor and analysis(which is part of the Wisecrack channel that was founded due to the success of Thug Notes) given to each play is not just a spoonful of sugar to get the educational medicine down. Rather, Thug Notes has become a brilliant showcase for many literary classics, with Shakespeare being one of the many recipients of such lit largess that helps it maintain it's smart street cred:

ROMANTIC RAP BATTLE: The gang over at Epic Rap Battles of History have tackled the Bard(directly, in one bout) and even had a double team battle as lovelorn teens Romeo & Juliet squared off against lovelorn criminals Bonnie and Clyde.

An odd pairing to be sure, yet the assist of comediennes Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart made this match-up all the more amusing:

 ONCE MORE WITH FEELING: The film versions of Shakespeare's plays number in the double digits, with many of them being elaborate costume affairs.

However, Joss Whedon proved in 2010 that you didn't need all of those cinematic fuss and feathers to bring a Shakespearean work to new audiences. Filming in black and white(as well as using his own house as the setting), Whedon was able to cast many of his acting friends to take part in his production of Much Ado About Nothing.

Yes, modern dress and locations have been used before for Shakespeare but by keeping the whole outer layer of the story simply styled, Whedon and company were able to give this tale of romantic misunderstandings a contemporary feeling that made all the right moves:

TO DO OR TO DO NOT, THERE IS NO TRY: In the spirit of their pop culture mash-ups like Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, the good people at Quirk Books have come out with William Shakespeare's Star Wars, giving Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia a chance to use the Force in iambic pentameter.

The original trilogy is complete, with titles such as Verily, A New Hope and The Jedi Doth Return. I'm afraid to say that the prequels are also available in this format but perhaps a blending of the Bard can make them more bearable.

I don't know if The Force Awakens will be reforged in this creative fire but I do know one thing and that it would be immensely entertaining to see these sci-fi sagas acted live on stage:

I hope you all have enjoyed this present day look at the glories of Shakespeare and celebrate his birthday with much vigor and joy. It just goes to show how a true classic never goes out of style on any stage, not to mention how hard it can be to be the Bard:

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Gathering up some fresh new books blooming this May and June

Spring seems to be truly upon us at last, bringing plenty of warm weather delights such as flowers, singing birds and the need for ice cream cones.

It also brings about plenty of reasons to read and buy new books. With Mother's and Father's Day alone( not to mention weddings and graduations) some of your gift giving worries can be easily resolved at the New Releases table at your local bookseller.

Of course, libraries are also ideal for picking up a suitable springtime read and in this list of upcoming titles for May and June,there should be something that suits more than one bookish taste:

 LITERARY LADIES FIRST: Award winning author Louise Erdich gives us another heart rendering emotional journey with LaRose, set within the Native American community in North Dakota.

The title character is a boy adopted into a neighboring family as a means of repentance for the tragic shooting accident that killed their youngest child. As La Rose adjusts to being part of his new family, he becomes a connection back to his original one that manages to help mend some of the mutual pain shared by both families.

That bond is threatened by a figure from his birth father's past, a man out for revenge who has no problem with ripping open old wounds and casting doubt about what really happened to the child that LaRose was meant to replace. Erdich's heartfelt prose does touch upon sorrow but her skills with words makes her a joy to read(May).

It's been awhile since I read anything by Terry McMillan and thanks to Library Thing, I get the chance to check out an advance copy of her upcoming new novel entitled I Almost Forgot About You.

The leading lady of this story is Dr. Georgia Young, who learns of the passing of a former beau and is motivated to make a few changes in her life. She decides to retrace her romantic steps by seeking out some other past boyfriends , a decision that her family,friends and children are not completely supportive of.

Nevertheless, Georgia is determined to see what shaking things up can do to make the rest of her life better and if she happens to find a new love along the way, that's good too. The last book of hers that I read was How Stella Got Her Groove Back and while I know that McMillan's work has gone through some changes since then, reading IAFAY promises to be a page turning friendly visit  that could renew our literary acquaintance(June):

A FEARSOME FATHER AND SON ACT: Stephen King concludes his crime novel trilogy featuring Det. Bill Hodges with End of Watch, a book that has him facing off against his former foe Brady Hartsfield,aka The Mercedes Killer.

Brady has awoken from a coma that has rendered him incapable of doing much damage to others but also gave him the deadly gift of psychic ability. Using that power to drive people to self inflected despair without having to leave his bed, Brady is ready to take his revenge on those who put him there in the first place.

I happen to be rereading Mr. Mercedes at the moment(due to the Spring Into Horror readathon that I'm taking part in) and having this story series circle back to it's starting point feels oh so right. Plus, having a dose of that old school Stephen King magic added to the mix ought to be frightful fun(June):

Scary writing happens to run in the family, as King's son Joe Hill is about to release another one of his creatively terrifying novels. The Fireman takes place in a not-too-distant future where an affliction known as Dragonscale causes people to devoured by fire from within.

Nurse Harper Grayson is motivated by more than one reason to find a cure for this disease; not only is she in the first stages of the illness, she's pregnant as well. While the only solution sought by the powers that be is to shoot down those infected, a mysterious figure called The Fireman seems to have found a way for Dragonscale sufferers to survive and hold off that final firestorm.

Harper is willing to do what she can to save herself and her unborn child but it turns out that taking refuge with The Fireman has some unexpected risks as well. While Joe Hill shares his father's love of  horror and fantasy, he is quite the original writer who offers readers some amazing literary sights to see there. His talent is so bright that you might have to wear shades for this one(May):

BOOKS BEHIND BARS: On a break from her teaching duties at Maryland's Institute College of Art, Mitka Brottman started up The Maximum Security Book Club for several of the male inmates at a prison just outside of Baltimore.

During her two years with the group, she assigned them a variety of classics such as The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Shakespeare's Macbeth and stories by Edgar Allan Poe. In talking about them, Brottman saw some new insights into the works as well as got some of her fellow readers to talk more about their lives in and out of prison.

This sound like an intriguing educational experience that offers both book and street smarts to it's participants and should be a truly captivating read indeed(June).

TURNING BACK TIME: Elizabeth J. Church starts her debut novel,The Atomic Weight of Love,  in the 1940s as Meridian Wallace is pursuing her dream of getting a Ph.D. in ornithology, due to bird watching being a lifelong interest of hers.

However, she falls in love with physics professor Alden, who is recruited for a special project in Los Alamos that could change the course of WWII. Doing what she thinks is best, Meridian puts her goals aside in order to become his supportive wife.

That sacrifice takes a toll on her spirit and her marriage, a decision that later in life, Meridian is forced to reexamine when she encounters a Vietnam veteran who shows her just how much the world has changed since then. Church's tale of what women are asked to do in the name of love sounds as relevant to what is still being demanded of women today and the impact is stronger with that blast from America's scientific past added to the plot (May):

In Beatriz Williams' A Certain Age, the Roaring Twenties in New York are the background for a love triangle to develop. While Theresa Marshall is hesitant to divorce her wealthy husband Sylo to be with her paramour Captain Octavian, she is less than thrilled to see him fall in love with yet another unavailable woman.

That other woman happens to Sophie, engaged to Theresa's brother Ox,and while more than one loyalty is betrayed, a host of secrets and lies from a long held family matter may force Theresa to make a not very advantageous choice
of the heart.

Williams is at the top of her game when it comes to period pieces like this and for those who adore Downton Abbey style of storytelling, this book should be a real sweet treat to savor or sip like fine wine(June):

 This is just the beginning of the spring into summer season, with more entertaining titles to come our way. So stockpile your TBR carefully,as you may need to make room not only on your shelves but in your travel bag for books to accompany you on those seasonal outings:

Monday, April 18, 2016

Springing Into Horror by entering The Library at Mount Char with Mr. Mercedes hot on my heels

Today is the opening chapter for Seasons of Reading's Spring Into Horror readathon, which will encourage as much page turning terror as it's participants can take until this upcoming Sunday.

You are allowed to read from genres other than horror(mysteries,thrillers,etc) and the first book on my terrifying TBR pile does cross more than one creative borderline here. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins follows a group of unusual acolytes, young people raised to catalog the arcane collection of worldly knowledge by the mysterious Father, who are now adrift due to the disappearance of their god-like master.

The leading lady of this debut novel is Carolyn, whose field of study is languages,including non-human ones, and she is tapped to enter the mortal world not only in search of Father but other items deemed necessary to appease other allies. She's not thrilled about how things are going, particularly with the brutal Michael, whose expertise is war, in charge.

I'm in the early sections of the book but so far, the one element that promises to be the undoing of them all is their lack of comprehension about how things truly work. Despite the seemingly infinite amount of knowledge that Carolyn and her fellow Librarians possess, they have no understanding of what their ultimate purpose is or how to adjust to this new change in their lives. Knowing and understanding are two very different things, as Carolyn is about to discover for herself:

Also, I'm doing a reread of Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes(which will be followed by reading for the first time his follow-up to that,Finders,Keepers). This book is more of a pulp fiction thriller, more along the lines of Joyland than Misery in terms of real world terror.

While it does have ripped from the headlines/crime novel vibe to it, Mr. Mercedes is a prime example of Stephen King's  original style of writing from the sardonic pop culture references(leading man Bill Hodges' take on daytime TV is scathingly acute ) to the deep dark depths of character development in both retired cop Hodges and his nemesis Brady Hartfield,aka the Mercedes Killer.

 Like most Big Bads, Brady is very much different in age and circumstance than his arch rival but both share a determination to outdo the other before it's too late. Brady's twisted American Psycho-esque  persona may fit the modern day profile of a spree killer but his first letter to Bill Hodges is a sinister villain rant that's down right classic:

Later this week, Seasons of Reading will put up the list of prizes for this readathon and I'm happy to say that one of them will be one of my e-books. I will be offering coupon codes for my Jane Austen monster mash-up, Fanny Price: Slayer of Vampires, that will grant a free download of to at least three winners from Smashwords.

As the title suggests, this is a darkly humorous look at Mansfield Park told through letters that Fanny addresses to her brother William in the Navy yet never manages to send. Not even her beloved Edmund is let in on her suspicions regarding the newest members of their social circle, Henry and Mary Crawford, who have fangs just as sharp as their wits.

 A modern day descendant discovers the many stashes of this most chilling correspondence during a house cleaning and hopes to turn this into a trendy vampire flick,hopefully starring his favorite actress Angelina Jolie.  Most of the book follows Fanny as she realizes the true danger that the Crawfords are to the Bertram family and her reluctant call to action against this pair of bloodsucking siblings.

 The book is also available at Barnes & Noble and iTunes, with an excerpt that Austenprose featured in a special Halloween post that you can check out here. Part of my inspiration for this book was my strong feeling that Henry Crawford(as well as his sister Mary) are more suited to be  made over into vampires than other Austen heroes and heroines are.

 Their immediate power and influence over nearly everyone they meet, especially Henry and the two Bertam sisters, does seem to be rather supernatural and no doubt, plenty of Henry Crawford fans would be extremely delighted to let him take a bite or two out of them:

 This should a fun and frightful week of reading for us all and if you're also signed up for Spring Into Horror, please feel free to share what you will be reading as well. One of the best parts of a readathon is seeing what everyone else is getting their literary goosebumps from,especially if you are looking for future fearful reads:

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Sleepy Hollow loses a witness, Outlander takes on France and iZombie sets up a new playing field for season 3

While Sleepy Hollow has had a rocky third season,to put it mildly, the finale truly hit rock bottom as Abbie Mills sacrificed herself to save everyone from the evil god known as The Hidden One and is alas no more. Crane was able to say his goodbyes and it appears that he will be seeking a new Witness to accompany him, a search that I suspect may be cut short soon.

According to reports, Nicole Beharie has been wanting to leave the show for some time now and when attempts to convince her to stay failed, she took her last bows as Abbie. It was nice to see Abbie have one last meet-up with Sheriff Corbin(whose son was also written out of the show) but it's a shame that she didn't have a better written season to make that sign-off a strong one.

 There's still no word yet if a fourth season will happen, due to huge outcry from the fan base at the loss of such a pivotal character. Speaking as a fan myself, I really don't think the show will do as well as it surprisingly did without her on board.

 Tom Mison is a delight as Ichabod Crane but the heart of the series is the connection between his character and hers, a chemistry that can not simply be replicated by pairing him up with another actress. Frankly, I would've given up on this show a long time ago if it wasn't for both Mison and Beharie, both of whom deserve bigger and better roles.

Whether or not there is a fourth season, I feel that this will be the last of what was good and worth watching Sleepy Hollow for. Best of luck to Nicole Beharie, who I hope to be seeing soon on whatever screen will be smart enough to hire her, and perhaps she and Mison will meet again in a project that will display their talents more fittingly:

Meanwhile,iZombie has had one hell of an awesome second season, with a two hour finale that was truly killer(especially for special guest star singer Rob Thomas).

 From Liv discovering the truth behind Major's Chaos Killer spree(which actually was more of a "freeze,die,come to life" deal) and revealing her undead status to Clive, right down to the Max Rager party turning into a mini zombie apocalypse, the giddy and gory goodness was a true pop culture buffet of all you can eat and then some. So glad to see the bad guys get what was so coming to them(with a few villains left around for next time) and having Clive in on the zombie antics will keep things fresh, plot wise.

I actually skipped watching Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that night(and yes, I did catch up on it later), in order to take in the whole story telling sweetness and if only the CW could air this show in a time slot that I don't already have a cool show booked, I could watch it live without making a coin flip choice.

Oh,well, at least we are definitely getting another season with Liv and the gang, which should be interesting as there appears to be a pro-zombie movement setting up shop in Seattle. How good or bad that's going to be promises to be fun indeed:

Fortunately, with some shows ending, new seasons are just starting for some as Outlander began it's second season this past weekend. While the opening episode did take it's time dealing with Frank and Claire in the twentieth century before getting us back to Jamie and Claire(which was a necessary evil) in the past, that was well worth the wait.

Since I'm still in the midst of Dragonfly in Amber(the second book in Diana Gabaldon's series), I do have an idea of what's to come but all I will say is that this adventure in France will be quite opulent, visually and character wise. Yes, the romance and intrigue of the season is still about the fate of Scotland but don't be surprised if you find yourself wanting to linger a bit longer in France. The outfits they get to wear in Paris alone will be particularly drool-worthy:


DC's LEGENDS OF TOMORROW: If you have been disappointed by a certain superhero match-up on the big screen recently, checking out their small screen equivalents should remove that tang of sour dismay from your pop culture palate. While Legends of Tomorrow may not perfect but it certainly provides more well thought out entertainment and some nifty action packed moments just as good as any night out at the movies:

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Getting ready for the Gilmore Girls to Netflix and chill

One of the biggest buzzes going around the pop culture landscape these days is the Netflix revival of Gilmore Girls, set to air later this year.

 Four ninety minute episodes are in production as we speak, each one titled after a season(Winter,Spring,Summer..you get the idea)and with Melissa McCarthy finally being confirmed to reprise her role as Sookie St. James, all appears to be right with this return to Stars Hollow.

 Frankly, if Sookie wasn't included,I wouldn't want to watch as she is as vital to me as Lorelai,Rory and Luke are but I'm glad that things managed to work out. However, since I don't have Netflix streaming(my entertainment budget does have limits,I'm afraid), most likely I will have to wait even longer than some fans to see this continuation of GG. That's not so bad, as it will be available on DVD at some point and then,ironically enough, I'll be able to rent those discs from Netflix. Quite the vicious circle, Dorothy Parker would approve.

No doubt that I'm not the only one who will be seeing the revisit of GG later rather than sooner and that waiting period will go by smoothly as I do have access to the entire run of the series on home video(and yes, that includes the dreaded season 7,sans it's original creators but does offer a bit of closure there).

So, if you're going to be waiting longer that they did for Godot for this new set of Gilmore Girls adventures, my suggestion is to hold a mini-marathon of grand Gilmore episodes of the past. Here is my little list of happy highlights to enjoy once again:

THAT DAMN DONNA REED: This was my gateway episode, the one that got me hooked like a rug into this show. I just happened to catch it on ABC Family(in the olden days before it transformed into FreeForm) and started watching those reruns until I was caught up with the still in progress on the WB(which is now CW, why these networks feel the need to switch up their alphabet soup letters, I'll never know).

It just struck me as amazingly funny that Rory and first boyfriend Dean would spend most of the episode debating the merits of The Donna Reed Show, a show that I was somewhat familiar with thanks to reruns on Nick at Nite.

 Of course, they were fighting about more than just how stereotypical that fifties sitcom was but it was fun to see the metaphorical mirth that developed from their argument, including Rory's decision to hold a "Donna Reed night" for Dean.

What did cement this show for me as a must-see was the bond between Rory and Lorelai, a mother and daughter who balanced friendship with parental relationship pretty nicely there. That connection was sorely tested and briefly severed over time but those girls were as able to reunite with the same ease that they could match each other line for line with witty repartee:

CONCERT INTERRUPTUS: There is so much to love here but the best section of this episode is at the Bangles concert, where Lorelai and Sookie take "nosebleed" seats in order to allow Rory to bring Paris,Madeline and Louise along for the ride.

Not only do we see Lorelai begin her streak of denial regarding her true feelings towards Luke(a conversation that she and Sookie share oh so many times), Paris starts to morph from major nemesis to best frenemy territory with Rory.

 Both Rory and Paris go back and forth over that narrow line throughout the series but it does help that both of them can switch from serious to light hearted as the situation warrants(and yes, that is one time only Superman/current DC Legends of Tomorrow star Brandon Routh as one of the college guys flirting with Madeline and Louse):

LIKE MOTHER,LIKE DAUGHTER: Rory and Lorelai are both put on the hot seat at Chilton for not being more "involved" with others, something that they reluctantly seek out a solution for within their own social spheres.

While Rory gets in trouble during her midnight initiation into the Puffs(Paris' quick rant about how she's not going to wait until she has a Disney Princess moment to appreciate herself is a sweet chunk of monologue goodness in and of itself), Lorelai finds herself a complete success as her fashion show plans with the Booster Club go off without a hitch. It's almost too scary at just how well Lorelai is able to blend into that in the bubble world there.

Unlike Rory's social stumbling into one of the school's secret societies, Lorelai is swiftly able to make her debut as a Chilton mom work to her advantage. Even her Nancy Reagan red matching outfits with her mother romp down the runway proves to be the highlight of the evening, something that Emily is happy to subtly rub in:

HELP WANTED: What I adore about this episode was the wonderful bonding between Lorelai and her father Richard(the late Edward Herrmann is and will be missed indeed) as he needed assistance in setting up his new business office.

 Most of the time, Richard and Lorelai were at odds with each other, stemming from her long ago decision to raise her child without getting married as well as run away from home. While they did occasionally see eye to eye, a good portion of their relationship was devoted to debating their very different approaches to life.

Here, you see Richard being slowly impressed at his daughter's command of office management and knowledge of new to him technology. Also, Lorelai really seems to enjoy giving him a hand here and the mutual love and respect is sweet to watch. Granted, all good things must end and this bout of family harmony certainly did, yet it was nice while it lasted:

 Four episodes at a time feels right to me although some folks may prefer a full season binge or an entire weekend's worth of Gilmore goodness to savor. To me, having too much of a good thing can overwhelm your pop culture palate but then again, your mileage may vary.

Regardless of when or how you ultimately watch this very last goodbye and hello to Stars Hollow, it will be a welcome back worth taking and allowing the original cast and crew to take their final bows as they want to does feel picture perfect, in the best sense of the term:

Monday, April 11, 2016

A trio of female focused films to look forward to at the Movie Trailer Park

With Melissa McCarthy's The Boss taking down Batman V Superman this past weekend at the box office, another sure step has been taken for female centric films on the pop culture ladder to reach the respective heights that their male cinematic counterparts have.

Sure, The Boss didn't get great critical reviews all around but that movie sounds like a better bang for your buck than that superhero slug fest is. However, April at the movies is in a bit of a holding pattern as the latter half of the spring season tends to be more of a launching pad for major league film fare.

So, it's best to look ahead for more leading lady material and May does promise us Jane Austen fans a most unexpected treat with Love & Friendship, an adaptation of one of Austen's early works. Kate Beckinsale(who has played Emma Woodhouse in the past) stars as Lady Susan, a ruthlessly charming woman who is determined to marry her meek and mild daughter Frederica off to the first rich man that crosses their path.

 With the reluctant aid of an old friend(Chloe Sevingy), Lady Susan plots and schemes her way throughout so-called "good society" in order to get an ill gotten gain for her own ends. There is an Austen story entitled Love and Freindship(yes, that spelling is deliberate) but this film,written and directed by Walt Stillman, is more based upon Lady Susan, a novella that is delightfully snarky with a truly unrepentant heroine. For those who love Jane Austen's satirical side, this is quite the cup of poisonously pleasant tea to sip:

Unfortunately, we will have to wait until September to see the birth of Bridget Jones's Baby, the third film which does not appear to be an adaptation of author Helen Fielding's third Bridget Jones novel.

That's not a complete surprise, given that many of the fans were disappointed to see Mark Darcy killed off in the book. Here, Bridget and Mark failed to get married but still run into each other. However, our Miss Jones now has an American boyfriend(Patrick Dempsey) and when she discovers that she is pregnant, there's a fifty-fifty chance that Mark could be the father.

Part of the appeal of the Bridget Jones books was their loose connection to Jane Austen, with P&P for the first one and Persuasion for it's follow-up, The Edge of Reason. There doesn't seem to be any Austen ties to this latest one but I'm sure that Austenites as well as romcom lovers will still want to check this new chapter out:

While Bridget Jones may not be as connected to Jane Austen as she once was, you might be surprised to learn that Star Wars now is. Felicity Jones,who played Catherine Morland in 2007's Northanger Abbey, is the leading woman warrior in Rogue One, that debuts in December.

This Miss Jones plays Jyn Erso, a rebel even among her fellow Rebels who is tapped to lead a secret mission to uncover plans for a new weapon that the Empire is building(and yes, it's the Death Star). The movie is subtitled "A Star Wars story", which means that it's a prequel of sorts.

The setting of the story may be pre-Luke Skywalker era but the tone clearly denotes the current influences that have begun to reshape the Star Wars universe in The Force Awakens and that's a good thing. I don't know if anything in this film will be linked to the new trilogy but it does seem to show the strong type of female fighter that we have already seen with Leia and Rey,displaying the power of the female side of the Force to full effect:

I'm sure that more female driven flicks will arrive on the cinematic horizon and hopefully, Hollywood at the very least will be motivated by money to do more than just the standard gal pal/damsel in distress story on screen.

In the meantime, the movie other than The Boss that is female focused for the mainstream this month is The Huntsman: Winter's War, which is both a prequel and a sequel.  Wicked Queen Ravenna(Charlize Theron) apparently had a sister Freya(Emily Blunt) who developed ice powers a la Elsa upon the death of her child and after big sister was taken out by Snow White, Freya claims the Magic Mirror for herself.

This all leads to Ravenna being freed from the Mirror and getting into a witchy girl fight with her sis, that uses Helmworth's huntsman and believed to be dead wife Jessica Chastain as pawns in their game. Sounds crazy over the top but hey, I might see it(my birthday comes up around that release time). It's too bad that better female focused fantasy fare isn't due anytime soon but perhaps this may be good for a laugh:

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Will American Psycho slay on Broadway or become a musical massacre?

Last Friday, I turned on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and one of his guests was Benjamin Walker, who I remember last seeing as the lead in the film version of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Well, turns out that Benjamin has another role that requires him to swing an axe but also lets him sing. He's playing Patrick Bateman on Broadway in American Psycho: The Musical, with music written by Duncan Sheik(yes, the guy who had the 90's one hit wonder, "Barely Breathing").

Granted, this was April Fool's Day, so one might be inclined to think that this was all a joke yet alas, it was all rather serious. Walker and members of the cast performed the opening number from the show,called "Selling Out", and I hate to say it but when Walker stood up on the desk shirtless with his Walkman held up high, he did remind me a little of Christian Grey there and not in a good way(not that there is a good way to have Christian Grey in mind but let's not digress too much):

Since the show is still in previews(the official opening night is April 21), there was a special promotional performance of several other numbers for the press and thankfully, they're all viewable online.

 Believe it or not, one of them is sort of a love song as Bateman's put upon secretary Jean wonders just how romantically inclined her boss is towards her. Well,honey, he's not a hearts and flowers kind of guy,more of a chainsaws and body bags type which does not bode well for a second date.

Now, I have not read the infamous Bret Easton Ellis novel upon which this is based but have watched the 2000 big screen adaptation enough times to look for certain scenes to see just how they would work with music attached to them.

 One of the most memorable sequences from the film has Patrick Bateman and friends in a showdown of business cards and that is given it's very own number here,folks. Just the fact that this song has the refrain "oh,baby,baby..." was enough to get me laughing,which is not good because they don't seem to be playing this for laughs:

The first impressions that I have from watching these clips is that the tone of this version seems to be a bit too straightforward for it's own good. One of the reasons that the film(which was co-written and directed by Mary Harron) worked as well as it did was that sharp threads of social satire were blended into the overall horror of the piece.

 It made watching the gruesome doings of Patrick Bateman more bearable and relatable, not to mention that acidic tang of dark humor lightened the tension created by and surrounding the main character. So far, the only mirth that this Broadway musical take on American Psycho is inspiring from it's potential audience is unintentional.

While I do get why someone would want to turn this into a musical, given Bateman's taste for ranting reviews of pop songs during his murderous sprees, I don't think the folks behind this production really understand Bateman's true self.

He's a shallow sociopath who uses mainstream pop music as a way to sound meaningful and more connected to the world than he actually is. Composer Duncan Sheik has said that he chose to use techno music as a way to express Patrick's "soullessness" but that just seems like an overly obvious method to portray that aspect.

To be fair, Sheik did win a few Tonys for the musical Spring Awakening a few years ago, so he's not inexperienced in this field and he did say that he read the original novel,which is something that I haven't done and probably won't do. Still, I can't help feeling that a major ingredient is missing from this singalong stew that won't match up to the humorous horrifying flavor of it's cinematic original recipe:

Maybe I'm wrong about this but I can't shake my doubts off. I get the same bad feeling about American Psycho: The Musical that I did from those Batman V Superman trailers and we all know how that turned out.

Believe me, I don't want to jinx the cast and crew yet the London production did get mixed reviews at best. The show does have some time left to make adjustments before opening night but that might not be much of a help either. This just feels bad, like Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark bad or Carrie:The Musical awful.

 Guess we'll have to wait and see, only I wouldn't be making any fancy restaurant reservations for this American Psycho-it might be a better night to return some video tapes instead: