Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Friday, September 30, 2016

Betting on a pair of Kings for a FrightFall good time

Halloween happens to be one of my favorite holidays and one of the best ways that I've found to get into that perfectly spooky mood beforehand has been taking part in Seasons of Reading's FrightFall read-a-thon.

The main rule with FrightFall is to read one scary book(in either horror,mystery,thriller,etc) and this time out, I'm going with two books. That wouldn't be a big thing yet one of my chosen chillers is rather lengthy, to say the least. Since it also happens to be a re-read, this just might work out well:

IT: Rereading Stephen King has become a tradition of mine during these fear themed read-a-thons and with a new film adaptation in the works, all signs point to this monster mash magnum opus for me to explore yet again.

Frankly, I was shocked when the first movie version was made, especially since it was done for television(regular network TV, mind you, no cable). Given the gruesome nature of the story, it was hard to believe that this could work.

The results were mixed at best(I do recall my dad finding a certain giant spider scene hilariously bad), mainly due to some of the nuances of the book not being included into the miniseries. With the new film planning to be a two-part production intended for the big screen, as well as a R rating,I'm sure, we may get a much better adaptation of King's tribute to the old school monsters of his day.

Despite all of this talk about the upcoming movie, I don't intend to re-watch the prior adaptation. I really feel that it would be best for me to re-experience the true horror of Pennywise the clown in his original literary incarnation:

HORNS: This choice was inspired not only by the fact that author Joe Hill is one of Stephen King's sons(and a formidable talent in his own right), I also saw the movie version of this wild and weird book via Netflix over the summer.

The main focus of the plot is on Ig Perrish, a distraught young man who is still under suspicion for the murder of his beloved girlfriend Merrin over a year ago. On the anniversary of her death, Ig gets good and drunk, awakening the next morning to find a pair of actual horns growing out of his head.

These horns give him some unusual powers, including the ability to compel others to tell the truth(which they do in rather bluntly fashion). Ig decides to make the best out of his strange situation by using his powers to find the real killer. However, Ig learns more than he cares to know about many things, paying quite the unexpected price for his troubles.

While I do know how certain events will play out in the book,thanks to the rather underrated movie, there should be some interesting insights to check out in Horns that will make this reading just as interestingly awesome as the film was:

If you'd like to sign up for FrightFall, there's still plenty of time. The read-a-thon starts on Monday, October 3 and finishes up on Sunday,Oct.9(you can follow it on Twitter with the hashtag #FrightFall). It's always a good group of folks who join in and yes, there are prizes at the end but the real thrill here is in reading a good spooky story and sharing it with friends.

Mind you, your Frightfall reads don't have to be gory or overly gruesome. You can read something suitable sinister that would be fine to enjoy in a quaint small town setting like the gazebo in Stars Hollow(although Taylor Doosie might frown upon it) with a warm mug of story telling cider on hand:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Some page turning tales to accompany season two of Poldark

As I stated in a prior post, one of the highlights of the current fall TV season for me is the return of Poldark to PBS. The two hour premiere this past Sunday was sheer delight, offering plenty of drama and romance as well as grand performances by cast and crew alike.

While I did read the first two books in the Poldark series by Winston Graham during S1, I am holding off on starting book three(Jeremy Poldark) just yet, in order to be truly surprised by what happens next.

 However, there are plenty of other historically themed novels that offer very suitable company for this series and I am most happy to recommend a hearty trio to warm your bedside reading table during the cold autumn nights to come:

DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY: Since we began S2 with Ross on trial, that court room drama can be well reflected in P.D. James' sinister sequel to Pride and Prejudice that has Mr. Wickham being tried for murder committed on the title estate.

As  Mr. Darcy does his reluctant best to see justice done, a number of secrets and lies come tumbling out that effect more that one life caught in the balance. This book was also adapted as a mini series that did air on PBS, with one of the future stars of Poldark(Eleanor Tomlinson as Georgiana Darcy) in the cast.

Even if you're not fond of Jane Austen continuations, there's plenty of high drama and good old fashioned mystery that makes this an engaging read. The court case sections alone are quite entertaining:

THE TUTOR'S DAUGHTER: If you're looking for an old school style of story set in Cornwall,as Poldark is, Julie Klassen's novel about a dutiful young woman who joins her father at a remote teaching assignment seems to be ideal.

Emma Smallwood may be a stranger to Cornwall but not to two of the sons of the Weston family household,Henry and Phillip, both of whom were former students at her father's now failing school.

Renewing her relationship with the elder brothers while assisting with the education of the younger, Emma is subject to a number of mysterious events that cause her to not only play detective but make an unusual alliance with a man that she thought would never think the best of her. The story telling is delightfully compelling and I do hope that TTD does get made into a movie someday, as Emma Smallwood is a solid heroine who deserves to be better known:

THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH: For those who like the family saga portions of Poldark with it's down to earth tones, Ken Follett's full packed novel set in a small English town determined to build a cathedral is more than just your cup of tea. It's a brimming pot that serves up scores of story telling brew.

The family set at the heart of this multi-generational tale is led by Tom Builder, a man whose most humble dream is to be one of the many who work on a cathedral. It's a dream that is passed on to his sons, Alfred and Jack, with only one of them truly appreciating it as well as possessing the talent to do more than just build.

It's a long book, to be sure(and it's follow-up,World Without End, is just as lengthy) yet once you get into this engrossing saga and it's myriad of characters, time loses all meaning. Pillars of the Earth was made into a miniseries for Starz a few years ago, which could make for excellent winter time viewing once Poldark is done with(not that I'm in a hurry for S2 to end so soon!):

At some point, I will be reading Jeremy Poldark, along with the fourth book in the series called Warleggan(so hate that guy!), and even if I learn a plot point before it's shown on PBS, it'll be worth it. Not just yet, though-fortunately, I have plenty of good books on hand to allow me to savor the onscreen delights of Poldark with my fellow fans in shared surprise:

Monday, September 26, 2016

Fine tuning my Fall TV viewing

Now that Fall is officially here and a new season of television is beginning to start up, I have to confess that there are several shows that I'm not returning to.

The reasons for this weeding are various, as some I've given more than a fair chance to but still not satisfied(Gotham), others seem just done and over with(Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) and at least one of them has lost it's fun cheesy flavor for me(The Vampire Diaries).

I wish those shows and their remaining audiences well but I need to move on to fresher pop culture pastures, so here are a handful of my new must-see TV picks:

POLDARK:  Season two of this series(based upon the novels of Winston Graham) brings us back to Cornwall, as our hero Ross Poldark had to stand trial in the very first episode.

Fortunately, last night's premiere was two hours long so as not to make our suspense over his fate too hard to bear. Along with Ross(Aidan Turner) and his beloved Demelza(Eleanor Tomlinson), we also get old friends and enemies(Warleggan!), plus a few fresh faces who are bound to cause trouble such as Caroline, a debu-brat well before her time.

Season One is readily available for those who wish to catch up and if you need any more incentive, think of this series as a gritter version of Downton Abbey complete with class struggles and complicated romances:

THE GOOD PLACE: Kristen Bell stars as Eleanor, a recently deceased person who landed on the right side of the afterlife in a special neighborhood designed by Michael(Ted Danson).

Only trouble is, Eleanor is not who everyone thinks she is(a good hearted lawyer who liked clown decor) and given her former life as a sleazy saleswoman for fake medicine to the elderly, clearly belongs somewhere else. However, with the help of her assigned soulmate Chidi(William Jackson Harper), she hopes to get just good enough to stay without being found out first.

Such set-ups are tricky to make work but so far, TGP is really clicking along nicely. Bell is amusingly awesome and has great chemistry with the whole cast,especially WJH as Chidi, who is fast becoming one of my favorite characters here:

LUCIFER: Speaking of less than heavenly situations, season two of this DC Comics based fantasy has our resident devil facing a real horror; his mother(played by former Battlestar Galactica star Tricia Helfer) who has escaped from Hell.

In addition to worrying about what his dear old mum might be up to, Lucifer also has to deal with his police partner Chloe's growing suspicions about who he really is. Plus, his angelic brother Amenadiel may be losing his powers and demon gal pal Maze seems to have her own agenda apart from watching her evil boss' back.

The world building and character development on this show makes it more than just another supernatural crime fighter series, which has me evilly eager to see more:

Of course, there are still some series that I'm sticking with such as The Flash, iZombie(which will be back in January 2017) and How To Get Away With Murder as well as a few that are strictly for fun like Worst Cooks in America: Celebrity Edition(got to see how long The Situation lasts on that!).

If I had to pick the one show that really makes me excited for this season, it's Supergirl. Yes, I had my doubts before it even aired on CBS but this super heroine saga has gone leaps and bounds over my expectations and now that it's found a home at the CW with the rest of the solid DC Comics small screen world, I am over the moon and beyond.

Having Superman on board is truly the cherry on top of this superstar sundae and even if Cat Grant will only be making guest appearances, that's fine. Considering the state of the real world right now, it's best to take your pop culture moments of bliss as they are when they come:

Friday, September 23, 2016

Exploring some fictional future shock for Banned Books Week

With the approach of autumn, many events are eagerly expected such as a chilly morning where you need to wear your favorite sweater, waiting for the leaves to change colors and having that first cup of cocoa.

One event that also comes along this time of year isn't as joyful as Banned Books Week is about to begin this upcoming Sunday. While celebrating our freedom to read freely is a good thing, it is sad that censorship,like other societal ills, is still flourishing against fiction and non fiction titles.

Since we're having quite the contentious political year, my focus for this year's post is all about banned/challenged novels that just happen to be about the dire consequences of totalitarian regimes. The reasons given for banning these books are not always political yet it's no coincidence that a good number of stories with this particular theme get put on the censor's chopping block:

ANIMAL FARM: George Orwell's other well known story about a repressive government has been banned around the world, with the latest objections to it in the US occurring in 2002.

I've been thinking more about this particular Orwellian book lately due to loaning my sister a copy(she's been expanding her reading base) and the talks we've had about it. Having such a sharply written allegory that explains such a complex historical shift in power is truly a great teaching tool, both in and out of the classroom.

Ironically, some of the calls to ban this book include the accusation that Orwell was a communist(actually he was more of a democratic socialist) and by insinuation, was promoting that form of government. Since the reason for the book being banned in places like Russia is due to it's harsh critique of the Russian Revolution that was meant to help regular folks but only gave them new masters to obey, that logic falls flatter than a pancake:

FAHRENHEIT 451: Ray Bradbury's now iconic tale of a world in which books are burned by order of the government has garnered complaints about the "vulgar words"(in one instance, students were given copies with the "offensive language" blackened out).

Yet, in 2006, a parent's group not only complained about the language and the violence in the story, they were also upset that one of the books being burned was the Bible. Well, with the whole point of the story being that it's wrong to burn any and all books, including the Bible, you'd think that this would be something that these concerned folks would want their children to be taught not to do!

Perhaps their ideal government just wouldn't burn the Bible(they'd prefer to roast Harry Potter instead, I suspect) but what's really sad is that they miss the entire forest for the trees being burned in order to keep society as dumbed down as possible in this all too real fantasy world:

THE HANDMAID'S TALE: The content of Margaret Atwood's novel about a futuristic country where women are divided into color coded classes has been challenged both in America and Canada, the latter being the author's home turf.

Most of the objections made include language, sexuality and religion, with the last one being an integral part of the story, as the nation of Gilead uses a biblical story to justify turning the few fertile women left into "handmaids" who must breed for the ruling class.

 Accusations of singling out one particular faith are the most dominant ones out there. However, there are far too many places in the world where many religions are misused by those seeking power to oppose women and other groups, making this book universal in appeal. A new adaptation of THMT is the works right now, which may make that point much clearer, or at least I hope so:

THE HUNGER GAMES: Even with the popularity of the film franchise that sprung from Suzanne Collins' trilogy, this series that chronicles a young woman fighting against a system that forces children to battle to the death has had it's censor happy naysayers.

In 2010, THG was in the top five of books being challenged on the American Library Association's list, with violence and "unsuited to age group" cited as the reasons given.

Oddly enough, one of the other reasons has been "anti-family", which this series is anything but. After all, Katniss Everdeen only put herself in harm's way in the first place to protect her younger sister Primrose and keeping her loved ones safe has always been a key motivation for many of the choices she had to make over the course of the series.

Although the film adaptations are done with(for now,anyway), the saga of Katniss Everdeen does promise to live beyond it's moment in the sun and offer inspiration to others facing brutal oppression or at least an idea of what it was like for generations to come:

Well, with books like these and many others out there, the chances of avoiding such grim official fates should be cut in half. It never hurts to hope for the best to come out in people, especially when it comes to books. Banned Books Week runs from September 25 to October 1 and do take the time to enjoy your literary freedom:

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The long and short of book award fiction nominees

When it comes to an award season for books, most agree that, apart from the Pulitzer, the closest we have to an Oscar for literature in the US is the National Book Award.

Since I am more of a novel reader, my focus is on the Fiction category and the other week, long lists in all of the NBA categories were announced. The shorter lists of final nominees will be disclosed soon but I do find the whole "long,then short" list arrangement a bit odd.

In a weird way, it's like a beauty pageant where all of the other contenders who were eliminated have to stand around and watch the select few among them compete for the win. Why not simply put out a short list when it's decided on and leave the longer versions for the judges to mull over in private?  Maybe it's just me but then again, even being on a long list could help a book's sales,so my worry may be for naught.

 There is one book on the Fiction long list for the NBA that I have no doubt will be on the short list as well is Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad, which has been gathering great reviews.

The story takes place in a slightly altered universe, where the Underground Railroad used by slaves to escape to freedom is an actual railroad with various stations and stops. Riding the rails is Cora, a young woman determined to find a better life than the harsh existence that she is the third generation sufferer of.

Going from place to place with new friends along the way, Cora discovers that reaching a safe haven is harder than expected and may be an impossible goal to have. In addition to the rave reviews, Oprah has selected the book as her latest Book Club 2.0 choice, which will add greatly to the good word being spread for a novel that is being seen as the author's masterpiece:

In looking over the NBA Fiction long list, I was pleasantly surprised to see that two of the books chosen are on my TBR pile.  Sadly, I have not read them yet but will do so soon, regardless of whether they make the short list or not.

While Jacqueline Woodson's Another Brooklyn was released in August, News of the World by Paulette Jiles will not be out until early October(I happen to have a review copy). Both books deal with young women who have to figure out how their past experiences will or won't impact upon their present and future, with one set in more modern times while the other takes place in the so-called "Old West."

The latter has a bit of a True Grit vibe as a semi-retired military officer is charged with taking a young girl home to what family she has left. She has no memory of her life before being raised by a Kiowa tribe after her parents died. As the pair are pursued by various parties on their journey, a bond grows between them that is perhaps stronger than any blood ties. I have fond memories of reading Enemy Women by Jiles and this new book sounds even promising than that one was:

Meanwhile, the Man Booker Prize(the BAFTA to our Oscars) has already whittled down their long list to announce their short list of contenders. Since the Man Booker covers the US along with the UK and Canada, one of the nominated titles was familiar to me.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty is a sharp social satire that doesn't shy away from the topic of race in America. The leading man of this story lives in Dickens, CA, which has been taken off of the map due to it's lower class status.

Motivated by the death of his father,who used his son's childhood as a social experiment, our narrator wants to restore his hometown to the state map by leading a campaign to bring back segregation. With the help of a former child star,  he gets more than he bargained for in attention and government intervention.

The Sellout has already won the National Book Critics Circle award last year and was on the Best of the Year fiction lists of the New York Times Book Review and The Wall Street Journal for 2015.  Getting the Man Booker would be another jewel in the crown for such a richly written look at how far we've come yet are still so far away from a better society for all:

Out of the other nominated books in this category, the one that peaks my interest the most is a Canadian entry, Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien.

The story begins in Vancouver but journeys over to China, as the impact of the cultural revolutions affect the characters. Marie, a young woman living with her mother after the death of her father, is encouraged by a new friend to look into her dad's past.

The new friend, Ai-Ming, is the daughter of Sparrow, who was the best friend of Marie's father, Kai. Both men shared a love of music that become more difficult to pursue as the encroaching political changes in the country forced them not only to flee but change their fates for more than one generation. This novel will be available in the US by October and it's Man Booker status should help it gain an interested audience of new readers over here:

While I have joined in with others who wish for more commercial books to be included in such awards in the past, I must admit that there is a benefit both to writers and readers in having books nominated that are not chart toppers. True, some stories do stand out in more than one section of the bookstore and shouldn't be overlooked just for that.

However, the pleasure of discovering both a new book and author you haven't read before is a delight that ought to be cherished and if getting a shot at a big award like this does the trick, then it's truly a honor just to be nominated:

Monday, September 19, 2016

My Year With Hemingway takes to the Sea with Spencer Tracy

At this point in My Year With Hemingway, things are a little slow going. Ironically, perhaps I should have picked up a shorter collection of his short stories as my edition of the first forty-nine that he published is quite the mixed batch.

So, in order to revive my story spirits, I watched the 1958 film adaptation of The Old Man and the Sea, starring Spencer Tracy in the title role. I not only read the book earlier this year but also read a nonfiction account(The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo) about the influence of the novel upon folks in a war weary situation who happened to have watched this particular film version. So, this has come full circle for me, you could say.

The first thing that strikes you about the movie are the striking visuals that director John Sturges(who had help from Henry King and Fred Zimmerman, with neither one getting any onscreen credit) was able to capture. The beautiful shots of the sky both at sunrise and sunset are breathtaking to behold and aid greatly in setting the tone of the story right away.

One thing that you also noticed right away is the heavy reliance upon narration. Most of the actual text of the book is read by Spencer Tracy and given that this is a novel with very little interaction with other characters and at times a one man show, it's understandable why that creative choice was made.

 However, there are certain scenes(mainly early on in the film) where the narration really isn't necessary to convey what's going on between the characters:

When it gets to Spencer Tracy on his own, battling the great fish that drags him along for days, the film is at it's strongest. He evokes the serene angst of the character as easily as breathing and you do root for him all the long while.

The best asset that this film has to offer is Tracy's performance, which did earn him an Oscar nomination. The movie did win Best Score for Dmitri Tiomkin, who really wrote some gorgeous ear candy that suited the visuals(which won Best Cinematography) splendidly.

Too bad the same can't be said about some of the special effects,particularly the fake marlin they had to built as Santiago's catch. However, given the limits of both the source material and the technology of the day, the cast and crew did a decent job with what they had:

I did at least get inspired to tackle more of the short stories and like Santiago, will give myself more line to reach the end with them. As an adaptation, I would recommend this take on Hemingway's most iconic work even if it felt like a 3-D audiobook at times:

So, I plan to stick with the short stories until the end of October and hopefully by November, I'll be ready to start the final book in my challenge, For Whom The Bell Tolls.  It should be long enough to last me to New Year's Eve, I think.

Since a good deal of this novel was inspired by Hemingway's time during the Spanish Civil War and his relationship with Martha Gellhorn(the most intriguing of the Hemingway wives,imo), I'm pretty eager to check this one out.

Not sure about seeing any of the movie versions of FWTBT, despite the many Oscar nominations that the 1943 adaptation received. It might be best if I read the book beforehand, in order to absorb the depths of the story without having to picture any Hollywood faces for the characters. Some tales are best told on the page,as with Old Man and the Sea, but we'll see with this one:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Is Fifty Shades Darker going to be another dim bulb of a sexy sequel?

Out of all the big media announcements of late, the one that many were waiting for and others hoping not to hear about arrived, as the trailer for Fifty Shades Darker hit the internet today.

As with the first one, the movie will be released on Valentine's Day of next year and yes, that is Kim Basinger slipping on a creepy doll mask on a stick(she plays Christian Grey's sexy mentor). Marsha Gay Harden is also in the cast as Christian's mother and I shudder to think what the inevitable "meeting your boyfriend's disapproving parent" scene is going to be like.

From what the trailer shows, the plot points are Ana and Christian get back together to make a fresh start but wouldn't you know, those pesky,kinky ghosts of his past are just ready and waiting to haunt them! I've heard folks say "the nineties(1990s) are back" and this trailer alone proves that in abundance:

Since the plot of FSD sounds a lot like an erotic thriller from the nineties, I thought it would be amusing to check out a few trailers of similar sexy sequels from around that time period.

With Kim Basinger in this movie, what first came to my mind was Another Nine and a Half Weeks, a ten years too late follow-up that she wisely chose not to take part in, unlike her co-star Mickey Rourke(whose character happens to be named "John Gray").

This Mr. Gray is moping around Europe, missing his former refrigerator feeding partner until he runs into Lea(Angie Everhart), a fashion designer who says she's a gal pal of his old flame. Not only does John jump start his romantic battery with Lea, her assistant Claire is brought along for this dubious fun ride. Yeah, way to get over the heart break there,Romeo!

 This movie was released as direct to video in the US and it's not hard to see why, as even the cover art for this film makes Rourke look more like a sewer dwelling vampire ready to pounce than a red hot lover there:

Next up, Wild Orchid II: Two Shades of Blue blossoms into a beautiful mess that doesn't have much to connect it with the first movie other than both were directed by Red Shoe Diaries producer Zalman King.

At least Mickey Rourke(who was in the first Wild Orchid) isn't in this one but we do have a leading lady named Blue(Nina Siemaszko), a teen girl forced to work at a brothel after her dad dies. Of course, once she finds true love, Blue wants to get out of the business but the evil madam and her co-horts won't let that happen.

This movie looks like some sleazy period piece where you wouldn't be surprised to see a bad guy twirling his mustache as he threatens the hapless heroine. Unlike the original Wild Orchid, which earned a touch of ratings controversy as well as a couple of Razzie nominations, this flimsy sequel wilted quickly in theaters: 

Speaking of foul foliage, Alyssa Milano made one of her first forays into bad girl on film territory with Poison Ivy II: Lily.

Naturally, she plays Lily, a shy art student looking to change her image and with the help of the diary owned by the previous film's femme fatale, she gets a few pointers on how to be a sly seductress.

Lily winds up being in a twisted relationship with her obsessive art teacher Donald(Xander Berkley) while babysitting his daughter, since that sort of calls back the first movie. However, Lily finds a nice boy to be with, which gets Donald all hot and bothered in a violent way, unlike the original movie.

 Not a story that concerns itself too much with continuity, which is something all three of the movies highlighted here have in common. Another odd coincidence is that the director of PI2, Anne Goursaud, also directed Another Nine and a Half Weeks, which doesn't surprise me as much as it should:

Well, we just have to face it, folks; the Fifty Shades phenomenon is not yet dead. In addition to the new trailer, there's word that E.L. James is working on a revamped version of FSD that tells Christian's point of view(much like the one she did for FSOG that made even more Worst of the Year lists than the original book did).

For better and for worse, the Fifty Shades saga is still going strong so we might as well learn to live with it. Just be thankful that there isn't a Broadway musical version in the wings(not yet, anyway...):

Monday, September 12, 2016

Setting up a Ladies' Night this fall at the Movie Trailer Park

Even though the calendar says that the official start of the fall season is a couple of weeks away, I think that it's safe to say that when it comes to movies, autumn is truly here.

 In looking over some of the upcoming films for these days of cooler weather suitable for sweaters, a few female friendly flicks stood strong to me. To begin with, we have Emily Blunt headlining as The Girl On The Train, based upon the gripping bestseller by Paula Hawkins.

 She plays Rachel, a woman turning to drink upon the break-up of her marriage who consoles herself by fantasizing about a young married couple she views during her daily commute. When the wife of that particular couple disappears, Rachel grows quickly concerned and wants to get involved with the case.

 She did see something unusual just before that woman went missing but due to her blackout periods while drinking(along with harassing her ex-husband and his new wife Anna), Rachel is seen as an unreliable witness at best. But, is she,really?

I just finished reading the book this weekend and it was a truly riveting read, though not quite as much depth as Gone Girl,in my opinion(which is has been compared to). The movie has changed it's setting from the outskirts of London to New York but I don't believe that will effect the basic story at all.

The story was greatly compelling and Emily Blunt seems tailor made for the lead here. Should be a smartly sinister thrill ride for audiences and readers alike, I would imagine:

Meanwhile, we have the third Bridget Jones movie which,unlike the prior two, is not based upon the novels of Helen Fielding.

 Since the third book in that series knocked off Mark Darcy(much to the dismay of the fans), many might find Bridget Jones' Baby a welcome delight, as Colin Firth and Renee Zellweger reprise their romcom roles.

 Here, Bridget is once again caught between two lovers as her former flame Darcy and new romance Jack Qwant(Patrick Dempsey) are not only in pursuit of her affections but to take the role as father of her upcoming child.

The movie looks cute yet it does feel a bit like a little too late for another. As much as I adored the first BJD book and film, both the literary and cinematic follow-up left me with a so-so feeling. Didn't bother with the third book but the movie might be a nice sweet treat to savor nonetheless:

Next up, Queen of Katwe is based upon a true story(chronicled by a nonfiction book written by Tim Crothers) starring Lupita Nyong'o as the mother of Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga), a chess prodigy from Uganda who went on to become a Woman Candidate Master in 2012.

David Oyelowo also stars as Phiona's mentor and director Mira Nair,best known for Monsoon Wedding and the 2004 adaptation of Vanity Fair, was passionate enough about the project to recruit her own screenwriter to travel to the city of Kampala to interview potential actors.

With most chess related movies being focused on Bobby Fischer types, it's great to see a young female champion in the spotlight for once and I hope this movie is remembered during Oscar time:

Last but not least by far, Kate Winslet has the title role in The Dressmaker, based upon a novel by Australian writer Rosalie Hamm.  Myrtle,aka Tilly, Dunnage has returned to her home town in order to take care of her ailing mother(Judy Davis) and is dressed to kill in more ways than one.

Armed with fashionista flair and her trusty sewing machine, Tilly takes on the townsfolk who are still spreading rumors about her possible involvement with a local man's death. Despite the naysayers, Tilly uses her skills to not only change a few lives for the better but find true love as well.

This film won several honors at Australia's equivalent of the Oscars, the AACTA awards, last year, including Best Lead Actress for Winslet and naturally, Best Costume Design.  It'll be fun to see if the Academy Awards follow suit with this stylish tale of empowerment:

No doubt, there are several other leading lady films that I missed but it's grand to see more of them at any time of year. I only wish that an interesting movie like Hidden Figures wasn't being hidden until the end of the year.

Based on the true story of the women scientists and mathematician whose calculations helped John Glenn to become the first US astronaut to fully orbit the earth, the film stars Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Mona'e as the unsung heroines.

Hidden Figures is getting a limited Christmas Day release but going to wider distribution in January of 2017. While I appreciate the studio strategy in placing this film directly in the midst of award nomination season, most audiences won't get to see this in theaters until the doldrums of winter and that can be a disservice to this story. Regardless, Hidden Figures sounds like a wonderful step forward for female driven films as we look ahead to a more hopeful film future:

Friday, September 09, 2016

Some pop culture elections we'd rather vote in

Regardless of what political leanings you may have, I think it's safe to say that the one thing we all agree on is that the end of this current presidential election cycle will be a welcome relief.

Since the remainder of this crazy campaign roller-coaster ride will be taking up some time on the new fall TV season, I thought that we could take a break from that three ring circus by switching over to a few reruns that dealt with politics in a more entertaining in a good way manner.

 All of these highlighted shows had election follies that did have their share of contention yet managed to be more believable that some of the things we've seen in reality so far this year:

EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND: One episode had Debra Barone running for president of the PTA against Bill Parker, Ray's occasional nemesis. The first big stop on her campaign was a pot luck dinner at the school, with Parker making a good impression by bringing a beef tenderloin that even Ray took a liking to.

Of course, Ray wasn't really prepared to be Debra's "First Lady"as his attire and attitude showed. In fact, his main concern was in getting as much of the beef as he could when that prime opportunity presented itself:

GILMORE GIRLS: Someone much more prepared to be the supportive spouse was Sookie St. James, when her husband Jackson decided to take on Taylor Doosie for Town Selectman.

Their campaign was so successful that Lorelai took pity on Taylor and persuaded a few people to give him a few sympathy votes. He still lost but not at the humiliating tally of zero.

Sookie,however, was thrilled to have such a decisive victory that even the louder than expected celebration song from Hep Alien was sweet music to her ears:

MAMA'S FAMILY: While Thelma Harper did run for Mayor at one point, the more amusing campaign was between her and nervous nelly neighbor Iola Boylan. 

Thelma was determined to remain the president of the Church Ladies' League but Iola was put up as a candidate and wasn't about to be a mere pawn in her old friend's game. Both ladies gave as good as they got, particularly since their friendship gave each of them perfect aim for mud slinging:

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: In Season Three, Buffy and Cordelia competed for the title of Homecoming Queen, a challenge that was nearly worse than any monster they faced together.

While Buffy did have the social skills to pull this off, Cordy was always one step ahead of her in rounding up support from the student body as well as the Scoobies.

The tension between them did get rather toxic but fortunately, being targeted by a group of supernaturally inclined bounty hunters helped to mend their broken fences. Granted, Buffy and Cordy were never besties but their frenemy status did give each of them a healthy balance to their personalities:

So, let us console ourselves during the end run of this seemingly endless presidential campaign by taking a pop culture time-out every once in a while there.

After all, if things do get worse, we do have the Paris Geller option. If anyone can get both sides of the political aisle in agreement, it would be the walking powerhouse that is Paris Geller(who I would vote for president in a heartbeat):

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

My Hardcover Holiday was quite the lively party of page turning indeed

For this Labor Day weekend, I went on a Hardcover Holiday which meant reading only a select number of hardbound books to see how many I could finish within that four day period.

Well, most of my time was well spent with Life of the Party by Bob Kealing, that tells the true story of Brownie Wise, the woman who made Tupperware a household name. She was a single(divorced) mother in the 1950s with a savvy can-do spirit that made her a top saleswoman at Stanley, a household cleaning products company.

The company,however, had no interest in putting a woman into top management, so when Brownie was recruited by the folks at Tupperware to become their home party planning manager, she and her son Jerry moved down to Florida to set up shop. Not before long, Brownie was one of the top people in the company who proved to head honcho Earl Tupper that direct sales was the best route to high profits for all concerned.

By the mid-fifties, Brownie Wise was made into the public face of the company known as "Tupperware's First Lady", a position that brought her fame and fortune but also a few enemies ready to tear her down.

One of those enemies was Earl Tupper, who grew jealous of the attention she was getting(despite the fact that he shunned publicity and agreed to put her in the spotlight). Before the end of the decade, Tupper pushed her out of the company and took great pains to remove any mention of Brownie Wise within the official Tupperware history.

Author Bob Kealing not only tells the story of Brownie's rise and fall, he also details the beginnings of the Tupperware company as well as highlights the many people who had their lives changed for the better by being part of the "Tupperware family."

Kealing does not gloss over the errors that Brownie made in dealing with certain things(a particular jubilee celebration that went very wrong, for one) and handling folks, including Tupper himself. However, none of those flaws justified the highhanded manner in which she was dismissed without due severance pay or credit for all of the hard work she put into the company.

The book(which has been updated from it's first publication under the title Tupperware Unsealed) is now due to become a Sandra Bullock film and it should make for a great movie. Don't wait for the movie, however, to enjoy this readable and relatable tale of a woman who made great strides in the business world for others to follow. To me, Kealing truly succeeds in giving back to Brownie Wise the respect and honor that she deserves:

While I did finish Life of the Party, my introduction to A Gentleman in Moscow was most satisfying and clearly more time is needed to fully engage with the richness of this novel.

 Amor Towles' leading man is Count Rostov, who is sentenced to house arrest at the Metropol hotel in 1922 by the Bolshevist leaders of the time, due to a poem he wrote during his college days. Rostov is moved from his guest suite to the attic with what is left of his family's goods and forced by necessity to make the best of his situation as time goes by.

So far, Rostov's tale is elegantly engrossing but like a fine meal, should not be rushed through. The supporting characters that Rostov encounters during his extended hospitality stay are adding great dimension to his emotional journey, such as the charmingly precious Nina, a nine year old girl who show him the hidden depths of the hotel and Anna Urbanova, a renowned actress in need of his assistance in more ways than one.

A Gentleman in Moscow is a solidly old fashioned novel in the best sense of the term and I shall be delighted to continue onward with it. Seeing what interesting adventures Count Rostov will get into(and perhaps get a few special guests out of) in such a closed set ought to be stylish entertainment indeed:

I was also able to get a good start into Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist, a book that has such a lively pace that I had to force myself to stop reading in order to get some sleep.

The novel takes place in seventeenth century Amsterdam, where young Nella arrives at the house of her new husband,Johannes. During her first few days, she's greeted by a cold natured sister-in-law Marin, servants who know more than they're willing to say and a spouse who barely stays home or pays attention to her.

In an attempt to make his new wife feel at ease, Johannes gives Nella a miniature replica of their home, which requires her to buy specially made objects to fill up the tiny rooms. While Nella does find an expert in such work, she is puzzled by the extra items added to her order that suit the model home all too well.

At this point, there is a dark fairy tale tone to this story that makes me want to turn the pages even faster. However, patience must and will be rewarded:

All in all, I think that this was a good Hardcover Holiday and if anyone else out there joined in, I hope you had a wonderful reading time that keeps on going. As much as I do like paperbacks, there is something about hardcover books that makes you step back in awe, especially if you stumble upon a full library of them.

A true collection can have a healthy mix of both yet a huge stack of shelves clustered with hardcovers is a dream come true for book lovers everywhere:

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Celebrate the end of summer with a Hardcover Holiday!

Summer is slowly but surely about to end and for many people, Labor Day weekend is their last hurrah for the season. As for me, I tend to take a stay-cation and as I did earlier this summer, I'll be taking a Hardcover Holiday.

The idea is simple; make a stack of hardcover books from your TBR to read during this long weekend, putting all other books aside for the moment. Even if you finish just one book, consider that a win.

You don't have to get new hardcovers(yes, rereading is allowed) and by all means, use your local library as well! My pile is made up of three titles that I'm eager to get to, so let's get started:

A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW:  I was lucky enough to get an advance review copy of Amor Towles' new novel, which will be releases early next week. The leading man of the title is Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who is serving a lengthy sentence at the Metropol hotel,beginning in 1922.

As the years pass, Rostov meets a number of interesting folk, such as glamorous actress Anna Urbanova, ambitious chef Emile and Nina, a young girl who grows up before his very eyes. While he struggles to be of use to his new friends, Rostov also has to adjust to the rapid changes in society that eventually effect even the limited space that is granted to him.

I've never read Towles before but I have heard good things already about this book as well as his previous one,Rules of Civility, and what better way to end the summer than by reading a promising new fall book?:

LIFE OF THE PARTY: The subtitle of Bob Keeling's nonfiction story is "The remarkable story of Brownie Wise" and she was remarkable indeed. A single mother in the 1950s, she was doing well enough as a saleswoman that the Tupperware company insisted on hiring her to boost their sagging sales.

Brownie did more that just rack up some extra numbers, she created the concept of the Tupperware party for women to help them earn some much needed money without making too many adjustments to their regular home life.

Her hard work landed her on the cover of Business Week in 1954, the first woman to do so, but it wasn't long after that Brownie was fired under mysterious circumstances and given a few financial crumbs on her way out of the door. Sandra Bullock has bought the movie rights to this book and while that film should be great, I'd like to read the book first. Thanks to Blogging for Books, I can get the inside scoop on the Tupperware party and it's true planner:

 THE MINIATURIST: Jessie Burton's debut novel takes place in 17th century Amsterdam, where eighteen year old Nella has arrived to begin her arranged marriage with Johannes, a well to do trader.

While her sister-in-law Marin makes her new home a chilly place to be, Johannes does give his new bride a warm welcome with the gift of a miniature version of their illustrious house. Nella finds amusement in buying specially made pieces to display in her tiny mansion but a few unexpected items arrive that point the way towards a deep, dark family secret.

This is one of those books that I've meant to read when it first came out but didn't get around to it. Last week, I came across the hardcover edition in my local thrift shop and was thrilled to have a second chance , particularly with such a beautifully designed cover as a bonus:

Well, I hope some of you out there try to have a Hardcover Holiday this Labor Day weekend. Feel free to use the hashtag #hardcoverholiday on Twitter and share a picture or two of the books you'll be reading. I plan to post a couple of pics online and will be happy to see yours!

Regardless of what your reading plans are, I wish everyone a fun end of summer time. The good thing about such a bookish vacation is that you don't have to choose between sight seeing and relaxing with a great read-in fact, page turning is the only active thing you have to do in this heat!: