Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Diana Moves On (Music Review: Diana Krall, Wallflower")

I always pay attention when Diana Krall releases a new album. Sometimes I love her albums, sometimes I just like them. I feel like I like her more than I used to. When she first hit it big, I kind of hated her, but then I started to really listen to her albums, and I realized maybe I had been unfair. I do have a deep appreciation for her raspy voice, and in her past couple of albums, her lyrical interpretation has really been very intelligent. The, this. Her new collaboration with David Foster for Verve is an album of songs from the 60s and 70s. I wish the song selections were a little more adventurous, because we get the usual suspects here. It's as if the selection was decided upon by a focus group: let's pick an Elton John song, a Carpenters, a Mamas and Papas. But pushing that aside, I think this album is a winner. Krall infuses a lot of herself in these albums, and I do feel her love for these songs. The arrangements by Foster are a little too predictable, but Krall saves the tracks by singing them with passion, and you can't help it but believe. I was torn by her heartbreaking "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word," and her melanchol;y "California Dreamin'" seems the perfect reflective take for the baby boomer generation who first grooved to the song. I can't say I was very familiar with Bob Dylan's "Wallflower," but i will remember it now as a Krall song. I also loved her "Superstar," and when she sings "Don't you remember you told me you love me, baby" you feel each moment of longing she feels. One track doesn't work, though: her too-cheery duet of the Gilbert O'Sullivan song "Alone Again Naturally" with Michael Buble. (For a great cover of that song, look no further than Nora Aunor's from her Alpha Records years) Ultimately, this album is a great marriage of singer and songs, proving there's more to Diana Krall. When she is singing the Great American Songbook, she is just "one of those," but here she may be inventing a genre she could own.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

Blanket Lavender (Perfume Review: Burberry Brit Rhythm For Her)

I think Burberry is a fine fragrance house.  They may not be truly innovative, but they are always well blended, have solid longevity, and never ever smell less than they should be. Last year's release, Burberry Brit Rhythm For Her was part of a his-and-hers set. I haven't smelled the masculine scent yet, but I truly like the female one. It's a cheap thrill - online discounters have the small bottle for less than twenty dollars, and you get a lot of bang for your buck. The perfume centers around lavender - a note that is usually associated with men's perfumes, with that barber-shop feel. It's a harsh and sharp note, and in here, perfumers Nathalie Cetto and Antoine Maisondue give it the powdery treatment that it almost smells like vintage. It's a very bright and transparent scent, but also cashmere-like: warm, comforting, and perfect on a cold day. It gives you that "hug" feeling, akin to being blanketed by a furry throw - a Burberry wool throw perhaps?That said, I think the marketing for this is atrocious: it's supposed to be youthful and rock-and-roll-ish when this would probably appeal more to a slightly older demographic.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Horny Harry (Movie Review: Horns)

I don't really venture into supernatural type of horror thrillers but "Horns" stars Daniel Radcliffe, a young actor whose choices I admire, so when this movie became available via Netflix, I streamed it. This movie tells the story of Iggy, a young man accused of killing his childhood sweetheart. But he claims innocence, and one day, he started growing horns - literally. But what he soon discovers is that these horns gives him the power of having whomever he encounters confess their innermost secrets whenever they speak to him. So he uses this power to track his girlfriend's real killer. Along the way, there are weird things that happen, and the biblical references become a little too heavy handed thereby spoiling the whole thing for me. Plus, the mystery part seemed obvious after a while, Visually, this film will catch your attention, from the picturesque cinematography showing the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, to the lurid special effects that grossed me out. And Radcliffe is game, and for the most part makes you believe everything that's happening around him. In the end, I couldn't figure out if I enjoyed the movie or not. This isn't the kind of movie that makes me feel good, and I am conflicted if I had just wasted the last two hours of my life. But, I have to admit that it kept me very interested, and felt there was never a dull moment.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Side Show (Television Review: Looking S02E03, Looking For Top To Bottom)

We learn life lessons from taking life risks, and then failing. We feel like fools, but we grow and hopefully apply what we have learned.  It looks like Patrick is in the middle of such experience. But he seems to be still in the middle of the euphoric stage, and getting to the "why am I doing this"  phase. Yes he is having an affair, or as he points out, he is with someone who is having an affair. The weekend is coming up, and Jon (Kevin's boyfriend) is going away to San Diego for the weekend, so they have time to themselves. Patrick prepares by buying Fleet (and making a big deal of it, like the "naive" Midwesterner that he is) and preparing to bottom, but guess what, Kevin asks him to top, wasting douche, and Fleet, too. Dom is on a rugby league and Kevin and Patrick watch (as friends) and then they make out in the stands, just like Patrick envisioned it when he was in High School. but the relationship has a catch revealed int his episode. Apparently, Kevin needs to get married so he can have a green card, presumably because he only has a worker's visa. This, of course, plants something in Patrick's head, hopefully realization that Kevin may just be using him. Russell Tovey is such a charmer I would marry him, too! However, I hope the story line doesn't go that direction, as it would be predictable, and Kevin would seem a character that is not as three-dimensional.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Such Devoted Sisters (Book Review: The Smart One And The Pretty One, Claire Lazebnik)

Claire Lazebnik's "The Smart One And The Pretty One" is the first book I have read in the new year that I truly enjoyed - and guess what, it is from 2008. I chose this book randomly - started reading a couple of pages and couldn't stop, even finishing it swiftly. It tells the story of Ava and Lauren, who are sisters, and this book explores that bond between sisters, how they fight, compete, and protect each other all in the same breathe. I loved the familial interplay here, how open they are with each other and with their families, but at the same time how secrets are hidden as wel. And I also liked the fact that the HEA here isn't as clear-cut, although I also think that the ending came a little too quickly. I would have wanted to follow their stories a little further.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Eddie Is Everything (Movie Review: The Theory Of Everything)

The big reason to see "The Theory Of Everything" is summed up in two words: Eddie Redmayne.  I've always thought he was one of the most versatile actors of his generation, but here he does the almost impossible: give an honest emotional brave performance as Stephen Hawking, but more than that, complement that performance with an impossible feat of physically representing Hawking as well. Every blink of an eye, each flick of a finger, even the kick of a foot presents Hawking in its entirety. It is one of those all-around full performances that is unforgettable that if he loses the Oscar this year, I would be sorely upset. (And especially since his closest competitor, Michal Keaton gives an overrated performance in an overrated film, in my opinion)  If only the film was as bold. This film is a by-the-numbers biography that doesn't really frame his performance well. It's far from bad, mind you, but the screenplay never really makes us realize what makes Hawking tick, besides the fact that he was a genius. It never shows us how his genius created his theories. Perhaps because the film is based on his wife Jane's memoir of her life with Hawking? And speaking of, Felicity Jones as his wife gives a performance to match Redmayne's, though his is the star of the show. There were some parts of the film that, frankly, bored me, and thought it could have been cut a good half an hour. But still, I recommend this if only to see a work of genius acting, and to see that pivotal turn that makes Eddie Redmayne a bonafide star.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Unfavorite Year (Book Review: The Year I Met You)

Cecelia Ahern is one of the Queens of Chick Lit so I was looking forward to reading "The Year I Met You,"  sand it even starts very interesting- one of those books that you begin reading and say, "wow this is going to be good." Jasmine just got fired from her job and starts spending time "gardening," which is euphemism for a non-compete clause. She gets fascinated by the man across the street, a shock jock who also just got reprimanded for crossing the line on his radio show. I wish the story went more interesting after that but for me, it didn't. There were quite a few things going on, and the characters to me were so unsympathetic that I ceased to care about any of them, and couldn't wait for the book to end. There's a good book here somewhere, only it wasn't in the one I read.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Timid Tobacco (Perfume Review: Diptyque Volutes)

Do you like tobacco note, but think it may be too rough, too manly? Well, Diptyque's Volutes is the probably the perfume for you. The other day, I was wearing Tom Ford's Tobacco Vanille and I was again admiring its richness and depth, and as I wear Volupte tonight, my initial reaction is that this is no match for Tom Ford's masterpiece. But as Volupte lingers on my skin, I begin to admire it for its softer virtues. About an hour after I put it on, the tobacco is faint, happy to be in the background btu still exerting its presence. What is more appealing for me is the iris note that takes center stage. It's pretty. That's the only way I could describe it - its a half-bloom unobnoxious note that's timid and shy, but has presence. And the tobacco gives it weight. As a house, Diptyque seems to be more mainstream than niche nowadays, akin to say, Tocca. They make pretty, interesting but safe and some say uninspired scents. Volutes seems to have been made with a target market in mind: those seeking for unobtrusive perfumes that can claim "edgy" notes like tobacco. It;s not that I won't wear this, but it seems if you want mid-range perfumes with tobacco notes, you get better choices in the market (Spicebomb or Burburry London men, for example) Diptyque Volutes i in the higher end of the spectrum, but less imaginative.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Bear With The English Flair (Movie Review: Paddington)

What the hell am I doing watching "Paddington?" I am not really a fan of children's movies, and I always feel like a pedophile when I go to the movie house and see all these kids around me.  But I am such an Anglophile, and I love the Paddington Bear, and of course this movie is set in London, my favorite European city, and add that Paddington bear is voiced by the sublime Ben Whishaw means I really should pay attention to this movie. So I did, and I kind of liked it. It's still just a tad too juvenile for my taste, but there's enough wit here that kept my attention. The film tells the plight of a bear from the deepest darkest of Peru, who comes to London because an explorer discovered them ages ago and told them you can come to London anytime you want. So he does, and is adopted by a British family, while he searches for the explorer. Mishaps ensue, and hilarity begins. It's all nice and well until Nicole Kidman shows up as a taxidermist wanting to stuff Paddington. Is she hurting that bad that she agrees to do this movie? She used to choose such edgy roles. Whishaw injects a lot of pathos to the bear role that you feel and relate. A couple of critics have commented that this movie is a great commentary on the issue of immigration, and I agree, though the message is subtle enough not to be havey-handed. It's a good idea for kids to watch and empathize.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Affair (Television Review: Looking S02E02, Looking For Results)

Looking's second episode this season, "Looking For Results" starts with Patrick and Kevin in bed in a seedy motel. Wasn't it just last week that Paddy asked Kevin that they have never had sex in a bed yet? Well, looks like Patrick's wish came true this week, albeit in a seedy motel. That sets the tone for this week's episode, one of the bests ever. The pacing was great, although I kind of miss the languid, contemplative tone of previous episodes. This one should be a crowd-pleaser, though, There's enough comedy and drama here that the half an hour flew by (This should be an hour episode series)  We get Patricks paranoia about him getting HIV, and Kevin's about their "affair" being exposed after Patrick confesses he told his friends about their relationship. But it's a testament to Jonathan Groff that even if his character is written so unsympathetically, he infuses depth and charm that he has striking chemistry with everyone. He sizzles with Russell Tovey that you can't help but root for their relationship. But then tonight we also see Richie come back, and that scene that Groff has with Castillo at his ktchen was full of nuanced longing that you find yourself lso rooting for them, too. So what are you to do? You just keep on watching, week after week.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

New York City Stories (Movie Review: Love Is Strange, Still Alice)

Earlier this week, a news story affected me: Ess A Bagel, which a lot of people - including me - consider as the best bagel shop in New York City announced it was closing its doors, a victim of a greedy landlord demanding higher rent. To me it mars an end of an era. Then I finally saw Ira Sach's "Love Is Strange," a movie I have been wanting to see since it first came out, but for some reason or another has eluded me. Alfred Molina and John Lithgow (both excellent here) play a married couple who, after thirty nine years of being together, gets married (yay for marriage equality) The marriage affects Molina's character, though, since he works for a Catholic school, and of course we know where the Catholic church stands on that. As a result, he loses his job, and they have to leave their apartment and temporarily live with relatives and friends. While this premise is a little bit over-the-top (I can think of different ways of circumnavigating the situation they nevertheless get thrust into households, and well you can probably guess what happens next. But Sachs is smarter than that, dealing hands that are very subtle but ass effective. We get to see meanings in ordinary circumstances, and extra ordinary circumstances pushes characters to see, feel, and express love. Strange dear, but true, dear. The last act simmers quietly, and i surprise myself by no even aware that I have been sobbing. The best scenes here come from still moments. Maybe this resonated to me more because I suffered a loss recently, and maybe that is part of the reason why I am just seeing this movie now. Maybe it was designed to heal a certain part of my pain.  I consider this one of the best movies of the last year, with probably the best ensemble cast of the year. Marisa Tomei is particularly effective, and Darren Burrows, in a scene towards the end of the movie, epitomized the pain felt by all of the characters in the movie. Moving beyond belief. 

Meanwhile, we move from the West Village to the  Upper West Side where we see Alice, played with subdued perfection by Julianne Moore, diagnosed with early on set Alzheimer's disease.  This come almost as an irony to her, for she is a Columbia University professor specializing in the study of how people communicate with each other. Based on the book of the same title, written by neuroscientist Lisa Genova. Moore is such an intelligent actress, as she never chooses the most obvious ways for her character to deal with the deterioration of the disease. No histrionics here, no cliched disease of teh week tv movie grabs. She gives an intuitive, nuanced performance that shows that she prepared for the role in the most prepared way. But her preparedness sometimes becomes too obvious at times. But no matter, if this is the vehicle that would finally give her an Academy award, then so be it. Sometimes her acting is more intelligent than the movie, and for that she should be rewarded. 

These two movies represent, for me, quintessential New York stories. These are two distinct, and individual tales that show how people live, survive, perish in the city. I will not lie when I say that it made me miss the city that made me th eperson I am today. But is today's New York City still my New York?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Only In My Dreams (Book Review: Dream boy, Shawn Bailey)

I can't help but laugh while I was reading Shawn Bailey's "Dream Boy."  The book is full of cliches, and it you really have to suspend disbelief while you are reading it. But at the same time, it is sweet, charming, and quite readable. It is juvenile, and may even be a little too simple for its target audience, which I am assuming to be teenagers. Although some of the sex scenes can be pretty gratuitous (why must it be so pulp-y?) the book is pretty light harmless fun. i thought the Asian/Caucasian romance seemed a little interesting, and playing it up would have added a little depth to the story. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Kathy The Policewoman (Fashion Police, Mondays on E!)

I have been anticipating this new incarnation of "Fashion Police" because I like Kathy griffin, and she seems to be the heir apparent of a lot of things Joan Rivers, whom I adore. I really don't think they have the same type of humour, although they seem to have the same type of chutzpah. So last night, the new "Fashion Police" premiered on E! (Mondays at 9 pm on E!) and I was...underwhelmed. Kathy Griffin seems lost in the shuffle, and doesn't have much chemistry with the rest of the panel.  And she seems stifled. Her critique of gowns seems to be forced ("I like her gown because one wrong move and we might see a boob," she remarks on Jennifer Lopez's gown) and her choice as worst dressed, seems insincere and if done for laughs, was misguided. Joan was the Queen of the old Fashion police, and it showed. Even Griffin's outfit - a black and white ensemble seems almost subdued compared to Rivers' caribou feathers. I know it is the first show, though , and hope she builds more rapport with the rest of the panel. And speaking of, I am still baffled as to how Kelly Osbourne is seen as a fashion e pert, and I do enjoy Brad Goreski (he got better zingers than Kathy last night) Guiliana Rancic needs a sandwich.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

One For The Birds (Movie Review: Birdman)

I will be Connie Contrarian for a second. I knwo a lot of people have been enamoured with Alejandro Inarritu's "Birdman" and it may even give Michael Keaton an Academy Award, but I thought the movie was one of the worst I have seen from last year. Why do I think that, you ask? I thought it was pretentious, self-indulgent, and quite frankly, boring. It stars Keaton as an actor who got famous for playing a super hero and is now trying his hand starring on Broadway, adapting Raymond Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love But he has some problems: his newly cast co-star(Edward Norton)  is a handful, his daughter (Emma Stone) just got out of rehab, and his girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough) may be pregnant.  Fine and well, but there really isn't anythign abotu teh main character that makes us feel for him. There are great technical touches in the film, the cinematography, bu Emmanue Lubezki, is a wonder: the whole film was shot like one single take, but you get caught more by that fact (ooooh, how will he transition next) instead of getting engaged by the story. And the overacting here is excessive. yes, I get it, they are all "theatrical" but after a while it just got tiresome. Keaton does give a fine performance, but for me, it is lacking the things that the film fails to deliver: heart and soul.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Good Batch Of Patch (Perfume Review: Erminigildo Zegna Javanese Patchouli)

A friend of mine who read my review of Zegna Iris Florentine  wrote to me and told me that I should try Javanese Patchouli from the same Zegna Essenze line. "You probably will like that much better," he told me. So I searched and found I had a sample of that, too. Well, he was right. I did like Javanese Patchouli better. I don't know if Javanese patchoulis are better than other patchoulis but this one is smooth, clean, and expensive-smelling. This scent is really linear, it starts and end with a glorious patchouli note. I always associate the note with the 60s hippies generation, so whenever I encounter a patchouli thatis luxe-smelling, I always pay attention (a good example would be L'Wren Scott's eponymous perfume, which skews slightly female)  I had to think if I had some other patchoulis on my collection, and I think I have the Dior Patchouli Imperiale  as well as Givenchy gentlemen, which I used to wear a lot when I was younger. Javanese Patchouli would be a great addition to complement my collection. I wish the price point on this was more reachable, but I may have to bite the bullet.