Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Feeling Cruised (Book Review: The Truth About Cruise Ships, Jay Herring)

I am going to be on a cruise in a week so when I saw this book in my TBR pile, I just started reading it.  I wish I could say that I learned a lot from it, factually, but I didn't. This book is more a memoir, but something in it felt not too personal, and on the "fact" side, I felt that a lot of the information were cut and paste from a Wikipedia page. I felt not an ounce of passion from his writing.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Not So Great Gatsby (Movie Review: Affluemza)

When "Affluenza" was likened to "The Great Gatsby" I was instantly intrigued.  Gatsby is one of my favorite novel of all time, and even though I was very satisfied with Baz Luhrman's recent version, I thought i twas ripe for a modern retelling. Sadly, "Affluenza" isn't worth being compared to it. Kevin Asch, who directed this film, doesn't seem to know what to say with this movie. Set in richie rich Long Island, the kids her meander and connect, bu we never connect with them. Setting the movie against the 2008 economic meltdown was an interesting idea, but it did so with such a bland flavor. The acting is good enough: I thought Ben Rosenfeld was a charming narator, and Gregg Sulkin in the Gatsby role pouted handsomely, but they can't save something that is essentially dead on arrival.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Driving Hard (Book Review: Beth Harbison, Driving With The Top Down)

I finished this book last night, and this morning, don't remember a lot about it. Is that a good or bad sign? I looked forward to reading Beth Harbison's "Driving With The Top Down" because I have enjoyed every Beth Harbison novel I have read. I wish I could say that same for this book, but I just couldn't connect and identify with Coleen, the main character. There were interesting plot points from both Tamara and Bitt's stories, but I never felt they were as fully realized as I wanted them to be. I'll chuck this to a late summer spell.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Joan Now, And Forever (Perfume Review: Joan Rivers Private Reserve, Now And Forever)

I've been affected by the death of Joan Rivers at age 81. I remember as a young kid, I used to wait for those times when she hosted The Tonight Show. She had that outrageous sense of humor, and I identified with it so much. I can't say that I understood all her jokes at that time, but I always tried to remember them, and at times even looked up what they meant - and this was before they had Google accessibility. And through the years, I have sort of followed her around, and saw her stand-up act numerous times, even going to her Broadway forays. She still had a lot of performances in her, I felt. It's not like she has retired, and has been out of the public eye. Today I give tribute to her in my own little way by wearing her scent, Now And Forever, from her Private Reserve collection. Now And Forever doesn't really break new ground, as far as perfumes go. But it is a very well done floral with hints of fruit. It's a lively scent, and it wears well. The heart is a floral melange of water lilly, tuberose and honeysuckle. It's a well-balanced concoction, transparent but not too much - there's a definite punch to the flowers. There are hints of peach and pineapple just to balance it, and the fruit never takes center stage. I liken this to a classic Estee Lauder perfume, which is just the kind of style I associate with her. (I read that she wears Patou Joy)  It's wearable, it's elegant, and it doesn't pretend to be anything else but that. I think that's Joan to me, and today i wear this perfume proudly.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Before The Me Before (Book Review: Me Before You, Jojo Moyes)

I expected to love Jojo Moyes' "me Before You" because I have read so many good reviews about it. And now that I have finished reading it, I understand and get why it shot through the hearts of so many people. I wish I could say I fell head over heels in love with it because to be honest, I didn't. I also did not dislike it - there are a lot of it I truly liked. But, I somehow felt that a big chunk of it is calculated and manipulated to get exactly the reaction it wanted to get. I felt the characters were not fleshed out as best as it could have been. And, there were lapses in the middle that I found boring, so much so I stopped reading it and made myself finish it. (Though I must say the last quarter of the book is quite compelling) But maybe it just isn't what I wanted to read right now - a great lot of bad news all over the world, and perhaps my mood is wanting a little cheerier. I kind of want to tell it: it's not you, it's me.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Dance of 1985 (Movie Review: Test)

Once in a while, a movie just connects with me. I felt that connection again with "Test," a movie written and directed by Chris Mason Johnson. The film is set in 1985, the year that the HIV test came out. But I would not call this an AIDS movie, though I kind of look at it as a subtler, quieter cousin of "The Normal Heart." I look at this movie as a slice of someone's life that year, with a backdrop of the disease as it starts to creep into gay men's lives. It shows how sensibilities change, how sexual attitudes morphed from free and hedonistic to being cautious and safe-sex cognizant. And, it captures the backstage of a San Francisco Dance Company, how the disease affects an ensemble. Scott Marlowe plays Frankie, an understudy in a dance company. It briefly explores his comlicated, but loving, relationship with a co-dancer, Todd (Matthew Risch) The dance sequences are beautifully choreographed by Sidra Bell, and acts sort of like a Greek chorus for what is happening to these men's lives. The greatest thing about the movie is how authentically it captures the feel of 1985, from the Walkman to the music in the Walkman (It seems like I had the same cassettes on mine) to even the cut of the acid washed jeans that Marlowe is wearing. I feel transported to a very familiar place because essentially I was there, and any of these characters could be me. "Test" captures a time of innocence lost, not unlike mine during that time.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Leather In A Rosebud (Perfume Review: Tom Ford White Suede)

I seem to be infatuated with the leather note this week. Well, I have always been, but more so this week. With the weather still hovering in the high temperatures, it sometimes isn't the best decision. But it's probably a result of a eau de cologne rebellion: I feel like I have been using those lately, as they seem most appropriate on the triple-digit days. Yesterday, I put on Tom Ford White Suede, a scent I have not used in a long time. I wanted to wear it a day after I wore Dior's Cuir Cannage, because in my mind they are similar. White Suede has notes of rose and leather, with musk and saffron in there. It sounds very derivative, but this is Tom Ford of course, and everything he does, he does well. On my skin, it seems like the rose is completely sidelined. The suede is big - it's that appealing, slightly sour (in a good way) kind, like an expensive bag. The saffron creeps up, and the musk kicks in. It's a real leather-musk accord, but it's not dirty. The blend is sophisticated and expensive smelling. White Musk nowadays is a warning sign for me. It very rarely delivers. But here, it really does smell like white musk as it is intended to be. It isn't the dirty musk I love, but at the same time it's not the clean homogenized kind either. The biggest surprise for me, though is how the perfume bloomed so differently on my scarf. I spritzed and now, a day later, the perfume on fabric seems so different: a nice rose/leather blend that is unique and pretty. It's so graphic and beautiful that I can't stop touching the scarf and sniffing. I want that perfume on my skin, as it seemed like a whole different one from what I was wearing yesterday.  Was it the heat that made it smell so differently on my skin? I will have to wear this on a colder day sometime when the chill arrives.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

No Spark In This Magic (Movie Review: Magic In The Moonlight)

I always think even a bad Woody Allen movie is not  waste of time. He is one of my favorite filmmakers, and I always get him. I get his humour, I get what is trying to do, I respond to his movies. But I guess there has to be a first time, because I really did not like Magic In The Moonlight.  This movie stars Colin Firth as a famous magician who wears yellow face (I am not offended as it is done with humour) who gets invited to the French countryside to survey on a woman, Sophie Black (played by Emma Stone) who is suspected to be scamming a rich family by pretending to be a medium. It's a premise that never really got going for me, and even though both Stone and Firth have oodles of charm, their characters are so unlikeable (especially Firth's) that I lost interest in them early on. And even as their characters get romantically entangled, the spark never materialized. I never believed their romance, and the age difference between the two of them even add an ick factor. And here lies the big problem with the movie: most scenes are between the two of them, even though they are surrounded by interesting characters. A lot  of scenes got too "talky"  and as alluring as the French countryside was photographed, there just wan't enough there to interest me. Allen himself seems to be running out of ideas, as he recycles themes he has explored in previous movies. Maybe he needs to take a short break and regroup.

Even Socipaths Fall In Love (Television Review: You're The Worst, Thursdays on F/X)

I have to admit. I watched "You're The Worst" because I thought it was going to be a romantic comedy television series. I mean, look at the poster. As it turns out, it *is* a romantic comedy: only without a shred of romance, and with a gret dose of comedy. Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) meet in a meet-cute premise, but with vitriol and bad manners. These two are sociopaths in the best sense of the word, and the series starts off with a one-night stand. They are the unlikeliest couple, they don't even seem to like each other (They one up each other in every way) Though we know as viewers that they are really meant to be, we are puzzled, and the joy of the series is finding out how to get there when it looks like they aren't even traveling on the same road, so you ask yourself how are they going to meet. They spend days refusing to acknowledge that they like each other, trying their damnedest to acknowledge they are beginning to develop feelings for each other. As I finish the fifth episode, they begrudgingly agree to not see other people. (This, after spending a whole episode trying to outdo each other sleeping with other people) I find these unlikely sympathetic characters endearingly hilarious. This is a show for today: there are scads of nudity, the language is as profane as cable television could get, and these characters do despicable acts you can only imagine. But it's also arresting television. You won't be able to take your eyes off the screen.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Comes Down To Reality, And it's Fine By Me (Music Review: Barbra Streisand & Billy Joel, 'New York State Of Mind')

There was a time when all in the world, a new Barbra Streisand song was considered an "event."  I would like to think that we still live in that world now, so I am writing about Barbra's new single "New York State Of Mind," from her forthcoming album, "Partners." The new album is a duets album, and in this particular track she is singing with Billy Joel. This is a song that is resonating with me lately, especially on days when I miss New York City.  It's a very Barbra track, and she blends well with Joel, although the chemistry isn't combustible between them.  (There's a cute attempt at that at the end when Barbra says, "Billy why don't we get some pizza," and he answers "how about some Chinese?")  There is your typical oversinging on both ends, and that's just fine as I didn't expect otherwise.  I wish the arrangement was a little more tender, as I think that brings out the heart of the song. But it's still a new Barbra track, and yes, that's a cause for celebration.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Deja Viewed (Television Review: Partners, Mondays on F/X)

"Partners," the new television sitcom starring Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence, is probably one of those shows where the show came after its casting.  I could just imagine the executive meeting - "Hey we got both Grammer and Lawrence to commit to shows, why don't we put both of them together?" And a production team is born. "Partners" is at times so unfunny I wonder how it passed through quality control at the network - I mean, did they see the show before final cut?  The show is a variation on the time old Odd Couple theme - this time it's two lawyers who are partners in a firm. One is straight-laced, the other is a shark. I mean, nice enough premise, but nothing we haven't seen before. So it all boils down to their chemistry. The two ain't Randall and Klugman, but that awkwardness sort of works for them in the beginning. As time goes on, they should get more comfortable with each other and should be more at ease. But the first four episodes I saw were so unmemorable that I have a hard time motivating myself to watch future airings. The supporting characters are very interesting, though: Rory O Malley as the gay assistant is predictable camp, and Thelma Hopkins as Lawrence's mom provide matching sass. But we've all really seen all this before, so why should we bother again?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Smell Every Mountain (Perfume Review: Creed Himalaya)

The day has come. I thought it would never arrive. I am wearing (and writing about it ) a scent by Creed.  I confess to be a hater of Creed. I think they are vastly overrated - its scents are not unique, it has obnoxious fanboys, and the astronomical price points are not justified. But recently, I got offers on (very) cheap bottles, and what the hell, I dove right in. After all, can you consider yourself a scent aficionado if you don't have some in your collection? Today I am wearing Himalaya. This scent was created by Olivier Creed (with Erwin Creed) based on his climb of the Himalayan mountains.  So you can just imagine what it smells like based on the visual: a high mountain that's topped with snow. Fresh, aquatic, imposing. Yes, I think those words can best describe Himalaya. It's clean-smelling, for sure, with a great big citrus burst of bergamot and grapefruit in the opening. It's powerful, and creates an impression, for sure. It then goes into clean woods - sandalwood, cedar, amber. They are blended with finesses - none of the individual woods stand out.  I must say that Creed uses quality material - in that way their price is justified. But after sparing the perfume, you know you have smelled it before somewhere. There is nothing in it that's inspiring to me, it does not incite imagination for me. I think Creeds are perfect office scents - they will not offend anyone, and they give an impression of a well-dressed man. How do I feel about it now? I am glad I have it, and I wear it gladly. But if I had not gotten these at bargain-basement prices, i would not have given them a second look.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Only Helen (Film Review: The Hundred Foot Journey)

Only Helen Mirren can make me watch a movie about Indian food, a cuisine I despise. Mirren is one of those few actresses who can make haute cuisine out of fast food fare, and she proves that here. Her character, Madame Mallory, is written like a cartoon character. Yet Merrin humanizes and gives life to her with such charm that she makes it come alive almost as vividly as Queen Elizabeth. Too bad the film around her is a disjointed mess. "The Hundred Foot Journey" cannot seem to decide what kind of movie it wants to focus on, and instead give us glimpses of four potential great movies it could have been. Ultimately it is saved by arresting performances from its cast: the aforementioned Mirren and a star-making turn by Manish Dayal, who plays Hassan Kadam, a young Indian chef who makes waves in the French culinary world. But before he does, though, we get to see funny shenanigans between Mirren and Kadam's father, played by Om Puri. The film bizarrely takes a left turn in the last quarter, and the payoff from it was just as weird. But this is still a worthwhile experience, because Helen Mirren makes every scene she in worthwhile - proving she is a living legend. It may not be worth your Saturday evening, but perfect on a weekend matinee.

A Bountiful Trip (Book Review: I'll Get There, It Better Be Worth The Trip, John Davison)

There was a time when I was reading all the gay-themed fiction I could get my hands on, so I was surprised I had not read John Davison's "I'll get there. It better be worth the trip," which was released in 1969 and was one of the first young adult books to handle the subject of homosexuality. Set in 1969, this book tells the story of Davy, who moves to New York City to live with his mother, after his grandmother passes away. It's a coming of half-an-age novel, and it is still very relevant today. As a matter of fact, it could very well be set to today's times. It is a heartbreaking story, and it made me think of my younger days. It is a story of a lot of changes, and how a young person can adapt or not adapt to changes in his life. When he befriends someone in his school, he gets to notice how his feelings change and evolve. Davison handles the sensitive topic well, handling it with a combination of class and innocence. Moreover, I think this book is as much a story of a boy and his dog. This book is not only worth the trip, but also worth the read.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Cathcing A Pitch (Music Review: Nancy Monroe, The Love Within)

New York City is full of aspiring singers and Nancy Monroe is one of them.  Her album, "the Love Within" fell on my lap and the first thing I thought was, why did she choose a blurred picture for the cover of her album? But don't judge a book by its cover right? Monroe has a flexible voice, style-wise, but she more or less puts them on a jazz setting. To my ears, she seems off-pitch, but that's not really a problem for me if a singer knows a way around a song. Sadly, though, she doesn't. I don't understand the too-cozy arrangement she has in "Summer Me, Winter Me," for example, as it is a song with a lot of angst, and she bypasses that aspect of the song to focus on a bossa beat that's out of nowhere. The tempo is more appropriate in "Without A Song" but when she does her jazz riffs here, the deficiencies in her pitch gets highlighted, and it's unpleasant. I found it straining to listen to her voice after a couple of songs, and the original songs here don't help them. I just wise up and turned it off.