Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Sheen Of Just Nice (Perfume Review: Jo Malone Sugar And Spice Collection)

Jo Malone has launched a new limited edition collection called Sugar And Spice, and I have been wanting to try them since they came out. They sound so fun, so wholesome, so cute, and it's such a very version of me. I was so looking forward to getting them, enjoying them, and reading the copy of the scents, I couldn't even decide which one to sample first. And over the weekend, I got the opportunity to finally sniff them. I cannot tell you how disappointed I am. They are nice, but there's nothing else there - no depth, no weight to the scents. It's as if they used all the money in marketing, and left very little for the actual scents. Estee Lauder now owns Jo Malone, of course, and it is quite telling how they are marketing this brand.

I tried "Bitter Orange And Chocolate" first, because I had heard that it was their best seller (I read that some stores couldn't keep it in stock) and while the idea is certainly interesting, it's like a desert that falls flat. I have several orange-scentric scents in my collection, but I don't think this one will be joining its siblings on the orange family. The orange is not very subtle, and is overwhelmed by the chocolate. It's not a bad idea, but the biter coco is just that, and nothing else. A little something - patchouli? a floral note ? - would have made the gourmand a little more interesting, but after the smell kind of made me want to puke.

"Eldelflower And Gooseberry" is a little more interesting, if only because those are two notes that I am not very familiar with. What comes up is an indistinguishable colorless floral scent, and it is reminiscent of my Walgreens fabric softener. It is so unremarkable that I am looking at my notes on it, and the only thing I wrote was "bland."

"Lemon Tart" is the only one that held my interest for a little bit. It smells like you envisioned it: a lemon tart. It is lemony, and sweet. I really wish it had a lot more character to it, and I was waiting for the alleged lychee note to come up somewhere, but it only barely hints. I wasn't revolted by this, but I really can think of numerous citrus scents I would rather get. 

All in all, it really is quite frustrating for me to want to love something, and then being betrayed by it. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When A Star Is Your Star (Television Review: SMASH S2 E09 Bells And Whistle)

I have been slowly getting disappointed with SMASH this season that last night was the first time ever, I did not watch it in real time. It's in perpetual record on my DVR and I knew I would not miss the episode anyway, so I gave in to early slumber. I watched it upon waking up this morning, and lo and behold, it's a very good episode. The good vibes on BOMBSHELL is infectious. Finally, finally, finally, Ivy is Marilyn on SMASH and the whole world is breathing a sigh of relief, because, let's face it, Dead eyed McPhee was really no match to Hilty. So the tension now goes to Tom's directing style: democratic, easy going, ...pushover? Yeah, in his quest to be the queen of nice, it seems now that some people wants to take advantage of him (an ensemble member wants a monologue, cutie Wesley Taylor as Bobby texting during rehearsals) Add to this that Sam is back in town, unhappy with the Book Of Mormon tour. So, of course Tom offers him a role on the show, even though the only uncast role is Gladys, Marilyn's mom. (And why can't he do that role, anyway? ) This gives the show a chance to give Leslie Odom Jr a fabulous number, a great let's=put-on-a-show number reminiscent of Judy and Mickey. Things come to a head, and Deb Messing even has to take him to Derek's rehearsals for Hit List so that Tom can learn how to say "No!"  Meanwhile, speaking of Hit List...zzzz.... oh. I can barely get through that boring storyline. Jimmy is mad at Derek, and Derek is trying to show him he has a bigger dick, and with Dead eye McPhee there, it's just so boring. And Jimmy's big number though directed and choreographed well, is still a shit of a song. I haven't liked any of the Hit List songs yet, but that may be just me. And then there's the role of "The Diva," which is being offfered to Lea Michele, and because of a performance (embarrassing one, in my opinion) of a Beyonce number, gets Krysta Rodriguez the role. I read a great description of Rodriguez: all haircut, no talent. And the irony: Rodriguez was Lea Michele's understudy in Spring Awakening, so...full circle? 

Next week, we get to see Bernadette Peters take over as Ivy's mom, and I hope that's as fabulous as it sounds. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Giggly Gigolo (Book Review: Memoirs Of A Gigolo Vol 1, Livia Ellis)

Another day, another Amazon freebie. Whenever I see a book that can even be remotely interesting, I grab it even though I literally have thousands of e-books to choose from. But this one had a titillating title: Memoirs Of A Gigolo (Volume 1) by someone named Livia Ellis (nice phallic name there, buddy) I start reading this, expecting a somewhat thoughtful story, but it's pretty shallow. A man of royal descent is wanting for money and gets recruited to be a male prostitute. He goes through someone named The Matchmaker, but the woman is really just your run-of-the-mill pimp. This "memoir" is really just a day in the life of this gigolo. More particularly, it is the day that he decides to enter that service industry. It is Volume 1, I keep on forgetting and the Amazon freebie is of course designed to pique your interest so you purchase the succeeding volumes. There's three sex scenes here, but to me they seem very antiseptic. The narrative is not bad, but there's just not much there. 


Monday, March 25, 2013

Falling In Love With Love (Perfume Review, Love Etc, The Body Shop)

I will be honest.  I would never have paid any attention to Love Etc... by The Body Shop had I not known that it was created by Dominique Ropion. Mr. Ropion is one of my favorite noses, as he created quite a few of my favorites, including Portrait Of A Lady, Alien, and Burberry The Beat (that's a pretty good range, scent wise) I was kind of surprised that he made one for The Body Shop, but then Alexander McQueen did a collection for Target, so what's to be surprised about. I have to say that during the 90s, I used to wear the perfume oils from The Body Shop. I remember wearing their vanilla oil, and later on the dewberry one. I really should pay more attention to their scents, as they are made much better than Bath & Body Works, for example , though for the record, I like both "houses." But back to Love Etc, last week The Body Shop had a clearance sale and they were selling the Love Etc... EDP for seven dollars, so I bit the bullet and got one. As a perfume, it is very well-done. It is not the most imaginative thing in the world: a pear based fruity floral. It opens with a burst of pear and sweet jasmine. What makes it a little unique, though is that Mr. Ropion inserts some unexpected notes in there as it blossoms to its heart: heliotrope gives a nut vibe, and the sandalwood base has a cold creme musk. To my nose, it is still quite ordinary and yes, boring, but it is definitely better done than, say, Jimmy Choo EDP which I believe is also pear based (that one has that annoying fruitchouli base)  I wore this today, as I thought it would be a warm day. But I realized it was much colder, and the perfume kept close to my skin and didn't "blossom" as I wanted it to be. On my shirt, though, it smelled a lot more complicated with the jasmine taking a little more center stage as it did on my skin. I don't dislike this at all, to be truthful. But for seven dollars, this is a cheap slice of heaven. (I wonder, though, if it is being discontinued, as it is in the clearance section)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Kult of Kristen (Television Review: Kristen Chenoweth, "The Dames Of Broadway...All Of 'Em," PBS

Somebody somewhere, there's a place called Kristen, and it is magical, and musical, and magnificent. Tonight was the PBS broadcast of her show, "The Dames Of Broadway...All Of 'Em," which is part of the Lincoln Center American Songbook Series, which then was recorded live for PBS' Live From Lincoln Cenetr telecasts. Of course during that hour, time stood still for me. All the phones went off, the computer was shut down, and for sixty minutes, it was just me and Kristin. And let me tell you, I had the time of my life. Chenoweth presents a collection of songs from Broadway musicals, some from roles she played, and some from roles that has so far eluded her. We all know she can sing, and her supple soprano is featured here in all its glory. She opens the show with Frank Loesser's "Somebody Somewhere," and never gets off from that high. Among my favorite numbers were "Mr Snow," from Carousel and "100 Easy Ways To Lose A Man,' where in both songs she not only sings the songs but she sings them in context of the shows, paying attention to each nuance of the lyric. It really is the epitome of singing/acting the songs. She tells a funny story of how she played the role of Tuptim from "The King & I" and has the cast call her "Kristen Chen." Then she slays "My Lord And Master." I really cannot discern a misstep from the show, except maybe the non-broadcast of "Eidelwess" and "Dance:10, Looks:3" from the television broadcast (The latter song may have been cut for its racy lyrics) The last number on television is her touching lyrical version of "My Funny Valentine," which I think is one of the best versions of that song. While I totally loved this show, I do wonder how it plays in middle America. Most of the songs may be too esoteric for general audiences. But then again, if you are a PBS watcher, then this show was probably made for you. And me. 

Love This Way (Book Review: You Belong With Me, Jeff Erno)

"See the pyramids along the Nile..."  I was singing that classic Patti Page song while I was reading this book, only to realize that the title of the book was "You Belong With Me," not "You Belong To Me." Darn. But, this is still one of the sweetest books I have read in a long time, one that made me weep at certain spots. It's a good old-fashioned "fairy" tale, in more ways than one. He is a nerd, his crush is a jock. It couldn't possibly, happen right? Only it did. All I could think was "You are in danger, gyrl," and I was right. Do not fall in love, I keep on threatening the main character, because you will only get hurt. And look what happened, he did get hurt. In the middle of ti all is a bullying subplot that will tear your heart apart. But it all gets tied up in a neat bow, with even Lady Gaga making an appearance. Is all of this too much for one heart? There is a big happy ever after ending you know is coming, as in most fairy tales, but getting there is a lot of fun. What a powerful story for young gay teens to empower themselves this day I wish I had this when I was their age.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Younger Than Spring Break (Movie Review: Spring Breakers)

"Spring Breakers" was shown at the last Venice Film Festival, and if I am not mistaken it was in direct competition with my beloved Nora Aunor's "Thy Womb." And that was the only thing I knew about this movie. Well, that and I knew it stars two Disney girls, Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, in adult/more daring roles. I also knew there were some critical acclaim for this movie, and had indie cred, two things that normally entice me. I realize after that this movie was directed by Harmony Korine, who did "kids," a movie I absolutely detested. About an hour into the movie, I was beginning to feel buyer's remorse. It was so self-indulgent, and pretentious that I honestly felt like walking out. There were too many exploitative shots of the women, and I a so not the target market for that. Then the direction of the movie changed. James Franco's character came in and it became a gangsta movie featuring his character, Alien, interacting with the four female leads. It got more interesting but still, not my kind of movie. There was a slice of brilliance in the last ten minutes of the film, and yes, I did get what it was trying to do, I got the message, and I appreciate its artistry. The movie becomes philosophical in a way: how we in our youth find ourselves, for better or worse. All in all, I respect it as a movie, but I have no desire of ever watching a frame of it again. James Franco, I must say, is fantastic as the white rapper type character who lures the women in a drugs and gun fueled world. He is almost unrecognizable in the movie, but still oozes sex appeal, and you can see how he gets the young women smitten by him. I wish I could discern any of the girls from each other, but Vanessa Hudgens kind of stood out for me, and Selena Gomez did nothing for herself here. I never saw any of their Disney oeuvre so there was no shock on my end in seeing them smoke pot or snort coke. As I was leaving the movie house, there was a part of me that wished I had seen the probably more predictable/reliable Tina Fey movie "Admission."

Once And Again (Book Review: Here I Go Again)

Next week I am going to a mini-reunion with friends from both grade school and high school so I thought it would be a good idea to read "Here I Go Again," by Jen Lancaster. It tells the story of Melissa "Lissy" Rider who finds out, when she goes to her twenty year high school reunion, how her selfish actions shaped the lives of people around her. With a magic syrup, she is able to go back in time to "correct" her mistakes. She then finds out to find the same people less successful because they didn't have the motivation that they had needed to make their lives successful. Okay, this is a nice enough promise, and while the story is not the most original, sure I am down. But I just cannot get past the unlikeability of the main character, a person I would not want to spend five seconds with. Reading this book slowly became a chore, and I found it difficult to finish. I just chuck it all to chemistry: I just didn't relate to the character, and did not care what would happen to her either way. Plus, there were too many characters to keep track of without proper back stories. And these characters were such cliches, paper cardboard people based on composites,not personalities. Or perhaps I just did not care? This was a major disappointment for me, for a lot of people whose opinions I respect has given this book raves. So, it's not the book, it's me. 


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

All We Needed After All Was Irene Dunne (TelevisioN Review: S02E07 Musical Chairs)

You know how I can prove that Megan Hilty is fantastic? She can be in a scene just laughing and she would be stealing scenes. Take for example in last night's SMASH episode, "Musical Chairs," while Sean Hayes (he sedeserves a guest spot Emmy for his performance here, I think) was performing "Ce N'est Pas Ma Faute," even thought he scene is really not about her, she still sparkles. That's what you call a STAR. But back to the scene, what a great musical scene that was. You see, these scenes are what I miss about this season's episodes. They have become few and far between, taking a back seat to more confusing plot lines, and bland pop-rock scenes from "Hit List." And can I just say that I don't particularly like these songs from "Hit List"? Generic pop-rock songs do not a show make. But then again, I may be the only person in the world who does not like "Rent." Having dead-eyes McPhee sing the songs doesn't help. Every week her inability to act keeps on getting more and more evident, and even her ombre hair color couldn't help her last night. I think I am just *done* with her. And even though Ivy finally got the role of Marilyn last night, it kind of felt anti-climactic. That journey of "Bombshell" has just gone too long and laborious now that I almost don't care anymore. (Well, I am sure Bernadette Peters as Marilyn's mom would reignite my interest, but still...) All it needed all this time was Irene Dunne. When Ivy was talking to Tom about Irene Dunne, that's when Dead Eyed McPhee realized that she would really make a better Marilyn, something ALL OF US knew all along. Glad to have you finally on board, Dead Eyed McPhee.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It Might As Well Be Strings (Movie Review: A Late Quartet)

I have been lamenting, to anyone who would listen, that lately it has been very difficult to find movies for "grownups."  For sure, we are not the most profitable demographic, but please, don't just abandon us. After the Holiday "serious movie" season, I cannot think of any 2013 movie release that has challenged and entertained me. So I take to the video section and find "A Late Quartet," which was screened at last year's Toronto Film Festival and get a limited release last November. It somehow never caught on with the mainstream audience. 

My first impression is this is a New York City kind of movie. I could imagine it being shown at Loews Lincoln Center, and because of  great buzz from a New York Times rave, every screening would be sold out. I imagine there would be a great cardboard cut out of the Times review right by the theater lobby, and as viewers leave they would all gather and read the Times review before venturing out in the cold November air. This is just my imagination, of course. The movie photographs New York City beautifully, capturing it in the midst of winter, a metaphor perhaps of a winter of discontent?

"A Late Quartet" is worth sitting through if only for one reason: Christopher Walken's performance. We all know him from his crazy performances, and his winking salute to those performances. But in here he gives a subtle performance that is a slow boil. In the beginning of the movie, his character gets diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, and he has to deal with it emotionally, and professionally, as he is the leader of The Fugue String Quartet. The rest of the quartet, played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Martin Ivanir, and Catherine Keenan react differently, resulting in soap opera plot points. But because of the dignity in their performances, though, the melodrama never gets too excessive. There is a heartbreaking scene wherein Walken remembers his  wife, played by soprano  Anne Sofie von Otter, and it perfectly shows love when lost.

The emotional and musical heart of the movie is Beethoven's String Quartet in C#m, or Opus 131, one of the composer's last works. The whole piece is meant to be played without any interruptions. It's very intense, and while it's photographed well, it is very obvious that the actors are not the ones playing the instruments (It is by the Brentano String Quartet) I am not going to pretend that I am very familiar with the piece, but now this makes me want to dig out my recordings to see if I have this piece somewhere in my collection, and I suspect I do.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Good Smells For Equality (Scent Review: Bond No 9 I Love NY Marriage Equality 7.24.11)

Bond No. 9, to put it mildly, is not my favorite perfume house. Someone once told me that all their perfumes are copies of Creed, and if I were to copy anything, Creed would be the last house I would crib from. I have (I think) 2 Bond no 9 scents from my wardrobe, and I like them fine, but I won't die if I lose them. I have sampled a couple over time, and I have always been underwhelmed. I mean, they do nice, well-made scents with good materials, but I am never wowed. I have never had that LAFS (Love at First Sniff) experience with any of their releases....until now. I guess now would be as good a time as any. And what do you know, it's from their I Love NY collection, specifically the one for Marriage Equality. how fitting, indeed. I was at Sephora and was looking for something to sample, and as usual, slim pickings for me there, until I saw they had a Bond No 9 section - since when? - but they only had samples for the three I Love NY series. I remember sniffing the His and the Hers and was underwhelmed, so I went ahead and sprayed the Marriage Equality one. Well, color me shocked. Color me flabbergasted, actually. It is wonderful : the top notes are plum, ginger, nutmeg, and myrrh. Wow. The plum is a stewed plum, and very reminiscent of a Serge Lutens creation. If you close your eyes, you may actually think this is bu Uncle Serge. It's very spicy, but it's that warm unique spice, and the incense definitely makes it smell niche. The ginger rounds it up so it's not as "Oriental" smelling. And it's fantastically blended. I remember being on my way home and had that strange feeling, of my heart beatign quite fast in excitement. The heart of the scent stays mostly the same, with the ginger and the plum getting richer. It is really quite wonderful and I kept on wanting to pinch myself to ask, is this really a Bond no 9 perfume? And to make matters better, the perfume is well-finished - it doesn't have the artsy-bohemian roughness of a Lutens perfume. This one screams "luxury product" so it doesn't smell "weird." I am willing to bet that one would get lots of compliments with this one. The only setback is that this is a very "autumn" perfume with all the brown spices - this would make a fantastic Halloween or Thanksgiving scent. And the best part ? No Republican would be caught wearing this scent, as it supports Marriage Equality. So really, it's best of all possible worlds!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

...But It's All Good (Webseries Review: It Could Be Worse)

I know there are a zillion webseries out there, but I have never really followed any. I sometimes can be very impatient, and more often than not, my attention goes somewhere else when I am on the computer. But I recently started watching "It Could Be Worse" and it's so good that it has me hooked. (The website is ) What initially lured me to watch it was Wesley Taylor. I think he is very cute, and saw him in the original casts of 'Rock Of Ages," and 'The Addams Family' on Broadway.  Even though I wasn't the biggest fan of both shows, I thought Tayor was a stand-out in each, and of course, it doesn't really hurt that he is cute. He is part of my beloved "Smash," of course, and steals scenes whenever he is on. So, here he is, aptly cast as a young actor in New York City. He plays Jacob Gordon and the series chronicles his trials and tribulations as a working actor in the city. He has a needy boyfriend, a mother who is having a cougar crisis, and a father who is staying with him temporarily because of that.The writing is spot-on, and the series is beautifully shot. And the casting is tops: Mitchell Jarvis (who co-created the series with Taylor) is funny as his drugged agent, and Nancy Opel is wonderfully funny as his mother. It's a minefield for spotting huge Broadway stars in cameo roles. I spotted Audra McDonald (hilarious as his therapist) , Kyle Dean Massey, Laura Osnes, among others.  I eagerly await every new episode which comes out Fridays. 

I Wonder, Wonderstone (Movie Review: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone)

Halfway through "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone," I asked myself: what the hell am I doing watching this movie?I seem to be the wrong demographic for it, and looks like everyone in the movie theater is having fun but me. A lot of the articles ow I have read about this movie reiterate that it seems like a Will Farrel movie, and that's it - I don't think I have ever seen any of Farrell's signature "sports" movies. I have been lamenting the dearth of grown-up movies of late, and I really don't know what possessed me to see this. But to be fair, it wasn't a chuckle-free experience for me. There was a segment when Steve Buscemi's character went to Africa and gave out magic kits to starving children that I thought was good dark humour, but aside from that, I was bored out of my wits. Everyone keeps on praising Jim Carrey's performance, but while I thought it did seem like. Careey is more inspired than usual, I cringed whenever he is on screen. There is a good idea here about the changing of the magic scene to more "extreme sports" akin to Criss Angel and David Blaine's stunts vs the wholesome rabbit tricks of yesterday, and I wish that was more explored. I thought Steve Carrell was an uncharismatic lead, and has zilch screen presence. And what is up with the movie title? It doesn't really roll off your tongue. To this second, I have not memorized it. What an unmagical experience for me.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

If You Are Pretty Like Miss Atlantic CIty (Book Review: Easy On The Eyes, Jane Porter)

"Easy On The Eyes," by Jane Porter isn't just another woman falling in love story (although it is) It tries to be more: a commentary on our society's emphasis on beauty, and how women in media struggle to compete and stay relevant as they get older. Like it or not, this is a unmistakeable fact, how the young demographic influence the decision making for media-related businesses. Tianna Tomlinson is an anchor of an Entertainment Tonight-like show, but she is 38, and is showing signs of age. Her agent is pressuring her to get plastic surgery, and she is resisting. She has had a rough life, and has worked hard to achieve fame. We get twists and turns that force her to make life-altering decisions. This is a pretty good novel, and Porter has crafted a very interesting character. I like the fact that even though the story is formulaic, I was still surprised by twists and turns. There were situations that I definitely did not see coming. Some parts were slow, but not to a point where I would want to put the book down. And, with stories like this where there is a lot of topical information, the novel sounds just a bit dated. It's still a formidable read, though. 


Friday, March 15, 2013

Traveling With Patti (Music Review: Patti Lupone, Far Away Places, Live At 54 Below)

I've traveled with Patti Lupone. Like, literally. Well, technically I did. My friends and I were on a cruise to the Mediterranean and The Holy land and she was the main entertainer for the cruise and we kept on bumping into her in the ship. So yes, I felt like I traveled with her. The better because the theme of her show is wanderlust, titled "Far Away Places." This is the opening show at the new cabaret space 54 Below, the basement section of the famed old discotheque. It's a great show, a somewhat different show for her, as she is not singng songs she has sung in shows she has appeared at. I have seen her numerous times live, and that has been, more often than not, the theme of her shows. The show, conceived with her friend Scott Wittman, is perfectly conceived. It's daring, it's familiar, it's very Lupone. There's a wonderful variety in styles: a jazzy "Travelin' Light," a blues-tinged "I Cover The Waterfront," a comic "Come To The Supermarket In Old Peking." She even dares disco, paying tribute to her venue. And who else but Patti Lupone would sing multiple Kurt Weill songs ('Bilbao Song,' "Pirate Jenny,' 'September Song') I mean, does anyone still sing weill? She represents Sondheim in "By The Sea" (what, no Lloyd Webber? Just kidding, Patti) and her "Hymn To Love" evokes and respects Piaf at the same time. Her voice is as strong with age, but the intimacy of this do highlight some pitch problems and for the uninitiated, the vibrato could be overwhelming. But that's Patti, and there's enough of her big personality to overcome those. And that big personality shines in the patter: it is as entertaining as the show. ('I would have been a great stewardess. Can you imagine? Turn off the fuckign phone! How Dare You !')  This is a great souvenir of the show for those, like myself, that didn't see it. It's a great Patti Lupone experience if you haven't been Luponized yet. (I still think her RCA two disc album is her best recording, but that's me ) It's a great way to roam, traveling with LuPone.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fringe In Love (Television Review: Smash S02 E06 , The Fringe)

I normally would not highlight Dead-Eyes McPhee, but I found the scene above, from "hit List" very appealing. I even found the song as appealing, a duet titled "Heart Shaped Wreckage." But it was still DEM (dead Eyed McPhee) so i can't really get too excited over it. And Jeremy Jordan's charms are running out. The writers have gone out of their way to make his character so unlikeable that it kind of makes sense to me to pair him off with DEM. "Hit List" is on The Winter Fringe Festival, and Karen wants to star in it, but boo hoo, she is contractually obligated to "Bombshell." So she is sulking - and this is a perfect example of why I feel her character is so seemingly-entitled. Just because she can't get everything she wants, we have to feel sorry for her? And of course, "Hit List" gets good notices at the Fringe Festival, and no so subtly, Jesse L Martin plays a producer who wants to take the show to Broadway. Of course, Mr, Martin was on Rent, just so we don't get that point hammered.

On the "Bombshell" front, new producer Jerry wants to cut "Never Give Up The Heart" because it's "just another ballad," although it is the heart of the show, as Tom and Julia pointed out. They try to uptempo the song, but even though they all liked the re-arrangement, I thought it was a disservice to the song. It's one of my favorite songs from the cast recording. Derek disagrees with them, and losing control, quits the show. 

Over the Liaisons front, Ivy got to sing a song from the show, and as usual, she is fantastic, So now my vote is for her to do both Bombshell and Liaisons, and while we are at it, why don't we also giver "Mame," and "Hello Dolly," and everything else on Broadway. She is frustrated, though, because once Terry sees the thunderous reaction to her number, he wants the number cut. He reneges at the end after a cast meeting wherein everyone points out to him that the show sucks as is, and they need to change things .... this before the show goes to tech.

Even though the plots moved forward, I don't know but I felt the episode felt a Or am I just losing interest?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

One Gay (Book Review: Maybe This Time, Eva Clancy)

"Maybe This Time," by Eva Clancy, is sort of a low-rent gay version of David Nicholls' "One Day" and it never ets you forget it. The title, of course, is from Kander & Ebb's Cabaret (sung in the movie version by Liza Minnelli) and in the synopsis of the book is the phrase "The Man That Got Away," which of course is a song popularized by Liza's mother. The book tells the story of Will and Rob in a span of eighteen years and is broken down in three separate events: 1992, just as they are to graduate from High School, 2001 when they meet again at a mutual friend's wedding, and in 2010. They have this attraction towards each other, but never really connected. I liked the characters, and I liked their chemistry, and I wish the book had been longer, and their story fully fleshed out. I liked spending time with both characters, and Clancy is successful in giving us two distinct characters, and she makes us care for each to want them to be together. I wonder if this has a sequel. Maybe I should check. 


Who Put Powder On My Tuberose? (Perfume Review: Miller Harris Noix De Tubereuse)

I know there are a lot of people who are scared of tuberose, and I must admit it's a learned appreciation. I think the big culprit is Fracas, which in my opinion is the ultimate tuberose. It's big, it's in your face, and most times, it's also intimidating and scary. It took me a while to love it, and now I cannot get enough of it. But there's also Miller Harris' Noix De Tubereuse, which makes tuberose pretty, and very accessible. I have not worn this in a while, and on a lark, chose this today. The weather was going to be gorgeous, and I wanted to see the scent bloom. Noix de Tubereuse starts with a creamy tuberose, but the flower here is very soft. Dare I say it, but this is very "old-fashioned." The violet leaf edges out whatever headiness there is in the flower, and it gives impressions of "clouds" rather than "sun." The best description I can give here is that this scent does for tuberose what YSL Rive Gauche does for the rose. The perfume is like a framed painting - the colors are equally blended - there are the oranges of amber, the yellows of mimosa, the browns of orris. The longevity was perfect - there were times when I thought it was already gone and then I would catch myself shaking my head and getting a waft of its soft floral powder. A lot of people get 'nutty' but not for me - it's, again, the soapy powder that stays throughout. I wonder how it would behave on a hot summer day? Miller Harris is a house that sometimes confuses me - there are offering in their line I just don't agree with, though I would never discount the quality of their line. This was my very first encounter with him, and to this day, still my favorite.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

She Calls Her Sugar Brandi (Book Review: Drinking & Tweeting and other Brandi Blunders, Brandi Glanville)

Not so guilty confession: I am a Housewives franchise fan. I watch almost all of them, with the Orange County one being the exception (I just never got into it) This season's Beverly Hills drama is quite engrossing, and I look forward to the Monday night episodes with great enthusiasm. So you actually think I would not read Brandi Glanville's book "Drinking & Tweeting and other Brandi Blunders"? I honestly didn't expect much from it, as I have suffered through a lot of these fluff pieces. But this one is pretty good, I must say. Glanville knows how to deliver the one thing her demographic craves for: the dirt, the gossip, the unexpurgated graphic notes. It's a pretty slim book, but there are definitely no fillers. It's pretty focused: 90% of the book is about the one thing she is (in)famous for: her breakup from the actor Eddie Cibrian. She goes in painstaking detail about how it happened, how she felt when it happened, and how she dealt with it after it happened. Even though it is a sob story by definition, you never feel sorry for her - as this is a tough as nails lady who knows what she wants. She is also pretty upfront about her mistakes, mincing no words about her vagina restoration surgery or her DUI citation. If you are watching her on RHOBH, the you would pretty much know what to expect from her book. I personally would have liked some background about her: her years in Europe as a model, for example. She mentions that she has a twenty year old picture with Cindy Crawford, and it might have been fun to read how they initially met. But maybe this book isn't about or for that. I am sure she is saving those for another release. She ain't no dummy.


South Central (Television Review: Southland, TNT; Movie Review: End Of Watch)

Who would have thought that my one of my favorite shows right now would be a cop show? I have been an avid viewer of "Southland" since the first season, and it's so unlike what I normally watch. I wasn't a viewer when it was on NBC, before it got cancelled there and got picked up by TNT. Rather, I discovered it via Netflix. Once I started watching it, I got instantly hooked and have been following it ever since. Season 5 started the beginning of March and I just marathon watched the first four episodes and it's still as engrossing. We find John Cooper (played by the great Michael Cudlitz - why doesn't he have an Emmy for this?) partnered with a young rookie, and he isn't exactly thrilled with him. And we find them parting ways shortly afterwards, and he gets partnered again with a "senior." I love the way we see all the dark and shadows in his life. I also loved that we also get a glimpse of his love life. He may be the perfect flawed cop, but just like everybody else, he yearns and aches for someone - he seems to be unable to hold on to a relationship, and while we understand why he can't keep one, we empathize with him. Cudlitz deals with these character shadings effortlessly.  We definitely get to know his character well - he is kind hearted and ruthless at the same time, definitely not two dimensional here. Ben Mackenzie and Shawn Hatosy (Ben and Sammy) are still police partners, and Hatosy is terrific, too - he's this crazy police with a crazy ex-wife and they weave through a divorce process that's raw and real. Mckenzie holds his own. His character is more seasoned now, and I like the fact that he's more jaded now, after a couple of years in the force. Regina King as Lydia is terrific (again, where is her Emmy?) as the young mother balancing work and baby raising. At the end of episode two, she gets a tragedy and the scene where she finds this out is heartbreaking. Southland is still a procedural show and although the cases are more hits, there are some misses, notably one involving cooked human bodies that gave me hives. But this is still, in my opinion, one of the best shows on television right now. 
This also brought to mind a movie I recently saw on Blu-Ray, "End Of Watch."  That movie reminded me so much of "Southland."  Jake Gylenhaal and Michael Pena play police partners not unlike those in the television show, and if I am not mistaken, even cover more or less the same streets of South Central Los Angeles. Even the villains and gangs look the same. This movie, directed by David Ayler got very good notices when it came out last year, and I cannot remember why I neglected to see it in the theaters. The movie focuses on the friendship and bond that these police officers have, how they go through the same experiences in life, and how it overlaps relationships, marriage, birth. Both Gylenhaal and Pena are great, and they have wonderful chemistry. Gylenhaal seems very relaxed and comfortable in his role, and I cannot remember the last time I saw him so effortless in a movie. This is a great Saturday night rental.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Hopelessly Not A Hopeless Romantic (Book Review: In Search Of A Love Story, Rachel Schurig)

Emily just caught her boyfriend cheating on her, and now she is heartbroken. Her friends Ashley and Ryan tell her that the reason she is because she lacks romance in her life. Their solution: she needs to bone up on her romanticisms : chick flicks and romance novels. They say that once she immerses herself in them, the right guy will come galloping into her life. Such is the premise of Rachel Schurig's "In Search Of A Love Story." This book was a freebie from Amazon. I had low hopes for it, because I have been burned a couple of times from these free books, but I was very pleasantly surprised by this. Though the premise was dumb, the story wasn't quite. Yes, it is kind of predictable, and even Stevie Wonder would be able to see who is right and who is wrong for Emily, but the journey was very adventurous, and I loved the fact that the book gave some local Michigan flavor. I wished her friends weren't too one-dimensional, especially her gay male friend who is as shallow as shallow can be, but those were minor irritants. This is a cute love story that would be great reading for someone who needs just a little more romance in his life. 

This is a first of a series, and now I realize why this was given away free - it encourages you to buy the next books in the series. If my TBR pile wasn't sky high, I would grab those books right now.


A Burst Of Green (Perfume Review: Thierry Mugler Cologne)

Colognes are really not my thing. I like my perfume heavy, and that's perhaps why I am drawn to Orientals. But I wasn't always like this. Once upon a time, yes, I did like "fresh" scents. I just think I a lot of these marine/aquatic fresh scents smell very dated, like L'eau d Issey or Cool Water, for example. But I am not dissing them, because I did wear those as well once upon a time. Thierry Mugler's "Cologne" is reminiscent of those fresh scents, but it's a lot more complex that I think it's a modern classic. It's even good enough to be chosen by Chandler Burr for his "Untitled" series for Open Sky. Cologne starts out like any other cologne scent - a burst of citrus. On a warm summer day it's stunning. It's sharp and jolting - that hint of orange blossom certainly gives it weight (I have read a lot of comparisons to the classic 4711)  It kind of develops into some more citrus - I smell a hint of verbena, and some vetiver. In the press releases, Alberto Morillas (who worked directly with Mugler) hints of a secret ingredient called "S" and there are some funny speculations on perfume boards on what it is (ranging from shampoo to bamboo) but the consensus is that it's just plain old vetiver. When I wore this today, I could swear I could detect some violets there somewhere. There was a time that this was in danger of being discontinued and perfume connoisseurs were hoarding it. I admit, I was one of them. I don't know if that is still the case, but I do firmly believe that if you like perfume, then this should be in your wardrobe. I may not wear this often, but I will never be without it. A lot of people compare it to Creed Vetiver. I dare say it's even better - and cheaper!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Tale Of Three Musicals (Television Review: The Read Through, SMASH S02 E05

Wasn't it just last week when I was lamenting that this season thus far there has been less of the great production numbers in SMASH?  Well, the musical gods heard me, as this week's episode, "The Read Through" opened with a production number, "Public Relations." And even if it featured the dreadful Karen as Marilyn, it had Christian Borle in multiple roles(!) and it had great choreography, even an airplane as a prop. It was quite wonderful and it reminded me of what I loved most about this show. And as far as episodes go, this one was very very good. (I haven't said that in a while) It was more or less focused, it set up story lines, and it was entertaining. 

First, on "Bombshell." Julia has finished her revised draft, and she is  ecstatic about it. But then she sees Jon Robert Baitz and he plants a doubt in her head by saying he knew someone who worked with Peter the Dramaturgist before and he double-crossed said person. Tom is doubting him, too. So Julia is doubting herself: did she do a good revision of the book? They are having a read through to find out. It turns out that it's not bad, it's very good. So you would think all systems go, right? Jerry, the "new" producer, will not produce it because it's too good. Just like Follies, Ragtime, and Sunday In The Park With George, he thinks its a curse. But he will still produce the show, though, with a different book - a previous version that Tom gave him. Eileen is the tie-braker. Which version does she prefer? Cliffhanger. 

Next, on "The Hit List," Jimmy and Kyle's musical. I cannot get myself interested in this storyline. Maybe because it's Karen's. It looks like Derek has pulled strings to get the musical in the Winter Fringe Festival, but Kyle's book is untested. So they invite friends, and it turns out that the book stinks, so they decide to make the show sung-through. The only interesting thing in this plot development is the possibility of West Taylor and Andy Mientus hooking up - they have great chemistry. 

Last, on "Liaisons," which is the musical Ivy is working on. So glad to see Megan Hilty do things on her own, away from Karen. The star of her show is played by Sean Hayes, and of course, Sean Hayes plays the character just like any of his characters: like 'Just Jack.' This is funny, and infinitely more interesting than karen and Company's shenanigans, and always good to see Veanne Cox. But right now, I kind of wonder why this story line exists. 

So ther eyou go, I was tired last night, and the show really perked me up after. It kind of made me adrenalized and I slept late.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Dim All the Lights Sweet Darling (Movie Review: Keep The Lights On)

All movies tell a story, some seek to understand people, others define history. But only few show human emotion at its real core. "Keep The Lights On" is not just a movie, it's a mirror of vulnerability, of ache, of passion, of hurt. It's a mirror of life. 

The movie starts in 1998, as a documentary filmmaker, Paul (played excellently by Thure Lindhardt)  is on a phone sex line trying to initiate a hook up. One of his trysts lead him to Erik, (Zachary Scott) a closeted lawyer. They see each other again. It is kind of a romance, but like most relationships, it is difficult to define. The woman in the triangle disappears, but another obstacle resurfaces: Erik's drug problems. And that proves to be a more formidable third party. As years go by (the movie ends in 2007) we see them try to connect, try to unchain themselves from each other, but they end up failing in both. It begs the question - what attracts us to some people, what makes us stay in relationships, what feeds our feelings for and against. It is complex, and this film shows the aching complexity. Director Ira Sachs has made a truly authentic movie - even the pots and pans seem honest. There seems a deliberate attempt for us to feel exasperated by their relationship. As we become tired of them getting back together for the nth time, we cannot help but think and imagien how the characters feel. Lindhardt and Scott show an intimacy that is frighteningly real that makes this two million times more real than any reality show out there. There is one heartbreaking scene towards the end when they try to make a decision and you know where the film is going, but you know it shouldn't go there. And even as the film makes a resolution of some sort, you are still unsure of what happens to the characters.

This is the kind of movie that is richly layered that you probably miss a nuance or two first time around. I plan to watch it again, and I bet the ache will still be there, if even heightened by familiarity. Sometimes you get so jaded and numb by life. A mirror of life, like this movie, awakens.

Animal (Perfume Review: Muscs Kublai Kahn, Serge Lutens)

Sometimes, when I can't decide what scent to wear, I play a game. I close my eyes, and go to a section, and I pick one blindfolded, and for better or worse, I wear it. I did that this morning, pointing at my Serge Lutens collection. Beforehand, I thought to myself, I hope I don't pick Musc Koublain Kahn, thinking it is going to be nice and warm outside. So of course, as fate would have it, it was the one I got. 

I have never worn MKK on a nice day.  I usually pick a cold winter day to wear it. For me, it is the epitome of a "warm scent." There's musk, and there's MKK musk - every musk in here is highlighted, and its purpoted notes list is enough to scare the bejesus out of anyone - civet, cumin, castoreum. A friend of mine who is a perfume expert describes it as such: "You know when you have b.o. and you try to cover it by wearing perfume? That's how this smells like."

Fair enough. MKK starts out with an amber opening, but it quickly fades to the musk: and yes, there's that civet, there's the hint of cumin. And it smells skanky. Today as I wore it, it didn't waste time blooming. But bloom I like, as it bloomed like only a perfume can - the smell became fuller, more rounded, it enveloped. I don't know how it projected to others (I ran two errands and got in contact with humans) and I will not lie if I say that it didn't make me a little bit self-conscious. But I appreciated it more for what it is - a musk smell. Everyone keeps on saying that there are roses in here, but I don't get it: I would point to the beautiful Le Labo Rose 31 as the definitive rose/musk combo. I smell ambergris here, and vanilla, and a slight rotten fruit (peach? pear?) When you get to the drydown, you get a soft sweet floral. Imagine you wear a strong Oriental perfume early in a summer day and you get just a whiff of it after you have done everything under the sun. That sweet musky emission at the end of the day, just before you take a shower. Just for that alone, Christopher Sheldrake (who did this for Uncle Serge) deserves a lifetime achievement award.

Love And Marriage (Book Review: The Average American Marriage, Chad Kultgen)

Chad Kultgen's book, "The Average American Marriage" is a sequel to his 2007 book "The Average American Male." I read the previous book and I kind of liked it, in a perverse pornocentric way. It told of how a straight young man and how, from what I recall, his mind was riddled with thoughts about sex non-stop. I thought then that it was difficult to surmise the point of the book: a peek into the mind of a male? an exercise in documenting how to sow oats? a variation of Penthouse Forums? So color me not surprised that this new book, more or less, follows the same format, only this time we fast forward to the young marriage years. Being unmarried and childless, I cannot say I totally relate to his life, so it gave me a big window to the mind of a young heterosexual married man. My friends don't even fall in that category (Actually, I do have a couple, I just never talk to them) The book would polarize people, I suspect. I can't see how a book with frank sex talk would make some people happy. It's rawness is its biggest strength and weakness. Even I blushed at some of the words, and believe you me, I have seen it all. There's a lot more to the book than that, though. The story makes a statement about what we give up to get what we desire. For all the jaded talk in the book, we also glimpse a tender young man who is just like all of us: searching for happiness and our place in the world. And times have certainly changed: the character in the book has a gay best friend, and even gets invited to a gay wedding! (A bone, ehem, for the gays!) I liked the book, but I feel like I have read it before.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Giants In The Sky (Film Review: Jack the Giant Slayer)

" There are Giants in the sky!
There are big tall terrible Giants
in the sky!

When you're way up high
And you look below
At the world you left
And the things you know,
Little more than a glance
Is enough to show
You just how small you are."

- Stephen Sondheim, "Into The Woods"

I am such a Theater Nerd that upon seeing "Jack The Giant Slayer," I instantly thought of the song "Giants In The Sky," from his musical Into The Woods. You can't blame me. Both the song and the movie have something to do with the children's story, "Jack And The Beanstalk." Though the movie, pardon the pun, is supersized. It's even in 3D. So why, you ask, did I end up seeing this movie? Anyone who knows me would tell you this isn't my cup of tea. I don't know why, either. The nice spring weather? Oh, why lie. I saw it because of Nicholas Hoult. I have been following his career since the UK "Skins," and well, why not. I think he is the next best thing, and this movie may not exactly propel him to A-list, but I think is a good step towards hitting it big. 

Oh the movie, you ask? It's your standard fantasy-action fare, with all the CGI machinations you would expect. I wish I could say I was totally enthralled by it, but I was merely entertained, and now, a couple of hours later, I wish I could remember more. I do recall that the cast had a pedigree: Ewan McGregor (with a bizarrely modern - but handsome - haircut)  Stanley Tucci, and Bill Nighy.  Maybe it's my projection, bu I feel like they are slumming it, doing this project in exchange of lucrative Hollywood money. As for the 3D effects, one wonders why they bothered. But I am not the one to ask about these things anyway, as I am vehemently opposed to the idea of 3D-izing anything. The great thing about movies, in my opinion, is how magical a great cinematographer can transform a frame through shading and lighting. 3D destroys that artistry.  So yes, I will not deny that the movie was entertaining, but forgettable. Hoult and McGregor made it bearable, but ultimately it's forgettable fare for me.