Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Scent Castles (Perfume Review: Penhaligon Castile)

The House Of Penhaligon makes scents that I associate with royalty. I think it's because a lot of the bottles have a coat of arms design. My bottle of Castile has one, exactly like the picture on the right. (I have seen later versions of the bottle without it, though) I think the juice smells like royalty, too. I can imagine Prince Charles wearing it. It's an orange perfume - neroli and orange blossoms dominate the scent. And there's something very noble about it: the scent lingers on you, but it never overpowers. It never overwhelms the wearer. I find that true with a lot of Penhaligon fragrances: they are mostly well-behaved and dignified. You know it's there, and it smells expensive (the raw materials are all tops) and you feel like you should be wearing a suit when you wear them. I sniffed Tom Ford's Neroli Portofino recently and that seems to be the sluttier sister of this. Castile is the well-mannered uncle, a little staid perhaps, but evoking the same spirit. Castile, in the end, is soapy. There used to be a time when I would always go for "clean" scents, but now I tend to go the opposite way. Still, Castile is a joy to wear. It is effervescent, and "sunny" without giving too much glare. I can happily wear this during the hot summer months. Even though I love the bitterest orange blossoms, here it is its sweetness that takes center stage. Nothing wrong with that.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Poor Old Kyle Is Dead (Television Review: Smash, The Producers)

Kyle is dead. And I am sad. Well, technically, we don't know if he has died yet, but I am sure he did. You see, I had read spoilers that a major character will die this season, and lo and behold here we are. I really thought it would be Jimmy, Jeremy Jordan's character, but I am not far off. And it comes in the heels of a major development: Jimmy reveals that Kyle is in love with him. So yes, it was one of those gay unrequited for a straight guy love, and yes, the gay guy is a martyr. It smacks of all kinds of stereotypes, but I must admit I was a little surprised, and very dejected about it. And I must say that the past few episodes have really been stellar. Yes, they have gone melodramatic, and soap-y, but that's what I wanted SMASH to be, and they were delivering in that sense. I wasn't looking forward to this episode, because I knew they were going to focus on "Hit List,"  but I found this really compelling. Well, I am still not a fan of the downtown show, and for the life of me cannot get the music, but the behind-the-scenes drama was awesome. Jimmy goes on a downward spiral and gets fired from his own show, and Jeremy Jordan has a cringe-inducing scene towards the end that I am conflicted on: on one hand, I think he did a very good job, but it was still a cheesy scene. And at least Kyle comes out on top, singing "The Last Goodbye" as he meets his fate. Oh love, you are a rotten rotten thing .

Updated: Kyle died for Hit List's sins 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Acting Matrimony (Film Review: The Big Wedding)

It would be too easy to dump on "The Big Wedding." The story is contrived, with sitcom situations that are barely believable, and the film seems to have been chopped up that I bet the original screenplay had a lot more meat in it. But what is undeniable here is that this is an all-stellar all-star cast, with four (count 'em) Academy Award Winners in it. (Plus a Tony Award winning one, too) So, there is not one bad performance in here, and they are all game, and you know what? Dare I say it, but they made it work. The whole cast here gave honest performances and the end result, instead of being an utter disaster, is more acceptable fun. I saw this on a sunny Saturday matinee, and I had a good time. It won't be remembered for all ages, but it was very pleasant, and it was great to see wonderful adult performance for a movie meant for an adult audience. The irony here is that these adults do act like kids, but that's not their fault, is it? It was great to see Robert DeNiro, Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton ham it up. They look like they are having a good time. These roles may be too familiar for Topher Grace and Katherine Heigl, but they still give it their all. Ben Barnes is adorable and cute, and it was also nice to see Christine Ebersole on screen. And Robin Williams steals every scene he is in, even as he is somewhat more subdued here. Their wonderful performance are great to watch, making this not an entirely disaster of a time.

Recession Fiction (Book Review: The Art Of Touch, Dominique Frost)

Maybe it's the recession, but I see a proliferation of "billionaire" romance, wherein billionaires fall in love with the help, or the financially challenged. I guess the M/M genre would not be immune to it. Dominique Frost's "The Art Of Touch" is a variation on that theme. A CEO who is so busy falls in love with his masseur. Fair enough. But Frost not only makes the millionaire character unlikeable, but she also does not present the case for romance. We are befuddled why these two people would fall in love besides the physical attraction. I didn't feel emotionally invested in any of the characters to care about what happens to them, never mind their relationship. 


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Regarding Matters Of The Heart (Music Review: Jane Monheit, The Heart Of The Matter)

There's no denying that Jane Monheit has a wonderful voice. It's rich, it's supple, it's distinctive. She has impeccable taste when it comes to song selections, and in her new album, "The Heart Of The Matter," there's a great variety of time-tested standards, obscure bossa nova tunes, and pop ditties. And there's no denying she sings all these songs so well, her style unique and versatile. She can swing like the best jazzers out there, and she can belt like a diva no other. Why, then oh why, did I get a little too uninvolved with this new release? I think as a whole, she can be too everything. It can take a lot to listen to the album, like looking at a painting with so many intricate details. Could there be such thing as something too beautiful? I think the best way to fully appreciate this album is to listen to it a song at a time, so you can appreciate the nuanced French arrangement of Buffy St. Marie's "Until It's Time For You To Go," the Brasilian take on "Sing," the dramatic reading of "When She Loved Me," the slight lilt that brings texture to "Born To Be Blue." Sometimes you have to pick flowers from a bouquet to smell their unique beauty. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Before Love Comes Gaydar (Book Review: Is He Or Isn't He?)

Have you ever started reading a book and all of a sudden everything seemed familiar? And I don't mean familiar like the situations in the book seem familiar. While I was reading this book, I had the distinct feeling that I had already read this book, like literally. And when I finished it, I knew for certain I did. But until that point, I wasn't sure. I was even caught in the suspense of the book's main question. Best friends Paige and Anthony start pining for the new boy in school, but they are unsure of what team he pitches for. So the whole book is spent fleshing out this "mystery," something that could have been solved by the third page had one of the characters the common sense to just ask. But this is a YA novel, and I am forgiving. Who knows, a younger version of me may have had the same dilemma. Hall knows how to keep the suspense, and if you just try to get into the novel, you will have as good a time. Though the end is a bit bitter, there's a lot of sweet along the way. But I still can't get over the fact that I have read this book before and started reading it again. I guess at my age, there is only so much information you can retain in your head.


Laughter And Tears (Television Review: SMASH, The Opening Night)

Well, folks here it is. After all the drama, the laughter, the tears, here she is, boys: Marilyn Monroe in BOMBSHELL. Or specifically, Ivy Lynn as Marilyn Monroe - the way it was meant to be. As Hilty sings "Don't Forget Me," I couldn't help but feel verklempt. Yes, I know, her take on the song is very different from Dead Eyes. While Dead Eyes'  version is more vulnerable, Hilty's is defiant, like saying, here I am, it's less pleading, more demanding. And I must confess, I like both versions, though over all I prefer Hilty's version better. The show didn't necessarily get a love letter from the Times, with Brantley not liking Tom's direction, and senses a discordant between the songs and Julia's "playwright"-like book. But, still, it's cause for celebration, and at the party, even though it is Ivy's night, she sings a duet with Dead Eyes, a cover of Sinatra's "That's Life." Yes, I am mildly mad that Ivy's moment wasn't her own, but their duet is a highlight of sorts anyway. And guess what - Tom and Julia are thinking of doing a musical version of "The Great Gatsby" and of course, at the party, Dead Eyes is dressed like Daisy Buchanan and Ivy as Myrtle. Foreshadowing? Oh, how I wish there really would be a third season, but that's just hoping against hope right now. Meanwhile, there's very few "hit List" on this episode (maybe that's why I like it much) but there's drama with Jimmy and his brother showing up dating Ana, and it's all so boring I could hardly keep my eyes open while I am writing about it. I must say this has been the best episode so far this season - at least we got somewhere with Bombshell!

Monday, April 22, 2013

I Could Be Sailing (Perfume Review: Prada Luna Rossa)

Although I cruise a lot, I have never sailed. I would imagine it to be a thrilling experience, and I hope to one day do it, as I am a fan of anything water-y. Prada's Luna Rossa is a perfect representation of that experience. I am a Prada fragrance completist - I love their aesthetic - and even though I do not love this fragrance with a capital L, I admire it a lot. It is very reminiscent of all your other "sport" fragrances out there - that ubiquitous amber/musk/aquatic accord - but there's something in here that is better done. There's the finer lavender (you can tell it is better quality) , there's the unexpected sharp citrus (orange/grapefruit) and there's the mint. It all comes down soapy, like a more "finished" version of Infusion D'Homme of the same house. This is the kind of scent that is inoffensive, and I would bet a man would get a lot of compliments from the ladies if he wore this scent. During the coming hot summer months, I could imagine reaching out for this scent as a default on those days when I could not decide what to wear. It's like wearing a welk-worn  T-shirt and shorts ensemble: easy to wear and you know you will look and smell good when you wear it. That may not be the highest of all complement, but it's really still one. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

In Absentia (Film Review: Absent/Ausente)

"Absent" is a film by Argentinian director Marco Berger, and is a fascinating mind-f**ck of a film. Martin, played by Javier di Pietro, feigns an eye accident so his swim teacher, Carlos Echevierra, would take him to the emergency room. He is of course fine and is sent home, but he lies and ends up spending the evening at his teacher's house. What happens, and follows, tests the audience's ability to discern between reality and fantasy, crossing sexual lines. This movie is marked as a "thriller," but the film only makes it so, with its threatening music and camera angles that set the tone for the movie.  The audience will feel challenged as to whose side to take in the occurrences, if a side is even available. The movie seems a bit too manipulative, but it will certainly keep you awake, and after it has ended, will make you scratch your head and ask, "What was that?" If that is your type of experience, then this movie will satisfy lots.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Music Mix Emotions (Book Review: Love Is A Mix Tape, Rob Sheffield)

Before there were playlists, there was the CD mix, and before that, the mix-tape. I have a big fondness for the cassette tape. Maybe because my mom gave me a Walkman and it changed my life. All of a sudden, I could listen to something anywhere and everywhere, and it felt like these singers were only singing to me! I used to do mix tapes all the time, where I would cull favorite songs, and there was an artistic science to how I would order the songs. Some tapes are so embedded on my mind that even today, when I hear a song that was on a tape of mine, I would sometimes anticipate the next song as I ordered them on my tape. Rob Sheffield seems to be a kindred spirit of mine when it came to the mix tape, although his musical taste is very different from mine. He frames his memoir with mix tapes from his past, because we all know that music soundtracks our lives, and songs remind us of events, experiences, feelings. "Love Is A Mix Tape" is a very poignant memoir of a part of his life when he was younger, when he met Renee, a woman who became his wife. Renee passed away suddenly, making him a young widower, and this book chronicles those times. It's quite touching, and well-written, so personal you feel like you are right there with both of them, listening to their music.  I have been trying to steer clear of depressing books lately, and this caught me by surprise. I was struggling with a book and started this randomly, and finished it in less than a day. Yes, it was a little depressing, but ultimately it made me think - about my life, my relationships, my music. 


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Invited Dress (Television Review: Smash, The Dress Rehearsal)

I am very late with this because I had a hectic weekend, and only got to see this episode the other day. And of course, it is the best episode thus far this season, and it's a shame no one seems to be watching the show anymore, based on the published ratings. For once, the episode revolves around the shows, and all the drama that happens as you mount one. Bombshell is finally in previews, at the Lily Hayes Theater. And things are not going well in tech: the plane takes too long to mount, so the intermission has been taking longer. But what to do? Julia has an idea, and it's brilliant, using "Dig Deep." It was also good to see Wesley Taylor get somewhat featured in a musical scene. But anyway, there also is a dilemma for Ivy in the show. Because of a wardrobe malfunction, she is bared naked, and it gets a tremendous response, naturally. Should the show continue to feature it, and of course, Tom gives Ivy the decision. And how she arrives at a decision is both dramatic and satisfying - and clever! - and again and again, we get to see what great instincts Megan Hilty has as an actress. And at least she is featured well in this episode, so bravo for that. I guess we must also note that Ellis, the much-hated Ellis, does a cameo here, in Tom's dreams, and it is as fun and campy as you would expect. But on the other side fo town is "Hit List," and there's drama there, too, although, frankly I cannot be bothered. Dead Eyes and Jimmy are concerned that Derek is cutting songs from them and giving them to The Diva because Derek is getting jealous of their relationship. Yeah, okay, whatever. That's the most interest I can muster at that part of the story.

Rock Bottom (Movie Review: Smashed)

I have to admit that I was initially interested in "Smashed" because it was Octavia Spencer's follow-up movie after winning her Academy Award. But she pays a very small here, as the star of the movie is Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Winstead is fantastic here, and should be the main reason why everyone should check this film out, which is now out on video. "Smashed" is a film about an alcoholic, and Kate, played by Winstead, hits rock bottom when she throws up in the classromm where she teaches elementary school. She pretends to be pregnant, and that's the beginning of her downward spiral. The movie is subtle, and maybe a bit too much so. At times I cannot see the point of it all, except for Winstead's performance. Sure, I understand that the movie doesn't want to be a heavy-handed, twelve step film, but when you never see the process, you fail to see growth in the character, except when told and shown after her year anniversary. Still, Winstead's performance is fantastic enough to watch for a rental - a true star making performance.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Good Golly Miss Molly (Music Review: Molly Ringwald, Except Sometimes)

Who knew Molly Ringwald was such a Renaissance woman? I of course loved her teenage movies, as I was the same age that time. As a matter of fact, I remember writing about "Pretty In Pink" for a major writing assignment when I was a Freshman in college (and remember getting a good grade, too!) I also raved about her book of short stories , but I was astounded to find that she has done a jazz vocals album, titled "Except Sometimes." That's right up my alley, of course, and the album is fantastic. Heartfelt interpretations make up for a somewhat colorless voice. Couple that with an inspired repertoire and you get this little recording that would, and could. It's like a curious piece that adds character to a collection. I love her song choices, from Stephen Sondheim(!) to Frank Loesser to Lionel Bart. You can feel her affinity for these songs, you know she has lived the life of these lyrics. I love her sly recitations on "The Very Thought Of You," her hopeful melancholy in "Where Is Love," her vamp in "Sooner Or Later." My favorite track is "Ballad Of Sad Young Men," where she plays particular attention to Fran Landesman's subtle lyrics. I can imagine now a torch songstress role for Ringwald, or perhaps a role on Broadway? Really, what we get in this collection is not just a singer, but a singing actress. Good golly, Miss Molly.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Happy Birthday, Love Liza (Television Review: Smash, 'The Surprise Party")

Liza! is on SMASH.I guess that's the biggest takeaway I had from Saturday night's episode, "The Surprise Party." It was the first Saturday night episode for the series, which really makes me sad. Actually, I am depressed about this. But I am also losing a lot more interest in the series, because I feel like the lover who keeps on getting failed. They say don't expect so you won't get disappointed, and I just keep on getting let down by the series. But Liza is here, for now, and she sings a glorious Shaiman/Wittman song for Ivy, composed by Tom who is having problems controlling his cast. His leading lady is mad at him for hiring her mother to co-star with her, and, coincidentally, it's her birthday, and it seems like he has forgotten that too. The cast is aghast, and is planning a birthday party, specifically without him. When he realizes he has forgotten her birthday, he instructs Siri, "Call Liza!," and yes, all is forgiven, right?  Riiiiiight. I mean, it would have been enough for me, but not for Ivy. And all I gotta say is: Why are you acting like Karen, Ivy? That kind of behaviour is only done by dead-eyed reality show singers!

Speaking of, "Hit List" is coming along. But I don't care. I really dislike the show, the songs, and I chuckle whenever I hear it being called in an online forum as "Shit List." There's a love triangle thing going on with Dead Eye, Derek, and Jimmy, but as I said before, I am apathetic.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Won't You Take Me To Funktown? (Perfume Review: D & G #6 L'Amoureux)

I was just watching this movie titled "Funkytown," and it is set in the 70s during the height of the Disco revolution. Though my salad days were a bit later, it made me reminisce about my "going out" days. I can't believe it either, but there was a time when I used to go to bars, clubs. And today I just happen to be wearing D & G #6 L'Amoureux, and felt like this fragrance would be a good scent to match those days - or even today, if I were to go disco-hopping again. L'amoureux is part of D & G's Anthology Collection, and each scent from it (I believe there were five) were based on tarot cards. The copy for L'Amoureux , taken from the D & G website:

 "An incurable romantic in possession of an inherent nobility, dashing L'Amoureux melts the most cynical of hearts." 

Oh-tay. I remember sniffing the whole collection and being underwhelmed by it - more of the same 'ol, I thought. Someone gave me L'Amoureux as a gift, and I started wearing it on "off" days, when I can't decide what to wear, or I am just in a rush and want something without much commitment. The top notes are actually interesting: there's a fizzy, alcohol-y, boozy mix and then there's juniper which gives it a sort of romantic feel. I think that's where the disco reference in my mind comes in: it smells like a mixture of different fruity cocktails, mixed with some sweet flroal perfume. I can imagine myself at the dance floor with it. 

And then the top notes go, and we are left with that ubiquitous woody/spicy combo, and now it goes to shampoo territory. It's okay, but yawn-inducing. You want to go back to those fizzy incandescent top notes. The perfume is cheap enough, I guess, that you can spray over and over again. There's a bit of musk in the dry down that gives it a bit of roughness, but don't get too excited, this perfume didn't get too lucky at the disco.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Bad Habit To Break (Book Review: Bad Habits, Jenny McCarthy)

I haven't thought about Jenny McCarthy in, like...ever.  I saw her at Watch What Happens Live when she was promoting this book, so that resonated, and the book fell on my lap anyway, so I started reading it. It's okay. I started the book a while back, and lost interest in it. I started reading again last night and finished it in one sitting. Just like a lot of fluffy celebrity books, this just gives snippets of their lives, starting out with her growing up Catholic in the South Side of Chicago. It moves to her getting a Playboy spread, and we get small chapters of her being Playmate Of The Year, having an autistic son, and having six best-selling books previously. To be fair, there's a somewhat amusing story about her visit to the Vatican. There really is no "meat" in the writing, more like outlines. I wish it was more gossipy, I guess. I would like to have read about her relationship with Jim Carrey, for example. It's one of those books you forget about two seconds after you finish reading it.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Ruin Your Day (Music Review: Ruthie Henshall, I've Loved These Days)

Oh, the theater vocal album. It seems every theater diva has one, and God knows I have them all. But once in a while, a release excites me, and when I saw Ruthie Henshall's "I've Loved These Days," I was very very excited, if only to experience a legendary West End diva. But to say I was disappointed about this release is an understatement. I have listened to it a couple of times and now, and I still feel...cold. Henshall hits all the right notes, has perfect pitch, but the whole thing seems uninspired. The musical arrangements are rote - by-the-number copies of "Don't Rain On My Parade" and "When You're Good To Mama" - and do not have any spark. She sings like she is sleepwalking through these roles. And when she tries to be "different," like on a head-scratching opener in "A Hard Day's Night," you just end up becoming befuddled. I wish I felt more warmth. She seems to be more concerned in hitting notes rather than breathing life to the songs. "Electricity" is a curious choice, but she seems to end it quickly before the song starts to takes off. Her "Blizzard Of Lies" would make Judy spin in her grave, and Joni Mitchell can slap her with her yawn-inducing version of "Both Sides Now." And why does she sound so "matronly," I wonder ? I think this is such a wasted opportunity, truly.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress (Television Review: S02 E 09 The Parents)

One half of this episode for me is brilliant; the other half is utter boredom. I just cannot get excited about the "Hit List" portion of the show. I really dislike the songs in it, and it seems to be populated with the characters I dislike. Even when Krysta Rodriguez (as "The Diva") sings on sheets, I am not that impressed. (Jane Krakowski did the same scene on the NINE revival with a better song) And even when Jeremy Jordan's character was in peril, I was apathetic. What's wrong with me, I just cannot connect with them. On the "Bombshell" side, though, I find myself really emotionally invested. I love the way they re-introduced Bernadette Peters playing Leigh Conroy playing Gladys, who is Marilyn's mom in the show. I love the way Bernadette is so Bernadette. And I love the song they both sing, "Hang The Moon," what a beautiful song that everyone can relate with. I am quite bitter about this show being cancelled. This week it now moves to Saturdays, and will probably limp to its end.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Literature, Literally (Book Review: 50 Shades Of Gay, Jeffrey Self)

I haven't read the enormous hit that is "50 Shades Of Grey" so I don't really know why I started reading "50 Shades Of Gay," which is a gay parody version of it. But I started reading it, and got into the story quickly. As a parody of the original, I cannot tell you how successful it is, but as a stand-alone story, it was interesting enough. Jeffrey Self is an engaging writer - he knows how to get the reader quickly on his side, or in this case on the side of the narrator Alex Kirby, who has a chance encounter with movie heartthrob Taylor Grayson. For some reason, Grayson becomes enamoured  with the young writer, and then...well you more or less can tell what happens next. This seems to be a modern version of one the classic boy-meets-boy story, with a BDSM twist for the gays of today. I wish it was just a wholesome tale of love, because I found myself rooting for the two of them to "make it." But I think the premise, the characters, the tone of the piece may be too young for me. Self has a great feel for Los Angeles but I cannot get over how he uses the word "literally" over and over. It is like *literally* listening to Rachel Zoe speak. (See? I used it, too!) I have to admit that lowered a star for me for this review. 

BC- 23