Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sex, Lies, And Videotape (Movie Review: Side Effects)

"Side Effect" is a wonderful,hold-on-to-your-popcorn psychological drama/thriller. Once in a while - oftentimes - I get asked by people of recent movies to recommend, and this film would be one I heartily endorse. It is a movie that kept me guessing till the last frame, it set out one movie, continued to be a different one, and ended with a even different one. I don't remember why I did not see this at the cinemas, but I now kind of regret that I did not experience this in the big screen. It is also one of those "New York" kind of movies - it looks, feels, and even smells like the city. Jude Law is fantastic here. You would kind of say that he is the sick moral center of the piece. (Remember when he was supposed to be the next big thing that never was? I hope this film puts him back on that track) Rooney Mara matches him scene by scene - you vacillate between looking at her as a victim, heroine, and villain. I did not see those Dragon tattoo movies, so it is my first experience seeing her - she's a star, and a great actor. Sure, the story line can sometimes veer into the unbelievable, but the actors are pros, and you truly believe. Catherine Zeta Jones and Channing Tatum are given roles that they have done before, and they are competent enough here to still give focused performances. Can this really be Stephen Soderbergh's last effort? Together with "Behind The Candelabra," he would be leaving with two gay-centric films, if truly that's the case. And I just find it very fitting that the last eighth of this film revolved around sex, lies, and videotape, which of course, what brought him to the fore.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hearts Arranged (Book Review: Arranged, Catherine McKenzie)

"Arranged," by Catherine McKenzie takes on an interesting concept: the arranged marriage. In this day and age, you scratch your head and wonder why, right? But for some people, it still works. I had an ex-officemate of Hindu descent who went through one, arranged by his parents. I curiously asked him once if he regretted it, and he said absolutely not, and that he and his wife were very happy to have found each other. And I saw this twinkle in his eye and I knew he meant it. At times I ask myself, wouldn't everything be so easy if everything was arranged like that and it always worked? But of course, nothing is as clear as that. Anne Blythe is a thirty something woman who jsut got out of a relationship, and one day finds a card in the street for a company she later finds out arranges weddings for couples. She is hesitant at first, but goes through with it. I have to admit that in the beginning I was also resistant to the idea in the novel, and just read along until the story hit a "surprise" that you thought you would see coming, but do not. I thought that is when the book hit its stride, and the ride became very enjoyable. I loved Anne and wanted the best for her. But as much as I respect her decision for an ending, I still kind of disagreed with her. But I guess that would just be me. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey of this book. 


Thursday, June 27, 2013

It's Cher For Summer (Music Review: Cher, Woman's World [Single] )

Watching Cher tonight has made me realize that she is truly a living legend. And she will be performing at the New York City Pride Dance on Sunday, singing her new single "Woman's World." I guess I should write about it. When I first heard the song, I wasn't much impressed. I thought it was derivative of "Believe." The song sounded like something we have all heard before, and the lyrics, while anthem-ish for sure, were a bit on the hokey side. But as I thought and listened to it more, I just had to think, this is Cher. I mean, she is 66 years old, and this song is the perfect summer dance anthem. I can see any dance floor exploding as the beat pounds to an orgasmic crescendo, and who the hell contemplates on the lyrics anyway. This is an empowering song, make no mistake, and years from now, I will associate it with the Summer of 2013. This is officially my Summer Anthem.

A Rose By Any Other Jayne (Perfume Review: Ormond Jayne, Ta'If)

I love rose scents, in all kinds, shapes, and forms. So it was kind of fitting that about three years ago, when I first discovered the house of Ormond Jayne, Ta'if was the first one I tried from them. Ta'if is based on the Arab Damask rose, which as thirty petals. This is th description from their website: 

A damask rose from Arabia. Ta´if, a town rising 5000 ft above the shores of the Red Sea and overlooking the Arabian desert, is renowned for its plantations of Ta´if rose. Ta´if by Ormonde Jayne is an intoxicating and audacious rose scent. This perfume dislikes daylight preferring dusk, the night, parties, promises and assignations. It is an opulent composition which makes a bold entrance and is confident enough to sweep everyone else to one side – a real belle of the ball. Ta´if is flamboyant but also sophisticated, a torrid blend of saffron, pink pepper, rose, dark sappy tree resins and broom – it is dynamic, daring and madly in love with life.

The one thing I always notice about Ormonde Jayne scents is that whatever note they interpret - it is always sheer, transparent, and watery. The rose here feels that way - it is not jammy like a fruit rose, or dark like a rose with oud - this one is more on the sunny side (I get hints of jasmine and freesia) and while a lot of people get saffron here, on my skin I don't.  There's cold watery dew here, like smelling a rose first thing in the morning - there's a "coldness" to the scent.  I like it lots, and the rose is not too sweet that it's too feminine smelling - a dude can totally rock this. When the trademark Ormonde Jayne drydown kicks in, you still get hints of the rose, but thew woody, resin-y base note stays. I love Ormonde Jayne as a house, but my one complaint with them is that most of their scents dry down exactly the same way - as if that woodsy drydown was a signature to all their perfume. While it is appealing, it makes me feel like I have the same perfume over and over again. But then again, maybe that's for the best.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

When It Rains (Book Review: Raining Men, Rick R Reed)

You can see on the cover of "Raining Men," by Rick R. Reed that this novel is being touted as "the sequel to Chaser." I saw that and was instantly intrigued because I liked Chaser.    I thought, though, that we would be following the lives of Caden and Kevin but this book is centered around Bobby, the antagonist of that earlier book. I knew Bobby was a troubled character, and I can see why Mr. Reed chose to focus on him, for there really is a story to tell about him. Its your classic gay boy gone awry: a sex addict who engages in multiple anonymous sexual encounters, and inadvertently he ruins his friendships and other people's lives because of it. Caden, his best friend, has severed their relationship, and he now wanders aimlessly. He hits rock bottom, and goes on a spiritual journey. I liked this story a lot, even if it is a bit familiar and kind of predictable. Mr. Reed infuses it with enough touches that make it interesting. He gives him a background story of an unfulfilled relationship with a father who passes away, and a romance with a high school acquaintance. Along the way, Bobby joins a Sex Addicts Anonymous group and he meets Aaron, who may or may not be a love interest. I was instantly engaged in the story, and the pay off was pretty good. I think the title is a bit misleading. This isn't a fun rollick with men but a more sobering look at a sex addict and his rehabilitation. But I find that good gay books are very hard to find nowadays in the proliferation gay pulp so finding a fulfilling one is always a treat. 


Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Thieves Wore Prada (Movie Review: The Bling Ring)

In this age of celebrity and material obsession, of course there would be a movie called "The Bling Ring." The Bling Ring is a name of a notorious gang who stole millions of dollars worth of "stuff" from celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Audriana Partridge, and Miranda Kerr, among others. This movie, directed by Sophia Copolla, is an almost sympathetic look at them. I left the movie theater feeling like I needed a shower. I think this movie glamorizes them. These kids idolized Hilton and their ilk: celebrities who are famous for being famous, and these kids wanted to be them, and wanted to achieve that fame and notoriety by also doing nothing. While I found the movie (and the story, based on a Vanity Fare article by Nancy Jo Sales) interesting, I have such disdain for these characters and I only feel like there would be people who would idolize these creeps. (As a matter of fact, one of the ring leaders of the gang, Nick Prugo has hinted that he already has a reality show in the works, and he has been barely out of jail)  Maybe I am old now, but I really find this focus on all luxury material goods so disgusting, and I think this movie makes them almost like heroes. They are shot glamorously, and the actors, a handsome bunch, are shown in their spiffiest best. While I have no doubt that these images are true, I just despise their representation. Or maybe I am just getting carried away with the film - I like Copolla as a director, and I guess I should commend her for making a movie that got a big rise out of me. I must admit that I googled these people after I saw this movie and look at this video of Nick Prugo. he seems unremorseful, and even elated by his celebrity status after he came out of jail. This is truly sickening.

Moms The Word (Television Review: The Fosters, Mondays on ABC Family)

When I was growing up, my favorite family shows were "Family," and "Eight is Enough." My, how times have changed, indeed because nowadays we have ABC Family's "The Fosters," which, of course, is being touted as one that celebrates the modern family: they have two moms. I find it kind of sweet that they refer to their mom as "Moms" in plural form, as in "Why did you tell Moms?" I also find it very refreshing to see this featured in as mainstream a channel as ABC Family. And this must really pose as some kind of threat to the conservative agenda, as it is already being targeted by those insipid One Million Moms. I do wonder if the next generation will even care about these things. But back to the show, it's well done, sure, but quite...banal. Besides the two moms, there really is nothing else that distinguishes this from any other generic family show: even the kids are cliches. There's the sensitive older son who plays piano but with a controlling A-list girlfriend. There's are these twins who are ying and yang. The moms take in two foster kids - a sister and a brother, and of course it causes tension among the brood. By the third episode, things are settling in, but the story lines are predictable: the older son is getting attracted to the young foster girl, of course, making the girlfriend jealous. I want to see something that will excite me, and I wish I knew what it was, unfortunately, I don't see it yet. But there is great acting all the round, especially and led by the two moms, played by Teri Polo and Sherri Saum. I just hope I don't lose interest in this before it gets really good.

Friday, June 21, 2013

My Summer With Philosykos (Perfume Review: Diptyque Philosykos EDT)

I remember when I first sniffed Diptyque Philosykos, I was hit by conflicting emotion. On one hand, I thought it was such a unique scent: a little dirty, a little sweet, and was so unlike any perfume I had ever smelled before. It was my very first "niche" scent, and it both challenged and pleased me. Why would someone want to smell that earthy, I thought. But I got it, and wore it, and I remember it was summer time. Philosykos, by Olivia Giacobetti (she is still one of my favorite noses) is light and ethereal, and the perfume was fleeting. I remember I always kept the bottle with me and would reactivate the scent two or three times a day. And honestly, I got some weird reactions from office mates. Some liked it, but I had more of those "you smell weird" comments. I remember that summer vividly, and whenever I smell Philosykos, I get brought back to that time in my life. I think I stopped wearing this when the scent (and the fig note) became so popular that Philosykos made the Diptyque brand so common place among a certain crowd. Today, on the day of the Summer Solstice, I wore it and was surprised by how I felt. It still conflicts me, but I love how, to this day, I am still challenged by this scent. It is certainly still appealing, but I am a bit turned off by its fleetingness - it's 3 p.m. and it is almost gone, and I am a heavy sprayer in the morning. There's a part of me that wishes it stayed longer. Still, though, its composition still amazes me : the creaminess of the fig note, the earthiness of the bark notes. While it is no longer my favorite fig perfume (that would be Andre Putman's Preparation) Philosykos will be always close to my heart. 

P.S. Perhaps I should try the EDP which was launched in 2012?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I Can Cook, Too! (Book Review: The Girls' Guide To Love And Supper Clubs, Dana Bate)

I thought Dana Bate's novel "The Girls' Guide To Love And Supper Clubs" was about a jazz singer - I have this habit of reading synopses after starting books - but maybe I had paid closer attention to the cover I would have noticed a nice cupcake prominently featured, giving me a clue that this novel would be about food/cooking. Well, turns out it is, and isn't. Its about Hannah Sugarman, who works at one of those government agency offices but whose real passion is cooking. Hannah is one of those "quirky" characters, so she is self-deprecating, clumsy, you know traits that authors use to make someone more "real" and easier to relate to. I found her borderline annoying and unlikeable, but not too bad that I wanted to stop reading. She gets put in situations that are all her doing, so you sometimes cannot help but feel unsympathetic towards her. But she has a warm narrator tone, so it's bearable. This is a nice summer read, sugary with just a bit of acid thrown in. Plus, I kind of liked that the book had a local flavor. Bate obviously is in love with the District of Columbia and it shows in how she describes her surroundings.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

It Begins To Tell 'Round Midnight (Film Review: Before Midnight)

Richard Linklater's "Before" trilogy - "Before Sunrise," "Before Sunset," and now "Before Midnight" - tells the stories of a generation - specifically Gen X. I am a part of this generation. On the first movie, we get treated to a romanticized version of our first serious love. On "Before Sunset," we venture into not-quite maturity: where we are forced to face decisions we have made in our lives: we own our mistakes, and claim what we really want. On "Before Midnight," we take stock in the lives we have led: inching towards middle age, living with our warts and all. We are Ethan Hawke as Jesse. We are Julie Delpy as Celine, and in this movie we see ourselves, sometimes wistfully, sometimes painfully, always real. At this point in Jesse and Celine's life: challenges are heightened, and they know each other so well that they push buttons unconsciously that they come out too obvious, appearing planned. It is a treat to see both Hawke and Delpy sparring: these actors are very much in tune and emotionally invested in their characters that it feels awkward to be in on their conversations, sort of how you feel when you get caught in a room with a fighting couple you know very well. Yes, at times it can be exasperating, and I found myself wanting to shhhh them. But that just proves how real these characters and situations are. There's a late-summer theme to the movie. They just enjoyed a beautiful summer, and now are on their way back to lives again - sort of like the series. The romance may seem gone, but a new season is about to start and it will bloom again. Beautifully shot, I am reminded of a feeling when I saw the sunset in Santorini a few summers ago. It was a perfect ending to a day, but a better evening promises. I wonder if this is really the last of the series. I would certainly welcome them back.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Parenthood (Book Review: Odd Mom Out, Jane Porter)

I didn't think I would like Jane Porter's "Odd Mom Out," because I thought I would not be able to relate to the story, which is that of a single mother trying to balance raising a nine year old child, and running her own business. But Jane Porter is such a great writer that you will instantly be swept in the story. She created a likeable, and relateable character in Marta, the narrator here. She is just a little different from all the other moms, and her daughter is nine going on twenty sic. You feel her angst as she tries to deal with her daughter trying hard to befriend the popular girls in school (and mostly failing) and you root for her even as she gets dealt with multiple blows of disappointment. And there's even a cute love angle as she meets a too-good-to-be-true love interest only to find that he is good enough to be true. When the novel ended, I was very sad to let the characters go. Even though the book is a bit outdated (it was written in 2007 and MySpace was still the social network of choice) it's easy to overcome that. 


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Perfume In A Pear Tree (Perfume Review: Jimmy Choo EDP)

I got Jimmy Choo Eau De Parfum a long time ago, cheap, as it was a tester. It was a blind buy, and I thought why not? A luxury brand like that would not put out an inferior product. I was kind of right - Jimmy Choo EDP is a well-done perfume, a fruity floral/fruitchouli base that was very popular around that time, although this was released February 2011, so it just hit the tail end of the trend. It has notes of pear and musk, and that clean patchouli that we have all smelled a million times. It starts out with a burst of citrus and pear - it gives the fruit a brightness, but quickly disappears. There is a bit of musk that lingers, and that gives it weight, and some aldehydes to keep it from smelling like refrigerator juice. It's still sweet, though, but maybe a bit more perfume-y than your standard fruity floral. I have worn this for the past two days in hundred degree weather, and the first thought that has come to my mind? This smells very dated - while it was trendy at some point, now it just seems kind of sad. I find it kind of not in sync with the brand - Jimmy Choo shoes are supposed to be timeless, and while this perfume is probably a crowd pleaser (I bet non perfumistas love it) for me it is akin to Fabreeze room freshener.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer Gone Wild (Book Review: Perfect Summer, Kailin Gow.

Maybe my first mistake was picking up this book, and then realizing later on that this was the second part of the "Loving Summer" series. Yes, folks, I never read the first part. So I was kind of a loss while reading the book. But most of these books stand alone, right? My second mistake was thinking that. Meanwhile, I read about Summer and her dilemma about choosing between brothers Nat and Drew. She loves them both, it seems, but she keeps on making the same stupid mistakes  - and she is a promiscuous who teases and sleeps with both brothers. Tacky. I am no prude, but the sex scenes here are more gratuitous than normal. And that would have been no problem except for the fact that this book is probably marketed for teenage girls Or am I just getting older? I cannot appreciate this book at all, and felt it was a waste of my time reading it.

BC = 40

Full Of Grace (Television Review: Graceland, Thursdays on USA Network)

Let's not kid each other.  I watched the pilot episode of "Graceland" for one and one reason only: Aaron Tveit. He is a cutie, he is a hottie, he is a stud muffin - I will run out of cliche descriptions to describe him. I have seen him on Broadway a couple of times, and he has a wonderful stage presence. On stage, he can sing, he can act, he projects. I wanted to see if his charms translates to the small screen (I know he had a recurring role in Gossip Girl, but I never followed that show religiously) This series was developed by Jeff Eastin, who also created "White Collar," so I know he has a history of featuring handsome men in television shows (see Matt Bomer) Well, after watching the pilot, I am a bit underwhelmed. I wish there was more here - Tveit brought his A game but I felt there's something missing somewhere. His character is a bit underdeveloped, even as he is featured prominently in the show. Mike Warren, the character he plays, (and can they choose a more boring name?) graduated at the top of his class in Quantico and he gets assigned in Graceland, a beachfront property where undercover agents from different agencies live. Theoretically, he is intelligent, but is that enough for him to be assigned here? We find out at the end of the pilot - there's an interesting twist - but aside from that, Mike Warren is a blank. I hope we get to know more about him in succeeding episodes because there's not much here for me to keep interested. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Where Is The Devil? (Book Review: Revenge Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger)

Halfway through "Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns," by Lauren Weisberger, I thought to myself, what a disappointment. I was a big fan of the prequel novel, and also the novel, and what fun, I thought to revisit the characters. I also already had Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Emily Blunt ensconced in their respective roles, so I felt ready for the ride. But about a quarter in, I thought to myself: this isn't what I was expecting. Andy Sachs seems to be embroiled in a classic entitled girl storyline: she's getting married, she's not getting along with her two-dimensional mother-in-law, she is pregnant. It's an okay story - pure sap and soap - but at that point Miranda Priestley was still nowhere to be found. As a matter of fact, Miranda is barely in the novel, so the title seemed more an empty come on. I tried to go along, but more often that not, found Andy unlikeable: spoiled and whiny. By the time I am supposed to feel sorry for her, I hardly cared. The last tenth of the book is more accessible for me, but it seemed to come a little too late. This could have been a wonderful, dishy inside story of how a company is marred by a corporate takeover, especially in the publishing world, but it ended being a soap opera tale. Truly a wasted opportunity, in my opinion. 


Heartbreak In Israel (Movie Review: Yossi)

Sometimes a movie just gets to you unexpectedly. Such was the case of "Yossi," a film from Israeli director Eytan Fox. It's the sequel to his 2002 film "Yossi and Jagger." (Though you don't really need to have seen that movie to appreciate this film) Yossi lost his lover in the Israeli army, and now is living as a doctor doing his residency. He lives a quiet, and melancholy life. He is still grieving, after all these years, and is anti-social. Fox vividly presents his sadness, and it is heartbreaking. he works, and has not taken a vacation in ages. One day, he sees Jagger's mother in the hospital, and this gives him the chance to move forward: he tells her and her husband about her relationship with their son, who they had no idea was gay. It's an intense, and never overbearing scene. This prompts him to take a road trip to Sinai, but along the way he picks up a group of young Israeli soldiers. One of them is Tom, (Oz Zehabi, a handsome young Jude Law and Ryan Raz lookalike) an openly-gay military man. Yossi is amazed at how free he is. (Israel was one of the first countries to have openly gay people serve in the military) They have a connection, and he forsakes his Sinai trip to stay with them at the seaside resort of Eliat. The one thing I loved about this film is that I never knew where the story would turn. I am sometimes too jaded and cynical but the story here kept me guessing and hoping, and rooting. This is a gentle, sad, but ultimately uplifting movie, filled with a heartbreaking performance by Ohad Knoller as Yossi. I bet it breaks your heart, too.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Library Love (Book Review: The Librarian And the Porn Star, CC Bridges)

I know there exists a sub-genre in gay fiction for librarian fan fiction. (I think there's a millionaire one as well)  Well, I guess now is a good time as any to start reading one, and that title went to CC Bridges' "The Librarian And The Porn Star." i was bracing myself - I thought this was one of those erotic fiction deals, but it was a very sweet short story, bordering on syrupy romantic. It was a wonderful distraction. A librarian in a college is startled to see his favorite porn star enter as a student and needing help. They click, but he doesn't tell him that he knows of his oeuvre. Will it tear them apart? It was predictable, a bit silly, but it never pretends to be otherwise. 


Matthew In A Tuxedo (Album Review: Matthew Morrison: Where It All Began)

A lot of people probably do not realize that before Matthew Morrison was Will Schuster on the hit television show "Glee," he was a Broadway leading man. And in interviews he has mentioned that growing up his parents listened to standards and theater songs. So essentially, these songs are "Where It All Began" for him. About two years ago, he released an album of pop originals, and I loved that record. Now, on his second outing, he has decided to go back to his roots. And from the first song on, you can see that he is in his elements here: he knows and loves these songs inside and out. More, he has respect for these songs, treating them with delicacy. There's good and bad there. You can sense his soul as he croons through familiar standards like "Younger Than Springtime," and "Hey There." Backed by an orchestra, you can feel the love shining through his interpretations. But, the arrangements, while lush and beautiful, seem familiar, and you kind of ask yourself if there is a point to the whole exercise. There's a West Side Story medley that seems ill-conceived - the songs aren't strung in a very cohesive way. And "Send In The Clown" is done pop style (a la Streisand's version) when he could have gone with the original theater orchestrations. Still, Morrison has a more than competent instrument that is displayed in full-force here, and you get the sense that he showed up all dressed up and ready to go for the gusto for these songs. I just prefer the jean clad laid back Matthew (Like a tuxedoed Matthew is chopped liver, by the way)