Friday, August 23, 2013

Lady Of The Canyon (Movie Review: The Canyons)

Whatever you say about "The Canyons," the one adjective you can never describe it is boring. The film is slick, it's a little slimy, but it grabs your attention, though at the end, you kind of ask yourself, "why." Truly, this movie, written by Bret Easton Ellis and directed by Paul Schrader could cease to exist and the world will keep on spinning. But with it in the world, nothing changes as well. It tell the story of vacuous Angelenos - Christian, played by the porn star James Deen, and Tara, Lindsay Lohan. Tara is living with Christian, but she is having an affair with Ryan (Gerald Nolan Funke) probably (it is never clear) because Christian has "opened up" their marriage. Christian finds out about their affair, and does a bad thing. That's it, and I wish I could say that there are layers in the story that depict basic humanity but I am struggling. I wanted very much to like this movie, and I am finding I did not dislike it. But, I am also struggling as to why it appealed to me. Lindsay Lohan is a great actress, and still a great presence. And she finds something in her character that gives her a bit of vulnerability. James Deen isn't bad, but at the same time, I don't think he did anything special to the character either, so why choose him over some legitimate actor who could have provided some shading? But I must say, Lindsay and Deen have some chemistry, and when they are on screen, you can't help but keep on watching. But in the middle of it, though, you ask yourself, "what is this"?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Someday She'll Come Along (Music Review: Christine Caldi, Gotta Have Gershwin)

Even the French get a miss. I don't know who Christine Caldi is, except for the fact that she is French, based on scant information on the internet. I also know she did a Gershwin tribute album, called "Gotta Have Gershwin," and I got it and listened to it, thinking that yes another jazzette doing another generic jazz vocals album. But this album is not generic, I'll let you know. It's bad, she sings flat and out of tune a lot, but what the hey - I can't stop listening to it. I would place it on the so-bad-it-keeps-my-interest category. The pitch problems are noticeable, and I keep on waiting for the next one as she sings. She has a noticeable accent and that's just fine - I subscribe to the school of those giving the performances personality - but she elongates words wrongly, giving *me* the impression that she has no clue what she is singing. I could swear she is singing "It's Wonderful" instead of "S'wonderful" and it makes me giggle. Sometimes the bad is better than the bland the boring, for sure.

Full Service (Movie Review: Lee Daniels' The Butler)

I can't remember a movie a single movie this summer that resonated with me. But that changed today after seeing "The Butler."  I left the theater weeping - this is a film that touched me, it seeped into my inner core, and as I walked away from the movie house, I felt like I was leaving a piece of me there.  It tells the story of the civil rights movement through the eyes of a White House butler, played with quiet ferocious intensity by Forest Whitaker. He is majestic here, a tragic character who found strength, and grew and evolved in every frame of the movie. The performance is striking in its simplicity - you don't even realize the change in his characterization until you're in the middle of watching it. In the end, as you see him last evolution, and realization, you get a sense of history in his character, from the Truman presidency to the history-making Obama win of 2008. Oprah Winfrey, playing his alcoholic wife, Gloria, supports him mighty fine, and I was surprised how she very quickly became the character that you stop thinking " Hey that's Oprah playing Gloria." Daniels is an actor's director, of course, though at times he needs to rein his actors just a little bit. But, that's what I like about his movies - here,  the over-the-top is great balance to the serious tones. I dont; want to give the impression that the movie is perfect, though. As I mentioned, some of it could be a bit too much, and the stunt castings can be a distraction. I mean, did we really need to have Mariah Carey do a two scene inconsequential role ? (It's a pivotal role, sure, but still inconsequential) While the star performances are greatly cast (Alan Rickman does a superb Reagan and James Marsden a touching JFK) they shine a little too brightly for this kind of movie. Also, the movie screams "For Your Consideration," which I can give or take, depending on my mood. But still, I think it's a great movie, a visual delight, a civics lesson peppered with great performances. Watch, learn, get entertained.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Instant Step Mom (Book Review: Heart Like Mine, Amy Hatvany)

There's really nothing new in Amy Hatvany's "Heat Like Mine." As a matter of fact, it felt kind of old. If I hadn't double-checked, I could swear that this book was set in the 50s. A girl gets pregnant, and gets sent to a good-girls-gone-bad school only to have her child adopted against her will. I don't think these things still happened in the 90s. The modern-day parts are a little more realistic. An newly engaged couples world gets rocked when his ex-wife unexpectedly dies. Instant Step Mom. Of course the kids are going to be antagonistic to her. It's real, but I couldn't help but think it's a little too convenient. I wish I could say that I liked this a lot, but I didn't. But at the same time, I didn't hate it either. This is one of those books that just sat there while I was reading it. I felt that it didn't go anywhere, and I really learned nothing new about life after reading it.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Supermarket Sweeped (Television Review: Supermarket Superstar, Lifetime)

They now have a reality show for *everything*  so finding something one's eye is getting more and more difficult, because a lot of it just feels like noise. I don't know what compelled me to put the new Lifetime show "Supermarket Superstar" on my DVR but there it went. I saw the pilot a while back, but only just got around to seeing the second episode tonight. The show is hosted by Stacey Kiebler, otherwise known as George Clooney's girlfriend, and I think now as his ex.  I have no idea what she is: actress, model? I guess now also host. She does an okay job. But the whole show just confuses me. They are searching for the next supermarket brand. They pick three finalists to compete from a pool The finalists bring their product to a group of three judges/mentors. They are given points as to how to make the product more palatable (make it cheaper, streamline the taste) and they go back to the test kitchen and refine. Then after doing that, they test their product to a test audience. On the first episode, since it was a cake challenge, the testers were newlyweds. On the second episode, food bloggers. After the testers give input, the contestants get rated, and the one with the lowest score goes home. The two left gets to present their product to a supermarket buyer, and one - the episode's winner - is chosen. It's too long, too confusing, and too boring for me. I could barely get through the second episode, and the third one is sitting on my DVR taking space. I am maing an executive decision - it and the series - is being deleted tonight. Life is too short.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Red Is The Color Of My Smell (Perfume Review: Polo Red)

I haven't worn any perfume by Ralph Lauren in a long time, although when I was in High School two of my favorites were the maroon Lauren, and of course the green Polo Sport. As a matter of fact, I wore the latter to death during my younger years,  and I really should revisit it now to see if the formulation is the same as I remember it. I have steer cleared of all the recent Polo scents, because maybe I associate them with the 80s and 90s aquatic scents. I think I had a Polo Sport something or other that I used to use after the gym. Actually, I do remember liking a recent one, I think it was Polo Black, because it had mango as a primary note. But, I never owned a bottle of it so I must have not liked it that much. So I was just trying Polo Red because, to be honest, I am always on the lookout for red-related scents to use on Mondays (A Feng Shui guy once told me I should use red juice or red bottled scents on Mondays to give me good luck)  Polo Red is interesting: it opens with a grapefruit and cranberry burst, which is unique enough. The grapefruit is a sweet one, sort of a cross between Jo Malone and Terre De Hermes. It's not unlikeable, but it is edged out by amberry notes that normalize it to make it palatable for non-perfumistas, I would guess. While it ventures into your ubiquitous ambery vanilla-base, a surprising note surfaces. Yes, it has a somewhat interesting coffee note in the base that gives it a bit of warmth. While this isn't a must-have scent for me, I would like to own it for a Monday scent, so if I see it cheap - a tester or at a duty free, I would get it.  But right now there' no rush.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

In Too Deep (Movie Review: Lovelace)

If there is one reason to see "Lovelace," it would be Amanda Seyfried.  You always believe her as Linda Lovelace in this movie, even if the script isn't really as believable. The movie tells the story of the once porn superstar, and the movie is a perfect snapshot of a time: a time when porn was a bigger deal, a time when porn broke innocence. Nowadays, it's so commonplace that it's almost not a big deal to be one. In some cases, it even helps people's careers: think Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. Linda Lovelace was a reluctant porn star, and was apparently beat and forced to film the iconic "Deep Throat." While the script is sympathetic to Lovelace, I can't help but think there's still more to the story. Lovelace is a complex character, with a complex back story, that I felt like I only saw a glimpse of her soul - this movie did not feel like the end-all and be-all.  As I mentioned, Seyfried gives her all and is unforgettable - the doe eye, the smile, even the freckles add up to a real emotional and brave performance. Peter Saasgard's character, the pimpy Chuck Traynor, is almost one-dimensional but Saarsgard is such a fantastic actor that he adds layers that aren't there. He gives an intense performance, though I do think he may be a bit too old for the role. Sharon Stone is almost unrecognizable here n a black wig, playing Lovelace's mother, but her steel and ice make this her best performance since "Casino." The rest of the cast, in smaller roles - Chris Noth, Hank Azaria, Adam Brody - make marks, and James Franco, as Hugh Hefner, steals the scenes where he's in. And I loved the production design of the movie - it literally brings you back to the 70s effectively. The movie is far from perfect, and much concise to mean anything, but it's worth a look.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Papa Paparazzi (Book Review: Celebrity Secret, C K Alexander)

I guess I needed to break from two YA novels so I started reading "Celebrity Secret," by C.K. Alexander. It's a slim novel, but it tackles an interesting premise: a movie star has been living a secret gay life, and what happens when he is forced to come out of the closet? There are social repercussions, of course, but this story just barely scratches the surface. I wish it had more depth, honestly, but for a quick summer dip-in-the-pool read, there are worse things. For my taste, there is just a little too much sex here, but I guess this is modern pulp, so I just look at it as necessary evil, and skip most of it.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Botanical Garden (Perfume Review: Florabotanica, Balenciaga)

The concept of "Florabotanica," the House of Balenciaga's latest scent is very alluring: Nicolas Ghesquiere envisioned  a floral garden filled with flowers, and he says they are random flowers, including some dangerous and wild florals. That, coupled with a beautiful bottle, made me want to try this perfume right away. Plus, I was looking forward to this, their follow up to Balenciaga Paris, which is one of my favorite commercial releases of recent years. I haven't had a chance to sample this until recently, and I was so excited that I gave my whole left arm to it, even spraying liberally as would normally wear perfume. It opens floral, alright, citrusy, stems, petals, even leaves. Then it blooms to a floral heart of carnation, and rose. The greens and slight bitters that made it somewhat interesting abruptly leave, and then it turns linear hereon - that soapy generic floral that is interchangeable with any other perfume out there. It is boring, it is generic, it is disappointing. It veers into clean territory for the rest of the journey. I felt like I was on a rollercoaster with one big swoop, and then turns straightforward. I wonder why this is so boring: is it because it is marketed to the  Twilight audience, as it is fronted by the almost sourpuss Kristin Stewart? At this point, I may have preferred a sour fragrance, to the facial expressions of Ms. Stewart.  As I think about it, I have another scent that is evocative of Mr. Ghesquiere's idea: Wild Of Flowers by Philosophy.  Maybe I should revisit that one next. It's a shame with this one, though. I wanted very much to like this.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Even Mormons Fall In Love (Book Review: Back When You Were Easier To Love, Emily Wing Smith)

Around halfway through "Back When You Were Easier To Love," by Emily Wing Smith, I realize that the characters in the book are Mormons. I got a chill and asked myself, should I really invest my time with these hateful people? What if this novel is really just religious propaganda disguised as fiction? What if they even discuss Proposition 8? But I kept on reading, hoping against hope something will pay off from my time spent . I am happy to report that it more or less is just a straightforward story. Joy moves to the town of Haven (which I guess is in Utah) from California, she meets a guy, and the guy up and leaves her to move to her former California hometown. She is heartbroken and wants to find out why he left - or does she already know why? This is part love story and part road trip, and it's good enough. Subtly, there is a subtext that people leaving their religion are a**holes, but focusing on the bigger picture, the novel isn't insulting or offensive. I didn't feel like you need a hto shoer after reading it. And it, for better or worse, kind of gave me a glimpse of how Mormons live (They can't drink coffee? Why?) 


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Cross This off Your To-Do List (Movie Review: The To Do List)

Oh, what to do about "The To-Do List"?  Why do I not like it? Actually, why is it that I am strongly disliking it It's a raunchy comedy from a female point of view, and equal rights and all, right? We all have suffered similar movies from the teen male side, so why not indulge, if need be? It's just that the all the characters here are unlikeable, starting with the main character, Aubrey Plaza, who plays an incoming college student determine to finish off a list of sexual experiences which she feels will make her more prepared for the next step of higher education. As dumb as that idea is, I tried to play along. But one scene after another is more gross than the next. Sure some gags made me chuckle, but most just made me cringe, and I am the furthest thing from a prude. Actually, I kind of like the sex-positive vibe of the movie, it's just the execution here that I am just at odds with. And maybe its just me: the crowd I went with seems to be enjoying every bit. To me, the whole movie felt like an overlong Saturday Night Live sketch. Aubrey Plaza doesn't help much: she is whiny, surly, and if she were my friend, I would punch and delete her from my phone. The supporting cast is good and true to the spirit of the movie: Connie Britton can do no wrong, and I am kind of sad for Rachel Bilson: she stars in her television show but has to play support here. Rachel, fire your agent - surely there are better choices out there? This made me kind of regret going out, as my time could have been better spent napping.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Bullied (Book Review: Keep Holding On, Susane Colasanti)

Since it's summer, I thought I would read things that are more "fun," and I saw this book, looked at the cover, and started it. Well, I really should start reading blurns and synopses because despite its almost "cheery" cover, this was one depressing book. Noelle is in High School, but she is a victim of incessant bullying, mostly because she is poor. She eats mayo and mustard sandwiches and kids make fun of her for it. Her mother isn't helping with matters - she is mentally abusive to her daughter. So what's a girl to do? This book has a specific purpose, and it's a good one: it gives hope to a lot of bullied kids, and if it reaches even one kid who is suffering, then it would have served a great service. But don't get me wrong, it was a downer. Things don't even look up until the last twenty percent of the book. To its credit the book speeds along and though the characters could be a little more three dimensional. I applaud this book more than I enjoyed it. 


In Capri (Perfume Review: Carthusia Ligea)

The Carthusia line will always remind me of The Isle Of Capri. Just like the island, it has a quiet elegance, and their fragrances have an understated elegance. I liken it to Diptyque, but more "Italian," I guess. But I do wonder why I rarely reach for my Carthusias. Is it because perhaps they are just a touch staid, or boring? I made an effort to wear Ligea this morning, as I remember it being a summer-y scent. It's kind of, but not really. I mean, the citrus top notes work - the limoncello, the mandarin orange, the orange blossom. But it's also quite powdery, and I get vanilla, too. Perhaps that's why a lot of people compare it to Shalimar, though Ligea is certainly lighter, and without the trappings of a vintage perfume. Though I admire and respect Shalimar as a perfume, I am one of those people who just cannot wear it: it's just too musty on me, and I feel like an old cabinet when I do. Here I am, about five hours into wearing Ligea, and it is lingering, and it is soapy. The sillage is good, but not tenacious. The longevity is robust but not overpowering.  imagine myself on a Capri balcony, overlooking the water after I have just showered with expensive soap. If I close my eyes, I can feel the air, the salty breeze. I can even taste the gelato I am eating. This perfumr treansforms me to Capri. That's a great thing.