Thursday, May 30, 2013

Before The Prince Passed (Book Review, Fairy Tale Interrupted, Rosemarie Terenzio)

I bet you knew exactly where you were when you found out that John Kennedy Jr's plane crashed.  I remembered where I was vividly. My friends and I were in Boston, and we were on our way to spend a week in our vacation house in Provincetown, Massachusetts. I remember we ere leaving the house and saw the news on television, and knew we wanted to follow the story so as soon as we were in the beach house, we tuned into what the update us. I was veru curious to read "Fairy Tale Interrupted,' by Rosemarie Terenzio because I wanted to get a glimpse on JFK Jr,. the man. Terenzio worked as his personal assistant for five years. It was a love/hate thing, and they came from different worlds, which was probably the main reason for the success of their relationship. The book is immensely readable - Terrenzio has a great distinct voice - and you can really feel that you are right there with them. However, I can say that I did not really learn much more about John. Not that I was expecting a warts-and-all bio, but I thought it was just lacking enough depth. Still, you cannot feel but sympathize and empathize with her, and I was dreading the chapters of the inevitable. This was a page-tuenr, but the pages were pretty light.


Fizz Orange Pop (Perfume Review: Diptyque Oyedo)

There are few notes that I do not like, and one of them is orange. That fizzy orange soda smell kind of turns my stomach. But some time ago, I ended up with Diptyque's Oyedo, and I cannot for the life of me remember how I procured a bottle of this. I think this is possibly because Diptyque is one of my favorite houses, and at the time I was completing all their releases. Since the weather has been spiking up recently, I decided to wear this today. Well, after all these years, I still am not a big fan of the orange note, but the orange here is very elegant: it is mixed with grapefruit and yuzu, so it's not sticky-sweet - there's a tartness to it that I like. Plus, on me, the mint note becomes prevalent after a while, giving it heat. I get a "mint halo" feeling after I spray it, like my skin is stinging, like the fizz on soda. Since this is Diptyque, the scent is well-behaved - it doesn't scream, but you know it's definitely there. I guess if I had to choose an orange scent, this would my favorite. I am somewhere with dry heat, so the note is tolerable, but I know if I were somewhere more humid, I would despise this scent.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Candles Burning, Glasses Are Chilled (Television Movie Review: Behind The Candelabra, HBO)

Thank God for HBO.  Steven Soderbergh, in interviews, have said that they shopped Richard LaGravenese's screenplay of "Behind The Candelabra" everywhere, but no one wanted to touch it, saying it was too gay. Everyone said that they did not know how to market a movie like this. The cable channel, bit, and reportedly this movie got huge ratings over Memorial Day weekend.  So, was it all worth it? I'll start by saying that I am glad that this movie exists. It's certainly not as mainstream, and it doesn't skimp on the camp, the sex, and the salaciousness. And I am more glad that it starred two of the biggest stars: Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. I mean, their names and sheen do not get any brighter. They both give fantastic performances, and I would bet that Douglas comes away with an Emmy for this. I thought Damon was better, mining more depth in his character. But that was easier to do, as the story is told from his character's point of view. And I think both of them gave brave performances, as they were certainly game for all of it. I wish I understood Liberace more, but this movie focuses more on their relationship. I wish there were more to the movie, but it has enough. I think this is partly because I have seen a lot of similar stories like theirs: a lot of it seems familiar. I chuck that because of my life experience and people I have known, though. The movie was intelligent enough to still make me ponder. For example, what is it about Liberace that made him appeal to a lot of people? As a piano player, he is good, but his selling point was his flamboyance. So why then would his fan base not accept that he might be/is gay? Lee's denial also fascinates me, and it may be because of his strict Catholic upbringing. I mean, he had instructions to hide his cause of death in the end, claiming they were complications from a "watermelon diet."  The supporting cast was also commendable, by the by, starting with an almost unrecognizable Debbie Reynolds as his mother, and Rob Lowe as the cooky plastic surgeon who botched operations for Lee and Scott. This is a first class production, and I am happy a lot of people will get to see it.

Sandy Hook (Book Review: Susane Colasanti, All I Need)

Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial start of the Summer season, so why not read a summer-themed love story ? Susane Colasanti's "All I Need" has the summer book cover perfectly placed, and this is one of those frothy young adult romances. I didn't really expect anything more from it, so I wasn't truly disappointed. But it's pretty thin, plot wise. There's nothing truly wrong with that, though. Seth and Skye meet at the beach one summer night - make that one end-of-summer night, and they realize they are soul mates. But Seth is going home the next day si they plan on meeting one last time. Things happen and he doesn't show up. So they spend the next months trying to find each other, and of course they do. And then they have to deal with a long-distance love affair, complicated by the fact tha Skye is still in high school, while Seth is a Freshman in college. This is a sweet story, and mindless enough to read by the beach. The only thing I disliked was that I wasn't at the beach while reading it.


Monday, May 27, 2013

I'd Like To Thank You Strouse And Charnin (Music Review: Annie - The New 2012 Broadway Cast Recording)

I have expressed here my thoughts on the current revival of Annie on Broadway, and suffice it to say, I really wasn't that happy with the production. So I approached listening to "The New 2012 Broadway Cast Recording" with a little trepidation. I wanted to be fair in my assessment of it. And I have to admit - my first go-round wasn't really positive. Maybe it's because I know every click and hiss of the Original Cast Recording, it's one of those scores that's very dear to me, and of course, the original production was my very fist Broadway experience. At first listen, the orchestrations sound a lot thinner, and I miss the energy of Andrea McArdle. But I gave myself a challenge and listen tot he recording again. And again. And again. And I started to love it. The beauty of the music shone through - it really is a great Charles Strouse score, and even though Martin Charnin's lyrics could be corny and uneven, it has charm in spades, which is something I rarely find in today's musicals. Lilla Crawford, in all her Brooklyn awkcent glory may be a little too much of a spitfire for the role thereby losing some of the vulnerability, has the voice for the iconic songs. She gives justice to "Tomorrow," and "Maybe," and that's difficult to pull off. Anthony Warlow, who was superb in the production, was successful in translating that performance in the recording, and even Katie Finneran, who I thought was weak in the production, is great here. Perhaps without the trappings of the staging, they are able to essay their roles. I am glad I dis not dismiss this recording - it's a wonderful representation of the score, and is better than the flawed thing at The Palace. And just think of the hundreds and thousands of little Broadway divas who will be using this as a benchmark for their Broadway careers - may their light shine bright tomorrow! (It's only a day away!)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Show Is Over, Say Goodbye (Television Review: Smash: The Nominations, and The Tonys: Series Finale)

SMASH is done. It's gone. It aired its final episode this evening, and it ended with a bang. Megan Hilty and Katherine McPhee performed a number called "The Big Finish," and it was so meta that it was their goodbye to the loyal viewers of the show. I know there are probably not too many, like myself, who stayed with it through thick and thin, but the ending felt good. All the loose ends were tied up, and it was a great farewell. You got a sense that they knew it was the last episode, and it was bittersweet, yes, but mostly a celebration. But first, let me just say that I was so happy that Ivy Lynn won over Karen Cartwright. I know I have been bashing Karen this season, but I really do like Kat McPhee. I have her two pop albums even before this show started, and I listened to them. I thought she was one of the better Idol alumns in its history. She just wasn't a fit for Karen Cartwright. I will follow and support wherever she ends up after this. This show made a star of Megan Hilty. I am now a fan of hers, and I know she has a lot in store for her.  Actually, the whole core cast was great:  Anjelica Houston, Christian Boerle, Jack Davenport.  Yes, I had issues with the characters of Jeremy Jordan and Krysta Rodriguez, but only because the characters themselves weren't served well by the writers. I read that the forthcoming DVD will have all the extras: scenes cut, fell scenes of musical numbers, so in a way, this isn't a last goodbye. I'll see you again, SMASH.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Too Shy To Say (Book Review: So Hard To Say, Alex Sanchez)

I have been reading a book that is very "literary," and wanted a break from it, so I started Alex Sanchez' "So Hard To Say." I thought it  would be light-hearted, and kind of dumb. I was wrong - this is a great gay YA novel, and I just thought again, kids nowadays are so lucky for these precious gems of novels: they give them such affirmations that anyone who is unsure about how they feel would get a sense that yes, it is ok to be yourself, no matte what. This is not just another coming-of-age novel. Frederick moves to California, and befriends Xia, a Mexican classmate. She falls for him instantly, but he is confused. The boo is narrated from their alternating points of view, and I cannot help but empathize with Xia as well. First love can be both ecstasy and agony at the same time - we have all been there. This is a great book, a fantastic breather. 

BC- 35

Friday, May 24, 2013

Peace Musk (Perfume Review: Kenzo Vintage Edition/Kenzo PEace)

I don't know why I call this scent Kenzo Peace. I guess because there is a very big peace sign on the bottle? I also initially associated this as a sort-of hippy scent: the packaging of the box I guess kind of evokes it, and again, because of the peace sign. But Kenzo Vintage Edition (its official name) is essentially a heliotrope and musk scent. I am just thinking I should recommend this to my friend Therese because heliotrope is her favorite note. I always wore this scent during wintertime, but I thought why not wear it today, on a 80 degree day. It works just as fine. This is a white musk, so it is more an internal musk, and it blooms a little bit more with the warm temperature. Kenzo Vintage Edition is pretty much a skin scent - it is very intimate, and quite sexy, It doesn't scream. It sizzles only when you sniff it closer. The clean musk is inviting, and heliotrope gives it a nutty and almond-y projection. The woody/creamy base is a little off-putting during warmer weather, but if you are in an air-conditioned environment, you should be fine.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sometimes The Snow Comes Down In June (Book Review: The Snow Ball Effect, Holly Nicole Hoxter)

After reading the first chapter of Holly Nicole Hoxter's "The Snow Ball Effect," I told myself, this is going to be a depressing read. The narrator, Lainey Pike, loses her stepfather in a freak accident, and then her mother commits suicide all in one chapter. But as I read more, I find out this is a more uplifting read. It deals with how she copes with the tragedy, and her reunion with her elder sister, Vallery (i can't stand the cutesie spellings of their names, by the by) as they raise their adopted brother, Collin. Even though Lainey has an almost-perfect boyfriend, Riley, another guy catches her eye, and she has to deal with that as well. It was interesting how she deals with relationships as a result of what happened in her childhood, and recent tragic experience. The middle part sort of slouches, but the last third of the book is satisfying. This is a worthwhile read, the narrator's voice is concise and interesting, and the arc was fully realized.


The Unreal In Real Estate (Television Review: Million Dollar Listing New York)

I have been meaning to write about the new season of "Million Dollar Listing: New York," because I have been enjoying this new season very much. It has become a guilty pleasure of mine, and I really do feel guilty because it's such a train wreck of a show. But, it's one of those good train wrecks. I cannot possibly think that this is all reality, but I lap it all up like a hungry puppy. Fredrick Ecklund and Ryan Serhant are both back, and that's great: they make the show. Years and years ago, I remember seeing Ecklund at a Los Angeles bar, during his "art movie" phase, and I have always been fascinated by him, and more so know. He is a character, for sure, whether put on or not. And Ryan Serhant is a sleaze ball of a broker, but there's something about him that's endearing and charming. And the new recruit, Luis D. Ortiz, is a little Puerto Rican spitfire. He definitely has the energy and drive, though it can seem a little too much. He reminds me of an ex co-worker of mine who is a hustler in all his jobs. All three have combustible chemistry, and it is kind of interesting how they would all collide. And in the second episode, they even try touchy-feely, by showing how all three of them were affected by Hurricane Sandy, as all three of them live in downtown Manhattan. This show is pure junk food, but I gladly ingest it. One small observation, though: most of the apartments being highlighted recently have been underwhelming. It's been just a little unsatisfying for those in the lookout for real estate porn.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Back To The Nineties (Book Review: Someday, Someday, Maybe)

I always confuse, in my mind, Lauren Graham from Mary Louise Parker. I guess they are the same physical type, and again, in my mind, their acting is the same. I know there are" Gilmore Girl"  groupies out there, but I never saw an episode of it. I have seen the first couple of seasons of "Parenthood" and liked the show. But now I don't remember which season I stopped even though I want to continue watching it on Netflix. I also kind of remember her on the last "Guys & Dolls" revival on Broadway, but ... not really. That's all the back story I have on her before I started reading this book, and I only got really got curious with it after I saw her guesting on Andy Cohen's show. I found out that Connie Britton was her old time roommate. So of course when I started reading the book, Franny Banks was Lauren, and her friend Jane was Connie. I also liked that the book was set in he mid 90s, and the setting feels like a curio piece. It's a piece of time I vividly remember, and kind of cherish actually. Think before cell phones became common place in our lives. I haven't thought about an answering machine in a long time, and that figures prominently in this story it's practically a plot point.

I have mixed feelings about the book. I liked it enough, for sure. I got invested into the Franny Banks character immediately, and kept on rooting for her. But, nothing much happens, though, and I thought this was going to be one of those "slice of life" books. But then when we do get a "payoff" at the end, then I think maybe not. But the book really got me thinking, which in the end, isn't bad. 


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Forget Your Troubles C'mon get Happy (Perfume Review: Jean Paul Gaultier, Ma Dame)

I have some scents that I unintentionally ignore. Jean Paul Gaultier's Ma Dame is one of them. I don't know why I don't wear this more because it's a scent that never fails to make me happy. Created in 2009 by Francis Kurkdjian, it was created to attract a younger, hip crowd to JPG's perfume line. It was fronted by supermodel Agyness Deyn, and she seems to be the perfect face for Gaultier: with her crop blonde hair and hip reputation, she represented exuberance and youthful allure. And the campaign was swathed in pink. It also had one of the most beautiful bottles I have seen of late: a crystal chun of ice with the Gaultier bustier carved inside, in the middle, like a stamp. This fragrance was a hit in Europe, and at the time I thought it smelled very current. Well, I wore it today, and it has held up pretty well. I think it's even better - it is certainly a lot more interesting than all the fruity floral concoctions that have come and gone since then. Kurkdjian has a flair for mixing notes that normally would be a question mark on paper. Here he pairs orange with rose, but he mixes it will dollops of vanilla and musk. The vanilla gives it a lot of weight, and this is not a shy fragrance - this Ma Dame makes herself known when she enters the room. And she is fizzy - there is grenadine here - that gives you the impression that she is ready to party. And there's musk - so you know she means business (wink, wink) This is one of those sexy fragrance - the musk is that kind of musk that gives a kind of "halo" effect. This perfume makes me want to laugh, and have a good time. It was a nice and sunny day today and this was the perfect scent to match the weather. 

Captain Kirk Dies On This Trek (Movie Review: Star Trek Intp Darkness)

I am the farthest thing from a Trekkie, but I kind of enjoyed "Star Trek: Into  Darkness."  I mean, it was good, and I didn't regret seeing it. I remember seeing the first movie of JJ Abram's reboot a couple of years ago, and even though I have no recollection of anything from that movie, I do remember enjoying that as well. I think what I liked best was the human interaction between Kirk and Spock. Played with both cockiness and coyness by Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, you can sense the great chemistry between them, probably because apparently these two are close friends in real life. I love that they seem to be having fun with their characters, even playing around with its dynamics. Actually, the whole crew was great, as they settle into their characters. I particularly loved Simon Pegg and Zoe Saldana. As for the plot, I think you have to be a real die-hard to get all the intricacies of it, and I just got the basics, which was enough for me to understand what's going on. The action scenes were pretty basic, but Abrams really need to resort to cheap tricks, like having Kirk die? Does the audience really need to be manipulated like that? This movie is still commercial fare, but there is a hint of morality play in their somewhere. Hopefully it isn't too subtle for its target audience so they get the message. But it was a hot Saturday afternoon, and this movie was good enough coolant.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Owl Be Darned (Book Review: Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls)

I'll give you a shocker: I am not a big fan of David Sedaris' written work.  Don't get me wrong - I think he is a good writer, great even, and he certainly strikes a chord with a lot of people, but i just don't connect with his work emotionally. I wish I did, and I know tons of people who do, but I just...don't. I wish I had an explanation for it so I can explain myself, as if I needed to. I found myself starting "Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls," and got into it quickly, and yes I found his essays kind of funny, but I wasn't laughing out loud. I liked this a little better because he talks a lot about his travels all over the world, and I found the anecdotes interesting: contrasting food between Japan and China was insightful, but I found it a little mean-spirited towards the Chinese. His exploits in the Australian wilderness was fun to read, but felt exaggerated. I liked his wry observation at airport behaviours, but I have heard them before, and as funny. This was an ok read for me, it kept me interested, but had to admit felt a little critical to enjoy it fully. And I am still trying to figure out the relevance of the title.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Greatest Love Of All (Movie Review: The Great Gatsby)

Going into Baz Luhrman's "The Great Gatsby," I was uncertain about how I would feel. I know it is getting polarizing responses, and I have some investment in it because I love the F. Scott Fitzgerald book. This movie isn't the best interpretation of it, and I don't think there will be a great one in my lifetime, but as a movie, Baz Luhrman's take is a very engaging and entertaining one. What comes out in the movie is the book. It was weird to revisit the story now, a an older adult - the themes still resonate, even more so. Age, maturity, and experience make one appreciate the classic story of Jay Gatsby and his longings, his life, his greatest love. Ultimately, the book is a story of the greatest love, and for me, anyway, Luhrman was able to capture that. There are a lot of imperfections in the movie: Carey Mulligan's Daisy is a bit dowdy, and she doesn't seem to have the beauty, grace, and breeding that Gatsby was so obsessed with. Still, DiCaprio gives a winning performance, injecting the character with a lot of charm that you root for him, and mourn his downfall. But I was also very taken by Tobey Maguire's Nick Carraway, which the heart of this movie. I think his personal friendship with DiCaprio gave their characters an electric chemistry. I would even say the relationship bordered on homo-erotic, giving the movie an unexpected layer to peel. The parties are extravagant visual marvels, and beautifully captured, and  the 3D expeirnce even heightens it. I especially liked the feeling of being in Times Square in the 20s. This is still a Luhrman production, after all, and so the garishness is there. I didn't mind, not even the mixture of hip hop scoring by Jay-Z. The segue from Gershwin to Lana Del Ray was seamless, oddly. I hope this movie finds it audience - it's out there somewhere.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Teen Daddy (Book Review: Making Ends Meet, S L Armstrong & K Piet)

Who can resist this adorable cover? Yes, I can be shallow and it influenced me in picking this book to read next, and boy, was that a good call. S.L. Amstrong's and K Piet's novel was irresistible from the start, and was a joy to the last page. Sure, I had to get myself used to the simple writing, and had to remind myself this is a Young Adult novel. I mean, it even had illustrations every couple of chapters or so, and I have to admit it helped in my appreciation of it. This is a story of a seventeen year old gay guy who gets a girl pregnant and ends up taking care of the baby. He is struggling making ends meet until he meets the perfect guy, and the guy is truly perfect. About halfway through the book, I kept waiting for a conflict - I mean, surely he cannot be that perfect - and then the conflict does show up, though it seems like it is from a 50s melodrama. It works, though, and got me more invested in the novel. This is a book that whiled my time away perfectly, and at the end I felt like I knew and liked these characters enough that I missed them after I finished the book. I usually try to shy away from books written by more than one person, but in this case the partnership worked. 


The Hit List Is On Between Ivy And Karen (Television Review: Smash, The Transfer)

SMASH was technically cancelled yesterday.  It was the longest of all long shots, but I still hoped. Now we have three episodes left of a show I totally loved and looked forward to watching that it was #1 on my DVR list. But tonight we still have "The Transfer," and it was a good episode, considering it was about that other show I despise. I still don't get it, and it's 'edginess.'  Though I must say that there is a dance song that McPhee does here that wasn't bad at all. I actually did like her a lot before SMASH, and thought pop albums were quite good. But here, she just wasn't presented in her best element. This pop song serviced her well, I have to be honest, but that confrontation scene with Derek tonight showed all her limitations as an actress. And compared to Hilty, there was no comparison. And Hilty was on fore tonight, especially on her number "Grin And Bare It" which while did nothing for the plot, was a smashing production number. God, she really is good, and I know there are fantastic things in store for her after this show. I just know it. (A CAN-CAN revival with her is in the works) Even good ol Debra Messing gets to sing tonight, "The Right Regrets" and it was tenderly touching. I think she did great work here, and I don't really dislike her as an actress. She has been at the very least competent in everything I have seen her do. But the clincher here is the last scene, where Ivy founds out that she is pregnant. I had heard that someone does get pregnant, and I don't really know if it serves the character of Ivy well. Are they setting it up so Karen wins the Tony over her? I really really hope not. C'mon, give the SMASH fans a bone!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Imperfect And In Love (Book Review: The Not-So-Perfect Man)

Each one of us has a different perception of who is the perfect person to spend the rest of our lives with. I think that's the idea that Valerie Frankel wants to explore in her novel "The Not-So-Perfect Man."  This is a story of three sisters living in New York City, and their eternal quest for happiness, with and without partners. Ilene is married to Peter, but she is unhappy because he has gained a lot of weight since they got married. Betty works at a chain book store and is falling for the guy installing audiobook booths. Freida is recently widowed, and is dipping back in the dating pool. At first glance, they have ordinary stories and that's not bad at all - we feel like we know these characters from the beginning. But the plots get a little too unbelievable, and yes I get the idea that we shouldn't settle and we should follow our hearts, but there's also a lot to be said for logical decision making. I didn't really dislike this book. It kept on going when I wanted it to, even if I had misgivings on where it is going. It's kind of dated, a lot of situational conflicts could be more easily dissolved if those were happening today. Who would have thought 2004 would feel like so long ago?


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Green And Now Gone (Perfume Review: Antidote, Viktor & Rolf)

I haven't thought about Viktor & Rolf's Antidote in a long time. I have had it, and it was one of my favorites, and still is, I guess. I remember years ago at my old office that a co-worker of mine asked a cologne recommendation for her husband, and I told her to get this. She, and her husband, was so pleased with it that she bought me lunch one day to thank me. Antidote wasn't a scent that stood - it wasn't very imaginative, or over the top, but it was very well made. As a matter of fact, it seemed to be old-school good: it wasn't flashy, it was thorough, and it knew what it was. And even though, it was marketed for men, I know a lot of women perfumistas who wore it. Its concept of citrus and spice wasn't ground-breaking, but it had a little something that give it a lift: mint. The opening, a cardamom, orange, grapefruit mix was bright, but it was cool and authentic, not the synthetic lemonies we smell nowadays. And yes, that mint added a bit of oomph that made you want to smell it over and over. The spices and flowers come in mid-note: I get violets, and lavender, and cinnamon, and nutmeg, but they are well-blended that not one note stands out, yet you smell each of the them. The musk and woods come in to give weight to the base, and you end up with it. It's kind of boring, but all the before scents peek in once in a while. It's a beautiful experience, and kind of reminded me of a more modern Creed fragrance. Why am I all o fa sudden writing about it? I read that Antidote has been discontinued. I guess V & R cannot justify its existence, amidst successes like Flowerbomb. I am glad I got to spend time with it, and my bottle isn't finished yet - I will cherish it. I wore it today and am basking in its beauty.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

On The Streets Of San Francisco (Book Review: The Saint Of San Francisco)

Based on this cover would you ever have thought that Jerry Sacher's "The Saint Of San Francisco" was a mystery/thriller?  Nope, neither did I. But I realized that about a third into the book, and I was thinking that maybe this would be similar to Scott Sherman's Kevin Connor's Mystery series (I wrote about those here, and here)  So I continue reading. And what was most striking about Mr. Sachs writing is that the main character is written in first person, while everyone else's is not. But they aren't separated by chapters, and in the beginning, especially, it got pretty confusing. It was a chore to start separating them because the points of view would sometimes change in the same paragraphs (or maybe it was the Kindle version formatting?) But I persevere. Even though I kind of figure out the plot halfway through, it was interesting to see it play out. And all in all, it wasn't bad. The Jeremy character can be endearingly annoying at times, but nothing that made me want to throw my Kindle up a wall. I liked the use of the San Francisco locale, giving it a specific flavour. I guess the title would refer to Jeremy continuing his sleuthing, and yes, it looks like there is a second book now in the series.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Kyle Died For Hit List's Sins (Television Review: Smash: The Phenomenon)

Yes, I cried. For Kyle. As I had thought and predicted, in tonight's episode, they celebrated him. He is gone. This is a shame, too, because I liked Andy Mientus as Kyle. He was a great presence for the show, and thought in the end was much more likeable than Jimmy. And I lament what might have been: one of the best scenes tonight was Christian Boerle singing "Vienna," and he and Mientus had wonderful sweet chemistry. We all can't have happy endings, though, as the character of Andy pointed out (a little obviously) in the flashbacks. I liked the way the flashbacks were used to show how he connected with the other characters. It was really a touching tribute of an episode, and the final scene gave me goose bumps. Oh, if only he died for a good show. "Hit List" really does mirror "Rent." I mean, if the show was really good, it would have transferred even if one of its creator had not died. This shows how Broadway is produced nowadays - if there is enough hype for anything, it will have reason to run. I am unapologetic to the fact that I still do not like "Hit List," just like I still stand by my assertion that "Rent" is not a good show. But such is life, as it goes on. Now we have the ultimate battle of Bombshell vs. Hit List. I must say that I have really loved the past couple of episodes and am getting sadder of the thought that Smash will probably be not back next year. One last thing: I know I pick on Kat McPhee and her dead-eyed acting, but really watching this episode is testament to that fact. Her friend dies, her boyfriend gets missing, she's concerned, she goes to Jersey City (yes, it was by my old office!) to look for him, and yet she acts teh same old dead-eyed way the whole time. Look at it and tell me I am wrong.

Love Has No Pride (Music Review: Michael Buble, To Be Loved)

Your mom's favorite singer is probably Michael Buble. Actually, he is probably also your aunt's favorite, as well as your older sister's. So it is probably a good thing that his new album, "To Be Loved" was released just before Mother's Day, making it the perfect gift. Buble doesn't break new ground with his eighth album, but he doesn't need to. Coasting though as he may be, his fans will eat this up hook, line, and sinker. The Great American Songbook snob in me may scoff at the uninspired repertoire, but there is enough here to keep anyone preoccupied. While, I think of him as more modern day Darin than Sinatra, he covers four songs associated with Ol' Blue Eyes: an almost by-the-numbers karaoke version of "You Make Me Feel So Young," a great Perez Prado-ish arrangement of "Come Dance With Me," an unfortunately timely duet with Reese Witherspoon of "Something Stupid" (I am sure she wasn't being ironic when she sang that, and then went on a drunk tirade in Georgia) and one of my favorite songs, "Young At Heart."  I didn't her anything new and noteworthy there, but that was just me.  A couple of spins into the record and I am warming up to the originals, like the buoyant "It's A Beautiful Day," and the light rock duet "After All" with fellow Canadian Bryan Adams. The whole thing is packaged perfectly, if safely and a bit too market research friendly. But for me, Buble's real talent is in his live performances. He brings life into these songs in concert, and most of the time, those give more resonance to his albums. But go ahead, give this album to the mothers in your life this Mother's day: it's the perfect compliment to that Hallmark card. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Vacationers Behaving Badly (Book Review: The Best Of Us, Sarah Pekkanen)

The premise of Sarah Pekkanen's "The Best Of Us" sounded so interesting that I couldn't wait to read it. A group of college friends decide to vacation together in a villa in Jamaica to celebrate one of their birthdays. My friends always schedule reunions during our birthdays so I can totally relate to the concept. (On a side note, I wish Ms. Pekannen didn't choose the homophobic country of Jamaica, but that's neither here nor there) I started this book a couple of times because found the first chapters a little slow. It finally gets its groove about thirty percent in, but I am thinking maybe the reason why I just can't get into the book is that the characters are unlikeable. Almost halfway through, I do not find myself rooting for any of the characters, and then they all start behaving badly while they are on vacation. I kind of understand that, but it just made me care less about them, and I even thought some of their actions were very reprehensible that they would be life-changing in the way that I would never associate with them again. But this is supposed to be a beach read and it gets the drama juices flowing, I guess. It was an effort to like this book, in my opinion.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

An Alan A Day (Movie Review: Any Day Now)

At times, good movies with great performances get lost in the shuffle. "Any Day Now" was released during the crowded Holiday season and it didn't get any attention. This is a shame, because if for anything, this movie boasts of a great performance by Alan Cumming, an actor I have grown to admire more and more. I thought of him the other day because he was snubbed by the Tony nomination committee for title role in that Scottish play, and that's when I realized I had just seen this movie on Blu-Ray. I had a lot of problems with the film - the screenplay by Travis Fine and Arthur Fine seems all over the place, and some scenes were cringe-worthy. But that can easily be overlooked because of the fierce committed performance by Mr. Cumming. He plays Rudy Donatello, a gay man who tried to buck the system to try and get adoption rights for Marco, a mentally-challenged child abandoned by his mother. But this is 1979, and homophobia is still rampant everywhere, including the judicial systems. I would like to think we are way past that now in 2013, and indeed, signs are pointing that way - conservative Paul Ryan just stated the other day that even though he is against gay marriage, he is not against adoption by gay parents. But back to the movie, Mr. Donatello is an outspoken, loud gay man who claws and shouts his way, which helped and hurt him in his plight, with this partner, to get custody of the child. It's a marvel to watch Mr. Cumming's raw performance. You will not be able to take your eyes off him whenever he is on screen. Even though the film ends with such a preachy tone that made me want to hurl, your time will not be watsed just to see Mr. Cumming's performance.