Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Fighting Two Wars (Movie Review: The Imitation Game)

It's been a rough couple of weeks, and I know I have not written. But hopefully 2015 gives me more motivation to update here.  I have been trying to catch up on my movies lately, and over the weekend went to see "The Imitation Game," hoping it will spark my interest again in cinema. Well, i couldn't have chosen a better film, as this is one of those films that grab you right away and never lets you go, and I came out of the movie house devastated, touched, and fully satisfied with the experience. 

Based on the life of Alan Turing, the film exposes his secret part in the Allies' victory in World War II by chronicling how he broke the code of the "Enigma," which the Nazis used to transport messages. While the idea sounds boring, the director, Morten Tyldum, sets up the story in such a suspenseful way that I was at the edge of my seat the whole time. I thought perhaps the last eighth of the film was wrapped up too quickly, kind of minimizing the heartbreaking ending, but that's just me being picky. (I remember seeing the play - Breaking The Code - on Broadway which starred Derek Jacoby)

Benedict Cumberbatch gives an effectively nuanced performance as Turing. There is a lot of subtlety in his performance, and in the hands of a lesser actor, the character would have appeared manic and mannered. But, Cumberbatch lets the audience fills holes in his simplicity. I never got him before (I have not seen hsi Sherlock acting) but now I get why he has some rabid fans. Keira Knightly is also wonderful as Joan, his best friend/wife, and deserves an Academy Award nomination (I suspect she will get it) 

Most of all, I love the film for its best message: that there were gay and lesbian people in history who contributed and helped with how we enjoy freedom and democracy today. But during those times, they were punished for being what they were. We live in a different world now, thankfully, and realize how lucky I am to see how the world has changed for the better.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Randy Andy (Book Review: The Andy Cohen DIaries, Andy Cohen)

"The Andy Cohen Diaries," Andy Cohen writes, was inspired by Andy Warhol's diaries, a book that Mr. Cohen treasured and carried with him when it first came out. I think Mr. Cohen himself will not say that his stature is as great as Mr. Warhol's, and this whole book is written with s a little bit of tongue-in-cheek irony. Mr. Warhol dealt with real artists and superstars, and well, Mr. Cohen deals with "real housewives." Still, this book is a juicy read, if you know and mildly care about the people he hangs out with, like Kelly Ripa or Anderson Cooper. Mr. Cohen has a more interesting day to day life than I do, but I wish it had a little more depth. I wish he dealt more with some of his executive decisions at Bravo, for example, instead of his incessant drinking at parties. But perhaps that is what his audience is expecting from this book.

Her House In The Middle Of The Street (Television Review, House of DVF, Sundays on E!)

I've been trying to catch up with all my stored shows on my DVR and started watching the first four episodes of the new reality competition, "House of DVF," which is about Diane Von Furstenberg's search for her new Global Ambassador. It's premise is nothing new - it is sort of a mix of America's Nect Top Model and The Apprentice. The idea is that Ms. von Furstenberg wants to have a non-celebrity represent the brand, and will act as the company's face, aside from DVF.  Jaded me was really cynical about the show, and was ready to write it off if it didn't keep my interest. But, it did, primarily because of Ms. von Furstenberg herself. Acting as part matriarch, part mentor, part mother hen, you can't help but be glued to the screen when she is on. Even when she is doling out rote advise ("It's not what you do it's how you do it") you feel as if you are hearing these things for the first time. Maybe its her French-accented English that makes it sound so convincing. But things aren't all smooth, though - a lot of the drama seems set up, like for example, when bitchy contestants get rewarded which makes for better drama with the contestants. But this show has a lot of things going for it - pretty people in glamorous situations acting bitchy and competitive. They all make for good television, and I will be watching.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Letting Christmas Go (Music Review: Idina Menzel, Holiday Wishes)

It had to happen. Elsa can't help but freezing everything, and icicles mean Christmas, right? So here we are, Idina Menzel has released a Holiday album titled "Holiday Wishes." I mean, look at the album cover - she gives the illusion of being covered in ice. But did we really need a Christmas album from her? I don't really get the Idina hate, because I think she is a fantastic singer. Yes, she belts and screams, and her voice can be on the loud and sharp side, but it is theatrical, it reaches the back row, and it's a marvel. It's exactly what I would expect from a Broadway diva! And this album perfectly showcases that voice. The word restraint isn't used here, and she sings all these songs full throttle. That, in my opinion, is a good thing. Menzel doesn't tone down the proceedings just because it is a Holiday album. Rote choices like "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and "the Christmas Song" are on fire, thanks to her. The arrangements can be a bit unimaginative, btu who cars, Idina just runs away with these songs. I particularly like the breathless "All I Want For Christmas Is You" (The Mariah song - that has become a modern classic, hasn't it?) And she is theatrically passive on "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" (I imagine it as a theater piece, and it works) Even her self-penned "December Prayer" satisfies. All in all, this album is perfect for tree-trimming parties for show queens. You know if you're in the target market.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Shake Your Bon Bon (Perfume Review: Viktor & Rolf, Bon Bon)

It seems like Viktor & Rolf's scents don't do subtle. Their biggest hit, Flowerbomb, is a descendant of Angel, and its male counterpart, Spicebomb, is tobacco overload. So of, course, their newest release, BonBon, follows the same lead. This is an overload of sugar - as sweet as sweet gets. It's gourmand with a capital G. The line up of notes, mandarin, orange, peach, jasmine, orange blossom, gaiac wood, cedar wood, sandalwood and amber, are amped up, and you get a sweet syrupy fruit cocktail. And caramel. But this is not the gauzy powdery caramel, more an amped-up version. And BonBon sure could be cloying. I haven't tried it, but on a humid summer day this could be brutal. But on a cool day, this could be delicious. And fun. I wore this on my recent trip, and it stayed linear and sweet the whole day. It was perfect if you want to wear something fun, maybe to match your pastel colored ensemble. But, it's not for everyone. A diabetic can get comatized from its sugar content. The sillage is not overpowering, and longevity is primo (I sprayed yesterday and a day after, I can still smell it) Feel young and wear this.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Knowing When To Leave (Movie Review: This Is Where I Leave You)

"This Is Where I Leave You" has an all-star cast that will leave you breathless. So what then are they doing in this sophomoric movie? Directed by Shawn Levy, this movie wastes these fine actors in a movie filled with unlikeable characters in cliched situations. Judd (Jason Bateman) catches his wife sleeping with his boss, Tina Fey plays a woman with a dick of a husband who only cares about money, Adam Driver plays the young son with a Peter Pan syndrome. They all get to sit shiva (even though their parents are atheists) and are "forced" to interact with each other for seven days. I mean, I get the concept - when families do get together, every little thing from the past s forced out, but in here I don't think any character makes any kind of right decision, and even so, their interactions all feel manufactured and fake. And if all else fails, they resort to potty humor which makes you feel that you wandered into a Judd Apatow movie. Jane Fonda, as the matriarch, seems to be lost. I can just seen her thinking in her head, "I am better than this." (And she is) While we get to see these actors try hard in the best situations (Bateman, Driver, and Rose Byrnes shine the brightest), the shoddy script can sometimes highlight their limitations (Tina Fey's character looks the most one-note) I have the book somewhere, and after reading this, I decided I just won't waste my time reading it.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Due To One Little Word, Married (Television Review: Marry Me, NBC)

NBC's "Marry Me" is another rom-com sitcom, this one from real life newlywed couple David Caspe and Casey Wilson. He was also a writer and she starred in "Happy endings," which was a mild hit on ABC. I remember not liking that show, but am giving this one a try. The pilot was a hoot. It started out by having Annie (Wilson) and Jake (ken Marino) arriving from a vacation in Mexico where she thought she was going to be engaged. Upset, she started to riff and insult him and his friends and family, not knowing that they were all hiding in their apartment for her surprise engagement party. After more mishaps, the couple finally get engaged by the end of the episode. But, where does the series go from there? I guess it would explore their relationship as they start to live together, until they get married? I was skeptical, and the second and third episodes weren't as funny as the pilot, though I am liking the supporting cast more (JoBeth Wiliams as Jake's father is a standout) I am also having likeability issues with the leads. While I like Marino, Wilson sometimes rubs me the wrong way, as I sometimes thinks she tries too hard. But I have seen worse.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Brandon, Boringly (Book Review: Jason Priestley, A Memoir)

It was my friend Dee who turned me on to the television show Beverly Hills 90210 years ago, and I became hooked. I mean pretty rich people falling in love and sleeping around., it doesn't get better.Jason Priestley played Brandon Walsh on that show, and he just released a memoir. I figured, it would be interesting to get a glimpse of his experience while he was working on that show. Well, we do get a glimpse of that, but he writes in such a hurried way that we really do not get to learn much. And even though he is forthcoming with a lot of juicy details (he writes how about and why Shannen Doherty was fired from the series) they are still sparse. And the most shocking thing in the book? That there really no meat to it after his days from the show. The book is strictly for his die hard fans.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Love Alphabet (Television Review, A to Z, NBC)

Of all these rom-com comedies on television now, my favorite is NBC's "A to Z." Why? Bacuse of the charm of its two main stars, Ben Feldman and Christin Milotti. He was in "mad Men," and she was in the Broadway production of "Once," and here they have instant chemistry. Even Milotti's somewhat joyless aura serves her overworked lawyer here well, and Feldman's neurosis in Mad Men is toned down here to good use. But the two is not served well by the limiting premise - we know from the narrator (Katey Sagall) that they dated for x number of time. Plus, each episode starts with a letter of the alphabet, thereby limiting this series to just two seasons tops. Still, the pilot episode is one of those rare things: smart, funny, and yes, very romantic. Subsequent episodes pale in comparison. And, the second episode scenario (should one still go on a date scheduled before they have met) is exactly the same as the second episode plot of "Manhattan Love Story." (Do these writers just get their ideas from one pool?) By the fourth episode, things are more unfunny than funny. I kind of miss the vibe of the pilot, as it seems the writers have already run out of ideas! And lo and behold, this series is one of the early cancellations of the new season. Oh, well.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

When Your Lover Has Gone (Book & Film Review: Gone Girl)

It seems like everyone and their mother have read Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl" and it has been on my TBR pile for two years now. Well, with the movie coming out, I told myself that I would finally finish reading it, as I have started numerous times but never continued. Well, it does start just a bit slow for me - the mystery part seems a bit too "set up" and manipulative. Though not uninteresting, it tested my patience. But once it hit the half-way mark, though, it sparkled. Then it became one of those books you stayed up in the night for. Last night, I zipped through the latter half of the book - a true page-turner. I couldn't wait to see what would happen to the characters, how the "mystery" would be resolved. I was torn between hating and admiring the character of Amy, while also sympathizing with her husband, Nick. And yes, the story is over the top and Flynn definitely knew how to get your attention. I don't know if I really agreed or not with the ending, but I understand it as a social commentary for today's society.

I don't know if it was a good idea to see the movie mere hours after finishing the book, but I just couldn't let go of the story just yet. As good as the book was, the film is better. Maybe it was an advantage that while I was reading the book, I was already picturing Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike as the characters, and I must say that they did perfect casting for the roles. Affleck is smooth and likeable, earthy with an edge, and totally relatable. Pike has a great mix of beauty and danger, and just the right amount of self-awareness as well as a wink-wink to not take herself (and the character) too seriously. And Fincher understands how over the top the book was, and playing this up without going too caricaturish. Flynn wrote the screenplay herself and while there have been changes and cuts, have stayed more or less faithful to the spirit of the book. I can't think of any choice I disagreed with. If for anything, the movie even broadened its message, on how relationships thrive, survive, and endure in the recession-riddled times of today. The mystery part of the story is just as satisfying - a man behind me was saying, "This is like Hitchcock" - but I found this more a love story- a sick and twisted one.

Duetting With The Dead (Music Review, Barry Manilow, My Dream Duets)

Natalie Cole started this trend, of singers duetting with dead people. But with Natalie, it was a great idea, since she was singing her father's songs, the duet highlighted the poignancy of the project. A lot of people have followed suit since, most recently Barbra Streisand singing with a young Elvis Presley. I always found this idea a little on the weird side, and when Barry Manilow employed this gimmick on his newest album, "My Dream Duets," I cringed.  In an interview, he says that he did it because he wanted his duets album to stand out. Don't get me wrong, I am as big a  Fanilow as anyone, but i have to admit his singing voice has really deteriorated of late: it's become raspy, and his key isn't what it used to be. On a duets album, it will be all about the voice, and I feel his can't carry the songs through. But Manilow (and his producer, David Foster) wisely makes the dead singers the stars of the tracks. What a fantastic line up. Manilow has great taste, choosing one great singer after another. Moreover, in a lot of cases, he doesn't choose the most cliched songs to sing with them. Any other singer, for example, would choose "Over The Rainbow" to sing with Judy Garland, but he opts for "Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart," and it made for a zippy track. The best thing about this album is how on each track, the production has cleverly extracted the vocal tracks of these singers, and every single one of them felt like they were in the studio with Manilow. (Curiously, Streisand couldn't duplicate that chemistry on her album) Maybe because Manilow loves and knows these singers and the songs, and he chooses their songs. It may be unbelievable, but almost all the tracks work. There is great joy in him singing with Marilyn Monrow on "I Wanna Be Loved By You," and he weaves seamlessly with Frankie Lymon on "goody Goody."  On some of the tracks, he adds verses and songs that make the track more meaningful. For example, he counterpoints "What A Wonderful World" with Louis Armstrong an original composition of his called "What A Wonderful Life." And on his track with Andy Williams, the predictability of "Moon River" is edged by him singing a verse from one of his other hits, "May Each Day."  But what makes this project such a joy to listen to is it demonstrates a musician's love of music.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Lost In Transalation (Movie Review: Lilting)

Once in a while, a movie just hits my core, and I feel like "Lilting" just had something in it that punched me, and I am still unable to recover, these characters and their situations are still with me, days after. This movie tells the story of a Chinese-Cambodian woman (Junn, stunningly played by Cheng Pei-pei) whose son, Andrew (Andrew Leung) suddenly dies, and she is left to deal with her son's "best friend" (Ben Whishaw) But Richard, is not only his son's best friend, he was Andrew's lover, though Andrew never came out to his mother. We get to see the complexities of what happens after (and what happened before, seen in flashbacks)  Aren't mothers always the first to know, though? We see the questioning, the acknowledgement, and the despair all in Junn's eyes, and she is matched stare by emotional star by Whishaw, who gives here one of the finest performances I have seen in recent years (I do think he is one of the best of his generation) Junn doesn't speak English well, so Richard brings along an interpreter, Vann (Naomi Christie) to act as a middle mean. But, the more things are said, the more they get lost in translation, and Vann gets embroiled in the drama, because what is more important here, of course, are the things that are not being said. "lilting: is one of those textured movies that do better with multiple viewings - a raised eyebrow you may not have noticed the first time enhances a meaning of a scene the second time around. And these characters are all pained they will touch you before you even realize.

Something Like Summer (Book Review: Summer Fling, Serenity Woods)

Chloe has a broken heart. Garth is a tortured soul (like, literally - it happened in Afghanistan) They meet cute, as they jump from a plane. So this makes their love story doomed, right? Yeah right. This is a love story, and it doesn't take a genius to see how these things will go. I mean, the author's name is Serenity Woods! This is a casual, mindless read, designed to be read by the beach or the pool. It may not be the most ideal time to read this book, but it does give me the illusion of still being summer. I miss summer sometimes.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Born Yesterday (Television Review: Manzo'd With Children, Sundays on Bravo)

Truth be told,  Caroline Manzo isn't my favorite New Jersey housewife. Well, I actually don't have a favorite New Jersey housewife. Although I watch the show, I only do so out of force of habit. So when Caroline's spinoff show "Manzo'd With Children" started airing, I added it to my DVR because, well, why not, and since I enjoyed "Domn't Be Tardy For The Party," Kim Zolciak's spinoff, I thought this show might duplicate the energy of that. But, really, I have seen four episodes of this show, and all I can say is that it is boring, Caroline herself do not hold my attention, and her children, Albie, Christopher, and Lauren all annoy me. Plus, it's just so blatantly fake. I mean, I am no fool, I realize all these shows aren't really 100% authentic, but every premise here seems to be manufactured and I am not even interested enough to roll my eyes. I mean, who would really believe that her adult sons Chris and Al went back home to live with Caroline ( That has been disputed in this article )  And coincidence of all coincidences, their gay BFF Greg just happened to be in town the first week they started filming? I wan't born yesterday (Make mental note to delete show from DVR)

Where The Wind Comes Sweeping Down The Plain (Book Review: A Map Of Tulsa, Benjamin Lytal)

When I saw that Benjamin Lytal's novel "A Map Of Tulsa" was compared to Michael Chabon's "A Map Of Tulsa," I speed tracked the book to the top of my TBR pile. The novel tells the story of Jim Praley, as he goes home to Tu;sa from his first year of college. he gets smitten by Adrienne Booker, who is a descendant of a prominent rich family in town, and proceeds to have a summer fling with her. But she is some sort of a free soul, and while he doesn't forget about her, they go their separate ways. Years later, he comes back to town, because of a tragedy, and has to face his feelings for her. I wanted to like this book so much, and gave it several chances. But it just never caught my attention. I never believed the two of them together, and didn't really care what happened to both of them. While I appreciated the writing style, which was more observant than narrative, I felt it slowed the book a lot. But it did give me a sense of life in Tulsa, a place I have never been, and have no plans on visiting soon.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Here We Are, As In Olden Days (Music Review: Michael Feinstein, A Michael Feinstein Christmas)

It's that time of the year again.  Each year, I always make my first Christmas disc review a special. And this year, it doesn't get more special than "A Michael Feinstein Christmas." Feinstein is one of my favorite singers of all-time, and even though I sometimes think his past couple of releases have been uninspired, I still listen, and listen intently. This disc is one half of a two-disc release that was sold through QVC a couple of years ago, and it is worthy because this is its first commercial release. It's a doozy, one of the best Christmas music releases in recent years. Feinstein was the artist who got me seriously interested in exploring The Great American Songbook, and he will always remind me of a more innocent me. From the first here, he captures how, for me, Holiday music should be sung: with sensitivity, emotional intelligence, a whole lotta dose of melancholy. I cannot think of any other singer who can inject pathos into something like "Sleigh Ride," or "Winter Wonderland." And his lyrical interpretation is second to none: listen to the lesser known verse in "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,? and relish in its joy.  When he tears into the Christmas ballad, he is tops. Even well-worn chestnuts like "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," and "I'll Be Home For Christmas" sound brand spanking new sung by him. I love how "Home For The Holidays," a normally somewhat cheerful song sounds wistful here, and his piano intro sets the mood spectacularly. I don't mean to make this disc sound like a slit-your-wrist affair. On the contrary, I think it's hopeful yet contemplative, joyous but inciting reminiscence. Just like the Holidays.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In America (Book Review: Millie & The American University, Annabel Scott)

There are some books that start out with a premise that is so interesting and...it just takes turns to places that you just where you don't want to go. Annabel Scott's "Millie & The American University" starts innocent enough: a British girl goes on a student exchange program to an American University and then it becomes one of those raucous campus comedies that at times I wondered if I were reading a serialization of a Judd Apatow movie. While a lot of people enjoy that kind of thing, it just isn't my cup of tea. There were so many scenes where I just cringed, and some of the situations were tasteless. And I don't even think that Millie, the main character, ;earned her lesson in the end.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Internet Is For Scorn (Movie Review: Men, Women, And Childen)

About a couple of minutes into "Men, Women, And Children," I see in the opening credits that this movie was based on a book by Chad Kultgen, whose books always interest me, even though sometimes those books disgust me (I actually thought I had read this book but realized I have not) Jason Reitman directed this movie, and I think he is one of this generation's most interesting directors, as his movies always say something. In this movie, he captures how we, as a generation, have becoem zombies attached to our smartphones, and how that translates into how we behave, misbehave, and connect with other human beings. Several stories of teenagers and their parents are interwoven - Don (Adam Sandler) and his son (Travis Trope) are both obsessed with internet porn, to the point that for they have distorted views of reality. Rosemarie Dewitt plays his bored wife who goes on a cheating website to connect with another man. It is nice to see Sandler toned down, and he displays enough pathos to be sympathetic. Jennifer Garner is brilliant as a mom who monitors her daughter's every single step online, and Judy Greer is fantastic as well as a mom who caters to her daughter's narcissistic whims. When these all backfire on them, your heart is broken. Ansel Elgort plays a depressive son who gets his kicks from online role playing games. There isn't a bad performance in this ensemble that even when the screenplay gets preachy, you go with the flow. About halfway through the movie, the stories become tiresome and exhausting, but you trust the actors enough that ultimately they win me over. I admit the characters stayed with me after, and made me think.. They may not be the most likeable bunch, but they certainly feel real, and in the end you will not be able to help empathizing.

It Was Not Exactly Paris (Book Review, Bonjour 40, Karen A Chase)

"Bounjor 40," by Karen A Chase, is subtitled "A Paris Travel Log, 40 years, 40 days, 40 seconds," and for a wanderlust like me, seemed to be the perfect book to read. Chase, upon turning forty, planned on living in Paris for forty days, and she updated her friends via her travel blog, with each entry to be read in forty seconds. This book collates all her entries plus a couple of refection essays.  Her premise is brave and innovative, and is something a lot of us would probably love to do (I myself would choose London) However, I found that there wasn't a lot of meat here. Chase writes well, and with a spirit of wistfulness. I just wish there was something else - a love affair, a revelation, a transformation - that gave this book a little bit of depth. Even the touristic locations she chose seem run-of-the-mill, and not distinctive from any other travel book out there. For example, she speaks frequently of Dorothee, a lady who owns a crab restaurant near the corner of her apartment, but we really do not get to know her. We don't even know how they met. Writing the book version gave the chance for Chase to expand on a lot of her entries, but she didn't. A missed opportunity, I would say.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

It Happened In Manhattan (Television Review: Manhattan Love Story)

There is a small trend of rom-com sitcoms this Fall season, and that's a good thing, right? The genre is right up my alley, so I will be watching. First up is "Manhattan Love Story," on ABC. The good thing about DVRing shows is that I no loner need to know when these shows are on. Also, I can watch these episodes right after the other, instead of making appointments to watch them. I have just seen the first three episodes of "Manhattan Love Story," and to be honest, I don't know if I would have kept watching after the first episode if these weren't recorded automatically for me. The pilot is cute enough, but too cute, even for me. Dana (Analeigh Tipton) has just moved to her dream job in New York (working for a publishing company) and she is set up on a blind date with Peter (Jake McDorman) and well, we are supposed to believe that they are meant for reach other. I guess every week we will be encountered with obstacles, and they will persevere. (On the second episode, she catches him on another date, on the third she retaliates by dating another guy, only to realize that guy is gay)  It really is not a bad premise, but my main problem with this is that the chemistry between the two main characters isn't sizzling. It's not a dead end, for sure, and I do see it simmer a little bit better with each episode. Its main gimmick: the Mars vs. Venus thing, seems a bit dated and that concept has been served better earlier this summer in "You're The Worst." on F/X. But the show definitely picked up steam in the next two episodes, and I am glad I gave it a chance, for it has the potential to get really good. So I will keep on watching.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Satisying Quickie (Book Review: Money's On The Dresser, Christopher Daniels)

Christopher Daniels used to be a Las Vegas based male porn star and gay escort and in this book, "Money's On the Dresser," he writes about his experience as those hyphenates.  It's a thin book (176 pages) because, presumably, it only covers a couple of years. And really, it even needs to be edited - some ideas and thoughts are repeated more than once and can really be trimmed. But, this is an honest book: it's insightful, and is told from a very specific point of view that makes it very readable. You may or may not agree with some of his choices. For example, he seems to have a self-destructive streak that can be dangerous, and we really do not see a lot of emotional growth from the first page to the last. But he is young enough to learn from his mistakes, and I do believe he needs to experience some of these trials for his emotional I.Q.  As a read, it's a great and satisfying quickie, which is probably akin to one of his hourly sessions.

It's Barbra's World And We All Just Live In It (Music Review: Barbra Streisand, Partners)

They say an artist's biggest fans could also be their harshest critics.  When I first heard the album in its entirety, I honestly couldn't help but feel disappointed by it. It seemed so...derivative, and lazy. Another duets album? Everyone else have done, and she herself has perfected that formula, so why go back to it again?  The choice of partners is mildly interesting, though ultimately predictable. I was most disappointed by the song selections. What is the point of redoing her biggest hits, and with her now-diminishing voice, the new interpretations would only lend to unfavorable comparison to the originals. And wouldn't it have been nice if Barbra had taken risks and ventured into her partners' musical genres? As much of a cliche as it sounds, I am salivating on the idea of her duetting John Legend's "All Of Me," or John Mayer's "Gravity," for example. Instead, we get them doing songs we've heard her do a million times already.  But as I listen to the album again now, I can't help but like it more. I mean, here she is at &2 years old, still giving her fans music, and I can't help but just feel grateful.  And sure, it's a lazy effort in a lot of ways, but it's still more than anyone else gives us. And yes, there are standout tracks. I am still enamored by the duet with Billy Joel, though they both oversing. Plus, you can sense a real connection with Michael Buble in "It Had To Be You," probably because it was one of the few (only?) tracks that were done face to face. And sure, there was a slight country twang in her Blake Shelton duet, though why she sould want to sing him knowing he is a homophobe baffles me. Still, there are a lot of tracks that did not satisfy me: there were nos parks with Andrea Boccelli, and Josh Groban seemed to be lost in his track with her. And the duet with Elvis Presley makes me cringe, though it really isn't as bad as I thought it would be.  I thought I would never see the day when she would sing "How Deep Is The Ocean," and I am just thankful she sings it with her son here, though I would have preferred a solo version, to be honest. All in all, I am still entertained by it. It may not be the best Barbra album, but for me, it is still infinitely more enjoyable than, say, the new Ariana Grande album, which just sounds so bland to me. So in the end, it's all good.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Untasty (Book Review: I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti, Giulia Melucci)

I didn't know anything about Giulia Melucci before reading her book "I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti," and it seems like, after finishing this book, I still don't know her. File this book under "Self-Important Memoirs." I am sure Melucci is a much more interesting person than than how this book presents her. The idea seems fool-proof: her story peppered with recipes pertaining to what was happening in her life. But, there's just no there there. Melucci just goes from one dead end relationship to another, and there doesn't seem to be no emotional growth between her relationships, which really makes this book an untasty experience. Which makes me wonder how stories like these get published, until I realize she worked in the publishing industry and probably used her connections to get a book deal.

That Tricky Tuberose (Perfume Review: Jo Malone Tuberose Angelica)

Tuberose scents are always tricky.  As a note,  either you love it or hate it. And, most people agree that the best tuberose perfumes have already been created (A toss up between Piguet's Fracas or Malle's Carnal Flower) Still, I am always interested with every new tuberose release. I remember a time when I didn't get tuberose at all (too heavy, too antique smelling) but I guess with age and experience, I have grown to love it. It could be hard to wear, and during hot weather days, it is almost unwearable. When I was at the Heathrow Duty Free store recently, I sampled Jo Malone's Tuberose Angelica on my wrist. I was on my way to Istanbul and when we got off in muggy weather, I remember sniffing my wirst and jokingly said, "this smells like cough syrup."  Well, what a difference a couple of temperatures make. Here I am in the desert, on a crisp fall day,with weather in the high 70s, and as I wear this again, I can safely say that this ain't no cough syrup.  Created by Christien Nagel for Jo Malone (one of her last ones before moving to Chanel) Tuberose Angelica is at once delicate and penetrating. It's more a a skin scent, it is more a whisper than a powerhouse, and that's just fine. It starts as a coconut-y tuberose, and is framed by jasmine, sandalwood, and amber. The over all effect is subtle before the herbaceous angelica kicks in, and the tuberose is very much tempered, though it never disappears. It's a very sensual scent, one that penetrates more than shocks, and I think it's very different from a lot of Jo Malone's safe but solid offerings. This lends to a more mysterious wearing, and the "cologne intense" aspect of it hugs you. If this scent were a personality, it would be more an introvert, but once you draw it out, you get to know its complex personality.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Love That Is More Than Love (Book Review: The Greatest Love Story Of All Time)

I always bring a fully-stocked Kindle during my vacations, but more often than not, I get so wrapped up in my destinations that I never get to really read.  I started reading Lucy Robinson's "the Greatest Love Story Of All Time" and I just couldn't stop reading. Perhaps it's because I visited London and a lot of the scenes and locales used in the book sounded familiar that i got really engrossed. or maybe because the book hooks you instantly. The main character Fran just turns thirty and is dumped by her boyfriend, and is told to wait as to why her boyfriend, Michael, broke up with her. Even though you scratch your head with some of the developments,  Robinson makes Fran likeable even if a lot of times you disagree with a lot of her decisions. The last quarter of the book is frustrating - you know that her decisions will come back to bite her in the ass. The final ending is unexpected, as far as these books go, and I don't know if I fully agree with it or not to be honest. But that's life. The book is engrossing enough to make me want to keep on reading.

What If We Fall In Love? (Movie Review, What If)

On paper, "What If" seems perfect for me.  Rom-Com? Check? Cute guy? Daniel Radclife, hello! Meet Cute? Corny, but I eat it up all the time. Yet all in all, What If didn't really satisfy as much as I thought it would. Or maybe I had too much high hopes for it? Or maybe, I am just much too old for these freaking things. Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan play would-be lovers. Do millennials fall in love differently than older generations? Of course not. Love is love, no matter what age or generations. But Wallace and Chantry (their character's names) from the beginning till the end suppress their feelings because of entanglements. I wanted to shout out to the  characters to follow your hearts, you are still young, you can make mistakes. But as such, love is always heavy when you feel it, and when you think it is not working out for you. Radcliffe plays "puppy dog eyes" pretty well and yes he is charming and adorable here. It is nice to see him in a contemporary role, and even better that he speaks in his natural British accent. Here he is swoon-worthy, complete with an attractive vulnerability that will make you just want to take him under your wings. Kazan is initially an odd choice, and her character isn't the most sympathetic. But Kazan has great instincts and she wins you over ultimately. You want to root for these two but hey this is a rom-com, you know what to expect. I wish the movie touched me more, but I felt a detachment from it. Maybe I am too old and know that love is ultimately fleeting. but I do think "What If" is good for at least a lonely Saturday night. Your mileage may vary.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Feeling Cruised (Book Review: The Truth About Cruise Ships, Jay Herring)

I am going to be on a cruise in a week so when I saw this book in my TBR pile, I just started reading it.  I wish I could say that I learned a lot from it, factually, but I didn't. This book is more a memoir, but something in it felt not too personal, and on the "fact" side, I felt that a lot of the information were cut and paste from a Wikipedia page. I felt not an ounce of passion from his writing.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Not So Great Gatsby (Movie Review: Affluenza)

When "Affluenza" was likened to "The Great Gatsby" I was instantly intrigued.  Gatsby is one of my favorite novel of all time, and even though I was very satisfied with Baz Luhrman's recent version, I thought i twas ripe for a modern retelling. Sadly, "Affluenza" isn't worth being compared to it. Kevin Asch, who directed this film, doesn't seem to know what to say with this movie. Set in richie rich Long Island, the kids her meander and connect, bu we never connect with them. Setting the movie against the 2008 economic meltdown was an interesting idea, but it did so with such a bland flavor. The acting is good enough: I thought Ben Rosenfeld was a charming narator, and Gregg Sulkin in the Gatsby role pouted handsomely, but they can't save something that is essentially dead on arrival.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Driving Hard (Book Review: Beth Harbison, Driving With The Top Down)

I finished this book last night, and this morning, don't remember a lot about it. Is that a good or bad sign? I looked forward to reading Beth Harbison's "Driving With The Top Down" because I have enjoyed every Beth Harbison novel I have read. I wish I could say that same for this book, but I just couldn't connect and identify with Coleen, the main character. There were interesting plot points from both Tamara and Bitt's stories, but I never felt they were as fully realized as I wanted them to be. I'll chuck this to a late summer spell.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Joan Now, And Forever (Perfume Review: Joan Rivers Private Reserve, Now And Forever)

I've been affected by the death of Joan Rivers at age 81. I remember as a young kid, I used to wait for those times when she hosted The Tonight Show. She had that outrageous sense of humor, and I identified with it so much. I can't say that I understood all her jokes at that time, but I always tried to remember them, and at times even looked up what they meant - and this was before they had Google accessibility. And through the years, I have sort of followed her around, and saw her stand-up act numerous times, even going to her Broadway forays. She still had a lot of performances in her, I felt. It's not like she has retired, and has been out of the public eye. Today I give tribute to her in my own little way by wearing her scent, Now And Forever, from her Private Reserve collection. Now And Forever doesn't really break new ground, as far as perfumes go. But it is a very well done floral with hints of fruit. It's a lively scent, and it wears well. The heart is a floral melange of water lilly, tuberose and honeysuckle. It's a well-balanced concoction, transparent but not too much - there's a definite punch to the flowers. There are hints of peach and pineapple just to balance it, and the fruit never takes center stage. I liken this to a classic Estee Lauder perfume, which is just the kind of style I associate with her. (I read that she wears Patou Joy)  It's wearable, it's elegant, and it doesn't pretend to be anything else but that. I think that's Joan to me, and today i wear this perfume proudly.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Before The Me Before (Book Review: Me Before You, Jojo Moyes)

I expected to love Jojo Moyes' "me Before You" because I have read so many good reviews about it. And now that I have finished reading it, I understand and get why it shot through the hearts of so many people. I wish I could say I fell head over heels in love with it because to be honest, I didn't. I also did not dislike it - there are a lot of it I truly liked. But, I somehow felt that a big chunk of it is calculated and manipulated to get exactly the reaction it wanted to get. I felt the characters were not fleshed out as best as it could have been. And, there were lapses in the middle that I found boring, so much so I stopped reading it and made myself finish it. (Though I must say the last quarter of the book is quite compelling) But maybe it just isn't what I wanted to read right now - a great lot of bad news all over the world, and perhaps my mood is wanting a little cheerier. I kind of want to tell it: it's not you, it's me.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Dance of 1985 (Movie Review: Test)

Once in a while, a movie just connects with me. I felt that connection again with "Test," a movie written and directed by Chris Mason Johnson. The film is set in 1985, the year that the HIV test came out. But I would not call this an AIDS movie, though I kind of look at it as a subtler, quieter cousin of "The Normal Heart." I look at this movie as a slice of someone's life that year, with a backdrop of the disease as it starts to creep into gay men's lives. It shows how sensibilities change, how sexual attitudes morphed from free and hedonistic to being cautious and safe-sex cognizant. And, it captures the backstage of a San Francisco Dance Company, how the disease affects an ensemble. Scott Marlowe plays Frankie, an understudy in a dance company. It briefly explores his comlicated, but loving, relationship with a co-dancer, Todd (Matthew Risch) The dance sequences are beautifully choreographed by Sidra Bell, and acts sort of like a Greek chorus for what is happening to these men's lives. The greatest thing about the movie is how authentically it captures the feel of 1985, from the Walkman to the music in the Walkman (It seems like I had the same cassettes on mine) to even the cut of the acid washed jeans that Marlowe is wearing. I feel transported to a very familiar place because essentially I was there, and any of these characters could be me. "Test" captures a time of innocence lost, not unlike mine during that time.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Leather In A Rosebud (Perfume Review: Tom Ford White Suede)

I seem to be infatuated with the leather note this week. Well, I have always been, but more so this week. With the weather still hovering in the high temperatures, it sometimes isn't the best decision. But it's probably a result of a eau de cologne rebellion: I feel like I have been using those lately, as they seem most appropriate on the triple-digit days. Yesterday, I put on Tom Ford White Suede, a scent I have not used in a long time. I wanted to wear it a day after I wore Dior's Cuir Cannage, because in my mind they are similar. White Suede has notes of rose and leather, with musk and saffron in there. It sounds very derivative, but this is Tom Ford of course, and everything he does, he does well. On my skin, it seems like the rose is completely sidelined. The suede is big - it's that appealing, slightly sour (in a good way) kind, like an expensive bag. The saffron creeps up, and the musk kicks in. It's a real leather-musk accord, but it's not dirty. The blend is sophisticated and expensive smelling. White Musk nowadays is a warning sign for me. It very rarely delivers. But here, it really does smell like white musk as it is intended to be. It isn't the dirty musk I love, but at the same time it's not the clean homogenized kind either. The biggest surprise for me, though is how the perfume bloomed so differently on my scarf. I spritzed and now, a day later, the perfume on fabric seems so different: a nice rose/leather blend that is unique and pretty. It's so graphic and beautiful that I can't stop touching the scarf and sniffing. I want that perfume on my skin, as it seemed like a whole different one from what I was wearing yesterday.  Was it the heat that made it smell so differently on my skin? I will have to wear this on a colder day sometime when the chill arrives.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

No Spark In This Magic (Movie Review: Magic In The Moonlight)

I always think even a bad Woody Allen movie is not  waste of time. He is one of my favorite filmmakers, and I always get him. I get his humour, I get what is trying to do, I respond to his movies. But I guess there has to be a first time, because I really did not like Magic In The Moonlight.  This movie stars Colin Firth as a famous magician who wears yellow face (I am not offended as it is done with humour) who gets invited to the French countryside to survey on a woman, Sophie Black (played by Emma Stone) who is suspected to be scamming a rich family by pretending to be a medium. It's a premise that never really got going for me, and even though both Stone and Firth have oodles of charm, their characters are so unlikeable (especially Firth's) that I lost interest in them early on. And even as their characters get romantically entangled, the spark never materialized. I never believed their romance, and the age difference between the two of them even add an ick factor. And here lies the big problem with the movie: most scenes are between the two of them, even though they are surrounded by interesting characters. A lot  of scenes got too "talky"  and as alluring as the French countryside was photographed, there just wan't enough there to interest me. Allen himself seems to be running out of ideas, as he recycles themes he has explored in previous movies. Maybe he needs to take a short break and regroup.

Even Socipaths Fall In Love (Television Review: You're The Worst, Thursdays on F/X)

I have to admit. I watched "You're The Worst" because I thought it was going to be a romantic comedy television series. I mean, look at the poster. As it turns out, it *is* a romantic comedy: only without a shred of romance, and with a gret dose of comedy. Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) meet in a meet-cute premise, but with vitriol and bad manners. These two are sociopaths in the best sense of the word, and the series starts off with a one-night stand. They are the unlikeliest couple, they don't even seem to like each other (They one up each other in every way) Though we know as viewers that they are really meant to be, we are puzzled, and the joy of the series is finding out how to get there when it looks like they aren't even traveling on the same road, so you ask yourself how are they going to meet. They spend days refusing to acknowledge that they like each other, trying their damnedest to acknowledge they are beginning to develop feelings for each other. As I finish the fifth episode, they begrudgingly agree to not see other people. (This, after spending a whole episode trying to outdo each other sleeping with other people) I find these unlikely sympathetic characters endearingly hilarious. This is a show for today: there are scads of nudity, the language is as profane as cable television could get, and these characters do despicable acts you can only imagine. But it's also arresting television. You won't be able to take your eyes off the screen.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Comes Down To Reality, And it's Fine By Me (Music Review: Barbra Streisand & Billy Joel, 'New York State Of Mind')

There was a time when all in the world, a new Barbra Streisand song was considered an "event."  I would like to think that we still live in that world now, so I am writing about Barbra's new single "New York State Of Mind," from her forthcoming album, "Partners." The new album is a duets album, and in this particular track she is singing with Billy Joel. This is a song that is resonating with me lately, especially on days when I miss New York City.  It's a very Barbra track, and she blends well with Joel, although the chemistry isn't combustible between them.  (There's a cute attempt at that at the end when Barbra says, "Billy why don't we get some pizza," and he answers "how about some Chinese?")  There is your typical oversinging on both ends, and that's just fine as I didn't expect otherwise.  I wish the arrangement was a little more tender, as I think that brings out the heart of the song. But it's still a new Barbra track, and yes, that's a cause for celebration.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Deja Viewed (Television Review: Partners, Mondays on F/X)

"Partners," the new television sitcom starring Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence, is probably one of those shows where the show came after its casting.  I could just imagine the executive meeting - "Hey we got both Grammer and Lawrence to commit to shows, why don't we put both of them together?" And a production team is born. "Partners" is at times so unfunny I wonder how it passed through quality control at the network - I mean, did they see the show before final cut?  The show is a variation on the time old Odd Couple theme - this time it's two lawyers who are partners in a firm. One is straight-laced, the other is a shark. I mean, nice enough premise, but nothing we haven't seen before. So it all boils down to their chemistry. The two ain't Randall and Klugman, but that awkwardness sort of works for them in the beginning. As time goes on, they should get more comfortable with each other and should be more at ease. But the first four episodes I saw were so unmemorable that I have a hard time motivating myself to watch future airings. The supporting characters are very interesting, though: Rory O Malley as the gay assistant is predictable camp, and Thelma Hopkins as Lawrence's mom provide matching sass. But we've all really seen all this before, so why should we bother again?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Smell Every Mountain (Perfume Review: Creed Himalaya)

The day has come. I thought it would never arrive. I am wearing (and writing about it ) a scent by Creed.  I confess to be a hater of Creed. I think they are vastly overrated - its scents are not unique, it has obnoxious fanboys, and the astronomical price points are not justified. But recently, I got offers on (very) cheap bottles, and what the hell, I dove right in. After all, can you consider yourself a scent aficionado if you don't have some in your collection? Today I am wearing Himalaya. This scent was created by Olivier Creed (with Erwin Creed) based on his climb of the Himalayan mountains.  So you can just imagine what it smells like based on the visual: a high mountain that's topped with snow. Fresh, aquatic, imposing. Yes, I think those words can best describe Himalaya. It's clean-smelling, for sure, with a great big citrus burst of bergamot and grapefruit in the opening. It's powerful, and creates an impression, for sure. It then goes into clean woods - sandalwood, cedar, amber. They are blended with finesses - none of the individual woods stand out.  I must say that Creed uses quality material - in that way their price is justified. But after sparing the perfume, you know you have smelled it before somewhere. There is nothing in it that's inspiring to me, it does not incite imagination for me. I think Creeds are perfect office scents - they will not offend anyone, and they give an impression of a well-dressed man. How do I feel about it now? I am glad I have it, and I wear it gladly. But if I had not gotten these at bargain-basement prices, i would not have given them a second look.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Only Helen (Film Review: The Hundred Foot Journey)

Only Helen Mirren can make me watch a movie about Indian food, a cuisine I despise. Mirren is one of those few actresses who can make haute cuisine out of fast food fare, and she proves that here. Her character, Madame Mallory, is written like a cartoon character. Yet Merrin humanizes and gives life to her with such charm that she makes it come alive almost as vividly as Queen Elizabeth. Too bad the film around her is a disjointed mess. "The Hundred Foot Journey" cannot seem to decide what kind of movie it wants to focus on, and instead give us glimpses of four potential great movies it could have been. Ultimately it is saved by arresting performances from its cast: the aforementioned Mirren and a star-making turn by Manish Dayal, who plays Hassan Kadam, a young Indian chef who makes waves in the French culinary world. But before he does, though, we get to see funny shenanigans between Mirren and Kadam's father, played by Om Puri. The film bizarrely takes a left turn in the last quarter, and the payoff from it was just as weird. But this is still a worthwhile experience, because Helen Mirren makes every scene she in worthwhile - proving she is a living legend. It may not be worth your Saturday evening, but perfect on a weekend matinee.

A Bountiful Trip (Book Review: I'll Get There, It Better Be Worth The Trip, John Davison)

There was a time when I was reading all the gay-themed fiction I could get my hands on, so I was surprised I had not read John Davison's "I'll get there. It better be worth the trip," which was released in 1969 and was one of the first young adult books to handle the subject of homosexuality. Set in 1969, this book tells the story of Davy, who moves to New York City to live with his mother, after his grandmother passes away. It's a coming of half-an-age novel, and it is still very relevant today. As a matter of fact, it could very well be set to today's times. It is a heartbreaking story, and it made me think of my younger days. It is a story of a lot of changes, and how a young person can adapt or not adapt to changes in his life. When he befriends someone in his school, he gets to notice how his feelings change and evolve. Davison handles the sensitive topic well, handling it with a combination of class and innocence. Moreover, I think this book is as much a story of a boy and his dog. This book is not only worth the trip, but also worth the read.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Cathcing A Pitch (Music Review: Nancy Monroe, The Love Within)

New York City is full of aspiring singers and Nancy Monroe is one of them.  Her album, "the Love Within" fell on my lap and the first thing I thought was, why did she choose a blurred picture for the cover of her album? But don't judge a book by its cover right? Monroe has a flexible voice, style-wise, but she more or less puts them on a jazz setting. To my ears, she seems off-pitch, but that's not really a problem for me if a singer knows a way around a song. Sadly, though, she doesn't. I don't understand the too-cozy arrangement she has in "Summer Me, Winter Me," for example, as it is a song with a lot of angst, and she bypasses that aspect of the song to focus on a bossa beat that's out of nowhere. The tempo is more appropriate in "Without A Song" but when she does her jazz riffs here, the deficiencies in her pitch gets highlighted, and it's unpleasant. I found it straining to listen to her voice after a couple of songs, and the original songs here don't help them. I just wise up and turned it off.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Two Cases Of Adultery (Book Revew: The View From Here, Deborah McKinley)

Deborah McKinlay's "The View From Here" show show adultery touched a woman's life twice in her lifetime. Frances has been diagnosed with cancer and she knows the end is near, and at the same time she recalls an affair she had during her younger and more hedonistic days. The author toggles the two stories and it's done with great effect, but the earlier story is a little more convoluted and suffers from too much detailing. (I never got some of the characters straight) The story heartbreakingly ends both ways, but it just sometimes too much labour getting there. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Whine I Was Here (Movie Review: Wish I Was Here)

If a movie is endorsed by harry Styles, it has to be good, right? If, like me, you had to think about who Harry Styles is, then we are on the same wavelength. Zach Braff, best known for his television work in "Scrubs,"  co-wrote, directed, and stars in "Wish I Was Here," and he probably fancies himself the modern-day Woody Allen - he is currently starring on Broadway on a show based on one of his movies ("Bullets Over Broadway")  But the connections end there. This movie is disjointed, self-indulgent, and frankly, boring. He plays a 35 year old struggling actor who is forced to face life's hardships, as they come head on.  So, he managed to coast through 34 years and now, boo hoo, he has to grow up. He sounds like one of those entitled people I loathe, so how can I be expected to root for him? That is my main problem with the movie - I never liked any of the characters, and did not care about them.  But I do commend Brach for doing a somewhat impossible feat:  squeezing a heartfelt, subtle performance from Mandy Patinkin, who always chews scenery. And I never believed Kate Hudson as Brach's wife here - she is much too "cheery" for the movie, which has one theme: whine. I think what particularly doomed this move was the casting of Josh Gad, who single-handedly manages to ruin any show or movie he is cast in.  I should have scanned the cast before watching.

Act Up (Book Review: The Actress, Amy Sohn)

The hype around Amy Sohn's "The Actress" is that the novel is based on the marriage of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. That was enough enticement for me, and I was expecting juicy details. It's a false promise, though. In my mind, the main character, Maddy Freed, seemed more Nicole Kidman than Katie, and the Steven Weller character, resembles George Clooney more than Tom Cruise. I am sure the characters here are composites of peopel anyway, and that goes with the details as well. The story is also kind of run-of-the-mill. Sohn's imagination isn't as vivid as I wanted it to be, and there were no details that shocked me, and some twists and turns were very predictable. Still, it was a page-turner. i wanted it to challenge me more, but some scenes were closer to camp.  The whole thing is closer to a soap opera, and I think it would be a good basis for a night time soap - or a television mini series. It's enjoyable, but not earth-shattering.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Entitled (Television Review: Rich Kids Of Beverly Hills, Sundays on E!)

It's not like I don't watch enough trash on television, but I went ahead and put the new season of "Rich Kids Of Beverly Hills" on my DVR.  I watched it sporadically last season and I don't know what came over me, but I gave it full "commitment" this time around. I watched the back-to-back premiere episode on E!, and I am dumbfounded. I am dumbfounded by how dumb and shallow this show is, which of course is a companion piece to that Kardashian travesty of a show. Considering I have been watching reality shows since the age of the first season of "Real World." All I can say is, we've come a long way, baby. I don't think I can find a sympathetic cast member here, or maybe I am just bitter because these kids are so rich that they can buy whatever they want, and travel wherever they want to go go go. On the first episode, for example,  EJ Johnson (Magic's son) hosts a fabulous party at a yacht with all kids in attendance. Draped in a caftan and accessorized  with a Chanel editorial necklace, Johnson swishes champagne and mingles with guests as only he can. Johnsonw as only a part-time member of the cast last year, but due to a multi-show contract with E! (he will do Fashion police and report from New York Fashion Week) he got upped to series regular this year. Okay, so I have an unexplainable fascination with him. All the others are blah, with Morgan taking the cake of most annoying. On the second episode, Dorothy takes her friends to China to show off his father's businesses ("They consider me royalty there," she muses) and in a straight-from-fantasy scene, she has their department store opened because her friend Jonny needed some pimple cream. This show is a parade of entitled spoiled brats, and  they are rich, bitches!  I can't think of a worse way to spend my Sunday nights with, and of course my DVR will be full of their episodes.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Black Is Dirty (Scent Review: L'Artisan Parfemeur Mure et Musc)

I have been trying to document all my scents, which is giving me an excuse to wear a lot of perfumes I have not touched for a long time. These scents are neglected, for the most part, because they have been filed in the back of the cabinet. I pulled it L'Artisan's Mure et Musc the other day and spritzed it on, having forgotten what it smelled like. Well, I had an idea what it did. I know and remember it being a blackberry scent,  sort of a precursor to the floral explosion of the late 90s. In my mind, I also associated  and likened this with Lalique Amethyst,  probably because of the blackberry note. (Amethyst is more powdery, and a lot more synthetic smelling than this) At first spray, Mure et Musc is a burst of berries, with an undertone of citrus that gives it a bright feeling. It sparkles, it's effervescent. It is also sweet and cloying. On a summer day, it can be a bit too much, like an overripe fruit. But as it dries down, there' s the musk. And I don't recall this, bu tit is a dirty resinous musk - the kind you see in Serge Luten's Musc Kublai Kahn, or in Musc Tonkin. It permeates, it eats up the sweetness, and it stays. I love it, like getting to the pit of a fruit after you devoured its flesh. It gives a great antidote of skank after the juicy fruit.  I can imagine this as a 1976 scent, the year this was created. As a matter of fact, this may be just a little subversive for today, in the very best way. I am surprised it hasn't been discontinued yet, so it must be a good seller for the house. Mind you, I have the "regular" version, and now I am raring to sniff the Extreme reformulation, as I hear that the musk is even more amplified there.  I wore this on a summer day, and I think the musk may have bloomed more. Butlet it bloom, let it bloom, let it bloom!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Unlove Letters (Book Review: You Only Get Letters From Jail, Jodi Angel)

Short story collections are getting more appealing for me. I get too tired at night most times so I can only read for a certain amount of time, so reading Jodi Angel's "You Only Get Letters From Jail" was good because I could one short story before going to sleep and feel like I have accomplished something. But, the stories in this collection are brutal and can sometimes be so affecting that I end up thinking more. That's a good thing - great books make you think, make you reflect, they give you a better understanding of yourself. The stores here are connected by a theme: male teenagers who experience something that makes them cross to manhood. Some of them get thrust to it quickly, suddenly, while others percolate to it. Most of the stories are memorable, although at times they drive same exact points. But Angel has a good voice, and can essay different points of view. Some of these stories are quite heartbreaking, and worth a read. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Star Crossed (Movie Review, Triple Crossed)

I am not going to pretend and say that I had high hopes for "Triple Crossed." This movie stars and is directed by Sean Paul Lockhart, his first indie movie. And again, I am not going to pretend I disliked it, because, well I did. I didn't love it and will probably not see it again, but I have to say, it was pretty engrossing, and maybe I feel dumb about this, but the twists and turns of this erotic thriller took me, and I was kept guessing about the ending until the end. Is it because this film is really not bad, or am I just more gullible in my old age? Sure, the film could be sped up a little, and some of the directorial touches reveal inexperience, but as entertainment in different levels, this sort of succeeds. And there is delicious eye candy, too, if you are into the sort of thing. The acting is passable (Lockhart is charming as hell, and I would go with him on any role he takes) though Laura Riley has unintentionally laughable scenes. It's not the worst thing in the world for sure.