July 31, 2007

Welcome Back Home

Armistead Maupin has for years been one of my most beloved authors. Through his Tales of the City series (set in San Francisco), I grew to know and love a fictional family of friends. Anna, Mona, Brian and Mary Ann felt almost real - like pen pals that I was keeping in touch with across the miles.

So it was with great joy and excitement that I heard he had returned to the residents of Barbary Lane after more than 20 years. This one focuses just on the character of Michael, hence the title Michael Tolliver Lives. And although we catch glimpses of Michael's old friends, this novel is a moving love story for a couple that has been together for years. Michael and his younger husband Ben represent what we all hope for - unquestioning acceptance, unbridled lust, and unwavering loyalty. I found that just by reading the book, I was falling deeper in love with my own husband (if such a thing is possible).

I have a feeling that the book is a semi-autobiographical ode to Maupin's real-life partner, Christopher Turner. I hope that the love expressed in the novel is just as manifest in his own life.

July 30, 2007

D'oh yeah!

If you enjoy the TV show The Simpsons, then you absolutely should be running out to see the movie. It's great fun with the usual dose of irreverent humor. And with a movie, the writers can get away with a bit more than you can on TV (case in point - a wild skateboard ride for Bart).



Just go see it and laugh your butt off. You won't regret it! Heck, it's worth it for Spider Pig alone. My grade - A.

July 25, 2007

Big Girls Are Beautiful

I see a spectrum of stage musicals brought to film in recent years. On the one side we have a film like The Producers (a wonderful idea gone horribly wrong - we'll call that a One), and on the other would be Chicago (so good it rivals the original - a Ten). So where would I put the latest - Hairspray? I'd give it a Six.

On the plus side (no pun intended), there are some really strong performances. James Marsden is wonderful, and Nikki Blonsky was certainly destined for this role. We get a lot of nice footage of "real" Baltimore. And there are some laugh out loud funny moments.

But the real problem is just that the movie lacks the magic and energy that you get in the stage show. Whereas the original begins with the whole cast singing good morning to Baltimore, the movie turns it into a solo for Tracy, with some soft disembodied back-up singing. It's not really until we get to the Corny Collins show that things start to pick up.

And then there is John Travolta. My expectation was that he would ruin the film, and I'm happy to say he doesn't. But at the same time he is still just wrong for the role of Tracy's mother. He never lets us forget for a moment that he's a man in a dress. Yeah, John, we GET IT ya big Scientologist closet case!

Is the movie worth seeing? I think so, but you could certainly wait to rent it.

Yet the movie experience proved to be well worth it for us. Why? Super kick-ass previews for Elizabeth: The Golden Age (a sequel to Cate Blanchett's wonderful performance) and The Golden Compass (can't wait)!

July 23, 2007

Potter Mania

It's no secret that I'm a big Harry Potter fan. So there I was, in line at Barnes & Noble on a Friday night, holding a wristband with #230 on it, waiting anxiously for midnight so I could take the final tome (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) home with me. And thanks to the efficiency of the folks at the downtown store, I was out of there at 12:20, clutching my prize.

I allowed myself to read 3 chapters before bed, just to whet my appetite and get some sleep. Once morning came, I set to work, and devoured 750 pages in about 14 hours. No spoilers, and no contact with the outside world (except a brief trip to the grocery store to refuel - iPod firmly planted in my ears).

Now if you think I'm going to tell you what happens - no dice. You'll have to read it for yourself. And I hope you do, because the book is brilliant. It is everything I wanted it to be. What J.K. Rowling has accomplished is an extraordinary triumph, and the series will stand the test of time. Generations from now, children will still be transporting themselves on the Hogwarts Express to a land of enchantment.

I'm also pleased to say that the latest Harry Potter film (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) is really good. Certainly there are major plot points that had to be cut because of time. But the director (David Yates) has captured the important aspects of the novel - Harry's burgeoning anger, the overall tone that is psychologically dark, the thrill of defiance as Dumbledore's Army comes together. And our kids are growing up! Who is that sweet buxom redhead behind Harry? Oh, that would be Ginny (Bonnie Wright). But the star of the movie is without question Imelda Staunton, who steals the show as Dolores Umbridge - malevolently...pink. (My grade - A-.)

So Harry Potter fans take heart - the novels may be over, but we still have two films to look forward to in the near future!

(P.S. I love Neville!!!)

The Second Annual Footsie Awards

The Emmy nominations were announced, and once again, they miss the mark by a mile. So I've decided to bring back my own awards! So may I present the winners of the second annual Footsie Awards for Television! Winners may email me for information on how to receive their trophys (which are shaped like an ankle sock in the finest 8k gold plate). I won't cover every category the Emmys do, because contrary to popular belief, I don't really watch all that much TV. (Shut up, I don't. Seriously!)

Best Drama - Battlestar Galactica

OK, so this is a bit of a cheat, in that I haven't actually seen season 3 yet. But unless the quality has dipped drastically (which faithful viewers tell me it didn't), then this has to be the best.

Best Actor in a Drama - Masi Oka

The Emmys have decided that Oka is a "supporting" actor, but he's been the heart and soul of Heroes all season.

Best Actress in a Drama - Kate Walsh

This has been a great year for female roles on TV - how can I choose just one? But I must. So I'm going out on a limb and handing this to Walsh, who was a revelation in an otherwise uneven season of Grey's Anatomy (Honorable mention to Mary McDonnell of BSG, by the way.)

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama - Michael Emerson

A repeat winner from last year, Ben is one creepy dude on Lost. Love him.

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama - Elizabeth Mitchell

The best new Lost character in recent memory, Juliet is paradox personified. One minute you love her, the next you run away screaming. That's one great performance.

Best Comedy - How I Met Your Mother

The most under-appreciated comedy on TV, this is ensemble comedy at its best. Not since Sex and the City has a comedic cast meshed so nicely.

Best Actor in a Comedy - Steve Carell

The Office is often hilarious, and it's often because Michael is so truly awful.

Best Actress in a Comedy - Alyson Hannigan

Maybe I'm going out on a limb here, but I think that Hannigan has really come into her own as a comic actress on HIMYM. American Pie seems so long ago!

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy - Neil Patrick Harris

Any gay man that can be that convincing as a straight lothario deserves an award. Score another one for the HIMYM cast.

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy - Angela Kinsey

There are a lot of funny ladies in The Office, but lately it's Angela that cracks me up the most. Witness her receiving customer service lessons from Kelly, and laugh your ass off.

Best Variety Program - The Soup

Once again a two-time winner! The Soup saves me so much TV-watching time.

Best Competitve Reality Program - Project Runway

Horrible ending aside, Runway was still top-notch in its third season. I'll give an honorable mention to America's Next Top Model, which may be cheesetastic, but it still makes for great TV.

Best Non-Competitve Reality Program - Dirty Jobs

What makes this show work is Mike Rowe. He works hard. And he takes that work seriously, even as he makes it clear to us that he knows why it might seem silly.

So those are my awards for this year! No need to wait for an envelope-opening, no need to watch a program that tries to convince you that William Shatner is one of the best dramatic actors of the year.

What are your personal award winners?

July 16, 2007

Lifted - an update

Remember when I said you couldn't download Pixar's Lifted anywhere?

Well now iTunes has it available. So enjoy!

July 14, 2007

July 10, 2007

Frak Me!

I haven't had many DVD reviews lately, because we've been furiously working our way through season 1 of Battlestar Galactica. It was so worth it.

It may be hard to believe, but this is really one of the best shows going on television (or in this case, video). The plots keep you guessing (perfect for Lost fans like us), the acting is very strong, and it doesn't hurt that there's a whole lotta pretty going on. And nothing keeps you more riveted than the eternal question - who will next be revealed as an evil Cylon?

For the sci-fi-phobes, have no fear. This isn't a show that will make you feel like you stepped into a Trekkie convention. It's really at its heart a political drama, with some healthy doses of action and military intrigue.

Trust me when I say this is something worth checking out. Try the miniseries that started it - if you're not hooked, then your will is stronger than mine!

And so we anxiously await Netflix delivering the first disc for season 2. Oh my gods, it's the summer of Cylons!

* Disclaimer - due to the number of discs we rented, BSG is henceforth exempt from the 25 words or less rule.

July 07, 2007

Break Out the Cocktails!

The girls are coming back! And although I felt satisfied with the closure brought by the series' end, who wouldn't want to spend a few more hours with them, this time at the movies?

Which of the ladies' plots are you most anticipating? Carrie's rediscovery of love with Big? Samantha's journey through pain with Jarrod? Miranda's spicy marriage with Steve? Or Charlotte and Harry's foray into parenting?

July 06, 2007

Rats!

Rather than brave the crowds going to the Mall yesterday, we took in a movie instead. Scott suggested Pixar's Ratatouille, and I figured, why not?

It's really a charming movie. The animation is top-notch (as usual), and the vocal talents are good. And you really grow in your appreciation for what goes into a restaurant's gourmet meals. The movie on the whole is certainly not groundbreaking in terms of storytelling, but maybe for an animated movie aimed at kids, it doesn't matter?

Now the only questionable concept is the embracing of rats as being cool, and cooking in your kitchen. Although that's cute in a movie, how do parents explain to their kids when they are trying to kill a rat that's infested their pantry?

On a side note, the opening cartoon is Pixar's Lifted, which was nominated for an Oscar. It's still cute and clever. But if you're looking to download it, you'll have to wait until the DVD of Ratatouille comes out.

July 04, 2007

They Both Reached for the Gunn

Y'know, right about now I'm itching for a little Project Runway. I mean, it's been nearly a year since the tattooed buttwipe debacle, and I've got a craving. A hankering deep in my espadrilles. So the question is, when is it coming? How long is the wait?

According to the news source in this link (click on the this post's title), it won't be until the last quarter of the year. Which means OCTOBER at the earliest. Argh! I need my fix of fashion!

On the bright side (sort of, depending on your perspective), Lost won't be coming back until 2008, so that will at least be one less show for me to be blogging about concurrently.

Heidi, where for art thou?

July 01, 2007

Beach Reads

Vacations in summer are an ideal time to pick up a good book. As usually happens in summertime, I've been racing through quite a few myself. Here's what I've been reading lately.

The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde - Imagine if you will a world where nursery rhyme characters live amongst ordinary people. That's the unusual setting for Fforde's new series of murder mysteries. They are solved by the Nursery Crime Division, led by Jack Spratt and assisted by Mary Mary (don't call her contrary). Clever references are weaved through the book in a most entertaining way. This first book is about the murder of Humpty Dumpty. And now I'm reading book two, which centers on the murder of Goldilocks - The Fourth Bear.

Thirteen At Dinner
and Towards Zero by Agatha Christie - Those that know me well are aware that I'm a big Christie fan. I have all of her books, and like to pepper them between reading heavier books. The former novel (also called Lord Edgeware Dies) was an interesting examination of the danger of impersonation. The latter was not one of her best, but does offer the problem of having only four suspects, all of whom seem to have an alibi.

Sammy's Hill by Kristin Gore - Think Bridget Jones as a Capitol Hill staffer, and you pretty much have the idea. I picked this up on instinct at the airport, as I'd meant to read it for over a year. I devoured nearly 700 pages in 2 days. It's highly addictive, and I can't wait to read her new release - Sammy's House. (And yes, the author is the daughter of Al Gore.)

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst - Previously you heard me rave about Lost and Found, so I figured I'd give her more well-known first novel a try. It was just as hard to put down. This book is a love story intertwined with the sad search of a bereaved husband. But I must warn you - there are some sections that can be very hard to handle (emotionally), especially for dog owners. In an interview, Parkhurst said she wanted to show the extreme limits that the main character could have chosen to go to, so you can better examine his methods. I see her point, but there are still these images that I can't shake from my mind.

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith - The latest in his series for the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, like the books before it, it reads easily and provides a satisfactory ending. I always enjoy slipping into his books for some wry humor and a good cup of bush tea.

What are y'all reading this summer? Any good recommendations (or brutal pans)?