April 30, 2008

Hard Candy at the Funplex

A couple new CD reviews:

Hard Candy by Madonna

Madonna's latest musical offering looks to be similar to other recent albums - she picks a genre and puts her own spin on it. In this case it's R&B, with appearances by Justin Timberlake and Kanye West, with producing credits from the likes of Timbaland.

The result is a bit mixed. It starts off with some reliable singles that are sure to be hits in the clubs, like the Timberlake duet "4 Minutes." The middle of the record is full of more predictable pop with vapid lyrics - I kind of picture that it's what Paula Abdul would sound like if she'd kept it up all these years.

That being said, there are still some real gems that aren't to be missed. The wistful sounds of "Miles Away" are very hummable. And I like the darker mood and sound of "Devil Wouldn't Recognize You" and "Voices."

In the canon of Madonna, I'd put this album somewhere above Music, but below Erotica. You have to give her credit - for a woman who's close to 50 and has a career that spans decades, she never fails to try something new. Because she knows we're just dying to find out what she'll do next!

Funplex by The B-52's

By contrast, The B-52's haven't been coming up with new materials every year (the last album with new songs was 10 years ago). They have instead focused on touring, which we the fans are certainly grateful for (they put on a great show - I saw them a couple years back).

This album of all new material is a heck of a return to the studio. It fits the familiar mold for one of their albums - several party songs where the girls bop along while Fred Schneider yells various things at us, a couple smoother duets for Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson, and plenty of keyboard-and-guitar arrangements by Keith Strickland.

You'll find plenty to sing along to here, especially the title track, "Hot Corner" and "Deviant Ingredient." But the shining star that I can't get enough of is "Juliet of the Spirits," a soaring duet by the ladies.

Here's hoping The B-52's keep rocking from Idaho all the way to Planet Claire!

OMG - Martha!!!

If you haven't seen Martha Stewart's newest daytime show, it can be quite fun.

But what's REALLY fun, is that today she featured ScottE's cookie photo on her show! For reals!!!

Check. It. Out.


April 22, 2008

Stalking Sarah Marshall?

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Although clearly a child of the Judd Apatow school, this film is closest to Knocked Up in style. That's because it's a blend of very adult humor that isn't afraid to hit below the belt ("I just went from 6 p.m. to Midnight."), and also a good old-fashioned romantic comedy.

Jason Segel stars in and is the screenwriter for this very funny movie. He's always been a real charmer on How I Met Your Mother, but easily steps into the lead role here. And yes, he's naked. Several times. And you see it all. Not bad, that Mr. Segel!

And while the supporting cast is also amusing (Kristen Bell as an annoying diva, Paul Rudd as an incredibly hot surfing instructor), the shining star is Mila Kunis. Sure, her tan is super-fake. But she is beautiful, funny, and helps you forget that shrew she played on That 70's Show.

On a side note, if this movie doesn't make you want to visit Hawai'i, then what's wrong with you???

Grade: A-

April 19, 2008

Summer Is Here

Ah, contentment. It's a gorgeous day in the DC area, and I'm at peace. In case you missed the memo, my lovely husband with the adorable smile and rakish charm and I bought a new house recently. (Like Stef, we had to do something to help this lagging economy.) And now I'm really enjoying the fruits of that labor. I'm reclining on our concrete back patio, which I have decided to henceforth refer to as "the lanai" as an homage to The Golden Girls. I'm munching on cheese balls and sipping a vodka & cranberry (the vodka is this stuff from Transylvania - ooo, spooky!). Around me I hear the robins chirping and a dog barking. Our resident blue jays are working on their nest in our magnolia tree. And to my left, some lovely tulips are in full bloom, while across the way, a red azalea is bursting forth in a fiery display.

This can only mean one thing - summer is coming! And to prepare me for this, Entertainment Weekly has released that most crucial of issues - the summer movie preview. What a great thing to read while the squirrels try to figure out where ScottE hid the bird feeder.

Anywho, as I read through, I was struck by several upcoming films, and others left me cold. Thus I present to you a sampling, broken into a few major categories.

1. Movies that I should be excited about, but I'm not:

- Indiana Jones - Yes, I was an Indy fan back in the day. And it does feature Cate Blanchett as some kind of Nazi dominatrix. So why am I not thrilled? Maybe it's that it's been so long and I've forgotten how fun it can be. Maybe I think Ford is getting too old. Maybe I'm just creeped out that he's still with Calista Flockhart.

- Iron Man - One of the more underappreciated comic books from the past, I guess I'm just not thrilled by the trailers I've seen. I do think Robert Downey Jr. is a good choice (the lead character is an alcoholic, after all). But where's that "Ooh, ahh!" excitement?

2. Movies that any one in their right mind is excited about:

- Sex and the City - Duh! Sadly I'll be out of town the weekend of the premiere, so either I have to score a sneak preview invite, or I plan a full-fledged Cosmo party event for when I get back. Man, how I miss these girls!

- Prince Caspian - The first Narnia movie was very, very good - and the second book is my favorite. when I saw the preview recently, I couldn't erase the grin from my face. Woot!

- Wall-E - It's Pixar, and there's a cute robot with big eyes. Considering I was so moved by that post-apocalyptic non-human short film awhile back, this one will spell by doom.

- Mamma Mia! - Meryl Streep + Christine Baranski + Julie Walters + ABBA music = ZOMG awesome!!! Did I mention that my British husband Colin Firth is in it? *swoon*

3. Movies I want to like, but I'm just not sure I can:

- The Happening - This is the latest from M. Night Shyamalan, who has the ability to scare the crap out of most anybody. I like the cast (Mark Wahlberg & Zooey Deschanel), but is it too creepy?

- Pineapple Express - I've had so much fun at Judd Apatow movies, but is it possible I'm burned out?

- Transsiberian - This sounds like an intriguing thriller about a harrowing train ride from Bejing to Moscow. I'll see it if ScottE goes with me!

4. Movies that I shouldn't be so excited about, and will be filed under "guilty pleasures:"

- Get Smart - The TV show was corny, but I still think Steve Carell is genius, and I have a total heterosexual crush on Anne Hathaway.

- The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 - OK, I'll admit it - I rented the first one and I LIKED IT. Yeah, I did! And I'm not a 17 year-old girl! Sue me! Also, Amber Tamblyn is awesome.

- The House Bunny - What looks like a very predictable movie in which a former Playboy bunny becomes housemother to the loser sorority shouldn't be good. But it stars the hilarious Anna Faris (of the Scary Movie franchise), who cracks me up to no end. And I like The Girls Next Door.

- Hamlet 2 - A movie about a bad high school theater director which features Elisabeth Shue as herself. I've loved her since the days of Adventures in Babysitting; sign me up, and don't fuck with the babysitter!

April 16, 2008

Short DVD Reviews - Part 7

Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted these! A lot to catch up on. As always, I promise you reviews of our latest Netflix rentals in 25 words or less!

Junebug - Amy Adams got an Oscar nomination, and deservedly so. A small but pleasing drama.

Waitress - The Felicity girl sure can cook pies! And this simple tale was a real blue ribbon winner.

Sicko - Michael Moore's latest documentary was provocative in its examination of our abysmal health care system. But I just didn't feel that it went far enough.

Mask - Cher, Eric Stoltz, and lots of motorcycles. A nice movie that doesn't quite stand the test of time.

Transformers - It was loud and shiny. But when Optimus Prime was hiding in the rosebushes, I had given up.

Sweeney Todd - This is the original stage production starring Angela Lansbury. She is so very funny, but there were parts I actually liked better in the movie.

To Catch a Thief - A disappointing Hitchcock film, I lost interest after the first 15 minutes. Skip it and rent Notorious or Suspicion instead.

Across the Universe - Julie Taymor is a great visionary, but this was simply the storyline of Hair reset to Beatles music. Not good.

The Rules of Attraction - First of my two "Fred Savage is hot" obsession movies. Unfortunately the movie itself meanders and has no point.

The Last Run - Second Fred Savage movie, this one he stars in. He has a lot of sex (hott!), but the plot is just awful.

Sin City - Can someone explain why this was supposed to be awesome? We shut it off after 20 minutes.

For the Bible Tells Me So - A compelling documentary on the vilification of the gay community by the church. This one will spark interesting discussions.

Paris, Je T'aime - A fascinating experiment - 18 directors tackle 18 stories in 18 Paris neighborhoods. Mixed results, naturally - but some are utterly charming. And the scenery!

Cavedweller - A horrid adaptation of Dorothy Allison's excellent book. I defy you to deduce where the title comes from with what little plot made it in.

Greenfingers - This charming film about gardening prisoners features both Clive Owen and Helen Mirren. What's not to love?

Derailed - ScottE figured out the "twist" in the first third of the movie. All that was left was to learn the details. Lame!

Calendar Girls - This sweet movie about bold Yorkshire housewives posing nude is very funny to start, but lapses into some predictable melodrama. Still, it's worth renting.

[Pictured - the real calendar girls from which that movie was based!]

April 11, 2008

Battlestar Galactica - The Premiere

BSG is finally back! It was a real short wait at our house after the marathon, but I know you diehards out there have been waiting for well over a year. Was it worth it? I think it was.

In a wise move, the writers picked up immediately where we left off, with Starbuck's return and Apollo's mix of joy and confusion. As the episode progressed, I found several events worth discussing:

1. Starbuck entered a time warp? While everyone has been mourning her "death" for months, she says she was only gone for 6 hours. Oh, and her Viper didn't have a scratch on it. Is it any wonder everyone but Lee thinks she's a Cylon?

2. Anders and the eye scan! The most intriguing question of the week - was Anders able to call off an entire fleet of Cylon raiders with just a look and a breath? Or do the raiders recognize one of their own?

3. Starbuck to Anders: "If I found out you were a Cylon, I'd put a bullet between your eyes." Um, awkward?

4. The great Earth debate - who has better directions? President Roslin maintains that they must head one direction and follow the scriptures, but Kara's wild headaches indicate it's the other way. Too bad there isn't a convenient Texaco station in the Lion's Head Nebula.

5. Baltar is the new prophet for monotheists. Gaius must be loving the Cylon's god - he not only heals apple-cheeked youth, but he provides slutty women and women that kick ass. Of course, the controversy amongst the fans - what's with the dudes? I'm thinking the Cylon god is into free love and bisexuality (remember Gina during Razor?).

I can hardly wait for the next episode! It will be particularly interesting to find out what's happening with the Cylon fleet, and if the final five are any closer to being detected. Caprica Six says they're near by - is Roslin on the scent?

In other news, Joyous pointed out to me that Tricia Helfer (the gorgeous Number Six) was the host of Canada's Next Top Model. Could I love her any more if I tried? Check out this link for yourself!

April 08, 2008

Step It Up and Dance - the premiere

Oh, those crazy kids at Bravo. They just can't stop churning out new career-based reality shows. The results are really mixed.

For every brilliant success (Project Runway) and mostly enjoyable show (Top Chef), they foist a lot of crap on us. Work Out was awful, and Blow Out was worse. But that's not even the bottom of the heap. Anyone remember Flipping Out or Top Design?

So it was with trepidation that I approached their latest offering, Step It Up and Dance. Would it be more Project Pirouette? Or is this just going to be a Stepping Out?

At the start, I was worried. The host is Elizabeth Berkley. You know, the actress most famous for being in one of the most craptacular films ever, Showgirls. But when I saw that the show's "mentor" (read as: wanna-be Tim Gunn) is Jerry Mitchell, who is very hot on Broadway as a choreographer - he's done Hairspray, and the super-fabulous Legally Blonde - I was mollified a bit.

First, let's talk about the structure of the show. It's modeled somewhat on Top Chef, in that the contestants first compete in a short challenge, where immunity may be up for grabs. Although here it's harsher. The dancers compete in the "Audition Challenge" and the losing half is marked for doom - one of them will definitely be eliminated. So part of the mystery as to who will go each week is narrowed down in the first 20 minutes. ScottE wasn't crazy about that aspect, and I have to agree.

Anywho, after that they rehearse in their 2 groups for the final performance in front of the judges, which will include a guest judge (this week it was Mel B from the Spice Girls, who is cool, but was a bit too Paula). I can tell you from experience that observing a dance rehearsal isn't always thrilling ("Is the hand on the 7 count?"). But admittedly it's more fun than watching someone sew...

As for the contestants, they range in experience and dance styles. The go-go dancer injured herself really fast, and went home. Which is fine, because if you're too stupid to take off your "goin' to the bar to pick up guys" boots before a dance-off challenge, you're an idiot. Also, as a go-go dancer, her only champion would have been Elizabeth Berkley anyway!

Amongst the rest there are a couple of bitchy annoying queens (neither of which are all that impressive), and the girl with less experience who cries all the time (I'm guessing she danced with Ricky in the past). Also we have the token straight guy who doesn't want us to forget that fact, and the ballet dancer who can't do hip-hop very well. Cody shows the most promise to me, and he ain't bad to look out. And will someone please tell Michelle to stop sucking in her cheeks like a dancing fish?

To top it off, there's the good-bye kiss-off. Elizabeth says, "The show is over. It's time for your last dance." Oh, ugh. But it's worse - we then see the eliminated contestant (in this case, Adriana) perform a slow meditative dance alone in a studio. It's all very much like that scene in A Chorus Line where Cassie has the supremely ugly poodle hair.

On the whole, the show was neither awesome, nor was it horrid. If I'm home and it's on, I'll probably watch. But let's just say I'm not scheduling a season pass on TiVo, unless the show gets a lot more exciting. Step it up, Bravo!

April 03, 2008

Top Model Mélange à trois

All right, I admit this is not a post about the bedroom escapades on America's Next Top Model. But it is a quick recap of the last three weeks on the show! So strap on your 3 inch heels, and let's go back to the Big Apple, shall we?

When we last left the girls, they were standing around wearing underwear made of raw meat. Amis was off the crazy scale and sent packing. Ten girls remained.

The first episode in our series for this recap was all focused on posing. And you know what that means - Benny Ninja was back. He brought along supermodel Vendela, who appears to be around mostly to offer harsh criticism, and not say anything nice. This eventually led to a team pose-off challenge which was judged by club gays and drag queens. Dominique announced that she felt so at home there, which...yeah! Let's give her a point for self-awareness (even if it wasn't for the reason she's thinking). The challenge was won by team Marvita-Whitney-Claire-Stacy Ann-Kat. They all got to go to the "swag tent" which I was not aware is a constant location, but whatever. They got a lot of expensive possibly useless stuff, including pink guitars. Claire was judged best poser of all, so she won a trip to Bora-Bora. Methinks that Tyra has increased the budget on this show!

Also of note in this episode was the great debate between Dominique and Whitney - let's call it Model War I - Whit vs. Dom. Short version - Dom said something bitchy, and Whit called her out on it. Dom somehow makes a giant leap into calling Whit a racist. Which is just so wrong! Although I think that Whit doesn't offer the best counter-arguments throughout ("My best friend is black!"), she is automatically right, because Dom is just nuts. She's starting to enter Jade territory!

After all that practice posing, the girls are taken to a photo shoot where they...do close-up shots. Did a producer sleep on the job? Whatev - at least it's interesting. The girls pose with high-fashion make-up and geometric shapes on their faces, and then just before shooting, colored paint is dripped down their faces. They also hold a purse for some reason. It sounds nuts, but visually it's stunning. Most of them do great, except Marvita who looks like a chimpanzee trapped in a cage.

At panel, the judges are pretty happy with the results, but particularly horrified by the fact that Fatima didn't shave her armpits. Eww! That is so not fierce. Long story short, the first photo goes to Stacy-Ann for some odd reason, and the bottom two are Whitney and Marvita. Whitney is called out for not taking the competition that seriously, which seems odd and is totally the work of the evil Vendela. Marvita is called out for disappearing into the wallpaper. Whitney gets the photo, and Marvita is sent packing with a lot of swag to go live on the streets again, or whatever. She was so promising at first, but I think that horse face was working against her.

In the next episode, we learned that Claire's worried because her breast milk is starting to dry up despite her best attempts to keep lactating. It's really sad, because you can tell that she craves this career so much, but this opportunity came at perhaps the worst time. But she's determined to do this so her sacrifice won't be in vain. I know it seems like her intentions are off, but I still love her.

Particularly because of what happened next. We learn that Dominique for some reason doesn't know how to set her alarm properly, and it's gone off an hour early several times, waking up the other girls. Oh, and she doesn't wake up to turn it off. The girls? Not amused. Claire calls her out on it, and thus starts Model War II - Claire vs. Dom. The big debate here is respect - Claire says that Dom isn't showing it to the other girls, so why should they respect her? Even Anya agrees, so you know that Dom is totally out of line. As the debate gets prolonged, Whitney and Lauren enter the fray, on Claire's side. It's kind of awesome, because Dom is so awful, and can't stop referring to herself in the 3rd person and saying how everyone is jealous of her. Hate! Lauren screams, "You are CRAZY!" Amen, girl.

Unfortunately the 3 girls later act really childish and hang around Dom's bed, trying to keep her awake even though she claims she is sick and politely asks them to leave. I mean, the bitch is crazy, but don't act like fools, girls.

Next the girls got training from Tyra on how to pose by pretending you're in pain. It doesn't really make a lot of sense, but the girls do their best with such instructions as, "Your lips are really chapped! Pose!" What they didn't know is that it was secretly a challenge. Anya won, and got to go have a photo shoot taken by Nigel Barker. He beds her, but not in that way, as she poses nude on a bed. He is so totally gross sometimes. If he wasn't so good-looking and British, I'd hate him.

For the main photo shoot, the girls head to Brooklyn and portray different styles of music, which are clearly chosen to be antithetical to their usual styles - i.e. Lauren is given Britney-style pop, and Fatima is given heavy metal. The results are pretty mixed - Whitney (grunge) and Katarzyna (emo) excelled, while Claire (Grand Ole Opry-style country) and Aimee (R&B) struggled.

At panel, the judges are particularly happy with the short & choppy wig Kat was wearing. So Tyra announces she'll be giving Kat a shorter haircut next week. Awesome. Eventually photos are given out, and Whitney quite rightly gets the first one. The bottom two are Claire (eek!) and Aimee. Claire, you've got to open up to looks beyond intense high-fashion - have fun with it. Aimee, there is so much you could have done with R&B, and yet you were boring as hell. Claire gets the photo, and Aimee is sent home which is not at all surprising. No way in hell she was going to win this thing.

Now for this week's episode - spoilers ahead if you haven't seen it! We open with Model War III - Lauren vs. Fatima. It's a silly argument over the fact that Lauren threw out the dregs of Fatima's coffee. It's so silly I can't even describe it. Fatima is petty, and so I'm on Lauren's side.

In an unusual twist on past seasons, the girls are sent on group go-sees. It's not nearly as intense, as it's pretty easy to navigate New York City, especially when you've got 3 compatriots. And they only have to go to 3 locations. The winners turn out to be team Stacy Ann-Claire-Dominique-Whitney, and they get to do a photo shoot for Seventeen. Stacy-Ann is thrilled to hear that she booked the most jobs, which is a shocker!

This week's photo shoot is crazy and fantastic, as the girls emulate a theater troupe called Fuerza Bruta. It's hard to describe, but I'll try. A huge plastic sheet is suspended above the room, with lights above it. The girls then smash themselves around on the plastic in some water with wild colors. The results are other-worldly. Claire struggles as she jumps on the plastic and thinks she's injured her neck. Lauren has trouble with her contacts and just can't deal with the water. Others like Kat (who did get the short haircut) and Whitney take to the water like fish.

At panel, we see some astonishing photos that range from fiery elf (Anya) and water nymph (Fatima) to surprised spirit (Whitney) and sun-blotting figure (Stacy-Ann). Fatima is judged to be the best, which is fine, although I think that Whitney took the most risks, and Anya was the most beautiful. The bottom two are Claire and Lauren, which I think is crap, as Stacy-Ann and Dom sucked, in my opinion. Whatev - onto the critiques. Claire, the judges think you're becoming one-note. Lauren, you still walk like Frankenstein. Claire is sent home, which is such utter crap, I don't know what is happening with those judges. I guess I'm happy that she got to book it home to be with her baby. But still - Lauren's walk appears to be incurable, so I really thought if one of them had to go home, it should have been her.

Next week - it's the dreaded halfway clip show. The CW is calling it "all new" but you won't be fooled, will you?

April 02, 2008

Battlestar Marathon - Complete

It took several days, but we were finally able to complete the final seven episodes of the Battlestar Galactica season three, which was capped off with the SHOCKING revelation of 4 of the final 5 Cylons! Oh, and that Starbuck died. Except she didn't. Maybe? What the frak?

As if that wasn't enough, the TV movie (or extra episodes depending on your perspective) "Razor" was ready and waiting. And boy, was it worth it. Not only did we get to find out why Admiral Cain was such a frakkin' bad ass, we also discovered she was totally lesbionic. k.d. lang, she's gay! And number Six is bi! Oh, and Grandpa Goo the hybrid warns us that Starbuck is not what she seems.

It is only three - count 'em - THREE days until the season four premiere! So say we all!

On a side note, if you're thinking about picking up on the show now and don't have time to watch past seasons, just watch this hilarious clip and you'll know all you need to know.