Category Archives: Movies/TV

Film Fridays: “The Losers”

Apparently, this year’s movie trend is the macho guy–team movies, far from the “Oceans 11” series (had to throw that reference. See trailer and you’ll know why).  I’m serious, there’s a formula: The Alpha male (the leader); his team of extraordinary gentlemen who each specialize in something, whether it be gathering intelligence, sharp shooting, or knife throwing; the one beautiful girl, who is usually with the Alpha male; and there’s the bad guy. The Alpha male and his team of extraordinary gentlemen are framed for something and they must do what they can to clear their names. And that usually involves a lot of ass kicking. Yes, this sounds a lot like “The Losers.” You won’t get disappointed there. But it also sounds a lot like the upcoming “The Expendables” and “The A Team.”

What I Expected

I expected lots of action and lots of people dying from flying bullets or fist fighting.

What It’s About

The Losers are a team of elite soldiers on a mission in Bolivia. They are framed for a heinous crime and must go silent to recover. A mysterious girl shows up to help the Losers clear their names, but she has an agenda of her own.

You’ll Like

The One Liners – It’s an action movie with some comic relief thrown in.

Chris Evans – he’s hilarious. In this movie, he brings a lot of that charm and laughs that he brought to Johnny Storm (“Fantastic Four”). And to think he’ll soon be playing badass Captain America.

Zoe Saldana – She’s hot–didn’t think she could pull off a killer because of her body type. She proved me wrong. However, I couldn’t help but see her as her Avatar character as she fought the bad guys.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan – he’s no Johnny Ocean, but he definitely has some on-screen chemistry with Saldana.

The Action Scenes – Did I mention this was an action movie?

You’ll Dislike

The Comic Book Mix – yes, it’s a movie based on a comic book, but it holds its own as an action movie. I didn’t like how they cut into comic book mode when they introduced the characters.

The Main Villain – come on, can you please be more evil. The character is just a narcissist with a temper and a trigger finger. Can you do more things, please?

The Plot Line – it’s an okay plot, but I wish there was more to it.

The Character Development – I like how they introduce the audience to some of the main character’s families–it humanizes for killing all those people. But I wish there was more developed.

The Cheesy Music – There are some slow motion scenes where the Losers wear sunglasses and walk out of a building looking all badass. But the music…jeesh. It only made the scene cheesy and corny. I don’t like cheese on my corn. I don’t like cheesy corn period.

Rating

I’d give it 3.5 stars out of 5. It was a great action movie for what it was–it definitely delivered. But it lacked the emotional character development as well as a great plot. The Losers aren’t exactly losers, but they aren’t exactly winners with this film either.

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The Art of Seduction Is A Piece of Cake

You know, you can learn a lot about life from watching a Season 8 episode of  NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” You’re rolling your eyes saying, “Thank you Captain Obvious. The moral of the show is that we have an obesity problem in America.” And I would respond kindly, “Yep, there’s that, but that’s just the fat of it. Forgive the pun. You need to go deeper to get to the meat of the problem.”

Temptation. The word basically means the quality of seduction. I find the Temptation Challenges on “The Biggest Loser” quite entertaining and down-right educating. The first Temptation Challenge changes the weight loss competition into a all-out strategy game. The contestants stood behind silver platters. When they open the platters, a single cupcake is revealed containing 100 calories. Whoever eats the most cupcakes gets to manipulate which team would fall below the yellow line at final weigh in. However, the team who wins the challenge still has to work hard to not fall bellow the yellow line, or it would be a waste of strategy. Oh, and whoever wins the challenge would not receive any help from trainers to lose weight. To put it simply, to eat the cupcake, or not eat the cupcake? That is the question. Only two gave in to the temptation as piles of cupcake are added to each contestant’s silver platter- Antoine from the red team ate one cupcake, while Tracey ate four. She “wins” the temptation.

When I saw this, I had to laugh. This is ridiculous? Tempting people with cupcakes? That’s so easy to resist. But it isn’t. I forgot the context of the situation, and who is being tempted. For someone who enjoys food and eats cupcakes like breathing air, this was quite a challenge. Addiction is challenging. I remembered my own addiction to Starbucks frappes and how I tried so hard to give it up for 40 days, only to fail on the 20th day. When the temptation was presented to me, the smell of a Chai frappe floating through the air, floating towards me–I remembered the fun times I had sipping on my Starbucks frappes. And my body remembered too, craving it. That’s what temptation is, right? Seduction. Reminds you of what you’re missing out on, what you can’t have, what you had, and essentially, what you could have for the taking. It’s right there in front of you, welcoming you, calling out your name. It messes with your mind. Temptation is easy; withstanding it is the hard part.

Lately, I’ve been craving cupcakes, but not just any cupcake. RED VELVET CUPCAKES! My mouth is watering just typing the words down. I can taste it now, the vanilla cream cheese with a dash of red sprinkles touching my taste buds. And I’m not the only one. Everyone and their mother have been wanting cupcakes, whether it be red velvet cupcakes, I do not know.  In this down economy, the cupcake industry has been steadily growing between 2006 and 2008 and still growing now. Gee, that’s about time the economy started going down. But why the increase when the economy isn’t tasting good? Apparently, cupcakes are nostalgic foods and comfort foods. Cupcakes bring people back to when life was much simpler and better (nostalgia) and when they eat the cupcake, it makes them feel a whole lot better about themselves and their situation (comfort). It’s as if all the stresses of the world disappear while you’re eating a cupcake.

Living in Los Angeles, I love Sprinkles Cupcakes (located in Beverly Hills). They sell about 5,000 cupcakes a day. And though the cupcakes may be a bit pricey (hey, they got to pay the Beverly Hills rent somehow), their cupcakes are worth it! Not only are they delicious, but you can also customize it if you want–find a cupcake that matches your nostalgia and comfort.

So with that, I send you off with a Sprinkles Strawberry Cupcake recipe located via Martha Stewart, the Queen of Conventional Cooking and Arts and Crafts. And send a cupcake or two my way. I’m great at testing food.
What’s your favorite cupcake? What’s your favorite cupcake bakery?

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For Your Entertainment

It’s been four days since the 2010 Oscars premiered at the Kodak Theater on a cold rain-filled Hollywood night. Yet, we’re still talking about it. We saw history being made, we saw dresses being judged, and we also make jokes about the whole event. That’s Hollywood for you.

When Kate Winslet walked on to the TV screen wearing a silver strapless gown by Yves Saint Laurent, I’m sure the damp red carpet was quickly evaporating. She radiated with beauty, looking like she stepped out of a time machine. She brought that old Hollywood glamor that only those starlets back then possessed.

When Taylor Lautner and Kristin Stewart introduced a tribute to horror films, I was horrified. What were they doing there? They weren’t accomplished actors–they didn’t do any movies that were Oscar-worthy. I’m not a big fan of their acting chops either, particularly Stewart. And why was “Twilight” part of the Horror genre? Then it hit me when I saw a parade of other young stars like Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, and Miley Cyrus, who haven’t quite established Oscar-worthy performances either. This was Hollywood’s ploy to gain younger viewers. They got to catch us when we’re young, right?

When Sandra Bullock won the award for Best Actress, I was ecstatic. I absolutely love her and her other funny movies, so to see her win an award for a dramatic one–that’s huge! However, I would’ve liked to see the award go to Merryl Streep for her role as Julia Child in “Julie and Julia” mainly because mimicking Julia Child is no easy task. But I’m fine with Bullock winning.

When Katherine Bigelow became the first woman to win “Best Director,” I wasn’t shocked. But I’m sure it was definitely an F-U moment for her ex-husband, James Cameron, who was also in the category for his movie, “Avatar.” I mean, come on, Cameron helped create an entirely different way to shoot a movie using a special camera invented just for the movie, as well as hired a USC linguistics professor to create a working language too. And need I mention that Cameron’s “Avatar” placed some people in depression? Surely, he should have won for creating such powerful movie, especially since his movie made billions compared to Bigelow’s movie, right? Wrong. And as Jimmy Fallon put it best last night:

“Did you watch the Oscar’s, or as I like to call it, James Cameron’s own personal ‘Hurt Locker.'”

Why do we obsess over celebrities? Don’t we have enough stress to keep us occupied–the economy, the job market, our own lives? It surely can’t be healthy, right? Maybe it’s our defense mechanism–escapism. We don’t like how our own lives are going so we fantasize about a better one, or as Fergie Ferg puts it, “by the glamorous, ooh the flossy, flossy.” She reminds us that, “If you ain’t got no money, take your broke self home.” Yah, I’m broke. I think I will.

Maybe we obsess over celebrities because it’s a way to connect to others, or as Professor Nicholas DiFonzo calls it, “The Water-Cooler Effect.” The term comes from a study of office behavior. In a large company, workers would have informal gatherings around the water cooler, chatting, gossiping, and talking about current events. If one doesn’t participate in the conversation or have some kind of opinion or have the latest news about someone, then one was left out of the group. Rejection can be a cruel thing, especially when you see that person for 8 hours of your life of every single work day.

Professor Alex Pentland, in an article for a November 2009 issue of Psychology Today, puts it best when he writes:

…it underscores that we are all social animals and that our connection with others at a local level – our tribe – is vitally important. Second, with increased cohesion likely comes an increase in things such as shared tacit knowledge, shared attitudes and work habits, and social support.

But whatever the case, the celebrities remain present in your life for your entertainment. And they get rich entertaining you. Check out this NY Times graph in which we spend $1000 to $5000 for our entertainment.

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Film Fridays: “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief”

“Percy Jackson” shares the same director as “Harry Potter.” So it’s not a surprise that the font for the opening title of the movie strangely looks Harry-like.  You can start comparing the similarities between Percy and Harry, but don’t let that bog you down. Percy has a new battle, a new story, and is an entirely new hero. Logan Lerman, whose previous work includes the short-lived Jack and Bobby, the 2007 western 3:10 to Yua, and the 2009 film Gamer, plays the teenage hero. He’s definitely a good fit, but as a fan of the books, I’m a little concerned about the differences between the book and the movie. Alas, it’s expected. Annabeth, the hero’s female companion (think Hermione) is supposed to be blonde, but in the movie she’s a brunette. I can only imagine that it has to do with blonde jokes because Annnabeth is the brains of the group. Also, Percy is supposed to uncap his pen, not click it, to turn the pen into a sword. And don’t get me started on an iPhone product placement as a strategy to defeat Medusa.

What I Expected

I expected the movie to be a fun-filled adventure full of magic via special effects. I also expect there to be amazing battle scenes, after all, the characters are supposed to get in touch with their ancient Greek side.

What It’s About

Percy Jackson, a New York teenager with dyslexia and ADHD, discovers that he is a demigod and the son of Poseidon, the god of oceans, earthquakes, and horses. He enters a summer camp for demigods which trains him to survive against battles with mythological monsters. During his training, he learns that he is blamed for the theft of Zeus’s lightning bolt, and Zeus would start a war against Poseidon if the bolt isn’t brought back.

You’ll Like

The special effects – there are a lot of them–a lot for a PG movie.

The monsters – they are plenty scary! The Minotaur and Medusa were incredibly done. I get chills looking at those snakes.

The adventure – going on quests across the nation and in a Masserati? What teenager wouldn’t pass on that.

Logan Lerman – he was perfect as Percy. We’ll see if he becomes Spiderman.

You’ll Dislike

The plot – I have to becareful on this. I enjoyed the movie, but having read the books, the film was a bastardization of the books. A lot of the important character development and important themes and symbols that made the book great was lost in this movie. We hardly spent any time in Camp Half Blood, which was essential to Percy’s trainings. And all the events were all wrong. Where is Annabeth’s famous NY Yankees cap of invisibility? Where is Percy’s ability to stay dry in the water? Where is Clarisse? Where is Dionysus? Where is the Oracle? Where are the different-themed cabins? Where is the Iris-messaging? Where is Cerebus? No where.

Being rushed – You may not think the movie felt rushed. But if you’ve read the book, it was. The Oracle, which was supposed to be important in a lot of Greek myths because it led to quests for heroes was no where to be seen. This was replaced with a quest to find 3 stupid pearls.

Rating

I’d give it 1.5 stars out of 5 If I never read the books I would’ve given a higher rating. But after reading about how it should be done, I felt devastated and cheated that the movie didn’t do the book any justice. At least with Harry Pottter or the Twilight series, their movies stuck with the books as best as they could. In Percy, it wasn’t so. It was almost an entirely different story. The only think they kept accurate was the beginning scene at the museum, although even then, Percy was supposed to kill his teacher (who was a Fury). Even the final battle scene was different!!! Anyway, I’m extremely angry and disappointed in this movie. I understand that there’s a lot of material in the books that needed to be cut to fit a 2 hour movie. But they cut out so much that they lose the integrity of the books. Can us fans get a do-over?

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The Other Jackson

Move over Michael, there’s a new Jackson in town and he’s captivating the hearts of children and adults every where. His name is Percy Jackson, and he’s a kid from New York with ADHD and dyslexia who has been kicked out of many schools.  You see, you are not alone because the kid’s got major daddy issues. But with Percy, he can hardly remember the time he met his birth dad. He may not be a dancing machine, but he is dangerous on the battle field, receiving special training at a summer camp for demigods to survive life. That’s right, his human nature means he can die in battle, but his godly nature means he has extraordinary powers. You don’t wanna be startin’ somethin’ with this hero because he’s the son of Poseidon, which means he can control water and create earthquakes. Percy wants to heal the world of a bunch of bad guys–monsters, actually, who seek revenge and the demise of the Olympian gods. If evil triumphs, then you can bet the humans will be enslaved. Join him on his adventure–a teenage thriller–because evil just doesn’t know when to beat it.

Poseidon's Trident, Photo Credit: Flickr

Okay, there you have it–my “Michael Jackson-inspired Percy Jackson” introduction referencing some of the King of Pop’s songs.

I can’t believe the first Harry Potter film came out in 2001–nine years ago! Within that span of time, I received my high school diploma and bachelor’s degree and a horrible British accent.  I can’t help it–I grew up with the wizard. But Harry Potter lives on because his movie series isn’t close to being done. And when the Harry Potter book series finished with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007, I couldn’t help but wonder what new series would captivate the worldwide audience and receive its own Hollywood treatment.

The Narnia series were the first, but they’re based on books far older than Harry Potter himself. Then came the Twilight series, and it seemed that the world was bitten by vampire mania. But unlike the Harry Potter, which appealed to both genders, the “glitter-in-the-sunlight” vampires had less male fans. The Percy Jackson series bridges the gender gap again, reminding girls that they too can be heroes and fight along side the boys.

But is Percy Jackson a Harry-Potter wannabe? Both are half-bloods (half wizard vs. half god). Both have two best friends–a smart girl (Hermione vs. Annabeth) and the comic relief (Ron vs. Grover). Both have wise sage mentors (Dumbeldore vs. Chiron).  Both attend a magical school to train (Hogwarts vs. Camp Half-Blood). Both belong to a specific team within the magical school (Gryffindor vs. Cabin 3). Both have the potential to succumb to the darkness. But that’s where the comparisons end.

When we first meet Harry, he lived with family members who detested him. Percy, on the other hand with the exception to the horrible stepfather, has a loving mother and you just have to read for yourself what kind of father Poseidon was. Harry Potter, in my opinion, is a nerd who is at first rejected, and later accepted because of all the times he saved people. Percy Jackson is a student with learning problems who is rejected because he sticks up for those who can’t defend themselves.

I love the Percy Jackson series. I love how Richard Riordan, the author, takes the ancient Greek myths and modernizes it. Some of the gods wear suits, drive cars, have businesses, etc. And as violent and sexualized as the Greek myths really are, Riordan strips that away and focuses on what it takes to be a hero and withstanding the temptation of being a villain. As a result, Riordan makes a fun adventure for all ages to enjoy. Not bad for a dad who originally conceived the idea of Percy Jackson after exhausting all the Greek myths he told his son for bedtime stories. I also appreciate how Riordan deals with death in the books. There are more deaths in here than Harry Potter. Whereas in the Harry Potter series, the deaths of heroes are surrounded in darkness and gloom, in the Percy Jackson series, death is filled with life, honor, and celebration.

For those of you who are Harry Potter fans, you’ll enjoy the Percy Jackson series–he’s essentially an American Harry. You’ll want to be part of his adventures as you sword-swing, fly on pegasi, and dive into the deepest parts of the ocean. Give Percy a chance to captivate you, and the only thing that you’ll be disappointed in is how short the books are.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief – Percy learns that he is the son of Poseidon and must find Zeus’s stolen lightning bolt before the Olympian gods start a war with each other.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters – Percy’s best friend, Grover, has been kidnapped and taken to an island in the Sea of Monsters. Percy and his friends must find him before it’s too late while also retrieving the Golden Fleece to save Camp Half-Blood from an impending attack by monsters.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Titan’s Curse – Percy and the gang search for two powerful half-bloods and are attacked, resulting to the disappearance of Annabeth. They must travel cross-country to rescue her and the goddess Artemis. All the while, the Titans have raised a strong army.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Battle of the Labyrinth – Percy and the gang discover that there is a weakness to the camp’s defenses. The famous Labyrinth, built by Daedalus, runs right underneath it. The gang must journey deep into the heart of the maze and somehow prevent the bad guys from using it.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Last Olympian – The Titans, monsters, and traitorous demigods have joined forces and grown stronger ultimately leading to a showdown against the Olympian gods and their loyal children.

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Film Fridays: “The Preacher’s Kid”

I know it’s Saturday. But apparently, this didn’t post:

I don’t normally watch BET or Black entertainment mainly because at times, I don’t relate to it. I mean, sure, I love watching Black comedies like “The Nutty Professor,” but this movie isn’t a comedy. It’s a drama. Despite having an all-Black cast, I found myself relating to the story. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m a “preacher’s nephew,” which isn’t as bad as being the “preacher’s kid.” But I understand the pressure and the stereotype. Perhaps it’s the story of redemption and mistakes–we’ve all made mistakes. Whatever the case, you don’t have to be Black to appreciate this kind of movie.  You’ll like the message of the movie.

What I Expected

I didn’t expect much since the film had a low-budget. But I did think it was funny, that after reading stuff off the official movie website, that the character’s names signified something. For example, Angie would probably come from “Angel.” She’s innocent and pure. Then the bad guy in the movie is named “Devlin,” which suspiciously sounds like “Devil.” And then there’s Desiree, or “Desire,” who places a seductress.

What It’s About

LeToya Luckett (who was previously part of Destiny’s Child) plays Angie King, daughter of a preacher in Georgia. She’s tired of being in a Christian bubble and wants to discover life for herself, so she leaves and joins a traveling show in hopes of getting a record contract. But life doesn’t turn out  to be what she expected.

You’ll Like

The singing – I was ready to get my Gospel on. In some scenes, I felt like I was there, singing along in the Black church. There were a lot of singers, aside from LeToya and Tank, there was Trey Songz, Tammy Townsend, and Kierra ‘Kiki’ Sheard.

The hypocrisy – I think it’s a good reminder that Christians are imperfect. They are just as broken, which is why there’s redemption.

The plot – It’s a female version of “The Prodigal Son.” There are just a lot of scenes where I found myself saying “No, don’t choose that.” You feel sorry for  Angie, but it’s her fault for choosing certain things–life is your choice.

The stereotype of being a PK – if you’re a Christian, you pretty much know what I mean.

You’ll Dislike

Melodrama – There were some scenes that definitely needed a lot of drama. But there were other scenes are just had too much, over-the-top drama.

Repetition – The traveling show that Angie is part of is also a female version of “The Prodigal Son.” As a result, the story parallels in a way. I didn’t like that because I felt we were being beaten over the head with the concept. Stories like this one just needs to be its own story–not a story within a story. The concept of  the Prodigal Daughter needs to be subtle.

Character time – I thought that Sharif Atkin’s character should have received more on-screen time. If he’s supposed to be that knight-in-shining-armor, he wasn’t given the opportunity to act like it that much. There are also other supporting actors that should have gotten more on-screen time, like Rae’ven Larrymore Kelly’s character and Kiki Sheard’s character.

Lack of an ultimate showdown – I wanted a stronger turning point, an ultimate showdown that gets you to say, “Yah, and take THAT.”

Rating

I’d give it 3 stars out of 5 for the storyline and it’s willingness to explore some Christian stereotypes. I think LeToya did a remarkable job playing the character when she only had 4 days to research on the character. She was originally supposed to play “Desiree,” the seductress. I’m not a fan of Tank (who plays Devlin) or his acting. In my opinion, there wasn’t much acting–isn’t he a playa in real life anyway? And for a low budget film, I think it was more than what I expected. There were moments where I felt teary-eyed because I saw myself making the mistakes (even if they weren’t the same mistakes the main character made).

And for nostalgia’s sake, I love Essence Atkin’s supporting character role. I remember Essence from “Smart Guy.”

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Film Fridays: “The Edge of Darkness”

I like Mel Gibson and his roles that made him famous (“Mad Max” series, “Lethal Weapon” series, “Braveheart,” “Forever Young”). Though one of the last movies he acted in was 2oo2’s “Signs” directed by M. Night Shyamalan, he kept himself busy as producer and screenwriter, creating successful movies as 2004’s “The Passion of the Christ” and 2006’s “Apocalypto.” When he wasn’t busy with movies, he was busy being in the public eye over alcohol abuse and allegations of anti-Semitism. Well, it seems the public forgive him as he stars in this new movie based from a 1985 BBC series of the same name.

What I Expected

Based on the trailer, I expected lots of action. And of course, because it’s Mel Gibson, I also expected some blood and guts being spilled at some point in the movie.

What It’s About

Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) is a homicide detective for the Boston Police Department whose daughter is shot down in front of his home. As he tracks down his daughter’s killer he uncovers a larger conspiracy.

You’ll Like

Mel Gibson – I think it’s him at his best. He pulls off the Bostonian accent. And just my luck, this week, I’ve been longing to see Boston and hearing the famous Bostonian accents. I miss Boston; just not the winters. And my, Gibson is old–I see all the wrinkles of a worried father on his face. When he puts on the trench coat and goes interviewing suspects, I can’t help but think of “Columbo.”

Ray Winestone – His character is mysterious, although you can’t help but feel sympathetic for him because you’re unsure whether he is good or evil.

Action sequences – I think it goes to show that even older gentlemen can fight. Oh, and there’s definitely a lot of violence in this movie.

You’ll Dislike

The plot – Okay, we all know that the daughter is dead–it was in the trailer so I haven’t spoiled anything–but in some ways, it reminded me a lot of “Taken.” The grief-stricken dad has nothing to lose so he’s going to go all badass on you. I understand that it’s what a dad is going to do to save his daughter, or in this case to uncover the truth about his daughter. However, the whole conspiracy thing–it’s just been done before. I don’t want to reveal what the conspiracy is, but think about the time period that the original (the tv series) was set in and you’ll have your answer.

The confusion – I was somewhat confused as to who was good and who was bad and at which point of the movie. Maybe conspiracies just confuse me.

Rating

I’d give it 3.5 stars out of 5. Go watch the movie if you like action, mystery, and conspiracy movies. Don’t watch it if you have a weak stomach.

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