Monday, September 30, 2013

The Wonder Woman Fans Deserve?

Rileah Vanderbilt as Diana Price/Wonder Woman
I still haven't seen Man of Steel and I'm hoping that's a good thing. Potential disappointment would have far less impact on the small screen. And while not particularly a fan of Ben Affleck as the Batman (Dare Devil was not entirely his fault), I am very dubious of the announced Batman/Superman  movie of 2015, which should be the lead in for DC's Justice League movie. Though many fans (myself included) think there should be a few more origin films before leaping right into JLA. There's both The Flash and Aquaman (the latter often being the least popular member of the JLA) and then there is Princess Diana of Themyscira* AKA Diana Prince AKA Wonder Woman.

*Formerly known as Paradise Island.

Created in the 1940's Wonder Woman (like many superheroes of the era) fought both Axis enemies and supervillians. She is an Amazon Princess with great strength, agility and courage. Her golden lasso forces anyone tied up in to tell the truth and her lighting reflexes & deflector bracelets keep her safe from gunfire. Oh. She has an invisible plane. She's gone through many changes over the years and like most superheroes has had some pretty outrageous story-lines. In a recent series, she was endowed with power by the Earth spirit Gaea, making her one of the most physically powerful DC characters, after Superman. 

Those of us old enough to do so, remember the very cheesy TV series starring Lynda Carter in a pair of blue Depends and the devilishly handsome Lyle Waggoner:

I never understood the point of an invisible plane if we can still see her. Of course, by Season 3, the opening credits lost the comic-book style animation and pro-women's rights lyrics in favor of instrumentals over action shots from the previous two seasons:

Since then, there have been several aborted attempts at a Wonder Woman feature and Direct-to-DVD animated movie, as well as a failed TV pilot from David E. Kelly with Adrianne Palicki ("Friday Night Lights") in the title role. The new costume didn't help.

Adrianne Palicki Fail

Earlier tonight, a friend shared the following on Facebook and I read it and watched it and thought "Yes! this is exactly how to do it!" A production company called Rainfall Films has put together a "concept clip" of how they think Wonder Woman should be made as a film. It certainly seems to fall into the more naturalistic DC Universe created by Chris Nolan's Batman films and perpetrated by Zack Snyder in Man of Steel. And while we don't really get a sense of her acting skills, "Fitness Model/Actor/Unicorn" Rileah Vanderbilt certainly fits the bill physically.

I also like how they've structured the piece with a relevant flashback with decent (if seen-before) CGI effects. Watch the clip for yourself and I'll be back with a few more comments. I recommend watching on Full Screen with the volume on:

Wow! Now THAT's a Wonder Woman for the 21st Century. The costume is perfect Amazon Warrior and the action is fun and exciting with that gritty Nolanesque (yes, I just created a new director-named adjective) attitude and I much prefer her ability to fly over the invisible plane. 

What say you, fellow geeks? Would you see this version of Wonder Woman? Because yer damned Skippy, I would!

More, anon.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

TV Review: "The Michael J. Fox Show"

I may or may not have mentioned that I kind of liked "Mom" with Allison Janey and Anna Faris and I really want to like "The Crazy Ones," but it will take another episode to convince me. NBC smartly aired both the pilot and second episode of Michael J. Fox's return to situation comedy, playing a local news anchor with Parkinson's who 'decides' to return to work after taking five years off to spend with his family (all of whom are just a little tired of his over-attention). Betsy Brandt, straight off her as-of-this-writing-over stint as Marie on something called "Breaking Bad," plays Mike's wife, Annie and Kate Finneran is his sister, Leigh. The rest of the cast is rounded out by Ana Noguiero as his idolizing field producer and Wendell Pierce as his boss.

I really expected to hate this show (not as much I hated "The Goldbergs," but that's another review). I was expecting something hokey and exploitative, which it almost was. Luckily, the show has some remarkable things going for it, the first of which is it's terrific cast. Fox is all in and he and Brandt share an excellent chemistry, and while she does that best she can with kind of a jerk of a character, Finneran manages to hold her own.  Sure, they take a cheap shot or two (mad at his boss, Mike throws a dinner roll at him, saying "Oops! Parkinsons!"), but there were also just enough surprisingly and genuinely funny moments in both episodes, that I have to give it "Conditional Approval" (a Day Job-related term). The mostly excellent writing will only get better as the writers and cast continue explore these characters and their relationships. My only real quibble with the show is its blatant "Modern Family" faux-documentary format.  Has the fourth wall been crossed once too often, with no going back?

It's certainly not the best network sitcom ever (or even this season, so far), but it was a lot better than I ever expected it to be. **1/2 (Two and a Half Stars Out of Four).

Many years ago, I wrote a TV parody stage play in which one character went on a talk show and claimed to have proof that Fox was the anti-Christ. This was at the height of his popularity, after the Back to the Future series. If I was writing that play today, it would be Justin Bieber or one of the lads from 1D (probably Harry or Liam). I have nothing but admiration for Mr. Fox. 

Hopefully they'll find a groove and they show will get even better.

More, anon.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Pasta Fongool!

Tortellini All Come From the Same Dough
Pasta, now? Really? So Guido Barilla (yes, Guido) blathered on about not wanting gay people to eat his pasta. And now we're all supposed to boycott Barilla pasta. 

I keep wavering back and forth on boycotts, simply because they don't usually work. However, as a statement of protest and displeasure, a boycott can draw attention to a cause. I don't remember that last time I had delicious Chick Fil-A sandwich. I have managed to find delicious frozen waffle fries and a home-recipe for the sandwich that's very close. 

Growing up, Mom was a San Giorgio user, if memory serves. Dad and I both preferred their rigatoni, because they "held the sauce." Dad also liked linguini. Unfortunately, he liked both of them cooked to death. The first time I had properly cooked pasta was revelatory. Mom's meatballs were the size of softballs, and while her sauce was delicious (she was taught by our Sicilian landlady when I was toddler), after Mom taught it to me, I tinkered with it and made it my own, finally learning realistic meatball sizes; spice and herb proportions; the best tomatoes and cheeses to use and make me proud to serve them. And while both my Dear D and the mysterious Italian superhero Pax Romano (both of whom I love, dearly) insist on mistakenly calling their tomato pasta sauce 'gravy,' my sauce kicks some serious ass and deserves a pasta which is worthy of its unabashed superiority. Yes, I am that proud of my meatballs marinara, bitches!

I have used both many dried and fresh pastas over the years. Of course, fresh is better. My Hungarian grandmother's homemade soup noodles were amazing! In my 20's, I would get fresh pasta from the product demonstrators when I worked in The Cellar. Those were pretty good, too. 

I don't actually remember when I first tried Barilla pasta. I'm sure it was because I had coupon. But I liked it and continued to like their whole wheat and Plus lines, which actually tasted a lot better than similar products from other companies (outside the more expensive imports and specialty brands). I have several boxes of Barilla pasta in my cupboards and my pantry. I'm not going to throw them out - that would be wasteful and stupid. The money spent on them is long their coffers and I don't know about you, but I can't afford to throw away perfectly good food.

Competitor Bertolli wasted no time in pointing out their inclusive advertising, As did "Fresh" (i.e. refrigerated) pasta-maker Buitoni. Bertolli has previously sponsored programming on the LGBT network LOGO: 

And then there was this Bertolli olive oil campaign with a mostly naked chef:

I initially balked at yet another boycott, but I can hear One Million Morons firing their tiny brain engines to organize both a boycott of all other pastas and a push to buy Barilla. I probably won't be buying any more Barilla. The search for a new whole grain pasta is on. Any and all suggestions are welcome. Medium Shells, Rigatoni, Penne, Elbows and Angel Hair preferred. Gay Foodie White Whine over.

More, anon.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Romeo & Julian, an Amazing Juggler and Some Zombies Walk Into a Blog...

No one will better appreciate that title than my sister, I'm sorry to say. She will find it particularly hilarious, in fact. In just the way that many of the things we share as hilarious, are specifically hilarious to the two of us, only (though Q shares our love of and many of the same specific moments from a very popular series of classic short comedies which we all grew up watching on UHF - and no, that's not a channel - shut up, I'm old!).

As you can probably tell from that rather insane intro, Uncle P has had a fairly stressful week, leaving me at less than my usually focused (haha) self. There are several factors working to make me rather scattered (which I won't go into other than to say one is personal and one is artistic) and I have lots of things I want to talk about (For example: Why do I type "talk" when I am obviously writing?) Anyway, trying to retain some semblance of sanity (cue: Nelson Muntz) I suppose I should start in order then, yes? So first up was...

Romeo and Julian, it is. Out in the Dark is a love story about a Palestinian student and an Israeli doctor. Since premiering earlier this year at the Toronto Film Festival, Out in the Dark has since won several other film-fest awards. Daring and controversial? Hardly. Original and groundbreaking? Just the gay version of one of the oldest plots in history. All that having been said, the trailer is pretty amazing and it gives me hope that the film just might have something new to say about the old tropes and stereotypes which have permeated LGBTQ cinema for the past decade. Or not. Or it could just be another bad romantic thriller... What do you think?

I believe an Amazing Juggler was next, was it not? With only 500,000 views since it was first loaded back in 2009, I suspect the below video of juggler Alexander Koblikov is about to explode. I first saw it today on Facebook, but don't remember who posted it (if it was you, let me know). I've always been a fan of Variety and Circus Arts (I had a college acting professor who held his PhD in those very fields) and regular readers certainly know at least one of my obsessions by now. When I shared it on Facebook, a few friends commented on the fact that Koblikov never smiles throughout his admittedly jaw-dropping performance. On further review, it's apparent why he's not smiling: He's demonstrating a skill which he's obviously spent his entire life developing, rather than just 'showing off.' It's a deliberate and justified choice.

Which leaves us with Zombies, Last but certainly never least. Season 4 of the phenomenon that is AMC's "The Walking Dead" is just about 2 weeks away and fans like Uncle P and my sister are jonesing pretty bad. The first clip I'm sharing has been around (I may well have shared it before), but my dear Patrick in Chicago shared it with me today, and it's just hilarious, every time I see it. Drreeet!

This next video is one I hadn't seen before, as well. They are calling it the 'Season 4 Extended Trailer - New Footage" but the Comicon trailer was longer. They should have just said 'New Footage' or 'Trailer 2'

"Things are only going to get worse." Yup.

Shocktober is just a few days away. I won't promise 31 posts in a row this year (though don't be surprised if I try) but if I come up with a really great theme, I just might. And you can help. Leave me a comment with your idea for my Shocktober 2013 Theme.

More, anon.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

TV Review: "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

Marvel, in their quest to dominate the superhero genre in all media, has launched the most anticipated new show of the season. ABC's "MAoS" is the second brand new show of the season and the second to become permanently scheduled on my DVR. Created by Joss Whedon (Marvel's The Avengers; "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") and directly tied to Marvel's ever-increasing role in popular culture and entertainment, "MAoS" may well do what "Heroes" and "No Ordinary Family" failed to do. If you haven't seen it, there are spoilers ahead.

As I am sure everyone expected and was delighted to find, "MAoS" was slick, smart, action-packed and an awful lot of fun. Having the most fun of all is Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson (and the only permanent cross-over character from the previous films). But... wait... didn't agent Coulson die in The Avengers? Well... Coulson explains that Nick Fury faked his death to rally the Avengers into a team. Coulson recovered from his wounds at a spa in Tahiti. Of course we find out... well, Coulson is either a clone with a memory implant or Coulson, actually raised from the dead. I'm guessing we won't find out this season. Cobie Smulders crossed over for the pilot, as well, recreating her role as Maria Hill. The rest of the team is made up of Agent Grant Ward (ridiculously handsome Brett Dalton - those names seem somehow easily interchangeable); Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen); physicist Leo Fitz and biologist Jemma Simmons (Iain De Caestecker & Elizabeth Henstridge) are known collectively as "Fitzsimmons" while hacker/conspiracy blogger Skye (Chloe Bennet) who has skills they need.

Just about everything in the pilot, from the writing, casting, direction and special effects were simply top-notch. And they set a perfect mythology/mystery in motion with the need to find and stop the person and/or persons behind "Project Centipede," which (if the writers are smart) should be a recurring theme among stand-alone episodes, rather than the season's whole focus. But who the heck am I to tell Joss Whedon and company how to write their show, anyway?  Anyway, if you didn't watch it, you should. Geeky fanboy fun for the whole family. **** (Four Out of Four Stars)

Oh, and by the way... I want Lola!

More, anon.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Homoerotic Spanish & Pervy Kiwi Advertising (Possibly NSFW Edition)

It's not like advertisers never knew we existed as a target audience. It's just that now it's finally cool to acknowledge our dollars may well be 'pink,' but they're also just as green as everyone else's.

And while neither of these ads is specifically targeting gay audiences, there is a certainly homoerotic quality to the running pants ad (via - link may be NSFW) from Spain's ES Sportswear, I've embedded below. Loaded with crotch and ass shots, butt-slapping, chest-stroking and arm-linking; its rather obvious to whom ES really wants sell their brand.

Then there's this parody commercial purporting to be for product from New Zealand, featuring a spokesperson whose highly exaggerated Kiwi accent turns it into something hilariously and possibly NSFW pervy (also via):

Some NZ folks are unhappy about that clip, while others find it as childishly hilarious as Uncle P did. It was probably made by an Aussie... or a Tasmanian. (Ha! I bet you were expecting a Warner Brothers joke there. Nope! Pwn'd). 

I almost did another Retro-Review of a recent Indy and Oscar favorite tonight, but I'm still mulling parts of it over. There was some beautiful imagery; lots of wry humor and some beautifully underplayed performances, but it all seemed a bit too self-aware. I'll elaborate soon (or not - it all depends).

More, anon.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Bad Movie Retro Review "The Dunwich Horror"

This past week especially has been that weird transitional week for TV. The Summer shows are just about over and the new shows and seasons just starting to trickle in, so there isn't a whole lot worth watching, even on the obscure, niche channels. So I've been doing a lot of channel surfing. If something looks interesting along the way, I'll DVR it and move on. Such was the case when I came across a movie I didn't even know existed on SyFy, 2009's The Dunwch Horror, based on the H.P. Lovecraft story of the same name. Then I saw the cast, which included Jeffrey Combs (a staple in every modern Lovecraft movie since Re-Animator) and Dean Stockwell! Yes, Dean Stockwell from "Quantam Leap." And even more importantly, Stockwell - along with Sandra Dee; Ed Begley; Lloyd Bochner and Sam Jaffe (all solid B-Listers at the time) - was the star of the 1970 film of the same name and origin. Not a lot happens in the 1970 version and it's probably the least scary horror movie of the era.

Tonight, I sat down to find out why I never heard of the 2009 version. And it was all too soon apparent. This movie is so ineptly made; so abysmally acted; so poorly written and features some of the most ridiculously lame physical FX since Ed Wood's Bride of the Monster. The story revolves around the search for the original copy of the fabled Necronomicon, a book used to summon the return of ancient evil gods who once ruled the earth, so it can instead be used against a group of cultists intent on restoring the Old Ones' rule. Stockwell plays a professor of Cthuhu-ology or some such idiocy, who is brought into exorcise a young girl possessed by a 5000 year old demon, using only a cheap, plastic ankh and 60's-era Japanese Kaiju animated power rays from his bare hands. Oh, and a Rubick's pyramid his assistant found under the floor. Meanwhile, a young couple on a road trip are stalked at a rural gas-station by Wilbur (Combs, doing his best demonic Billy Bob in Sling Blade via Jon Lovitz) who brings her to his crazy mother and grandfather so they can feed her to his demonic twin, Yog Sothoth. We know these people are evil because the film does weird little skips when they're on screen. While elements of this version run closer to the original story, the dialog is pure drivel and the acting is... well, I'm guessing half the cast got paid in weed, a quarter got paid in coke and a quarter paid and/or had sex to be in it. The laughable 'special effects' include poorly animated "magical" lights, ridiculous costume/make-up monster effects and a raging pink and purple storm cloud of apparently gay evil. 

Honestly, there are no words to convey how stupefyingly bad this movie was. I deliberately chose the word 'stupefyingly' because as dreadful as this movie was, I couldn't stop watching. I was truly stupefied (not so much that I didn't manage to fast-forward through the commercials. If you happen upon this movie in a similar way, remember Indy's advice to Marion: "Don't look at it! Shut your eyes, no matter what happens!" 

I almost saved that one for Turkey Month (and may revisit it), but I wanted to share my thoughts fresh. Further reflection may yield more hilarious insights. .00000003 Stars Out of Four.

More, anon.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hot, Gay, Shakesperean, Sci-Fi Food Nonsense

Chip Off the Old Block
How's that for a post title? To be perfectly honest, all of those do apply to this post overall, just not necessarily all at the same time. 

It's been a fairly stressful weekend culminating with my mother having what her Dr. described to me as a "small heart-attack." She will be fine and is scheduled for a cath procedure on Tuesday. I am also in the midst of rehearsals for a reading of a play with some dark and very close-to-home subject matter and have really been trying to avoid anything which didn't make me smile and/or laugh when I'm not forced to go dark places. 

And while I do so love the Fall season and Halloween (which is a fun kind of darkness), it also means dread Winter is close at hand. Like plants, I don't exactly thrive in the Winter, though extra Vitamin D supplements and the rich, fattening foods of the Winter holidays help.

Attitude plays a large part of it, too. It's my choice to wallow in the dark or shine my own light through it. I realize that's kind of cheesy and self-helpy or whatever, but it is 100% true. To do that, one should concentrate on the things in life that make it worth living: Beauty, Family, Friendship, Art, Laughter, Joy... These all counterbalance the truly dark stuff. And speaking of Beauty, that's Clint Eastwood's 27 year old son Scott (via) in a photo shoot for 'Town and Country,' Undeniably his father's son, Eastwood the younger has appeared in several unremarkable films, but is suddenly all over the web (especially on the LGBT blogs). I swear, the boy gives me the vapors!

So that's the Hot. On to the Gay. "Queer Lisboa," Portugal's only LGBTQ International Film Festival, has a history of amusing and provocative advertising. This year's is no different, though I imagine it has a certain anti-Semitic, homophobic has-been crying bitter tears of righteous rage:

J'adore, j'adore, j'adore... Yes, that's the Gay. What about the Shakespearean Sci-Fi? Well, hang onto your gay geek hats. The Husky Jackal Theatre Company presents: "William Shakespeare's Terminator the Second," a fully staged production of T2:Judgement Day using only dialog actually written by The Bard. The trailer embedded below is just an amazing bit of hilarious genius:

William Shakespeare Presents: Terminator the Second - Official Trailer from Husky Jackal on Vimeo.

Which leaves us with Food, but which also ties back to Hot (you know what that is). Here's an adorable shirtless guy (via) teaching you how to correctly pronounce the names of European and Asian foods which many Americans mispronounce. Don't know if it's his mischievous grin, deliberately messy hair, his infectious enthusiasm or the fact that it's actually educational that makes me love it so much. 

Oh, I remember now. It's his Treasure Trail. Wow! I just went there, didn't I?

I'm wishing all of you the better week I'm wishing for myself. Of course, one of my maternal grandmother's ('Grandmom Cookie') many colorful sayings was "Wish in one hand and sh*t in the other one and see which one fills up first." Never let the dark keep you from appreciating the light, the joy and the nonsense that is our time here. Instead, embrace the dark with the light, joy and nonsense. We need the dark to appreciate the light, joy and nonsense. Learning that is never easy.

More, anon.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Hope These Are Worth the Wait

Jonathan Rhys Meyers
I've already been surprised by the first new show of the season and have hope for quite a few others. I don't honestly have much to say about most of the new comedies coming up. "The Goldbergs" looks dreadful; "Dads" (oh, Seth... I'm not mad. I'm... disappointed...) and "The Millers" look even worse (poor Wil Arnet! He so deserves another good show...). Other comedies I'll likely avoid include "Super Fun Night;" "We Are Men;" "Welcome to the Family" (sorry Mary McCormack. I love you, but not enough  to sit through that) and "Enlisted." And I'll at least give "Trophy Wife;" "The Michael J. Fox Show;" "Brooklyn Nine Nine" and "Sean Saves the World" one or two episodes before deciding to continue, though I have very low expectations for all of them (and hope I'm wrong).

There are two new comedies that have caught my eye and hope won't suck. "Mom" features two amazing and talented favorites (Anna Farris and Alison Janey) as mother and daughter, both dealing with addiction recovery. Looks like the dark, hilarious kind of show I love. Which means it's got two seasons, tops. "The Crazy Ones" brings Robin Williams back to sitcom TV for the first time since "Mork and Mindy" and pairs him with Buffy as his daughter and partner in an advertising agency. I want to like it... I hope Williams is able to rein it in and let his costars have their moments. Plus, adorable James Wolk co-stars!

Among the new dramas, I won't bother with "Betrayal" or "Ironside," despite Blair Underwood being in it. The "Hawaii Five-Oh" reboot lightning isn't likely to strike a second time. Though I am looking forward to James Spader in "The Black List" and Dylan McDermott and Toni Collette (!!!!) in "Hostages," though with McDermott sadly less naked than he was in "American Horror Story."And I've already set the DVR for the pilot of "Lucky 7," a show about lottery winners that will either be brilliant or horribly cheesy or (if we're very lucky), both.

Of course, being the weirdo I am, Uncle P is most looking forward to the genre shows. I'm most likely to not bother seeing "Almost Human;" "The Originals" and "Witches of Eastend," But I will most certainly be adding ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." - henceforth known on the Revenge as "MAoS" - to my DVR schedule with every hope that Joss Whedon can get enough cross-over appearances from the Marvel movies to make it all work. NBC adds a new title to their growing genre library just before Halloween. "Dracula," starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers looks like a very smart Steampunk-inspired adaptation of Stoker's characters. If it's as clever,cool and sexy as it looks, why not add another take on the archetype. And the CW joins the Mutant/Superhero sub-genre with "The Tomorrow People" which could be fun, if it's done as smartly as Chronicle and the first season of "Heroes."

So, what new shows are you looking forward to seeing? I'd love to know.

More, anon.

Friday, September 20, 2013

I. Can't. Wait.

Click Image to Enlarge
FOX's "Sleepy Hollow" was a happy surprise for both myself and many people I know, and while I am looking forward to several other new shows this season there are a few returning favorites that have me absolutely chomping at the bit to see. 

First up is Ryan Murphy's amazingly-creative-and-creepy television experiment's third season which starts on October 9th. "American Horror Story: Coven." is set in both contemporary New Orleans and Historical Salem, exploring yet another Horror trope with what looks like another season of amazing; puzzling; creepy; original and arresting visuals, story lines, characters and performances from a cast that makes me just a little more excited than a man my age should ever get over a TV show. Returning are the astonishing Jessica Lange; Lily Rabe; Francis Conroy; Taissa Farmiga; Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters. And joining them are some powerhouse talents: Angela Bassett; Kathy Bates (!!); Christine Ebersole (!!) Emma Roberts; Danny Houston (!!) and Pattie effng Lupone (!!!!!). Add a war between Good & Evil Witches to the potential for exponential insanity and you have yourself what has so far been one of the best and most provocative genre series, ever.

Here are all seven Season 3 teasers:

And the first Season 3 promo with dialog, "School:"

And I don't think I need to say how much I am anticipating the Season Four premiere of AMC's "The Walking Dead" (the producers of which just announced a spin-off - oh, excuse me: "Companion" series - for 2014). While I will happily admit that Season Three was better than Season Two, neither was as good as the amazing Season One.It seems like the producers are listening to the fans and upped the ante this season. My mother is actually antsy for it's return.

NBC's dark-humored fantasy "Grimm" ended with our beautiful intrepid hero zombified while in the clutches of a voodoo priest. A co-worker whom I truly adore watches because her husband watches and calls it "The Grimm." It's another show Mom surprisingly loves - and I love that she's finally come to appreciate quality genre works. She was a huge "Fringe" and "Lost" fan and I'm so glad she's expanded her horizons. We know Nick is going to escape and recover from whatever Baron Samedi has done to him, but that's hardly the point. It's clever and campy and imaginative with a terrific ensemble cast and usually well-executed (and often hilarious) CGI transformation FX. But like any good show, story is king and the mythology is both well-constructed and unfolding in a way that makes complete sense. But most importantly, "Grimm" never takes itself too seriously, which helps to make it both endearing and interesting.

Outside of Genre shows, I am also looking forward to the return of CBS's Law and Politics drama, "The Good Wife." Another dream cast of exceptionally talented actors and a brilliant writing team make "The Good Wife" so worth DVR'ing. 

There are a few others I'm looking forward to seeing return and at least one or three I don't understand why they are returning at all. There are also lots of new shows this season that I'll write about the next time I write about TV (which will probably be soon).

In the meantime, what shows are you excited to see returning this fall?

More, anon.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

For the First Time, Ever

Kenichi Ebina
For the first time since I started watching my Reality TV guilty pleasure "America's Got Talent," my favorite act won. Japanese dancer Kenichi Ebina took the top prize of $1M and a stint as a Vegas headliner. 

Last Season, William Close was my favorite. The 'Earth Harpist' was fascinating to watch. A dog act won. The year before that, I didn't have a favorite. A former car wash attendant turned lounge crooner (albeit a very good one), won. 

Season 5 gave me my all-time favorite contestant. You know him, you love him. Madamen und Herren. Medames et Monsieurs. Ladies and... Gentlemen. Presenting His Majesty, Prince Poppycock:

Singer John Quale's alter-ego displayed not only Quale's prodigious vocal talent, but his genius in creating a truly memorable character. The winner was blues singer Michael Grimm. Who?

In Season 4, another opera singer, the lovely and talented Barbara Padilla was my favorite. Her audition was revelatory:

Barbara came in second to Country singer Kevin Skinner. Who?

But this year, my favorite was visionary Dancer/Mime/Choreographer/Gymnast/Contortionist Kenichi Ebina, who was consistently better and more creative with each performance. The self-taught, petite and gloriously elvish-looking performer beat out some very talented folks, including both my runner-up picks, opera trio 'Forte' (my mother's favorite, who will definitely have a career) and the adorable 17 year old magician, Collins Key (also likely to have an amazing career).

If you don't watch AGT (and Uncle P will think no less of you if not), see why Kenichi won this year:

I couldn't be happier for Kenichi Ebina. Congratulations to a truly brilliant and original performing artist who deserves to be seen and appreciated.

Gushing over.

More, anon.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

TV Review: "Sleepy Hollow"

Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie
Since AMC's phenomenal success with "The Walking Dead," genre shows seem to be all the rage of late. FOX is the first to debut a new show this season with Alex Kurtzman's and Roberto Orci's (both of "Lost" and Star Trek) "Sleepy Hollow," a modern take on Washington Irving's 18th century ghost story. Last visited by Tim Burton in his 1999 film of the same name, this new version takes a decidedly demonic approach to the tale, adding witchcraft and the Book of Revelations to the mix in what may well be the best new genre series since NBC's "Grimm."

In this version, Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) is a British defector during the American Revolution. While fighting a mysterious masked mercenary, Crane is mortally wounded, but not before be-heading the mercenary. The two are bound by blood and Crane suddenly finds himself resurrected in 2013, confounded by modern technology and thought to be insane by the local authorities. Meanwhile, Sheriff August Corbin (genre regular Clancy Brown) and his partner, Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) are dispatched to investigate a disturbance at a local horse farm. Mills is scheduled to leave Sleepy Hollow to attend FBI training at Quantico in two weeks, but after Corbin is killed by an apparently headless monster, she decides to join up with Crane, despite her misgivings.

While the premise may seem outlandish, the pilot's execution was loaded with action, mystery and lots of fun. Mills, who has had her own brush with the supernatural as a child, is sympathetic towards Crane's plight and despite orders from Police Captain Frank Irving (Orlando Jones), takes Crane at his word and helps him escape from the asylum to which he's been assigned in an effort to solve the mystery of her partner's death. Of course, this is only after she discovers Corbin's secret files on witchcraft. When her friend Andy Dunn (Star Trek alum John Cho in one-off cameo) gives into the Horseman's demands to find his missing head, she is convinced that Crane is telling the truth and decides to help him fight the evil forces which have returned after 250 years.

The pilot, directed by Underworld director Len Wiseman, is a terrific combination of exposition and and action, setting up a series with plenty of potential. The chemistry between Mison and Beharie is surprisingly good and the supporting cast all hold their own, especially Jones in what I believe to be his first non-comedic role. "Sleepy Hollow" may play fast and loose with actual history (no one was ever burned at the stake for witchcraft in U.S. - that was a strictly German phenomenon in the 17th Century), the writers have obviously done just enough research (George Washington was indeed a land surveyor) to make it plausible. The writers also play fast and loose with their source material, but Irving is long dead and the property is well within the public domain, making it fair game for reinterpretation. Loaded with plenty of relatively bloodless violence and supernatural tomfoolery, "Sleepy Hollow" manages to be lots of fun to watch. And what more can one ask from a genre series?

I thoroughly enjoyed the "Sleepy Hollow" pilot and look forward to where they will take this tale of two unlikely partners and their fight to stop the impending Apocalypse. *** (Three Out of Four Stars).

More, anon.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ann Coulter: See You Next Tuesday

Miss America 2014, Nina Davuluri
"With their infernal racial set-asides, racial quotas, and race norming, liberals share many of the Klan's premises. The Klan sees the world in terms of race and ethnicity. So do liberals! Indeed, liberals and white supremacists are the only people left in America who are neurotically obsessed with race. Conservatives champion a color-blind society." ~ Ann Coulter

Is it really any wonder that Ann Coulter is probably the most despised woman in America? Not only does she belie her own racist views, she tries to blame liberals for the racism that is obviously not dead in America, despite her claims to the contrary. Case in point:

I have not watched the Miss America Pageant in at least 40 years. I find it sexist, misogynistic and exploitative. So much so, that I broke ties with a an old friend who raised her own daughter up in the pageant system over it's 19th Century ideology. Regardless of how you feel about America's obsession with beauty, Miss America is supposed to represent a decidedly American ideal. When Vanessa Williams was crowned the first African-American Miss America in 1984, the Internet barely existed. There was no Facebook or Twitter and the world was connected solely through the dominant media of the time (i.e. TV). The only controversy surrounding her crowning came later, when it was revealed that she had posde naked for photos with another woman and was eventually stripped of her crown, despite the protests of straight men who found the pictures wildly erotic. 

Flash-forward 29 years. Nina Davuluri is crowned the first Miss America of Indian descent. Her talent was a "Bollywood"-style dance in traditional Indian garb. Beautiful, smart and talented, the winner of Miss New York won based on the criteria set forth by the Miss America organization and was voted the winner by a panel of judges which included two openly gay men (Mario Cantone and Lance Bass); a professional basketball player (Amar'e Soudemire); a concert violinist (Joshua Bell) a millionaire investor (Barbara Corcoran) and a former Miss America winner (Dierdre Downs Gunn). That's about as diverse a panel as I can imagine. 

Still, almost as soon as Davuluri was announced the winner, a bunch of ignorant racists took to social media, spewing hateful and uninformed nonsense decrying the decidedly American winner a "Muslim" and a "terrorist." One Fox radio announcer went so far as to say Ms Davuluri didn't "embody American values." 

To which I can only respond by asking "WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!?!"

I dare any single White American, in any part of the country, to claim they did not descend from immigrants. Uncle P is descended from Hungarian and German immigrants, none of whom were born on U.S. soil. My paternal grandmother spoke Hungarian, Russian, German, Romanian and English. If she didn't want you to know what she was saying, she'd speak a language she knew no one else around her spoke. Did that mean she was un-American? No. It meant she had something private to say, just as I do, speaking French or Hungarian when I don't want strangers to know what I am saying. Does that mean Uncle P is not an American? Hell, no! I was born here, to parents who were born here. Just as Ms Davuluri was born here.

The America we know today; the America in which we all have the same opportunities; the America I know and love, was built on the backs of late-19th and early-20th Century immigrants, just as the America of the future will continue to be built on the backs of both native and naturalized Americans of today. Truth be told, if you want to get nit-picky about it, the long-oppressed and unfairly displaced Native Americans are the only real Americans. And yet they still suffer from the kind of ignorant racism which is sadly and deeply ingrained in so many. 

I don't claim to have any answers, here. I have no idea how to fix this problem. I just know that it still it exists and only by exposing it, can we overcome it. I hope I live long enough to see the death of racism and the true globalization of society. Sadly, given the current state of affairs, that's a very long time away.

I realize I am hardly the only blogger to rant about this issue today. But I do hope that I am one voice among many who can collectively make difference and perhaps open the eyes of a few of the ignorant. America is known, among many other things, as "The Great Melting Pot" for a reason. Miss America 2014 both embodies that sentiment and reminds us all that few of us are actually indigenous, despite where or when we were born.

More, anon.

PS - If you don't know what "See You Next Tuesday" means, ask a savvier friend... 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Retro Review: "Now You See Me"

I missed Now You See Me when it was in theaters earlier this spring, though I found the concept to be fascinating. I caught it tonight OnDemand, simply because there was literally nothing else worth watching on broadcast or regular cable TV (no, I don't watch or care about "Breaking Bad" or the NFL and am not ashamed to admit it - bring on "The Walking Dead!").

Four street magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco) are given Tarot cards with an invitation to meet at an NYC address by a mysterious, hooded stranger. A year later, billed as the "The Four Horsemen," they appear together at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and pull off what appears to be a magical heist of a French bank, dispensing over 3 million Euros to the audience. Among that audience is magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), who has made millions exposing fraudulent magicians, starting in the 1970's with a magician who apparently died while trying to escape from a safe dumped into the East River. The four are immediately detained by the FBI, interrogated by Special Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo); Agent Fuller (Michael Kelly) and Interpol Detective Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent). But with no real evidence, the four are released. Promoter Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) follows the four to New Orleans, where they drain his bank account to enrich the victims of Katrina, much to the consternation of Rhodes and Dray. What follows is a cat-and-mouse game of deception, distraction and double crosses which kept me guessing right up to the movie's surprising end.

Director Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk; Clash of the Titans) doesn't exactly have a stellar record, though he does manage to display a bit of flashy style here. The screenplay by Ed Solomon (Men in Black), Boaz Yakin (Safe) and Edward Ricourt has more than a few issues (the hooded stranger's motive is made painfully clear early on and the hokey secret society subplot is just a bit hard to swallow), but the cast's performances are earnest and it's obvious they're all having fun, especially when given some hilariously snarky dialog. And that's all this movie really asks of you - to have fun. Terrific SFX; multiple locations; an exciting car chase through Manhattan and a new twist on the heist genre are more than enough to make Now You See Me worth the 6 bucks it costs to see it OnDemand, especially if there's nothing of interest available. 

Now You See Me 2 is already rumored and I must admit I wouldn't mind spending another 2 hours with these characters. All in all, Now You See Me  is a fun and entertaining twist on the heist genre, despite some rather obvious and silly flaws. **1/2 (Two and Half Stars Out of Four).

More, anon.

Friday, September 13, 2013


Today is Friday the 13th. Or, a randomly assigned date on the Julian calendar with no real significance other than a way to keep track of the Earth's revolution around the sun. Of course, for millions of superstitious people, Friday the 13th is a day to be extra cautious. They avoid walking under ladders; stay away from black cats; don't open umbrellas indoors do their best to not break mirrors. Friggatriskaidekaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th, the origins of which are unclear, but probably date back to the early 1800's, when just about everyone was religious. According to Christian mythology, Jesus died on a Friday after having been betrayed by his 13th disciple, Judas. 13 is also an unlucky number in Norse mythology involving the mischievous Loki who turned up as the uninvited 13th guest at a dinner in Valhalla.

Even as a kid (when I believed), I was never very superstitious. Being in the theatre (out of respect for my fellow actors who are superstitious), I do avoid saying  "Macbeth" in a theatre, if only to keep my cast-mates from freaking out - even though the production of Macbeth in which I played Ross was completely free of problems, injuries and/or technical glitches. And Friday the 13th is nothing compared to some of the superstitions people hold around the world. Here are a few of them (via):

Spit on a new (baseball) bat before using it for the first time to make it lucky.

It's bad luck to put a hat on a bed.

To protect yourself from witches, wear a blue bead.

It is bad luck to light three cigarettes with the same match. (This is from WWI, when the glow of a match lit long enough to light three cigarettes could reveal your location to the enemy)

It's bad luck to leave a house through a different door than the one used to come into it.

To drop a fork means a man is coming to visit. (I better start dropping forks!)

If 3 people are photographed together, the one in the middle will die first. (But what if you are in more than one picture of 3 people?)

If you leave a rocking chair rocking when empty, it invites evil spirits to come into your house to sit in the rocking chair.

Do not place shoes upon a table, for this will bring bad luck for the day, cause trouble with your mate and you might even lose your job as a result (Uncle P's mother insists it is bad luck to put new shoes on a table).

If a woman sees a robin flying overhead on Valentine's Day, it means she will marry a sailor. If she sees a sparrow, she will marry a poor man and be very happy. If she sees a goldfinch, she will marry a millionaire.

The number of Xs in the palm of your right hand is the number of children you will have (This childless gay man has three).

The list goes on and on. And superstitions vary from country to country. For example, the seventh son of a seventh son has magic powers, according to Irish folklore, but is a vampire in Romanian legend. 

Here's the thing: it's all nonsense. There is no such thing as magic. There are no supernatural forces controlling your life. Eating 12 black-eyed peas on New Year's Day will do nothing but send the peas' nutrients into your system and playing with a Ouija board will not invite Captain Howdy to possess you. There are no such things as vampires; werewolves; demons; angels; Bigfoot or chupacabras. Fairies exist only in Disney movies; handling toads does not give one warts; cats don't steal babies' breath and repeating "Bloody Mary" three times into a mirror in a dark room will not cause an evil spirit to leap out of said mirror and kill you. Wearing special underwear will not help you win a game or land a role in a play for which you're auditioning. A rabbit's foot key-chain is just a preserved bit of a dead rabbit and a four-leaf clover is simply a genetic anomaly. Blowing all the candles out on your birthday cake just means you have good lungs and wishing on a falling meteor or a coin tossed into a fountain or well is as effective as playing special numbers in the lottery (i.e. not effective at all). Wearing green on game day does nothing to help the Eagles win; rubbing a lamp will not release a djinn who will do you bidding and kissing the Blarney Stone will only transfer germs from the 10,000 other people who kissed it that week. 

If you believe in any of the above-mentioned nonsense, I feel sorry for you. Get over it and get on with your life, already.

Still, Friday the 13th makes for some great horror movie fodder:

You're all doomed.

More, anon.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

More Sad News

The Funtown Pier in Seaside Heights, NJ
As if my beloved Seaside Heights hasn't seen in enough tragedy in the last few years...

As a kid, going to the shore meant a trip to Seaside Heights. Every Mother's Day we'd pile in the car (Mom; Dad; Grandmom B; Aunt E; my sister and I) and head down for a day on the boardwalk, playing the wheels and riding the rides; eating pizza, caramel corn and Khor's orange creme custards.

Our day always started at the south end and the Funtown Pier with it's magnificent old carousel in the Carousel Arcade. We'd play games of chance for stuffed animals (for us) and cigarettes (for Mom and Dad); ride the dark rides and eat at any number of very bad-for-you places. When we got to Casino Pier, where the bigger 'adult' rides were located, we'd have a few rides and then head back, playing more games and hitting the arcades for a few rounds of Skeeball and silliness. On the way home, we would stop at any number of farm stands ("The Dirty Lady" was a favorite) and buy fresh Jersey produce to consume after we got home. If we were very good, Grandmom B and Aunt E would take my sister and I down a few more times each summer, spoiling us rotten along the way. We always had a good time.

As I got older and managed to drive myself down, the somewhat seedy side of Seaside became more apparent, but it was always lots of fun. One time, my very dear college friend Mary and I went down in the mid-80's. We had to park fairly far from the boardwalk and walk through town, where we came across a couple of Italian-American New York girls walking across the street from us. They had very dark tans, tiny bikinis and enormous hair-dos. Mary and I tried not to gawk and giggle, but were caught staring by one of them who brazenly turned to us and shouted "Yeah! I'm a Guidette! What the f*ck!" It was all we could do to keep from breaking down in hysterics. 

Most recently, my dear Matty and I met there to celebrate my birthday, two years ago. Sadly, MTV's "The Jersey Shore" had left its dirty little imprint on the boardwalk, where nearly every shop, bar and restaurant had signs proclaiming "As seen on 'The Jersey Shore'" or "Snookie Sandwich Specials" or other equally distasteful references to the TV nadir. It made me a little sad to see my beloved Seaside sullied by the decidedly non-Jersey cast of low-lifes who had taken over. 

Then, last October, Superstorm Sandy devastated the region, sending Casino Pier's iconic 'Jet Star' coaster into the ocean and destroying much of the boardwalk. I was heartbroken. But the folks in Seaside fought back and rebuilt. The boardwalk was replaced and the piers rebuilt. I was hoping to go there next weekend and see what had become of my beloved childhood playground.

Today, though, a fire broke out in the Khor's stand at the south end of the boardwalk. High winds from an impending storm stoked the flames and at least six blocks of stores; restaurants; arcades and amusements were burnt to the ground. The Carousel Arcade and its historic carousel were destroyed, along with the Funtown Pier, as you can see in the photo above.

I am heartbroken again. And not just for the loss of those iconic places from my childhood, but for the people who depended on those businesses for their livelihoods. A rainy June and July combined with an unseasonably cool August had already left the resort town hurting. Today's fire just added insult to injury. And while I know that Seaside will rise from the ashes over the next few months. there are so many things and places that can never be fully replaced and Seaside will never be quite the place it was when Uncle P was a s child.

Such, I suppose, is the way of the world. But that's cold comfort when mourning the loss of something so deeply ingrained as part of my personal history.

More, anon.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Out of the Ashes

One World Trade Center
I know we all remember where we were that day 12 years ago (which oddly seems like both yesterday and another lifetime ago). I was actually home with a sinus infection and slept in, waking up to turn on the TV to find the surreal images just as the first tower fell. They had already determined at that point that it was a terrorist attack and not just a bizarre accident. I was actually surprised that I was able to get in touch with family members via landline and once I knew everyone was OK, went back to watching the coverage in absolute horror. Three days later, still numb and totally cried out, I had to change the channel and escape into cable TV. It was all just too much. 

That next October, K and I took a long-planned vacation to Florida to visit my sister and the eerily empty Disney World, where we found no lines and the fewest people I've ever seen in the park. Our flights down and back were pretty empty and most of the country was still raw with emotion. At the time, few of us questioned President Bush's attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq. Of course, as time passed and 'Dubya' announced "Mission Accomplished," many of us were questioning the efficacy of a war raged in two countries with little or no ties to the mastermind behind the attacks. 

12 years on and we're debating the use of force against Syrian President Assad (though that seems to have been neatly sewn up as of this writing, thanks in part to the Russians - and don't even get me started on Putin and his overt homophobia). Life in America has changed, somewhat. Ridiculous and often ineffective measures have been taken to beef up airport security. Our government has given itself more power to access private communications between its citizens. Osama bin Laden is dead and we are in in the middle of the second term of the country's first African American President. 

LGBT rights and Marriage Equality have progressed by leaps and bounds despite the efforts of fundamentalist Christians and homophobes who seem to think we can move backward. More and more people are recognizing hate for what it is, while the haters become more desperate and violent in their frightened attempts to prevent social progress even as social progressives win more and more battles for true Equality. 

While America's standing as a World Leader may have waned thanks to the divisive acts of men who many rightfully consider to be war criminals (yes, I'm talking about you, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney), the American Spirit - our pride in the freedoms our country allows us; our strength and courage in the face of adversity; our determination to remain "one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" - has not wavered. And while we must honor and remember the innocent men and women and First Responders in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and on those four fateful flights whose lives were taken, we must also look forward.

This year saw the completion of the first building of the new World Trade Center. Like a phoenix risen from the ashes, it serves as a symbol of the indomitable American Spirit. It should inspire us all to remember what those who have given their lives since the "Shot Heard Around the World" have fought for and remind us all not to take anything we have as a result, for granted. Uncle P may well be a gay. hippy liberal but I'm still a proud American who knows all too well that my right to be a gay, hippy liberal is something I should never (and will never) take for granted. And neither should you.

More, anon.