Friday, August 28, 2009

How Do You Solve a Problem Like La Tisdale?

La Tisdale's much-hyped second album, the peculiarly titled Guilty Pleasure, came and went with nary a mention on this blog. I bet you found that odd given my La Tisdale obsession and my crazed reaction to the single cover for goodness sake, but I have my reasons. Mainly, the album is a complete piece of crap--maybe even worse than Headstrong--and doesn't highlight La Tisdale's best assets as a vocalist and entertainer. In countless interviews, she kept describing her sound as more mature and edgier, but nothing about the resulting album showed that. The first single, 'It's Alright, It's OK,' was a Kelly Clarkson-ripoff that sounded decent the first couple of times but grew repetitive and eventually had me yearning to press the next button on my iTunes whenever it came on. I hoped against hope that it was a case of the bad first single disguising a pretty decent album like Beyoncé's 'Deja Vu' and the resulting B'day, but, unfortunately, things didn't work out that way. Nearly every song on the album sounds the same with it's pop-rock beats, loud chanty choruses and lyrics that sound like leftovers from Clarkson's middling All I Ever Wanted. The only listenable song on the album is 'Switch,' a far cry from the genius that is her masterpiece 'He Said She Said.'

Somewhere along the way, La Tisdale confused "mature" with "sounding like every generic pop singer yearning to break away from her pop roots." What she (and most American musicians) doesn't realize is that there is a way to sound more mature without being forced to do Clarkson-lite material. Just look across the pond for numerous examples of artists who do pop music that is sleek, contemporary and not aimed at only the kiddies: Girls Aloud, Sugababes, Alphabeat, Alesha Dixon, Pixie Lott, Robyn, etc. Plus, and even I can admit this, La Tisdale doesn't have the strongest voice around, so she can't belt like Kelly can to cover up a less than adequate song. She needs strong production and catchy hooks, much like Britney did on her Blackout album. Without someone pushing her into this direction, she is basically resigning herself to becoming another mediocre Disney musician forever trying to transition into adulthood. She doesn't want that and I for sure don't want that. She has the talent and the drive to become a dance pop goddess, now she just needs to make it happen.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Why is it that whenever I start to fall in love with some random celebrity, they go into hiding for months afterwards and deprive me of new material for much longer than I can possibly stand? The most notable example is my Jakey who, after making me fall in love with him in Brokeback, deprived me of his beautiful self through all of 2006 and only twice since then! The injustice! The latest entry in this hall of shame is model Chad White, whom you may remember came to my attention last March. Well, like (more) proof that God really doesn't like me much, Chad hadn't done much since then. And by "much," I really mean nothing. Notta. No photo spreads. No ad campaigns. Hell, I didn't even see any pictures from runway shows. Needless to say, I was more than a bit upset. So, when I found out that after five months of waiting Chad had a new spread, I was a little more than excited. The fact that it is titled 'Sex is Not the Enemy' and features him close to naked in every single shot (barring the Night Porter-inspired shot on the left which, oddly, is my favorite from the whole set) was just the icing on the cake. I would post every Chad White shot here, but some feature him in a jock strap (and sometimes less than that) and I need to keep some kind of decorum here.

Haha, I know, right? I could barely type that with a straight face. In all honesty, I just don't want some uptight asshole who found my blog looking for Vanessa Hudgens to stumble across them and then flag me for objectionable content. I know my peeps who read this blog wouldn't do that but you never know what weird sickos who object to naked Chad White are running around on the interweb. Click here for the full set which also features popular male model Kerry Degman (whose inexplicable popularity escapes me, but that's really for another post on another day).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Random Top 10: My Ideal Action Stars

Over the weekend, I went and saw G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (more on that soon) and one of the things that the film made apparent was that anyone can be an action star in a boneheaded blockbuster these days. I can understand using Channing since he's big, buff and has the voice of a meathead action star (although I think he's smarter than he appears), but what in the hell were Marlon Wayans and Sienna Miller doing there? When I think of people who belong in big budget action films, my mind doesn't automatically jump to Mr. Scary Movie and the biggest star in Hollywood without a film on her resumé that people have actually seen (seriously, I've been hearing about Ms. Miller for years and I think this was the first movie of hers I've watched). So, of course, this got me thinking about action films (which, as you know, is one of my least favorite genres) and what they would be like with random-ass casting like in G.I. Joe but with more interesting actors. Studio executives, take note: if you want to get even more people into the theater for your latest tentpole picture, take a chance on these actors and I can guarantee you that I will be there opening weekend.

10. Ellen Page I could definitely use a little more sarcasm in my action films.

9. Gwyneth Paltrow This isn't so much for her "acting ability" or "actorly presence" but rather for the fact that I would LOVE to see Gwynie get her ass kicked repeatedly by the bad guys. Take that you uptight, stuck up bitch.

8. Christina Hendricks Imagine all the ass-kicking she could do with that glorious ass alone! Plus, there's a 99.5% chance that a male will be directing this film so he'll, of course, emphasize her glorious ass with the tightest pants ever invented.

7. Robert Pattinson This may be just me and my odd sense of humor, but wouldn't it be funny to see the perennially awkward Pattinson stumble over the traditional leading male "inspirational" speech where he has to rally the troops to overcome the odds and fight the baddies? You know it would involve a lot of stuttering, slurring and a random monologue about a time when he was so heartbroken by a break-up he slept in a dog kennel.

6. Dakota Fanning You just know that she'd turn even the shallowest, most downright ridiculous action film ever invented and approach it as if she's preparing for Schindler's List or something. But that's why we love (making fun of) her.

5. Zac Efron It's not that I wouldn't love to see more Zac on my screen, because I would, but the main reason he's on the list is that the action genre gives him more of an excuse to take a shirt off.

Doesn't the world need more of that?

4. Miley Cyrus This inclusion, I must admit, is a bit of a combination (a "best of both worlds," if you will) of the previous Paltrow and Pattinson mentions. I would love to see her get the shit beat out of her, but I would also be waiting on the edge of my seat for the hilarity that is sure to ensue whenever she had to make some kind of rousing speech. For some reason, my mind keeps on flashing back to her MTV Movie Awards' acceptance speech when she thanked God and went, "Hellooooo" in her usual country bumpkin way.

3. Beyoncé Bitch please, have you seen the Obsessed finale? Imagine a whole movie of that...

At least one thing is for sure: it will never be boring with Beyoncé leading the way.

2. Victoria Beckham I'm guessing a Victoria Beckham-starring action film will mostly consist of glorious high-impact sequences where she just stands around in high heels like in that imaginary Spice Girls action film in Spice World. How kick ass would that be though? An action film where the lead doesn't actually do any action.

1. Rinko Kikuchi Seeing her blow shit up in The Brothers Bloom was practically the highlight of my summer (cinematically speaking, of course) so she's practically a no-brainer for this list. I'd be afraid that, since she's obviously Asian, Hollywood will try to turn her into a martial arts star like Jackie Chan or Zhang Ziyi when she can do so much more than that. She may not say much, but she'll definitely get any point across with her expressive face. And the threat of blowing someone up. How much more badass can you get?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Here We Go Again

My favorite celebrity couple that isn't actually a couple reunited the other night at the Teen Choice Awards. That's all I got--I'm just in awe of how sexy they are together.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

VMA Video of the Year Rundown: 2009

The 2009 MTV Video Music Award nominees were announced a week ago and, at J.D.'s insistence, I decided to bring back my old series to talk about this year's nominees. If you enjoyed this series previously, I apologize for the 10 month absence, but I got completely stuck on one of the profiles and eventually gave up on the whole damn thing. Hopefully, doing this post will motivate me to get back in the swing of things.

Overall: After the complete and utter embarrassment that was last year's nominees, MTV went back to picking them themselves and, needless to say, they did a much better job. By nominating four of the biggest stars in music today and one mega-successful up-and-comer, MTV brought the prestige back to the category. But, with that prestige comes three fantastic videos that are easy to get excited about. When some of the biggest stars in music are making the lamest and shittiest videos around, that's definitely something to cheer. Even if Lady GaGa's video isn't as successful in its mission as it thinks it is, you have to give it credit for trying, no matter how shameless it is (hey, it works for Kathy Griffin). As for omissions, I still need some catching up to do, but how about Lily Allen's scrumptious 'The Fear'? Oh, that's right, no one gives a shit about her in America (shame on you). Gnarls Barkley's 'Who's Gonna Save Your Soul?' is a fascinating experiment, although I probably need more time to digest it fully. Taylor Swift's 'You Belong With Me,' with its high school stereotypes, is not totally original, but you have to give Swift credit for having a total blast with it and that's all you need for a successful video sometimes. Of all the omissions, I'm still a little surprised that after racking up countless artistic noms, and being better videos than their nominated counterparts, Britney's 'Circus' and GaGa's 'Paparazzi' were passed over in favor of 'Womanizer' and 'Poker Face.' Maybe it's because they were bigger hits as songs?

The best:
Beyoncé 'Single Ladies [Put a Ring On It]' # # # # #
To put it simply, the video for Beyoncé's 'Single Ladies' is a phenomenon. Don't believe me? Check out the millions upon millions of (mostly bad) imitations and homages on YouTube ranging from Timberlake, Rudd and Samberg on SNL to Joe Jonas's from a couple of months ago and then tell me it doesn't qualify. And how often in this day and age when the music video is given less and less prominence in the public eye (and even on their one-time home MTV) does one ever get this huge? Very rarely. But this is just one reason we should be celebrating this video. The simplicity of the clip is staggering, making sure we focus only on the intricate yet breezy choreography, but I'm sure it was much harder to create than it appears. The main reason 'Single Ladies' will go down as a classic, however, is because it's the video that cemented Beyoncé as the diva of our times. Another lesser artist would have been afraid of the fact that there is nothing going on in this clip besides some dancing and the background periodically and spastically changing from black to white (there aren't even any pretty colors to distract the ADD generation), but not the insane diva that is Beyoncé. Oh no, she knew that armed with a leotard, a cyborg hand and a simple rotation of a forearm, she could captivate an audience. Beyoncé may be out of her damn mind half the time, but that's what makes her so interesting, why we are so fascinated by her celebrity and why 'Single Ladies' works as well as it does.

The rest, in order:
Kanye West 'Love Lockdown' # # # # #
At first I wanted to hate 'Love Lockdown' for its lack of immediate rewards, the seemingly random tribal dance that dominates the video and the fact that most of the little time Kanye actually spends on screen is spent re-doing that hunched over, "I'm crazy and/or in pain" pose that was captured so well in the 'Stronger' video. But then I sat down, thought about it for awhile and started to like it more and more. The clip is so eliptical that five different viewers could come up with five different explanations and all of them could make complete sense. Based on the way the shots of Kanye book end the tribal warriors in the middle, my guess is that the video shows the mental breakdown of the Kanye character, but I'm open to other interpretations. The song may not be classic Kanye, but the video is first rate.

Britney Spears 'Womanizer' # # # # #
'Circus' may be the better video, but 'Womanizer' is the one that put Britney back on the map after the disappointing Blackout videos. It's also the video that captures what makes Britney the pop superstar she is and why we're so fascinated by her ten years on. 'Womanizer' has everything we expect from a top-notch Britney video: hot dancing, a sexified Britney in sexy clothes, a good-looking male lead, a barely-there plot that may seem pointless but actually makes for a more coherent video. Most importantly, however, the video makes 'Womanizer that much better of a song. I mean, honestly, who was crazy about the song before the video came out? With a hook so repetitive it made 'Gimme More' look downright wordy, I certainly wasn't its biggest fan. But after the video's premiere, with Britney titilating the masses like no one else can in a sexy and modern style, the song became a can't miss for me. And, I would argue, isn't that the point of the music video?

Lady GaGa 'Poker Face' # # # # #
By dressing in outrageously eye-catching outfits, hoping to produce something as iconic as Britney's red leather jumpsuit or Christina's white 'Come On Over Baby' ensemble, hiring hunky, shirtless male models to lounge around her at all times while performing some well-done choreography, it feels like Lady GaGa is blantantly propositioning the gay audience to love her in all her over-the-top glory. But, unlike Britney and her vaguely similar 'Womanizer' video, The GaGa is trying a bit too hard and 'Poker Face' becomes another instance of style winning out over substance. Each individual set piece does what they need to do, but it all adds up to nothing more than visual gay porn. 'Paparazzi,' which integrates the GaGa's unique sense of style with a high concept clip, is the video that proves she may be more than just a flash in the pan.

Eminem 'We Made You' # # # # #
I can't decide which of these is more embarrassing: the fact that Eminem has received his sixth (6!) Video of the Year nomination, which is two more than Madonna has and three more than Michael Jackson, for a video that is, more or less, a trite rehashing of the same video he has made three times before or the fact that MTV lazily decided to nominate their prodigal son yet again over so many other worthy videos out there. It's not the subject of 'We Made You' (vacuous celebrites only famous because we want to hear about them) that upsets me, rather, it's the celebrities Eminem decides to skewer. They are either so obvious (Kim Kardashian) or so three years ago (hasn't Jessica Simpson been through enough?) that I'm surprised he didn't rap about how stupid Paris Hilton is or Britney's breakdown. And the video is often just as headscratchingly ignorant and misguided. Not only are the vignettes amateurish beyond belief with their junior high-level humor, but they often don't make any sense at all. What the hell does Star Trek and Rain Man have to do with the public's fascination with celebrities? This kind of video may have been okay back in 2002 when Eminem was the biggest rapper in the world, but in 2009, it just looks like a desperate excursion from a 30-something white rapper hoping at all costs to remain relevant in a musical landscape that seems to have moved on.

[Previous installments: 1984 1999 2003]

Saturday, August 8, 2009

These Are a Few of Megan's Favorite Things

Today my good friend Megan is turning 21 and, as part of her birthday weekend week festivities, she requested that I make a blog post for her. Well, it is her day--how I could turn that down? So, in honor of her birth, here are some things that I know will make Megan happy.

And since she's the only person I know who sat through X-men Origins: Wolverine four times for Mr. Jackman, here are some special pictures from that movie.

She has this poster in her room and forces me to look at it whenever I step in there.

She's on Team Jacob (and I'm thinking about converting after this poster. Yowza.)

And she's the only person I know who remembers (or admits to remembering) the awesome British boy band 5ive's 'When the Lights Go Out' (Bastards at Youtube won't let me embed here on the blog)


Thursday, August 6, 2009

My Two-Cents on Paula Abdul's Departure from Idol

In case you've been living under a rock the past couple of days (or, you know, you have a life that doesn't revolve around pop culture), Paula Abdul has decided to leave her position as a judge on the highest rated show on television, American Idol. Now, I've talked about this before, but Paula and her music have been a huge part of my life--her 'Straight Up' was the first song I ever LOVED--so I was heartbroken when I heard this news the other night. Love her or hate her, the show just won't be the same without her. Her bubbly, fun loving demeanor and inarticulate criticisms were often the only thing to make the show interesting on contestants' off nights. You never knew what she was going to do next and that was the joy in watching her.

It was because of this unpredictability that Paula has become to many a media mockery, a "trainwreck" waiting to happen. But there's more to her than the fool the media has branded her. Behind her slurred speech and crazy gesticulations, there's an intelligent, caring human being underneath. If you look past all the distractions and Simon's irritating "Huh?" anytime she tried to make a good point or go against the panel, she knows exactly what she's talking about when giving advice to these superstars-in-training. No one, besides maybe Britney, has been fucked in the ass more by the industry than Paula Abdul. People forget that when they make fun of her. She's gone through more shit than any of us care to imagine.

With Paula gone, I'm afraid the chemistry at the judges table will forever be slightly off. Who will be the lone voice of reason and kindness amid Randy's "dawg"'s, Kara retarded ramblings and Simon's sarcasm (even if he's been getting lazier and lazier)? They're already trying to replace her with guest judges Katy Perry (ew) and my beloved Victoria Beckham, but neither of them are Paula or will even come close to replacing her.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Xavier Samuel Has Given Us a Reason to Care About Eclipse

In case you haven't heard yet, Australian actor Xavier Samuel has been cast as Riley in Eclipse, the third installment of the Twilight Saga. When it was rumored awhile ago that Channing Tatum was wanted for the part, I asked my Twilight-loving (I wouldn't call them obsessed--they realize that Robert Pattinson and Edward Cullen are two distinct people) friends who Riley was in the novel (they mercifully let me stop after New Moon) and they were a bit surprised that they wanted Channing for a role that was so tiny and insignificant. Apparently, he's some kind of minion of Victoria (played by Rachel Lefevre in the first two and now taken over by Bryce Dallas Howard in a controversial firing last week) who loves her so much he'll do anything for her. I'm guessing the role has been expanded somewhat since the unknown-in-America Samuel has been getting quite a bit of publicity and the whole Lefevre/Howard replacement was deemed necessary since the shoot couldn't work around ten days that Lefevre was missing. However, I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't just the gossip sites catering to the Twitards's need to know everything about every small day detail of the film adaptations.

It's not like I can really blame them, though. I find it fascinating that so many people can be that caught up in a series which is complete and utter rubbish. The only reason I particularly care to see New Moon at this point is for my girl Kristen Stewart (Team Bella all the way) + Anna Kendrick + Kellan Lutz + Taylor "Jailbait" Lautner's abs + the chance to make fun of the movie after it is done. I'm sure by the time Eclipse comes in 2010, all of that will be old hat so I'm glad that Xavier Samuel has come to give me something to look forward. Both Stale Popcorn and The Rural Juror have praised his acting talents in Australian films like September and Newcastle, but since I haven't had the opportunity to see any of his work, I'll just have to settle with looking at him. And if you can call this "settling," well, this world might not be so bad after all.

(Pics courtesy of Just Jared)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Short Rants on The Ugly Truth

Robert Luketic is not a household name, but he'll always have a special place in my heart for crafting what I think are two of the best light comedies of the decade: Legally Blonde and Monster in Law. So when I heard he was returning to the genre with The Ugly Truth after the dismally inept blackjack drama 21, I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit excited. Add in Katherine Heigl, who has been growing on me since 27 Dresses I'm not, the walking sex that is Gerard Butler and the fact that the film is dirty enough to warrant an R-rating and you have me even more interested. So what in the hell happened? saying it was as big of a disaster as Bride Wars (very few rom-coms can match the atrociousness of that one), but it failed to even meet 27 Dresses's mediocre heights. I enjoyed the rauchiness and felt that it was a nice change of pace to the usual overly cutesy nature of the genre, but underneath the dick jokes (which everyone loves and don't you deny it), nothing about The Ugly Truth was funny. Long stretches would go by and I would just sit there waiting for something amusing to happen. I think I laughed more during the last ten minutes of Obsessed than I did throughout this one. I think one it's major problems was that there weren't any interesting supporting characters, no Ruby's or Paulette's on the sidelines waiting to get laughs from any line thrown their way. It certainly would have distracted from the fact that Katherine Heigl is basically repeating the same control freak bitch act she's done in her past two films and it is starting to wear thin or the whole "men are from Mars, women are from Venus but they really are similar and, golly gee, can get along with each other" plot is just the same tired rom-com formula in jazzy new dressings. I certainly don't expect to be truly wowed by a movie like this, but is it really too much to ask for something more? Or, you know, actually comedy? C-

I forgot to mention something else that irked me with not only The Ugly Truth, but with a lot of movies of late: terrible soundtrack choices. This film opens up with Katy Perry's "Hot 'N Cold" which would be fine if it, I don't know, related to the film somehow other than the fact that it's something people will recognize and start grooving to. I just wish that whoever was picking the music in these films would be a little more creative and search for stuff that made sense for that particular film, not something that can be interchangeable with ten other movies (like Flo Rida's "Right Round" which plays in the end credits of bothThe Ugly Truth and The Hangover).

Saturday, August 1, 2009

15 Beautiful Frames from George Michael's 'Freedom'

Christophe Honoré and His Destructive Direction

I've tried to like Christophe Honoré's films--really, I have. His New Wave sensibilities seem to be right up this Truffaut and Godard fanboy's alley, but nothing I've seen of his has convinced me that he is in the same league with those heavy hitters. First was Ma Mère, that horribly pretentious, "sexually liberating" Bertolucci rip-off which is so mind-numbingly stupid and confusing it's still probably one of the ten worst films I've ever seen. Love Songs was considerably better (then again, anything short of a remake of The Bucket List would have been in comparison) but I wasn't as enamored with it as many other bloggers I read were. The musical scenes were nicely done and stuck with the low key nature of the film, but the way Honoré reduces the actors performance to a mere showcasing of random emotions, selected on whim to suit the needs of the scene rather than the development of the character drove me up a wall.

And now we come to Dans Paris. I saw a trailer for it awhile ago and thought it looked like fun, so I decided to give it a whirl, hoping in vein that this would be the movie where I finally "got" what people see in him. And...well, I'm still waiting for that movie. It's not that Dans Paris is an atrocity on the level of Ma Mè, it's rather that it failed to reach even the mediocre heights of Love Songs that most disappointed me. And, once again, it's in Honoré's direction where the film became a massive disappointment. He uses many of the techniques pioneered by the New Wave greats, but he fails to understand and utilize them appropriately. The beginning, for example, serves as the catalyst for the rest of the story and one of the major missteps in the film. Paul (Romain Duris) has moved away from his family in the city to live in the country with his girlfriend Alice (Alice Butaud), a relationship which has begun to dissolve rapidly. But instead of selecting a logical way to represent this, Honoré goes off the deep end and keeps cutting from the couple getting along, to them getting in an argument, to them having sex in the most random way possible. I honestly couldn't keep track of what was going on and, during the happy parts, Paul had gotten a new girlfriend. There's one scene in particular that is clearly an homage to the bedroom scene in Breathless where Belmondo and Seberg just kinda sit around and talk about random things for 20 minutes that simply doesn't work because of how erratic it all is. Paul and Anna go through all the highs and lows I mentioned earlier, with all the "boring" in-between parts edited out so that all we see are these highs and lows (angry, sad, happy, etc.). Why it works for Godard and not Honoré is that Godard was careful never to cut too much away. Belmondo and Seberg may have gone through the highs and lows, but he was careful to build up to them, not simply going for broke just to get it out of the way.

Can I just talk about how ridiculously stupid that ending is for a minute? I understand the point of Anna's character and how she's the only one Paul opens up to about his sister, but why on earth does she stay in the apartment all night? You would think that after being completely ditched by a guy you would be so humiliated that you would just leave right away and not stay the whole night, even after the guy comes home and would rather talk with this brother when he knows you're there. It may make sense in Honoré World, but, in reality, it's completely aggravating and plain dumb.

The fact that Honoré manages to get top-name French talent to appear in his films, including his muse Louis Garrel who has appeared in Honoré's last four films, continues to astound me. In the case of Dans Paris, the characters are strongly written and the actors are more than up to the challenge, but Honoré undermines them every step of the way. It's like someone offering a chocolate-lover an enormous piece of triple layer, triple chocolate cake and then informing you immediately afterwards that you are going to go on a three-mile run. It's simply not fair to offer something so tantalizing to any actor and then pull the rug out on them like that. I still have another Honoré film to see--La Belle Personne, simply waiting for English subtitles to appear online--so I'm sincerely hoping that that one doesn't descend to the idiocy that is Dans Paris (and Honoré learns to loosen up a bit). C