Monday, December 2nd

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The second Hunger Games movie, Catching Fire, is finally out and is SO MUCH BETTER than the first one. An introduction of new characters and furthering the story of the existing beloved characters, the excitement builds just like the second book.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The first movie set the stage for the trilogy and introduced the beloved characters, but the big complaint of the blockbuster was how very cheap it looked. Shoddy camera work, shaky close-ups, and an unpolished appearance made it feel like maybe this movie was just for kids. Grown-ups shouldn’t have to look at that crap.

When director Gary Ross (Sea Biscuit, Pleasantville) dropped out, I crossed my fingers that we’d see a huge improvement with replacement director Francis Lawrence (Water for Elephants, I Am Legend.) And what an improvement it was! Yes, this movie is for grownups. Kids, too, but it’s the grownups who will appreciate the nuances.

For one, the style has been kicked up several notches. The makeup, hair, and costumes are a big part of the books. (To me, this is the most YA-ish part of the story.) Seeing this creative vision brought to life was thrilling. The dresses, the hair, the makeup. Katniss’ trademark braid took a backseat to formal up-dos and incredible makeup. (The face that Lenny Kravitz was supposed to be behind these looks cracks me up. I love Lenny, but what hilarious, ridiculous casting.)

Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen and Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark in Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket in Hunger Games: Catching Fire

As usual, I won’t comment too much on the movie so as not to spoil it for anyone. But I will say that I’m thrilled with the casting of Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair and Jenna Malone as Johanna Mason.

Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair in Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Jenna Malone as Johanna Mason in Hunger Games: Catching Fire

And of course, Stanley Tucci steals every scene that he’s in. That laugh, those blinding white teeth…the ponytail!

Monday, August 5th

Live Every Week Like it’s Shark Week

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Shark Week. [Cue Jaws music.] 

Great White Shark

You guys know I’m all about the sharks. I probably missed my calling as a marine biologist, but I had a shitty public school science education and embraced English instead. That’s why me write good, but me science = dumb.

I’m thrilled to see Shark Week growing in popularity each year. Public perception has steadily shifted from outright fear to embracing these amazing (and terrifying) creatures. The truth is, I enjoy being a little afraid of sharks. I guess it’s the same way people like roller coasters and zombies.

Anyway, this year’s Shark Week has a few fun new things. Sharktweeto will air a few times and feature live shark tweets. New episodes of classics will feature plenty of attacks, great whites breaching, and sensational shark footage. Shark After Dark will bring a little comedy to the shark infested waters, especially the night Tara Reid is on to discuss Sharknado.

Sharknado

In related news, I was sent a review copy of Sharkopedia: The Complete Guide to Everything Shark. I rarely accept books for review, so you know this is something special.

Sharkopedia

The collaborative work between Discovery Channel and TIME features more than 400 photos in its glossy pages. It’s a beautiful, robust book that’s aptly named. It really does have everything. Information on all infamous species, anatomy, their pups, and conservation efforts, just for starters. It’s an all-ages book with appealing, museum-like layout. I have a couple shark books (nerd alert) and this is by far my favorite. You can get a copy here if it’s your thang. And here’s where you can learn more about the Shark Week schedule.

Happy shark week, everyone.

Thursday, January 24th

Life of Pi

Are you making your way through the best picture nominees? I’ve missed the boat on a few. Argo left the theaters before I had a chance to go. But if there’s one movie that you really, really want to see on the big screen it’s Life of Pi. It’s a thrilling visual spectacle that should be seen on as magnificent a screen as possible, preferably in 3D.

Life Of Pi

First let me ask you: Have you read the book? Doesn’t matter. Go see the movie. But also, read the book. The book sold over $9M copies and the film has made over $500M already. Clearly, this is a story that resonates with people.

Without giving away too much of the plot, this is a story of survival. Unlike Cast Away, which showcased the star power of Tom Hanks, Pi is carried by an unknown. The title character, Pi Patel, is played by four different actors of various ages. For most of the movie, we see Suraj Sharma as Pi. It’s shocking that this was his first acting gig, and he’s since gone back to college to study philosophy. Just a normal guy…with a phenomenal talent. The physical and emotional demands would have been challenging for even the most seasoned actor. It’s unbelievable that Sharma pulled it off.

Saraj Sharma

I am also a huge fan of the grown up Pi, Irrfan Khan. You might recognize him from Slumdog Millionaire, The Amazing Spider-Man, In Treatment, or my favorite, The Namesake. He’s one of those actors that always breaks my heart, and this was no exception.

Irrfan Khan

Again, I must stress that the beauty of this movie is reason enough to see it. The incredible and often sad story make it almost unbearable at times, but the wondrous scenes glorifying bioluminescence or water so calm that it can only be described as spiritual, it’s almost euphoric to watch. Ang Lee was the fourth director to take on this film, and his choice to make the ocean a central character is proof that he was the right director to complete the project.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi

Again, I don’t want to spoil the story for those who aren’t familiar, but I’m sure you’ve seen the tiger in ads. Yes, a main character in the story is a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Four real tigers were used for filming although most of it was CGI. I’m a lover of all big cats so I was drawn to Richard Parker and bow down to the brilliant teams that made this character so real, so alive, and at times, terrifying.

Richard Parker

I couldn’t help but think of my own little terrifying tigers at home.

Cats in laundry

 Though 2012 was packed with incredible movies, this is one of the best. Did you see Life of Pi? I’d love to read your opinions in the comments section!

Friday, December 14th

Holiday Gift Guide: Hipstercrite Edition

Ho ho ho, all you Juggalos. There’s still over a week till Christmas, and if I know you guys, you haven’t started shopping yet. And for those of you who celebrate Hanukkah, well, you are almost done. Get busy!

Today’s gift guide is by Lauren Modery of Hipstercrite. Lauren is kind of an Austin Blogebrity. (Yeah, I totally made up that word. Don’t use it or I will sue you.) Her blog is wildly popular and as the name suggests, it often speaks to and about hipsters. But it’s also quite poignant and melancholy, as Lauren ponders her existence and a deeper meaning in her day to day life. She’s not afraid to anger her readers (election time) or break our hearts. She’s so much more than the word hipster implies, but at the very core of the word meaning is cool. And cool sums up Lauren to a tee.

Check out Lauren’s Hipstercrite Gift Guide

For the Hipster

Creative Scratchings hipster series- I first spotted these adorable scratch drawings while feeding my face-hole with benedicts from Another Broken Egg Cafe. Of course I fell in love with them because they’re a.) anthropomorphic animals and b.) they’re dressed like hipsters. The very talented Austin-based artist behind these prints, Janis, has several hipsterrific portraits to chose from, but my favorite is the stoic cat with his Texas tattoo and cycling cap. You don’t have to be a hipster or hate hipsters to appreciate the beautiful meta-irony of these. The Scoutmob Shoppe is currently offering select prints for $17.

Creative Scratchings

For the Austin Lover

Austin skyline necklace by Vinca- I love everything this local kick-ass jewelry maker does, but my favorite piece (beside the mustache rings!) is her wooden Austin skyline necklace. Every piece of jewelry, whether it’s acrylic, wood or precious metal, is designed and cut inside her shop with the help of an awesome team of ladies (Amber Demure!). Stay stylish while supporting local business! $38

Vinca Skyline

For the Music Lover

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon- You don’t have to be a fan of or necessarily known who Warren Zevon is to enjoy this nail-biting, wall-punching book. For those who know him, Zevon was a popular musician in the 70s with hits like “Werewolves of London” and “Lawyers, Guns and Money” before losing it all due to his hard partying, drinking, womanzing, wife-beating and child-abandoning ways. After decades of being a reclusive asshole, just as Zevon tried to make amends, he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. This harrowing book, written by Zevon’s ex-wife by the request of Warren, is a must-read for any rock n’ roll fan or aspiring musician. $15.99

Warren Zevon

For the Girly-Girl

Benefit “Sexy Little Stowaways” makeup kit- I’m a sucker for beautiful branding, and eye candy packaging is what Benefit cosmetics is known for. Luckily they have quality products to back up the style. I’ve been a big fan of the San Francisco-based makeup producer ever since I tried their now sadly discontinued She-Laq eye makeup sealant. It’s difficult to buy just one item, and with prices averaging in the low twenty dollar range, their products can quickly add up. That’s why their “Sexy Little Stowaway” set is the perfect gift for converting your girlfriend to a Benefit groupie. At $34, this collection of travel-size samples includes popular products such as Bad Girl Lash mascara, Cha Cha Tint mango-tinted lip and cheek stain and That Gal face brightening primer.

Benefit

Tuesday, December 11th

Holiday Gift Guide: Corrin Renee Edition

The second installment of the gift guide series features the amazing Corrin from Oh Hey, What’s Up? Corrin is one of those pro-style bloggers whose posts feel elegant and effortless. She has the confidence and smooth writing style that comes with years of experience and she’s a blogger that many, including myself, look up to. Her large and dedicated readership are probably all in credit card debt, because she posts so many cool things that we can’t help but buy them. If only we could buy a clone of her precious little dog, Ollie. And now…

Please enjoy Corrin’s Gift Guide for Bookworms

Just because I’m a bookworm doesn’t mean you can buy me an Amazon gift card and call it a day. Oh no, you won’t get off that easy. There are lots of creative gifts out there for book lovers that show you put a little thought into your gift giving, and I’m here to share a few of my favorites. If you really love the bookworm in your life, you’ll get them something from this list.

Gifts for a BookWorm

Kindle Paperwhite $199 – Any Kindle will do, but the Paperwhite 3G (sans “special offers”” is my favorite. Who knew reading in the dark was so much damn fun!

Mighty Bright Book Light $12.99 – Book lights make great stocking stuffers, and Mighty Bright are the best.

Book Lust by Nancy Pearl $11.99 – A book about books by a former book critic and librarian – modern day canon of book recommendations for every mood and subject.

Out of Print Sweatshirt $42 – Celebrating the best in literature by printing the cover on a t-shirt.

Kate Spade Book Clutches $325 – Also comes in Emma, Romeo & Juliet, The Importance of Being Earnest, Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities, and I Married an Adventure.

Personal Library Kit $16.75 – All bookworms secretly dream of being librarians (at least this one does). If you borrow one of our books, you better damn well give it back. Late fees will be assessed.

Jonathan Adler Dachshund Bookends $150 – Bookends of any kind are a great gift. I especially love this cheeky little dachshund.

Penguin Classics (Set of 30) $475 – The ultimate gift.

Corrin lives in Austin, works in publishing, and blogs at www.ohheywhatsup.com. She’s a serious bookworm who loves fro-yo, fashion, and can really cut a rug.

Tuesday, December 4th

Is Twilight Breaking Dawn 2 Worth Seeing?

Should you even bother seeing the last installment of the Twilight movies? Um, duh. Yes! I convinced Mr. Betty to accompany me Thanksgiving night and we laughed through the movie all hopped up on tryptophan and good feelings.

If you recall how the first part of Breaking Dawn ended, Bella was dying during childbirth and Edward made her a vampire.

Bella vampire eyes

It was fun to watch Bella get used to her new powers, leaping through the forest and feeding on unsuspecting animals. Dare I say, Kristen Stewart smiled more in this movie than any of the others.

Little Renesmee Cullen was perfect and creepy, played by the adorable Mackenzie Foy. I’m still thinking we’ll see future books and movies based on Renesmee and her unique half vampire, half mortal human traits. Fingers crossed, dorks.

Renesmee Cullen

The Volturi play a huge role in the movie, traveling all the way to Forks to inspire fear and intimidation. Their serious faces and cloaks gave much to laugh about.

The Volturi

The original Cullen’s are featured less here. The story falls to the many friends they call on to help them from around the world to fight the Volturi. There’s nothing as fun as vampires from Ireland, Germany, Russia, and the very best…the Amazon rainforest. Jungle vampires? Oh hell yes. They all get together and trade stories and hang out ’round the campfire having vampire good times.

Vampire Amazon Clan

Without giving away anything else, I’ll simply say this was the best movie of the Twilight Saga. Why? Because there was lots of action and the storyline kept moving. The movie wasn’t a drawn out series of Bella and Edward staring into each others eyes longingly. They are parents now and don’t have as much time for that nonsense. Plus, there was great vampire and wolf violence. And isn’t that what makes life worth living?

Did you see it? What did you think?

Friday, October 19th

Bravo Andy

With the exception of Miami and D.C., I am devoted to my Real Housewives. I love them. I hate them. They are horrible people, but I can’t look away. Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely like a few of them. But mostly I like their Grand Poobah, their pimp extraordinaire, Andy Cohen.

Andy Cohen Most Talkative

Andy’s memoir, Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture is so much more than the housewives. A precocious, talkative kid, he was always drawn to pop culture. He loved television, music, and celebrities, his greatest love being soap operas and Susan Lucci. I was a little bored as he waxed poetic about Lucci and All My Children, because I just don’t care. As Andy equates his success with his various Lucci meetings in his life, from a student up until now, she came up a few times.

What I love about Andy’s story is that he worked his way up from the bottom. Like a normal person. He started as in intern at CBS and spent most of his career there rising through the ranks. It wasn’t always smooth and it was easy to cringe along with him as he made foolish mistakes, got reprimanded, and was told he’d never be good on camera with his lazy eye. (I never noticed this, but Mr. Betty pointed it out once.) One of my favorite anecdotes was when he bamboozled Oprah into doing an unauthorized interview and really pissed her off. It was only because of her kindness that he didn’t end up getting fired.

Years and years of hard, unglamorous work paid off. Make no mistake, this book is not a Housewives tell-all. Ultimately the story does go there because that’s where Andy is now, but the real enthusiasm comes out when he talks about big news stories he produced. The catastrophic events he was in the midst of like the Oklahoma City bombing, California wildfires, and the Missouri floods. He was more excited by working with Dan Rather than Kim Zolciak, if you get my drift. I was relieved to learn that he’s more like Anderson Cooper than Perez Hilton.

Andy Cohen

Andy acknowledged that it was The Real Housewives and Watch What Happens Live that made him a household name. He divulged a little about the shows, but didn’t dish too much about the wives themselves. He focused more on the evolution of how they came to be, what casting was like, and how viewers react. He is often asked which of the ladies he dislikes, but he loves them all for what they are. Real women with many flaws that are on this crazy ride with him. He’s appreciative and has too much integrity to trash anyone. Although I got the sense that he doesn’t care for Jill Zarin.

What I found most appealing about Most Talkative is that pages weren’t filled with so much trash and fluff like the Housewives shows. It was naive of me to think Andy Cohen is defined by the Housewives, when it is clearly just the current page in his long career. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Monday, October 8th

It’s a Brand New Day

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Russell Brand. I know he’s kooky and weird and maybe a little overbearing…but I love him. I love his crazy hair, tight pants, charming accent and his whole schtick. I really love his vocabulary, too, which is often out of place on the MTV awards shows he hosts. But on the written page that brilliant vocabulary is perfection.

My Booky Wook

My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs and Stand-Up might seem like tawdry fluff, but it is so much more. Yes, at 37 Brand has already lived a storied life, but the book doesn’t focus solely on his dark side. Verging on 400 pages, it might be a tad too long. I always groan through the childhood portions of celebrity memoirs. Brand’s was interesting enough, and certainly revealed the source of many of his problems. For instance, his father left him to be entertained by pornography starting at the age of seven and bought him his first prostitute at 17. Is that what led to his sex addiction? I can’t answer that, but…yes. Probably.

Brand was a naughty kid before he was a naughty adult. Petty theft, cutting school, and the typical bad boy shenanigans transitioned into teenaged drinking and drugging. And then harder drinking and a heroin addiction into adulthood. There was no moment of rock bottom clarity, rather his consistent drive to make his career work was what ultimately saved him. A manager told him he had to go to rehab, he went, and that was it. But the tales in between were messy and numerous.

Many of the characters that come in and out of the book were homeless, and even at the height of his fame (before he cleaned up) he chose to spend his time in London’s worst hovels. Today he regularly helps the homeless in Hollywood, perhaps still feeling a kinship. While he doesn’t usually talk about his deeds, the paparazzi often catches him in the act.

And those surprises are part of Russell Brand’s lure. His unexpected good deeds. The parts of the book where he reveals poetry he wrote as a child, his love of animals, and the tender, quiet moments with his cat, Morrissey. His devotion to yoga and finding inner peace seem to be his way to quiet his demons.

Throughout this book there was not a whiff of preachiness. Written with humility and humor, Brand does not attempt to even say that his life is better now, merely that this is the direction it has taken. Obviously, his life is indeed better. It’s nice to read the shocking tales that were often funny and sometimes sad, knowing that he came out of it okay. It’s a guiltless pleasure. I will definitely read Booky Wook 2: This Time It’s Personal.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Katy Perry was not mentioned.

 

Tuesday, September 11th

Get Jiro!

Given that the final season of No Reservations just started and featured Austin in the premiere episode, it seems like a good time to discuss Anthony Bourdain’s latest book. A departure from his previous works, Get Jiro! is a graphic novel.

Get Jiro!

Set in LA in the not-too-distant future, the city is a bleak place run by warring chefs who ruthlessly rule the city and all its food distribution. The story is a commentary on cookie-cutter restaurants, the idolization of chefs, obesity in America, the local and vegan movements, offal, and poor restaurant etiquette. It hits just about every hot foodie topic as readers navigate this world of extreme food culture.

Plus it’s got all the violence and nudity you’d expect from a graphic novel. In short, it’s fucking awesome. I can’t reveal too much about the plot, as it’s a short book and I hate to take away the joy of the little surprises. But I promise that you’ll laugh at the story and marvel at the art. It is simply a must read for any foodie.

Okay, one tiny spoiler: Someone gets beheaded for ordering a California Roll. How delightful! Here’s the page:

Get Jiro!

I know, right? Notice the blue tooth on the severed head. Ha!

So what did everyone think of Anthony Bourdain’s recent Austin show? It wasn’t his first visit, but it was a completely different take on the city. It showed the madness and hard-rocking hipsterdom of SXSW. I was surprised by some of the places he went (Quality Seafood) and completely unsurprised by others (Barley Swine.)

Leave a comment and let me know what you think of the book and Tony’s visit to Austin.

Friday, August 31st

Make it Work

We’re in the tenth season of Project Runway. After dedicating myself to this show for so many years, I thought I might take a break for a season. Then I saw a preview of the candy challenge and I was sucked right back in. I can’t resist watching designers cry over trying to make clothing out of licorice.

This season features all the requisite character types that we’ve come to expect.

The Arrogant One: Ven Budhu is undeniably talented and he knows it. Offering little in the way of personality, Ven is there to win not to make friends. He’ll likely be in the final three.

Ven Budhu

Most Likable: Buffi Jashanmal has her own funky style and a charming accent. Her self-deprecating humor won over the other designers, but sadly her talent wasn’t up to par. She’s already gone.

Buffi Jashanmal

Bitchiest Gay: Gunnar Deatherage is the youngest contestant and has ridden the waves of bitchiness further than I thought he could.

Gunnar Deatherage

The Weirdo: Kooan Kosuke is as weird as his hair. Sadly, he decided the competition wasn’t for him and he quit. I don’t think he had a shot of winning, but I would have liked to see him stick around longer.

Kooan KosukeLaughably Bad: Andrea Katz. Every season there’s a designer so terrible that you wonder how they made it on the show. Andrea earned the title this season. She also quit the show by stealing away in the middle of the night. That made for some good drama.

Andrea Katz

Fun Gay: Christopher Palu. The cast is filled with fun gays, but Christopher won me over with his Cher impersonation. He and Gunnar lock horns which provides some nice drama.

Christopher Palu

My choices for top three designers: In addition to Ven, I like Sonjia Williams and the oft overlooked Dmitry Sholokhov. All three are incredibly talented and I’d love to see a fashion week showdown. Sonjia’s personal style is my favorite on the show. Girlfriend rocks that blue hair with class.

Sonjia Williams

Dmitry Sholokov

The judges have really settled in a place of unified harmony.

After doing this for so many years they seem calm and all-knowing. It takes little banter to get to a place where they agree on winners and losers. Of course they only show a few minutes of the discussion, but in Tim Gunn’s book Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making it Work, he reveals that the judging usually takes four to five hours. He also dishes dirt on former contestants, people in the fashion world, and random celebrities. While at times a little preachy about etiquette, the gossip is good and makes the book worth reading.

Are you watching the show this season? What do you think?