Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Review: Bumped

What if only teenagers could get pregnant?

If you've read my post about Young Adult literature, you already know that I am a huge fan of the Jessica Darling series and of its charming and funny author, Megan McCafferty. I jumped- leapt even- when Bumped, her brand new novel, came into my local library. While I didn't quite feel the tingling sensation that I did after reading Sloppy Firsts, Bumped was a good story with an awesome concept and likable characters. 

Bumped is a sort of dystopian comedy that takes place about thirty years in the future when a virus has made it impossible to reproduce past teenage-hood. This means that teenage girls are getting pregnant all over the place and going into labor in the middle of their high school like it's the most normal thing in the world. The story centers on two identical twins who were separated at birth and were raised in extremely different households- emphasis on the extreme. Both twins are under a lot of pressure to get pregnant for very different reasons and their meeting changes both of their lives forever. 

I think what I always loved about the Jessica Darling series was how relatable Jess was to me. I still think of her as a close friend. Maybe it's because these characters take a little time to get to know or maybe it's because they just aren't Not-so Darling, but I didn't find myself caring much about them for at least the first half of the novel. I love a good high-concept story, so that kept me going. McCafferty brought in more creative lingo and more surprising repercussions to such this hypothetical society than I could've anticipated. It is her humor and voice that truly make all of her books great, and Bumped is no exception. I would certainly recommend it. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Trending Trailer: A Dangerous Method

It's been a while since we've seen Keira Knightley in a "big deal" movie. Atonement was in 2007. Since then a few of her movies have hit  my watch list, thought none have quite made it to the top (Never Let Me Go, The Edge of Love, Last Night). A Dangerous Method, seems like it could have the power, or perhaps the credits, to break this dramatic-acting- less-dramatic-ticket-sales slump.

A Dangerous Method is the story of Carl Jung and his relationships with his wife, his mentor Sigmund Freud and a patient-turned-lover. It doesn't hurt the films chances that Jung is played by Michael Fassbender, whose star has been on the rise ever since Inglorious Basterds. Since then, he's starred in the recent adaptation of Jane Eyre and, most notably, X-Men: First Class as a young Magneto.

At first glance, A Dangerous Method appears like an over-dramatized sado-masochistic story with a few too many sex scenes (even in the trailer!). But then you learn it's from the director of such films as A History of Violence and Eastern Promises (and, not shockingly, that it also features Viggo Mortensen) and you can't help but think... "Well it's worked before..." So it remains to be seen if movie-goers will movie-go for it, but sadly I think it's going on the middle of my watch list,  certainly below Immortals, which is set to come out that same week (and stars Henry Cavill and Freida Pinto).

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Glee Project: Things Go My Way!

So sue me, I watched The Killing and Game of Thrones before The Glee Project. Season finales automatically take precedent. But more than that, I've always taken scripted more seriously than reality, even if said responsibility is a competition series, which is far more appealing. Exception: So You Think You Can Dance... but if you even glanced over this blog, you already knew that.

I enjoyed this week's episode, though I took issue with the format more than I did last week. I mean, the main music video was finished less than halfway through the episode and the rest was left to the callbacks and singing for Ryan Murphy. Not that i don't enjoy these segments, but it seems a little ridiculous that we barely get to see our favorites and most of the screen time is taken up by weaker characters. Granted, the show does a good job of allowing us to bond with each of the contestants, but still.

Here are my favorites from this week...
- Cameron- Yes, still. He's adorable. Sorry. I couldn't believe how gypped he got on the Lady Gaga number. He didn't even sing! He looked awesome in the video though.
- Emily- I know it's surprising. Emily should be the classic reality TV bitchy girl that I hate, but her brand of crazy truly works for the show in my opinion. I think she did better than they gave her credit for.
- Samuel- He's got this star quality to him and I see how he could bring something new to Glee.
- Lindsay- Maybe I'm just shallow and I like her because she's got those gorgeous eyes that remind me of Lyndsy Fonseca. But her voice is spectacular and her performance is great too. The fact that the show paints her as the bitchy girl from your high school? I can live with that.

I know Alex is great, but I don't see where he would fit on the show. It seems like every aspect of his character has been done before.

SPOILER ALERT: I was super happy with the results tonight. I like McKynleigh. Her voice rocks and I'm hoping she can figure out how to bring it. Matheus I could take or leave, though I do like the picture Ryan painted for his character. Ellis though... God I'm so glad she is gone. I didn't like Bryce either. Things are truly going my way on this show!

Capture property of The Glee Project

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Seven Kingdom Sum-up: Game of Thrones

So I was pretty worried about getting spoiled on The Killing and Game of Thrones this week. It turns out, neither of them was nearly as spoiler-able as last week. Which is not to say that either was bad- just that if you're like me, you needn't worry too much.

The Killing: You Must Be Joking...

You know what? I'm just gonna go ahead and put a spoiler alert on this whole post because I'm not sure how else to rant out my frustration/reluctant reverence. So there it is. SPOILER ALERT.

Throwback Classic: Clueless

The truth is, I spent the better part of my childhood pretending not to like Clueless. My sister was "the popular one" and this movie was her anthem prelude to the bible that would be Bobbi Brown's Teenage Beauty. Naturally, it was not my cup of tea. But with growing up, I've found it's impossible to deny my love for this classic.

Sure, growing up I missed some of Clueless' finer jokes, like Cher's comical mispronunciation of Spartacus, as sporaticus. I was far too young to notice that Christian was gay or find the humor in Cher's blindness to it. I couldn't really comprehend the irony of the large life lessons found in tiny, unlikely places: like realizing the briefness of life after unexpectedly driving on the highway.

What Clueless has that you just don't see enough anymore, is a heroine who stays true to herself even as she's learning about herself. If anything, we are the ones who learn to see Cher for than just a vapid valley girl as she learns that it's okay for her to date Josh and for Tai to date Travis. She has more brains than people give her credit for- and she drank Starbucks several years before the world realized its awesomeness.

Clueless not only spawned a mediocre sitcom but also made teen-household names of Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy, a young, adorable Paul Rudd and Scrubs' Donald Faison. You may also recognize Breckin Meyer (now on Franklin and Bash) as Travis, Wendell Shawn as Mr. Hall, Law & Order's Jeremy Sisto as Elton and even Stacey Dash, beloved Dionne of both the movie and TV series, who has a new show called Single Ladies. Not to be ignored is a great soundtrack for nostalgia purposes- vintage No Doubt, Salt-N-Peppa, The Counting Crows, Jewel, The Cranberries... it's timeless.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

SYTYCD: The Return of the Curse

Last night was the first competing performance episodes of the SYTYCD Top 20. Before we could even get to know all of the contestants' names, we were informed that last year's injury curse was not, as Nigel had suggested in interviews, broken. Nope, unlucky Mitchell was subject to the curse this time, sitting out under a doctor's advice because of an arm injury, forcing his partner, Caitlynn to perform with Season 7's Robert, much to my delight I might add. But a lot happened before then.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Young Adult Fiction Under Fire

Last week, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece regarding the dark subject matters covered in young adult literature. The article’s tone was generally negative, and it has sparked a great deal of debate between YA authors, parents, teachers and everyone else affected. The article makes the usual “video games make children violent” argument. It also suggested that Young Adult literature features such controversial material as suicide, abuse and self-mutilation in order to draw interest from young readers, who are used to seeing crazy things on TV. I’m not a parent or a YA author, but I object.

As a recovering angsty teen, I can truly say how much it means to be inside of the head of a character who acts like you and thinks like you. I found Jessica Darling (The main character of the series by YA author Megan McCafferty) later in my teenaged years, but I felt a warmth reading her thoughts and relating to her anxieties and her chronic overthinking. Cautiously, I told my mother to read it because I thought it would help her better understand me. She balked at the fact that I implied she didn’t understand me. I went back into my YA literature where it was common knowledge that parents don’t understand.

I’m 21 now, but I still read Young Adult books regularly. Yes, I am a little embarrassed because of the reading level. Faulkner, it isn’t. And I never stop telling people that I got through the book so quickly because *casual shrug* “It’s just a Young Adult book.” But behind that I don’t mean it, because I find a certain truth and honesty in YA books that I have yet to find in as many Adult novels. I mean talk about selling to the public’s interest? How many crime thrillers are on the bestseller list right now?

I’ve heard a lot of YA authors speak. I’ve seen some in person. (Megan McCafferty is adorable. I keep writing on her Facebook wall in the hopes that she’ll become my friend. Sigh.) I’ve watched videos of some talks. I follow YA author John Green on Youtube. I’ve even engaged with some on social media websites. What I have found is universal: They have a passion and a dedication for connecting with teens and putting something good out there. Their characters may not set the best examples, but they almost always provide food for thought and truly deep, important lessons.

These novels will continue to meet controversy as long as we live in a society where parents ignore what’s really going on with their children. Really? They shouldn’t read curse words? Believe you me: way worse is said in the hallways of your local junior high than in these books. Many of these authors are writing about real kids with real problems that many teens out there are relating to on some level.

Jay Asher, author of the Young Adult novel, Thirteen Reasons Why in which a boy listens tape recorded two weeks prior by a girl in his school before she committed suicide, recently told Entertainment Weekly about teens who have told him that his book had saved them from suicide. To the people who take issue with their teens reading these books about suicide, I can’t help but ask: What if your teen needs this book? And even if it’s not your teen, wouldn’t you say that a book with the power to prevent even one person from taking his or her life has a little more to it than just entertainment value? 

Photo Courtesy of

Monday, June 13, 2011

Game of Thrones and said "Horrific Twist"

Can you hear the people... chant "half man"?

I know it's been more than an hour since I said I was going to watch Game of Thrones, but I had to lie in shock for a little while and then re-watch the ending a few times. If you haven't been watching Game of Thrones on HBO, you officially don't know what you're missing. Needless to say, there are some SERIOUS SPOILERS to follow, so I'm gonna go ahead and put them after a cut.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Glee Fans Rejoice!

12 hopefuls Gleek out
Tonight marked the series premiere of The Glee Project. And you know what? I didn't hate it. Maybe it was the groan factor of the fact that it was on Oxygen- a network I personally only associate with TV-coma-inducing America's Next Top Model marathons- but I expected to hate it. Friends of mine will tell you that I am not a Glee fangirl in any way. I watch it here and there to keep up with the times, but since The Morning After on Hulu started doing a weekly "gleecap" it's hardly been necessary. The point is I think that The Glee Project has all the heart and genuineness that Glee thinks it has.

The Glee Project is a reality competition for a 7-episode arc on Glee. from the casting special that preceded the premiere, I learned that they were looking for individuals- people who would never have gotten the chance before. And while it seemed like a lame hook to draw viewers, I found myself believing it. The show makes an effort to show who the contestants are and what they're going through more than they edit it for drama factor (which I suspect they will do more and more as the kids start to get competitive).

The gimmicks are cute. The people running the show seem genuine: including Glee's casting director, vocal coach and choreographer. We even got to meet the weird bearded guy who plays piano. His name is Brad. Crazy, right?

My favorite so far? Cameron- He's a hipster nerd with a guitar and original songs. He seems like a real musician to me, actually playing with his few lines in Katy Perry's 'Firework' to work for his voice and to stand out. My favorite Glee songs are the ones that aren't replicas of the originals. Cameron's it for me in that sense. 

For the entertainment factor, I'm kind of intrigued by Emily. She's a total nutcase, but it kind of works. I could totally see her on the show... I'll reserve judgment on the rest for now (as if!) but there's a good chance I'll keep watching. It's not like I can forget. The posters plaster every bus and subway station and this ninja uses public transportation to get to work. Plus I keep seeing the ads during the America's Next Top Model marathons...

Now I have to go watch Game of Thrones before I'm spoiled on what the headlines are calling "horrific twist."

Photo Courtesy of

Neil Patrick Harris Rocks it!

Not shockingly, The Book of Mormon and War Horse took home a plethora of statues tonight at the Tony Awards. The former took 9 and the latter a still impressive 5. I guess I'm giving up hope of seeing either anytime soon.

What I did see was Catch Me If You Can, whose star Norbert Leo Butz took home the Best Actor in a Musical award this evening. I loved him in the role, even though neither him nor costar Aaron Tveit came out the stage door after the Wednesday matinee. Butz was charming, vulnerable and funny and FBI fraud Agent Carl Hanratty. I'm really happy that he got the award. 

But perhaps the most impressive and surprising part of the Tony's telecast was host Neil Patrick Harris's rap as the credits rolled. He did a rhyming recap of the night. I have no idea who wrote it or how he had time to practice it while hosting the ceremony, but I was totally blown away. Brava NPH, Brava.  

Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images North America

Awesome Cover Alert: Just Can't Get Enough

Suddenly I just can't get enough
I might as well tell you since you'll be figuring it out soon enough: I love a good cover. And I love sharing good covers. The first time I heard Just Can't Get Enough by the Black Eyed Peas, I couldn't really make heads or tails of it. It was like three separate songs with only a loose connection between them. Leave it to Boyce Avenue- probably my favorite youtube find ever- to figure it out and get it onto my ipod.

The song's chorus, originally sung by Fergie, sounds great with singer Alejandro Manzano's soulful voice, but what is truly incredible is how the band transformed the verses between choruses, giving the song a sexy latin feel.
Check it out here:
Just Can't Get Enough- Boyce Avenue
And in case you live somewhere beyond the reach of radio, here's the original:
Just Can't Get Enough- Black Eyed Peas

Florida-based Boyce Avenue found a huge fan base by posting covers of songs on Youtube, so you should definitely check them out. They had a really interesting cover of Grenade by Bruno Mars backed by a violin.

And they're original music is great too. Check out one of my favorite songs by them, When the Lights Die. Or just poke around their Youtube channel here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Jokes Keep Coming...

By now I'm sure no one is a stranger to the bizarre Anthony Weiner scandal. Though I didn't think it was possible, the story keeps getting bigger and bigger, with sources now reporting that Weiner's wife is actually pregnant. Personally I think the whole thing is stupid. Is he an internet creep? Sure. Did he do something stupid? Yes. Was he careless about it? You bet. Should someone really start doing a study about the connection between politicians and illicit sexual relationships? Maybe it's time we start looking at it, yeah. But the point is that it doesn't really affect his policy making. I mean an ethics committee hearing? Seriously?

That being said I can't help but enjoy such a continuous source of late night humor material. From Jon Stewart to Letterman, tons of comedians have been piling on the laughs night after night at Weiner's expense. I never though I'd say this, but it's kind of a shame Saturday Night Live isn't on right now. To make it easy for us, Hulu compiled a playlist of the best bits of Weinergate '11. Enjoy!
Hulu's Anthony Weiner Joke Playlist

Photo Courtesy of ABC News

Thursday, June 9, 2011

So You Think You Can Dance Season 8 Top 20

America's 20 Favorite Dancers... this year
This seems like a good place to start...
So You Think You Can Dance revealed it's Top 20 for Season 8 tonight. Ever adapting the show's format, this year the Top 20 were revealed and then performed on stage one group at time. It saved some time combining the drama of the reveal and the non-competition performance special that was introduced last season. Plus, instead of awkward home visits, the dance hopefuls were thankfully placed back in their holding room to wait to face the panel of judges. (Maybe Nigel didn't want to risk getting lost again in Wapakoneta!) 

There weren't many heartbreaks in the choosing of the Top 20. Probably the most upsetting for me was seeing Natalia Mallory go. I know it would've been complicated, but that girl was remarkable and she brought it every time. She's definitely an inspiration. 

I was happy to see her sister, Sasha, put through though. At least one of them made it. My other favorite is probably tap dancer Nick. Did they not show him to us before, or am I only now noticing how adorable he is? I thought I liked his genre counterpart, Broadway dancer Jess, but something about the number tonight created an association with Peewee Herman. 

I would watch out for seductress Jordan Casanova, though. She killed the Sonya Tayeh jazz number. And props go to Iveta for finally making it through. Well deserved. I was also pleasantly surprised with the four hip hop dancers, though I would have loved at least one female hip-hop dancer... maybe Sasha counts.

Another welcome return was the Top 20 format itself. Though the All-Star format did push the dancers to be better last year, I was with most of the fans in missing the chemistry of such combinations as Season 6's Kathryn and Legacy, Season 4's Katee and Joshua, and Season 5's Brandon and Janette. I'm happy with the compromise for this year- pairings for the Top 20, and All-Stars for the Top 10. 

Even the stage is better, without the obnoxious lighting of the previous stage. My main complaint for the evening was the camera work. It felt more difficult to watch the dances than I am used to with the show. Maybe they are getting used to the new stage, maybe it was just that they were large group numbers... either way they better figure that out by next week.

Photo courtesy of