Reviews

A “Date” with “Transformers: Age of Extinction”

So, Transformers: Age of Extinction came out last week.

I saw it opening night in GXL 3D (whatever that means). I refrained from expressing any opinion for or against it. Not because I was incapable, but rather that I hadn’t exactly pieced together my thoughts into a cohesive stance. Well…a friend of mine forced my hand when he posted a link on my Facebook to an io9 article dubbed: “Transformers: Age of Extinction: The Spoiler FAQ”. It was basically a rundown for the entire plot of the movie, and a well done one at that. I could find no fault in the logic posed about the movie’s illogic.

In the byline of the posted link, this friend wrote: “Is it really this bad?”

I sat on a reply for a couple of days…and now I have the perfect reply. In the form of an analogy.

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Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 Reviews 1 Comment

In Pursuit of Pitch Perfect Cups

I think I’ve mentioned in prior articles about my soft spot for teeny-bopper movies. It all started in the 80s and 90s, and continued well into the new century. Luckily, for my sanity, very few good ones have emerged since Ten Things I Hate About You. Most were clearly out of my age-range, both in wit and wonderment.

Then came Pitch Perfect.

I first heard about it from its trailers. It looked like yet another Glee knock-off by way of Step Up with the plot of Bring It On. However, something interesting caught my eye. A rather rotund Australian woman was taking center stage in many of the scenes – one Rebel Wilson. She was a riot, and that alone gave me pause. Was it enough to make me see it?

Oh no. Not solo. Not I, a man in his mid-30s.

Several months went by, the movie came and went from theaters, and life returned to relative abnormalcy. I went to work, I wrote, I drank tea; rinse, repeat. While at work, several co-subordinates blasted the local pop station amidst chores. One song stood out from the inanity. I didn’t know the name of it, but it sounded vaguely…folksy? What was this doing on the radio, and why was it talking about bottles of whiskey?

I learned later that the song was called “Cups (When I’m Gone)“, and that it was a redux of another song from the movie…Pitch Perfect!? The artist was actress Anna Kendrick.  I’d never known her by name – save for the informal title of “Scott Pilgrim’s Up in the Air Twilight Sister”.  At one point, I even declared my love for her. I think it was after 50/50. Never knew she could sing on top of…uh…acting all cute. All the time!

The song itself had the most varied of histories. It was first given life by one A.P. Carter of The Carter Family. The Almighty Wiki claims it was written in 1931, while others say it was first performed as early as 1928. Point being: It’s really freakin’ old. That and the rhythm was much slower.

Somehow/someway, it was picked up by a group dubbed Lulu and the Lampshades in 2009 and renamed “You’re Gonna Miss Me“. They’re the ones who added the titular “cup game” rhythm, on top of adding an extra verse. The video went viral.

Fast-forward to two years later, and YouTube vlogger/entertainer Anna Burden recorded her own cover of the song, which also went viral. During filming of Pitch Perfect, Anna Kendrick caught wind of this version. I’m not sure how she convinced the producers of the film to incorporate this song into the movie, but it was there as her character’s “audition” scene. And for some unknown reason, that went viral.

The attention paid to that half-minute try-out led Anna Kendrick to re-record a new version of the song – now called “Cups (When I’m Gone)” – five months after Pitch Perfect came out in theaters. The song went superviral. Yes, that’s a thing now. Because I said so. It was released in February of 2013, and it’s still being played. (It is currently November.)

Kendrick and “Krew” filmed a new video for the re-release in March of ’13. I didn’t catch it until well into the summer. At first, I thought the video was a part of the movie. Small town girl working a dead-end job, escapes to the big city for a career in music; sounded Hollywood enough to me. I learned later that the music video had nothing to do with the movie, even though it was filmed by Pitch Perfect’s director, Jason Moore.

With a song that had a backstory such as that, now I had to track the movie down. I tried for two months to track it down via Redbox, but it was always out of order. As a result of this repeated failure, I finally broke down and re-signed up for Netflix’s DVD service. Yes, my reason for signing up for DVD rentals…was a teen music movie.

I finally got it. I finally saw it. Twice that day. In a row.

Not a day goes by without me playing one or two musical excerpts from the movie. Was it deep, masterpiece cinema? Not by a longshot. I was right in my original guess. It was Bring It On, only with a capella. And I loved every voiceboxing minute of it.

Well worth the several months and serendipitous history lesson it took to get there.

Wow, I went that whole article without making one boob joke. The title almost demands it. I should compensate somehow. Ummm…oh yeah!

There we go.

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Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 Musings, Reviews 5 Comments

Making Time for “A Tea Reader”: A [NOT] Book Review

I am a slow reader by design. It takes me an inordinate amount of time to dive into a book. Most can devour a hundred pages in an hour (I would guess?); I can only manage thirty-three. I think that’s my record to date. Attempts to speed read were always met with failure. Suggestions to pursue a career in editing went ignored for this very reason. The time it would take for me to read, let alone edit, a book could be measured in seasons.

Mooched from the Blog of Patrick Rothfuss

Mooched from the Blog of Patrick Rothfuss

That said, I still enjoy leisure reading but don’t do enough of it in my spare time. The times that I do, however, have been chronicled on my website. While not exactly professional literary critiques, they provide my thoughts in as succinct a manner as I am capable (which might not be saying much).

A call went out by a very talented tea blogger – Katrina Avila Munichiello- in my “TeaTwit” circle to review a book she was putting out called A Tea Reader. The concept was genius in its simplicity. It’s a collection of vignettes and short stories – spanning centuries – about how tea inspires. As the books tagline (and, by proxy, the author) states: “This is not a book about tea. This is a book about people.”

I was beyond elated and honored to be chosen to review the book in advance of its official release. And I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little jealous that Mrs. Munichiello beat me to such wonderful idea. She succeeded where many of us tea writers only daydream…er…over a cup of tea. The approach she chose to take for the narrative was also inspired.

Now I just had to find time to read it. Several factors hindered the timeliness of my perusal. One: The aforementioned slow reading pace. Two: A very active “oooo shiny!” gland. And three: Georgia.

I’ve mentioned the last one in passing before. My cat – like many of her ilk – is not one to be easily ignored. She makes this point abundantly clear during feeding time. However, she also voices her displeasure in creative ways when something else holds my attention other than her. Y’know…like a girlfriend. A very…hairy…girlfriend.

Note: This photo wasn't staged. Seriously

Note: This photo wasn't staged. Seriously.

In the case of book reading, “G” will stroll in front of the book while I’m reading it. Attempts to shoo her away are interpreted as play time. Even when I relocate to someplace she wouldn’t normally go – like the couch in the living room – she’s only a step or two behind me emitting her usual growl-purr.

I found moderate success with the couch camping, though. It was easy to position myself in such a way she couldn’t interrupt. Eventually, her tiny little mind forgot what she came there to do. The couch also offered up an opportunity to successfully put myself in tea-reading mode. If there was one thing I learned, this book had to be read with tea a-brewin’.

But there was a second obstacle – the damn dog.

Note: This wasn't staged either.

Yes, folks, there is also a dog in the mix – a very large, year-and-change-old Saint Bernard named Abacus. He belongs to my brother. Every time I brew tea – and I mean every time – he is instantly drawn to my electric kettle. Add a gaiwan to the mix, and he’s enraptured. I can’t really fathom why. Maybe he just really likes oolong a lot. Dunno.

Those were obstacles to my reading Zen that I could not prevent. The preventable ones were the major problem. I blame the Internet. All of it. As one entity. I don’t blame myself. Okay…maybe a little.

Before I knew it, two months rolled by. Here I was, a week past the release date of the book…and I’d only made it halfway through. It wasn’t as if another book had taken its place; I had read nothing for the whole of Fall. I lamented my reviewer FAIL.

Then a thought occurred to me – not so much as a metaphoric light bulb but as a very cheery glowworm. This book was tailor made for distractedly slow readers such as myself. Let me explain: The beauty of anthologies is that they can be devoured a piece at a time. A reader can pick it up and put it down at their own pace, even the molasses ones like myself.

A Tea Reader is even more suited to this than the average anthology because the average vignette is, maybe four-to-five pages – essays, really. Tightly written ones, too, for the easily spacey. I didn’t really have that problem, though. The different viewpoints were ultimately fascinating. Particular standouts (for me so far) were: “I Don’t Drink Tea” (the tale of a coffee drinker’s denial), “The Mistri-Sahib” (about a Scottish engineer in India, what’s not to love?), and “Immersion” (about a woman’s first flight with gongfu).

Each thematic section is divided into “steeps” rather than books or acts, providing one with a figurative tea expression to go along with the read. The author herself provides commentary to bridge each steep with her own thoughts. Her tone is relaxing and concise, marking the perfect lead-in for stories “steeped” (har-har) in the esoteric and evocative.

Which brings me to the book’s one principle flaw…if it can even be called that.

This is not a book for the uninitiated, and by that I mean non-tea drinkers. Tea appreciation has its own language – its own lexicon, if you will. And this book is imbued with it. Part of that is due to the inclusion of older essays as well as new and their dispersion throughout. The author does her best to include footnotes to some of the more obscure terminology, but at times it can be jarring. I, however, didn’t really find this to be a flaw.

As I said earlier, this is a book that screams, “Read me with a cup of tea, damn it!” To not do so would fail to capture the full effect, as far as I’m concerned. What’s the point of reading a book about people inspired by tea if you aren’t reading while drinking tea? That’s like going to a baseball game without a foam finger on one hand. Can’t be done.

In summary, I’m at the “glass-half-full” point of the book, and I’m loving every self-styled-slow minute of it. I start a new vignette with a cup of tea when I have a spare minute between distractions and pet mayhem. I hope to do a follow-up commentary on it once I’ve finally reached the end, but I still felt I had to put something to “paper” in appreciation. Just as these contributors and their maven did…all over an inspired cup of tea.

For more information on the book, go HERE.

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Monday, October 31st, 2011 Reviews, Steep Stories No Comments

I work for tea money.

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