May 29, 2014

Nerdgasm of the Week: 5 Plot Details About 'Jurassic World'

Entertainment Weekly is on Rumor Patrol and confirmed the leaked deets on the dino sequel that stomps into theaters next summer.

Crafted PR stunt? Who knows? One thing's for sure: I'm liking where director Colin Trevorrow is taking this...

1. Jurassic World picks up 22 years after the original Jurassic Park.

2. It takes place in a luxury zoo/park on Isla Nublar that allows 20,000 visitors each day to see dinosaurs roam the earth.

3. But people are already growing bored by the experience, and the park is looking for ways to spice — and splice — things up with a new genetically-enhanced dino. “We imagined a teenager texting his girlfriend with his back to a T-Rex behind protective glass. For us, that image captured the way much of the audience feels about the movies themselves. ‘We’ve seen CG dinosaurs. What else you got?’”

4. The new breed of dinosaur is “bigger, louder, with more teeth,” but it’s not some “mutant freak.” “We aren’t doing anything here that Crichton didn’t suggest in his novels,” wrote Trevorrow. “It doesn’t have a snake’s head or octopus tentacles. It’s a dinosaur, created in the same way the others were, but now the genetics have gone to the next level. For me, it’s a natural evolution of the technology introduced in the first film.”

5. Chris Pratt plays a scientist conducting behavioral research on raptors.

Patton Oswalt Tweets About The UCSB Shootings. And Nails It.

Basically, what he said:

Let it sink in. Let it stay with you. Print it out. Tape it to your desk at work. Hang it from the rearview mirror in your car. Post it on your refrigerator. Because even though tweets have an average lifespan of 7 seconds (and we tend to move on and get distracted by the next click-baiting headline), this particular one should last well until something improves within this country.

Consider this a sad memento to hold on to. And remember that devastated father's plea: "Not one more."


May 28, 2014

CLASS OF '14: The 2014 Summer Playlist, Vol. 1

Break out the Speedos and fire up the grill. 

Sure, Memorial Day weekend may have kicked off summer, but the following playlist is keeping up the momentum. These 20 tunes will be blaring from coast to coast, especially when I embark on a 6-city-12-day road trip at the end of June (hello Chicago, Columbus, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, and New York)...more on that later.

Let's get started, shall we?

1. "Rude" by Magic! - I feel for the girl's father on the receiving end of this song, a whiny guy's plea for a blessing that'll never happen if he keeps up the crooning.

2. "Problem" by Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea - The pop culture pundits have already called this rumpshaker the Song of the Summer, and who can blame them?

3. "First Love" by Jennifer Lopez - Give it a few listens, and you'll be sucked into the Max Martin-produced soundscapes that are somewhat reminiscent of Xtina's 2012 underrated "Your Body."

4. "A Sky Full of Stars" by Coldplay

5. "All of the Stars" by Ed Sheeran - Straight from the soundtrack of The Fault In Our Stars. If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of a million Kleenex tissues being pulled from boxes.

6. "Alone Again" by Betty Who

7. "Glorious" by Foxes - After listening to previous singles "Holding Onto Heaven" and "Let Go For Tonight," this Brit's debut album is possibly the biggest surprise of 2014. 

8. "Old 45's" by Chromeo:

9. "Love Never Felt So Good" by Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake
10. "Wasted" by Tiesto
11. "Do It Again" by Royksopp and Robyn
12. "Start It Up Again" by Timeflies
13. "F For You" by Disclosure feat. Mary J. Blige
14. "Only Human" by Example
15. "Never Give In" by Mackintosh Braun:

16. "Back to Life" by Blake Lewis
17. "Thunder Clatter" by Wild Cub
18. "Welcome to the Jungle" by Neon Jungle
19. "UP!" by Samantha Jade
20. "Let Me Down Gently" by La Roux


The Summer of 1999 Possibly Had The Best Playlist Ever (15 Songs That Turn 15 This Year)

Before Y2K panic fully set in, the summer months of 1999 treated us to enough ear "candy" to last us well into the new "millennium."

Having completed my freshman year at Boston University, I got through a summer in which I participated in local community theater, grieved over the final episode of Melrose Place, briefly worked as a debt collector, became employed by the New Rochelle Public Library on a measly $7 an hour, and traveled to West Coast for the first time in my life -- thanks to the following playlist.

And yes, all of these songs are now 15 years old. You're welcome.

1. "I Want It That Way" by Backstreet Boys: Why an airport setting? Who cares? At least Kevin got his solo. And nearly two decades later, we're still trying to figure out which "way" they want it.

2. "Sometimes" by Britney Spears
3. "Genie in a Bottle" by Christina Aguilera
4. "No Scrubs" by TLC
5. "Candy" by Mandy Moore: This song is now as old as she was when this debuted.

6. "The Hardest Thing" by 98 Degrees
7. "Bailamos" by Enrique Iglesias
8. "Livin La Vida Loca" by Ricky Martin
9. "If You Had My Love" by Jennifer Lopez
10. "Bills Bills Bills" by Destiny's Child - Looking back, this could've been a clip from Beauty Shop: The Musical.

11. "All Night Long" by Faith Evans feat. P. Diddy
12. "Someday" by Sugar Ray - Back when it was okay to admit to liking Mark McGrath.
13. "Sexual" by Amber
14. "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" by Eiffel 65
15. "It's Not Right But It's Okay" by Whitney Houston: I think we can all agree that it's all about the Thunderpuss Remix.


An Open Letter to Macy's: The 'Gift' That Keeps on Screwing Me

Hello Macy's,

I recently paid a visit to your Beverly Center location here in Los Angeles to purchase a wedding gift for a dear friend. Luckily I saw that the $80 Cuisinart stir-fry pan listed on her registry was in stock at my nearest location, and I was happy to stop by on my way home from work and make the purchase in person.

Once the transaction was made, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a "gift" for giving a gift: a coupon good for $20 off my next Macy's purchase of $50 or more! Naturally, there was a list of restrictions (quite a long list), but I thought: what the hell, I'll come back and buy something for myself (I'm in need of a new summer wardrobe).

And two days later I did return, this time to the Westfield Culver City location. I spent a full two hours trying on clothes, working up a sweat in the fitting room, and trying to find something that would meet the coupon requirements. After three failed attempts to make a purchase with the coupon at the register, I gave up and spent my money without the discount I thought I had earned (a pair of American Rag shorts and a colorful Club Room Oxford shirt I really wanted).

I could list the dozens and dozens of items listed on the coupon as restricted, but that's what the attached photo is for. What kills me in particular, though, is the first item on the list: "Everyday Values (EDV)." According to one of your sales associates I spoke to, this translates as "any regularly priced item." This could've been a misinterpretation (as a regular shopper, perhaps I never noticed these). However, this begs the question: wouldn't it have taken up less paper to list what items I COULD purchase with this discount?

From the looks of it, the only things that may have been eligible were the Godiva bars on display at the register. But from looks of my waistline after struggling to squeeze into some jeans in the unattended and neglected fitting room, I do not need to buy $50 worth of gourmet chocolates.

I've always had a loving relationship with Macy's. You could say that it runs in my blood; my mother was a proud employee a long time ago (the 70s) in a land far, far away (New York). Two months before this unfortunate visit, it had been my first stop to buy birthday presents for loved ones (four gifts total, money well spent). And it's the only place where I can restock my supply of my favorite face wash (from Lab Series for Men).

While I understand certain designers and manufacturers have limits regarding coupons like these, I find it pointless to print these out. Why even bother handing out this "gift" to customers if they cannot use it on a majority of the store? Why not print in bold letters CONGRATS! YOU GET $20 OFF YOUR NEXT $50 ITEM, BUT YOU HAVE TO GUESS WHICH ONE IT IS! GOOD LUCK, SHOPPER! This "gift" is more like an empty promise, a blatant marketing ploy that wasted my time (and money). It's an experience that left a really bad taste in my mouth and my patience stretched thin.

Macy's, I don't wish to break up with you. I appreciated your prompt responses to my tweets over the holiday weekend. It shows that you're definitely keeping your eyes and ears open to the needs and concerns of your customers (unlike some big brands out there that shall remain nameless).

But this is ridiculous. I can't help but feel deceived, manipulated by some puppet master -- much like one of your giant Thanksgiving Day parade floats.

How can you earn my trust again?



May 14, 2014

Pop Culture Rant of the Week: The Slow and Painful Death of 'Glee'

Last night's season 5 finale of Glee closed yet another chapter in the musical trials and tribulations of a group of chorus kids who miraculously achieved all of their dreams in less than a year while living in spacious apartments in the Big Apple (such is the magic of television).

The final number of the season's last episode, a so-so cover of Bastille's Top 40 hit "Pompeii," ended with the show's resident star, Rachel Berry, blatantly breaking the fourth wall and glancing at the camera (as seen at the 3:03 mark below). Of course there have been times when characters' lines of sight have met the home audience's, particularly in the middle of a showstopping performance, but this seemed different. This was an invite for the paltry 2 million viewers who still watch this show to prepare for the beginning of the end, to follow Rachel and some of her pitch-perfect pals one more time as they change locations once again. (Hello Los Angeles!) It was also a sweet reminder of how far this character has come in five years, which were filled with many highs and one particularly devastating low.

*I won't bother with a full recap of the episode. There are people who do that for a living.

That said, 2014 Glee is a far, far cry from the 2009 Glee we all knew, cherished, and tweeted about. What used to be a weekly, self-esteem-building tribute to underdogs has now evolved into a showcase for self-involved theater kids to strut their stuff and deal with problems a majority of the audience can't really relate to: A rich socialite wants to bankroll my singing career! A TV exec wants me to ditch my leading role on Broadway! My boyfriend's an underwear model who can't keep it in his pants!

The underdog is now Top Dog. Glee is the fat nerd who lost a ton of weight, ditched the glasses, got hot, and now has way too much confidence.

Sure, that's what usually and naturally happens with high school losers after graduation, but not at such an accelerated pace (again, it's TV. I get it).

It all comes down to this: Glee is a perfect example of a show that has reached its endgame yet continues to chug along, overstaying its welcome while jumping several sharks at once. The original premise (a Spanish teacher rallies a ragtag group of outcasts to sing out their feelings) leaves little room for change because it's such a wonderfully specific and resonating concept. It can't become anything else, and if it does, the magic of it all -- most importantly, its soul -- is compromised.

The show's 100th episode might as well have been the series finale; maybe a lot of viewers actually thought it was, considering last night's abysmal ratings. Kids graduated, the glee club was shut down, and the alumni of McKinley High moved on to bigger and better things. Yet we still had 8 more episodes and another season to go.

As a current and reluctant watcher of the show, I will still stream the final season (in 2015!) to see how it will all come to an end (as dragged out as it's become). I will still appreciate what the show has done for the American culture, tackling more social issues than any other primetime program in recent memory. But I'm sure my patience will continue to be tested and my eyes will continue to roll. If the rumors of a final 13-episode order are true (as opposed to a full 22), then I'm all for it.

There's no need to prolong the pain when the coffin's been ready for a burial for so long.


May 07, 2014

'Garden State': 10 Years Later, And I Still Don't Hate It

Zach Braff is about to release Wish I Was Here, his directorial "thematic follow-up" to 2004's Garden State, a movie that resonated with many twentysomethings back in its time, including yours truly. And to celebrate Garden's upcoming 10th anniversary later this summer, I wanted to revisit the feelings and experiences I had when this film was originally released.

There appears to be much disdain for Garden State now. People who loved the film a decade ago balk at it now, calling it a pretentious piece of woe-is-me crap about self-involved youth. But isn't being in your 20s all about being preoccupied with trivial concerns? Are these recent criticisms simply a result of a group of people growing up and looking back on a time they don't really want to remember?

Watching it again, the movie holds up quite well. There are nuances and details you may not have picked up on the first time around. Just like Jesse David Fox did when he wrote his Vulture piece defending the movie's relevance last year:

Why it still resonates and has a special place in my overstuffed heart is because it's a time capsule, representing a time in my life when (I thought) I was just starting to get the hang of being a Twentysomething. There were the lines of dialogue that stuck in my head ("Maybe that's all family really is: a group of people that miss the same imaginary place."). There was the achingly poignant soundtrack (Frou Frou's "Let Go" still strikes me to this day). And for the first time in a long time, it was a movie that truly spoke to me, beautifully capturing through its indie charm what I was going through, what I was thinking and feeling. Maybe, in another ten years, opinions will shift again and view this film as a hallmark GenY classic. Maybe.

The movie's been accused of being "a poser." Maybe so. But it's only because that's what twentysomethings do. They distract themselves with petty shit as a way to avoid the inescapable reality that they're official adults now, that they will have to eventually grow the f**k up.

I, as a wide-eyed Los Angeles newbie in 2004, could've been seen as a poser. I admittedly tried to emulate the L.A. I thought L.A. was at the time. I made dinner reservations at Ashton Kutcher's restaurant on Melrose (anyone remember Dolce?). I bought overpriced ironic T-shirts -- but never a trucker cap, thank God. I obsessed about brunch at Toast on 3rd Street. And I even met friends for cocktails at The Standard, just because.

Looking back, I probably indulged in these things because reality kept slapping me in the face that year. I had quit my first "real world" job because it was going nowhere. I had jumped into the freelance world for the first time and subsequently experienced my first bout with unemployment. And earlier that summer, my father suffered from a stroke, waking me up to my parents' mortality.

Garden State came around at the right time. And for that, I am grateful.

Now, if Braff's Wish I Was Here has any comments about the Thirtysomething Experience, I will gladly look forward to what it has to say.


May 06, 2014

Theme Song of the Month: May 2014

Who knew the chilled-out rockers of Coldplay would team up with the likes of EDM superstar Avicii?

Their respective record labels, that's for sure. And now we get to listen to the results and bask in the glow of this collaboration...or should we call it a conscious coupling?

Truthfully, I was tempted to slot in here "Problem," Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea's new single, but I just couldn't resist the anthemic chorus of this:



Catfights, Cleavage and Carrie-Anne Moss: 'Models Inc.' Turns 25

In the early 90s, as anyone familiar with the oeuvre of uber-producer Aaron Spelling knows, the successful  Beverly Hills, 90210 begat ...