Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Product Review: DKNY's Be Delightful Gift Set vs. The Can Opener

Delicious in Phoenix... Minus Meg Ryan
by Jen Johans

As he tried to verbalize the magical relationship he'd had with his wife, Meg Ryan experienced simultaneous movie magic by falling in love with the sound of widower Tom Hanks during her lonely drive on Christmas Eve night in Sleepless in Seattle.

Yet, the audience has the upper hand as we discover just what it was that had been so magical about his wife and the undeniable link that she had with Ryan's heroine who lived on the other side of the country. Namely, in addition to being both attractive and attracted to Hanks, the two women had the dazzling skill of being able to peel an entire apple in one long, artistic, twisting strip.

Little did I realize that this ability with actual apples would be a prerequisite-- not for winning the heart of Hanks-- but instead for opening a designer gift set when I was given Donna Karan's appletastic fragrance Be Delicious on Christmas Eve in real life.

Dubbed Be Delightful, the set, which I'm informed (but couldn't swear to in court since I've never laid eyes on it) includes the Eau De Parfum Spray and Body Lotion. Yet this holiday season, DKNY's bestseller was packaged in a way that upon first glance makes the phrasing that it's “100% Pure New York,” seem as though-- in stark contrast to the flammable perfume-- Donna Karan had gone into the flammable designer paint or soda business.

Instead of dropping the items in the adorable free cosmetic bag gifts with purchase that most women collect as the Happy Meal McCouture swag provided by makeup counters at Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom, DKNY's apple fragrance made its Christmas Eve debut in an oversized canned fruit container best suited to pineapples or maraschino cherries.

Admittedly, cosmetic-wise the last thing we need is another cosmetic bag or endless shiny boxes we open to reveal more shiny Russian Doll style boxes. However, I was puzzled by the Mountain Dew demeanor of the can for a product that's traditionally represented in advertisements by the #1 doctor recommend fruit, which normally falls off trees and are placed in crates before they're set up in Jenga-like displays at the grocery store, when apples are not being used by the Wicked Queen to lure Snow White.

Yet my frustration for Be Delightful's smug aluminum presence went well beyond the aesthetic as I realized that the wrapping paper had been the initial tease since the real test was attempting to open the package itself.

As it turns out, Be Delightful is the Pandora's Box of gift sets or the type of container that could easily have filled in for Cameron Diaz's morality testing box in 2009's film The Box. For, DKNY's product changes its visual stripes and similarly its recipient's attitude as soon as we realize that the minimalist package comes without an open tab, pull strip, or at the very least an idiot-proof sentence informing us how to get to the "present" part of the present.

Assuming it was just like the protective thin cardboard style top that possibly would've been underneath the cap of its still unseen body lotion, I used a strong pen to try and dig into the edge of the box. The first attempt bounced off the impenetrable tub like a Delightful trampoline so I pushed down with more force until the pen bent backwards faster than one of my fingernails usually does with people-proof but ultimately user-friendly electronics packaging.

Having sacrificed one pen for the chance to Be Delicious for longer than the magazine card inserts last and with the hope that-- unlike the magazines-- the chance of a paper-cut wasn't a risk, I went straight for my slice-and-dice best friend. Sadly my serrated jack of all trades isn't The Bride's "Hattori Hanz┼Ź" sword from Kill Bill but the result was just as surprising as Uma Thurman's showdown with Go-Go Yubari as my weapon of choice-- salon scissors which has defeated HDMI cable packaging-- started to fly out of my hands like the villains in Bill.

Clearly, I was going to need a bigger boat... or blade. As an answer, I tried the industrial strength scissors that can cut through the toughest felt I'd need for arts and crafts time... if I was into that sort of thing but alas, again, without a Hulk-like grip, the aluminum cylinder was taunting me by staying shut.

Always more logical, my relative assumed that because it looked like a can, a can opener must do the trick! Genius, right? Rattling through more drawers, we attached the can opener to the can and began to attack it with force but the aluminum tease refused to connect with the opener.

As a last ditch effort, various kitchen utensils and knives were used, some of which broke through the top slightly yet instead of becoming easier to open, the can, which was well past its expiration date by this time, revealed itself to have even more cardboard layers.

The fragrance equivalent of the Kafka story of the man who can't gain admission inside The Castle-- when another knife slipped very close to our skin, we realized we'd rather risk being the opposite of Delightful over being Digit-Less any day of the week.

Fortunately for our limbs, the Johans household is missing an axe as well as a chainsaw. Thus, the bulky container which in its very essence is the polar opposite of Donna Karan's thin, stretchy denim which hugs my own limbs so well that in my book they go right from "skinny" directly to "sexy jeans" ended up the victor in our Christmas Eve brawl.

Needless to say, I gave up the can in favor of a refund. Still, in the back of my mind, I was wondering whether or not I knew someone in my film contact address book who could get me in touch with Meg Ryan, just in case she still had the magic knack of peeling this particular apple container in one single strip. However, until then I shall remain, un-delighted and un-delicious yet entirely digit-intact in Phoenix instead of Seattle.

Text ©2009, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com
Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Music DVD Review: Masters of American Music, Volume 4: The Story of Jazz (1995)

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Before Ken Burns debuted his epic PBS documentary smash Jazz in 2001, the award-winning multiple volume installments of the genre had struck a chord with audiences in the Masters of American Music series in the '80s and '90s, filtering into living rooms via VHS or televised broadcast.

For the first time since their debut more than a decade ago, this award-winning and highly acclaimed series has been released to jazz aficionados the world over, as Masters of American Music's first four volumes premiere on Limited Edition, slim-packaged all-region (aka Region 0 or Region free) DVDs ensuring that they'll play in all parts of the world.

While 2010 will bring more volumes to fans with the second installment's release of titles that focus on John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, and a special history of the blues dubbed Bluesland, the initial quartet of digitally remastered discs are dazzling.

Assuming that it would be the first volume in the collection, I opted to play The Story of Jazz first before I discovered that it was actually the fourth installment. As I soon learned, Masters of American Music originally kicks off with exclusive specials focused solely on three of the most influential Masters themselves including the impressive "first and only authorized documentary" of Charlie Parker entitled Celebrating Bird which earned recognition and accolades from organizations including the American Film Institute in 1987.

Following up this portrait of Bird in an era that also found popular culture embracing Parker in Clint Eastwood's biopic of the same name, were the two other Masters selections, namely the Cable ACE award-winning documentary Lady Day: The Many Faces of Billie Holiday (Volume 2) and Volume 3's more intimate study of Thelonious Monk: American Composer.

The latter title sought out to present "the first fully rounded portrait of Monk" as opposed to the traditional way he was "often portrayed as not simply eccentric but crazy" by focusing on the bebop pianist's strength as a "witty satirist" who became "jazz's first major composer after Duke Ellington."

Yet, since I've dissected documentaries on the other figures before and wanted to focus on the heart of the series, I went right to The Story of Jazz first, which-- just like the others-- is fascinating not only for its historic footage of rare performances and inclusion of figures usually overlooked but also due to the straightforward and approachable narrative.

Since jazz can be such a daunting genre, as noticed in Burns' exhaustive but incredibly well-researched presentation, I appreciated the choice not to dwell on every single facet of each movement from its roots in West Africa to its official New Orleans birthplace and various incarnations including big band, swing, bebop, bop, free, and fusion.

No, the documentarians instead avoided minutia by opting to engage us by simultaneously inspiring our own interaction to look up more figures they discuss briefly and/or to look forward to the future in-depth releases on those we're particularly fascinated by including singer Sarah Vaughan who will receive her own volume in 2010.

Recipient of the 1995 Swing Journal award for the Best Music Program of the Year, The Story of Jazz-- similar to the rest-- was derived from a wide array of in-depth footage including more than 80 interviews with insiders and experts who understand the music, the players, and its impact on our history very well.

Additionally, correcting the main belief that it's simply an American art form and overall as purely American as "baseball," "national parks," or "apple pie" (two of which have also been the subject of Burns documentaries), the fact that the Masters of American Music series can be played on DVD in all regional country coded players is extremely fitting as the thesis of this set takes the "American Music" to an international level.

To this end, jazz is evaluated-- especially in The Story of Jazz, perhaps more than some of the biographical portrait discs-- as one of the globe's "greatest art form[s] of the twentieth century."

With its West African roots and the acknowledgment that Latin rhythms found their way into the music along with more international flavors as it gained in popularity in Europe and abroad, the all-encompassing genre of "jazz" eventually morphed into the epitome of one of its signature improvisational jams that can go on endlessly.

Still, the title impressed me even more for ensuring that figures like Bix Beiderbecke, James P. Johnson, Scott Joplin, and Buddy Bolden all received their due alongside the more popular and familiar names of Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson and others. Similarly, I couldn't help realizing that even those who may argue that they're averse to jazz and find their appreciation for the arts is firmly planted in other genres or realms like film, painting, or comedy, will definitely want to explore this work regardless.

For, although it's definitely suited and designed specifically for jazz fiends, the one underlying theme that pervades is that before someone like Thelonious Monk, Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington can become a legend, they must have a strong foundation of knowledge in their subject.

In other words, if you don't understand chord progression, you certainly can't bebop or bop and swing definitely won't mean a thing if you don't know your scales and it's the reminder of just how much knowledge and dedication to their craft (whether formally or self-taught) was required in the development of the art form. This is especially evident when musicians ventured from standard technical requirements to free or fusion jazz that again makes it seem perfectly natural that many actors and comedians liken clicking in a scene or working together to playing music or creating "great jazz."

Whether you use the word "flow" as a writer when discussing the way that words will pour out of you or remain stranded when you're blocked or acknowledging that you can't attempt impressionistic or expressionistic painting without mastering still-life beforehand, the end result is always "jazz."

Thus, the music is the very essence of joyous, unrestrained, creative expression that's necessary to challenge yourself to study. While I recommend listening to more varieties to find what you like, I feel strongly that a basic documentary will do the trick. And sure enough-- and possibly without even realizing it the first time around-- The Story of Jazz will hip you to the fact that what you assumed was "just noise," has suddenly echoed off the screen and as Charles Mingus phrased it, get you "Hit in Your Soul" by the sound of creativity.

Text ©2009, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com

Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited.

FTC Disclosure: Per standard critical practice, I received review copies of Masters of American Music in order to evaluate what it was I was writing about truthfully and as a professional journalist, the receipt of titles had no bearing on whether or not they received a favorable review as jazz fans are much more prepared to label something "bad jazz" if the flow is way off.

Music DVD Review: The Who, The Mods and The Quadrophenia Connection (2008)

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When rhythm and blues rock skipped across the pond in the 1960s, the impact of its final splash flooded the terrain of UK music for the decade to come. Ultimately it inspired groups of young men to embrace old twelve bar blues riffs and experiment with the sound of what was traditionally dubbed "black American soul music" in bands such as The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Zombies, The Kinks, Cream, Led Zeppelin, along with The Who.

Following the success of their tune "I'm the Face" and back when the quartet who would later introduce the world to rock operas were still known as the then-fashionable sounding High Numbers, their enigmatic guitarist (and father of the "windmill" strum) Pete Townshend listened to the popular Kinks single "You Got Me," and stated that he "could do that."

The result was the iconic '60s Who track that not only became a youth anthem with the title of "My Generation" but also cleverly worked in lyrics that the group knew who garner them even more press than The Kinks had received via the snarled ultimate anti-establishment message of "I hope I die before I get old."

The song reigned on the charts long before "Love" would do the same for Townshend on Quadrophenia and its impact on their generation has caused some music critics to argue that The Who were in fact "punk before punk," a full decade before the '70s movement would later be epitomized in British '70s acts like The Clash and The Sex Pistols.

Yet whether or not you hold the same belief since the modern young men in their "Mod" apparel who influenced the Mods in both British movements don't exactly fit the visual tradition of safety-pin wearing Punks, "My Generation" became an equally sensational anthem in the states as well when The Who crossed the pond to play it at Woodstock.

From joking that their fame had gone to their heads with the album The Who Sell Out to the success of Tommy, which made the band nearly interchangeable with the name of the latter album (which was later adapted into a film), the band constantly shifted to reflect their changing priorities, personalities, along with the culture and society in which they lived.

Yet instead of riding the tidal wave of
their biggest hit to date with the critical success of Who's Next by offering fans more of the same, they challenged listeners with a second double album rock opera in the form of 1973's daring Quadrophenia. Still far less extreme than Tommy, Quadrophenia was set roughly a decade in the past during the "Mod" era of men who wore fitted suits and liked fashion, spoke in American slang, dug rhythm and blues, sang with soul and zoomed around London on motor scooters.

With the title's open homage to schizophrenia and the term "quad" hearkening to the four very different members of the band, the group introduced listeners to a mentally unstable Mod named Jimmy Cooper whose personality seems to be split into four as each member of the group represents one aspect of his personality.

In this intriguing documentary that is especially fascinating if you're well-acquainted not just with the album in question but the subsequent UK film version as well (which is out of print in America as of this review), scholars, friends of the band, historians and others reminisce about the codependent relationship that youth and rock 'n roll had on one another.

Throughout their work and especially in albums like Tommy and Quadrophenia, "youth culture" was "used as a commodity" through the music by men like Townshend who helped articulate the anger and frustration of his "generation" whether he smashed a guitar or used lyrics to form the like-minded clique he never had growing up and always wanted via the extremely personal, retrospective epic of Quadrophenia.

Although the documentary features Who biographers, friends, associates, and experts on both the music and the second wave of the Mod movement that hit England again following the release of Quadrophenia as a film in 1978, this 2008 work which was made as a 30th anniversary tie-in of the movie, does lack an overall authoritative feel you can sense even before you discover that it isn't endorsed, authorized or affiliated with the band, film, or album.

Yet, like many other great retrospective analytical documentaries about a certain pop culture phenomenon, it nonetheless hits more than just The Who's "High Numbers" by lacing the work with vintage footage and musical performances as they evaluate what led the band to the creation of Quadrophenia.

While it's hard to overlook the lack of polish in the presentation or the fact that repeatedly Townshend's last name is spelled incorrectly, it's still an intriguing study for Who fans. As such, the interviewees eventually reveal the four songs that can be considered signature works that tie in with all four members as aspects of the troubled protagonist Jimmy Cooper's race against the establishment including "Helpless Dancer" for Roger Daltrey, "Bell Boy" for drummer Keith Moon, John Enstwhile's "Doctor Jimmy," and the powerful "Love Reign O'er Me" for the album's visionary songwriter, Pete Townshend.

Released on all-region (or Region 0) DVD to ensure it can play in every country, it's the type of documentary you'll want to be sure to view with either the album and/or the film nearby so you can refer back since inevitably the the influence of rhythm and blues that rocks between "the sea and sand" will "reign 'oer" long after it finishes.

Who is on DVD

"Don't Get Fooled Again"
The Music of The Who

Text ©2009, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com

Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited.

FTC Disclosure: Per standard critical practice in "My Generation," I received a review copy of this DVD in order to accurately evaluate it, which had no bearing on my reaction whatsoever.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Site News: Help Film Intuition for the Holidays


Dear Friends and Readers,

iGive is attempting to donate $5,000 to Film Intuition in just 24 hours to help us stay afloat. No purchase necessary. For every new supporter, iGive will donate $1.00 to keep FI running.

Just register & THEN complete 1 valid search on their site (eg: not Twitter or Facebook) or download their cool Yahoo toolbar, which will benefit us every time you search the web or shop at over 700+ stores, with which iGive is affiliated complete with bonus coupons for members.

Thank you for your support. No obligation at all and please feel free to ignore but it's been a tough year for everyone so I wanted to share especially considering there is absolutely no purchase required. Thank you for your time and above all your readership. It's greatly appreciated.

- Jen


Text ©2009, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com

Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

News: BBC America Wishes You an Even Happier Holiday Season with Shopping Sprees, Surprises and Specials

BBC America Shop

From Doctor Who and Torchwood to Mistresses and Gavin and Stacey to Fawlty Towers and The Mighty Boosh, BBC America has consistently delivered the best in British Entertainment both on its popular channel and beloved home entertainment releases available online.

Whether first giving the US a taste for shows we would later adapt like The Office, Coupling, Life on Mars and many others, or inspiring Danny Boyle to cast an actor on Skins for the Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire or unleashing Sandra Bullock's inner auto enthusiast with their popular Top Gear, we've always looked to the BBC for the cutting edge in TV programming.

And with the unbelievable hits including the recent Boosh, which lit up Stella McCartney's store for the holidays after taking America by storm this past summer along with Torchwood's stunner Children of Earth, BBC America's Shop has become a fan favorite for stellar gifts.

In addition to offering free shipping on orders over one hundred dollars, the store is giving you the opportunity to win a $1,000 shopping spree of its online store. Yet keeping in mind the holiday spirit, the gift certificates will be delivered in a pair so that you and that special someone in your life will receive $500 each to enjoy the best the BBC has on DVD/Blu-ray or in a variety of one-of-a-kind gifts.

Buy your favorite BBC Sci-Fi DVDs, including Doctor Who, today!

Text ©2009, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com
Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited.
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