January favorites

Since I’ve never done a favorites post before, some of these finds are from December. From cookies to lip butter to metal music, there’s a bit of everything included.

Orphan Black

Airing on BBC America, Orphan Black is a sci-fi thriller about a troubled woman who discovers she is a clone. There’s enough of twists and turns to keep you guessing until the end of the season, and Tatiana Maslany’s multiples roles as the clones almost had me forgetting the same actor was inhibiting each one.

Orphan Black

I was late to the show, which originally aired back in March of 2013, because it aired on BBC America, and I’m not fancy enough for satellite TV. It only took me two days, however, to catch up on all ten episodes of the first season because I was hooked from the beginning.

If you haven’t watched the first season yet, there’s still time to catch up until season two’s premiere in April.

The Hunter by Mastodon

Sometimes you need a break from an album so that when you revisit later, it still sounds fresh and invigorating. That’s what has happened with The Hunter. I haven’t seen them play live in almost four years, so going back to the last album before the new one is released this year seems like a great lead-in to a new tour.

"The Hunter" by Mastodon

It’s a divisive record for Mastodon fans. Some feel they have strayed away from their progressive roots and conceptual themes by penning songs averaging three or four minutes long, while others praised Mastodon for taking a risk by composing music that could be taken as more “mainstream.”

I personally love this album. I don’t necessarily love it more than the others, but in a different way. Kudos to Mastodon for not fearing the wrath of metalheads and taking a different approach to the sound.

Her

When I heard the news about Spike Jonze’s new movie being about a man that falls in love with his computer, I was yearning for him to just keep making Arcade Fire music videos. Thankfully, this film was much more endearing than I thought it would be.

Joaquin Phoenix’s sympathetic character Theodor Twombly (are we in a Roald Dahl novel?) tries to navigate the world of intimacy and relationships in a nearby futuristic world that covets connections with technology more than person-to-person interaction. More than just a quirky romantic comedy, it’s a take on what it means to build a relationship in a world constantly replacing real emotional connections with technological ones.

Clarins One-Step Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser

The 1.7 ounce version of this product was my 100-point reward for Sephora’s Beauty Insider card, and I’m sure grateful I picked it! The orange smell isn’t all that great, but it’s quite faint. Personally, I’m not fond of a scent coming from my face anyway.

Clarins Exfoliating Cleanser

What sets it apart is the exfoliating power that leaves skin feeling baby-bottom-soft. Seriously. I felt the need to stroke my face several times after first using it.

The downside to this cleanser is that it’s indeed pricey, but worth it in my opinion since a small amount goes a long way. It lathers nicely, but if you have sensitive skin like me, I advise moisturizing immediately afterwards before the exfoliating beads cause any irritation or further dryness. Thankfully my sensitive skin actually cooperates with this cleanser, but it does cause a little redness at first.

Anastasia Brow Wiz

Anastasia Brow Wiz

Here’s yet another expensive item, but the results are incredible. Anastasia has great products to tame and shape eyebrows. This pencil and wand combo succeeds in creating realistic coloring and fuller eyebrows, while also being long-lasting.

Unlike eyebrow pencils, it’s a felt tip, so making mistakes are easier to wipe off, and it’s more a softened look compared to the intensity from an eyebrow pencil. If you’re really wanting to go further with taming those brows, the brow gel is wonderful also.

Nivea Lip Butter in Raspberry Rosé Kiss

Nivea Lip Butter

Hydrating and oh-so-lovely smelling, the Nivea lip butters are beneficial for drying lips in the wintertime.

The lip butter keeps my lips hydrated and soft for most of the day, but I will say that the raspberry flavor has a slight light pink tint to it. If you prefer no color whatsoever, caramel and vanilla flavors are also available. This is a great moisturizing lip product.

Forever 21 Open-front Shag Cardigan

Forever 21 Cardigan

Never did I think I would own anything related to the words “shag” or “faux fur,” but here I am with an exquisitely comfortable cardigan that I can throw on with a band T-shirt or nicer knit top when it’s cool out, but not too cool, which happens a lot more in Texas than actually being cold.

The cardigan is long, which comes in handy when I want to wear leggings to work and cover up what little butt I have, or to add more depth to a simple top.

Pepperidge Farm Milano Melts in Vanilla Crème

Pepperidge Farms Milano Cookies

So simple, yet so delicious. They’re like Oreos but less sweet. The only downside is that there’s not enough of them in each package!

I haven’t tried the other flavors yet, but the Dark Classic Crème and Boston Cream Pie sound like a mouth-watering foodie session too.

Related Links

“The Hunter” by Mastodon

Anastasia Brow Wiz

“Orphan Black”: Episode 1 [HD]

The Grammy Awards want variety for this year’s televised performances

Normally I wouldn’t be eager to watch the Grammy Awards ceremony, but this year’s roster of performers is surprising for anyone used to just sparkly divas and the latest pop sensation predominantly on TV. The 56th annual music celebration will have more alternative selections this time around.

Metallica and pianist Lang Lang will perform a rendition of "One" from 1988's "...And Justice for All."
Metallica and pianist Lang Lang will perform a rendition of “One” from 1988’s “…And Justice for All.” (Photo Credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba)

The heavily nominated Daft Punk will be joined onstage by a groovy, funky bunch consisting of none other than Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williams, and Chic’s Nile Rodgers. Both Rodgers and Williams made contributions to Daft Punk’s record Random Access Memorieswhich has been nominated for Album of the Year.

Of course, Pharrell sang on the huge summertime hit “Get Lucky,” but also provided vocals for the second single “Lose Yourself to Dance.” In addition to putting his disco mark on the previously mentioned tracks, guitarist Nile Rodgers also contributed to album opener “Give Life Back to Music.” This group of musicians makes perfect sense, considering they all have such nods to funk and soul (and if you’ve never heard of Pharrell’s previous group The Neptunes, definitely take a listen).

In a very different style lies Metallica’s performance of “One” alongside Chinese pianist Lang Lang, which will obviously bring a clash of styles, but at least it won’t be a worse collaboration than Lulu. Maybe picking a pianist that has played his share of Liszt to coincide with a thrash metal band isn’t such a bad idea.

Just a few days ago blues maestro Gary Clark Jr. and country star Keith Urban were additionally announced as a performers. Though I’m not too fond of Keith Urban, it’s a relief to see a veteran indie musician like Gary Clark Jr. able to attain more national visibility. His latest album Blak And Blu from 2012 is a good starting point for anyone interested in a modern take on soul and blues.

However, the performance I’m looking forward to the most is the finale consisting of Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham, Dave Grohl, Nine Inch Nails, and Queens of the Stone Age. Considering Queens of the Stone Age and Nine Inch Nails alone took up approximately half of my listening pleasure last year, this superband is going to be one fantastically heavy way to end the awards show.

All I’m worried about is that there’s going to be an excessive amount of guitarists on stage. Just because one is able to put five guitarists on stage together doesn’t mean one should. Whatever the case may be, bring on the noise.

For more information on all of the performers, click here. Which performance are you looking forward to the most?

Related Links

Discovery by Daft Punk

…And Justice For All by Metallica

Sound City – Real to Reel [+digital booklet]

Sherlock is back!

Anglophiles rejoice! The BBC hit show Sherlock has returned, and last Sunday night was the premiere of season three’s first episode on PBS. Titled “The Empty Hearse,” the much-awaited episode picks up two years from where last season’s frustratingly suspenseful finale left off.

It has been two years since "Sherlock" was last originally broadcasted in the UK.
It has been two years since “Sherlock” was last originally broadcasted in the UK. (Photo Credit: Colin Hutton)

In the last few minutes of season two’s finale, viewers discovered that Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) was indeed alive after jumping off of a building that had everyone believing he committed suicide.

Creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (who also happen to be writers on British TV institution Doctor Who) have created a snickering way to reveal (well, kind of) the secret of how Sherlock faked his death.

This episode’s crime that needs to be solved includes a terrorist aiming to bomb Parliament and a mysterious baddie with dangerous plans for Watson (Martin Freeman), but the center focus is the humorous tug-and-pull friendship between Sherlock and Watson. In the words of Moffat himself, “the friendship between Holmes and Doctor Watson is right at the heart of it.”

The most arresting aspect of “The Empty Hearse” is how Watson has spent the last two years coping with Sherlock’s death, and suddenly has to deal with the emotionally vague Sherlock’s surprising appearance. Watson’s disgust with Sherlock’s dishonesty slowly begins to dissipate as he realizes he’s missed all of those good ‘ol crimes and near-death scenarios!

The next episode this Sunday will reveal what happens when Watson requests Sherlock to be his best man. It’s probably not the best idea he’s had.

If you missed the episode or just want to watch it again, it’s available for streaming on PBS’ website. You can also check out exclusive videos.

What other TV shows do you recommend?

Related Links

Sherlock: Season 1 (A Study In Pink) [HD]

Sherlock: Season 2 (A Scandal in Belgravia) [HD]

Doctor Who- Asylum of the Daleks [HD]

Matthew McConaughey is finally starring in interesting movies

Matthew McConaughey has  just been announced as a Best Actor nominee for the Oscar because of his performance in "Dallas Buyers Club"
Matthew McConaughey has just been announced as a Best Actor nominee for the Oscar because of his performance in “Dallas Buyers Club”

Several years ago, I used to pile on the jokes about Matthew McConaughey.

Whether it was the Texan accent, his ubiquitous voice on commercials for energy companies (fellow Texans know what I mean), or his penchant for run-of-the-mill romantic comedies, it has always been easy to make fun of his often shirtless self.

Lately though, the humor has been harder to conjure. Ever since I saw his performance a year or two ago in William Friedkin’s Killer Joe, my thoughts on McConaughey began to change. It wasn’t exactly movie of the year in my mind, but Killer Joe displayed his range and ability to take on more intense roles, which in this instance meant a slick but deeply sinister cop moonlighting as a hit man with a moral code of little to none. It happens.

Unfortunately I haven’t seen the dark comedy Bernie or the mystery-drama Mud yet, but those are on my never-ending Netflix queue. The recently released Dallas Buyer’s Club, which is based on a true story, is a startling transformation for Matthew McConaughey.

His portrayal as a carefree, fast-living cowboy who discovers he has HIV and decides to smuggle in drugs to help others with HIV but also make a profit showed a riskier but yet more personal side to the actor that has rarely been seen.

It’s going to be interesting to see if his role in the new HBO series True Detective will be just as memorable, but considering it’s HBO I’m certain it will at least push boundaries.

Related Items

Mud [HD] on Amazon

Bernie [HD] on Amazon

Killer Joe Unrated Version [HD] on Amazon

An Arthouse Halloween

Criterion Collection

Veer away from the normal.  Come to the wacky, weird, and downright disturbing side of horror and suspense for Halloween.

Instead of watching Halloween or Friday the 13th for the 15th time, try these independent and criminally overlooked films. Some are beautifully laid out, and some downright insane.

Eyes Without a Face (1960)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEjrg-L8lvs

Some of my favorite French films were made in the late ’50s and early ’60s. It was when America was still producing relatively tame movies in comparison with France, mostly because of the ridiculous Production Code enacted at the time. Watching a movie like Eyes Without a Face might be shocking to those who think this era of movies as just a bunch of happy-go-lucky tales about girls and cars.

It’s basically about a surgeon whose daughter has become disfigured, and he attempts to amend the heartbreaking situation by taking the faces from other girls and transplanting them onto his daughter’s. Just like Gidget, right?

There’s one scene in particular that might even still make some people (including my mother) squeamish. Perhaps the most disturbing part of the movie is its relevance to today’s society- because there really are people getting face transplants.

House (1977)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQ_Yo06kIIA

Where do I even start with this one…there’s people-eating pianos, floating heads, blood-spewing clocks, evil cats- everything you could want in a 1970s Japanese movie! There’s no doubt it was made with a tongue-in-cheek vibe. The animation is purposefully silly, and the acting is amateur and borderline annoying. However, it’s a lot of fun, and certainly memorable. Fans of David Cronenberg’s movies will love it.

There’s not really much to the plot: a girl and her friends go to a haunted, messed-up house, furniture attacks, and mayhem ensues, but the mayhem is unlike anything else.

Diabolique (1955)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzbGtjtfZwA

Here we go with those French films again! It’s just so good I can’t help myself. One of my favorite French films ever, it blends suspense, eerie cinematography, and a twist ending into a mysterious and nail-biting ride. Simone Signoret stars and Henri-Georges Clouzot directs this mystery/suspense film, so that’s reason enough to see it.

If you’re looking for something immediately gratifying and fast-paced, this isn’t for you. The slow build to a shocking ending is the reason I love it in the first place.

The Shining (1980)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Guf3HqeF3Ck

Maybe I’m kind of cheating by allowing this one on the list, but it’s Stanley Kubrick, so why not? This will forever be one of my favorite horror movies because it’s so unlike anything else. There’s more than just a case of misguided cabin fever going on here.

The most enjoyable experience is right after the film- when everyone can discuss what the heck just happened, and argue aimlessly about the true meaning and explanation for the last few minutes, or really, the whole movie. All I know is Jack Nicholson is great at acting like a maddening, psychotic killer. What a compliment!

Have any other suggestions? Leave a comment below and let me know!