Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

Cake Boss Is Fun And Filling

June 30, 2009

Cake Boss
10 p.m. Mondays, TLC
Cake Boss Website

I know there are a lot of you out there in withdrawal now that “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” has wrapped up, so if you are Jonesing for a Jersey fix we thought we would draw your attention to TLC’s Cake Boss.

The realty show follows the adventures of the “crew” at Carlo’s Bake Shop in Hoboken. JerseyCool has caught the past two episodes and, though we are sure the Italian Anti-Defamation League is probably not a fan, we found the show to be a creamy treat.

Buddy Valastro is the "Boss" in Cake Boss

Buddy Valastro is the "Boss" in Cake Boss

Cake Boss is centered on Buddy, the son of the original owner and “Cake Boss” of the shop. Most episodes feature two or three of the more elaborate requests that come into the bakery. There are plenty of wedding cakes for sure, but there’s also a graveyard zombie cake, a roulette table and,most recently, an elaborate, old-style Italian wedding cake build around a cage with live doves.

There are also customers. Some easier to deal with than others.
The crew at Carlo’s is mostly made up of family-members and long-time bakers, some who worked for buddy’s father, now deceased. Buddy’ mother is also a flamboyant character, in one recent episode taking her son to task for making “one of those cakes”, otherwise known as an erotic, bachelorette party cake.

Cake Boss has been carefully baked by TLC. Featured after the network’s “Jon and Kate Plus 8” it was destined to succeed. However, it remains to be seen if it can carry the night now that “J&K+8” is officially on hiatus.

TLC has built a nice promotional site for the show. There is the obligatory blog, or flog from Buddy depending on how you look at it, and there is also a sketch book featuring the cakes seen on the show.
For those interested in the craft and artwork involved in making some of these culinary delights there are probably better shows out there (Ace of Cakes comes to mind). Cake Boss is much more like a light, family sitcom. If it weren’t a reality show, it might make for a good sitcom pilot.

As over the top and camera mugging as the show can get (in this week’s episode two bakers go to a park to try and capture doves for the wedding cake above, C’mon!), the show at its center has a good heart.

While some of JerseyCool’s more militant Italian brethren may have some bones to pick with the stereotypes on the show, most of us will be reminded of the old-style family bakeries we all grew up around.
Perfect as a dessert and perfect for summertime viewing.

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Intrigued by In Treatment

March 10, 2008

I’ve been giving HBO a hard time ever since The Sopranos went off of the air, finding it hard to justify the $10-$12 I donate to the company’s coffers each month, and when I first saw the promos for In Treatment I didn’t hold out much hope that things were going to get much better.

Slowly but surly though the show has grown to become an addictive part of the week. Sure it helps that it’s on about five times a day but a show like this is worthy of praise.

If  you’ve missed it, Gabriel Byrne, he of the mighty Irish brogue, treats four different patients, one each day of the week and then finds himself seeking therapy for his own failing marriage. The patients can be a bit of a cliche. There’s the non-functional fighter pilot, impotent and potentially gay (played by a terrific Blair Underwood, almost making up for his cameo on The New Adventures of Old Christine), a suicidal teen hiding a past that may include sexual abuse, a waring couple whose marriage becomes endagered after years of trust issues. Oh and there’s the thirtysomething bombshell who is in love with Paul and who Paul has fallen in love with.

The show would be just one long In Treatmentbitch-fest if not for the fifth therapy session of the week. Paul’s own treatment session with Dianne Wiest, his former mentor. The sessions between Byrne and Wiest are electric and both should start making room for the Emmy that will surly come to both.

Byrne has never been this good. He’s an absolute God in sessions with his patients and then turns into the greatest prick of all time in his own sessions as he attempts to justify his own ethically-challenged behavior. The central question here is whether or not Paul is a good therapist? Is he helping his patients to find their way in the world or is he simply too self-absorbad to be doing anyone, including himself, any good.

Byrne has created the least likeliest hero this side of Gregory House, but the underlying theme here is that maybe there are no heroes — no right paths in therapy — and the specter of two people, therapist and patient, clinging to one another as they try to make sense of their wounded lives is utterly riveting.

JC

Good Luck to Boken’s Borgella

February 14, 2008

There’s a nice piece about American Idol hopeful and Hoboken native Joanne Borgella over on NJ.com today.  We haven’t heard enough of the singer who is also a plus-sized model to handicap her chances but here’s hoping that no risqué photos of her pop up online like a certain other Garden State hopeful from last season.

BTW, in case you missed it. This season’s Idol contests are the most talented the show has ever had. Ryan Seacrest pointed that out for the 533rd time last night.

JC

These Movies Made Easy to Read By

July 6, 2007

Pan’s LabrynthWe caught up on some of the Netflix laying around JerseyCool central this past holiday weekend and have a couple of rental recomendations for you. Both films are foreighn language but are actually very good examples of subtitles.

I can understand some people don’t like them. We here at JerseyCool spend most of our days reading and writing, so when we head out to the theater paying attention to text that scrolls across the screen is the last thing we want to do. However, this doesn’t bother us quite so much at home and both Pan’s Labrynth and Apocalypto are fine films and the fact that you have to read along doesn’t make a licks worth of difference.

Let’s start with Pan’s Labrynth, Guillermo del Toro’s great piece of Spanish magical realism, that pops off of the screen. Now, repeat after me, “this is not a kid’s movie…this is not a kid’s movie.” Yes, some younger folk will be enchanted by the fairy tale story and the mythical creatures, but the story is set during the Spanish revolution and is probably too intense for children under 12. Most notably there is a violent execution scene and very strong allusions to torture.

However, for those older, Pan’s Labrynth is a great way to introduce them to what post-modern filmmaking is all about: blending genras and producing poignent, topical commentary based off of old conventions.

The film is a growing up tale about a young girl who has to choose between a fairy tale princess world and the hard, war-torn adult world she lives in. The choice would seem obvious but combine a vulnerable, pregnant mother, a caring lady of the house and an evil fascist stepfather and you have the makings for a great, modern fairy tale.

The ending is actually spot on and nearly perfect in letting viewers decide for themselves what happens without cheating them of the experience. Yes, David Chase this line is meant for you.Apocalypto

Apocalypto is Mel Gibson’s latest crack at foregn language filmmakeing and we thought, after a few fits and starts in the beginning, Mel pulls off a fairly grand action-adventure movie set in the waning days of the Mayan empire. The entire movie is spoken in Mayan, a long dead language, but quite honestly you’d get the point of the film even if there were no subtitles. In many ways it’s a silent film and some of Gibson’s visuals are stunning.

Yes, Gibson comes with a lot of baggage and yes this would be a very conservative-leaning depiction of the Maya (To learn more, check out Charles C. Mann’s brilliant 1491) .

Politics aside, Apocalypto is a pretty gripping story and certain scenes will haunt you long after the last subtitle rolls. Sure, Gibson throws one too many a cheap trick at the end but that’s his perogative. Personal feelings aside, Mel Gibson is at least trying to make films that matter.

JC

Can AFI Save the Summer TV Doldrums?

June 20, 2007

It’s been a pretty brutal summer season for television fans. Yeah, it’s supposed to be the time for vacations and summer reading but HBO’s John from Cincinnati put an exclamation point on how good the Sopranos was and how much we’re going to miss the family. Flight of the Concords gave us a few chuckles but didn’t inspire us either.

Over on network television, America’s Got Talent and Pirate Master are making us long for the days when networks filled the summer with repeats instead of just shows that suck.

The bright side to all of this is that there are more evening hours for reading and watching baseball. Everything the summer should be.

Anyway, we’d like to alert our faithful readers to something worth viewing tonight. The American Film Institute has gotten around to re-ranking the top 100 films of all time (CBS, 8 p.m., tonight). It’s been 10 years since the last list so it will be interesting to see how things have changed. Bonus is that the special is narrated by Morgan Freeman, king of all narrators.

On the original list, Citizen Kane, Casablanca and the Godfather were the top three movies. We’re thinking that there hasn’t been a movie released over the past 10 years that will knock any of those out. But we certainly could see a reshuffling of order with the Godfather, Casablanca or even the Wizard of Oz (4) moving up as some of AFI’s older voters may have shuffled off of the planet.

We could also see films like Pulp Fiction or The Shawshank Redemption making a move into the top 10 well at least the top 25.

Other movies over the past few years that may make it onto the list in some form include:

  • Million Dollar Baby
  • Lord of the Rings (all films are nominated)
  • Shakespeare in Love
  • Gladiator
  • Erin Brokovich
  • Chicago
  • The Pianist
  • Lost in Translation
  • Ray
  • Brokeback Mountain
  • The Departed

Obviously, all lists are subjective and none more so than a list of best films, but for movie fans this a little bit of candy to break up a long summer of crap. Feel free to drop us a comment about what film you think should make the top 10.

What Really Happened on The Sopranos Final, A Reader Shares

June 15, 2007

I’m sure this is going to be a debate for a long time to come but we got an interesting theory in the e-mail from a reader and with permission thought we’d share. We still think the ending is too ambiguous to say Tony Soprano is or isn’t dead but we will give David Chase this, it sure has been fun speculating. Thanks to Victor D’Altorio for sending this in.

JC

Last Sunday night, David Chase delivered a brilliant, knockout finale of The Sopranos that was so Tony Sopranounexpected and sly that seemingly most of America missed a key element while they waited for Tony to be riddled with bullets by Phil Leotardo’s guys.

In the next 60 seconds of his life, Tony Soprano will almost certainly get whacked, if all goes as planned. But what many Americans, who reportedly were offended in huge numbers by the “ambiguity” of the final episode, seem to have missed, is not whether or not Tony gets whacked, but by whom.

Tony was not, or more properly, will not get whacked by Phil Leotardo’s goons. He will be murdered by a hit man hired by his own traitorous goon, “Patsy” Parisi, who masterminded the perfect murder of Tony Soprano with the help of his studly son, who, conveniently, is engaged to Tony’s daughter, Meadow.

In the scene following Bobby Bacala’s funeral, with the whole clan gorging on baked ziti, Parisi motions his other son over and whispers some instructions, wearing a very serious face. Something is being plotted. In another key scene, Little Carmine mediates the conflict between Tony and Phil’s henchman and forces Phil’s boys to agree to take the target off Tony. Tony also wants their help locating Phil, but they refuse to go that far. This is not a red herring. Phil’s guys are no longer after Tony. They are grudgingly resigned to Phil’s murder. Phil went “too far.”

Back to Meadow. The perfect way to a don’s heart is through his daughter. (Don Corleone’s story in The Godfather opens on his daughter’s wedding day, when he can refuse no request.) Handsome, successful (in fact, perfect) young Parisi sat opposite his parents in Tony and Carmela’s living room in the final episode, and cooed in solicitous tones to Miss Meadow Soprano that she must learn not to “devalue” herself. The complex drama beneath the words and glances in this scene provide clues to the culmination of this genius plot to murder Tony Soprano, which has been subtly unfolding all season.

Early in the scene, Tony asks the Parisis, “Where’s your other son?” Patsy’s drunken wife, obviously embarrassed by the question, replies that they didn’t think he was invited, since wedding planning was the purpose of the get-together. A few moments later, Carmela suggests to Tony that Parisi’s glass needs a refill. Parisi starts to get up, and is admonished by Tony to stay seated in an ugly little exchange of looks between the men, which belies their camaraderie as future in-laws. Watch the look on Parisi’s face after Tony hands him the drink and turns away. It is the look of a murderer eager for impending satisfaction. He’s the Judas.

Tony and Carmela were not happy, remember, when Meadow started dating the Parisi boy. But as the season progressed, the boy won their hearts. He stood up and protected their daughter against a thug who made an obscene remark to her when they were together in a coffee shop several episodes back. The thug was likely paid by Parisi to insult her, so his son could look good defending her. And now Meadow’s Knight in Shining Armor is making career connections for her with his law firm – with an astronomical starting salary that made Tony and Carmela burst into genuinely joyous whoops and smiles. When was the last time anything made these two that happy? Plus, the Parisi boy treats their little girl like a queen, which is certainly not something any of her other suitors on the show have done.

And what better time to whack one’s boss without getting caught than when you know a rival don has drawn a target on his back? Perfect timing, since Tony and the audience are expecting Phil’s goons to do the job.

David Chase employed this same brilliant timing a few seasons ago when Janice murdered her husband just as Tony was putting a hit on him. We were all bracing for Richie Aprile’s assassination by Tony’s guys, and in one of the most shockingly effective surprises in Sopranos history, Janice had a fit of I’m Mad as Hell and I’m Not Gonna Take It Anymore and shot him first.

Parisi’s plan has worked like a charm. Nobody in Tony’s camp, including Tony, has had any idea that Parisi wants him dead. Nor, apparently, did the viewing audience. Tony feels relatively safe having dinner out because he knows Phil’s guys are no longer after him. And he’s correct – they aren’t. Parisi’s son knows exactly where Tony will be having dinner with the family on a few hours notice, because, as Meadow’s fiance, he has a direct line to the girl. Carmela informs Tony when she arrives for their fateful Last Supper that Meadow will be late because she is at a doctor appointment changing her method of birth control. The look on Tony’s face shows his discomfort, but also his acceptance of young Parisi as her lover.

Pundits and critics who have weighed in have primarily focused on the simplistic question of does Tony get whacked or doesn’t he? This is David Chase we’re talking about folks, remember? The creator of this amazingly original, dizzyingly complex series, who has given us one of the most exquisite viewing experiences of our lives and kept us hooked year after year. How can people possibly have underestimated him, and missed all the fun? The darned thing was a whodunit – and nobody noticed!

The rest of the fun, then (and there’s much more to come, now that we know Who Killed Tony Soprano), is in How It Happens. If all goes as plotted, Tony gets it right in the head. No question. And his wife, the supreme enabler of his violent, sociopathic life, gets to sit and watch – talk about the perfect karmic end of her story. And so do his deeply troubled son and seemingly bright, successful daughter. His son is already in the booth, and his daughter will be sitting next to her dad by the time the gunman emerges from the bathroom in a moment. She’s running, don’t forget.

So, the assassin comes out of the bathroom (just as Michael Corleone did before he murdered his father’s rival don and a police chief). He will extend his arm in classic style, plug Tony a few times in the head and the heart, drop the gun, and walk fast down the central corridor of the coffee shop. And the posse of boys loitering at the bakery case, his backups, will make sure he gets out cleanly. Simple. Classic.

But what if Meadow arrives just at the moment the gunman emerges from the bathroom (they’re both moving fast)? Now all bets are off. She could easily get shot for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, like the poor girl who got an unplanned whacking when Tony’s guys thought they were killing Phil and offed the wrong man.

Of course, they’d never purposely whack Meadow. There’s a code of honor about that. But the assassin will certainly do whatever is necessary to ensure Tony’s murder, and if Meadow is in the way, well, anything could happen. Would AJ leap up out of the booth to stop the killer’s escape? He’s seated on the outside, and could easily try to block the man’s path. Will Carmela watch the murder of her daughter, then her husband, and then her son? She and Tony are trapped in the inside seats against a low wall sporting a juke box riddled with classic American tunes.

And remember that other guy who came into the place who you thought might be the assassin at first? Redneck-looking guy in a plaid shirt, wearing a USA hat? Could he jump up and interfere with the assassin’s exit? Might he be carrying a gun? He sure looks like a member of the NRA.

If you play it out in the cinema of your mind’s eye, all the endlessly, violently balletic possibilities unfold, and it’s so much more perversely entertaining than just seeing Tony get shot. Our love of these characters has been admittedly perverse from the start. So Chase gives us the privilege of letting our imaginations take flight. But American viewers don’t like using their imaginations. Tie it up with a bow, and hand it to me.

Since the airing of the last episode, David Chase has been quoted as saying that if you watch the episode carefully, “It’s all there.” What on earth do people think he’s referring to? Some stale plot to kill Tony by Phil Leotardo that we’ve all known has been coming for weeks and weeks? Chase is a great artist. Among the very, very best this country has ever produced.

He’s not an entrepreneur, like most of the hacks who create television shows and movies in this country and are eager to pander to an audience that wants an easy-to-understand story, characters who wear hats that are clearly black or white, and lots of violence. (In other words, David Chase is not to television what George W. Bush is to politics.)

But it was this spoon-fed type, capital-letters resolution that most of the American public seemingly expected to see last Sunday night, regardless of what Chase has provided them throughout the series’ run. There have always been complaints when Chase has neglected to meet viewers’ basest expectations because of our lamentable habit of watching without an ability or willingness to see. Talk about casting pearls before swine.

Victor D’Altorio

Great Explanations

June 12, 2007

As predicted here yesterday, Sopranos creator David Chase weighed in on the show’s final from the comfy confines of France exclusively to the Newark Star Ledger. He offered about as much illumination on the ending as the blank screen that seemed to irritate a nation of fans.

“I have no interest in explaining, defending, reinterpreting, or adding to what is there.”

Chase went on defending the final saying there was no intention to frustrate people and left the door open to a possible movie should he get the right idea and, probably, the right dollars.

Ambiguous endings are fine. We have no problem with that. I think the issue is that after a decade of investments, fans were left with no ending at all.

JC

Chasing Down The Soprano’s Ending

June 11, 2007

I missed the Soprano ending last night. For some reason during the last scene my cable went out and when it came back on the final credits were rolling. Anyone know what happened?

OK, OK, I jest.

We watched the final of the Sopranos with everyone else and we were suckered into David Chase’s dream ending of having the nation utter a collective “What the…” just before picking up the phone to call their cable company.

So, the surprise ending to the Sopranos was that there was no ending. If you missed the show and have not turned to the blogosphere for illumination, than you probably don’t want to read any further.

Tony Soprano survives his war with New York and even gets the better of Phil Leotardo in the end, but danger still lurks in the form of a key player who has flipped and a pending indictment on the weapons charge that began the season.

Still, Tony sits down at Holsteins, the Bloomfield ice cream shop, for a meal out with the family, the natural ending point for many a Soprano season. He puts a quarter in the table-side jukebox and plays a little Journey.

First Carmela shows up then AJ. There’s banter and several strange characters lurk in Holsteins raising Tony’s suspicions.

Meadow, running late from doctors appointment., looses her ability to parallel park, dragging out the scene even longer. Finally, she enters the restaurant and then bam. Nothing. Show’s over, series over, folks.

Let the debates begin.

Now, I think deep down we all knew that creator David Chase would never take the easy way out of the series. He could have killed Tony, sent him to prison, a close family member could have been killed, there were a lot of places Chase could have taken us. Instead, he took us nowhere.

Some pundits are calling this an artful ending to the series. Without any way to satisfy the legions of fans, the Sopranos leave the end of the story to our imagination. At first, we were OK with this. I mean as far as series endings go this one was one of the more intriguing.

But, is it just us or was the Sopranos ending too cute for its own good. Our last post called the series Shakespearian in its scope and ambition. Well, we doubt when the old bard wrote Hamlet he envisioned Hamlet and Laertes dropping their swords during the climatic duel and walking off stage.

Can you see Will Shakespeare sitting in a tavern saying “Screw the audience, this is art man.”

No, back then, the writer would have been hanged for not giving the audience a money-shot. But in today’s post-modern world we now have to deal with this ending.

David Chase often says that the Sopranos mirrored life and that in life storylines don’t end neatly and rarely come to easy resolutions. But Chase is missing something here. There’s a subtle difference between letting the audience wonder what will happen to the characters at the end of a story and letting them wonder what happened to the characters at the end of a story.

The shining example of series-enders is M.A.S.H. Sure, much of what happened was predictable but viewers were given a sense of closure that did not diminish the series at all. We all could take pleasure in wondering about the future for all the doctors of the 4077 and yet, at the end, we understood more about them and how they had changed.

My problem with the Sopranos’ season ender is that I don’t think today we understand Tony Soprano any better than when we first met him That might be true in the real world but that doesn’t make for good storytelling.

So where do we go from here?

Some are arguing that Tony Soprano did indeed die last night at approximately 10:01 EST. In the first episode of the season, the late Bobby Baccala talks with Tony about the end for people in their line of work. In the end you never see it coming, Baccala says. Perhaps the last shot of Meadow walking through the door was the last thing Tony Soprano ever saw. Perhaps Steve Perry belting out “Don’t Stop Believing” was the last sound Soprano ever heard.

It’s an intriguing theory and we can’t wait to hear David Chase weigh in on any of this. Were not hopeful for any answers, we think Chase will just shrug and say the ending is what it is.

As far as the show itself is concerned, there’s chatter that the last episode ruined the decade of drama that came before. We disagree. While, we’re not really happy with Chase’s approach — far too cutesy and film-schoolish for our tastes – we thought the ending was, at least, interesting and did not muddle up the show’s previous history. It’s not like Tony walked out in a dress and declared his repressed love for Paulie Walnuts.

No, there were bad episodes of the Sopranos. But even the bad ones were better than 90 percent of what passes for television today, and last night’s season ender was not even a bad one. The episode, as well as the previous one, was tightly shot, with an air of doom around all of the characters. The editing was top notch. Characters took up most of the frame so the viewer could never tell exactly what was around the corner. The last two episodes probably best reflected Tony Soprano’s life as a paranoid Mafioso.

If the show is over — and we say if because Chase’s ending certainly left the door open to revisit the key characters of this drama either on HBO or in the movies – it is still a crowning achievement. One that will be talked about for years, most likely what David Chase wanted in the first place.

JC

Excitables For the Weekend of June 8-10

June 8, 2007

Tony and CarmelaReally there’s only one thing to get excited about this weekend and that’s the Tony Awards Sunday nigh. Oh, we kid, no offense to Broadway but all eyes will be tuned to HBO on Sunday night as one of the greatest achievements in television history comes to a close.

No, we’re not overstating the matter. The Sopranos, all 86 episodes of them, have been the closes television comes to great literature ever. All do respect to past culture benchmarks such as All In The Family, MASH, Cheers and Seinfeld, this serial has been Shakespearean in its ability to capture American life in all its anxiety at then end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first century.

Of course, all of this can blow up if David Chase delivers a clunker of a final. Somehow, we doubt it though. This last season, which was broken up into two parts over a considerable period of time, has been building to an endpoint. How it ends is the great mystery and what will happen has been the subject du jour on most of the talk shows, news programs and Internet pundits for the past few weeks.

Whatever happens our cultural landscape will be a little duller and a little less full come Monday morning.

To celebrate EW.com has a countdown of the 10 best episodes and NJ.com, which is treating the last episode like the loss of a loves on, has a bevy of multimedia including a last supper guide, fan pictures of Soprano sites and more.

Other items of note this weekend:

Oceans Whatever – the vanity trip continues for George Clooney and his merry band of stars as the latest in the Ocean’s remake, Ocean’s 13, joins the plodding summer movie scene.

Springsteen Returns – With little fanfare a new Bruce Springsteen album landed in stores this Tuesday. Live in Dublin, not so much an album as a chronicle of Springsteen folk, jazz, gospel inspired concerts from last summer available on CD, DVD and Blue-Ray. We picked it up and found that if you liked the Seeger Session folk album you’ll probably like the live versions as well. Of particular note, is the wild swing rearrangement of Springsteen’s “Open All Night”, the waltz –inspired version of his “If I Should Fall Behind” and the gospel standard “This Little Light of Mine.”

It’s not an E-Street record and for that a broad swath of Springsteen fans will omit the disc from their collection. Their loss.

Happy Weekend Everyone

JC

Soprano Snackers

June 6, 2007

You may have heard about this show called the Sopranos going off the air on Sunday? Well, it seems there are a lot of folks interested in it and, as with Seinfeld, Cheers, Night Court, well maybe not Night Court, several of you out there in Jersey-land are planning parties to celebrate or mourn.

As such, NJ.com has a piece on today’s site about what to serve for the occasion. It’s a must read for those preparing a going away party.

JC