The Toast | The Possession

It’s almost Halloween and that means a large amount of horror movies to be released in the next month. Who doesn’t like a good scare to get into the holiday spirit? I know I do, and I went and saw The Possession to start off what will inevitably turn into a month-long horror movie marathon.

What immediately attracted me to the movie was Sam Raimi being attached to it. The last major movie horror movie fans got to see Raimi work on was Drag me to Hell (which FYI, is totally worth a watch). The film is also advertised “Based on a True Story.” Most of the time, when horror movies have this label on them, they’re really not that interesting, but with Raimi attached as a producer to the film, I had some hope for it and gave it a shot.

If you haven’t caught on yet, the film is about a possession and yes POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT there is an exorcism, but if you’re waiting for an elderly Catholic Priest to come walking into the family’s home, you’ll be waiting a while. The story is set around divorced couple Clyde (Jeffery Dean Morgan) and Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) as they try to navigate their way through split custody of their children Hannah (Madison Davenport) and Em (Natasha Calis).

During a weekend together, Clyde and the two girls pass a garage sale where Em is captivated by a locked box with Hebrew written on it. Clyde ends up buying it for her, promising he’ll get it open for her, but had he known the dark history of this box, he wouldn’t be putting himself and his family in danger by taking it home with them.

After Em finally gets the box open, her behavior becomes very strange and she is attached to the box in an incredibly unhealthy way. She becomes pale, aggressive and violent. Clyde has no idea how to handle this situation.

Clyde ends up bringing the box to a professor at the college that Clyde works at. While the movie never specifically mentions what the professor’s specialty is, one can only imagine it has something to do with religion, because he translates the Hebrew on the box. What he tells Clyde is the box is a dipic box, which is the Hebrew word for demon. The box is meant to trap the evil spirit inside and not to be opened afterwards. Ooops…

Clyde heads into a traditional Jewish village for help. When the elder men tell him it is too risky for them to take on the demon, a son of one of the elders, Tzadok says he will help. What shocked me was that this character was played by the musician Matisyahu. He’s not exactly the first person you think of when you’re casting a Jewish rabbi, but he brought a fresh, hip perspective to the role and did a fantastic job.

If you’ve seen one film about possession, you’ve seen them all, but The Possession is full of pleasant surprises. Most of the scares in this film were ones you would expect from a possession film, but what really saved this film was the casting, especially with the characters Em and  Tzadok. The exorcism scene is extremely physical and very intense. Those two movie newcomers (from what I understand, this is the first film for both) put everything they had into it, and it shows.

As I’ve said before, new scary films are hit or miss, they’re either great or they just suck. Luckily for me (and for other moviegoers), The Possession was a hit and worth a trip to the movies… just try not to jolt and spill your popcorn.


The Toast | Push and Shove

It has been a long wait for No Doubt fans, but the band finally released a new album today called Push and Shove. Is the album worth the 11-year wait? Can No Doubt still perform as well in later in life as they did in their prime?

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ref=”; rel=”attachment wp-att-3902″>The lead single off the album is called “Settle Down” and for me, it took a few listens to really get into it. While this song sounds like classic No Doubt, it didn’t strike me as anything spectacular, but it sure did force its way into my brain and definitely grew on me with some time. It’s a six-minute blend of pure infectious pop and ska music. It’s a pretty bold move for a band in with members all in their 40s to continue playing pop music, but somehow No Doubt manages to make it work, at least in the case of this song.

“One More Summer,” a song you might recognize from the Target commercial, is in my opinion one of the best tracks of the album. This electronic love song has some serious 80s vibes to it and though Gwen Stefani is happily married to Bush front man, Gavin Rossdale, the song is about a lost love that you just can’t quite get over or forget; “In between the longest days And the shortest nights It always comes back to you and me.” One of my favorite things about this band has always been Stefani’s voice. Perhaps she’s not a powerhouse ballad singer like Adele or the late Whitney Houston, but you could always feel the emotion in her voice, whether that is the pain or joy.

Speaking of Gwen’s voice, she’s sounding the best she has in years. I imagine after 20+ years of singing, it must do a number of your vocal chords. This is especially evident in the song “Easy.” The last minute is composed of her singing “I’m gonna be there” repeatedly, and I haven’t heard her sound this fresh and gutsy since Tragic Kingdom.

If you were looking for a love song much like their hit “Underneath it All,” look no further than “Gravity.” This love song is so sugarcoated and sweet that it’ll give you a tooth ache. “We’re so lucky we’re still holding on,” this song is without a doubt (no pun intended) a love letter to Stefani’s husband.

While No Doubt has not written any truly profound lyrics (the only argument I have against this statement would be “Don’t Speak” (Tragic Kingdom) or “Magic’s in the Makeup”(Return of Saturn)), but that’s not the reason fans love this band so much. Throughout the years, they’ve experimented with new music, done solo projects and always stayed true to their fun, upbeat California rock roots. Is this their best album? No, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a solid and strong album. The album is a fun, nostalgic throwback to classic No Doubt. While it isn’t as epic as Tragic Kingdom, it’s still worth a listen, whether you’re a hardcore No Doubt fan or a first time listener.

Naked Pictures of Famous People

Every year there’s a huge used book sale at my local mall, and every year I walk away with bags upon bags of books. Sadly, this year, due to overcrowding and a very impatient shopping partner (my mother), I walked away book-less.

I recentl

y moved and am just now finishing all my unpacking. I discovered some books I bought at last year’s book sale. It was like Christmas morning. The first book to catch my eye was “Naked Pictures of Famous People,” by Jon Stewart.

This is an older book, written in 1998, that includes Stewart take on religion, politics and even Martha Stewart, in a clever, witty and satirical manner.  The books is full of short stories, not all written in the same format, that include familiar names like The Kennedy’s, The Hanson family (yes, THOSE Hansons), and, as I mentioned before, Martha Stewart. Sometimes, Jon Stewart is writing as himself, other times he takes on a character. I’ve read funny books before, but this one had me very close to tears.

One of my favorite stories was “Breakfast at Kennedy’s” wherein Stewart takes on the role of a Jewish classmate of John F. Kennedy and writes about their friendship in a journal. Stewart talks about the “affectionate” nicknames he’s given (which are obviously meant to be derogatory). When Kennedy invites him over to spend spring break with the Kennedys, he doesn’t know what to expect, but is in awe of the beautiful house. Upon arrival, he receives a special greeting, “They tell me it’s a welcoming ritual given to all first times called a ‘clogging.’” As you can imagine, they beat him senseless and Stewart’s overenthusiastic character eats it up, “It’s great fun, and although it appears that young Bobby broke my nose with his knee and there are some bite marks on my kidneys from the girls, Dr. Salk said there’s no internal bleeding.”

He also goes on to describe outrageous situations such as “Mrs. K” giving birth in some pretty strange places. For example, she has a baby during church ceremony (just in time for the child’s first communion,” right after two of her sons drowned, “everyone’s considering the day a wash”).

Towards the end of the story, Stewart has found himself in a dire situation and is writing an entry in blood. The story takes a bit of a morbid turn, but still keeps it’s humor.

Another favorite of mine is called “The Cult.” Jon Stewart imagines himself as a cult leader. He discusses the pros and cons of being a cult leader, and even gives a scenario in which he leads his followers to “eternal bliss” after having a vision of the rapture.

In the scenario, his followers are all buzzing with excitement for the rapture and their salvation. Meanwhile, Stewart is complaining about the most miniscule things. For example, he yells at two of his Lieutenants for not finishing unloading the dishwasher. When the two say they didn’t think there would be an earthly use for them after the rapture, Stewart replies, in a very bitchy manner, “So you want the Captain to eat off dirty dishes? Our savior of saviors, and you can’t take the time?”  The Lieutenants beg for forgiveness by kissing Stewart’s feet while he “tries” to be humble, but mentions that they missed a spot.

The rest of the story is Stewart making up a back-story to the captain (filled with holes that his followers catch) and his hilarious attempt to cover up his mistakes.

After having this book for over a year, I finally got to read it (and there are most likely more books I forgot about from that same sale). This book was definitely worth the buy and definitely worth a read for anyone in need of a good laugh.

The Toast | Sun

I’m a huge Cat Power fan, so when I heard she was releasing her ninth studio album I was pretty excited. Sun is not the typical album I expected from singer Chan Marshall a.k.a Cat Power. This album sounds like she decided to shake it up and

bit and pick up the tempo, with synthesizer heavy grooves the album feels it belongs to a new wave band more than Cat Power, but that’s not a bad thing.

When I first listened to this album, my initial thought was “this sounds a break-up album, but with dance music.” After a little digging, I discovered that the album was written after a break-up with actor Giovanni Ribisi. Well, this angle seems to work wonders for Taylor Swift, so will it work for Cat Power? Absolutely.

The first track, “Cherokee,” is a moody, but upbeat look into how she’s dealing (or dealt) with the end of her relationship. “Never knew love like this The sun, the sea and I, Never knew pain, never knew shame, Now I know why.” To me, it’s about being on top of the world, feeling like no one can touch you (because you’re so in love) then the harsh reality of falling back to Earth. It’s not pretty, but the song itself is. For a song on such a painful topic, she sounds almost blissful as she purrs her way through it. What starts off as a quiet and mid-tempo song gradually picks up to a quicker tempo. You could almost dance to this break-up by the end.

She continues her break up lament with “Manhattan.” The pianos in the beginning, and even Power’s voice, are reminiscent of Florence and the Machine, until she really starts getting into it. Once again, the listener is deceived of the topic with the upbeat temp and the electronic drumbeat booming in the background. With lyrics like, “You got your secret on And you say you got nothing to hide You, you, you and your secret life,” and “It’s not me you know, it’s the useful woman by your side” gives the idea, at least it did to me, that perhaps someone was not so faithful in the relationship. I’ve heard a lot of songs about relationships ending and cheating, and none of them sound as elegant and captivating as “Manhattan.”

“Nothin’ but Time” is the longest song on the album, coming in at 10:55, but is so cool that you never want it to end. She’s mixed piano with new wave and made a beautiful piece of music. It combines the moody, ambient classic sound that Cat Power fans have come to know and love and mixes it with electronic, new wave sounds. She even throws Iggy Pop into the mix. It’s hard to describe the perfection that is the blending of their voices. It’s a duo that I never pictured together, but now that I’ve heard it, I wish it were in more than one song.

Often when an artist strays away from a genre of music that has previously brought them success, it does not always go so well. While Cat Power has kept some of the same elements that have served her so well throughout her career, she experiments with an electronic sound on this album, and does it well. In this case, a break-up has given Marshall a new outlook on life, and her music.

The Toast | What to Expect When You’re Expecting

I was in the mood for something light this past weekend, which is a rare occasion for me. When I did my almost weekly visit to Redbox, I found What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Yes, it is based of the book, and based off of that knowled

ge alone I was curious. The book, from what I know, is full of helpful hints and tips to help new mothers throughout their pregnancies. How are they going to make a “How To” book (essentially) into an enjoyable movie? I’ll tell you how.

The movie really didn’t have a whole lot to do with providing advice, but rather putting the actors and actresses in scenarios that may or may not be in the book (and that expecting parents may or may not go through). Now, I have never read the book myself, so I’m not sure if any of these scenarios are actually in the book, but they seemed realistic enough to me. The movie features the good, the bad, and the ugly of pregnancies in a both humorous and humanizing way.

The story begins with the characters watching a celebrity dance competition show (much like “Dancing with the Stars”) that features TV fitness guru Jules (Cameron Diaz), who I imagine is based off of Jillian Michaels. She and her partner Evan are seen dancing in their final performance before the winner is named. Jules mentions before that she is not feeling well, but chalks it up to nerves. Surprise! They find out after an embarrassing win (Jules throws up in the trophy), that the couple is expecting their first child.

Meanwhile, baby expert, and baby crazy, Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) and her husband, Gary (Ben Falcone) have been trying to have a baby for years when they finally discover that they, too, are expecting. Over the moon with this news, they go to tell Gary’s father Ramsey (Dennis Quaid) who is a former racer and acts a lot like Ricky Bobby. It happens that he has some news of his own, he’s also expecting a new child with his much younger wife, Skyler (Brooklyn Decker).

It’s not all happy “we’re expecting” news in this movie. Photographer Holly (Jennifer Lopez) and her husband Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) are on an adoption list, due to their inability to get pregnant. Rival food truck owners, Rosie (Anna Kendrick) and Marco (Chace Crawford) are expecting their first child before even going on a first date.

The most humorous parts of this movie has to do with the group of dads who go for weekly walks, and much like Fight Club, “We don’t talk about walking.” Chris Rock is a hilarious father with a spastic child who almost steals the whole movie. Man Candy Joe Manganiello also makes an appearance in the movie, and the highlight of his cameos? He’s pretty much shirtless the whole time.

These couples deal with all aspects of pregnancies. Ultrasounds, hormone changes, loss of pregnancies, labor complications and even the ups and downs of adoption (Does the agency like us? Are we ready? Do we have a good home?) All in all, it was a feel good movie that left me wondering… “Should I REALLY expect that… when expecting?”

The Toast | The Lorax

Don’t deny it, I know I’m not the only adult who gets excited over animated movies! Every time I see a new animated movie, my inner child celebrates. The Lorax was cause for an even bigger celebration. Not only was it one of my favorite book

s as a child, but now, it has also been made into a movie! I must admit, I saw it when it came out in theaters, but I couldn’t resist watching again.

Don’t let the animation and Dr. Seuss storyline fool you, this movie is great for all ages, with a cast that includes Danny Devito (The Lorax), Ed Helms (The Once-ler), Zac Efron (Ted), Taylor Swift (Audrey), and America’s sweetheart, Betty White (Grammy Norma).

If you are unfamiliar with the story, let me catch you up to speed. Thneedville is a city that is completely artificial, besides its residents. Walls surround the town and no one is allowed to leave. Ted is in love with local girl Audrey, whose one wish is to see a real tree. He learns from his Grammy Norma, who has some of the best lines in the movie, that if he wants to find a real tree he has to talk to The Once-ler.

In order to get to the mysterious Once-ler, Ted must sneak out of the heavily guarded city. When he finally gets out, he finds a deserted wasteland, along with the city’s trash. He looks confused and in awe of what he’s seeing. He eventually finds and follows a path to the Once-ler’s home. After much begging, Ted gets the Once-ler to talk about the trees. He tells Ted the story of why there are no more real trees (and why he lives isolated outside of the city limits).

The basics of his story are that he came from a family that had no faith in him, so he left home to make it on his own with his invention that he called a “Thneed.” In order to make this product, he had to find the perfect material, which happened to be in the land of the Truffula trees. It was a beautiful, colorful place with lots of animals like the barbaloots, swammy swans, and the humming fish. Life was good for the Once-ler, until the the Lorax showed up.

Who is the Lorax? HE IS THE GUARDIAN OF THE FOREST! HE SPEAKS FOR THE TREES! He tells the young entrepreneur to stop cutting down the trees and leave the forest. The Once-ler doesn’t listen and continues to cut down trees to make his Thneeds. Unfortunately, no one gives his product a second look until he gives up and throws it away. Business starts booming and more trees must be cut down to produce more Thneeds.

The Once-ler’s greedy family comes back to mooch off of him and take part in the business, but once the last tree is cut down, they all disappear, along with the Lorax, and the rest of the animals, leaving the Once-ler all by himself.

Is there a happy ending to this story? Does Ted get the girl and does the city of Thneedville ever get to see a real tree? Do yourself a favor and rent the movie. Even if you have no children in the house, it’s a film for all to enjoy.

The Toast | Karmin

There are some songs that you immediately enjoy, and then there are some songs that grow on you. “Brokenhearted,” by Karmin, was one of those for me. I couldn’t quite figure out this song, but then again, some songs shouldn’t really be overanalyzed.

It’s a simple love song. Done. I liked it a lot more each time I heard it, but it was an interview that the group did on one of my favorite radio shows that really got me to listen to the whole album.

I am an avid listener of Elvis Duran and the morning show, and they had Karmin on, which consists of Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan, a duo that totally won me over. After hearing their live performance of “Hello,” I decided to listen to the whole album. I was surprised with how much I actually liked it… and how much Heidemann sounds like a mix of Nicki Minaj and Busta Rhymes (no, I’m not kidding).

The song that made me come to the Minaj/Rhymes mash up conclusion is “I told you so.” With a booming bass leading into Heidemann rapping, my intial reaction was, “Did I pick the wrong song?” because she sounds like a dead ringer of Minaj. Then she started to sing. She has a beautiful voice that is perfectly complimented by her partner Noonan. As she began to rap again, she started to rap a lot faster, which is very reminiscent of Busta Rhymes’ style. Not to mention how they managed to incorporate a horn into the mix without making it sound absolutely ridiculous. It seriously blew my mind.

I’m not sure why I didn’t come to this conclusion sooner, because she does a little bit of rapping in the upbeat “Brokenhearted,” which is about how the two artists first met. It may be a little cheesy, but my favorite part of the song has to be during the chorus when she ends the line by saying “Cheerio.” Even if I forgot who actually sang the song or what the song was called, I could always identify it by the “Cheerio!”

Then there’s “Hello,” which is a perfect mix of pop, dance music and hip-hop, and shoots down any type of criticism people may have. “ Little haters, big dreams I don’t care what you think about me.
Two-faced, old friends, told me, the end was near, forget them.”

When it comes to pop music, I’m pretty skeptical. It all usually sounds exactly the same and even if I like the artist, most of the time, they end up as one hit wonders that eventually fade away. Karmin is a breath of fresh air in the pop game and their fun, catchy, energetic album, though short (it’s only 7 tracks), was enjoyable from beginning to end. They said during their interview on the radio that they were currently working on the follow up. Let’s just hope that Heidemann and Noonan keep making beautiful music together and don’t fall way to the likes of other famous musical couples and part ways, both professionally and personally.