She SAID: Royal Flush

Shahada Karim

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Chanel Spring 2015

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and there’s a mad scramble to look just… you know… perfect. Such quests for the ultimate romantic flush is hardly predicated on whether said Beauty is spoken for; it’s really about looking one’s absolute best. From ‘barely there’ to full-on, the latest beauty offerings promise to get the job done with little to no effort.

royalflush2NARS begins the season with a ‘one drop’ foundation formula that embodies the phrase ‘a little goes a long way.’ The new All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation goes beyond basic coverage. Best applied with fingers, this foundation blends quickly and sets nearly instantly to a matte finish. It also diffuses light and minimizes imperfections. It is absolutely possible to overdo it with this foundation. To avoid a mask-like finish, start small and build accordingly.

Laneige BB Cushion offers a decidedly lighter touch, with a semi sheer formula that does more to perfect skin than cover it. The result is a luminous (not greasy) finish that looks like your skin on its best day. Each box contains a full compact and a refill, so it’s a bit like getting double the product for a single price. The included sponge is highly effective at dispensing and blending this cream, but we recommend frequent cleanings between uses.

Too Faced really wants you to find your Soul Mate, and hopes their new blush royalflush3will help you get the job done. The Soul Mates blush/bronzer combo deposits just enough color to give you a warm flush. Named for famous TV couples Ross & Rachel (Friends) and Carrie & Big (Sex In The City), the blushes feature different ‘heart centers’ for a flush that fits just about everyone. The center color is also big enough to use alone, so it’s nearly two products in one.

royalflush5If you’re looking for more buildable color, YSL may have the answer in the Babydoll Kiss & Blush. Each color can be applied, then reapplied for a deeper hue. We’re particularly fond of Rouge Libertine. The bold red can be sheered out for a gorgeous flush, or packed on for a powerful dose of color.royalflush1

Pucker up to roses, just in time for the lover’s holiday. Fresh released a punched-up version of its Rose Lip Treatment, featuring rose oil. The blend boasts a new scent and taste, and promises a bigger color payoff than its sheer pink predecessor.

Maybe sheer colroyalflushor isn’t your thing. Not to worry: Dose Of Color is here to help. The line features bold lipsticks, cremes, and glosses in opaque attention-getting formulas. We’re head over heels for the Matte Lipsticks in Kiss of Fire and Pinky Promise, which go on strong and wear comfortably through dinner, drinks, and lots and lots of Valentine’s Day kisses.

She SAID: White Hot

Stevie Roberts

The SAG awards brought the best and brightest in Hollywood together for the ultimate compliment: recognition of excellence from their peers. The decided color of the moment wasn’t really a ‘color’ at all; some of the most stunning red carpet ensembles featured blazing hot creations of all white.

True to tradition, the overall fashion tone was more expressive than the often misunderstood getup’s of the Golden Globes or the stuffy ensembles of the Academy Awards.

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Viola Davis moved effortlessly in a Max Mara creation that was notably topped with a halo of natural curls. Laura Carmichael embraced structure and texture in a Thakoon ensemble that still managed to look soft and feminine. Not to be outdone, Maggie Gyllenhaal also sported Thakoon with the addition of a plunging neckline and slender sleeves.

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But the ultimate nod goes to Reese Witherspoon, who’s show-stopping Giorgio Armani dress balanced an asymmetrical neckline and fluid train. The look was perfectly complemented with bold makeup and a simple hairstyle that took the actress’ locks off her face… to better focus on her fabulous frock.

 

He SAID: The Trouble with Blackhat

Scott F. Evans

Athletes, musicians, writers, actors, directors… it’s tough when a favorite misses. It hurts when the realization sets in that maybe that person is past their prime. That they’ve said all that they can say or have lost something with advancing age. You want to give them more than the benefit of the doubt or make multiple justifications about what’s going wrong. Maybe even pretend to not see the truth. But it’s there, staring at you… daring you to be honest with yourself.

Michael Mann’s Blackhat is not the complete misfire that its deplorable box office suggests. It’s not even necessarily a “bad” film. It just doesn’t work.

Blackhat is Mblackhat5ann’s 11th feature film. A director primarily of crime thrillers, his latest offering falls right into that wheelhouse. All of his aesthetics are right up there on the screen. But with Blackhat, there are some distinct differences. Instead of hardened yet stylish criminals engaged in contract killings, bank heists and safe cracking… these crimes all take place in the cyber world. An elite hacker sabotages a nuclear power plant in Hong Kong and manipulates the Chicago stock market halfway around the world. Instead of grizzled yet stylish police officers tasked with tracking him down… we get a team of cyber cops, and a convicted hacker.

And here’s where we run into one of the initial problems with the film. Although Mann shoots almost exclusively on digital video these days, he could be called an analog director. His stories and the blackhat1characters that populate them are grounded. There’s a grit to them. They have accessible goals and fairly uncomplicated ways of attaining them. The scheme in Blackhat is not only ridiculously convoluted but it all actually occurs in cyberspace. The antagonist writes codes and clicks buttons while the heroes counter with the same, chasing his virtual and physical trail. Mann seems only partially invested in screenwriter Morgan Davis Foehl’s e-action, so a team of stony killers is improbably introduced. Given the nature of our set up, conflict should have been resolved over keystrokes and mouse clicks. Instead Blackhat makes a hard right and delivers exciting shootouts and brutal hand-to-hand combat. NOW we’ve got a Michael Mann movie.

Up to where this type of action kicks in, you can see Mann wrestling with trying to make hacking as visually exciting as James Caanblackhat2 cracking a safe (Thief: 1981). The camera floats through a CG landscape of motherboards and processors as malware infects the system, ceding control to the hacker. But the attempt fails because we’ve seen it done in every film that has dealt with hacking. It’s a pretty visual that’s reminiscent of a scene from Tron but dramatically inert. And maybe that’s why films about hackers tend to either fail or take huge liberties with the process. It’s just a visually uninteresting process. Where most of these types of films have actors furiously typing away and yelling techno-babble at each other, Mann avoids all of that. Instead he has them getting into shootouts in the sewers and backstreets of Hong Kong. And true to Mann form, these are Blackhat’s best moments.

Mann has assembled a solid cast. On the surface, Chris Hemsworth seems horribly miscast as our convicted hero hacker Hathaway. But Mann is not remotely interested in a realistic take on the hacking blackhat3trade. Hemsworth is cut from the same cloth as all of Mann’s morally gray heroes. He’s a professional. He wants something. He’s willing to cut a deal to get it… as long as it doesn’t violate his code. Leehom Wang as Chen Dawai, Hathaway’s old friend and an officer in the Chinese government’s cyber unit, also does good work here. Wei Tang plays his sister, Chen Lien, also an expert computer specialist. And although she predictably becomes Hathaway’s love interest, Mann never allows Wei to regress into a damsel-in-distress role. On the American team, we have Viola Davis as FBI agent Carol Barrett. This could have been a thankless role, but Davis is able to bring some charm to the part, subtly blackhat4stealing a couple scenes right out from under the leads. Holt McCallany plays US Marshal Mark Jessup. The script doesn’t give the character much to say or do…until the shooting starts. Ritchie Coster and Yorick van Wageningen play the hired gun Elias Kassar and evil hacker Sadak respectively. Neither of them really come off the screen but Coster’s Kassar is much more memorable than his completely forgettable boss Sadak. And that’s the fault of the bad fit between director and script.

Blackhat would’ve probably worked had Mann either completely tossed Foehl’s script and went with a more traditional (analog) international crime story, or had Legendary Pictures hired a more cyber-friendly director. But with the track record of cyber-crime films being so poor, maybe this is a subgenre that’s just not made for the cinema.

As a die-hard Michael Mann enthusiast, I’m going to dishonestly recommend Blackhat. Not because I like it. I don’t. But I’d hate to see Mann get tossed into “director jail” this late in his career and not have an opportunity to redeem himself.

He SAID: All About Jane

Christopher M. Enis

The CW’s Jane The Virgin is the current darling of the season. Although fellow newcomer The Flash receivedjanethevirgin1 the most hype for the network, Jane got both the critical praise and the ratings needed to boost the show’s prestige. That meant a Golden Globe win (the first for the network), and a second season pickup. It’s fair to say the future is looking pretty bright for the little series that could.

Jane The Virgin is a loose adaptation of the Venezuelan telenovela Juana la Virgen. It tells the story of Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez), a 23-year old Latina in Miami who lives with herjanethevirgin5 Mother (Andrea Navedo) and Grandmother (Ivonne Coll). Jane’s strong religious conviction and strict upbringing drive her decision to remain a virgin until she’s married. Things are working out well (she’s engaged) until Jane is accidentally inseminated during a checkup.

The premise of Jane The Virgin has the potential to be chaotic. In addition to the main storyline, there are lots of subplots and subtitles (Grandma does not speak English). There’s also the matter of the narrator (Anthony Mendez), who teeters dangerously close stereotype.

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The good news is, show runner and head writer Jennie Snyder manages to corral all those elements and mix drama, comedy and romance… all while retaining the show’s telenovela roots.

janethevirgin3Gina Rodriguez helps carry this show beautifully and effortlessly, and is definitely one to watch. Her proverbial star is the rise and she’s easily in the running for an Emmy, with that Golden Globe now gracing her mantle.

Jane The Virgin’s first new episode of  the year airs tonight on the CW (9 PM EST/8 PM CST).

RATING: Must See

She SAID: Sheer Touch

Shahada Karim

This Spring, we promise to lighten up a little… at least sheer nails 1. jpgwhen it comes to nail polish. The new colors for Spring 2015 have already gone to market, and the message is whisper light.

White:

Let’s bwhite nails2e honest, not everyone can pull off a white nail polish. The good news is, some companies are taking note and offering more than one finish in the color. Formula X recently released the ‘Sheer Strength’ line, with Cloud Nine (Sheer Ivory) topping the list. The color is transparent enough to compliment a wide range of skin tones without going garish. It also wears longer because chipping and peeling are less obvious in sheer formulas.

 Pastel:

Lighter colors can be just as (if not more) tricky as white. Nails Inc is taking some of the guesswork out of the decision, with a collection of colors that offers a little something for everyone.

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The collection, called The New White, features four white-based polishes with a hint of color. The formula contains Porcelain Flower Extract (Thailand), and claims to help improve nail strength and health.

So set aside those dark brooding colors of Winter’s (nearly) past, and embrace the coming season with the lightest touch.

He SAID: Rise of an EMPIRE

Scott F. Evans

Lee Daniels’ Empire premiered last week to strong ratings and generally positive reviews. The family drama (built around the music industry) was a huge gamble for Fox. But judging from the initial reception, it was a worthwhile one.empire1

Fox’s most significant gamble is that Empire is a Black show. Not a show that just happens to have a Black lead (with a predominantly White or diverse cast), but a show where all the major players… so far… are Black. Sure there are a few non-Black faces sprinkled throughout the cast, but all of the main characters are African-American.

An all-Black show isn’t necessarily that big a deal; there have been Black sitcoms running regularly since Amos ‘n Andy. And all-Black casts on ‘reality’ shows are the norm, not the exception. However, a show that’s not a sitcom or ‘reality’, coupled with a time slot on a major network… suddenly Empire becomes sort of a big deal. The last Black drama broadcast by a major network was City of Angels, and that was 15 years ago.

EmpireEmpire’s two leads are the backbone of the show. Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson couldn’t be more perfectly cast as Lucious and Cookie Lyons. Those character names tell you exactly what kind of show this is. Howard’s Lucious plays flawlessly into the actor’s strengths. There’s not an actor working that plays “nickel-slick” as convincingly as Howard. He brings a guileful tone to the role that is both repellant and magnetic. He’s charming and absolutely untrustworthy. Henson’s Cookie taps into the performer’s energy, and Daniels gives her free reign toempire4 be great. Henson is somehow able to completely chew scenery, but it never feels forced or over the top. The roles had to be written with these two actors in mind, because the fit is impeccable. You can’t not watch them.

The rest of the cast is pretty solid so far. Jussie Smollet, as middle son Jamal, brings a sincerity to the show that almost feels out of place. Trai Byers is equally good as the straight-laced eldest son Andre. Both of these relative newcomers show a lot of potential, and help keep Empire reasonably grounded. The only weak link is Bryshere Gray as the youngest son Hakeem. This is the rapper’s first attempt at acting, and unfortunately it shows. He looks the part and can perform the rhymes, but that’s about as far as he’s able to stretch.

empire2There’s going to be a lot of undue pressure on Empire. It will be unfairly scrutinized, as African-American audiences project all of their needs onto the show. It won’t be enough for Empire to just be a piece of well made (so far) frivolous entertainment. For some, it’ll have to be significant and representative… noble and powerful… transcendent and affirming. But Empire has no interest in meeting these lofty ideals. Nor should it have to.

Beyond the performances, the show’s main strength is that it knows exactly what it is. It knows that it’s not a credible analysis of the music business, or some high-minded examination of the breakdown of a Black Family Unit. It’s a trashy nighttime soap opera… period. The next few weeks will determine if Empire has legs, but it’s strong out of the gate. Give it a shot.