The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 2

Yesterday, we finished up Season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale for the second time. Getting ready for Season 4, we started over with season one and are making our way through. At the end of season one, we find Offred had semi-escaped and was on the run just as she learned that she was pregnant.

THE HANDMAID’S TALE — “The Word” — Episode 213 — Serena and the other Wives strive to make change. Emily learns more about her new Commander. Offred faces a difficult decision. Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and Nick (Max Minghella), shown. (Photo by: George Kraychyk/Hulu)

The first part of season two is during her escape. We learn so much more backstory here on how Gilead formed and where everyone was at the time of take over. We also get a lot of backstory on Offred/June’s mother. This plays an important role for the season.

June’s mother was an activist, always looking to make right in the world. She is hardly there for June because her causes were more important. This is key for the season finale.

June does not get free during season two. She is recaptured and has her baby, who is taken away from her as soon as the baby is born by Mrs. Waterford. We see a lot of the conflict between these two women, June and Mrs. Waterford. There also is a very brutal rape scene in this season that you can’t believe happened.

Ultimately, you see a small truce between the two of them and almost feel sorry for Mrs. Waterford. In the end (season finale), you see that soft side to our female villain. Offred has the ability to escape, again, but this time chooses to go back and fight. Hence the connection with her mother’s story. June becomes a fighter and activist in Gilead.

We’re going into season three, which I don’t remember a lot about. I think we only watched a couple of episodes so this is all new charted area for me. Let’s see if we can get this finished this week.

Allen v. Farrow (The Mini-Series)

This was not on my agenda to watch. Elisabeth turned on the first episode of the 4 part mini-series and I just happened to sit down on the sofa tired of writing as it began. Anyone who knows movies, knows Woody Allen and Mia Farrow. They are staples in the film world and over the past decades have created movies that you either loved, or hated, or we’re indifferent to. Just because you watch movies, doesn’t mean your are invested into the personal lives of the people behind the movies.

While I did know about the Woody Allen and Soon-Yi debacle, the story that shocked me was that of Dylan Farrow, Mia’s daughter and Woody’s adopted daughter. This docu-series took a look at the controversy and accusations of Mia/Dylan against Woody for sexual molesting and assaulting Dylan as a child around the age of seven. WOW! I didn’t even know any of it took place. I am not a news person. I don’t follow personal lives. So this entire situation was a shock to me.

During the series, interviews took place with Mia, Dylan, news reports, family members, and those close to the family. Each one of them having a say or recollection of the events that took place when Dylan was just a young girl. After watching the series, how can you not believe this happened. Even though Woody was found innocent and many of the steps he took to blackmail and blackball people. The evidence is and was there. Or you can chose to not. Your life, your choice.

I enjoyed the documentary, and normally I will when it is about people I know or have a connection with like these two high profile celebrities. I have watched their films and know a little about them. Now I know a lot more. Everyone will always say there are three sides to a story. Obviously with this, there is Dylan’s (a seven year old, now an adult who has never changed her story once) and Woody’s (a powerful movie mogul who can manipulate those around him, and who has never changed his story either)… and then the third? What is it, if there is one.

By the end of the documentary, I came to the conclusion of a few things. 1) I didn’t know Dylan was so damn pretty as an adult. 2) I believe Dylan and 3)… This comes to part of the series that I found quite interesting. Many of the reporters and fellow actors finally stood up, especially during the #METOO movement stating they would never work with Woody or fans and reporters saying they will never watch a Woody Allen movie again. A reporter stated it well: If you boycott every artist that does something wrong, you won’t have art. No one is perfect and the part of their work is that “negative or wrong” makes the work good. This I agree with… Just not with Woody Allen.

My #3 is that I won’t watch a Woody Allen film again… not for what he did, which I believe he did… but because I don’t like his films or his art. I have seen quite of bit of his movies over the years, and I can say that I really don’t like any of them. They are not my type of film and I can say that I have no interest in any future work because his past work just wasn’t my jam. Just now, I have a sour taste in my mouth when I think about him and what he did.

I recommend this series to anyone who is into film, movies, and pop culture should watch this film.

Menudo – Subete A Mi Moto (Episodes 1-3)

So here we are… 3 episodes into the Menudo television series, SUBETE A MI MOTO, which documents Edgardo Diaz’s recount of the group’s history. Remember, this is Edgardo’s version of the group and not actually complete reality.

The series was produced by Amazon, but it has yet to be released on Amazon in the US. It is only available in Latin American countries via Amazon. Right now, the series was picked up by Estrella TV in the US and can be seen over broadcast television at the moment, which is how I am viewing the show.

Official photo of the series – Note that during his time in the group, Sergio never went by Blass.

Over the first three episodes, I have found myself yelling at the screen – probably just like Rene Farrait did when he watched it complaining about how incorrect this series is. My reasons and Rene’s reasons are completely different but when you have members of the group stating how the facts are twisted, you know there is something seriously wrong with this picture.

I still have Menudo fan friends, and some of them have stopped watching while others are still remaining silent. As a loyal Menudo fan, and probably not a die-hard as some still are, I find offense just in the lack of accuracy with looks, timelines, names, etc… Even with the official banner that they released, there is a factual error. Look above at the back of the jackets. Sergio Gonzales never took the last name as BLASS until after Menudo and they never called anyone by their last names either. Just looking at this pisses me off.

The story begins at the beginning. Edgardo is working with La Pandilla and he comes up with the idea of Menudo and keeping them young. That information could be very true. Here they are doing fun things and all of the sudden Edgardo wants to replace Nefty. I can see the members no believing that it would ever happen but it did. There are going to be moments before popularity that we can not verify unless we begin interviewing everyone.

Things I have noticed that might not be so earth shattering, but here they are so far:

  1. The group always performed with the tallest on one side and the shortest on the other. Throughout these first 3 episodes, they have ignored this fact making the group’s performances look so comical.
  2. The wigs that they are using for the boys are just horrible. You can barely tell who they are supposed to be representing.
  3. If Ricky Martin auditioned for the first time in 1980, he would have been 8-9 years old. They clearly had a boy auditioning that was a teenager. We do know that Ricky auditioned various times, but I don’t believe it was that early.
  4. In 1981 when the group went to Venezuela and got attacked by the fans, they are shown in the hotel waiting to transfer to a different hotel. Behind the boys is a television running scenes of fans. One of the fans is holding up a poster of Evolucion, which was released in 1984.
  5. Still in 1981, Ricky Melendez grew so much that he became taller than Xavier. In the top photo on this page, Ricky is clearly the shortest member and pretty much remained the shortest member during this time in the group. They have made Xavier the shortest on the show.
  6. Outfits have been a little off based on when they wore them and the albums they are promoting.
  7. If they are going in order, some of the songs they are singing, recording, and promoting tend to be a bit off too. Like singing Claridad when they have not even recorded it. There are 2 albums before that became a hit.
Ricky Melendez (with braces) depicted on the series is shown to be taller than Johnny, Xavier, and Miguel. This is inaccurate.

Since the series has been released, various members have come on the record to state how inaccurate the series is. Member such as Rene Farrait (who was on of the group’s most popular members), Ray Reyes, Roy Rossello, Jonathon Montenegro, and Angelo Garcia, have all said that the story was nothing like reality.

On the other hand, MDO members (Abel, Didier, and Alexis) have defended Edgardo, stating that they were never abused and they were aware of the long hours of work it took to be part of a popular group such as Menudo.

I don’t think we will ever really get a true story of Menudo because their are going to be over 30 stories, each one wrong or biased. For now, we continue on with the show and see where it goes from here. According to episode summaries, we will have a lot of jumping around. I think that Edgardo just can’t wait to get to Ricky Martin.

Fandango – “Que No Acabe Navidad” Single

Today, the reunion version of the female pop group, Fandango, released a holiday single. While die-hard fans wanted to see the group record a new and updated version of their own song, “Dime Nino, De  Quien Eres,” the girls settled on a cover of Timbiriche’s 1983 classic Christmas song, “Que No Acabe Navidad.”

The girls did an awesome job with song and the music is very festive. Lots of extra jingle bells can be heard in the background making the music extra festive.

During the verses, Sandra, Alexa, Rocio, and Anabella, each had solo parts though there seemed to be help with background vocals during those solos. It is nice to hear each one of the girls singing and we can finally hear that they sound like as mature women instead of teenage girls.

While Fandango seemed to keep the lyrics the same as the original, I felt it might have been nice to modernize it with updated lyrics. It seems a little odd to have mature women repeating the lines of 12 year old, Benny Ibarra stating he wanted a space monster for Christmas. What if the members like Sandra wanted a diamond bracelet, and Alexa wanted two? It might have been cool and fun to see how the producer of the song could have changed the lyrics to represent each of the members as they are now.

Over all, the song is fun. As a Timbiriche fan, I was quite excited to see Fandango remaking a song from another group, especially one I love so much.

American Pastoral (2016)

Not a movie I would have sought out to watch, but I am glad I took a chance on this film. American Pastoral is Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut and it is definitely worth the watch.

Seymour “Swede” Levov (McGregor) is the small town’s high school all-star, Mr. Popularity, a legend among his people. His wife Dawn (Jennifer Connelly) was a former beauty queen. Together this perfect couple gives birth to a girl, who grows up less than perfect. As she gets older, she bucks to system, wants to protest the war, and is against everything and everyone. When she blows up the post office and kills a beloved townsman, she runs from the law and the family. Swede doesn’t give up on his search for his daughter because he is convinced that she had been brainwashed.

The film covers a time period where people were protesting the Vietnam war, also the Newark and black equality. Young people, like Swede’s daughter, Merry (Dakota Fanning) took to violence as a way of protesting the government. They didn’t care about their actions and who they hurt along the way. Each of the parents handled their daughter in different ways. While I wasn’t around during these times, I can imagine that this was true to the times.

McGregor captured each of the three main characters brilliantly. The story, the emotion, the connections, are everything you can hope for in a dramatic film like this. The film is based off the novel of the same name, written by Philip Roth. While the film is not a critic’s favorite, I really disagree. When you connect, you live the film and I was there with them. Wonderful shot and told story.

Movie Review: Parchís: the Documentary (2019)

Parchís: the Documentary  ★★★★

Being a Latin pop music fanatic, learning about this documentary was like a dream come true.

Parchis (chis, chis, chis) came out around the same time as Menudo, but they were actually more popular than Menudo. It wasn’t until the group disbanded in the early ’80s that Menudo took over the void that Parchis left in teen pop music.

Parchis was everything you could want in a kid’s pop group. You had the teen idol, the pretty girl, the dork, the girl next door, and the pretty blonde boy. The group hailed from Spain and was a hit from the very beginning. Each one of the members was identified by the colors of their clothes. That was their costumes.

In Spanish with English subtitles, the Netflix original documentary features interviews with many of the members. They discuss all aspects of their rise and fall and all the exploits in between. There was not much controversy with the group. Being around during their reign, you never heard of scandals that fans would have wanted to come to light. Most of their adventures were kids being kids and not having much supervision during their tours. If there was a scandal, no one knew and no one mentioned since then.

If you didn’t know about this band, you can skip this documentary. You have to know who they were to even begin to like it… and even then, there was no real purpose to this documentary other than to capitalize on the upcoming reunion of the group. It was just a recap of the band’s history.

Maria Jose – “Habla Ahora” (2016)

The last time I spoke about Maria Jose was when I reviewed the single “Las Que Se Ponen Bien La Falda.” Now the complete album is out and fans, along with critics, have been able to see the new work from everyone’s favorite Kabah. Back on to her own music, Maria Jose has left the KabahOV7 tour to focus on what she is good at…dance music.

The album, Habla Ahora, begins with the song that has become an anthem for young girls everywhere. “Las Que Se Ponen Bien La Falda” features Ivy Queen and speaks about how men objectify women and that women need that empowerment to stand up for themselves. This could have been the theme song for this year’s Women’s March. It’s a powerful song, as well as a great song to turn up and sing along with while sitting in traffic.

“Lo Que Te Mereces,” the second track from the album is a traditional Maria Jose club track that shows that she has not lost DIVA status. Then we get to “Olvídame Y Pega La Vuelta,” a duet with Jay De La Cueva of Moderatto fame. Oddly, Maria Jose’s voice is deeper than Jay’s and the harmony between them lacks a cohesive duet. The song is a cover from the pop duo, Pimpinela. Maria Jose wasn’t the only person to recently cover this song. Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony released their version of the song around the same time as this album was released. The JLo/Anthony version is a salsa influence track. Sadly that version outranks the Maria Jose/Jay version in a powerful duet.

The next two tracks from the album, “Cobarde” and the title track, “Habla Ahora” slow down the album and allow Maria Jose to demonstrate her vocal cords with two ballads that tug at your sentimental strings. Both songs are beautifully sung with addicting choruses. With “Quiero Que Te Quedes” keeps the pace with a slower pop track with an infusion of the popular reggaeton beats that will probably give her another radio hit. Continuing along with the album, Maria Jose pumps out another ballad with “Nada Fue Verdad.”

Up next, is a song that my wife and I disagree on how great it is… Maria Jose covers 80’s dance hit “Duri Duri” that was made popular by the pop-trio, Click. The song was like a gay anthem song in the 80’s Mexico and if you didn’t have that 12″ dance mix to this song back then, you were missing some of the best music from the time. Click was so ahead of their time, but that is another review for later. Now, my wife HATES, literally hates the original song that she will not give Maria Jose’s version a chance. When I saw this song on the tracklist, I squealed like a rabid fangirl. Seriously, Maria Jose gives the song a place in today’s club music. I bow down to you as the goddess of covers.

“Ella Me Gusta Para Ti,” keeps the beat up with a classic pop single that tells the world that pop is not dead. You don’t know urban beats or gimmicks to have a great pop track. This song is slowing becoming one of my favorite tracks the more I listen to the music. “No Soy” brings the mood back down with a ballad with strong bass, while it doesn’t have much power in the vocals, but it holds you enough to move along with the album listen.

Now if I would not have seen that there is a second version of “Las Que Se Ponen Bien La Falda” at the end of the album, I would have turned off the album at the song. “Hombre Malvado” is a country-infused track that makes me want to put on boots and a cowboy hat. Sorry, not happening… You had me at “Duri Duri.” I don’t have a good thing to say about that song, I’m sorry. Now, let’s fast forward to the final track. The pop version of “Las Que Se Ponen Bien La Falda” features less urban beats and less of Ivy Queen too. While it is nice to end with what we started with, I might have liked a dance track or remix of the original versus a toned-down pop version.

Maria Jose is supposed to be the queen of dance and club music of Mexico and while this album is overall very good, it lacks what we are so used to with her albums. Now, this does not mean that Maria Jose has lost her status of “top female artist” in my book, but I think this might need more listens in order for me to appreciate where she went with the album as a whole.

Alessandra – “Alessandra” (2010)

Mexican singer, Alessandra Rosaldo made a name for herself in the pop duo, Sentidos Opuestos, but left the group to become a soloist and has pretty good success for herself. She has been going strong since 2002 when she released her first album Alter Ego.

As with Alter Ego, two albums were released for the album. One that is dominantly in Spanish while the second version contained English language translations to her Spanish songs. This is exactly what Alessandra as done again with her self-titled album, Alessandra. The English version of the album is entitled, Breathless, but I will not really be talking about that album today.

This album released in 2010 contains twelve tracks that you can stream online or download for your personal enjoyment. The album is mostly in Spanish with the exception of the last two tracks. “Livin’ On A Prayer” is a cover of Bon Jovi’s popular 80’s pop song. And the other, “Did You Lie” is an English cover of Sentidos Opuestos’ famous song, “Donde Estan?” A highlight from the album is that she actually recorded an updated version of “Donde Estan?” for the album and it is featured here.

Alessandra is that singer who has a solid fan base from her time with Sentido Opuestos and her soap opera days. Overall, she maintains a style and sound that hasn’t really changed much. This could be both bad and good for her career. Though she is not lacking popularity as she has her own television program on the Mexican channel, Ritmoson; she isn’t topping the charts with her music.

If you blinked in 2010, you missed this album. It had mediocre success, but I contribute that with the album being released independently. I have not seen the album in a physical media format, so I think it is possible that this album was only available for the masses via download. With that, I can see why one could miss it. I did. I barely found out about this album this year.

It’s a decent album and I recommend that download if you are a fan of 90’s music.

You can follow Alessandra on Twitter at: @alexrosaldo

Monica Naranjo – “Lubna” (2016)

Monica Naranjo’s new album “Lubna” is quite a departure from the “normal” Monica Naranjo sound. What does that mean exactly? Well, looking back at previous albums like Tarantula, Adagio, and 4.0, you might think this doesn’t sound all that different in the grand scheme of things. And while I would tend to agree with you, I can honestly say that this album is such a large progression from where she was just a few years ago that it will take a lot of people by surprise.

From beginning to end (and that is how you should listen to it), each track progresses into a larger story from birth to death. The album is a story and once you come into it from that angle, it definitely makes it easier to digest. The music is definitely reminiscent of Tarantula and 4.0. I consider this to be a rock opera, and from first listen to current listen it is still a rock opera. This style of music isn’t for everyone, but it is amazing from beginning to end. Each song is part of the bigger story, and not a lot of artists tell a tale like this through their music, which I lament.

What can I say about the music itself? It’s very industrial, yet classic, and very uniquely Monica. She interwove a couple of duets with Marina Heredia, and her father, Jaime Heredia, and both are very traditional Spanish, flamenco tracks, but fit right into the overall picture.

I believe Monica Naranjo is a big enough artist with Sony that they gave her quite a bit of leeway in experimenting, and I firmly believe that this album will change her future albums. I know I am excited to see where she goes and what the future entails for her.

Is this album worth a listen? Absolutely, but keep in mind, if you are wanting the “traditional” Monica Naranjo album, you will be disappointed. Go into it with an open mind and give it a headphone listen and really listen. You might find yourself enjoying it in spite of yourself.