Friday, September 27, 2013

Classic Film Review: Galaxy Quest

My local theater does these screenings of older movies called "Insomnia Theater" and a few weeks ago they were showing Galaxy Quest.

I missed Galaxy Quest the first time it was in theaters, and I can't even remember why. I just don't think I thought it was going to be all that funny, it didn't come out in a time where parody movies were doing all that well. Let's be honest in generally they're pretty terrible unless Mel Brooks is involved.

This was definitely my mistake, and when I was finally convinced to watch it (and I can't remember by who or how), and I found out instantly how wrong I was. This movie isn't just funny, it's brilliant. It works on multiple levels, and it's smart in ways that even now most movies don't even attempt.

On it's surface, it's simple. The washed up actors who appeared on a short lived but cult favorite tv show are mistaken for real spaceship commanders and brought into space to save an alien race. Even that's been done before, but usually with something that becomes much more serious. But Galaxy Quest keeps up it's level of humor and intelligence at every moment.

It's no surprise that these actors are fantastic, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shaloub, and Alan Rickman are some of the best actors in the country and so of course they're fantastic. Tim Allen has some hits and misses, but he's perfectly at home here and does what he does best.

Of course this is an almost direct parody of Star Trek and it's fans, and a lot of people (Patrick Stewart himself included) have worried that it was at the expense of those fans. It isn't, at all. One of the hardest things to accomplish in parody is being a loving tribute as well as poking fun at tropes and cliches. Galaxy Quest is one of the best examples of how to do this well. Which is probably why many Star Trek fans talk about it being the best Star Trek movie, because it's the one that comes from the same place they do, and it represents not just the world of Star Trek but also the world AROUND Star Trek. And it clearly understands the universe better than certain other recent writer and director teams I could name.

In general, if you like science fiction or Star Trek on any level, you should have seen Galaxy Quest by now. But you also should check it out if you like humor, or if you want to have some fun with the behind-the-scenes world of movies and television. It's a lot of things for a lot of people, and it does all of them well.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fall Season TV Review: Sleepy Hollow

I really didn't have high expectations for Sleepy Hollow. For one thing, every time I saw a synopsis of it I thought, haven't we done this before?

It wasn't even just that it was a story about Sleepy Hollow, there's a ton of those already, but that everybody kept talking about it being a mix of a period piece and a modern police drama but not explaining HOW. I'm going to go ahead and call that bad marketing. That is not remotely a good description of the show, as it turns out.

Basically, Ichabod Crane actually is the man who beheads a horseman, and then the both of them are buried and come back to life in modern day America. Of course, now he has to deal with 2,000 years of culture shock AND a headless horseman.

It's got a few parts fish out of water, a couple parts vast apocalyptic backstory, put in a dash of conspiracy theories, a couple cups of buddy cop comedy, and at least one helping of "main characters who don't follow orders" drama. And it's predictable as all get out, because it doesn't just follow one formula, it follows them ALL.

And I really liked it.

Every time a character showed up you could peg almost everything that was going to happen to them before the end of the episode. The only surprise was when Abbie (the female lead) reveals her "tragic backstory that connects her to the main storyline and also reveals that something has been up with her all along and her mentor knew it but kept it from her" in the first episode.

There was a brief moment of playing "dead or bad guy" with one character, but it would be spoilers to explain to you how that worked out. But the thing was, I didn't care that I knew everything that was going to happen and could practically quote the show before the characters actually said their lines. Between the actors and the directing (and some seriously good art design) I just wanted to go along for the ride anyway.

Abbie is fantastic, she's easily one of my favorite characters on TV in a long time. She's having none of anybody's crap, and somehow the Nicole Beharie doesn't make that a stereotype. Ichabod is snarky and amusing, and he could come off really insufferable in the hands of a different actor, but Tom Mison makes it work. I cringed when the conversation between the two inevitably turned to slavery, expecting such a cliche and some really overly sappy remarks. Instead they both traded some sarcasm and Abbie threatened to shoot him, and he basically shrugged and said "alright, stranger things have happened today."

I didn't even get that obnoxious anachronistic feeling of "too enlightened for his time" that period romance novels tend to fall into so that you can like the main character even though traditionally they'd believe some things we now view as horrible. I'm sure history majors are clutching their remotes and flinging things at the screen, no doubt, but I could let it go.

I was also quite wary because Kurtzman and Orci have had some pretty big missteps when it comes to movies lately (don't get me started) and their welcome was wearing a little thin. But maybe tv is their natural home, because I'm sold on it and I'll definitely be watching.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ruffian Manicure Tutorial!

So, this month's Birchbox was extra exciting for me because it included a sample of the fabulous Ruffian Nail Lacquer collection. Mine came with Fox Trot, which is absolutely gorgeous, and I painted my nails right away. But I did them with just one solid color, and next I wanted to try the Ruffian Manicure style instead. And I'm absolutely loving the results, this is the pic I put on Instagram today:

I think it looks really fabulous, and it's not the same old french manicure look. And it was really simple to do, we'll go through all the steps but it's one of the easiest techniques I've used. I've been painting my nails for about twenty years now, and I was doing some pretty fancy nail art on a budget back in the day, so I've also included some tips here of things I've figured out over the years.

You can watch Birchbox's lovely video tutorial first if like videos:

But personally, I prefer pictures and text so I can follow along more easily as I go.

First, I'm just going to derail for a short minute and talk about how fantastic the Ruffian Nail Lacquer is. These were my nails after over a week with no touch ups, plus plenty of wear and tear since I've been helping a friend set up new furniture and move her stuff around a lot lately:

You can see that the longer nails started to get a little chipped, but for the most part they're still in amazing shape compared to cheaper polishes. I was so thrilled, and the color was gorgeous, it even looks pretty good in the picture after the flash washed everything out a bit! All in all, I want every single color in the entire collection already.

Now, first thing I always do when I'm going to paint my nails is gather all of my supplies:

What you should gather together:
-Nail polish remover (I prefer non-acetone because acetone is so harsh on my nails).
-Cotton balls
-Hand lotion
-Cuticle oil or cream
-Nail file and buffing block
-Manicure kit (mine is cobbled together after losing and replacing pieces)
-Base coat
-Two colors of nail polish
-and for this manicure, I used a secret weapon: drafting dots, I'll explain those in a bit.

Step one is naturally to remove all of the polish you might already have on and get your nails into good shape.

I use both cotton balls and Q-Tips for this process, because I've found that sometimes Q-Tips can get at those stubborn spots on the sides a little easier. Plus, I'll use them again later.

I've also found that the best thing for me is to actually remove my nail polish the day before I'm planning to do a nice manicure. If I'm only going to do a solid color, I don't really bother. But when I want them to look nice, having a bit of time helps me make sure they're at their best.

So after removing the polish, one of the first things I'll do is try to counteract all the damage the nail polish remover may have done, and pamper myself for a bit. First, with some hand lotion, which I forgot to put in my supplies picture:

I am a HUGE fan of Look Ma, New Hands from Bath and Body Works. This bottle is so beaten up because this is what I keep in my purse for the extreme dryness of D.C. winters. It's not necessarily an every day lotion, but with the paraffin, it's the perfect thing for when you want to really spoil yourself or you really need to make sure the moisture stays.

After you treat your hands, don't forget to treat your nails. A lot of troubles women have with their nails are actually caused by lack of moisture, especially hang nails. They're so obnoxious. And after removing polish, my nails always look dry and a bit busted up, so my favorite remedy is The Body Shop's Almond Nail and Cuticle Oil. The applicator is perfect, and you really can make sure that you get good coverage. It only takes two drops of oil (two clicks of the bottom) to cover an entire hand for me so it also lasts forever.

Step two: File, shape, and trim.

I don't have a picture to go along with this because you probably know how that part works already. But take the time while you're sitting down to take care of your nails to file away any snagging edges, and to make them look nice. Personally, I don't think they need to be perfect and even (as you'll see in later pictures) but I do like to make each one look good.

I also don't push back my cuticles, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes I might do some trimming with the tool from my manicure kit, but for the most part I leave my cuticles alone other than using oil on them. It never seemed worth the effort, so your mileage may vary. But again, I do all this maintenance the day before so that the next day when I go to paint, it's not as annoying when I find that one more spot that needs to be filed or trimmed.

Step Three: Base coat and choose your colors if you haven't already!

Now, a good base coat is always a good idea, even if you've buffed your nails to a smooth shine. I use Sally Hansen Hard as Nails right now because it's what I have but any good clear coat will do. Ruffian's Gesso Base Coat looks pretty amazing too, I'm looking forward to trying it out.

My husband helped me pick out the colors that I used, the dark blue is actually an old discontinued color from Bath and Body Works, back when they made nail polish. It's called "meteor" and it's actually the color I wore to Prom when I was in high school. This dark, deep blue is just gorgeous and I actually even have a spare bottle of it because I love it so much. We thought the silver would make a great accent to really bring out the deepness of the blue.

The Wet 'n' Wild is also an older color that I think has been discontinued, you can tell by the bottle shape how old it is. Which becomes a bit of a problem later, and is one of the reasons that I can say now that cheap polish has it's place in the world but it doesn't age like higher quality polish does, that's for sure.

Step Four: Stencils!

Now, the official Ruffian Manicure is done with the Ruffian Manicure Stencil Set, obviously. The stickers are nice because they come in different sizes, but I didn't have any of those and since my husband is an architect, what I do have around the house are drafting dots.

Drafting dots are basically little circles of masking tape used to hold down drawings on drafting tables, and they're actually ridiculously useful for a lot of things. I first got the idea to use them for this manicure after reading about using hole reinforcement stickers to do a french manicure.

So I actually tore the drafting dots in half because they're pretty big and I didn't want to use up a bunch of them. This was a mixed success, I would suggest cutting them in half instead of trying to tear them. But when you put them on your nails it's EXTREMELY important to get a good seal. Really press down on your nail and make sure it sticks all the way across. I always paint my nails one hand at a time, and wait for it to dry, but here's pictures of both.

Step Five Paint the bottom color. I decided to do the bright silver as my bottom color, because the blue is one of my absolute favorites so I wanted it to be the main statement. Because you've got the stencil, you can just paint right over top of it, you don't have to be very exact and specific. And don't worry too much about getting polish on your hands, we'll get to that later. A tip - paint your thumbnails last, because the way you hold your hands you're so much more likely to smudge it while reaching for your other fingers.

One thing I learned on this step is that a very thin polish like the one I was using is NOT good for this part of the process. For one, the color is so light that it needs multiple coats to really show up and two, it just wasn't designed for this kind of thing. This is where using your more expensive and nicer polishes is a good idea.

Now you want to peel off the stickers, and make sure you pull up on one side and peel across the nail, instead of pulling from the top down. This way it'll help your polish stay in a nice line if it's not quite dry.

You can see a bit of the problems I had with the super liquid silver polish here. It wasn't a perfect line after I peeled the stickers off because it actually wasn't really dry enough. The picture is a bit hard to see because I had to use the flash and it got all Star Trek lens flare on me (trust me, you should see the ones I deleted).

Anyway, you can see here that I definitely got plenty of polish in places where it "doesn't go" but don't fret! The thing I learned a long time ago about home manicures is that you're supposed to be doing it to relax, and you can fix almost anything. Plus, nobody is actually looking that closely at your cuticles to see if you got polish on them. And if they are, well, they've got their own problems. It's fine to take pride in a good job, but remember why you're doing it, to have fun, right? So make sure you're still having fun!

Step Six Paint the main color.

Once you've peeled off the stickers, you may have noticed that the polish ends up with a pretty nice edge to it because of the way you painted. That makes it a lot easier to paint the main color, because then it's a lot like trying to paint your nails and not go over onto your skin. And again, don't worry too much, you're having fun. I did one coat first where I was more hesitant and then another where I got right up to that edge on the silver, and it worked great.

You can do a top coat if you want, but make sure your polish is pretty dry before you do, otherwise it just gets very muddled and messy.

Step Seven Streaming video.

There's is nothing more distracting than having wet nails and not being able to do anything or touch anything. You're going to suddenly remember every chore you have to do around the house, and every book you want to read and then your nose will start itching.

My solution to that is always to watch something. I'm suggesting Stargate SG-1 because it's one of my favorite shows of all time and I really think more people should watch it. It's streaming on Amazon right now! But I think at least two episodes of an hour-long show (because they're not really an hour) or a movie before you even try to do anything.

Now, what about all that polish that you got on your fingers because you listened to me and didn't care? You can just take out one of those q-tips and put some polish remove on it, then you can really be exact about where you apply it. There are also a lot of different tools available to wipe up any places like that, in the Ruffian tutorial they use a wipe, and I've also used a Manicure Clean Up Pen in the past, and it worked pretty well.

Now your nails look beautiful! You should post pictures of your manicures in the comments, or tweet at me @OneGirlsReviews so I can see them!