The Sunday Magazine: Solo A Star Wars Story

Sometimes a little mystery is a good thing. It might even be a better thing when it comes to prequels in the Star Wars series of movies. As I covered in last week’s column the prequel itself saps any tension about the fate of anyone we’ve seen later in the time line. Solo A Star Wars Story particularly suffers from that. We know Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian all live to come together at the end of “The Empire Strikes Back”. Which means every time they are in danger; well they’re not. Because Solo is at heart a story about a crew of criminals in a galaxy far, far away robbing people that isn’t a fatal flaw. I thought the two heists pulled off in the film were executed well except everyone but Han, Chewie and Lando were cannon fodder. If life would be lost it wasn’t going to be them.

No if there was a fatal flaw it was the movie was made for me and other hardcore fans. One thing I didn’t cover in last week’s prequel column is these movies sometimes labor to answer questions I don’t care about. It was charming when Han Solo introduces himself to Obi-Wan and Luke as the pilot of the Millennium Falcon the only ship which “made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.” It has always been one of those anomalies where the writers got tripped up in their tech speak and substituted a measurement of distance for one of speed. Sure enough, Solo spends a plodding set-up explaining it; leading to something I noted because I am a fan. Mrs. C has seen all the Star Wars movies and enjoys them a lot. I asked her about it after the movie and she never caught it. She is the majority of Star Wars fans not the ones like me, which means the movie wasted time, dialogue, and effects explaining something that passes over the head of almost everyone in the theatre. Even in my theatre on opening night packed with those eager to see Solo there was only scattered laughter when the payoff line comes.

This is where Solo fails. It answers questions about our favorite rogue that only a die-hard fan cares about. Mrs. C did not catch the significance of a single inside joke. I spent the entire drive home explaining different ones because there are a lot of them. So many that Solo is a heist movie with inside jokes stuffed in between.

If there is going to be a continuation of these standalone movies they have to follow the template of Rogue One from two years ago. Characters we have never met fighting the good fight in a corner of the galaxy far away from where the Skywalker clan is doing their thing. There has been talk of future standalones featuring Obi-Wan or Boba Fett after seeing Solo I am not excited by either of those. I am excited to follow someone new as they strike out in a new direction. Like whoever survives next year’s Episode IX. Star Wars need to move forward and let go of mining the past it is not what they do well.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ex Nihilo Viper Green- Cold-Blooded

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I grew up around snakes in South Florida. I was fascinated with them. One thing which always kept me intrigued was that they were cold-blooded. If I was handling a non-poisonous snake the lack of warmth, as it slithered around my forearm and through my fingers, was an interesting contrast. Because of the scales it always felt like a dry kind of cold to me. Mrs. C is terribly afraid of snakes and my interactions are now limited to getting them out of her vegetable garden. Ex Nihilo Viper Green captures the serpentine chill without turning venomous.

Ex Nihilo Creative Team

Ex Nihilo has been a brand in transition over the last year or so. When the creative team of Sylvie Loday, Olivier Royere, and Benoit Verdier started the brand it was only available in a Paris boutique with a design aesthetic which allowed a consumer to add the last note to their perfume. After two years they have steadily expanded the places they can be found which makes it difficult for that bit of personalization to be added in. It has been a move for the better because it has produced perfumes which feel more complete which Viper Green benefits from. Perfumer Nadage Le Garlantezec uses a spine of cool green ingredients which allow for florals and patchouli to slither over.

Nadege Le Garlantezec

Viper Green opens on a tart green mandarin paired with angelica root. This is the beginning of the green thread which runs throughout. Galbanum intensifies that thread while Mme Le Garlantezec uses a synthetic ingredient called Rosyfolia. What that does is provide a rose tinted muguet. That bit of muguet that is green is very present in Rosyfolia which allows it to pick up the galbanum just in time for jasmine to pick up the floral baton. Some powdery iris softens the central part of the development and provides a bit of the cold-blooded nature. A very potent vetiver supported by a slightly earthy patchouli is the final part.

Viper Green has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Viper Green is not a fanged fragrance despite the name. It is the sense of a cool green snake slithering languidly over your skin. I have enjoyed handling this snake in these early days of summer.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Ex Nihilo.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parle Moi de Parfum Chypre Mojo- Mango Magic

One of the enduring perfume challenges of recent years is how to make a chypre when one of the key ingredients is no longer allowed. That ingredient, oakmoss, has a kind of low calorie substitute where the problematic ingredient has been removed. That low-atranol oakmoss always feels lesser to me. Perfumers have found ways to use other ingredients to fill in the missing character. That success is a reason the chypre has continued to thrive.

There is also a more difficult path to take. Forget about that oakmoss altogether. Instead look for another set of ingredients which create the vibe of chypre without compromise. This is a less successful endeavor at completing this high degree of difficulty maneuver. It has still produced perfumes which I have liked even though I would not call them chypres. Parle Moi de Parfum Chypre Mojo falls in this category.

Michel Almairac

Parle Moi de Parfum is perfumer Michel Almairic’s own brand. It has extolled a minimalistic aesthetic using only a few ingredients. It is this which does not allow Chypre Mojo to fully come together into something I would classify as a chypre. What it does turn out to be is a fantastic summery perfume.

The reason this is summer in a bottle is the top note of mango. M. Almairac captures the juicy, fleshy nature of the fruit as you peel the skin off to get to the good stuff underneath. We had a mango tree in the yard in my boyhood home. There were summer days where my shirt was covered in the juice which ran off my chin onto my t-shirt. The mango M. Almairac uses is that scent. Next comes the two ingredients, carnation and patchouli, M. Almairac wants to use to create his chypre accord. The carnation provides the green. My issue is carnation doesn’t have enough green to it to really rise to chypre level. The patchouli comes closer. M. Almairac seems to be using one of the fractions which is very dry with a bitter edge to it. This feels like it has some of the pieces I would describe as chypre-like. Together they produce a really beautiful contrast to the mango just not the kind advertised on the bottle.

Chypre Mojo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you come here looking for a chypre I think you will not find that; unless your definition is different than mine. Which should not keep you from trying this. Chypre Mojo is a gorgeous tropical fruit perfume that is among my favorite of the year; it just needs to be renamed to Mango Magic.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chanel L’Eau Tan- It’s Two Beauty Products In One

There are new products I get which remind me of old television commercials for non-fragrance products. The most recent recollection was of a product called Certs. Certs was a mixture of a candy mint in a roll infused with a breath freshening ingredient called Retsyn. Every commercial would have two people taking up a different side; “It’s a breath mint!” “No, it’s a candy mint!” Then they would tap the rolls together and say in unison “It’s 2, 2 mints in one!” When I received my bottle of the new Chanel L’Eau Tan I felt like it was two beauty products in one.

Olivier Polge

L'Eau Tan is a combination of self-tanner and cologne. It combines two of the very talented team of people behind the Chanel beauty brands; in-house perfumer Olivier Polge and creative make-up and color director Lucia Pica. Both joined the brand in 2014-2015 replacing longtime predecessors. In their short time they have reimagined Chanel within their respective areas. The idea of creating a refreshing self-tanning body spray comes straight from the historical style influence of Coco Chanel.

Lucia Pica

When Coco cruised the Mediterranean, she tanned just from being on a boat in the sunshine. As she appeared with her sun burnished skin in each port the fashion reporters of the time noticed. Women began to spend time in the sun to emulate her skin tone. Coco never one to miss a trick would release L’Huile Tan, in 1924, the first tanning lotion for women. Other perfume brands would also join in during the late 1920’s and 30’s. That there is an attempt to add a pleasing scent to the functional product of sunscreen goes back nearly a hundred years.

In 2018 the current fashion trend is for self-tanning products which allow the wearer to minimize exposure to the UV rays. Mme Pica wanted to come forth with a Chanel version. Working with M. Polge to add a traditional cologne scent to the self-tanner produced L’Eau Tan.

I am going to review L’Eau Tan from the “It’s a cologne!” perspective with only a small nod to the “It’s a self-tanner!” part.

What M. Polge comes up with is to use a mixture of lemon and orange to form a citrus accord. From here there is a bit of floral support using the classic cologne ingredient, orange blossom. Then what really made this work is his use of tendrils of white musks winding through these traditional cologne components. It provides an effervescent expansiveness. As you should expect this is as transparent and as fleeting a fragrance as can be.

L’Eau Tan has 4-6 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

As it regards to the self-tanning aspect I wore this for four straight days on my arms when I was cooped up inside because of incessant rain. When we went out with friends one asked me if I had been down in Florida because I looked like I got some sun. I can’t speak for the accuracy of my friend’s perceptions but at least to her it was noticeable.

I am definitely going to be wearing this over the course of the summer because it is a nice light modern cologne perfect for some days. So, while I am in the “It’s a cologne!” camp I think there is something to the “It’s a self-tanner!” which means it is “2, 2 beauty products in one!”.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: The Summer Perfume Playlist

As Memorial Day approached last week I was busy refurbishing my summer music playlist. The songs have to be light fun and made for singing at the top of my lungs in the car. It gets a little longer every year as a couple of songs from the previous summer are added to my evergreen collection of songs I associate with long sunny days. At about the same time I was arranging the perfume on my shelves to get the ones I like on my perfume playlist out in front. As I was looking at them I realized that there is also a group of five I like wearing every summer because they are part of what makes the season for me. I thought I’d share my summer perfume playlist in this month’s My Favorite Things.

It might be the alpha perfume, or more accurately the alpha cologne, but there is nothing I enjoy more than spraying myself with a healthy coating of Roger & Gallet Jean Maria Farina Extra Vieille. Reputedly the original cologne recipe: lemon, rosemary, and orange blossom. It lasts for a short time, but it refreshes just as much as any three-chord rocker like “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” by The Ramones. Gabba Gabba Hey.

When I want something as bright as the noonday sun I choose Chanel Allure Homme Edition Blanche. Perfumers Jacques Polge and Francois Demachy open with a fantastic shiny fanfare of lemon before heading to a lightly woody base. I seem to hum “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves when I wear this.

Summer isn’t summer unless you spend some time at the beach. The Different Company Sel de Vetiver captures the smell of salt water on skin matched with vetiver and grapefruit to capture the dune grass and the sun. Perfumer Celine Ellena makes a fragrant version of “Surfin USA” by The Beach Boys.

What might be the omega cologne, Thierry Mugler Cologne, is one of the best reinterpretations of a classic fragrance style that exists. Perfumer Alberto Morillas uses the same lemon and orange blossom seen in many colognes but by threading a lot of white musks through that duo he creates something brilliant. This is the summer perfume I wear when I want to smile like “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.

I discovered Diptyque Philosykos near the end of a particular summer. It conjures end of season memories for me with perfumer Olivia Giacobetti’s transparent fig providing the coda to the summer before fall arrives. Just like “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley.

For the next three months all five perfumes and five songs will be on heavy rotation. See if you want to add them to your summer playlist.

Disclosure: Reviews based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Roger & Gallet Feuille de Figuier- Refreshing Green

I have written many times in the past about my belief that Roger & Gallet is one of those “best bang for your buck” brands. Using some of the best perfumers available while giving them latitude to provide something different in the drugstore venue has produced a collection which should be more widely known. Until the end of last year it seemed like Roger & Gallet had given up on bringing their version of quality to the masses. After a two-year hiatus they came back with a five-fragrance collection which captured all that I praise the brand for. I was hoping this was a sign there would be more regular output. When I received my package of Feuillle de Figuier I was happy to see things were back on track.

I was particularly pleased to see the name of this new release because one of the highlights of the Roger & Gallet collection is 2013’s Fleur de Figuier. Composed by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian it is still one of the best fig perfumes I own. Feuille de Figuier seeks to interpret fig in a different more austere paradigm.

Mathilde Bijaoui

Perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui decides to focus on creating a perfume with refreshing shades of green. This befits a perfume named after fig leaves. Throughout the entirety of its development there is a consistent green spine which is delivered in a lighter style ideal for warm weather months.

The best example of Mme Bijaoui tempering some of the stronger ingredients is her use of galbanum in the top accord. Most often this is a deep green powerful effect. By pairing it with sunnier citrus and controlling the concentration there comes a refreshing quality that will be repeated throughout Feuille de Figuier’s development. The citrus gives way to neroli and its green underpinnings. The galbanum amplifies that. The orange blossom part of neroli finds itself adding some joie de vive to the fig leaves. Fig leaves a carry a creamy aspect along with the obvious leafy nature. That creaminess is enhanced by benzoin in the base while cedar brings in the raw green woodiness to keep things on the light side.

Feuille de Figuier has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mme Bijaoui has delivered a genial transparent green perfume which is just the kind of sparkling green the days of summer call out for.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Prada Luna Rossa Black- Formal Sailing

I keep repeating this, but Prada is one of the best mainstream perfume collections. It has consistently released a broad spectrum of fragrance. That they have all been overseen by in-house perfumer Daniela Andrier provides an aesthetic connection which is now becoming synonymous with Prada the perfume brand.

In 2012 Mme Andrier created a new masculine pillar collection with the release of Luna Rossa. Based on the sailboats sponsored by the brand competing in the America’s Cup she would create atypical aquatics. Over the course of four flankers Mme Andrier explored the boundaries of an aquatic fougere in the mainstream sector. Upon receiving my sample of the latest flanker Luna Rossa Black I was ready to set sail on a breeze of lavender only to be met by something entirely different.

Daniela Andrier

If the previous members of the Luna Rossa collection were meant to capture the exhilaration of sailing; Luna Rossa Black is for the evening formal party after you’re back on shore. Gone are the fresh fougere beats replaced by an Oriental architecture of spice. Mme Andrier keeps it fresher then most other fragrances of this style which is as close as Luna Rossa Black comes to resembling any of its predecessors.

The perfume opens with the subtle peppery nature of angelica seed matched with the freshness of bergamot. Angelica seed carries an energetic spiciness which opens this with some gusto. The star of this perfume is Mme Andrier’s combination of patchouli and coumarin in the heart. In most Orientals the partner to patchouli is something heavier; resins or amber among a few. Mme Andrier’s choice of coumarin provides a lighter touch on an accord which is recognizably within the framework of the style.  It also allows for the angelica seeds to extend their presence into the heart where if something heftier had been used it would have been obliterated. The base is a suite of musk, again, freshened a bit by a synthetic ambergris.

Luna Rossa Black has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Sometimes you have to come ashore. Luna Rossa Black provides something for that man to wear while on shore.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Prada.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Problem with Prequels

Coming home from the new Star Wars film “Solo” I realized why I enjoyed it yet there was something missing. Took me a minute but it is something that has been missing from most movies or television shows which go back to before we met the main characters. What it means is there is no chance of anything drastic happening to them before they get to that place where we met them. In “Solo” it isn’t really a problem because at heart it is a heist movie and those don’t usually have mortal consequences for any of the main characters either. Where it becomes an issue is in large sprawling sagas where there is so much ingrained history that the story is straitjacketed into a very narrow space.

A perfect example has been the two attempts at Star Trek television series designed as prequels to the original series. Star Trek: Enterprise showed the first voyages into deep space by Earth. If the writers had been content to leave it at that the show might have been better. Instead as happens all too often they begin to introduce things way before they are supposed to be known. This happened with so many things in Star Trek: Enterprise it became irrelevant. The latest series Star Trek: Discovery is doing the same thing by introducing a new character into one of the iconic characters’ family who should have been mentioned somewhere prior. This becomes especially egregious when this person plays pivotal parts of at least three key moments in Starfleet history; in the first season.

It isn’t just Star Trek; Gotham also struggles with the Batman story. Every villain ever is infesting Gotham City all while Bruce Wayne is a teenager. It is like “Teen Batman” but in typical DC fashion made gritty so it is PG-13 rated “Teen Batman”. There is zero dramatic tension between any of these characters. Why? Because we know every single one of them becomes older to bedevil Batman/Bruce Wayne at a later date. It doesn’t matter how dire the situation I know nothing permanent is happening to any of these characters no matter how it may seem.

Which really leads to the real problem. All of these are made for the particular fan base not for the general public. It is fan fiction done by professionals. They survive by filling themselves with inside jokes only a dedicated fan gets. So yeah am I interested to see something actually happen which was only explained in dialogue in the original? Turns out it is like visiting a museum exhibit. It can be fun, but it feels old.

As a fan these prequels are mostly enjoyable, but they really will never come close to the originals they are trying to fill in the backstory for.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Armani Prive Bleu Turquoise- Salt Tanned Skin

One of the more difficult things for me to do is to become excited for a new perfume within some of the most highly populated genres. It becomes tedious when I receive something new which reminds me of something very similar to it. One of the reasons that happens is the perfumer follows the existing recipe at the recommended concentrations. I have found that what it takes for me to lift something out of the pile is having something more than a tweak to it. The recent Armani Prive Bleu Turquoise shows how to do it.

Aurelien Guichard

In the aquatic genre I could spend a few days naming perfume with a “sea spray” accord. It is usually a focal point, but it is kept balanced. What captured my attention in Bleu Turquoise was perfumer Aurelien Guichard wasn’t interested in the sea spray but the smell of it evaporated on sun-warmed skin. M. Guichard keeps it exceedingly simple around the sea salt accord putting it forward as the keynote with only two significant supporting ingredients.

The perfume opens on a delicate frankincense drifting in soft puffs of slightly metallic beauty. Out of this comes the central accord. M. Guichard uses salt but adds in a musk or two to evoke tanned bare skin encrusted with the ocean’s brine. This is a familiar scent from many days lying on a beach towel as the sun dried off from my swim; leaving swirls of white on my chest, legs, and arms. The choice of vanilla in the base is also a nice twist as it is like applying a sweet-smelling suntan lotion over my sun-dried skin.

Bleu Turquoise has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Bleu Turquoise is a nice take on the aquatic genre. It isn’t going to change the style but if you want something different for the upcoming summer this is a good choice.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Neiman Marcus.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Juliette has a Gun Moscow Mule- Cocktails on the Deck

As I write this I’m getting ready for company here in Poodlesville for the traditional kickoff to summer, Memorial Day. One part of this is bringing out all my cocktail paraphernalia. The martini and margarita glasses are front and center. Tall julep glasses and absinthe goblets join them. Then there is my set of four copper mugs which find a place, too. I acquired those three summers ago when I discovered the cocktail known as a Moscow Mule. A mixture of lime juice, vodka and ginger beer served very cold. The copper mugs are reputed to keep it colder longer. Because of the heat capacity properties of copper. Not sure about that but I admit drinking them on the deck at Poodlesville as the sun shines down is an ideal summer cocktail. A new perfume is inspired by this refreshing cocktail Juliette has a Gun Moscow Mule.

Juliette has a Gun was founded in 2006 by Romano Ricci he began by being a hands-on creative director working with the perfumers. This was, in essence, his graduate school of perfumery as he supplemented what he had learned previously. M. Ricci has a proud name to live with as a double-edged sword as the great grandson of Nina Ricci. Like her he has forged a consistent identity for his brand. Over the past few years M. Ricci has begun to take the wheel as the perfumer for Juliette has a Gun. One set of ingredients he has a fondness for are the synthetic woody ingredients. Moscow Mule might be the most exuberant example of this aesthetic; half of the ingredients come from this class. In the case of Moscow Mule, they act as the figurative “copper cup” although it is woody instead of metallic. Inside is the cocktail.

Romano Ricci

M. Ricci squeezes a lime out at the top of Moscow Mule followed by a strong ginger. This smells very much like the cocktails I make. I smiled every time, from the memory, for the first few minutes. There is an alcoholic accord which represents the vodka which comes next. It carries a sharp focused accelerator to the ginger and lime. Then the woods begin their rise as they form the container. M. Ricci has become one of the masters at using these powerful ingredients. It reminds me a bit of being a wild animal trainer trying to get each one to behave without mauling the overall construct. For Moscow Mule it is a veritable honor roll of these ingredients; Amber Xtreme, Norlimbanol, Ambroxan, and Iso E Super. Those have been the backbone of hundreds of woody perfumes but because of their intensity they are rarely combined. M. Ricci gets them to not only behave but to form a fascinating solid woody accord I found I enjoyed. Some ambrettolide provides a bit of musk to the later stages but it is the woods which predominate.

Moscow Mule has near 24-hour longevity and average sillage.

If you are someone who is not fond of the synthetic woods in perfume stay far away from this; it is definitely not going to be a refreshing cocktail for you. If you are a fan M. Ricci has coaxed some interesting intersections within the overdose. I liked it because it reminded me of the smell of the deck I do most of my cocktail drinking on as the summer sun heats it up there is always a scent of heated wood around me. If this sounds good come join me on the deck for cocktails this summer.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle supplied by Europerfumes.

Mark Behnke