Posted in movies, Reviews

A Movie Review: Fast and Furious 6


I am not even going to pretend that I did not like this movie.  I’m just going to jump right in and tell you that I enjoyed the fool out of it.  How’s the song go?  “I’m not too shy to show I love you, I got no regrets.”  That is exactly how I feel about this movie.

Thor conned me into going to see Fast and Furious 6, last week.  Neither of us had ever seen any of the first five, but he was into the idea of all the cars and explosions, and I was into the idea of taking a nap in the big theater chair, so off we went.  I live “blogged” the movie on my Facebook feed and annoyed half of my friends list into blocking me, but I was alternately so delighted and so…delighted by inanity, that I couldn’t help myself.

I think the basic plot of any F&F movie is bad boys and girls with hearts of gold, with cool cars, race truly bad boys and girls with cool cars.  They have some fist fights, some shoot ’em ups, and some cartoony love stories, and good prevails over evil in some sort of Robin Hood way.  I’m not going to worry about all that because the movie makers don’t.    The plot, the dialog and the acting are about as complex as an episode of Scooby Doo.  But, they are also as satisfying.

Here are two things that truly surprised me: 

Feminists Could Enjoy This.  Even though the women are obvious set decoration (I think it is fair to say that the men are set decoration, too.  I mean, you don’t hire The Rock, Tyrese, or that blond one for their acting ability) and only get about 1/4 as much screentime as the men, their storylines were as strong as the men’s, they were portrayed as important, valuable members of their teams, and they were all physically and emotionally strong.  They are all good at their jobs.  No wilting flowers.  No screw ups.  They rescue the men just as often as the men rescue them, and they make the same important sacrifices for the good of their team.  I felt good about the women, their stories, and their plot twists.  It was a movie a little girl could watch, and walk away saying, “I want to be like her!”  And a little girl could truly get in on the role playing at recess, too.

It is Truly Diverse.  The casting is a feat of diversity, and should be studied and modeled after.  You know how in college brochures, you have the pictures with the two white people, one Latino, one Asian, and one black guy?  You might think that a cast made up of an Italian, White Guy, Samoan Thor (that’s what the caller ID said!), two Black Guys, an Asian Guy, a Latina, a White Girl, a vaugely Italian girl, and two European Girls would look like that brochure.  It did not.  It was startlingly seamless as far as the ethnic variations went.  I was amazed.  I mean, I was amazed.  No one mentioned race.  No one mentioned ethnicity.  There was one moment of a character pointing out the similarities in the bad guy’s team, but it wasn’t College Brochure even on the evil side of the coin.  It was two teams assembled with the best person for the job, and on either team, the best people were a melting pot of variety.  It was a movie anyone could see, and find someone who looked like him/her to “be” when playing outside later.

I’ll tell you, I went into this movie expecting to want to strangle myself with my own hair–like I did watching G.I. Joe.  I didn’t.  I got into it.  I had fun.  Thor had fun.  We walked out talking about the cool things we’d seen, and which characters we liked.  And I will SO be going to see F&F7.

4 out of 5 stars

 

Posted in movies, Reviews

A Review: This is 40? It is Miserables.


We rarely see anything in the theater anymore, so I am just catching up on last year’s movies.  Recently, I have watched This is 40 and Les Miserables, and that is what I am going to remember when I start to feel huffy that I only get to see new releases in theaters when there are Marvel comics characters involved.  Iron Man has never let me down.  Judd Apatow?  Hulk needs to smash.

I watched This is 40 and found myself actually squinting at the screen in consternation.  Who were these horrible people?  Horrible, useless, vapid, whiny, irresponsible, awful people.  You’ve got Pete and Debbie, a couple who are turning 40 years old, their kids, Sadie and Iris (13 and 8ish), and their assorted family and friends.

Pete owns a failing record label.  It is failing because he only wants to sign musicians he likes, and he appears to have terrible taste in music.  We find out that Pete has missed a mortgage payment and rental on his office.  He paid $30k for a neon sign to hang inside his office, though, and he appears to be paying for his father’s living expenses?  Oh, and he is hiding all of this from his wife, who he appears to hate.

Debbie owns a retail store incongruently staffed by Charlyne Yi and Megan Fox.  If you are going to hire one of those women to represent your brand, you are not going to hire the other, lest you cause great brand confusion.  She is utterly useless.  She thinks one of her staff has stolen $12k from her but does absolutely nothing about it, other than to take one of them out for dinner to discuss it.  She seems to hate her husband and her children.

If Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann had any chemistry, (or if Leslie Mann could act) it might work, but this was just bad.  You can pretty much see every moment when Action was called, and Cut brought blessed relief–especially, and most strangely, in the scenes between Mann and her real life daughter, Maude Apatow. 

Those children in the movie?  Is that what other people’s kids are really like?  If so, how did they make it out of childhood?  Actually, it was the terrible teenager who made me really hate the parents. 

To sum up, this movie is a masturbatory exercise in middle-aged ennui.  Two bored, pretty, white people, who can’t manage their money, who refuse to take responsibility for themselves, and who are leaving their children to be raised by Apple, have problems because neither one of them can act like an adult for longer than 10 seconds in a row.  I hated them, and kept hoping worse things would happen to them.  That’s not how a movie is supposed to make you feel.

No stars out of 5–there was nothing redeeming about this movie.  Not even the costuming.  John Lithgow was redeeming, but he was wonderful and Lithgowian, and did not belong in the movie, so I don’t give any points for him.

I had higher hopes for Les Miserables.  It’s been a long time since I read the Victor Hugo novel, and I’ve only seen the play in bits and pieces, so I was excited.  Maybe if I’d seen it before Oscar season, it would have played better to me, but by the time I sat down to it the other night, all I could see was Anne Hathaway’s acceptance speeches.

If you aren’t familiar with the plot, the movie opens on Wolverine, who is serving out the end of a prison term for having stolen “a mouthful of bread.”  General Maximus Decimus Meridius is his jailer, who reminds him he got 5 years for stealing the bread, and 15 for running from jail.  But, he hands Wolverine his walking papers and they sing to each other the equivalent of, “I’ll be watching you.”

Wolverine has to choose between good and bad, he chooses good and goes on to become mayor of a slumtown.  Princess Mia Thermopolis works at one of his factories, where she has nicer hair and teeth than anyone else because she pays attention to her hygeine.  She is also hiding a baby back home, and for some reason this pisses off the other factory women who insist she be fired.  Since she’s refused to put out to the factory foreman, he fires her.  Wolverine is too busy hiding from Maximus to save her.

Princess Mia sells off all her worldly possessions, including her hair and teeth, before finally selling her vagine.  Blah blah singing about dreams and tigers–

Do any of you have trouble getting into a show if it is overly dramatic?  I mean, there is drama, and there is wank.  Les Mis, the movie, is wank.  Maybe it’s because of the extreme closeups, and because you can see the actors working so hard to emote, whereas in a stage production you are taking in the whole of the actor and the actor’s surroundings?  I don’t know.  But rather than being impressed and touched by the strings of saliva in Hathaway’s maw, I was just a little bored.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel for Fantine.  I felt for all the prostitutes in the scene–I feel for the other prostitutes more.  Maybe that’s it?  Why Fantine?  Surely she wasn’t the only girl out there who was working it because the rent was due.  But she was the only one out there weeping over how much her life sucked.  And since she pretty much sings about what a party girl she was before becoming Teen Mom, I’m not sure where my sympathy is supposed to lie?  Maybe if she’d been nicer to her coworkers, she wouldn’t have ended up in such a mess?  Maybe if she’d just embraced the role, she could have released her own sex tape and gotten a reality show?

Anyway…  Wolverine adopts Karen Smith from her caretakers, Borat and Mrs. Lovett, and tries to make a new life for them where Maximus can’t find them.  Karen’s weather-telling tatas fall in love with a cute spare who sings like Kermit the Frog, who is loved unrequitedly by an actual Broadway performer with amazing pipes. 

Then it’s all confusing with singing and pining, and fighting, and who cares because Fantine was actually the best part of the show.  And, Anne Hathaway did an incredible job, and deserved her Oscar.

3.5 out of 5 stars.  I gave it an extra half star because I enjoyed how uncomfortable Russell Crowe looked the whole time.

Bonus mini-review:  Silver Linings Playbook.  What was that?  That was it?  That won Oscars?  Dang.  2 out of 5 stars.

Posted in movies, Philosophy, Reviews

A Review: I Am Iron Man


We took Thor to see Iron Man 3 last night.  Now y’all know I am all about the Iron Man.  I loved the first, didn’t hate the second, and flipped my wig over The Avengers.  I am 100% into all these Marvel character movies because they are good.  Iron Man 3 did not disappoint.

I’ll tell you that it didn’t thrill me like The Avengers did, and I’d have cut about 45 minutes out of it–including everything with the kid, which the real critics are raving over as having been some of the best parts of the movie–but I had a solid good time, a lot of laugh-out-loud moments, and found myself rooting for hard and loudly for [I can’t tell you this because it’s a spoiler.]

This is a classic tale of the hero being stripped down to the skin, and forced to rebuild himself to face a new reality.  Who is Iron Man without his suit?  Who is Iron Man after he’s saved the world from things he didn’t think existed?  What happens to Tony Stark’s god complex after he’s met gods?  I loved that these were the questions both asked, and answered by the movie.  I loved that they actually dealt with what happened in The Avengers and how it affected Tony Stark.  It was a lot more than just explosions and quips, and only RDJ could have made it happen.  Only the kid who made Less Than Zero could have made this movie work because Tony Stark is what Julian wanted to be.

There is a lot I won’t tell you because it would spoil all the fun, but I will say this:  I felt good as a mom and as a girl, watching this movie.  I felt like the relationship between Tony and Pepper was a healthy representation of equality in partnership, give and take in partnership, and even though I wouldn’t date a superhero (or live in Gotham City, hello?) I could see why Pepper Potts stuck around long enough to go from suffering Admin, to what really lights up Iron Man’s electro magnet.  This wasn’t a movie I walked out of thinking, “Well that was great! If you’re a boy…”  I walked out of this movie thinking it was smart, funny, and dead-on when it came to gender equality.

Yes, I know it’s weird to walk out of a superhero movie thinking about things like gender equality, but I always wanted to be a good superhero, and there weren’t a lot of good girl ones.  Wonder Woman was awesome, but her costume…  Batgirl and Supergirl were sidekicks.  And those were the only Underoos available!  Boys don’t get it, but it is painful, truly painful to want to be more than just a pair of jiggly boobs, or buttocks, but to be relegated to a star-spangled girdle and go-go boots.  No matter how cool Wonder Woman was, she still didn’t have any good weapons because she had nowhere to put them.

Iron Man 3 made me fall in love with the idea of a girl being a superhero again, and the last ten minutes felt like the action-adventure version of the last two minutes of Pretty Woman.  I wish I had a little girl to take to this movie.  I wish I could take 7 year old ME to see this movie.  It would totally make up for how lame Lois Lane was in the Superman movies, and about half the Bond girls ever.

While I was feeling bolstered and delighted by the turns of the story, Thor was howling with delight over the fight scenes. His face was one big ! for the last ten minutes.

4 out of 5 stars for worthwhile watching

5 out of 5 stars for entertainment value

Posted in A Day in the Life, movies, Thor

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pads


I went to see G.I. Joe with the boys today, and was fortunate enough to have my dinner upset my stomach badly enough that I had to miss about 10 minutes of the movie.  You know a movie is bad when you prefer gastric distress.  I knew it wouldn’t be great, but I thought it might at least be enjoyable.  Sadly, The Rock kept his shirt on for the whole thing, Bruce Willis was woefully underused, and that really dumb, cute one died in the first act–also without ever having taken his shirt off.  Storm Shadow took off his shirt, but his pants were so unattractive it didn’t matter.  (I’m not even someone who cares about looking at half naked men, so for me to have been actually disappointed that The Rock kept his shirt on should give you some more depth into just how bad the movie was.)

While I was washing my hands in the restroom, I noticed a woman crouched in front of the sanitary napkin/tampax dispenser, cranking that dispenser knob like she was a lab rat and it had given her cheese every other time.  She bounced the heel of her hand against the metal door a couple of times, then went back to twisting that knob.  I always carry a spare tampax, so as I was walking by her, I slipped it to her as discreetly as possible.  Passing the baton of sisterhood.  We did not speak, but in that moment, I know I made a lifelong friend.  If my life were a movie, in the third act, this woman would appear at some critical juncture to offer me a spare something-or-other that would be the key to my success.  That would make sense.  Unlike anything that happened EVER in G.I. Joe.

It’s funny how embarrassing feminine products can be when you are young.  I remember buying pads at Winn Dixie, when I was in high school, and lurking around the check out lines until I could dash forward into a line with both a female cashier and bagger.  The worst thing in the world was winding up with a boy bagging your Kotex.  And I wouldn’t buy tampons for the longest time because I was afraid of the stigma of them*.  I wouldn’t even buy Midol.  Someone might guess I was having cramps.  The most embarrassing, though, was having to ask my grandfather to go to the store for me.

Now, I don’t think twice about slapping down a couple of boxes in and among my fruits and vegetables.  Granted, now I could buy condoms without blinking.  Something I could not even do when I first got married.  And that’s something I think we should teach our kids to feel okay to purchase.  Instead of raising them to believe it reads, “I have the morals of an alley cat,” we should raise them to understand that it truly means, “I am responsible for my health, my partner’s health, and I am taking care to avoid unwanted pregnancies.”  Just changing that one perception would save lives.

Just ask Bill Gates, who raised himself even further in my esteem with his offered grant for the inventor of the next generation condom.  The grant offer challenges:

We are looking for a Next Generation Condom that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure, in order to improve uptake and regular use. Additional concepts that might increase uptake include attributes that increase ease-of-use for male and female condoms, for example better packaging or designs that are easier to properly apply. In addition, attributes that address and overcome cultural barriers are also desired.

We have to de-stigmatize barrier protection so that sexually active people aren’t so embarrassed or shamed by the product that they end up with life threatening, or life altering diseases, and bad cases of the babies.  I mean, I would certainly rather my child wait until he is old enough to be mentally, emotionally, and financially capable of handling all the potential fallout of sex, but if he’s going to become active before he’s 45 years old, I want him to feel comfortable going down to the CVS to buy some Trojans.  And I want his partner to be equally as comfortable.  Both XY and XX pairs should feel like it is as normal as buying mouthwash.  They shouldn’t have to sneak singles out of the jar in the nurse’s office.  Do nurse’s offices still have that jar?

To  bring this back around to the opening paragraph of this entry, I wish the makers of G.I. Joe had worn production condoms, and saved us from this travesty of a film. **

*This also had something to do with an encounter I had on a McDonald’s Playland as a child.  We had just moved to Texas, so I was not quite 11.  I was playing on the equipment, and some older boys wanted to be where I was.  I refused to budge, so they started bullying and name calling.  One of them yelled, “You need to go inside and change your tampon, Nasty, because you smell like dirty c—!”  I wasn’t sure what c— was, but I could infer that it had to do with ladybits because I was vaguely aware of what tampons were.  I did go inside after that because I was horrified.  I did not tell my mother exactly what was said to me because I knew I’d never get to go outside and play by myself again–and I would have to go visit her in jail after she threw the offending boy over the fence.

**Thor loved the movie.  He came out grinning and pulling Snake Eyes moves, demanding to be photographed in action.  It was worth it to see him so happy.  I’m still glad I missed a chunk of it.

My little ninja.
My little ninja.
Posted in Chef Lane, Food, movies, Reviews

3 Breasts: A recipe and a review


I used 3 chicken breasts (on the bone with rib meat) and made 4 different meals.  To cook the meat, I warmed EVOO in a stewer over medium heat with 2 Tbs of garlic paste, and 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary.  When that was warm, I browned the breasts, skin side down, then added water to cover.  To that, I added 2 Knorr chicken flavor cubes, sea salt and a variety of herbs that smelled nice.  I brought that to a boil, then simmered for 45 minutes

I shredded the meat of all 3 breasts, added about 1/4 of it back to the broth with a cup of carrots, a cup of cauliflower and 1 1/2 cups of lentils to make soup (cooked for another 20 minutes before adding the chicken back in.)  With the next 1/4, I made shredded chicken tacos with fresh, homemade salsa, and used the final 1/2 for a plain chicken meal for Thor, and shredded chicken sandwiches for dinner.

To make the salsa, coarsely chop 2 large tomatoes, and finely chop 1 banana pepper, 1 small jalapeno, 1 small onion, 3 cloves of garlic, and juice 2 limes.  Put the peppers, onion and garlic in a strainer and pour 2 cups of boiling water over them and let drain well.  This softens them and brings out some flavor.  Mix everything together with salt and chili powder to taste, then refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

For shredded chicken sandwiches, mound the cold, shredded chicken on foil and sprinkle with cheddar cheese, then broil until cheese is bubbly.  Serve on hamburger buns with horseradish sauce.  Tasty!

********************

B and I went to see Total Recall last week.  While the 3-Breasted Hooker made it back into the film, the bomb-mask (my favorite thing from the original, other than Arnold’s accent) did not.

I didn’t have high hopes for the film, so I wasn’t disappointed when it wasn’t great.  I was surprised at what was the whole trouble, though.  First, Collin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale were very good in their roles.  Farrell was believable as an Everyman who might be a revolutionary.  Beckinsale was the perfect sociopath.  Both are very easy on the eyes, and stood out against the perfectly dystopian backdrop.  Their chemistry was right on target.  They reminded me a bit of Pitt and Jolie as Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

The first quarter of the film was promising, though I did lean over to ask B why everyone spoke in an American accent if the only places left on earth were the UK and Australia, and why everyone other than the main characters were Asian.  That was a startling defect.  How can the whole of the world be Asian, but the only people important to the plot be white, pretty people?

But I could suspend my disbelief.  The action was good, the gadgets were cool, and I could get behind Rekal as a possibly safe, possibly sinister place.  Then, something horrible happened.  Jessica Biel.

Biel has gorgeous hair, beautiful skin, and has an amazing figure.  She cannot act.  Period.  Every scene she was in was diminished by her presence.  I wish I could be nicer about that, but it’s sad and true.  She brought absolutely nothing to the role other than pretty hair, and really just served the purpose of making me think, “Dang…I never realized Kate Beckinsale could act.”  Listen, Beckinsale playing dead was better than Biel playing anything.

Brian Cranston was woefully miscast, as was his wig.  Bill Nighy was wasted in his role.  He should have had Cranston’s part.

Overall, I had a fine time.  It wasn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen (The Messenger), and it wasn’t the best movie I’ve ever seen (you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.)  It was all right.  The bad did outweigh the good, so I only give it 2.75 out of 5 stars.