Movies Opening Jun 29

Nationwide Releases

Directed: Brad Bird
Starring: Patton Oswalt, Brad Barrett

A rat in Paris who is a really good chef helps out a young guy who wants to cook, but doesn’t have the talent.

RT Score: 95%
RT Consensus: Pixar succeeds again with Ratatouille, a stunningly animated film with fast pacing, memorable characters, and overall good humor.

The wild, devoted praise afforded Bird’s solid yet tepid films puzzles me. It’s as though society is playing a joke that everyone but me and a few others are in on. I smell a Ratatouille.
– Phil Villarreal
Arizona Daily Star

What makes Ratatouille such a hilarious and heartfelt wonder is the way Bird contrives to let it sneak up on you. And get a load of that score from Michael Giacchino, a perfect compliment to a delicious meal.
– Peter Travers
Rolling Stone

Ratatouille has the Pixar technical magic without, somehow, the full Pixar flavor. It’s Brad Bird’s genial dessert, not so much incredible as merely sweetly edible.
– Owen Gleiberman
Entertainment Weekly

Not quite the comedic animated masterpiece, rather a cute quaint film that drags a bit at the second act, but offers up an unexpectedly warm plate of climax in the wind up.
– Ross Anthony
Hollywood Report Card

From the moment Remy enters, crashing, to the final happy fadeout, Ratatouille parades the brio and depth that set Pixar apart from and above other animation studios.
– Richard Corliss
TIME Magazine

Continue reading Movies Opening Jun 29

The Departed

The Departed

Directed: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen

Leonardo DiCaprio is a cop undercover in a mob gang run by Jack Nicholson. Matt Damon is a mole in the police department working for the mob, trying to figure out who is the undercover cop.

This movie is long, but involved. I can’t think of any way for it to be shorter without losing something. There were some quick cuts that can be distracting at times, but then I was thankful they were there to keep the story moving along. I first thought the quick cuts were bad editing, then realized they were there on purpose.

Continue reading The Departed

Top Chef: Sunny Delights

Episode 2: Sunny Delights

Top Chef: Miami
Channel: Bravo
Day/Time: Wednesday, 10/9c

I had heard this show was good, but I hadn’t checked it out the first two seasons. I thought I would try it out since I had become hooked on Hell’s Kitchen. I love this show and it makes Hell’s Kitchen pale in comparison. While watching Hell’s Kitchen, you can’t believe some of the people even hold any kind of cooking job. You feel you could walk in and do a better job, and I’m nowhere close to being a great cook. After watching Top Chef, I don’t even know what they are talking about most of the time. They get to be creative and it is more focused on the individual than teamwork (which is how Hell’s Kitchen is set up) so I find it way more entertaining. I watched the first and second episode so close to one another, I thought I’d dig into the second one.

Quickfire Challenge

The day began with the contestants coming into the kitchen surrounded by every kind of citrus imaginable. They had 30 minutes to gather whatever citrus they wanted plus any of the staples in the Top Chef pantry to make a unique dish. Guest judge Norman Van Aken (who owns some fancy restaurants in Florida called Norman’s Restaurant) would make the final decision on who would win the challenge. He would judge it based on presentation, taste, and how well it used the Florida citrus provided.

Hung won the challenge with a slow roasted sea bass with citrus crumble, watercress and radish salad. He was safe from elimination. Another standout was Tre’s dish of salmon served hot on one side of the plate and cold on the other. He had made a macadamia pesto to go with it. Howie’s plate of vanilla butter poached lobster tail with blood orange citrus salad and Brian’s Alaskan halibut with pomegranate blood orange molasses were also highlights.

One of the scarier dishes was Micah’s avocado soup which was more mush than soup. Sara N. couldn’t really remember what she had just made so had a hard time saying what it was, which cost her the challenge. Casey made a fancy s’ more with orange in the chocolate sauce and orange/chocolate on the side, but the orange wasn’t present enough in the s’ more to qualify in the judge’s mind, even though he said it was delicious.

Elimination Challenge

The chefs had to create an upscale BBQ dish that would be served to 60 people at an upscale BBQ on the waterfront. They had 30 minutes and $200 to go to the fresh market to get what they needed that wasn’t already in the pantry. Then they had two hours of prep time that day. The BBQ was the following day where they had two hours to cook before the guests arrived.

I was impressed that people came up with ideas immediately on what they could make. I have no idea how people can be so creative with dishes! This is why I am not a chef. I need to get inspiration from looking through recipes. I do love seeing the weird and yummy stuff they come up with though. I would love to be one of the guests trying the dishes.

Many people went for meat, so others went a different route with seafood. A couple of contestants were worried they weren’t going to make their dishes perfect. One of them being Micah since the day before she was an emotional wreck saying it was because she was away from her daughter. This might be more believable if it had been towards the end of competition, but this was the second episode. I think it was more likely that her Quickfire Challenge dish was roasted. Her dish impressed the guests with its taste, but it did seem a very large dish for those trying to eat standing up without utensils.

Micah from South Africa
Lamb with Grilled Halloumi & Pomegranate Sauce

Another one that was freaking out was Sara N. She was a nervous mess during the Quickfire, which caused her to forget what she made. Then she was having a hell of a time preparing things for the BBQ later that same day. She seemed to pull it together the next day at the BBQ since she got rave reviews for her Vietnamese BBQ beef. She was worried that her cucumbers and chiles were going to be way too hot, but no one complained.

Sara N from Santa Monica, CA
Vietnamese BBQ with Pine Nuts, Radish & Cucumber Salad

Camille and Casey’s dishes were also good, mixing a bunch of different flavors in a BBQ setting without it being lost in the charcoals.

Camille from Elizabeth, NJ
Grilled Swordfish with Chorizo & Artichoke Potato Salad

Casey from Cedar Hills, TX
Strip Steak, Polenta, Bacon Wrapped Shrimp with Tomato Salad

Some of the cocky ones were Howie, Tre, Joey and Hung. Tre kept talking about how he was from Texas and going to do his home state proud with the BBQ challenge, yet he grilled salmon instead of meat. He also had a problem with some dishes being too bland. When he heard this, he started adding salt, which led to others complaining of it being too salty.

Tre from Duncanville, TX

Peach BBQ Glazed Salmon with Crab Avocado Salad

Howie who bragged in the first episode about being a perfectionist with time, except that he ran out of time and didn’t plate half of his dish, bragged this episode about his skills. Yet, he sliced his pork tenderloin before grilling it, and then put it on way too early so it ended up dried out. Winner!

Howie from Miami, FL
Jamaican Jerk Pork, Mango Slaw with Citrus Vinaigrette

Joey made easy to eat drumsticks, but they didn’t seem very upscale. Hung’s dish did seem to live up to his claims. He also made a tasty drink that was a big fan with the guests. Joey made something similar during the Quickfire Challenge so he ended up yelling about Hung stealing his drink idea. It was a watermelon shooter.

Joey from Long Island, NY
Korean BBQ Chicken with Charred Corn, Tofu & Bean Sprout Salad

Hung from Pittsfield, MA
Flank Steak with Grilled Corn Salad & Bagel Chips

Other contestants were not thrilled with Sandee’s dish, not because of flavor but because it did not seem to be BBQ. She had poached her lobster and was just heating it up over the grill. It was already done by the time she arrived.

Sandee from Saint Simon’s Island, GA
Vanilla Poached Lobster, Pancetta Wrapped Date & Truffle Slaw

Brian made a dish that everyone loved, and he wasn’t nervous or cocky while making it. His seafood sausage was tasty, and was very upscale. He also was able to talk up the guests while serving to them, so his designated area was very popular.

Brian from Bend, OR
Scallops, Shrimp & Seabass Sausage with Ginger Slaw & Chili Glaze

Winners & Losers

The top choices were Brian, Micah and Sara N. Brian ended up winning the overall challenge. The bottom of the pack were Howie, Tre, Joey and Sandee. The main complaint with Tre was his dish was either bland or too salty depending on when you ate during the event. Howie’s dish was over dry and did not seem upscale to fit the challenge. Joey’s dish was tasty, but also did not fit the upscale criteria. Sandee’s dish was decent, except that some of her flavors overpowered the taste of the lobster where half the judges couldn’t tell it was lobster. It also did not fit the BBQ criteria. The judges had to decide what was worse: not being upscale or not being BBQ. They decided that not being BBQ was a worse sin so Sandee was sent off packing.

Source: Top Chef

TV Show: Week of Jun 24

New Shows

Shaq’s Big Challenge
Channel: ABC
Time: 9/8c
Premieres: Tuesday, June 26

Shaq works with six obese middle schoolers to get them to play outside compared to inside with video games. He also tries to get their schools to get healthier lunches and bring back physical education.

Burn Notice
Channel: USA
Time: 10/9c
Premieres: Thursday, June 28

A CIA spy is fired with no reason, along with his bank account frozen and credit cards canceled. While trying to figure out why this happened, he takes up some private investigator jobs to make some money. Bruce Campbell also stars.

Sources: TV Guide , Entertainment Weekly, Futon Critic

For Coni cuz I luvz her!

Hi Coni! I can use the Italicas!

Movies Opening Jun 22

Nationwide Releases

Directed: Mikael Hafstrom
Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson

After hunting for any signs of paranormal activity from the other side, a grieving father declares there are no such things as ghosts. Then he gets trapped in room 1408 where no one has survived past an hour in the room.

RT Score: 74%
RT Consensus: Relying on psychological tension rather than overt violence and gore, 1408 is a genuinely creepy thriller with a strong lead performance by John Cusack.

It pins you into a claustrophobic chamber of terror for a surprisingly stomach-turning thrill ride.
– Phil Villarreal
Arizona Daily Star

Reassuringly old-school gothic.
– Owen Gleiberman
Entertainment Weekly

Swedish director Mikael Hafsrom, who scored with Evil in 2003 and fizzled badly with Derailed two years later, seems to have regained his footing.
– Peter Travers
Rolling Stone

Finds some ingenious methods of visualizing the story’s literary whim-whams. Before it finally succumbs to CGI bloat in the last act, it offers up one of the creepiest hours in recent memory.
– Andrew Wright
The Stranger (Seattle, WA)

The horror wouldn’t work without Cusack, who makes what could have been a rote acting exercise — Be tough! Now angry! Now defensively funny! — a cathartic ritual instead.
– Robert Wilonsky
Village Voice

A Mighty Heart
Directed: Michael Winterbottom
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman

The story behind the journalist who was kidnapped in Pakistan in 2002.

RT Score: 78%
RT Consensus: Angelina Jolie conveys the full emotional range of a woman in a desperate situation in A Mighty Heart, an urgent yet tactful film about a difficult subject.

It plays as a pandering vanity project for Angelina Jolie.
– Phil Villarreal
Arizona Daily Star

The twisting of narrative perspective that pushes the missing man’s wife so insistently into the foreground makes A Mighty Heart a mighty challenge.
– Lisa Schwarzbaum
Entertainment Weekly

The film’s strict avoidance of exploitation and sensationalism only adds to the film’s emotional impact.
– Peter Travers
Rolling Stone

It’s not easy to make a dramatic, tense movie when many in the audience already know the ending, but director Michael Winterbottom has created one of the most compelling and emotional movies you will see
– Willie Waffle

Jolie is such an expressive actress that there’s always a danger she’ll overplay the part, but one major misstep aside, she slips into Winterbottom’s wide-ranging procedural and asserts herself only when dramatically necessary.
– Scott Tobias
Onion AV Club

Evan Almighty
Directed: Tom Shadyac
Starring: Steven Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham

A not-really sequel to Bruce Almighty where God tells the former anchorman, Evan, that he needs to build an ark before the big flood comes.

RT Score: 21%
RT Consensus: Big on special effects but short on laughs, Evan Almighty underutilizes a star-studded cast that includes Steve Carell and Morgan Freeman.

The idea to show characters dancing to a song with lyrics that go “Everybody Dance Now!” is indicative of the movie’s creativity level.
– Phil Villarreal
Arizona Daily Star

The shamelessly juvenile, pseudo-religious, mock-sincere Evan Almighty is the most expensive Hollywood comedy ever made. Problem? It’s not that funny.
– Peter Travers
Rolling Stone

Nothing can offset the picture’s dutiful Sunday-school intentions or the generic qualities of the CG animals that follow Noah in twosies.
– Lisa Schwarzbaum
Entertainment Weekly

For a movie that’s supposed to be about reconnecting with God and ourselves, and cherishing the Earth we live on, Evan Almighty is a surprisingly dispassionate picture.
– Stephanie Zacharek

There really aren’t any laugh-out-loud moments. Even comic pros like Wanda Sykes, John Michael Higgins and Goodman are straining a bit here.
– Jeff Vice
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

Limited Releases

You Kill Me
Directed: John Dahl
Starring: Tea Leoni, Ben Kingsley, Luke Wilson

A hitman in Buffalo is fired until he cleans up his drinking problem, finds love and hope in San Francisco, but just wants to get back to killing people.

RT Score: 74%
RT Consensus: Featuring wonderful performances from Ben Kingsley and Tea Leoni, You Kill Me is a charming, funny take on the familiar inner-lives-of-hit-men premise.

[A] precious, inert dud of a hitmen-are-people-too comedy.
– Owen Gleiberman
Entertainment Weekly

For an hour and a half it exerts its own preposterous reality, making you believe it — and like it.
– Richard Schickel
TIME Magazine

With an eclectic mix of strong-minded thesps all pulling in slightly different directions, this shape-shifting genre hybrid successfully commingles 12-step therapy, romantic comedy and hit-man thriller.
– Ronnie Scheib

This crime comedy has such a goofy script and such an eccentric cast that it kept me curious about what would happen next.
– Jonathan Rosenbaum
Chicago Reader

This modest hit-man comedy may be a one-joke film, but it’s a good one, representing a return to form for John Dahl after a decade of disappointing studio pictures. Acting ensemble, particularly Ben Kingsley as alcoholic killer who finds love, is good.
– Emanuel Levy

Broken English
Directed: Zoe Cassavetes
Starring: Melvil Poupaud, Parker Posey

A woman who can never find the right guy hits it off with a Parisian two days before he goes back to France.

RT Score: 63%
RT Consensus: Though Broken English eventually settles into basic rom-com territory, it’s pleasant and good-natured, and Parker Posey is spellbinding throughout the movie.

The tour of Manhattan and Paris is fun in a privileged Sex and the City way, but the wish-fulfillment content is awfully flimsy in this debut from writer-director Zoe Cassavetes.
– Lisa Schwarzbaum
Entertainment Weekly

It’s a rather typical Posey role, and yet somehow I never tire of seeing her in them.
– Kim Voynar

A psychologically rich drama that presents an illuminating anatomy of the anguish of loneliness and the way it often gives a desperate edge to our search for love.
– Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Spirituality and Practice

[Director] Cassavetes shows genuine, even original, talent in the way she creates emotional connections between camera and character, via fluid movement and unhinged perspective. But the advantage of having Posey as her lead shouldn’t be underestimated.
– John Anderson

By the time Nora finally makes a decision about her romantic future, we’ve already moved on.
– Josh Bell
Las Vegas Weekly

Directed: Michael Moore

Documentary about the health care situation in the U.S.

RT Score: 89%
RT Consensus: Driven by Michael Moore’s sincere humanism, Sicko is a devastating, convincing, and very entertaining documentary about the state of America’s health care.

In a summer of dumb, shameless drivel, Moore delivers a movie of robust mind and heart. You’ll laugh till it hurts.
– Peter Travers
Rolling Stone

Michael Moore is an incurable optimist who believes in the ability of America’s core values to come up to par and exceed other countries in the way our government takes care of its people.
– Cole Smithey

Michael Moore is the P.T. Barnum of America’s liberals, bombastically attacking his opponents and frequently letting his ego spill out onscreen.
– Brian Webster
Apollo Guide

At the very least, he’s raised a warning flag that shouldn’t be ignored.
– Stephanie Zacharek

Full of half-truths (e.g., the French government his characters praise was thrown out of office after the film wrapped), this is just more of Moore’s pathetic propaganda
– Tony Medley
Tolucan Times

White Palms
Directed: Szabolcs Hajdu
Starring: Zoltan Miklos Hajdu, Kyle Shewfelt, Gheorghe Dinica

An Olympic gymnast injures himself so becomes a coach in Canada where he has to train a gifted, but annoying young gymnast.

RT Score: 89%

An exhilarating, formally exciting sports drama as well as a telling look at North American society as experienced by someone who grew up behind the iron curtain.
– Boyd van Hoeij

A sneaky delight that glides effortlessly between the past and present without a single detour into either the uplifting clichés of American sports movies or the creepy voyeurism that sometimes attends films about young, well-built athletes.
– Maitland McDonagh
TV Guide’s Movie Guide

An uncommonly resonant sports drama in which a talented yet troubled gymnast comes to terms with a turbulent past, White Palms proves a distinctive and absorbing third feature by Szabolcs Hajdu.
– Eddie Cockrell

The term ‘sports film’ doesn’t do justice to White Palms, a punishing, beautiful drama about a troubled 30-something Hungarian gymnast.
– Matt Zoller Seitz
New York Times

[A] largely autobiographical, melodramatic saga.
– Aaron Hillis
Village Voice

Black Sheep
Directed: Jonathan King
Starring: Oliver Driver, Nathan Meister, Tammy Davis

In New Zealand, an experiment gone bad has turned the sheep into killers.

RT Score: 76%
RT Consensus: With an outrageous premise played completely straight, Black Sheep is a violent, grotesque, and very funny movie that takes B-movie lunacy to a delirious extreme.

A welcome entry into the burgeoning horror-comedy field, blending its mad environmental science with a lot of fun laughs.
– Edward Douglas

Hilariously reminiscent of the early career splatterfests of Peter Jackson.
– Chad Greene
Boxoffice Magazine

Maybe it’s not exactly what Romero had in mind, but for pure insanity, Black Sheep does its job and it does it well.
– Chris Cabin

It’s still relatively early in 2007, but this wry comedy about sheep gone baaaaad promises to be the best vampire-flesh-eating livestock movie of the year.
– John Anderson

A one-joke skit that trots in a straight line, and your enjoyment of it will depend entirely on how many times you need to see gonzo sheep rip out human entrails.
– Kyle Smith
New York Post

Colma: The Musical
Directed: Richard Wong
Starring: Jake Moreno, H.P. Mendoza

Three friends living outside of San Francisco try to figure out what to do with their lives.

RT Score: 92%

Like Hedwig and the Angry Inch and other recent musicals, Colma winks at the audience when its characters slip into song, still showing plenty of love for its genre.
– Marc Breindel UK

Surprisingly delightful, hilarious.
– Jeffrey M. Anderson
Combustible Celluloid

Amerindie Colma: The Musical just gives the kids music they like and characters they can identify with, forgetting any grandiosity.
– Dennis Harvey

There is more wit, energy and imagination in any one frame of director Richard Wong and writer-composer-star H.P. Mendoza’s original screen musical than in an entire decade’s worth of lame Hollywood attempts to revivify the genre.
– Scott Foundas
L.A. Weekly

This is one modern movie musical that has what its slicker, star-studded, far more lavishly financed brethren, such as Chicago and Dreamgirls, lack: real joy and a giddy love for the genre that imbues every frame.
– Pam Grady

MWG: Night of the Comet

We have started our Movie Watching Group (MWG). Marci is up first! She has picked Night of the Comet from 1984.

Netflix Synopsis: Earth has been ripped to shreds after a run-in with a killer comet, and those who have survived are in a fight for their lives in this campy cult classic. Valley Girl Reg (Catherine Mary Stewart) and her sister (Kelli Maroney) discover they’re two of the lucky few. But scientists are after them, and now they must run. Why? Because the researchers believe they need the blood of survivors to concoct a drug that can save them all from further ruin.

RT Score: 83%

Here is our group that needs to watch the movie and review it: Amy, Mievil, Pira, Jim, Keiran, Lynz, Jer and me. Review away!