Sunday, December 12, 2010

review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 (movie)

w00t!!!!!! i was soooooooo excited for this movie! like 99.999999999% of the people who read this blog know, I am a huge Harry Potter fan (I win trivia contest with my nerdiness, folks) so you can only guess how excited i am when the new installment comes out.

This premiere found me in a not so different situation from all the other premieres - standing in line, in costume, playing "who is the nerdiest harry potter fan?". suffice it to say: i won.

so, after waiting for a few hours for them to part the velvet ropes, carrie and i were finally, along with hundreds of other hard core fans, found ourselves flowing toward center seats in the theater. there we were kept entertained by a group of fans who had prepared dance numbers to "Harry and the Potters" music. they had the whole theater up dancing, singing, and laughing. displays like this are the reason i go to midnight premiers - there's an atmosphere of excitement, usually good cheer (unless someone commits some taboo), and a sense of camaraderie.

back to the movie!!!
*beware: spoilers ahead! - i won't reveal major plot points but if you haven't read the book this is all new and it's not my fault!*
this is the second movie where if you haven't read the books you might be a bit lost. this film is much darker than the previous films, although the forth was the first movie of the 8 to be grim and dark. and by dark, i mean sinister, depressing or dealing with more adult themes - at least, compared to the fact that these movies are supposed to be books/movies for children.

the movie opens focusing on figures in the dark. Snape and another death eater walk toward a house in the fog. upon entering it, Voldermort is holding court with his followers, making plans for taking over the ministry of magic and dealing with the menace known as Harry Potter. in keeping with the depressing beginning, we then follow the golden trio as they prepare for their seventh year... or what would be their seventh year, however, the are instead going to look for the horcruxes, or pieces of Voldermort's soul, so they can be destroyed as this was Dumbledore's last mission for Harry before he was killed by Snape in the last book/movie. the most depressing part of this opening is Snape's betrayal of a fellow hogwarts' teacher and hermione wiping her parents' memories of her so that they won't be in danger or used against her as she fights in the war.

i can't describe the whole movie for you in this review but i will say that there are some amazing scenes in this movie:
- the initial flight from the dursley's is very well done - with comedy, great effects, suspense, and even despair.
- the ridiculous dancing scene in the tent between harry and hermoine which is too weird but very sweet and endearing.
- the weasley twins - enough said. but i'll elaborate - mainly george when his ear get blown off with his "holey" joke and when he walks in on harry and ginny making out in the kitchen.

there was one moment that truly bothered me. this was the death of hedwig. both the movie and the book kinda glossed it over, but especially the movie. the problem with doing this is that it is such a heart-rendering and important even because her death represents the death of harry's childhood. (i know that most people don't want to sit there and look below the surface of the book/movie but i look!) it's completely glossed over! seriously - they really don't mention it after she dies other than to say she died protecting harry.

all-in-all, this was an excellent movie, in fact the best out of the harry potter series so far. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars, not five because i have to save something for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2.

Monday, December 6, 2010

review: Mumford & Sons (music)

Another new favorite band!

this is another london based band - recently, i really seem to be liking the music that comes from across the pond. to me it is reminiscent of Norman Greenbaum's spirit in the sky, a folksy, rock song. Mumford & Sons tends to have more of a country/bluegrass twang to it... and it certainly does without the jesus references.

the band takes its name from the leader singer (guitarist and drummer too) Marcus Mumford. he and his three bandmates bonded over their shared love of "rootsy" music and after playing together for a bit over a year started booking gigs. they quickly became a part of London's underground folk scene.

they appeared on radio here in the states at the end of summer. their first hit state side was "The Cave" and their first hit in the UK "Little Lion Man" is now making it's way along US airways.

my favorite part about them is their great flair for the understated dramatics. their music videos (click on the songs above) feature all the band members usually performing with something random happening. in "the cave", they give their instruments to a mexican marching band and as the marching band lip syncs, the band bikes down a country road singing. their music has wonderful dramatic tension using crescendos wonderfully to really make the music swell.

they are a delightful respite to today's pop/rap music. i give Mumford & Sons 4 out of 5 stars due to not loving (or liking) every song on their album.

p.s. i actually have stuff to review so keep your eyes peeled for more updates!!!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

review: Birthday Dinner (food)

october is a busy month folks - sorry for the impromptu hiatus. hopefully now that i have some time, am no longer quite as sick, and have things to review - there will be a more steady stream of updates.

october was also a month of birthdays. two of my friends have their birthday's right next to each other and their wish was for me to cook them dinner. so this year i made them fava with pita, pork tenderloin, and green beans almondine.

fava + pita:
fava is one of my favorite dished that i learned to make while i was in greece. fava beans are better known in the states as butter beans. you mash the butter beans with olive oil to make a dip with the consistency of humus. then you dice red onions and put them on top, raw. drizzle it with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. the picture doesn't show this because it was attacked right as i put it out and before i could take a picture. dip pita in it and it's the perfect appetizer.

green beans almondine:
this is way favorite way to eat green beans. when your buying the green beans make sure there's no spoiled ones or brown ones! when you get home make sure you clean them and pull off the end that has the left over stem on it cuz it won't taste good. i would recommend diced or sliced almonds (whole ones won't really work). you then place a layer of green beans in a pan and sprinkle almonds on top. next drizzle olive oil and sea salt. then pop it all into the oven at about 400 degrees. make sure to check the oven periodically to see if the almonds are burning. if they are turn down the heat. after about 30 minutes you'll have perfectly cooked green beans with crispy almonds.

pork tenderloin:
this is my mom's recipe that she would always make. it's so good if a little odd. you can find pork tenderloin at most stores and the best thing about it is that it is a very lean cut of mean so you really don't need to trim it. next we make the marinade - you don't need to make it before hand cuz it really need to marinate for only 15 or 20 minutes. mix 1/2 a cup of molasses with 1/2 a cup of soy sauce. the mixture of the soy sauce and molasses makes the sauce sweet, salty and tangy - basically, delicious. after marinating the meat you can toss it in a pan in the oven at 450 degrees to cook and brushing the rest of the marinade on the meat every 10 minutes or so. cook it until there's a nice bronze glaze from the molasses. about 45 minutes. let rest about 10 minutes or all the juice and flavor will run out when you cut it. to keep it hot cover it with a towel.

serve and enjoy with wine and friends!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

review: Florence + the Machine (music)

w00t! on a roll with reviews!

the next one is a band that i have fallen in love with over the last couple of months - ever since i heard their song on the tv show "V". this band is Florence + the machine. the lead singer is flo (florence) who knew, right? she is a brit and has a great voice. her music is genre bending spanning rock, blues/soul along with topics surrounding love, drunken brawls, murder and pagan sacrifice.

Lungs is there debut cd which was released in the UK in 2009, making it to the states in 2010 after they held the #1 spot on the charts for 28 weeks straight.

their music is fairly simple, instrumentally wise, focusing on a guitar, drums, tambourine, and sometimes piano and clapping. Pandora says that their music has rhythmic syncopation, acoustic rock instrumentation, vocal harmonies, repetitive melodic phrasing, and minor tonality... but i really don't know what that means other than i seem to really like it.

similar genre-bending artists include: Amy Winehouse, Adele, and Lily Allen. so if you like them give Florence + the machine a try.

and for your listening pleasure: a you tube clip of my favorite song Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up!) which mixes alice in wonderland with pagan sacrifice.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

review: In the Woods (book)

sorry for the wait folks. having a social life, a full time job and being sick does not an updated blog make. sorry.... but i've got a lot of stuff to review so hopefully i'll get back on track with one update or more a week!

and now we return you to your regularly scheduled blog:

In the Woods by Tana Woods

this book was really good. in fact it's one of the few i actually bought that is not science fiction, fantasy, political satire or historical fiction.... wow, i need to branch out. however it is a crime drama. and not some crappy one like Jim Patterson. in this book there's a lot of psychological drama lots of psychological drama in this one: from major freak outs for Det. Rob Ryan, bouts of memory loss, and straight up sociopathic behavior.

The story takes place central Dublin, Ireland and one of Dublin's rural suburbs. Detectives from Dublin's murder squad are sent to investigate the death of a young girl who was killed on an archeological site right outside the suburb. the murder generates a lot of press due to the girl's age, skill in ballet, the horrific details of her murder and due to the previous deaths in this sleepy suburb. Over 20 years ago, the town felt the shadow of death pass by on a hot summer evening where three children went to play in the woods and only one emerged but without his memory. Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox are two detectives sent to investigate. and lo and behold Det. Ryan is that same boy who emerged from the woods over 20 years ago.

Det. Rob Ryan is the protagonist and narrator throughout the whole book, focusing only on what he can see and know. and he warns you that this book doesn't portray him in the best light which is sad but true. Cassie is the brains out of the two (she almost completed her degree in psychology... although that means she's probably as learned as i am.... and she's a detective.... now, i'm uncomfortable) while Det. Rob Ryan often just stands there and is menacing which in itself can be useful. the two have a great dynamic often sounding like teenage siblings rather than partners on Dublin's murder squad.

Is there a connection between the recent death and the deaths over 20 years ago? who killed them? will they be able to prove it? and will rob and cassie hook up?! *sigh*

so if you're down for an intelligent thriller with lots of twists and an ending with many levels you might enjoy Tana French's In the Woods. i'm only giving it 3.5 out of 5 stars because i really enjoyed the book up until the very end. it left me unsatisfied but that's only becuase it didn't end the way i hoped. however the ending was good.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

review: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (book)

so for those of you who don't know - I worked at Border's books last year and one of the perks of working there was that we were given free rein over the ARCs (advanced reading copies) which meant we had access to the books thus receiving a sneak peak. this allowed us to be able to explain the books extremely well to the customers. we were never required to read them but usually the books were interesting enough that i would often pick one up and read it over break that way if i didn't like it i could put it down and pick another one or take the book home and finish it over a week or so. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is one of the books i loved!

it is a work of historical fiction that takes place during the Salem witch trials but also is set in modern times. how does it accomplish this? by oscillating between the two. The main character is Connie Goodwin, a Harvard grad student who is actually writing her doctoral dissertation on the Salem Witch trials and witchcraft.

she had planned to spend her summer doing research but when her flaky mother drops the sale of her mother's abandoned home near Salem, Connie can’t refuse. while preparing it for sale, she uncovers a very old Bible and within it, an ancient key and a piece of parchment with the name "Deliverance Dane" written on it. Spurred on by her discovery, Connie searches to find out more about this woman, her fate, and a rare find only hinted about: a "physick" book - which pages hold a hidden, dangerous knowledge.

we follow Connie through the summer as she deals with an over zealous and perhaps crazed professor, a new love interest, and struggles to find herself and her connection to Deliverance's dark past.

this novel gives the reader: mystery, love, magic, sticking it to one's mother, and affirmation of self. i give The Physick Book of Deliverance Dance 4.5 out of 5 stars. minus half a star for some cliche.

Monday, August 9, 2010

review: The Dresden Files (books)

Currently this is my favorite book series. It is a long running science fiction series by Jim Butcher who has been on the New York Times Best Sellers list numerous times for this series as well as his other series The Codex Alera.

The story revolves around Harry Dresden, the only person listed under 'Wizard' in the yellow pages - and no, he doesn't do parties, love potions, or seances. Think of him as a "professional wizard" or wizard detective. Each book is usually a different case or linking cases however, beginning in the later books there becomes an overarching plot. In fact, Jim Butcher has announced that there will be twenty regular books in this series and then will cap it off with a massive trilogy! So if you're looking for the long haul (like me) this is the series for you.

The books tackle all sorts of magical creatures and problems including but not limited to: demons, angels, ghosts, evil wizards, gods, fairies, werewolves, and vampires. Each creature has their own twists on how they're portrayed which can differ significantly from their classical portrayals. Continuing on this line the series offers a refreshing spin on the classic wizard. Harry isn't your anti-hero or even your reluctant hero - in fact, he admits he's a sucker for a lady in need which often comes back to bite him in the ass. The series is set in modern day Chicago so you really won't find Harry running around in robes instead he wears a leather duster and jeans which gives him the lone Sheriff or cowboy appearance that he loves and hates.

Humor is a huge part of the reason why I love this series. Butcher will often take classic elements and make them incredibly witty and hilarious. For example in one of the books flying purple monkey demons are attacking Harry using... well, the same projectile missiles that they use in real life - poo. However, in Harry's case, they happen to be flinging flaming poo that explodes on contact much like liquid napalm. fun!

As for characters there's Harry, Karen Murphy, and Bob that are in almost every book. Harry's very stand-offish and doesn't much like to be intimidated or bossed around but when he is his humor really comes out. Ah, sarcasm. it truly makes the world go round. Harry also owns a skull... named Bob, who just happens to house a spirit of intellect who, despite not having a body or even a corporeal form, loves porn. Karen Murphy is the other main character in this series. She is a Lieutenant in the Special Investigations unit of the Chicago police department. She's a tiny, blue eyed blond haired ball of tightly restrained fury despite the fact that she looks harmless. She is described as "tiny but fierce". very true.

These books are witty, complex, and will keep your turning pages. The plot is interesting and the characters are well done and thoughtfully detailed. I give this series 5 out of 5 stars for length, humor, over-arching plot and zombies.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

review: Despicable Me (movie)

This was an okay movie. Quite funny for what it was but not the best movie ever.

Steve Carrell is the voice of Gru, the super villain with perhaps not the most diabolical of schemes. For example he steals the STATUE OF LIBERTY!!! the small one, from Las Vegas. But Gru's status of world's most evil villain is in jeopardy when a young up & comer steals an Egyptian pyramid. But Gru's next plan to steal the mooon is genius and will make the secret Bank of Evil very rich and he hopes it will set him back on top. The only snag in his plan is that he needs a shrink ray. Which is a slight problem since the only one that exists was just stolen from him.

Here's where things go from slightly ridiculous to completely unbelievable. To get back his shrink ray Gru decides to use the orphans who are selling cookies to infiltrate his nemesis' home. So, what does Gru decide to do? adopt the girls.

The rest of the movie becomes a giant cliche. not a bad cliche but still a cliche. after spending time with the girls he starts to change his evilish ways and begins to love the girls. the journey is funny and different and the ending heartwarming. I give Despicable Me 3 stars out of 5 for being funny and doing this cliche well but not being very original.

and here's the trailer for you: CLICK ME!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

review: Inception (movie)

This movie was truly mind-blowing, but then most Christopher Nolan movies are. The previews billed it as the awesome action movie and it was, but at its core, it is a movie about redemption.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Cobb, a man who's life has fallen apart. His wife is dead and he has been forced apart from their children. However, he is looking for his way back to them. How does he hope to accomplish this? By performing corporate espionage and making his return to the USA his payment.

And how does he accomplish his corporate espionage? By stealing the person's ideas from their very dreams (and therefore subconscious). But so far things aren't going well for Cobb until meets Saito (Ken Watanabe), who makes a proposition to implant something in someone's mind. So instead of extracting - implanting, which is infinitely more difficult.

So Cobb sets out to make a new team to dive into their target's dream. The problem with implanting is that you have to delve very deep into the unconscious which is done by diving within dreams themselves. To do this each level of the dream must be created which is where Ariadne (Ellen Page) comes in. She designs and creates the dreams which is perfect because her name is Greek from the story of the women who is the best mortal weaver. coincidence, i think not?!

The whole mission is amazing. The tension keeps building subtly throughout till I noticed that i was consciously starting to worry about the fate of our heroes. Not only was this movie suspenseful but also carried a twist ending and had provoking themes such as the duality of reality and virtual reality, the mind and the body, what is reality vs. sanity. This movie deserves the 5 out of 5 stars. When this movie ended the only thing I could do was think about it and muddle it over and over in my head. That is the kind of movie I love because it makes you think. When you see this movie, and you really should, make sure that you have a person to talk to about the movie and some time set aside to really think about the implications that this movie is making. And also debate the ending.

here's the preview if you need the prodding to go and see it: CLICK ME!!!

Monday, July 19, 2010

review: Toy Story 3 (movie)

one word to sum of this movie: nostalgic.

this is what everyone says about the movie - and i sadly am no different. however, this movie is great. same great characters that you remember, including the newer ones introduced in the sequel, having adventures.

i always liked the toy story series because it reminded me of being a kid. not just the toys themselves, but how the adventures always seem to snowball out of control with each action and this installment of the toy story series is no exception. what starts with an attempt to get Andy (the now teen) to play with them before Andy leaves for college and they get put into the attic turns into them being donated to a child care center. when they arrive, Woody and the gang are greeted by Lotso, an old hug-able bear with a dark past (dum dum da!), who welcomes them with open arms showing them how good life can be around at day care. too bad he has no intention of letting Woody and Buzz have the good life. instead our heroes are locked in a room with the youngest members of the day care who aren't known for treating their toys gently. so what's a toy to do? escape of course.

*mission impossible theme start* from here on out things get hairy for the characters. the creators of this movie said they watched every escape movie out there. and it shows. the escape scenes are everything you expect from a movie: action packed, exciting, humor thrown in. you almost forget that they're a plastic space man running from a Ken doll. *mission impossible theme end*

the remainder of the movie centers around the lessons growing up can teach us. about leaving childhood behind and growing up. there are scares and heartwarming moments, that in the end leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling which is exactly what you want out of a movie.

this movie will appeal to little kids for the bright colors and the obvious jokes, but truly this movie is for the people who grew up with Toy Story, my generation and our parents. it's reminiscent of the Shrek series - the jokes go way over the kids' heads to appeal to the adults in the room. all in all i give it 4.5 out of 5 stars lacking only due to the shortness of the movie. hopefully, the toy story saga is done cuz you can't end on a higher note.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

review: Girl with a Dragon Tattoo (movie)

w00t! first review- any feedback would be great please and thanks!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo made it's debut in 2009. It is based on the critically acclaimed best seller of the same name by Stieg Larsson of Sweden and, fun fact, was actually published postmortem. Called Men who hate Women in Swedish, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first book of the Millennium Trilogy.

The movie opens centered on a package. An old man is attempting to open it. When he opens it, it's nothing horrible - just a pressed flower. This is where if you're paying attention things get interesting. First, the old man looks at the postmark on the package (Hong Kong). Second, he's wearing gloves to open it. Third, after seeing what the package contains he starts to cry. Intrigued yet?

Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is our protagonist. He's investigative journalist with morals who's just been convicted of libel against a seedy businessman. Enter Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), our second protagonist and a genius hacker who has been investigating Mikael through his own computer - you can see her in the court room. After leaving the magazine to spare them the associated bad press, Mikael is offered a job by the head of the Vagnar Group to investigate the case of his niece who disappear 40 years ago off an island where all of her family was gathered. Lisbeth who hasn't stopped hacking into Mikael's computer gets sucked into the investigation.

The questions that need to be answered are: What happened to the missing girl? Is she really dead? Who wanted her dead and why?

The movie is filmed beautifully. Not too artistic to make you feel like you should hate the movie on principle and not too main stream to make you feel like you're watching a summer blockbuster. The score is does its job perfectly, heightening the mood of each scene. My personal favorite was the scene where Mikael is looking at the undeveloped film and making a composite video. *chills* All in all I give this movie 4.5 out or 5 stars. It's loses half a star for the multiple "endings", the lack of a more legally satisfying ending, and the occasionally feeling like this film was really good but very long too. Look for the upcoming sequels: The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornets Nest. Both should be out in the next year or two. I also recommend reading the Millennium trilogy!!!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is currently, I believe, only available with subtitles (yay!) with the audio in the author's native tongue of Swedish. You can find it currently on Netflix instant watch or at any remaining video rental agencies.... if there are any left.