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Showing posts from January, 2016

The Visit (2015)

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I should just shoot myself. I swore off of Found Footage films, and here I found myself watching one. After all, it's a horror movie that was written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Yes, he has really produced some stinkers recently, but this is well within his wheelhouse, isn't it? I didn't actually know that this was found footage-style before I watched it, and I may not have exposed myself to it. What a wonderful world that might be.


Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould play a young brother and sister who get sent by their mother, Kathryn Hahn, to spend a visit with her estranged parents, played by Deanna Dunagan (Nana) and Peter McRobbie (pop pop). The old couple show all the signs of creeping dementia, and this is off-putting for the kids, as you may understand. It's clear that they are keeping a lot of secrets from the kids, and there is a growing concern that they have sinister plans.

The story is kind of tired and done over and over, so let's skip to the tec…

Sweetwater Happy Ending

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With one notable exception, Sweetwater has produced beers that have been right around or just below the middle of the pack. I still have some expectations for them based on that one exception, but the fact is that they have only shown a glimmer of hope in a sea of mediocrity. This imperial stout, however, may unlock the key to my heart and give me some reassurance that even fringe (although strangely mainstream) brewers can produce excellence. 
The opaque brown liquid is topped by a dusky brown head that sticks to the sides of the glass with the fervent desperation of an unrequited lover just on the wrong side of controlled. The aroma is a slightly chocolaty malt and possibly a little hops. The impression is of a fairly standard imperial stout rather than some kind of special season-ending thing, but the taste shall tell.
First sip is chocolate malt and a bit of coffee. The label proudly proclaims the hops that are in it, and I thought I smelled some, but I don't taste any with a…

Spectre (2015)

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I don't think I've made it a secret - I have very much enjoyed the recent Bond films. From Daniel Craig's introduction in Casino Royale to the not-quite-as-good (but still very good) Quantum of Solace to the overly complicated thrill ride of Skyfall, Bond maintains his signature caricatured villains with the Craig-era gritty action.

This is likely the last of the Daniel Craig Bond movies. I admit to having not looked forward to Daniel Craig when he was taking over. While the Brosnan movies had wandered off into complete lunacy, he (Brosnan) really struck me as the right style, look, and attitude for Bond. My experience with Craig was pretty limited, and I just didn't think he could carry it. I was flat-out wrong.

In this movie, we pick up where the last movie left off. Judi Dench is dead. But her legacy of the "00" section lives on for now. As with the previous movies, a lot of the intrigue of the movie is generated by internal UK intelligence structure chang…

Legend (2015)

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I am sorry that I seem to go on and on about Tom Hardy, but that guy can freaking act. He's the reason this movie was even on my list, and why wouldn't he be? The movie really doesn't have many other major actors. After all, he occupies the two main parts.

Tom plays two identical twin brothers. Now, this kind of thing has been done to horrible effect in other movies such as the legendary Van Damme epic Double Impact or the Adam Sandler art piece Jack and Jill, but it was done much better in movies such as The Prestige or Adaptation. The trick is, I think, to write the story in such a way that the audience is never confused about who is who, even if the other characters on screen are. This boils down to acting, costumes, and continuity.

The real problem settles in when you try to establish the characters. The audience doesn't know these people, so you have to establish one character, then move on to establish the other. Another option is to simply throw the audience int…

New Holland Mischievous Brettanomyces Fermented Wild Ale

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I don't even know what Brettanomyces are. Okay, I didn't know what they were, but now I know it's a type of yeast that these guys refer to as "wild" yeast. I had shied away from this particular beer at my distributors for a while now, and I finally gave in this time around. I fear that it will be one of those new sour-style beers for hipsters, but I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt.

For something with such a daunting name, the color is pretty darn simple. It's a plain gold with a thin head that scatters to the winds fairly quickly. The points of nucleation are strong with this one, though, so bubbles stream to the surface despite the exceedingly clean glass. The smell is really new for a beer, though. It reminds me of Mandarin oranges more than anything, but it's cut with a bitterness and a sweetness that are competing with each other. This should be interesting.

First sip is jarring. The taste is really kind of out there with a tartness an…

He Never Died (2015)

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I don't think of Henry Rollins when I think of power actors who can carry a whole movie on their back. When I think about Henry Rollins at all, I think about the energy-intensive performances on stage with his various aggressive hard rock troops. Never did I think he should be starring in a movie (even after his acceptable performance in a supporting role in the fantastic movie Heat). Yet, here this movie sits.

Henry is a man (maybe) who never died. He's immortal, and his immortality has given him a dim view of life in general. He's decided that humanity really isn't worth the effort anymore, so he just coasts through life, trying to mind his own business and stay out of the way of anything else. The problem is that he has been around a while, is pretty much unkillable, and also has a strong moral compass to go with his temper.

The picture in the ad above would give you some indication of the level of his powers and such, as the angel wings indicate that he might have s…

Alpine Duet IPA

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I'm unfamiliar with this brewery, and that means I am excited to taste what they have to offer. I have no idea why they put a picture of a church on the label and then have two glasses being brought together at the bottom. It's this kind of obscure trivia that I assume hides some cute story, but I don't know it, and I'm just here to drink beer, anyway.

It's a slightly hazy kind of yellowish-orange. The head is just about the perfect size and texture, and the head leave very nice lacing along the sides (some strands and bubbles, but not so much that the beer puts on a show of it). The aroma is dusty hops with a distinct citrus bend. It is very inviting and mouth-watering.

First sip is very interesting. The citrus blossoms into pineapple, mango, orange, and even a little lemon. There are so many tropical fruits in here that this might get marketed as a way to stave off scurvy to sailors or something. There is a bit of grain in there, too, but the fruits are really ta…

Evil Twin Even More Jesus Imperial Stout

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I genuinely don't know what the hell they mean with the name of this beer, and I'm not interested enough to care. Evil Twin needs to step up their game to get me to keep buying their beer. Producing average or below average beers will only get you so far when you charge this much for beer, so it's time to produce fantastic beer or for me to treat you like Magic Hat and just plain stop trying.

I was careful when I poured it at first. It's been my experience that bottles with long, thin necks tend to burp a lot (especially when first starting to pour) and that results in an unimaginably large head. I shouldn't have bothered with this bottle, as the head is about as minimal as you can get. It sits on top of a thick brown beer that positively absorbs the light around it. The aroma is sweet chocolate, smoke, vanilla, and there's something that smells like acetone or the like.

First sip is very good. It's a deep chocolate and smoky malt with more layers than I kn…

Evil Twin From Amager WIth Love

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Possibly the most inconsistent beer maker I've encountered, Evil Twin swings for the fence every time, but it only sometimeshits. This beer was created when some of the guys from a remote island just South of Copenhagen met up with guys from Evil Twin and decided to formulate a thick black Imperial Stout together.

The deep brown abyss sucks up light with the best of them. What little head there is dissipates completely very quickly and as a result there's no lacing on the sides. The aroma is malty, but it has fruit and even wine. Yes, the wine smell is quite noticeable when I sniff the second time. It stands out like a ... thing that stands out a lot.

First sip is a lustful mouth of sweet malt and berries. The wine aroma isn't coming out at all, but the flavor of the sip is a mouthful. It's heavy and smooth like a big, black European sedan barreling down the autobahn. I go back for a second sip, and I can taste a bit of an alcohol bite that puts me in mind of a sweet l…

45 Years (2015)

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This movie is all about Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and her doddering old husband Geoff (Tom Courtenay). They are approaching their 45th wedding anniversary, and they are planning a party for it (their 40th party had to be postponed due to a medical issue that Geoff was working through.) So, with their trusty German shepherd Max by their side, they are ready to start celebrating.

Geoff doesn't get out of the house much, and he doesn't seem to have a particularly easy time talking to people or expressing himself. Based on his halting speech patterns and seemingly roaming mind, the years have not been kind to him, and he's settling into an old age where he will inevitably require that someone take care of his basic needs for him. Tom Courtenay plays the role about as well as I could possibly imagine it being played. He's worth an award or two for the movie, and the movie really only has two meaty characters in it, but he may as well just be a supporting character.

Instead,…

Caldera Ginger Beer

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Part of the Kettle Series, this beer is the last of the batch that was hand delivered by my Oregonian brother from the brewery in Ashland (although I don't think he went to the brewery itself). The other three were enjoyable as a whole, and he hand picked them in anticipation of these reviews. As a result, he picked what he thought of as the best they had to offer, and I've been happy with the results.

The beer is a deep gold with very little head, but lots of carbonation. The beer just sits there sizzling on my side table with lots of invisible points of nucleation even in a very clean glass. The aroma is predictably primarily spice. It's weak, but I think I smell lemon and maybe some grains in there, too, but it really is very faint.

First sip is clean and simple. the grains assert themselves more vigorously than I had expected, but the ginger spice is going all diva on the taste buds by hogging as much of the spotlight as it dares. The whole shebang is still very simple…

Hub Abominable Winter Ale

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Another precious hand-delivered gift from the West Coast from my brother. The other two were an excellent stout and a curious cherry cider. This one is a big, hairy west coast seasonal ale with four kinds of hops and six malts. Does that mean that it will be a mix of good stuff that should never have been slapped together like the ill-fated Latitude 48 IPA? No, but it means they need to be careful.

The beer is a lot darker than I expected. It's a nice dark copper with a white, frothy head that sticks to the sides better than a Corvette sticks to pavement. So, the lacing is copious and delightful. The aroma is light citrus hops and the malt is very noticeable with grains and caramel. The hops are overwhelming the malt in the smell, but I've been surprised at the difference between the aroma and the taste in the past.

First sip is actually pretty delightful. It manages to have the hoppiness with a touch of bitterness up front and a sweet trail off. When the label says that they …

Devils Backbone Eight Point IPA

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I'm not a hunter myself, but a few of my friends are, and I support the elimination of as many deer as possible. Well, this beer is named after a very nice rack (eight points is good, I am told) and I support their efforts. I also support the efforts of anyone trying to make a good beer, so let's see what these guys have brought.

The beer is a dusty and deep amber. The very fluffy white head leaves an impressive amount of lacing on the sides of the glass while it emits a fairly light floral/pine hop aroma sitting underneath a more powerful malt that kind of asserts itself more than I would expect from an IPA. The hops need to step up a bit.

First sip is a lot more bitter than I would expect a beer with that heavy of a malt aroma to have. The malt is still there, but the pine hops are dusty and bitter with a twang that's hard to describe - it's like it's falling forward as the beer rolls down the back of the mouth.

Tip-in are hops that seem a bit pine and citrus. As…

Elysian Dragonstooth Stout

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Another hand delivered beer from Oregon (technically, the first one wasn't a beer). This doesn't originate in Oregon, but I've never seen it on this side of the Mississippi (much like the last one from this brewer). Fortunately, my brother was thoughtful enough to cart it all the way to Nashville with no significant shipping and handling charge. It's like I have a Brother Prime account.

The beer isn't the blackest I've ever seen, but it's pretty damn close. While it doesn't absorb ambient photons, it certainly isn't reflecting many. The tan head indicates that it's probably just a really dark brown. I poured the rest of the beer into a glass for my brother, and it didn't have nearly as much head, so I take the blame for there being so much in this picture. Sorry.

First sip is really nice. It's smooth with a kind of loaded back end that gives weight and substance to the whole beer. It's rich and smoky and the earth tones really make t…

Atlas Hard Pom-Cherry Cider

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I've gotten beers from my brother in Oregon before, but this was from a batch that was hand delivered to my door. He said that this was the best of the ciders from Atlas, and I trust his opinion, but different people have different tastes, so who knows where this might go?

The beverage quite expectedly has no head, and the color is an interesting kind of rusty-red. The aroma is decidedly more cherry-wine than anything. My experience with ciders indicates that it smells this way because it actually is this way.  A sip will bring us closer, though.

First sip is very tart. It is more tart than taste, really. The pomegranate was too subtle to smell, but the cherry seems overwhelmed by it and there is little else that is giving any taste to the beverage. On that front, it isn't terrible, but I wouldn't say that I frequently enjoy a pomegranate juice on a lazy Sunday.

A full swig reveals a tip-in of very, very, very light carbonation which I wasn't expecting and a bit of che…

Guinness Nitro IPA

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I'm not going to go over my disdain toward Guinness' decisions surrounding their products again. Go back and read my last complaints about it if you want my thoughts. Here, we have Guinness adding the little nitrogen widget to a can of IPA. This is their IPA, and it may be good (and I hope it is) but IPAs aren't naturally nitrogenated, and it would seem to me that their time might be better spent putting the widget back in the Guinness bottles.

The beer has a nice, fluffy white pillow of really dense, tiny bubbles atop a golden brown beer. The aroma is a little bit yeasty, but the floral hops really overwhelm almost everything. It's not even that they are particularly striking, though. Instead, the whole smell is kind of elusive unless you really get down in it.

First sip is watery and weak. It has a vague impression of a mediocre beer, but there just isn't a whole lot of anything actually happening. The whole thing is more of an aftertaste than an actual taste. It…

Blackhat (2015)

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I put off watching this movie because I like computers, have visited the Blackhat and Def-Con conferences, and I find it kind of difficult to suspend my disbelief when dealing with very straight-forward details about computers. There's no need to make things seem more complicated than they are, as computers are very complicated things, and networks can house all kinds of terrible and wonderful things without the need to fake it.

A great example is the setup for this movie where there is a gigantic nuclear failure as the result of a Stuxnet-like attack on China. Stuxnet is an actual virus that actually infected lots and lots of stuff on the internet, but it was designed to only hurt two Iranian machines. This virus may have been made by the NSA, the CIA, or some people suggest Israel. Either way, it's the way that some elegant computer code can impact a real-world facility just like I Am The Cavalry fears.

So, we start on firm ground, and the fact is that they could have made …

Ant-Man (2015)

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No one looks at Marvel's repository of great superheroes and thinks, "Yes! Ant-Man is totally my favorite! I can't wait until they cast romantic comedy legend Paul Rudd in that action role! I bet it matches the understated triumph that was DareDevil with Ben Affleck!" Ant-Man gets small and then returns to normal size. That's his deal. He's like Apache Chief from Super Friends, but he can't get bigger than a normal human.

Paul is a recently released thief who passes a test that seems arbitrary and not particularly relevant at first, but in hindsight after watching the movie it really seems like it was completely off the wall and unnecessary. Paul had to be coerced through an exceedingly tenuous and complicated plan to rob an old guy's house and find nothing but the Ant-Man suit.
Corey Stoll plays the bad guy. He's a bald business guy who may as well have the last name "Stain" for how evil you can tell he is right off the bat. His goal is…

Bone Tomahawk (2015)

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It's fairly rare to find a western being produced nowadays, and it's even more rare to find a good one. It was with a heavy heart that I realized that Bone Tomahawk starred Kurt Russell. Fact is, I really liked the movie Tombstone, but Kurt was very bad in it. In fact, there were mediocre to bad performances all around except for Val Kilmer. That movie was peak Kilmer. He owned the whole movie, and Costner's Wyatt Earp that came after it was a pitiable mess partly because that Doc Holiday couldn't hold up to Val.

The movie starts with a couple of idiots killing a party of cowboys in the middle of nowhere. David Arquette is the younger of the thieves, and he's the one that survives the encounter with what we come to find out are uncivilized Indians. There is a distinction here between regular Native Americans and these ridiculously evil Indians (their word, not mine) who have no culture or language of their own.

In this movie, Kurt came to act, and he did probably t…

The Martian (2015)

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There was no way this could get a stellar review. This movie had two things going against it. One: I read the book, and there is no chance the movie could cover half of the stuff that the book covered. Two: R.C. Bray did the voice for the audiobook, and he can act more with his voice than Matt Damon can act with his whole body. However, the movie deserves a fair shot.

What this movie needs is more math. I can understand the reluctance to inundate the audience with complex problems and raw numbers, and the book was a little intimidating at first with how much simple math is had at the beginning, but once you start rolling, you learn to love the math and it adds to the complexity of the story and the urgency of the terrible things that befall our hero.

So, Matt gets stranded on Mars after a sandstorm that threatens to kill the whole team. They think he's dead, so they take off in the nick of time. He is, in fact, not dead, so he sets about making sure that he doesn't die strande…