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Showing posts from April, 2014

Samuel Smith India Pale Ale

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This beer is brought in from Jolly Old England. They invented the style of IPA, and I expect it to be good. I know, I have also heard the Irish songs that speak derisively about English beer, but those Irish have screwed up Guinness, and that's got me wondering about their priorities. It says it was aged in "stone Yorkshire squares" and I have no idea what those are. I also don't know if stone is supposed to impart some unique flavor to the beer, but I guess I'll find out.

It's a little murky and a deep yellow with orange highlights. The head is thick and fluffy with a gentle lacing left on the sides of the glass as it goes down. The aroma is very light floral hops. It's like the difference between the heavy floral scent of a tulip and the light scent of a dandelion. The overall scent is not particularly strong, though. You really have to get down in the glass to smell it.

First sip is hoppy, but it's not overpowering. It's those same floral hops …

Blue Caprice (2013)

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The most disturbing thing about this movie is that it happened. I don't mean that the movie happened, but that the whole Beltway Sniper thing happened. While we were watching, my wife commented, "Did this really happen?" I said that it did, and that these were the DC Snipers. She suddenly had slightly more respect for the seemingly implausible movie.

Isaiah Washington plays the father figure (even though he is not biologically the father) who has a grand plan of sewing discord and mayhem by proving to people that life is fragile, and that the entire US ecosystem can be upended by introducing uncertainty in day-to-day life. More than thinking it can happen, he insists that it MUST happen in order for people to... to... see, that's where the writing here gets a bit fuzzy. His ultimate plan, other than to simply destabilize everyone's life, seems to be nothing more than to get revenge on the world for wrongs he perceives being committed against him. If there is one …

Chariot (2013)

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This movie reminds me of the Cube series. It's a similar Kafkaesque kind of bunch of strangers find themselves in an odd place with no memory of why they are there or how they got there. From there, they have to figure out who everyone is, if they have some relationship with each other, and why they were all taken.

Because the movie starts by implying that this is a real event, and they had to change some of the facts pursuant to the Patriot Act, this movie loses some of its bite. I'm not sure why they wanted to add that simple declaration to the beginning of the movie, but the subsequent revelation that large portions of the US had been destroyed leaves us, the viewers, wondering if we've been so wrapped up in our own issues to have noticed that a large scale assault had happened on our country without us noticing. The big reveal later comes as no surprise.

Anthony Montgomery plays the down-to-earth truck driver who wakes up first and the audience immediately identifies w…

21 Jump Street (2012)

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This movie was better than I thought it would be, as there were some genuine laugh out loud moments in it. It is based on the 21 Jump Street TV series, and it supposedly exists in the same world, but it doesn't take itself too seriously.

Jonah Hill is generally annoying in most of the things I see him in. Here, he plays the nerd who decides to become a cop, but he lacks all physical capability. Channing Tatum is the stereotypical jock who is a complete lunkhead. They help each other overcome their weaknesses in order to become police officers and eventually join the 21 Jump Street reboot to be put in high school as undercover police officers. Both of them manage to bring enough to their roles. The fact is, the roles are intended to be stereotypes, and that is exactly what they are.

Dave Franco, of the famous Franco brothers, is the cool guy on campus who quickly becomes the focus of the investigation into the newest, and clearly deadly, drug on campus. He also doesn't have muc…

The Astronaut's Wife (1999)

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I never knew this movie existed, and I came across it the other day quite by accident. It has a young Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron - although it seems like the years have been kinder to Charlize then they have been to Johnny. The idea behind the movie is that Johnny is an astronaut who goes into space and has an accident. The nature of the accident is a bit of a mystery, but he comes home to Charlize a changed man.

Most of the movie is told from Charlize's perspective, as you might expect from the title of the movie. She does a very good job in her role, and she manages to convey the mixed emotions particularly well. The writing for her character, however, does not help her very much. The character makes odd choices, makes big mistakes, and is so very flawed that it's almost impossible to root for her.

While we're on the subject, the supporting characters are just about useless. It's like someone said that they needed to fill in some spots, so the whipped up some us…

A Lonely Place to Die (2011)

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Lonely. So lonely. Oh, and dead. And this place... it's like... whoa.

Okay, this is about a group of people who go up the side of a mountain for fun. Right off the bat, things go bad because clearly not all of them have their ducks in a row. Now, I'm no expert climber, but I did watch 127 Hours, so I think I know a thing or two about it.

I'm not going to go into each actor's role, and I'll just say that all the good guys did okay, and all the bad guys kind of sucked. The guys who can't be strictly categorized as either also kind of sucked, but not as bad as the bad guys. Really, the bad guys sucked so massively that everyone else looked very good by comparison.

The main character was the hot chick played by Melissa George. To her credit, she isn't just pretty, she's a pretty good actress. She's not drop-dead gorgeous, but that may have been the way they made her up. They wanted her to seem pretty but approachable, and they hit it spot on. All of the …

Dark House (2014)

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In the woods, there is a house. It is a house that was in a town that flooded, but the house survived being carried miles away. This is the house that our hero, Luke Kleintank, has been dreaming about and drawing since he was a child. It is, he believes, the house that made him want to be an architect.

Our hero has a strange ability, and he has had it since birth. He is able to see how people are going to die by touching them. So, we start off with this unrealistic ability, and now we're going on a journey with him to find the house that his mother left to him when she died. She died, incidentally, in an insane asylum when the voice in the heating vent got angry with her.

It is self-evident from having seen Jeepers Creepers that this is the same guy. It's got a similar setup, and it has the same unabiding lack of horror that is somewhat distressing for a horror movie. It has a bit of gore, but it's not entirely believable. It has the occasional startle, but it doesn't …

Out of the Furnace (2013)

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There is a problem that surfaces when a movie is made entirely in a city that you are familiar with. I remember watching Bruce Willis in Striking Distance and wondering how I was supposed to believe that the car chase went from Pittsburgh's North Side to Duquesne and then to downtown (seemingly covering more than 30 miles in the process). Honestly, the worst part of these kinds of things is when the actors don't know enough about the local dialect.

Christian Bale is just a working class guy working in a steel mill. Now, Pittsburgh has only had one working steel mill in like the past 20 years. Nevertheless, this is where he is supposed to work. Even though he was supposed to have been born and raised in North Braddock, just outside of Pittsburgh, he has no Pittsburgh accent whatsoever. He halfheartedly tries to put a "yunz" in there when he is talking to someone in New Jersey, but it doesn't flow off the tongue. I can't really blame him - he's British, so …

The Bag Man (2014)

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John Cusack has had his ups and downs. I don't recall a role I liked him in better than Grosse Pointe Blank, but I don't want to pigeonhole him into one role. He did a pretty crappy job as Edgar Allen Poe in The Raven, but that was really about the script sucking more than anything. Is the problem that John can't pick a good script anymore? Well, let's find out.

John plays Robert De Niro's lackey. He is inexplicably ordered to go and retrieve a bag, to not look in the bag, and to take it to a motel in the middle of nowhere to wait for instructions. While there, he meets a cast of characters who all seem to give him a hard time. He gets shot in the hand by the first guy he meets, he gets hassled by the local muscle, he has problems with the manager, he gets stuck with an Amazon woman, and the list goes on. With everything conspiring against him, he unravels a bit and still tries to make the right decisions.

Rebecca Da Costa is the 6 foot tall woman with her large bre…

Goose Island Ten Hills Pale Ale

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I have tried the Goose Island IPA,  Harvest Ale, the 312 Urban Wheat, and the Honkers Ale. They have all been at least better than average, and some have been downright good. I expect this one to continue the tradition. What is most surprising was when I found out that they were owned (not just distributed) by Budweiser. I was pretty sure Bud couldn't find a good beer with both hands when locked in a closet with it.

The color is a light copper color, and it's very clear. The head is a gloriously lumpy foam that grips the sides of the glass like the iron grip of Andre the Giant on the neck of whatever witless sap happened to be in the ring with him. The aroma is all kinds of hops with a little metallic smell and something more like flour or maybe light spices - there is almost a sweetness. I suspect this will be another successful Goose Island beverage.

First sip is a bit harsh and bitter. There is no hint of the sweet that I smelled. It's an unbalanced beer, and it needs m…

The Counselor (2013)

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On the face of it, this is a star-studded movie about the drug trade from Mexico. On the face of it, this would be a great movie. I mean, Ridley Scott directed this, so it is clearly going to be insightful, gripping, and done well.

Michael Fassbender is our main character. He's the counselor himself, and he gets involved in the drug trade strictly out of greed. Given that he already has quite a bit of money and the lovely Penélope Cruz on his arm, I suppose he is being painted as one of those too-much-is-never-enough kind of guys. It would seem that he is smart enough to figure out that the risk/reward combo is not going to swing to his benefit any time soon when he enters the criminal enterprise.

Javier Bardem is the guy who is supposed to guide him in this life, but he doesn't come off as particularly competent, and I can't imagine anyone as smart as Fassbender's character is supposed to be relying on him for any part of this. Javier's most noteworthy personal ch…

All Is Lost (2013)

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"This film is a gripping, visceral and powerfully moving tribute to ingenuity and resilience." - The Official Synopsis

"This film bored me to f*cking tears." - BFBCPing

I remember watching Cast Away with Tom Hanks. That movie was so good, and he was so good in it, that I barely remembered that he didn't say anything for most of the movie. I don't know exactly how many words Robert Redford speaks in this movie, but he rivals Cast Away's Wilson for not even speaking to himself.

I dislike movies with voiceovers to explain what the main character is thinking during an event or what their underlying reaction is to other people and the horrible crap that the world throws at them through the course of the movie. That said, this movie could really have benefited from some serious voiceovers. The most obvious reason that it needs them is that you want to have something being said so that the audience will feel guilty interrupting him when they shout at the scree…

Get Lucky (2013)

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This is a British action movie that is more of a crime drama, but it's categorized as action, so I have to go by what IMDB is telling me. I didn't know what to expect from this movie, as I don't recognize a single actor in the bunch. Sometimes that's good, and sometimes that's bad. What am I saying? It's usually pretty bad.

The plot is convoluted. Normally, I would welcome a complex plot, but this one is confused for the sake of being confused. There are people who rob other people and then set people up for taking the fall and then turning on each other, but the main issue is that everyone comes across as really, impressively stupid. There are times when you think:
"How could that guy not realize who he was stealing from?"
"How could he ever have made it this far in organized crime without knowing that he had to do the background work?"
"Jeebus! These people are all idiots!"

And you would be right. There were some good acting perf…

Her (2013)

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One of the first things that struck me when I saw the official movie poster for this movie was Joaquin Phoenix's eyes. Yes, there is the odd combo of a red shirt and a kind of purple and pink backgrounds that is a bit unsettling, but the eyes just seemed to stand out. I think the reason they stand out is that I've seen him in so many movies before and never really took notice of them. This is probably because blue is not his actual eye color. His actual eyes are hazel, and I'm not sure why Spike Jonze decided to highlight the fake color of his eyes in the poster. I suppose it is something for art people to debate for a few years.

This movie takes place in the near future. Joaquin Phoenix is a writer (insert my usual rant about the fact that hollywood writers don't actually know how to write for anyone who has a pursuit in their life other than writing and consequently seem to love to put writers in their movies as main characters). He is socially awkward and is still re…

Blood (2012)

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This movie is about two brothers. They work as police in England, like their now borderline senile father did for years before. They make a very bad decision after having some alcohol and cops' instinct, and they have to deal with the fallout of that decision. Hence, the title "Blood" referring not only to a side effect of their mistake, but also the idea of blood being thicker than water.

Paul Bettany plays the elder brother and the emotional leader of the family. I've seen him in a number of his films, but the one that stands out is when he played Geoffrey Chaucer in A Knight's Tale. You may be more familiar with his role as the voice of Jarvis in Iron Man. Here, he gets a more dramatic role with a wide range of emotions. And, much to my delight, he does a very good job with it.

His brother is played by Stephen Graham, who was most recently in HBO's Boardwalk Empire as Al Capone. His character is supposed to be the weaker brother, and the result is that his …

Mike's Hard Pink Lemonade

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I'll be happy when I go back to beer. This whole thing with the oddball drinks and never ending apple ciders was an interesting diversion, but I need to get back to my strength - drinking beer. Well, this is the fourth Mike's beverage that I've tried for the blog. I may have to add Mike's actual Hard Lemonade before this tangent has played out.

You know how I said that the last one looked like a slightly more red version of Pink Lemonade? Well, this one looks JUST LIKE pink lemonade. It's all pink and cloudy, but it has the added carbonation that is apparently added to adult beverages to let people know that they are for adults or something. The aroma is lemony, but the overall effect is more like dish soap than lemonade.

First sip is a bit like pink lemonade, but not overly so. It's sweet, but it has a hit of carbonation that kind of puts a tart bite on the whole thing moreso than the lemon does. I get more of a grapefruit taste than I do lemon from a simple s…

Apartment 1303 (2013)

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This movie sucked. That's not unusual for the genre, and it's not unusual for a movie I wind up seeing, but it's probably more interesting to figure out exactly WHY it sucked. And it sucked some serious suckitude.

For starters, there's the annoying fact that everyone keeps saying that person X died in the apartment or person Y died in the apartment. Only one person ever died in the apartment according to everything we hear (not including actually in the movie). Everyone else died on the pavement 13 floors below. Yes, these little things bother me, and especially when they are supposed to be accompanied by spirits who haunt the place because of their death 13 floors below. These women should be haunting a manhole cover.

Okay, that's not actually the worst sin of this movie, but I had to put it out there. Now, on to the acting. Well, I say there is acting, but there are few actual "actors" in this movie. Even Rebecca De Mornay doesn't bother to deliver …

Hoegaarden Wit Belgian Wheat

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Jeanne forced me to drink this. She has been a friend for over a decade now, so I'm willing to cut her a bit of slack. She insists that this is the best beer ever, and everyone who drinks it will love it. I like good beer, so why not give it a try? Because it's a Belgian white? They can be good. Is this one? 
Carbonation live here. The head on this thing is epic. Once it dies down, it's manageable, but holy crap - that's a lot of bubbles. The remaining head is very resilient, and it is like a soft cloud floating on top of the beer. It's a very cloudy pale yellow. I'd say it's a yellowish dishwater if anything. the smell is of sweet bread, vanilla, and citrus. If I were to categorize the aroma, I would say it smells clean - very expected for a Belgian wheat, really.
First sip is more complex than I expected. It has lemon, grain, bread, spices, cloves, and a slightly metallic taste lurking underneath. I'm not sure that I would refer to the taste of the s…

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

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Ever try to fire an arrow? Ever try to do it very quickly while still being accurate? Ever try it on a standard (non-compound) bow? Ever then try to kill people in excess of 30 yards away coming from different directions in rapid succession while on an unsteady platform of dwarf heads that are floating down a river? Well, Orlando Bloom, who was an excellent shot in the sequels to this movie, is unreal in his skills for this movie. It reminds me of the Star Wars prequels where the vehicles got faster and more powerful than they are in the original movies.

It's normal in a movie of this type to fudge such things to make skillful people seem superhuman. In this case, he is literally superhuman as an elf. Evangeline Lilly steps in to be just as freaking superheroic as Orlando. Ordinarily, it's awesome to see Batman kick some butt or Wolverine slash a dozen or so bad guys at once. These guys are superheroes who have flaws and strengths that can be played off of. When Orlando enters…

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

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The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a series of three books that were 400+ pages each. the Hobbit is a series of three movies based on a single book that was 310 pages. That means that Peter Jackson had to split this scant source material into three movies covering roughly 100 pages each. The fact is, this kind of thing has been done to great effect before. The Shawshank Redemption was a short story of 94 pages and Justified was entirely based on a scant 60 pages.

Here's the problem with forced perspective - it's inconsistent. See, the way they get the hobbits and dwarfs to look smaller than humans is to mess with perspective. It's a difficult and time-consuming process that give a fantastic result when it's done right. Unfortunately, it's hard to do right all the time. So, we have a giant Ian McKellen when he's in the hobbit hole, but then he's only pretty tall when we're outside. And what size are goblins supposed to be? Are they bigger than hobbits? No…

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

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This is the movie that Matthew McConaughey both did not take his shirt off for and lost like 47 pounds for. Well, they say it was 47 pounds, but it honestly looks like more. I watched the entire movie, and the only thing I could think about was how damn emaciated he was through the whole thing.

Matthew plays an electrician who works at a rodeo. He drinks a lot, does recreational drugs, gambles to excess, and has lots of unprotected intercourse with women of negotiable affection. This movie is about how this character, a homophobic racist with a quick temper and foul disposition, changes as a result of being diagnosed with HIV and full blown AIDS at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. Matthew does a remarkable job playing a truly unlikable character who eventually becomes ... not likable, really, just less unlikable. While we don't always agree with his decisions, we understand how and why he makes them, and the fact that this is based on a true story is kind of surprising. I would …

Mike's Hard Strawberry Lemonade

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I've had Mike's Hard Lemonade before, and I had Mike's Shandy - which was not one of my favorites. Mike's Hard Smashed Apple Cider, however, was spectacular. So, I came across this fruity lemonady beverage, and I decided I should give it a try.

The color is somewhat close to pink lemonade. It's a bit more red. the smell is of soft strawberries and a hint of lemon (not in the least bit surprising). The carbonation is light, but I don't know why I wasn't expecting any at all. I guess I don't associate either lemonade or strawberries with carbonation.

First sip is very sweet. It's been a while since I had a Mike's Hard Lemonade, and I can't remember if it was as sweet as this is. Again, there is strawberry and lemon in with the sweet carbonation. Not unexpectedly, I taste none of the alcohol. the bottle claims a 5% ABV, and I can't taste a bit of it. I guess that's the draw for their target audience (which I'm guessing is the same cr…

Wells Banana Bread Beer

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I should know better than to grab an interesting looking beer without fully reading the label. This one has BANANA in big letters, and I still grabbed it. Well, it can't be as bad as some of the other ones out there, can it? Let's find out.

It's a clear beverage that is darker than I anticipated. The color is almost that of a dark amber. The head doesn't stay around all that long, and it leaves a ring around the rim to remember it by. The aroma is - as advertised - that of banana bread. It's a novel sensation of smelling this in a beer.

First sip is a strange one. Did you ever have those banana-flavored snack cakes you can by in convenience stores? Think of that, but tasting less like real bananas. It's more like what someone who has only ever smelled a banana peel once probably thinks bananas taste like. There's some kind of toffee or something on the back-end that is making matters worse. And, maybe a big gulp will take this from Do Not Want to Want So Mu…

Redd's Strawberry Ale

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I think this is rounding out the "cider" category. Assuming I don't have any more in the fridge that I can't remember, this will be the last at least for a while, and I can go back to beer. The first Redd's didn't thrill me the first time I had it, and it didn't thrill me the second time, either.

The color is pretty much the exact same as the previous Redd's Ale. I suspect it's because they customized the color with fake coloring. They did the same thing with both beverages, so it's no surprise that they are the same color. The aroma is a fairly light strawberry with an alcohol twist. It is not too dissimilar from the S'loonshine I had, and that's does not bode well.

 First sip is not great, but not the worst. It actually reminds me of the aforementioned S'loonshine cut down with apple juice. It's pretty clear that sipping this is not the way to go.  I know I didn't give much of a sip description, and you'll have to par…

Redd's Apple Ale (Revisit)

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I looked at this beverage before, and I was thrown by the fact that it was called an ale. After having a bunch of other ciders, I figured I would take it on again, as I was probably a little too hasty in my conclusion.

The color is a a deep gold with a very nice clarity. The aroma is apple and wine. On some of the others, I had noted that the smell was either grapes or wine, but this one is almost certainly wine. It has a stronger scent of alcohol than the others had, that's for darn sure. It's not the harsh alcohol scent of S'loonshine or something - it's very refined.

First sip is unexpected. I've had a few of these apple ciders recently, and this tastes less like apples than any of them. Even the Woodchuck Fall that coated everything with cinnamon had more of a natural apple taste than this does. It definitely has more of a wine taste with carbonation that is palpable. It's hard to tell if I like it from a couple sips, though. Time for a good sized gulp.

Tip…

Angry Orchard Cinnful Apple Hard Cider

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Honestly, I'm about done with hard ciders, but I started down this path, and I'm going to explore the various facets of it while I'm here. This one is supposed to have cinnamon, and I hope it doesn't degenerate into the Woodchuck Fall cider. That thing was lousy with cinnamon.

The color is a bright gold with no head to speak of - which is normal for this kind of beverage. The aroma is (also quite unsurprisingly) cinnamon apple. I wish I could speak more about it, but it's about as straight-forward as you can get for a smell. I don't even smell the tell-tale whiff of alcohol in there. I could just as easily be sniffing some Motts Cinnamon Apple Sauce.

First sip isn't terrible. I expected more cinnamon than there actually is. It's very moderate, much like the Woodchuck cider was NOT. Really, it's exactly what I said Woodchuck needed to do - lessen the cinnamon to make it a more complimentary flavor than overpowering the apple base.

A proper draught is…

Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Hard Cider

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The latest in my trek to find the best of the apple ciders is this, the Crisp Apple version from Angry Orchard. My last Angry Orchard really impressed me with how much better it was than the Woodchuck ciders were. Maybe I'll be on a roll. Let's hope.

The color is a fairly pale yellow with a clarity that I've come to expect from these ciders. The aroma is quite predictably apple, and this one is very unlike the last one, the scent really carries over some distance. But, it still reminds me of nothing more than apple juice with a hint of grape or possibly wine.

First sip is a decent one. Like the other Angry Orchards, it is sweet and very much like apple juice in its general taste. A sip tends to blur things and give you an unclear representation of the beverage. That's why I never just rely on a sip, I always follow with a nice, big swig to give my taste buds the chance to dissect the different parts of it and enjoy it on another level. As a sip of this will not result …