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Showing posts from June, 2014

I, Frankenstein (2014)

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I thought that this movie was going to be a retelling of the Frankenstein story, but it was not. Instead, it was a continuation of the story... in a way. After the monster was created and ran amok, the doctor went hunting him in the frozen tundra only to die. This movie picks up there with the monster who is only a monster based on the idea that he A) was sewn together from dead bodies, B) was then given life by the intelligence of a scientist - not a god, and C) has no "soul."

This movie was brought to us by the producers of the Underworld series, and I very much enjoyed them. Unfortunately, they decided that what they needed to do was the same damn thing they did in Underworld, just a whole lot worse. They establish that two factions are waging a war that humans know nothing about, and there is one creature who is not either of them who can control the outcome of the war. Instead of vampires and werewolves, they have demons and angels. It's like if The Prophecy had bee…

Safe House (2012)

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Denzel Washington is a man who has been labeled as a traitor for stealing US secrets while he was a CIA operative. As he is selling secrets abroad, he gets a particularly nasty hunk of evidence that could make a lot of people's lives very bad. Because more than one group of bad guys wants him, he flees to the only place he thinks he might be safe - the American Consulate. Denzel, as always, does a very good job with his role.

Ryan Reynolds is the wet-behind-the-ears agent who is manning a boring Safe House when the hard-hitting got-getters (headed by Robert Patrick) bring in the big fish that is Denzel. Shortly after starting enhanced interrogation, things happen that make Ryan and Denzel unlikely partners. Both of them try to stay alive and act at the same time.

The movie is all about these two with their cat and mouse game while larger chess moves are being made above them and trained killers are stalking them no matter where they go. There is action, there is intrigue, and ther…

Lagunitas Sucks Brown Shugga' Substitute Ale

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I'm not sure why they decided to create a name that was so self-deprecating, but here it is. If my experience with Lagunitas has taught me anything, it's that they definitely do NOT suck. They have produced some of the best beers I've had. Unlike Sam Adams, who has taken the 2nd favorite brewery position, Lagunitas has never had a stinker. Maybe they aren't trying as hard? No. They try damn hard, and they usually succeed.

The thick, rich, creamy, and possibly scandalous head leaves huge patches of thick foam pasted to the sides of the glass as it goes down. Lagunitas really knows how to craft a beer to do these little things that make the experience even better. The color is a somewhat murky deep golden. The aroma is very decidedly hoppy. There are hints of citrus (mostly orange) and a light, biscuity malt, but the smell is overwhelmingly hops.

Initial sip is actually a lot more mild than I expected. It's definitely hoppy, as the aroma let on, but it's not the …

Gimme Shelter (2013)

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I found this movie so disinteresting I nearly didn't bother to do a write-up. It's "based on the inspiring true story" of an emotionally and physically abused pregnant girl who leaves her mother to find her biological father and deal with the differences between the worlds to find her true place. The thing is, I didn't find it to be all that inspiring or even all that interesting.

Vanessa Hudgens plays the girl, who insists that everyone call her "Apple," as she tries to go through the process of coping with her reality. She's supposed to come off as strong, tough, tenacious, etc. Unfortunately, she comes off as weak-willed, wishy-washy, and she pretty much crumbles in the face of adversity to the point that she relies on everyone around her to be kind and patient with her.

Brendan Fraser is the father that Apple finds without too much trouble. It's unclear at first what exactly they know about each other, and I have seen the entire movie and can…

The Machine (2013)

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Two scientists come together in their love of building computer artificial intelligences with military money to build the bestest one they could without falling too much in love. Hollywood has had a fascination with the singularity, and this is their latest take on it. I can't say that it was all bad.

Toby Stephens is the guy who wants to get consciousness into computers so he can put a human consciousness into them as well. His daughter has an illness that prevents her brain from working correctly, so he wants to use the technology that he is developing to make her well again. He plays the role well, although the interaction with the AI that he helps to create is a little too much on the proud father side of things and not enough on the detached scientist side.

Caity Lotz is the rule-breaking scientist who would never have passed a background check to make it into the restricted military scientific R&D base that she has to work on in the first place. She then decides to break …

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

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Harrison Ford doesn't even have a cameo in this movie. Neither does Alec Baldwin, for that matter. So, this is the first reboot that Chris Pine headlined that did not have any of the original actors from the associated franchise. It's probably a good thing - a complete break from the lineage that lets them do whatever they want without restrictions that come with calling back to source material.

Chris Pine, playing Jack Ryan, does a very good job with the relatively cookie-cutter role. He starts off as a soldier with aspirations of intelligence work, becomes a hero by saving his buddies, overcomes his injuries with the help of his sexy doctor, and joins the CIA to do shadowy stuff that only HE can do.

Keira Knightley plays the aforementioned sexy doctor. She plays an American and not entirely convincingly. I've seen her in quite a few movies before, and she usually brings a respectable amount of acting talent with her, but the words do no, to my ears, come across convincin…

The Den (2013)

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Ooooo! Another "found footage" style movie. This ground-breaking technique that is not at all overused in the horror genre in movies ranging from V/H/S to Paranormal Activity to Quarantine to REC to The Tunnel to Apollo 18 to Devil's Pass to Devil's Due to Grave Encounters. Nope, it's not overused at all. In fact, it seems like a great opportunity for a brand-new director to use for his debut, right?

So, the idea is that the pretty girl, played by Melanie Papalia, is a grad student who lobbies to get a grant for her senior thesis that will allow her to study the kinds of social interactions that she has online. She is only using one site, The Den, for all of this, but she pledges to be on 24/7 to get an idea of the kinds of people online at different times. The Den appears to be Chatroulette, but it also has some direct communication for a buddy list. It's unclear what her thesis actually is, why anyone would give her money for it, what her hypothesis is, wha…

RoboCop (2014)

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Sometimes, a remake is good. Sometimes a reboot (no, not the same thing) is good. Sometimes - okay, all too often - it's disappointing. This time, I would say it was disappointing, but I actually didn't have very high expectations. It pretty much met them.

The first problem is Detroit; it isn't the hellscape that the previous movies went over the top to describe. Instead, it doesn't even seem like they actually need RoboCop. Then there is Omnicorp - it's not even clear why Omnicorp has the ability to deploy an asset of this type on American soil. Then there is the RoboFamily (Robo's human family) they know all about him and try to maintain a relationship (which is so different from the first movies that it's hard to wrap my head around). Then there is the partner - no empathetic female Lewis for this Robocop; he gets a black guy.

Gary Oldman plays the conflicted scientist who is essentially the mastermind of the whole project. He's been working to replac…

300: Rise of an Empire (2014)

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The rule of Hollywood is that the sequel is never as good as the original. The sequel must cost more, be more over the top, and ultimately not live up to the expectation level that the original sets. In this particular case, it is completely true, but the original 300 was a really, really good movie, so there is lots of room under it to still be a good movie.

Gerard Butler died in the last movie, and he was the main character, so they needed to replace him with someone. Sullivan Stapleton is the alpha male for this movie, but it's kind of difficult to reconcile what we are told and what we see. Sullivan and his cohorts are just as built as the Spartans were in the first movie. The problem is that these Athenians were disparagingly referred to by the Spartans in the first movie, and they themselves routinely comment on how they are not soldiers. The attempt to bring the same style and the same fighting scenes in this movie fall short because the ripped men involved - I suspect many…

300 (2006)

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This film is about style. I'm going to start off by saying that Zack Snyder does a heck of a good job directing. The story is simple enough - the big Persian army wants to destroy Sparta if they don't surrender. Sparta, a land of warriors and guys who work a little too hard on their abs, has too many men who are disinclined to surrender. Defying the law that dictates that they shouldn't fight, 300 men go to fight a battle.

Gerard Butler headlines this movie as the Spartan King, Leonidas. He yells a lot, and he spits when he yells, and I can't imagine that is pleasant for the people whose face he gets in. His steely gaze and primped beard give him the necessary gravitas to bring the character out as something worth watching. I didn't remember Butler before I saw him in this movie, but I don't think I'll forget him after it.

Lena Headey was in at least one movie that I saw before this one. She was actually in quite a few movies and TV shows before this movie,…

The Best Offer (2013)

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Look at the gleaming chrome on that train. Look at how the pinstripes give it a flow that make it appear to be moving (which it is) even when it is standing still. See how the coal smoke and the light mist in the air mingle at the bellows and produce thin black strips that mar the otherwise gleaming paint. And we can see this detail miles and miles away. Just like we can see the "twist" coming in this movie.

This movie is an art project that made it onto film, so you can't expect well-rounded characters or a complicated story. You have to look for quirks and intricacies that make the texture of the movie. From the gloves that Geoffrey Rush wears (and he has more pairs than any woman I know has shoes) to the eidetic memory of the midget in the periphery to the agoraphobia that afflicts Sylvia Hoeks' character, each person has an overriding personal quick that defines not only them as creations but their interactions with each other and the circumstances they find them…

Syrup (2013)

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This is a pretty awful movie. They took two completely unlikable and unrealistic characters and made them the focal point of a romance and marketing campaign. That's right, you get to witness a dramatized marketing campaign! We all know how good the average Hollywood writer is at imagining a career that isn't a Hollywood writer - which is to say that they have a cursory understanding and expect that it is as glamorous as possible.

Remember when breaking the fourth wall was an unusual and compelling method of storytelling? Well, if you want it to become a trite and ineffective way of getting character insights across, you add it to a near constant voiceover and you have more than one character do it. This makes the viewers feel like they are being pandered to and removes all personal involvement in the story.

Amber Heard is beautiful. Welcome to the only positive point of the movie. She got her dad a cameo and he was innocuous. She was able to do this because she was one of the…

12 Years a Slave (2013)

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If you haven't heard about this movie yet, you're living under a rock. It's the fictionalized true story of a man who was a free black man living in the North who was kidnapped, taken to the antebellum South, and sold as a slave. For the 12 years that the title refers to, he was a slave, hoping to return to his wife and kids in the North.

Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the main character - taken from his family and life and thrust into a cruel world where he is treated as property, and he's not particularly valuable property. He does a very good job of getting the flood of emotions across on screen. The helplessness, ennui, anger, depression, brief glimpses of hope, and the heaps and heaps of pain are all played out for us in exquisite detail.

This was supposed to be a low budget film. At a production budget of $20 million, it is relatively low from today's mega movie standards. This is especially true when you think of the list of big names that have relatively small parts…

Deschutes Armory XPA

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This is the last of the care package from my brother. I honestly didn't look at what he sent before I started to drink them, and I can't believe I saved the XPA for last. Yes, I know it's not an IPA, but I'm pretty sure it's close. Normally, I'd have grabbed this one first, but it's kind of nice to possibly have saved the best one for last.

The beer is a kind of golden orange amber color with a nice and sticky head like the last Deschutes beer. There's a little less that remains across the top of the beer, though, but I'm certainly not going to hold that against it. The aroma is highly IPA. It has the distinct floral scent of lots and lots o' hops. It smells absolutely delicious. I think I smell oranges in there with it. There's definitely citrus.

First sip is a bit more abrasive than expected. It has a metallic tinge that hits and never really goes away as the floral taste with a biscuit-like malt kind of swims underneath the surface very q…

Deschutes Hop in the Dark CDA

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I've had a couple of Black IPAs before. One was middle of the road, and one was great. So, while I'm generally new to the beer type, I've had a bit of luck with it. Well, the third beer my brother got for me is this Cascadian Dark Ale, which is effectively the same thing as a Black IPA. Since he enjoyed it, and he has pretty good taste (it's genetic) I expect I'm going to enjoy it as well.

The lumpy, sticky foam on top is draping down the sides very nicely, as the deep brown beer sits stoically pretending to be black. The aroma is kind of a sweet malt and slight coffee and bitter chocolate. I can smell the hoppy flower nestled in there with it. It's a promising smell, that's for dang sure.

First sip is very, very good. It's got that smokey flavor that puts me in mind of a porter, but it has a sweetness that reminds me more of a milk stout, and I do love a good milk stout. It has a bit of pine that comes out as well, and that just adds enough to the comp…

Hop Valley Vanilla Infused Porter

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Another beer from my brother. This time, it's a porter, and I am so excited I can barely contain myself. I really think that there may be nothing better than a good porter, but there are so few good ones and so many that shouldn't have tried, that I also approach this beer with trepidation.

She's a dark beer, with no light making its way through the beer at all. The head is thin, but it sticks around like an unwanted guest at a dinner party after you've started to run out of the after dinner drinks. The aroma is classic porter with the distinct scent of roasted malt. I can smell a bit of a metallic smell in there with it, though.

First sip is a lot more bitter than most porters. It is really nice and smoky, but the bitter hits pretty hard and might be unpleasant if the bitterness didn't go away fairly quickly after the drink is gone. I'm not sure if this is a good one or a bad one yet. After all, sipping is for tea and possibly lemonade. Beer is for quaffing, d…

Delivery Man (2013)

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The premise is a little out there. It's a comedy, so it can work, but I'm pretty sure no drama could maintain credibility with this as the starting point. Vince Vaughn donated sperm to a fertility clinic many years ago, and the clinic, for an unexplained reason, used his sample to fertilize all of the patients that came to the clinic for the time that they had viable samples.

Vince is also a meat delivery man for his family's meat processing company. His brother comments that he is the worst delivery man ever, and I'm inclined to agree. I'm not sure that we saw him deliver any meat during this movie. Yes, he used the company van a lot, but the meat in the back either went bad or he eventually gave away.

Some people like Vince Vaughn, and some people don't. I generally like him, but I think there can be too much Vince at times. In this movie, they generally restrain the usual Vaughn idiosyncrasies and allow the comedy to kind of unfold itself in front of the vie…

2 Towns Ciderhouse Cherried Away

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I have had a few ciders for review on this site. Some have been very good, but some not so much, and hibiscus has been seen and was a terrible effort. I will not let those or the cherry issues deter me from trying this beverage that was thoughtfully provided to me by my eldest brother. He made up some reason that he was sending it, but I suspect he just likes the beer he sent and wants me to try it - no other reason needed.

It definitely smells unexpectedly like a proper adult beverage. I thought it would be more cherry smelling than it is, given that the color is that of Cherokee Red, a cherry soda I remember having at the Little League ball park either before or after my team lost (I was never very good at most sports). Instead, the aroma is more like wine made from cherries. There's no head to speak of. I was afraid when I got this in the mail that the cap was not seated correctly, as the inside of the box definitely had remnants of Cherried Away spread around, but it had carbo…