Zombieland

Photo #34

Film (with rating): Zombieland (R)

Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Summary: Nerdy college student Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg)
survived the apocalyptic plague that turned people into flesh-devouring zombies
because he’s scared of just about everything. Gun-toting, Twinkie-loving
Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) has no fears. Together, they are about to stare
down their most horrifying challenge yet: each other’s company.

Review: Don’t ask me exactly how a film about the undead can
come across as a feel-good film, but it does. It’s simply terrific. And I loved it.
“Zombieland” combines some of my favorite genres and film flavors:
horror, gore, dark comedy, action, camp. Spectacular. Eisenberg and Harrelson
have incredible on-screen chemistry, and their banter–from one-liners to entire conversations–elevates the film way
above a simple gorefest. Add to that all of Columbus’ rules (my favorite: the double tap), and you’ve got a winner.

Don’t get me wrong: “Zombieland” is full of
disgusting scenes, especially the opener. But soon, the layers of this movie
are peeled back, exposing a multi-faceted feast. Unfortunately, under one of those layers, is a freaky, undead clown. That hit my weak spot. I detest clowns as much as does Eisenberg’s character, so to see a creepy zombie clown just about did me in (I couldn’t even use a photo from the movie depicting this Bozo from Hell). Even though I had to watch the scene through splayed fingers, I watched it. And I realized that if I chose to “nut up,” the payoff in the end would be worth it.

Director Ruben Fleischer
expertly mixes horror and comedy in one bloody mix. The film, campy as it may
be, is carefully directed, so even if the scenes are surreal, viewers buy them.
I mean, we’re sort of talking about a road trip with the walking dead. But in
“Zombieland,” it works.

Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin co-star, and
they both add even more to the rich character cast. It is a bit strange to see
“Little Miss Sunshine” kick zombie butt, but strange in a good way.
We cheer for these flawed and real heroes fighting against the spooky-looking
undead as they search for something more than just a zombie-free zone. 

“Zombieland” is not going to teach viewers any
soul-shattering life lessons, but it does have a thing or two to say about relationships and family. On any account, the film will give people some guilty-pleasure
downtime as they watch it.

Extra highlight:  “Zombieland is Your Land” featurette

What to serve for dinner: Go with Tallahassee’s fave food:
Twinkies. Try some Twinkie Tacos (www.hostesscakes.com).

    *
2 Hostess Twinkies (mashed)

    *
2 flour tortillas

    *
Ground cinnamon

    *
Sugar

    *
Marshmallow whip

    *
Maraschino cherries

Fry tortilla in a buttered frying pan until crispy. Sprinkle
with cinnamon and sugar. Spread mashed Twinkies on tortilla and top with warmed
marshmallow whip and cherries.

What to talk about over dinner: What is the best zombie film
you’ve ever seen? The worst? What other films combine this dark comedy/gorefest
genre? What is family to you? What is your favorite Woody Harrelson movie? What was your favorite
“Cheers” episode? Which zombie movie has the scariest undead? Which
“Zombieland” character do you identify with? What rule was your favorite? Could you guess the rule before it was shown? Is it true Twinkies can
survive for years on the shelf? What’s your opinion on coconut?

Valentine’s Special Part 2–For Haters

Photo #1


Film (with rating): War of the Roses (R)
 

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

Summary: Barbara and Oliver Rose, once madly in love, fall
apart, get divorced and wind up doing everything and anything to get each other
to leave their dream home.

Review: Feeling anti-Valentine’s Day? Here’s a movie for
you. This film is one of my favorites, and not just because it has a
spectacular cast– Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner have rarely been better
together, and they’ve been pretty fantastic in the past. No, I love this film
because it is both funny and tragic all at the same time. It also makes any
argument I have with my own husband pure playground shenanigans by comparison.

In “Roses,” Danny DeVito portrays Oliver Rose’s divorce lawyer (and
the movie’s onscreen narrator), giving us his skewed and bitter interpretation
of marriage, using the Roses as proof. Viewers see Barbara and Oliver start off
strong and in love, then get wrapped up in their lives, then get wrapped up  in killing each other–all in the name
of divorce.

It’s tragic.

We see the power of love and the euphoria behind it,
and we witness the lunacy and hate sparked by the end of said love. Despite the
depressing subject matter, both Douglas and Turner spin their comedy wheels
with perfection. Even when they are literally trying to beat the other’s head
in, the pair still weaves in some sharp comedy. It’s rare that this
combination–macabre mixed with mirthful–works this spectacularly.

All in all,
there’s not a better movie for those anti-Valentine’s folks out there to watch
than this blackest of black comedies. I mean, the tag line of the film says it
all: “Once in a lifetime comes a motion picture that makes you feel like
falling in love again. This is not that movie.”

Extra highlight: Who cares? Go drown your bitterness in some
chocolate.

What to serve for dinner: This movie makes cooking–and other
domestic chores–seem downright unappealing. And, dear God, don’t even think
about eating pate! Instead, call up your favorite Chinese food restaurant and
order a bunch of take-out. Try to weave in some chocolate with these great drink
recipes: Dark Chocolate Martinis and White Chocolate Martinis. I have no idea
how well they’ll go with Chinese food, but they’re chocolate, so that trumps
all. (www.melindalee.com)

 

DARK CHOCOLATE MARTINI

2 to 2 1/2 ounces, Stoli Vanil (vanilla infused vodka, made
by Stolichnaya)

2 teaspoons (or to taste) Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur

3-4 ice cubes – cracked

chocolate shavings or curls for garnish

(shave the edge of a chocolate bar using a vegetable peeler)

In a pitcher or cocktail shaker, measure the vodka and
chocolate liqueur. Add the cracked ice and shake vigorously or stir
energetically. Strain into (preferably chilled) martini glass. Add a few curls
of chocolate.

[NOTE: an easy way to mix this for a group, is to measure
the vodka into a martini glass - pour one glassful for each serving over
cracked ice in a pitcher or cocktail shaker, then add the desired amount of
chocolate liqueur, shake or stir - then strain into individual glasses, garnish
and serve.]

WHITE CHOCOLATE MARTINI

2 to 2 1/2 ounces, smooth (high quality) vodka

(may be Stoli Vanil, or other, unflavored vodka as
preferred)

2 teaspoons (or to taste), Godiva white chocolate liqueur

about one teaspoon, heavy or whipping cream

3-4 ice cubes – cracked

a stemmed maraschino cherry for garnish

n a pitcher or cocktail shaker, measure the vodka, liqueur
and cream over cracked ice. Shake or stir vigorously, then strain into
(preferably chilled) martini glass. Add cherry for garnish.

What to talk about over dinner: What’s the worst break-up
you’ve ever experienced? The worst partner you’ve ever dated or married? The
worst things you’ve ever done to a partner or had done to you? How would you
get revenge against someone you once loved but now hate? What is your favorite
line in the movie? Do you think it’s too easy to get divorced? Why are divorces
so common these days? Do people take marriage as seriously as they did in the
past? How can a once-loving couple turn into bitter enemies? Would you ever
love a house that much? Should cat people marry cat people and dog people marry
dog people?

Valentine’s Special Part 1–For Lovers

Photo #18

Film (with rating): The Time Traveler’s Wife (PG-13)

Studio: Warner Home Entertainment

Summary: Henry and Clare fight to be together, despite
Henry’s genetic anomaly that causes him to skip back and forth through time.

Review: It’s never a good thing when I’m confused during a
movie. “The Time Traveler’s Wife” does have its perks, but too often,
those perks are swallowed in the confusing, detail-heavy, sci-fi, time-travel
explanations. Which, by the way, are very weak when seen through a science
fiction lens.

OK, since this is a pro-Valentine’s Day column, let’s look at the
movie’s highlights. Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams have great chemistry and
portray their characters, based on those in the bestselling 2003 novel by Audrey
Niffenegger, beautifully. There are genuinely touching scenes that anyone who
has had to endure a long-distance relationship will identify with. Bana, in
particular, does a supreme job, showcasing his acting chops a lot more than he
got to do in “Hulk.” He can really get under his character’s skin and
master the more difficult emotions. Plus, he’s not too tough to look at.

Now
for the flip side. The movie’s plot just doesn’t work. And it tries too hard to
be a “Ghost” or “Somewhere in Time.” Doesn’t work. I won’t
even get into a discussion about the potential freak-out factor that crops up
during scenes when the adult Henry transports through time–naked–and visits
Clare as a child. It was really tough to keep the romance aspect of the movie
alive when my brain kept screaming, “Creep alert! Creep alert!”

All
in all, “Time” is a traditional romance in that it does its very best
to tug at your heartstrings and make you believe in the love-conquers-all
thing. Just don’t look too closely at the plot. Or the naked man in the bushes.

Extra highlight: “Love Beyond Words”

What to serve for dinner: A romantic dinner for two–Easy-Creamy Linguini with Shrimp followed by Sexy Strawberry
Tiramisu (www.divinedinnerparty.com). 

Easy-Creamy Linguini with Shrimp

6 oz. linguine (fresh is best)

1 tbsp. butter

1/4 lb. fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced

1/4 C. butter

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

3 oz. cream cheese (low-fat works fine)

2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced

3/4 tsp dried basil

salt, to taste

1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1/2 C. chicken broth, boiling

1/2 lb cooked shrimp

1/4 C. Parmesan cheese, grated

Boil linguini in lightly salted water. Drain. For sauce:
Heat one tablespoon of butter in skillet over med-high heat. Add mushrooms.
Saut until tender. Transfer mushrooms to a small plate and set aside. Heat the
1/4 cup butter in skillet. Add the minced garlic, then stir in the cream
cheese. Allow cheese to melt, then add the parsley and basil. Let simmer five
minutes.

Add boiling (or very hot) chicken broth until sauce is
smooth . Add shrimp and mushrooms and heat through, about two minutes.

Toss cooked pasta with sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan, and
serve.

Note: Using pre-cleaned, pre-cooked shrimp makes this easy
romantic dinner recipe even easier. But if you have uncooked shrimp, simply
clean them and toss them in with the mushrooms to cook.

Sexy Strawberry Tiramisu

2 eggs, room temp, whites and yolks separated

1/4 C. caster sugar (superfine sugar– you can use powdered)

10.5 oz. mascarpone cheese

1/2 C. whipped cream

15 strawberries, hulled, cleaned, and quartered

1/3 C. strong coffee (espresso is best)

2 tbsp. rum

14 ladyfingers

unsweetened cocoa, to garnish

Beat egg yolks with sugar with electric mixer on med-high
until yolks are pale and thick. Add mascarpone, beat until incorporated.  In separate bowl, beat egg whites until
soft peaks form. Fold cream into cheese mixture, then fold in egg whites. Fold
in the strawberries. In a small bowl, combine rum and espresso. Dip seven of
the ladyfingers into the coffee/rum mixture (don’t dip the entire ladyfinger,
or it may fall apart), then place them in the bottom of a serving dish. Spread
half the cheese/strawberry mixture over the ladyfingers.

Dip remaining seven ladyfingers in coffee/rum, then place
over cheese. Spread remaining cheese over. Refrigerate four hours (or more),
then sift cocoa over and serve. If desired, garnish each piece with half a
strawberry.

What to talk about over dinner: What is the most romantic
movie you’ve ever seen? What made it so? What is the most romantic thing you’ve
ever seen? That you’ve ever done? What would you do for the one you love? What
is the biggest road block you and your loved one have had to conquer? What is
your best Valentine’s Day memory ever? When did you know you and your partner
were meant to be together? What one romantic gesture would you love?

Surrogates

Photo #1

Film (with rating): Surrogates (PG-13)
 

Studio: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Summary: In the not-too-distant future, people are living
their lives remotely from the safety of their own homes via robotic,
perfect-looking surrogates. Crime, pain, fear and consequences don’t exist,
until FBI agent Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) discovers a conspiracy behind the
surrogate phenomenon that may cost him his life.

Review: The idea of having an entire world of people sitting
around in their sweatpants with controls stuck to their heads as they mentally
power gorgeous robots to perform everyday duties and routines is a bit creepy.
Heck, it’s really creepy. I kept thinking I’d rather have a clone so I could be
two places at once, not just reclining in my La-Z Boy with unwashed hair while
my “pretty self” went out and had all the fun.

I couldn’t really tell
if “Surrogates” was more of a thriller or a commentary about how
useless our superficial priorities have become. Director Jonathan Mostow
(“Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines”) does a good job keeping the
film from getting too sarcastic or too serious, but he does miss out by not
diving deeper into the emotional issues. For example, there’s a great scene
where Greer is begging his wife’s surrogate to just leave her robot behind and
reconnect with him like they used to, before their son died. The surrogate
literally shuts off, and the scene, even without words, says so much. I wanted
to see more like it.

The supporting cast holds its own, with heavyweights like
James Cromwell and Ving Rhames in the mix. At times Mostow seemed to fall too
deeply into the conspiracy/thriller sector, which propelled
“Surrogates” into the more confusing camp. But overall, the film
holds its own and is memorable after the credits wrap. Willis actually plays
the lead character with an understated strength, which really bumps
“Surrogates” up a notch.

The ending is a bit too
“ta-da-the-end!” for my taste, but it’s not the worst I’ve ever seen
(uh, thanks “The Mist” for claiming that title forever. Worst ending
EVER!). Overall, “Surrogates” is a good rainy-night DVD choice when
the latest blockbuster is checked out.

Extra highlight: “A More Perfect You: The Science of
‘Surrogates’”

What to serve for dinner: Supposedly, Bruce Willis’ favorite
food is bacon, so let’s serve up some BLTs (allrecipes.com).

*   2
slices bacon

* 1 teaspoon mustard powder

* 1 teaspoon curry powder

* 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

* 2 slices bread, toasted

* 2 lettuce leaves

* 3 slices tomato

* 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise

Place bacon in a skillet over medium heat. Mix together the
mustard powder, curry powder and red pepper flakes. As soon as you turn the
bacon over, sprinkle the spice mixture onto the cooked side of the bacon. Place
the lettuce and tomato onto one slice of toasted bread, then top with the
seasoned cooked bacon. Top with the other slice of toasted bread, spread with
mayo. Serves one. You can also add fresh avocado slices if you’d like. Serve
the sandwiches with chips, pickle slices or French fries, and a cold beer.

What to talk about over dinner: If available, would you take
on a surrogate to live your life? Why or why not? What would you use a
surrogate for? Would you rather have a surrogate or be cloned? What did you
like better, the more emotional scenes or the action-packed ones? Which did you
like: Bruce older and scruffy or Bruce with the Ken-doll blond wave and the
pretty skin? What does “Surrogates” say about prioritizing beauty and
perfection? What direction would you have liked the movie to go? Did you like
the ending?