It’s Complicated

Photo #6


Film (with rating): It’s Complicated (R)

Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Summary: Jane (Meryl Streep) has three grown kids, a
thriving Santa Barbara bakery and an amicable relationship with her ex-husband,
Jake (Alec Baldwin). Now, a decade after their divorce, an innocent dinner
between Jane and the now-remarried Jake turns into the unimaginable–an affair.
Could love be sweeter, or more complicated, the second time around?

Review: This movie isn’t complicated. It’s actually pretty
simple, and it works. “It’s Complicated” is almost a throw-back to
Classic Hollywood, especially with Streep at the helm. Now in her 60s, this
accomplished actor can do just about anything, and do it well–especially classy
comedy. She is most definitely box-office gold.

Producer/writer/director Nancy
Meyers does a good job following up her “Something’s Gotta Give” with
this flick. They both have the same feel, and both are stocked full of
amazingly pedigreed actors who know how to do their jobs well. In
“Complicated,” even the more clichd scenes are pulled off due to the
actors’ talent. Steve Martin also co-stars here, and he never once fails to
impress.

“It’s Complicated” is a nice, entertaining, adult comedy
that lets you think, but not too much. It’s the perfect film for a night when
all you want to do is just be amused without having to put forth too much
effort.

Extra highlight: “The Making Of” featurette.

What to serve for dinner: Brinner! Orange juice, fruit
salad, caf mocha and (of course) chocolate croissants. You can go two ways
with this: visit Starbucks on your way home and pick it all up, or toss
together a fruit salad yourself from this week’s farmers’ market haul and
follow the following recipes.

Chocolate Croissants Option 1 (cooks.com):

1 can refrigerated crescent roll dough

1 stick butter, melted

4 fun size bars of Three Musketeers candy bars

1/4 c. confectioners sugar

Cut the candy bars long ways. Tear crescent dough and put
the Musketeers in middle and roll up. If you can see the chocolate at the ends,
pinch together. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. When done sprinkle with
confectioners sugar.

Chocolate Croissants Option 2 (cooks.com):

1 package refrigerated crescent rolls

1 bag of chocolate chips (mini chips work well)

3 tbs melted butter

1 egg white

confectioners sugar

sliced almonds

Unroll and flatten dough; separate into triangles. Brush
with melted butter. Sprinkle 1-2 tsp. chocolate chips on each triangle. Roll
each triangle into crescent shape and place on ungreased cookie sheet.

In small bowl, add 2 tsp. water to egg white and mix well
with fork or whisk. Brush the top of each croissant with egg wash. Top with
sliced almonds, if desired. Bake in preheated 375 oven for 15 minutes. Let cool
briefly and then remove from cookie sheet. Use a sieve to add a dusting of
confectioner’s sugar on top of each.


Caf Mocha (allrecipes.com)

    *
1 cup hot brewed coffee

    *
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

    *
1 tablespoon white sugar

    *
2 tablespoons milk

Pour hot coffee into a mug. Stir in cocoa, sugar and milk.

 

What to talk about over dinner: Would you ever get back
together with an ex? Have you? How did that work out for you? Who would you
have chosen if you were Jane? What’s the most complicated relationship
situation you’ve ever been in? The most complicated relationship? Have you
heard any of Steve Martin’s songs? That man plays a mean banjo. Is there
anything Meryl Streep cannot do? What’s your favorite movie of hers? Compare
“It’s Complicated” to “Something’s Gotta Give.” Which one
worked better? Why?

Avatar

Photo #15

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

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

Summary: A paraplegic former Marine dispatched to Pandora
becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is
his home.

Review: How could I possibly begin to review the sci-fi epic
known as “Avatar?” It’s nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. James
Cameron is most definitely king of the world right now. So far, nearly everyone
I’ve met has seen this movie at least once. It’s raked in more than $26 billion
worldwide since its debut last December, making “Avatar” the
highest-grossing film of all time.

During awards season this year, the film was
nominated for nine Oscars (winning three, all in visual effects-type of
categories) and won two Golden Globes for best picture and best director. The
movie has taken on a life of its own. Viewers are reported to have become
depressed they don’t live in this mythical world portrayed so beautifully by
Cameron.

It’s obvious why the film took a dozen years to birth;
“Avatar” is, simply put, a visual orgasm. One reviewer writes that
the viewing experience is akin to the classical moment in “The Wizard of
Oz” when black and white opens the door to Technicolor. Cameron broke
benchmarks when he created this optic wonderland. There has never been a movie
like this before.

Some have criticized the plot and dialog, noting that the
latter is weak and drawn out. But with all of this beauty to look at and blow
you away, who cares? The seamless production makes any technical flaws dim in
comparison.

In conjunction with “Avatar’s” release on DVD and
Earth Day, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and Earth Day Network
partnered together to plant 1 million native trees in 15 countries this year.
To help raise awareness, Fox created “The Avatar Program.” Through a
code found inside the DVD, viewers can register at www.avatarmovie.com and adopt one of the
trees being planted.

So check out “Avatar” again, or for the first
time. Even if sci-fi epics are not your genre of choice, you might as well
watch this one to see what all the fuss is about.

Extra highlight: None. Hmm. Not impressive. There are rumors
a “special edition” will street later this year, but for now, you’ve
got nothing.

What to serve for dinner: Everything blue: Cool Blue Martini
(epicurious.com), green salad with blue cheese dressing, Corny Na’vi Bread
(sparkrecipes.com), Chicken Cordon Bleu (foodnetwork.com) and blueberry pie.

 

Cool Blue Martini:

*  3 oz (about
1/3 cup) gin or vodka

    *
1/2 oz (1 tablespoon) dry vermouth

    *
1 teaspoon blue Curaao

    *
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, strained

    *
Garnish: 2 lemon twists

Shake together all ingredients except twists in a cocktail
shaker with ice, then strain into two martini glasses and garnish with twists.

 

Corny Na’vi Bread:

* 1 package Trader Joe’s cornbread mix

* 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt

* 3/4 cup skim milk

* 1 egg white

* Blue food coloring

* 1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350. In a mixing bowl, blend the cornbread
mix, yogurt, milk and egg white. Add blue food coloring a couple of drops at a
time until the mixture is the desired hue of blue. Add blueberries. Pour into a
greased 8×8 pan. Bake for 40 minutes until golden and cooked through. Let cool
for about 10 minutes. Slice into nine evenly sized bars/pieces.

 

Chicken Cordon Bleu

* 4 double chicken breasts (about 7-ounces each), skinless
and boneless

    *
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

    *
8 thin slices deli ham

    * 16
thin slices Gruyere or Swiss cheese

    *
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

    *
1/4 cup flour

    *
1 cup panko bread crumbs

    *
1 teaspoon olive oil

    *
2 eggs

    *
2 teaspoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay the chicken between two
pieces of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, gently pound the
chicken to 1/4-inch thickness. Take care not to pound too hard because the meat
may tear or create holes. Lay two slices of cheese on each breast, followed by
2 slices of ham, and 2 more of cheese; leaving a 1/2-inch margin on all sides
to help seal the roll. Tuck in the sides of the breast and roll up tight like a
jellyroll. Squeeze the log gently to seal.

Season the flour with salt and pepper; spread out on waxed
paper or in a flat dish. Mix the breadcrumbs with thyme, kosher salt, pepper,
and oil. The oil will help the crust brown. Beat together the eggs and water,
the mixture should be fluid. Lightly dust the chicken with flour, then dip in
the egg mixture. Gently coat in the bread crumbs. Carefully transfer the
roulades to a baking pan and bake for 20 minutes until browned and cooked
through. Cut into pinwheels before serving.

 

What to talk about over dinner: Would you like to live in a
world like this? Why or why not? Were you depressed when the movie was over?
How has “Avatar” changed the way movies will be made? Anyone else
notice the huge onslaught of “In 3-D!” films out there now? Do you
remember the first 3-D movie you’ve ever seen? Do you notice any “Titanic”
hints in “Avatar?” Who was your favorite character? Was the movie too
long? Did it drag? Or did you want more? What’s next for Cameron? Did he get
robbed at the Oscars? Or was “Avatar” so lauded because it was so
popular? What about “Avatar 2?” 

New Moon

Photo #4

Film (with rating): New Moon (PG-13)
 

Studio: Summit Entertainment

Summary: In the second chapter of Stephenie Meyer’s
“Twilight” saga, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire love
Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) fight to keep their relationship growing, all
while battling ancient secrets that threaten to destroy them. Things get even
more confusing when Bella’s friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) uncovers his
own supernatural powers, and his feelings for Bella.

Review: I confess–I read all of the “Twilight”
books, and relatively enjoyed them. But I’m a sucker (no pun intended) for
vampire stories. The writer in me saw the flaws in the books, but I read them
for entertainment, and found myself properly entertained. As for the movies,
well, that’s a different story. “New Moon” is, of course, hated by
some uber-fans of the novels, as well as is adored by aficionados of Edward and
Jacob (Team Edward t-shirts are all over my local Target). I’m neither, so I
approached the film from a middle-of-the-road point of view.

And I found some flaws. Unfortunately, director Chris Weitz could have done so much
more with the material. Bella’s constant obsession with brooding and staring
out the window made for boring cinema, as did Edward’s one expression: staring
out from beneath his eyelashes. Weitz seemed to dwell too much on all of this
moody rumination, which was only broken up with footage of shirtless
werewolves. As much as my vampire-loving self hates to admit it, the werewolves
were the best part of “New Moon.”  It proved hard to care about Edward and Bella when all they
seemed to do was walk through the woods and moan about true love. It got old.
So old. I wanted to scream at them to just knock it off, get over themselves
and stop whimpering about everything. Weitz redeemed himself slightly with the
action-packed werewolf scenes, but not completely.

All that being said, “New Moon” will be a decent
DVD to those who walk the middle ground in this “Twilight”
phenomenon. As long as you’re not distracted by whining, bad makeup or erratic
plot jumps, “New Moon” isn’t so bad. As an added treat, you’ve got
lots of pumped-up werewolves who adore running around half naked for your
viewing pleasure. You may just squeal just like the half-zillion preteen girls
(and their moms) who saw this film a dozen times in theaters.

Extra highlight: The six-part documentary

What to serve for dinner: Hey, it’s Stewart’s birthday
today, so let’s settle in for a night of vampire-themed food: everything red.
Serve up some red lentil soup (NewYorkTimes.com) with tomato swirl bread
(blisstree.com). End the evening with some red velvet cake or sliced
strawberries and cream.

Red Lentil Soup

2 tablespoons canola oil or peanut oil

1 medium or large onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

Salt to taste

2 teaspoons cumin seeds, lightly toasted and ground

2 teaspoons coriander seeds, lightly toasted and ground

2 teaspoons hot curry powder

1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes with juice

1 pound red lentils (about 2 1/8 cups), washed and picked
over

2 quarts water or chicken stock

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (more to taste)

Cayenne to taste (optional)

Juice of 1/2 lime

For garnish:

Chopped fresh cilantro

Thickened yogurt

1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat
and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes, and add the
garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, the cumin, coriander, and curry powder. Stir
together for about a minute, until the garlic is fragrant, and stir in the
tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes,
until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly. Add salt to taste.

2. Stir in the lentils and water or chicken stock. Bring to
a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add salt to taste and
continue to simmer for 15 to 30 minutes, until the lentils have fallen apart
and thickened the soup. Using the back of your spoon, mash the lentils against
the side of the pot to thicken the soup further. Add the pepper, taste, and add
cayenne if you want more spice. Taste and adjust salt. Stir in the lime juice.

3. If you wish, puree with an immersion blender or in
batches in a blender, holding a towel over the lid to prevent hot soup from
splashing out, and return to the pot. Heat through and serve, topping each bowl
with a dollop of yogurt and a generous sprinkling of chopped cilantro.

Tomato Swirl Bread

1 tomato

1 cup tomato sauce

2 tbs butter

2 tbs brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cloves

2 tbs ketchup

1 package of dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp)

1/4 cup warm water

4 cups or so of whole wheat flour

Soften yeast in water. Heat tomato sauce, butter and ketchup
and let cool to lukewarm. Add sugar, cloves, salt and yeast mixture to tomato
mixture and mix in enough flour to make a soft but kneadable dough (or mix
according to mixer directions). Turn out and knead until smooth and elastic.
Oil and set aside to rise.

Next, take:

1 1/2 c warm water

2 tbs butter

2 tbs brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1 pack dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp)

4 cups or so whole wheat flour

Soften yeast in 1/4 c water with sugar. To other 1 1/4 cup water,
add butter until butter melts (you may need to microwave it and let cool to
lukewarm). Add salt and yeast mixture…then add flour until you get a soft,
kneadable dough…proceed as above.

Let balls of dough rise until double, about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down and knead lightly. Cut each ball of dough into two equal pieces. Let
rest 10 minutes. Roll each ball out into a rectangle of equal sizes. Place a
tomato dough rectangle on top of a whole wheat rectangle and roll up tightly
pinching dough together at bottom to seal. Repeat with other loaf. Let rise in
greased bread pans for 1 hour or until double.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when
tapped. Let cool.

What to talk about over dinner: How do you think the movie
compared to the book? How could it have been better? Where did it do the book
justice? How did you behave with your first love? Who should Bella be with: the
vampire or the werewolf? Any desire to go to Washington now? Do you think there
are such things as werewolves and vampires? Why is Bella so constantly moody
and brooding? What was your favorite book in the “Twilight” series?
Anyone even remember Pattinson from his “Harry Potter” days? Was it
anything other than supernatural forces that helped turn Lautner from a geeky youngster
in the first film into a chiseled god in this one? What’s the fascination with
vampires anyway? What’s your favorite werewolf film? “I Was a Teenage
Werewolf?” “The Howling?” “An American Werewolf in
London?” “Teen Wolf?”