Robin Hood

 

Photo #2


Film (with rating): Robin Hood (PG-13)

 

Studio:
Universal Studios Home Entertainment

 

Summary: A
unique retelling of the classic tale of Robin Hood (Russell Crowe), an expert
archer who tries to save the corrupted town of Nottingham from the clutches of
a despotic sheriff.

 

Review: First
off, this is not the “Robin Hood” of your youth, nor is it for
today’s youth. That’s not to say it’s good or bad. Just different than what
some might believe they’re in store for.

 

Many reviewers have been peeved that director Ridley Scott’s
“Robin Hood” is not a modern version of the Errol Flynn classic, nor
is it historically accurate. Then others gripe that all the “fun and
fantasy” has been ripped from a classic fable and replaced with the dark
reality of 12th century England. But let’s step back here. This is
Scott and Crowe, teaming up one again. Think of “Gladiator:” Was that
fleshed from the history books? Probably not. Same with “Robin Hood.”
It was not created to be viewed as a documentary or a glorified version of
history.

 

When judged on its own, the film is not bad. Don’t try to
make it a documentary or a “Gladiator Part 2,” or else you will be
disappointed. Scott successfully took lots of creative license in his latest
movie, mixing his own vision in with historical truths and Hollywood
style.  See it for the amazingly
strong cast (which also includes a superb Cate Blanchett, once again shining in
a period piece) and the beautiful yet brooding cinematography.

 

It also appears this movie is a prequel to other films,
which will most likely detail the more well-known legend of Robin Hood. That
explains some of the deviations from the Robin Hood lore we’ve all grown up
hearing.

 

Crowe displayed his acting prowess once again, but in this
role, he unfortunately seemed a bit understated.

 

If you’re looking for a dark, mysterious action film with
flavors of a classic legend, “Robin Hood” will work for you. If you
want a swashbuckling tale with Friar Tuck, Merry Men and lovely and docile
Marion, then rent the Flynn version. This one will not please you. For me, I
enjoyed it. I went in knowing I was getting a dark period-type piece with lots
of action, brooding and atmosphere. I didn’t really care about those Merry Men
whatsoever.

 

Extra highlight:
“Rise and Rise Again: Making Ridley Scott’s ‘Robin Hood’”

 

What to serve for dinner: Rather than dine on 12th century food,
let’s dish up a few menu items famous at the Robin Hood British pub in Sherman
Oaks. Whip up some steak and kidney pie (southernfood.about.com) with a side of
Scotch eggs (allrecipes.com) and the best English beer you can find.

 

Steak and Kidney Pie

 

* Pastry for 1-crust pie

    *
1 beef kidney

    *
2 lbs. round steak, cubed

    *
2 tablespoons oil, drippings, or shortening

    *
2 cups chopped onions

    * 2 tsp. salt

    *
1/4 tsp. pepper

    *
1/2 tsp. dried thyme

    *
1 bay leaf

    *
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

    *
2 cups water

    *
4 cups diced raw potatoes

    *
6 Tbs. flour

 

Cover beef kidney with lightly salted water, cover and
refrigerate overnight. Drain; cut out tubes and white membrane with scissors.
Dice meat. Brown kidney and steak in hot fat. Add onions, seasoning, and 1 1/2
cup water. Simmer until meat is almost tender, about 1 hour.

 

Blend together flour and remaining 1/2 cup water; stir into
meat mixture. Continue cooking and stirring until mixture thickens. Pour into
3-quart casserole.

 

Roll out pastry slightly larger than top of casserole. Place
over meat mixture and trim to overhang 1″. Fold under and flute against
inside edge of casserole. Cut several steam vents in center. Bake at 425
degrees until lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Serves 8.

 

NOTE: You can use the milder-flavored lamb kidney instead of
the beef, if available. You can skip the soaking.

 

Scotch Eggs

 

    *
1 quart oil for frying

    *
4 eggs

    *
2 pounds pork sausage

    *
4 cups dried bread crumbs, seasoned

    *
1 cup all-purpose flour

    *
4 eggs, beaten

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in deep-fryer to 375
degrees. Place eggs in saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil. Cover,
remove from heat, and let eggs sit in hot water for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove
from hot water, cool and peel. Flatten the sausage and make a patty to surround
each egg. Very lightly flour the sausage and coat with beaten egg. Roll in
bread crumbs to cover evenly. Deep fry until golden brown, or pan fry while
making sure each side is well cooked. Bake in the preheated oven for 10
minutes. Cut in half and serve over a bed of lettuce and sliced tomatoes for
garnish. If mustard is desired it looks beautiful over this.

 

What to talk about over dinner: Compare this to more traditional tellings of the
legend. Did you like it or not? Why? Would you have preferred a more
“merry” telling of the tale? Do you think Crowe did a good job? What
did you think about Blanchett’s Marion? What is your favorite Crowe movie? How
many pairings have Crowe and Scott done? What was the best? What do you want to
see Crowe do next? Do you think this is a prequel to a more traditional
retelling of the Robin Hood legend? Or do you think Scott just tagged on the
Robin Hood name to attract viewers to his brooding, dark actioner? What is your
favorite period piece about this time in English history? Has Crowe finally
shed his bad boy personal image?

Glee: The Complete First Season

Glee: The Complete First Season DVD cover art


Film (with rating): Glee: The Complete First Season (NR)

 

Studio:
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

 

Summary:
Contains all 22 episodes in the groundbreaking first season of the hit
television show focusing on an optimistic high-school teacher (who wants to
revamp the glee club) and all the antics, obstacles and hilarity he faces each
day.

 

Review: The
plot for this show sounds so simplistic: a guy teaching glee to a bunch of
students. But it is so
much more than that, thanks to the amazing
skill of the writers and wonderful talent of the actors who flesh out their
characters perfectly. We’ve got Matthew Morrison, Jayma Mays, Jane Lynch (my
personal favorite) and Lea Michele, just to name a few. The show is a unique
and unforgettable look at high school, bullies, budding talent, love, misfits,
staying true to yourself and going after what you want, all wrapped up in
music.

The tagline says it all: A biting comedy for the underdog in all of us.
I wasn’t in glee club in high school (even my toddler plugs her ears when I
sing), but I can still relate–that in and of itself is a huge strength of
“Glee:” viewers like and relate to the characters and situations. I
find it impossible to stay cranky after watching a “Glee” episode.
While the show’s writers do touch on very known subjects (the jock with a
hidden love of music, the snotty cheerleaders), they do it with such a unique
voice, the situations seem fresh, not pass.

 

To those who have not yet converted to full
“Gleek” status, now is a perfect time to do so, since the second
season begins this Tuesday. Don’t think this series is a cheesy 21st
century “Fame” redux or an even cheesier “High School
Musical” made-for-TV series. It’s got its own fingerprint, and it’s so
worth watching. Just the one-liners spewed by Lynch are worth the price of the
DVD alone.

So give the series a try. I would bet that by the end of the third
episode, you’re singing and dancing your way around the house or office
cubicle. Just know you’re not alone; lots of fellow Gleeks are doing the exact
same thing. 

 

Extra highlight:
So many! Try the behind-the-scenes look at “The Power of Madonna”
episode or the sing-along karaoke feature. Oh, and don’t forget the “Sue’s
Corners” one, either.

 

What to serve for dinner: High school food! Let’s go with a cafeteria
favorite, Sloppy Joes, but with a grown-up flare. For dessert, serve up dishes
based on the “Cheerios” gals: Cheerio Treats and (to branch off of
Sue Sylvester’s slushie love) a cereal milkshake.

 

Turkey Sloppy Joes on Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits
(epicurious.com)

    * 3 tablespoons olive oil

    *
1 large onion, chopped

    *
2 celery ribs, chopped

    *
1 red bell pepper, chopped

    *
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

    *
2 1/2 lb ground turkey (not labeled “all breast meat”)

    *
1 teaspoon salt

    *
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

    *
1 (28- to 32-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice

    *
1/2 cup ketchup

    *
2 tablespoons molasses (not blackstrap)

    *
2 tablespoons cider vinegar

    *
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

    *
1 1/4 teaspoons Tabasco, or to taste

    *
Cheddar buttermilk biscuits

 

Heat oil in a wide 8-quart heavy pot over moderately high
heat until hot but not smoking, then saut onion, celery, bell pepper and
garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden (10 to 12 minutes). Add turkey and
saut, stirring occasionally and breaking up large lumps with a wooden spoon,
until meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper.

 

Pure tomatoes with juice, ketchup, molasses, vinegar,
Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco in a blender until smooth. Add to turkey and
simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, 25 to 30
minutes.

 

Serve on split Cheddar buttermilk biscuits (recipe
below, also from Epicurious.com).

 

    * 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

    * 3/4 cup cornmeal (preferably
stone-ground; not coarse)

    *
4 teaspoons baking powder

    *
1 teaspoon baking soda

    *
1 teaspoon salt

    *
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

    *
6 oz extra-sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated (2 cups)

    *
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

    *
3 scallions, finely chopped

    *
1 1/3 cups well-shaken buttermilk

 

 Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450
degrees. Butter a large baking sheet. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking
powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, then blend in butter with your
fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in
cheeses and scallions with a wooden spoon, then add buttermilk and stir until
just combined.

 

Drop dough in 8 equal mounds about 2 inches apart on baking
sheet. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool to
warm, about 10 minutes, then cut in half horizontally.

 

Cooks’ notes: You can use two small baking sheets instead
of one large. Bake biscuits in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching
position of sheets halfway through baking. Biscuits can be made one day ahead
and cooled completely, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
Reheat in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

 

Cheerio Treats (cooks.com)

1/4 c. butter

8 cups Cheerios

1 10 oz bag of marshmallows

 

In large saucepan, melt butter. Add marshmallows and stir
until melted and blended with the butter. Remove from heat and add Cheerios.
Mix until evenly coated. Scoop into 13x9x2 greased pan. Cool for an hour or
two, cut into small squares and enjoy.

 

Cereal Milk Shake (cheerios.com)

1 cup milk

cup Cheerios cereal

banana, sliced

1 to 2 tablespoons sugar

 

In blender, place all ingredients. Cover and blend on high
speed 10 seconds. Scrape sides; cover and blend about 20 seconds longer or
until smooth. Pour into glass and serve.

 

What to talk about over dinner: Were you in glee club? Why or why not? Can you
sing? Did you ever perform on stage? Were you a high school misfit? A
cheerleader? A brain? A jock? Popular? Prom queen? Invisible? Did you have
teachers like Sue Sylvester or Will Schuester? Are you a teacher like them now?
Which “Glee” character are you most like and why? Which one were you
most like back in the day? What was your favorite episode? Your favorite guest
star? Neil Patrick Harris anyone? What new ground do you want Season Two
covers? Any new plot twists you’re hoping for? Does “Glee” make you
remember your high school years fondly, or with anxiety? Who do you think is
the show’s biggest star?

The Back-up Plan






Photo #19

Film (with rating):
The Back-up Plan (PG-13)

 

Studio: Sony
Pictures Home Entertainment

 

Summary: A
successful businesswoman (Jennifer Lopez) realizes she can’t wait for Mr. Right
any longer, and so she starts a family by herself. But as soon as she embarks
down that road, she meets Stan (Alex O’Loughlin) and realizes she just may have
found her Mr. Right, but at the wrong time.

 

Review: I’m not a
big J-Lo-the-Actor fan, but I have to admit, she was not too bad in this
romantic comedy.  I’d rather see
her sing and perform than act and speak, but in “Plan,” she proves
she does have some decent cinematic talent. (Just don’t think about
“Gigli”.) This film pretty much nails the “chick flick”
genre, so if you’re a fan, you’ll be thrilled. Even if you’re not (which I am
not), the movie still offers you a few high points. And if you’re pregnant or
ever have been pregnant, you’ll find a few avenues in the flick to really
enjoy, too.

 

Unfortunately, the plot has more than its fair share of
clichs (they meet in a taxi!? In New York City?! Pregnant women are crazy and eat like truck drivers?!), and it is pretty
predictable overall, but there are some really good memorable and comedic
moments. A few of the best involve the gal-pal Mona, as well as the
special-needs dog, who is just so cute, I want to adopt it. Another point in
the film’s favor is J-Lo’s co-star O’Loughlin. Remember him from
“Moonlight” fame? He serves up some well-timed laughs (and great eye
candy) throughout the movie. Makes me really want to tune in this fall to the
upcoming “Hawaii Five-O” series.

 

The on-screen chemistry between Lopez an O’Loughlin just
skimmed the surface, but the latter’s admirable screen presence made me
(mostly) overlook that flaw. The other supporting cast members also do an
excellent job at lending more comic chops to “Plan.” Some of the more
hilarious moments happen when these guys take over and start their own
childbirth conversations and experiences. More often than not, these guys are
the scene stealers, and they, along with the really funny pregnancy quips,
should be why you see the flick. In a nutshell, “Plan” is a decent
movie to watch this long holiday weekend when the sun gets too hot, the BBQ is
heating up and the workweek ahead looks decades away.

 

Extra highlight:
“Belly Laughs”

 

What to serve for dinner: Since, like the main character, I, too, am pregnant, let’s honor the
pregnant woman’s cravings and focus on some of my current must-have dinner
choices: Mexican food.  My latest
fave? Cheese enchiladas, with lots of sour cream. (Bet you thought I’d say
pickles, ice cream and cake, didn’t you? Nope. I did go through a pickle phase
for about two days in the first trimester, but now, can’t go near the things.)
Recipe from SimplyRecipes.com.

 

 

    *
Grapeseed oil (or another high smoke-point oil such as peanut or canola oil)

    *
12 corn tortillas

    *
1 medium onion, chopped

    *
1 clove of garlic, minced

    *
1 cup of salsa

    *
3 Tbsp of tomato paste

    *
1 cup water

    *
1 cup of canned crushed tomatoes (preferably fire roasted)

    *
Olive oil

    *
1 lb of jack cheese, mild cheddar or longhorn or any mild yellow cheese, grated

    *
A handful of cilantro

    *
1 cup of sour cream

    *
Half a head of iceberg lettuce

 

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large fry pan at high heat
add 3 Tbsp of grapeseed oil. Add a tortilla to the pan. Cook for 2-3 seconds,
lift up the tortilla with a spatula, add another tortilla underneath. Cook for
2-3 seconds, lift again, both tortillas, and add another tortilla underneath.
Repeat the process with all the tortillas, adding a little more oil if needed.
This way you can brown and soften the tortillas without using a lot of fat. You
do this process to develop the flavor of the tortillas. As the tortillas brown
a little, remove from the pan one by one to rest on a paper towel, which absorbs
any excess fat.

 

Saut up the chopped onion and garlic, then turn off the
heat. Add 1 cup of salsa. Dissolve 3 Tbsp of tomato paste into 1 cup of water,
add to pan. Add 1 cup of crushed fire-roasted canned tomatoes. Taste. If the
sauce tastes too vinegary, add a teaspoon of sugar.  Put some olive oil on the bottom of a large casserole pan.
Take a tortilla, cover 2/3 of it lightly with the shredded cheese, then roll up
the tortilla and place it in the casserole pan. Continue until all tortillas
are filled and rolled. Add sauce to the top of the tortillas in the casserole
pan. Make sure all are covered with the sauce. If not, add a little water.
Cover the whole thing with the rest of the grated cheese. Put the casserole in
the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese melts.

 

Garnish with cilantro and sour cream (lots of sour
cream). Serve with sliced iceberg lettuce that has been dressed only with
vinegar and salt.

 

What to talk about over dinner: Should Jennifer Lopez stick with singing, or should
she continue to try and excel at this second career on the big screen? Has her
image changed since she settled down and had kids? What is your favorite J-Lo
song? Movie? Did you think she was trying too hard in “Plan,” or did
she finally get the comedic timing just right? Why was “Moonlight”
canceled, especially since vampires are hot right now? Will you watch
“Hawaii Five-O”? Who was the funniest supporting character? Mona?
What about that kiddie pool scene? Would you ever have a home birth? Would you
ever get pregnant using a sperm bank and embark on this journey as a single
mom? What was the best part about being pregnant? The worst? Your craziest
craving? Do you think more women are going for the single-mom route? Why or why
not?