Photo #41

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


Warner Bros. Home Entertainment


Summary: Dom
Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio)  is a
skilled thief, best in the dangerous art of extraction: stealing valuable
secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state. One last job
could give him his life back, but only if he can accomplish the impossible–not
to steal an idea, but to plant one.


Review: This
film has been out for a bit, but it’s getting another look now that it’s up for
the Best Picture Oscar at the 2011 Academy Awards. And a well-deserved nod it
is. “Inception” is a true “thinking” film, a blend of
thriller and thinker and sci-fi, all wrapped in an action-packed ride. It’s
about dreams, what they mean, how they can be manipulated. And it’s so worth
seeing. Or seeing again. And again.


DiCaprio is amazing as the thief-for-hire who can hijack
dreams in order to get dark secrets. Since so much of this film’s action
sequence takes place during those dream states, the visuals are, pardon the
pun, mind-bending. The cinematography is amazing, and director Christopher
Nolan did not fail in his attempt to bring something unique to the box office
this summer. Sure, it’s a bit like “The Matrix” films, but unique
enough so viewers don’t feel a sense of copycat dj vu.


This uber-complex movie is not a great flick to watch when
your brain already aches from a 12-hour workday. Instead, check it out on a
lazy Saturday afternoon, then watch it again later that night or on Sunday.
“Inception” is a bit confusing, but in a good way, and repeat
viewings are actually enjoyable and productive. As I said, this is a thinking
film, but one that will leave you satisfied, not confused. For long.


Extra highlight:
“The Inception of Inception” or, on Blu-Ray, try the “Extraction
Mode” in-movie experience.


What to serve for dinner: According to a small study in the International
Journal of Psychophysiology,
spicy food can be one cause of really
bizarre dreams. Combine that ingredient with DiCaprio’s favorite food–pasta–and
let’s serve up some Spicy Baked Macaroni (Giada De Laurentiis/



1 pound elbow macaroni pasta

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 pound assorted mushrooms, quartered

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and drained of excess liquid

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cups bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup

1/4 cup Romano, plus 1/3 cup

2 tablespoons butter, softened, plus 2 tablespoons

12 ounces mozzarella cubed (about 2 cups)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted
water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still
firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta.


In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add
the mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Cook until the mushrooms are tender and the
onion is golden, about 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, spinach, and red pepper
flakes. Stir to combine and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.


In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, 1/4 cup
Parmesan, and 1/4 cup Romano. Spread the softened butter in a 9 by 13-inch
glass baking dish and sprinkle half of the breadcrumb mixture inside the dish
to coat.


In a large bowl combine the vegetable mixture with the
cooked macaroni, cubed mozzarella, the remaining Parmesan and Romano cheeses,
and the nutmeg. Spoon into the prepared baking dish, top with the remaining
bread crumb mixture, and dot the top with the remaining butter. Bake until the
top is golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes.



What to talk about over dinner: Do you believe people can manipulate dreams? Can
someone else infiltrate your dream? Do you think this would ever be able to
happen? Why or why not? What was your best dream? Worst dream? Can you change
the course of your own dreams? Do you believe dreams mean something? What
influences our dreams? Have you ever had a reoccurring dream? What was it? What
was your favorite scene in the movie? What is your favorite DiCaprio movie? Do
you think “Inception” has a shot at the Oscars? If not, what film
does? What do you think of this year’s hosts? What about “Inception”
winning for Best Cinematography? Visual Effects? Original Screenplay? Did Nolan
get snubbed in the Directing category?


Photo #2

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


Studio: Sony
Pictures Home Entertainment


Summary: CIA
officer Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) will be tested in loyalty, strength and
survival when she’s accused of being a Russian spy. She goes on the run, using
all of her skills as a covert operative, to elude capture.


Review: James
Bond with big lips. Or “The Bourne Identity” with boobs. That about
sums up “Salt.” And that’s not a bad thing at all. “Salt”
is a high-speed, mega-intense action thriller that ramps up within the first 10
minutes of the film and does not slow down. It’s not a “thinking”
film in the slightest, but one where you can lose yourself in the roller
coaster ride and enjoy the trip.

Jolie, while almost too beautiful and petite
to play a kick-butt punching bag, is wonderfully cast as Salt. She takes her
Lara Croft role and ramps it up, steroid style. It’s nice to see her back on
the screen as an action hero instead of in a dramatic tear-jerker. No, she
won’t win an Oscar nod for “Salt,” but then again, that’s not such a
bad thing. Not surprisingly, it’s been reported the film was originally written
for a male lead (rumored to have been Tom Cruise). But Jolie’s inclusion as the
main character doesn’t seem forced at all, but rather quite believable.

Sure, some
of the action sequences, fight scenes and escapes are a bit steep on the
believability scale, and the entire film and its characters are without a lot
of depth; in fact, the whole Salt character is really empty and
one-dimensional. But those facts don’t ruin the film.

Remember, this is not a
thought-provoking movie filled with characters who stick with us for life. It’s
an adreneline rush. Just hang on for the thrill ride, and enjoy the


Extra highlight: “The Ultimate Action Hero.” Or
for Blu-ray, try the “Spy Cam: Picture in Picture Track.”


What to serve for dinner: Let’s go with a Russian dish, such
as Russian salmon and potato salad with a side of Russian cabbage borscht  (


Russian Salmon


* 2 eggs

* 3 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cubed

* 1 tablespoon olive oil

* 1 large onion, chopped

* 1 (16 ounce) can salmon, drained

* 1 cup mayonnaise, or as needed

* 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, for garnish


Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring
water to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Cover and let eggs stand in
hot water for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from hot water, cool, and peel. While
the eggs are cooking, place the potatoes in a saucepan with just enough water
to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender.
Remove from heat, drain, and set aside. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Add onions, and saute until lightly browned and translucent, about 10 minutes.


Flake salmon and spread it over the bottom of a glass baking
dish or serving dish. Spread the sauteed onions over the salmon. Gently spread
a little bit of the mayonnaise over the onion layer. Top with potatoes, and
spread enough mayonnaise just to add moisture to the layer. Finally, slice the
eggs, and cover the layer of potatoes. Spread mayonnaise over the eggs, and
garnish with chopped parsley. If you wish, you can reserve some of the egg to
chop and sprinkle over the top as well. Chill for one hour before serving.




* 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced potatoes

1 cup thinly sliced beets

4 cups vegetable stock or water

2 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups chopped onions

1 teaspoon caraway seed (optional)

2 teaspoons salt

    * 1
celery stalk, chopped

1 large carrot, sliced

3 cups coarsely chopped red cabbage

black pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon fresh dill weed

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 cup tomato puree

sour cream, for topping

chopped tomatoes, for garnish


Place sliced potatoes and beets in a medium saucepan over
high heat; cover with stock, and boil until vegetables are tender. Remove
potatoes and beets with a slotted spoon, and reserve stock. Melt butter in a
large skillet over medium heat. Stir in onions, caraway seeds, and salt; cook
until onions become soft and translucent. Then stir in celery, carrots and
cabbage. Mix in reserved stock; cook, covered, until all vegetables are tender,
about 10 minutes. Add potatoes and beets to the skillet. Season with black
pepper and dill weed. Stir in cider vinegar, honey, and tomato puree. Cover,
reduce heat to medium low, and simmer at least 30 minutes. Serve topped with
sour cream, extra dill weed and chopped fresh tomatoes.


What to talk about over dinner: Do you think
“Salt” would have been a better film with a man in the lead role? Why
or why not? Do you like Angelina Jolie better as a dramatic actress or an
action hero? Are there other female stars who could have played this role in
“Salt?” Who? Do you think it’s hypocritical of Jolie to be all about
peace and humanitarianism in her real life, but play violent characters on
screen? What challenges do people face when they adopt overseas? Are there too
many “thinking” films these days, too many remakes or too many
blow-up-and-beat-up actioners? Why was the box office down in 2010? What was
your favorite action scene? What country do you think Brangelina will choose
for their next adoption?