Film (with rating): Spider-Man (PG-13)


Studio: Sony
Pictures  Home Entertainment


After nerdy high school photographer Peter Parker meets up with a radioactive
spider, he obtains superpowers, which he must use to battle evil after tragedy
hits his family.


Review: In
honor of the studio’s newly released Blu-Ray version of this film and in
preparation of the highly anticipated “The Amazing Spider-Man” in
theaters July 3, let’s get our Spidey Sense on. In the first movie of the
franchise, we meet Peter (played brilliantly by the wide-eyed Tobey Maguire),
who morphs from geek to hero with just one bite from a genetically altered
spider. The casting is spot-on. Kirsten Dunst is the perfect Mary Jane Watson,
and Willem Dafoe is just about the nastiest Green Goblin imaginable. His
portrayal of Norman Osborne/Green Goblin is, hands-down, one of the best
villains in recent cinema. “Spider-Man” is an extremely successful
and impressive comic-book-to-big-screen transition. It set the bar for all of
the many that followed. Even those who are not fans of Marvel Comics or even
comic books and superheroes in general will have no problem enjoying
“Spider-Man.” The human-interest component and the romance between
Peter/Spidey and Mary Jane give this movie enough substance for nearly any
viewer to grab hold of. The CGI can be a bit over the top, but the movie’s
strong points allow most viewers to forgive any missteps along the way.


Extra highlight:   “Spider-Man: The Mythology of the 21st Century”


What to serve for dinner: Mini pizzas and a side green salad.


Whole-wheat pita bread (one for each person)

Pizza or spaghetti sauce

String cheese (one for each pizza, or more depending on


Spoon sauce over each whole-wheat pita. Arrange pieces of
string cheese in a web-like pattern on the muffins. Put in the oven at 350
degrees until the cheese melts. Keep an eye on the pizzas so they don’t burn.



What to talk about over dinner: What was your favorite part of the movie? What do
you think of Tobey as Peter/Spidey? Who is your favorite comic book hero? What
do you think about the newest “Spider-Man” movie out this summer?
Will you see it opening weekend? What was your favorite “Spider-Man”
installment so far? What did you think of the action sequences? Too much, or
just right? Who is your favorite comic book villain? If you had superpowers,
what would they be and why? I’m kind of fond of Superman’s flying because why
wouldn’t that be cool? What was your favorite Spider-Man-themed quote?
“With great power comes great responsibility” perhaps? How cool was that upside-down kiss scene? And how funny were the spoofs that followed?

Project X

Film (with rating): Project X (R)


Warner Bros.


Summary: Three
high school seniors on the low end of the popularity chart throw a birthday
party to make a name for themselves, but things quickly get out of control.


Review: I
know I’m getting old. While watching this hand-held cam-style/”found
footage” movie of a party gone wild, my brain went in two directions: 1.)
How much money is this going to cost his parents to fix? 2.) I am never, ever,
ever leaving my children home alone. Even when they are 30.


Thomas (Thomas Mann) hopes to celebrate his birthday in
style when his folks leave for the weekend. But best buddy Costa (Oliver Cooper)
wants that celebration to include a few thousand of their “closest
friends” in an attempt to push them to the top of the social food chain.
Nice Guy Thomas doesn’t want his folks’ house to get trashed, but when you add
alcohol, sex, more alcohol, some Ecstasy, a couple of DJs, alcohol, a dog
strapped to a bunch of balloons, a psycho with a flame thrower and a little
person in an oven (yes, I can now finally say I saw a movie that used the
phrase “midget in the oven.” I am now a fulfilled woman. Enter
sarcastic smirk here.), you know that’s exactly what’s going to happen. 


To start, this movie isn’t really a movie. It’s footage of a
party. There’s no plot. I made the mistake of trying to follow some sort of
storyline, and I wound up really confused. It’s not a comedy (unless you find
people throwing up on car windows funny), nor is it really a drama, because while
a lot of bad things happen, there are no real consequences (again, no plot
here, folks). The characters are beyond flat and stereotypical. The buddy Costa
is so annoying, I wanted to throw him in
the oven. “Project X” is beyond misogynistic, with so many gratuitous
boob shots you would think you were at a strip club. (Because flopping around
topless in a bounce house looks like a righteous good time, doesn’t it,




Once I got past the two parts of my brain that were
screaming in fear as they contemplated raising our own teens someday, I could
sort of appreciate “Project X” as a brainless romp. Sure, my high
school parties equated to a warm keg in the backyard and a boom box, maybe a
few Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers and a couple of kids smoking cigarettes
while listening to Depeche Mode. But the film made me remember what it was like
to be young and out for a Friday night party at someone’s house.


Will I watch this movie again? No. It was entirely
unbelievable, with 90 percent of the action happening for shock value alone. It
could have been much better if plot replaced vomit and real characters stood in
for all of the naked, faceless hedonists. At the very least, “Project
X” made me feel my age, but it also made me very grateful I’m not 17, trying
to explain to my parents why there are footprints inside the oven.


Extra highlight: Project X: Declassified


What to serve for dinner: Since this film will turn you into
a teenage boy, eat what a teen boy would eat: Order an extra-large pizza, have
it delivered, open up some beer and eat right in front of the TV. Don’t even
bother with plates.


What to talk about over dinner: What was the wildest party
you attended in high school? College? Ever? Did you throw crazy parties when
your folks were away? What happened? What was the craziest thing you ever did
in high school? Did you have a bully friend like Costa? Did you buy the ending
at all? What was your favorite part of the movie? Least? How could the movie
have been better? Did “Project X” make you fear for your kids, or
your house? What’s your favorite party movie?

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Film (with rating): Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (PG-13)


Warner Bros.


Summary: Sherlock
Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) hunt down the evil
Professor Moriarty (a wonderfully villainous Jared Harris) who has unleashed a
plot to start a world war.


Review: Who
knew the sequel would be better than its predecessor? “Game of
Shadows” once again includes Downey and Law as the main players, and their
chemistry and acting talent propel this flick high on the star chart. I’m a fan
of Downey, mainly because the guy once had his life–literally–in the gutter.
And look at him now. Anyone who can transform a life like that gets my respect.
So even before I saw “Game of Shadows,” I gave it the benefit of the
doubt. It did not disappoint.


Directed by Guy Ritchie, the film makes good use of the
gray, drab 19th century London atmosphere as well as other locations
throughout Europe. The action sequences, especially one on a train, are
surprisingly good and anxiety-provoking. One gripe: Ritchie tends to overwork
some of those action scenes, especially when he utilizes the slow-motion
feature. It’s a bit like spice in a recipe. A little goes a long way. Too much,
and all you can taste is the spice, not the food.


But overall, “Game of Shadows” wins. The plot is
clean, the characters are likeable, the actors did a bang-up job with their
roles and the villain is awesome. Harris really carved out a great “bad
guy” in Moriarty. Mostly, I’m impressed that this sequel surpassed the
first in the series. So even with a few faults (come on! Give Rachel McAdams
more than 48 seconds of screen time!), “Game of Shadows” is a hit.


Extra highlight:
Maximum Movie Mode:
Inside the Mind of Sherlock Holmes


What to serve for dinner: For this week’s meatless entre, let’s try a London
staple, veggie style–vegetarian bangers and mash (starkrecipes.com).


4 Yves Vegetarian Spicy Italian Sausages, sliced into rounds

2 medium onion, chopped

4-5 cloves garlic, chopped

Generous handful mushrooms, chopped

Generous handful kale, washed and chopped

2 cup sweet red pepper, chopped 

Generous splash balsamic vinegar

4-6 red potatoes, steamed or boiled 

Butter and milk to taste 


Put potatoes to cook. While they are softening, heat oil in
large saucepan. Add chopped onions and garlic and saut until translucent. Add
chopped sausage and mushrooms and saut, stirring, until sausage looks brown
and appetizing. Deglaze with balsamic vinegar. Add washed kale and pepper, turn
heat down to low and cover, just for a few minutes – don’t overcook.


Mash potatoes with butter and milk. Serve a cup of mashed
potatoes topped with sausage and veggies. Serves four.


What to talk about over dinner: What was your favorite action sequence? What did
you think of the chemistry between Holmes and Watson? How did Robert Downey Jr.
transform his life so dramatically? Do you enjoy period pieces? Are you looking
forward to the London Olympics next month? What’s your favorite sport? Have you
ever been to London? If you could go back in time, would you visit 19th
century Europe? Why or why not? What would it be like to live in that time?
What’s your favorite line from the film? Was the dialog too modern? Do you
think Guy Ritchie ever got tired of being called Mr. Madonna?

Safe House

Film (with rating): Safe House (R)




Summary: A
young and ambitious CIA agent must look after a fugitive in a South African
safe house.  But when that hiding
place is attacked, he and the fugitive are on the run and on a mission.


“Safe House” is a strong, smart, action-packed film that explodes,
thanks to the powerful chemistry and acting chops of the two leads. Denzel
Washington and Ryan Reynolds are perfectly cast in this drama and both showcase
a wealth of acting talent. Who knew while watching “Van Wilder” that
Reynolds had it in him to be such a powerhouse?  Sure, he’s had a few (dozen) bombs in his acting career, but
he’s able to overcome them. Such as with “Safe House.”


The movie starts out with Matt Weston (Reynolds), a bored
CIA rookie chomping at the bit to step his career into high gear, twiddling his
thumbs as the housekeeper in a safe house where nothing happens. All day, every
day. Until Tobin Frost (Washington) breaks it all wide open. Frost is the
agency’s most notorious, most dangerous traitor. He knows something, something
big, and it’s hard to tell exactly what he’s trying to bring down. When he
uncovers some information and narrowly avoids being shot in South Africa, he
turns himself in to the American Embassy, despite years on the run. This brings
him to Weston’s safe house. And shortly after his arrival, trained assassins
attack, and the only two left standing are Weston and Frost.


This is where things get good. We’ve got action combined
with a psychological tug-of-war. Is this a mentor/mentee relationship, or is
Frost yanking Weston’s chain? Who is the real bad guy here? Frost, or someone
else? “Safe House” has a “Bourne Identity” feel to it,
which is not a bad thing. Despite Frost being nailed as a threat, the viewer
starts to see him as one of the good guys. But is he?


Director Daniel Espinosa does a great job blending the
high-octane action sequences with the quiet moments of dialog between Frost and
Weston. That up-and-down emotional rollercoaster adds to the movie-watching


Sure, there are some holes in the plot, the ending is a bit
weak and the whole relationship between Weston and his girlfriend lacks any
chemistry whatsoever. But overall, “Safe House” is exactly the kind
of smart and engaging actioner that would fit in well right about now as we
ramp up to start the summer season in style.


Extra highlight:
“Inside the CIA”


What to serve for dinner: A traditional dish from South Africa: Bobotie (http://africhef.com/).


1 lb beef, minced

2 eggs

2 slices stale white bread 

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 tbsp cooking oil

2 tbsp hot water

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp curry powder

tsp ground cloves

1 tsp garlic, crushed

1 tsp turmeric tsp salt



The bobotie topping


1 egg, lightly beaten

cup milk

bay leaves or lemon leaves for garnishing



Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Remove the crusts from the
bread and the soak in water for 10 minutes; squeeze out the excess and then


In a large frying pan, heat the oil and braise the onion
until golden. Break the two eggs into a large bowl and beat lightly. Mix in the
minced meat.  Add the onion mixture
from the frying pan, the hot water, lemon juice, crumbled bread, turmeric and
sugar to the mince, mixing well.


Spoon the mixture into a well-greased, oven-proof dish and
bake for 40 minutes, or until golden brown and then remove from the oven.


To make the bobotie topping


Combine the other egg with the milk and beat well. Pour the
mixture over the bobotie and arrange the bay/lemon leaves as garnish. Return to
the oven and bake at 350 o F for 10 minutes, or until the topping has set.  


Serve the bobotie with a large green salad and rice.



What to talk about over dinner: Did you have the ending figured out? At what point
did you start liking Tobin Frost? Did you believe that a rookie like Weston
could do all he did? What was your favorite scene? What did you find the least
believable? Would you ever want to be 
a CIA agent? What is your favorite Denzel movie? How is that man such an
acting legend? Favorite Ryan Reynolds movie? Probably not “Green
Lantern,” right?

This Means War

Film (with rating):  This Means War (PG-13)


Studio: Fox


Summary: Two
CIA operatives (Chris Pine, Tom Hardy) who are partners and best friends
accidentally fall for the same girl (Reese Witherspoon). They use their skills
and an endless array of high-tech gadgetry against each other in a battle for


Review: It’s
Monday, we’re entering into our first full week after the long holiday weekend,
and we may just be in the need for the mindless, unrealistic eye candy known as
“This Means War.” This is not a great movie. It’s actually not even
that good. But it is just what the tired and Monday-weary brain needs. Director
McG (“Charlie’s Angels”) tries to appeal to both sexes with this one;
it’s a romantic comedy filled with car chases, explosions, beat downs and guns.


Witherspoon is typecast as the adorable girl-next-door
Lauren who is just gosh-darn unlucky in love. Her bestie (a not-very-enjoyable
Chelsea Handler) encourages her to try out online dating, and in steps Suitor
No. 1. Then, in a video store, Lauren’s stars cross with those of Suitor No. 2.
Who just so happens to be CIA partners and besties with Suitor No. 1. See where
this is going?


So No. 1 and No. 2 decide to wage war on each other to see
who is the best man. And by war, I mean using all sorts of high-level CIA
techno tools, as well as their old-school fists, to come out ahead. It’s
spy-vs-spy, 21st Century Style. Or is it Really Stupid Style? I’m
still deciding. Sure, we throw in a Russian bad guy just for fun, but the main
battle is between these two guys (with ridiculous names) and their love


Overall, the cast is very talented. Pine and Hardy are
actually fun to watch in “War,” even though the script is far beneath
their skills. Same with Witherspoon. She’s just so sweet, you almost have to
like her in anything she does. Everyone in the film struggles to keep up with
the over-the-top action sequences, though.


“War” is not believable in the least. Even some of
the action scenes will leave you scratching your head with a “what
the…” expression on your face. But don’t let this stop you. Just zone out,
check your reality meter at the door with your briefcase, and relax. We’ve got
plenty of other days left this week to use our noggin. Let’s give it a rest
tonight, shall we?  


Extra highlight:
The alternate endings


What to serve for dinner: For this Meatless Monday, let’s serve up some Sweet
Potato Burritos (Penzeys.com. BEST spices in the world, by the way. Check them


2 sweet potatoes (11/2 lb. or so total)

3/4 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 tsp. granulated garlic powder

1/4 tsp. black pepper (optional)

2 TB.
lime juice (juice of 1 lime)

1 15-oz.
can black beans

1   cup
corn kernels

1/4-1/2  tsp.
salt (optional)

6 whole wheat tortillas


Optional Fillings:

1/2 cup
chopped olives

chopped tomatoes

1/4 cup
chopped fresh cilantro

1 cup
shredded sharp cheddar cheese


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pierce the sweet potatoes with
a fork, place on a baking sheet and bake for 40-60 minutes, depending on the size
of the sweet potatoes. Or, if you’re in a hurry, microwave the sweet potatoes
for about 15 minutes.


Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and let cool. Reduce
oven heat to 350 degrees. Scoop the insides out of the potatoes into a bowl and
mash with the spices and lime juice. Stir in the beans and corn. Add salt to
taste if using. Spoon the mixture in the tortillas along with any optional
fillings you desire. Roll up and bake for 10 minutes until heated through.



What to talk about over dinner: Do you think this rom-com/actioner worked? Why or
why not? What was the most unbelievable part? Or parts? What scenes worked? Do
you think Reese will have a baby boy or girl? Have you ever battled a friend
for someone’s affections? What would you do if you and your best friend liked
the same person? What was up with how extravagant that apartment was? I mean,
aren’t these guys on a government salary?


Photo #1

Film (with rating): Jaws (PG)




Summary: A
massive, predatory shark terrorizes a small island community at the start of
summer, and the police chief, a scientist and a seasoned fisherman must stop it
before more lives are lost.


Review: Now
that Memorial Day is behind us, it’s officially the start of the summer season.
Let’s kick it off right with the original summer blockbuster, “Jaws.”
It’s an oldie, but man, is it ever good! To this day, I still can’t swim in the
ocean (sometimes even the pool) without hearing the trademark “Jaws”
theme thumping around in my head. Duh duh. Duh duh. Just the sound of it is
enough to freak me out. Thank you, John Williams. The Talented and Revered
Steven Spielberg took the novel by Peter Benchley and made it into one of the
finest horror films ever created. Perhaps one of the finest films.


You know you’re in for a fright when the opening scene is as
terrifying as the one in “Jaws.” A young woman runs into the sea at
night, only to be torn apart by something under the water’s surface. The fact
that we can’t see what’s causing all of this terror and death adds to the
movie’s ambiance. It’s been told that the mechanical shark, lovingly called
Bruce by Spielberg, was never tested in the water until the day the crew came
to Martha’s Vineyard to shoot. And Bruce sank. As he did for much of the
filming. So while the mechanical fish was in the shop, Spielberg shot many
scenes from the shark’s point of view. This actually enhanced the film; showing
as much footage of the shark as originally planned would have cheapened
“Jaws” and made the scarier scenes too campy.


The casting of “Jaws” is beyond compare–Roy
Scheider as Chief Brody, Robert Shaw as the salty Quint and Richard Dreyfuss as
the curious and ambitious Hooper. Who doesn’t remember the scene with all three
of them comparing their scars and singing “Show Me the Way to Go
Home?” Or Quint’s speech about the Indianapolis? The fact that these guys
were not uber-famous household names before this point again added to the
movie’s charm. If a movie about a giant man-eating shark can be charming, that


“Jaws” is one of those once-in-a-lifetime movies.
It is a classic among classics. And a movie no one can forget. I may still
pause a second or two longer than necessary when entering the ocean, but I also
have appropriately used the phrase “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”
more times than I can count.


So get the summer started right by scaring yourself off the
beach and back on to the couch.


Extra highlight:
Steven Spielberg retrospective on “The Making of Jaws”


What to serve for dinner: I’m sorry, but I couldn’t resist…. Mako Shark with
Grilled Pineapple (From Food Network’s “Good Deal with Dave





1 medium ripe pineapple, trimmed, cored, quartered
lengthwise and cut again lengthwise

Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil

2 limes, juiced and lime halves reserved

1 small red onion, minced

1/2 bunch fresh mint, leaves finely chopped (about 1/2 cup

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves finely chopped (about 1/2
cup leaves)

Couple pinches kosher salt

Superfine sugar, optional




4 (8-ounce) center-cut mako shark fillets

Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

20 grinds black pepper



Heat a grill pan or griddle over medium-high heat. Lightly
rub the pineapple pieces with oil. Grill on all sides, about 2 minutes per side
or until lightly caramelized with nice char marks. Remove from grill and set
aside to cool slightly.


Cut grilled pineapple into 1/2-inch dice and add to a medium
bowl. Add all remaining salsa ingredients, including the lime halves. These
will lend the additional lime oils in the rinds to the mixture, making a more
aromatic salsa.


Set aside until ready to use.


While grill is still hot, rub each shark steak with olive
oil and season with salt and pepper. Place steaks on grill across the grill
ribs and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of
the steaks. Gently turn fish so it does not fall apart. Once the flesh has
become opaque and firm to the touch, it is cooked through.


Remove to a platter and spoon salsa over fish. Serve


What to talk about over dinner: What was the scariest scene in this film? Why are
movies like this not made today? Did the fact we didn’t see the shark right
away add to your fear? Who was your favorite character? Favorite line? Did
“Jaws” make you afraid to go in the water? Do you feel bad for the
plight of sharks? What can you do to help this species? What is your favorite
book-turned-movie? What did you think of the ending? Would this film be as
iconic if released today? Why is composer John Williams so amazingly talented?
What is your favorite Williams score? There are some rumors that “You’re
going to need a bigger boat” was improvised by Scheider. What are some of
your favorite movies with a lot of improvised lines? “Caddyshack,”