Salmon Fishing in the Yemen


Film (with rating): Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (PG-13)

 

Studio: Sony
Pictures Home Entertainment

 

Summary: A
visionary sheik (Amr Waked) wants to bring salmon fishing to the desert, so he
instructs his representative (Emily Blunt) to hire Britain’s leading fisheries
expert (Ewan McGregor) to achieve the impossible.

 

Review: While
at first blush, this may sound like an “Out of Africa” type tale, it
is actually a rather charming romantic comedy. With a horrid title.
“Salmon” isn’t as snooze-worthy as it sounds, either. The outstanding
chemistry between Blunt and McGregor really lights up the film and helps smooth
over any rough edges. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, “Salmon” keeps
from being too heavy-handed with the symbolism or moralistic messages and
instead allows the viewers to be charmed by the interactions of the characters.
Based on the satiric novel by Paul Torday, the movie didn’t do very well at the
box office, which is a shame, because it is a sweet flick that really showcases
Blunt’s awesome acting abilities. Even if you don’t care about fishing or the
Middle East, “Salmon” will still hold some charm for you. It’s not a
“You Got Mail” rom-com, since “Salmon” does have some
brains behind it, meshing romance with faith, perseverance and passion. One thing
you have to turn off before you can enjoy this movie: your inner critic. If you
don’t question the logistics and actual realities of moving fish to the desert,
you’ll enjoy the film a lot more.

 

Extra highlight:
Watch the feature about Torday.

 

What to serve for dinner: Well, if this wasn’t a Meatless Monday, I’d serve
up (duh) salmon. But since we’re going vegetarian today, let’s try some
vegetarian fish and chips (www.hubpages.com).

 

I-2 packets of Halloumi cheese (This is a traditional Greek
Cypriot cheese made from a mixture of sheep and goats milk. It has a very high
melting point, firm white texture and a slightly salty taste.).

1 cup plain flour

tsp white pepper

tsp salt

Few drops of vegetable oil for the batter and enough to
cover the ‘fish’ as it fries.

cup warm milk and water, about half and half

1tsp baking powder

5 good-sized potatoes

 

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl, make a well in the
middle of the flour and then add the oil and a small amount of the half milk,
half warm water mixture. Stir slowly bringing down more and more of the flour
mixture until it is all combined. Beat well until it is very smooth, you can do
this by hand or use an electric beater. For an extra crisp batter mixture add
an extra spoonful of baking powder to the dry ingredients.

 

Wash the potatoes but do not peel. Cut them into wedges or
chunky chip shapes and spread them out onto a lightly greased baking sheet,
sprinkle them with salt and pepper to taste. Place the baking sheet onto the
middle shelf of an oven heated to 350 degrees. Cook for 40 minutes or so. Once
the wedges are cooked and golden, turn the oven down as low as it will go and
leave the wedges in to keep hot.

 

Cut the Halloumi into either thick finger shapes, wedges cut
to resemble fish filets or simply cut into chunks. Pat the cheese shapes dry
with kitchen towels or a clean tea towel and then dip them into the batter
mixture making sure that they are completely coated.

 

Heat the oil to 300 degrees in a shallow frying pan, but be
very careful not to overfill it.

 

Drop the battered cheese pieces into the hot oil one at a
time, do not overload the pan as it’s better to cook the cheese in batches than
risk it burning or sticking to the pan. Once cooked, drain well onto absorbent
kitchen paper. You can always put the cooked pieces onto a tray and keep them
hot in the oven with the wedges or chips.

 

Serve with minted peas, mushy peas, or a nice tossed green
salad, and garnish with fresh parsley, lemon wedges, malt vinegar and a little
tartar sauce.

 

 

What to talk about over dinner: What is the most insane dream you’ve ever had that
you wanted to make real? What do you love or hate about fishing? What is the
biggest fish you’ve ever caught? Who was your favorite character? If you could
fish anywhere, where would it be? What is the one thing on your bucket list you
would love to accomplish this year? What was your favorite scene?

Super 8

(Writer’s note: I was going to review “Batman
Begins” and link it to the opening this weekend of “The Dark Knight
Rises,” but out of respect for those affected by the tragedy that occurred
today in Colorado, I have replaced that review with another one. )

 

 

Film (with rating): Super 8 (PG-13)

 

Studio: Paramount

 

Summary: A group of friends witness a horrific train crash
while making a super 8 movie and begin to suspect that it was not an accident,
especially when strange events and disappearances start happening around their
small Ohio town.

 

Review: I loved “Stand By Me,” and this movie,
while different at its surface, has that same flavor. A bunch of kids band
together to solve a mystery. Some reviewers have compared “Super 8″
to “ET” and even “The Sandlot” or “War of the
Worlds,” but I still stick by my “Stand By Me” link. It has that
same coming-of-age flavor mixed with friendship and drama. We’ve even got a
sweet love story, and that really rounds out this summer blockbuster of 2011. It’s
produced by Steven Spielberg and it shows. This has a very vintage Spielberg
feel to it.

 

This sci-fi thriller has lots of thrills, but it is simply
rich in character development. The band of friends is large, but each character
is so multi-faceted, so unique, viewers don’t run the risk of forgetting one.
No one blends into the woodwork here. The standouts are Elle Fanning as Alice, Joel
Courtney as Joe and Riley Griffiths as Charles, the demanding
“director.”

 

As the group gathers one night on the sly to finish filming
Charles’ zombie movie at an old train station, the teens witness a horrid train
crash. (The special effects on this sequence are amazing, by the way.) Almost
immediately, they realize this may not have been an accident at all, especially
when the military takes over, dogs run away and townsfolk start disappearing.

 

The film is set in 1979, so references to that era’s culture
(the Walkman) and family values add to the movie’s feel. I felt connected to
the characters–even the scary ones–and wanted things to turn out well for them.
The movie had some flaws, though. I didn’t really feel satisfied with the
backstory on Joe’s mom’s death or Alice’s dad’s issues. I didn’t think Joe and
his dad really worked through their own drama. But despite these incomplete plot
threads, “Super 8″ felt satisfying complete at its end.

 

At the end of the day, it’s the perfect film for a lazy
summer weekend.

 

Extra highlight: “The Dream Behind Super 8″

 

What to serve for dinner: Since this is a summertime movie
(both in its feel and in the setting) and it does remind me so much of the
ultimate coming-of-age summer movie “Stand By Me,” let’s eat a
seasonal staple: watermelon. Try Watermelon and Arugula Salad (www.wholefoods.com).

 

6 cups diced seedless watermelon

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup feta cheese crumbles

1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds

6 tablespoons prepared balsamic dressing

5 cups lightly packed baby arugula

Cracked black pepper to taste

 

In a large bowl, combine watermelon, onion, feta and
sunflower seeds. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. Add arugula and toss
again. Sprinkle with pepper and serve.

 

What to talk about over dinner: What kind of adventures did
you get into when you were a kid? Who were your friends? Remember the super 8
cameras? Did you ever make movies when you were young? Who was your favorite
character? Did you feel the Steven Spielberg touch on this one? What movie did
“Super 8″ remind you of? What did you think of the creature in the train?
What parts of the movie were unbelievable to you? What did you think about the
ending?

The Artist


Film (with rating): The Artist (PG-13)

 

Studio: Sony
Pictures Home Entertainment

 

Summary: Silent
movie star, and appropriately named, George Valentin (Oscar-winner Jean
Dujardin) is afraid that the coming era of talking pictures will cause him to
fade into oblivion.

 

Review: When
“The Artist” swept this year’s Academy Awards, I wasn’t surprised.
Take a silent, black-and-white film with a mainly foreign cast and it spells
Oscar gold. For better or for worse. Yes, I was a bit cynical, but that’s
usually how these things go.

 

But now that “The Artist” is out on DVD and I’ve
had time to figure it out, I have to agree that this film by director/writer Michel
Hazanavicius is well deserving of its praise. For one, it is pretty
revolutionary when compared to today’s “normal” cinema fare. There
was not a single word spoken in this movie; instead, title cards, fantastic
acting and a magnificent soundtrack served as dialog. No giant explosions, 14
subplots, government conspiracies, vampires, evil demons, web-slinging
superheroes or partying/pooping bridesmaids made an appearance.

 

Yet even so, “The Artist” could hold the
audience’s attention, evoke emotion and tell an unforgettable story.

 

While I at first scoffed at the Best Actor Oscar for
Dujardin, I later ate my words. It takes a very talented actor to pull off an
entire movie without the help of dialog. He couldn’t just talk–he had to act.
And charmingly so. So yes, I agree, his Academy Award was well deserved.

 

“The Artist” touches on fears we all have, be this
2012 or 1927. Becoming unneeded and obsolete, losing our touch, being
forgotten. Dujardin and his leading lady, the adorable Brnice Bejo, conveyed
so much emotion into their roles. The audience didn’t need words to know what
they were thinking and feeling.

Some reviewers have commented that “The Artist” is too simple, that the storyline really doesn’t allow for much thought because it is so basic in nature. But let’s be fair. This is a silent movie. How complicated can the plot be without any dialog to develop it?

 

Truth be told, people who really dislike black-and-white
films and silent films in particular will have a hard time with “The
Artist.” It is a tribute to this style of filmmaking, so if you hate that,
you’ll hate this movie. With all the hype it received during awards season
(five Oscars, seven BAFTA awards, three Golden Globes, etc.), “The
Artist” also falls into the trap of looking like the best film ever
created. So much hype preceding any movie viewing is bound to equal
disappointed viewers.

 

My advice? Give it a shot. Go in with an open mind. Block
out preconceived notions of silent movies as well as excessive accolades from
reviewers across the globe. Just give “The Artist” a try.

 

Besides, the dog, played by Uggie von Muller, is worth
watching the film for all by himself. That little dude is remarkable! He’s a
rescued dog who really wasn’t an enormous big-time Hollywood star before this
movie. Gotta love those canine stars who really light up the film. Who needs
words when you’ve got a wagging tail, anyway?

 

Extra highlight:
Q&A with Filmmakers and Cast. Or read my story about Uggie here.

 

What to serve for dinner: For tonight’s Meatless Monday Movie entre, let’s
honor Dujardin’s homeland of France with some crepes.

 

Cheesy Vegetable Crepes (www.bettycrocker.com).

 

Vegetable Filling

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 medium zucchini, coarsely chopped (3 to 4 cups)

cup chopped green bell pepper

4 medium green onions, sliced (1/4 cup)

teaspoon instant minced garlic

2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped (1 1/2 cups)

teaspoon salt

 

Crepes

1 cup Original Bisquick mix

cup milk

2 eggs

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

In 10-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add zucchini,
bell pepper, onions and garlic; cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally,
until vegetables are crisp-tender. Remove from heat; stir in tomatoes. Sprinkle
with salt. Cover; let stand 2 to 3 minutes.

 

Lightly grease a 6- or 7-inch skillet; heat over medium-high
heat. In a medium bowl, stir Bisquick mix, milk and eggs with wire whisk or
fork until blended. Heat oven to 350 degrees. For each crepe, pour 2
tablespoons batter into hot skillet; rotate skillet until batter covers bottom.
Cook until golden brown. Gently loosen edge with metal spatula; turn and cook
other side until golden brown. Stack crepes, placing waxed paper between, as
you remove them from skillet. Keep crepes covered to prevent them from drying
out.

 

Spoon filling onto crepes. Sprinkle half of cheese over
filling on crepes; roll up crepes. Place seam sides down in an ungreased
11×7-inch (2-quart) glass baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake
uncovered 10 to 12 minutes or until hot.

 

What to talk about over dinner: Did this movie work, or was it just an overdone
effort to get Oscar attention? Did you agree with all of the awards it won? Who
was your favorite character? Could you get into the movie, or was it difficult?
Were you bored? Did this change your mind about silent films or black-and-white
movies? Did you just love the dog? Do you think we’ll be seeing more of
Dujardin on this side of the Atlantic? What is your favorite black-and-white
movie? Would you have liked to live in the 1920s? How are things today like
they were back then?

When Harry Met Sally

Photo #1

Film (with rating): When Harry Met Sally (R)

 

Studio: MGM

 

Summary: Harry
and Sally’s relationship begins with mutual dislike, then throughout the years
morphs into friendly acquaintances and then best friends. Throughout it all,
they have one fear: sex will ruin everything. Or will it? 

 

Review: In
light of screenwriter Nora Ephron’s death last week, I am pulling an
oldie-but-goodie out of the vault for tonight’s Meatless Monday Movie. And what
a classic it is! “When Harry Met Sally” was sort of a rite of passage
for us in college. It was considered some sort of disorder if we had not
watched this film repeatedly by the time second semester rolled around.

 

Not only was “When Harry” a classic, it inspired
countless romantic comedies in its wake (many, many of which were just watery
shadows of this jewel). Ephron, the writing genius that she was, crafted
brilliant and intelligent dialog that notched “When Harry” up the
credibility scale. Oh, the dialog! It is something to behold. Even those not enamored
with the craft of writing will appreciate Ephron’s talent. And those of us who
live and breathe the written word? We’ll be insanely impressed. Her words–in a
romantic comedy, mind you–have stood the test of time for more than 20 years.
That’s some good writing.

 

 Sure, at its
surface, this was a movie about two rather clueless people bumbling around the
big city, trying to find love. But through some fantastic character
development, inspirational directing (thanks, Rob Reiner!), loveable characters
played by the pre-plastic surgery Meg Ryan and the always likeable Billy
Crystal, and the famous fake-orgasm-in-a-deli scene, you’ve got a hit.

 

Extra highlight: A making-of featurette

 

What to serve for dinner: A Vegetable Paprikash (Vegetarian Times, September
1998) and green salad. With dressing on the side, of course.  (Yes, this movie is the reason I was
called “Sally” more than once in my college years and beyond. What’s
wrong with ordering every food accessory on the side? “I just want it the
way I want it.”)

 

1 Tbs. olive oil or vegetable oil

2 cups thinly sliced cabbage

2 medium onions, sliced

2 medium carrots, sliced

2 medium green bell peppers, sliced

1 medium zucchini, sliced

1 cups sliced mushrooms

1 medium tomato, chopped

3 Tbs. unbleached all-purpose flour

1 to 2 Tbs. hot or sweet paprika

cup vegetable broth

cup fat-free sour cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (Remember, not
too much pepper on your Paprikash!)

 

In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add cabbage,
onions, carrots and bell peppers and cook, stirring often, until tender, 5 to 8
minutes. Add zucchini, mushrooms and tomatoes. Cover and cook until vegetables
are wilted. Stir in flour and paprika and cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring
constantly. Stir in broth and bring mixture to a boil. Boil, stirring
constantly, until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Stir in sour cream and season
to taste with salt and pepper.

 

What to talk about over dinner: Can men and women be friends without sex getting in
the way? Is it better to marry for sex or friendship, or both? Which should be
first? Have you ever dated a good friend? Have you ever lost a friend because
you guys dated? What is your favorite line in the movie? Who had the nerve to
act out the deli scene in public? What was the one piece of furniture you and
your partner fought about when it was time to move in together? What was the
funniest part of the film? How much did you love the Harry Connick Jr.
soundtrack? Do you have Sally traits, or Harry traits? What is your favorite Nora
Ephron movie? Favorite Rob Reiner film? Why did Meg Ryan mess with her face? Do
you think Billy Crystal was the best Oscar host ever? If not, who was your
favorite?