About Kyra Kirkwood

Kyra Kirkwood is an award-winning journalist who combines her love of movies and good food in her "Dinner and a DVD" column. Get your week started right with her "Meatless Monday Movies" every Monday, and prepare for the weekend with another "Dinner and a DVD" column on Fridays. "My mama always said, 'Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.'" Forrest Gump

Paranormal Activity 2

Photo #0

Film (with rating): Paranormal Activity 2 (R)

 

Studio: Paramount

 

Summary: After experiencing unusual activities around the
home, a family with a newborn baby sets up security cameras around their house
and discovers that things are much more sinister than they could have imagined.

 

Review: It’s rare that a sequel is as good as its
predecessor. Here, that’s the case. I loved “Paranormal Activity.”
And “Paranormal Activity 2″ does not disappoint. Set up as a prequel,
really, “2″ once again brings back Katie (Katie Featherston)  and Micah (Micah Sloat), who spend a lot
of time at the house of Katie’s sister Kristi (Sprague Grayden). Kristi and her
husband Daniel (Brian Boland) just had a baby, and life looks great in this
slice of Southern California suburban heaven.  But soon strange things start to happen, and so Daniel
installs a bunch of cameras throughout his house to capture everything.
“2″ is still shot in that “Blair Witch” style–wide camera
angles, no fancy cinematography. And all of this just adds to the movie’s charm
and creepiness factor.

The movie is a bit slow to ramp up, and this, in some
opinions, adds to the suspense. I wanted to speed things up a bit, especially
since the ending seemed rushed. But rushed or not, that is one great ending. The
tie-in between this installment and the first is brilliant, and actually made
me want to watch the first immediately after finishing “2.” The
acting by all involved was extremely believable, and I found myself sometimes
forgetting I really wasn’t watching someone’s personal home-surveillance video.

Although I’m a fan of gore-filled horror movies, I found the lack of blood
actually added to the terror factor of “2.” The simplicity of the
entire movie was brilliant, and so disturbing. It made the events feel real. So
keep celebrating this month of ghosts and goblins by turning out the lights,
grabbing a blanket and scaring yourself with “Paranormal Activity 2.”
You will never look at a crib mobile the same way again.

 

Extra highlight: Watch “Paranormal Activity.”

 

What to serve for dinner: For today’s Meatless Monday
entre, serve up a Southern California BBQ staple: burgers (www.vegnews.com).

 

1 cup textured vegetable protein (TVP) granules

1 cup vegetable broth

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped

1 white onion, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 cup vital wheat gluten

2 tablespoons panko-style breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes

1-1/2 teaspoons onion powder

1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried dill

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

1 cup diced scallions

 

In a microwave-safe bowl, mix together TVP granules and
broth, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for 5 to 6 minutes. In a
flat-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add mushrooms, onion,
and garlic and saut for 5 to 6 minutes. In a food processor, combine TVP,
sauted mushroom mixture, vital wheat gluten, breadcrumbs, parsley, onion
powder, garlic powder, dill weed, salt, chipotle powder, cumin, pepper,
nutritional yeast, tamari, and tomato paste. Process until well combined. If
mixture is crumbly, add a tablespoon vegetable broth or water until mixture has
a thicker consistency. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and mix in scallions.
Form into 6 to 8 patties. Refrigerate for one hour before cooking. On an oiled
grill over medium-low heat, cook patties for about 10 minutes per side.

 

What to talk about over dinner: What was the scariest scene
for you? Was it better than its predecessor? What do you think “Paranormal
Activity 4″ will be about? Will it work? Will you see it? It opens this Friday.
Who was your favorite character? What do you fear most? What would you do if
you thought your house was targeted by a demon? What did you think about the
ending? Compare this to my last entry: “Cabin in the Woods.” Are
psychological horror movies scarier than those that are in-your-face creepy?
What happened to the dog?

Cabin in the Woods


Film (with rating): Cabin in the Woods (R)

 

Studio: Lionsgate

 

Summary: Five friends embark on a road trip to a remote
cabin in the woods, but they get more than they bargained for.

 

Review: Happy Horror Month, everyone! Better known as
October, this month is all about frights. So why not kick things off with a
monster movie like “Cabin in the Woods?” I admit, at first, I did not
like this movie. I went in blind, not really sure what it was about. Horror, a
spooky cabin, lots of monsters. Okay, I’m game. But the opening scene,
featuring Bradley Whitford as a tie-wearing desk jockey, threw me for a loop.
Throughout the film, I found myself falling out of the horror mindset and
instead pondering the deeper meaning of what was on the screen–or even laughing
at what I saw.

 

But then it hit me. This is not a horror movie. It’s not
really a parody of horror, either. Think “Scream,” but deeper. I
watched “Cabin” thinking it was one of those amazingly scary monster
movies with a huge twist at the end. Not so much. “Cabin” is almost a
horror comedy, expertly written by horror professionals Joss Whedon and Drew
Goddard. The duo not so much poke fun of the genre as they do draw attention to
the clichs, the way today’s horror films are more like gore films instead of true
spine-tingling terrors. It also looks at why society likes horror in the first
place. It praises the films of horror market, but it also picks them apart and
snickers at them.

 

I’m not going to go so far as to say “Cabin” is
some morality-preaching vehicle. It’s simply a new take on a classic genre.
You’ll enjoy the film more if you know little of it to begin with. But just
take this to the couch with you: It’s not a traditional scary movie, so don’t
make the mistake I did and expect that. Go in with an open mind, and be
prepared to laugh, and be grossed out. Don’t take it all literally.

 

And never look at unicorns in the same way again.

 

Extra highlight: “The Secret Secret Stash”

 

What to serve for dinner: Pretend you’re a college kid like
one of the main characters and just order pizza.

 

What to talk about over dinner: What did you think about the
movie? Did it work? Were you disappointed? Who was your favorite character?
Favorite death scene? Did you buy the ending? Were you surprised by the
“boss?” Why do you think our society likes scary movies? What if
organizations like the one in the movie really existed? Which monster would you
have rather battled? Anyone else feel violated by the unicorn? Which monster
creeped you out the most? What’s your favorite scary movie? And for bonus
points…what scary movie did that line come from?

Five Year Engagement


Film (with rating): The Five Year Engagement (R)

 

Studio:
Universal Studios Home Entertainment

 

Summary: When
Tom (Jason Segal) and Violet (Emily Blunt) get engaged, life looks perfect. But
when one delay follows another, everyone begins to wonder if this wedding will
ever really happen.

 

Review: I
love Jason Segal. He’s this big, oafy, sarcastic teddy bear. Sure, he may be
slightly typecast in his cinematic roles, but it works. And Emily Blunt is a
spot-on rom-com goddess, with an accent I wish I had. With this movie’s
hard-hitting star power (not even mentioning the supporting cast of Chris
Pratt, Alison Brie and Rhys Ifans), I hoped for a “Forgetting Sarah
Marshall”-type hit. Maybe even something with a flair of
“Bridesmaids.” After all, we’ve got Judd Apatow from
“Bridesmaids” in the producer role, and “Nicholas Stoller from
“Sarah Marshall” in the director’s chair. Chances were good. Well,
“Five Year” isn’t like either of those hits, but it’s not totally off
the mark, either. There are scores of memorable moments (crossbow, anyone?)
that keep the movie above the line. But I was hoping for more. It’s a bit
predictable in terms of plot, and Segal and Blunt don’t really have the kind of
chemistry a movie like this needs. I almost feel sorry for the folks of
Michigan, since Stoller made the “locals” look like a bunch of
deer-hunting, backwoods hicks. Overall, “Five Year” stumbles and
sometimes feels too disjointed, but in the end, it is worth watching.
  It does deal
with a lot of the issues many of us face. Such as, what do we prioritize?

At the
very least, Blunt’s accent is just too cool, and seeing “How I Met Your
Mother’s” Segal in mutton chops is classic.

 

Extra highlight:
Gag reel.

 

What to serve for dinner: I’m sorry, Bambi. Venison stew (from Emeril Lagasse
on www.foodnetwork.com).

  • 3 tablespoons olive
    oil
  • 2 pounds venison stew meat
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • Essence, recipe follows
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes,
    peeled and seeded
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh
    basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh
    thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 4 cups brown
    stock
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Crusty bread

In a large pot over high
heat, add the olive oil. In a mixing bowl, toss the venison
with flour and Essence. When the oil is hot, sear the meat for 2 to 3 minutes,
stirring occasionally. Add the onions and
saute for 2 minutes. Add the celery and carrots. Season with salt and pepper.
Saute for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes, basil, thyme, and bay leaves
to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Deglaze the
pan with the red wine. Add the brown stock. Bring the liquid up to a boil, cover
and reduce to a simmer.
Simmer the stew for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the meat is very tender. If
the liquid evaporates too much add a little more stock. Remove the stew from the
oven and serve in shallow bowls with crusty bread.

Essence (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning):

    2 1/2 tablespoons paprika

    2 tablespoons salt

    2 tablespoons garlic powder

    1 tablespoon black pepper

    1 tablespoon onion powder

    1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

    1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano

    1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store
in an airtight jar or container. Yield: about 2/3 cup.

 

What to talk about over dinner: How long were you engaged? Too long, too short,
just right? How long would you have waited to get married if life got in the
way? How long is too long? Is this movie a commentary about how today’s young
adults would rather live together than get married? Was Violet too selfish? Was
Tom directionless? What was up with the fur-covered steins? Why does everything
said with a British accent sound so charming? What do you think will happen in
the next season of “How I Met Your Mother?” Who would have been
better as the two lead characters in “Five Year?”

The Lorax

Photo #1

Film (with rating): The Lorax (PG)

 

Studio:
Universal

 

Summary: A
young boy (voiced by Zac Efron) searching for the one thing that will enable
him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams must first learn the story
of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world.

 

Review: I
loved the book “The Lorax,” written by Dr. Seuss. Who can argue with
a rhyming, colorful tale that explains the disasters that happen when greed
runs amok? And in true Seussian fashion, “The Lorax” never preaches,
yet it screams its message loud and clear. The movie, directed by  Chris Renaud, follows that same path. It
is beautifully animated, with amazing voice talent from Efron, Taylor Swift,
Danny DeVito (as the Lorax. Perfect job!) and Betty White.  While not a lot of the famed Seuss
language makes an appearance in the film, that is forgivable since the film
holds true to the book’s message and feel. The musical numbers are actually
kind of charming, too.

 

In a nutshell, “The Lorax” tells the tale of young
Ted and his crush Audrey, who live in a town with only fake trees. Ted heads
out to see the Once-ler and the Lorax in an attempt to find a real tree and
impress his gal.  Problems happened
years and years ago when the Once-ler fell in love with the Truffula trees and
turned their fluff into “thneed” scarves. More scarves, more trees
cut down, more scarves made, more trees gone. On and on this went–despite
warnings from the Lorax–until no trees were left.

 

“The Lorax” beautifully tells this story of
environmentalism, conservationism and greed, but in a way that even the young
can understand and the grown ups can enjoy.

 

Extra highlight:
The animated shorts

 

What to serve for dinner: For tonight’s Meatless Monday recipe, let’s serve
up some “trees,” in honor of those Truffulas. (Doesn’t anyone else
have a kid who calls asparagus “trees?”) Springtime Asparagus Risotto
(www. mizkan.com).

 

According to the website: “The cooking method for this
risotto is not traditional, but even without constant stirring the result is
excellent. The flavors of grated cheeses vary. Start with 1/3 cup, and then add
more if desired. Serve risotto in 1-cup portions as a side dish or larger
portions as a main dish. A pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc wine would make a
lovely accompaniment.”

 

1            lb.
thin asparagus spears

2            Tbsp.
butter

2            Tbsp.
extra virgin olive oil

1            medium
onion, chopped

2            large
cloves garlic, minced

2            cups
(14 oz.) Arborio rice

1            cup
HOLLAND HOUSE White Cooking Wine (available at Target or other retailers)

4            cups
(32 oz.) reduced-sodium chicken broth

1/3            cup
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino-Romano cheese

1            Tbsp.
grated lemon peel (optional)

1/4            tsp.
dried marjoram, tarragon, or sage

 

Wash asparagus and break off the tough ends. Cut spears into
1-inch pieces; set aside.

 

In a 6-quart pot, melt butter with olive oil. Add onion,
garlic and rice. Over medium-high heat, cook and stir 3-4 minutes; do not
brown. Add cooking wine and broth. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.
Immediately reduce heat to low, cover and cook 10 minutes. No need to stir.

 

Add asparagus and continue to cook and stir, uncovered,
about 3 minutes. Taste rice to ensure it does not overcook. Rice should be al
dente and rather soupy. Stir in cheese, lemon peel and marjoram. Remove from
heat and serve immediately. Sprinkle with additional cheese, if desired.

 

Makes 8 cups (8 side dish servings, 4 main dish servings)

 

 

What to talk about over dinner: What is your favorite Dr. Seuss story? Why? What do
you think about “The Lorax’s” message? How can we help kids today
understand the need to conserve and protect the environment? What is the most
important crisis facing our earth today? Why is Betty White so awesome?

Silent House


Film (with rating): Silent House (R)

 

Studio:
Universal

 

Summary: A
young woman (Elizabeth Olsen) finds herself sealed inside her family’s secluded
lake house, panicking as events become increasingly ominous in and around the
home.

 

Review: A
horror movie without a lot of gore and over-the-top CGI. Thumbs up! Olsen, who
displays some serious acting chops, does a great job as Sarah, the terrorized
young woman who goes to her family’s lake house to help prepare it for sale.
Since it’s boarded up from the inside, darkness prevails in every corner,
leading to the creepy feel of the film from the get-go.

 

Directed by filmmaking duo Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, who
did the ridiculously terrifying “Open Water,” “Silent
House” is shot using meticulous camera choreography to look like a single
uninterrupted shot. This “real time,” Hitchcockian-like
cinematography trick is one of the high points of the film.

 

While the surprise twist at the end may leave some viewers
feeling cheated, the movie as a whole is a well-done thriller. Not great, but
very unsettling and worth the watch.

 

Extra highlight:
Eh, just switch back to the Olympics.

 

What to serve for dinner: Meatless Monday again! During these hot, dog days
of summer, it’s best to keep things 
simple, light and easy. There’s no real tie to the movie this time. I
just had a fantastic peach from my local farmers market and got a craving for
this salad. So here you go–Peach-Cucumber-Barley Salad. (www.goodhousekeeping.com)

 

1 cup pearl barley

1 3/4 cup lower-sodium vegetable broth

1 1/4 cup water

1  seedless
cucumber (English)

2  ripe peaches

2 pints cherry tomatoes

1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

 Salt

 Pepper

1 can (15-ounce) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and
drained

1 head Boston lettuce, leaves separated

 

Place barley in 4-quart saucepan. Cook on medium 5 minutes
or until toasted, stirring. Stir in broth and water. Heat to boiling on high.
Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 35 minutes or until tender. Drain if
necessary, and cool slightly.

 

Meanwhile, scoop out and discard soft center from cucumber,
then cut into 1/4-inch pieces. Pit and chop peaches. Cut tomatoes in quarters.
Very finely chop basil. In large bowl, whisk vinegar, oil, and 1/4 teaspoon
salt. Add barley and toss until well coated. Cool until no longer hot, then add
cucumber, peaches, tomatoes, and chickpeas, tossing until well combined. Serve
over lettuce leaves.

 

What to talk about over dinner: What is your favorite scary movie of all time that
does not involve a chainsaw, finger knives, machetes or butcher knives? What
was the scariest scene in the film? Why? Have you ever been that scared before?
Have you ever been in a house that creeps you out? Have you seen “Open
Water?” Did you vow to never, ever go scuba diving again? Confession time:
My husband and I watched this film when I was six months pregnant and preparing
to go on vacation to the Bahamas. Where he wanted to go scuba diving. Mix one
terrifying movie and a very hormonal woman, and guess who didn’t go scuba
diving in the Caribbean?

American Reunion


Film (with rating): American Reunion (R)

 

Studio:
Universal Studios Home Entertainment

 

Summary: All
the original “American Pie” characters return to East Great Falls for
their 13th high-school reunion, spending the weekend reconnecting,
drinking, pooping in coolers and talking about sex.

 

Review: I
admit it. I really loved the first “American Pie.” It was just
brainless, crude, funny and likeable enough to make its mark on cinema culture.
Who can forget that it spawned the “MILF” saying? For this fourth installment
in the franchise, all of the same actors return to reprise their roles. This is
a huge strength. I mean, most of us who like the “American Pie”
movies do so not just because they are crude and center around tube socks and
ways to violate baked goods. At the core, we like these movies because the
characters, as lame and gross and just downright stupid as they can be at
times, are rather endearing. So bringing everyone back to the table is
brilliant. And I mean everyone. We’ve got Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Seann
William Scott, Chris Klein, Mena Suvari, Shannon Elizabeth, Tara Reid, Jennifer
Coolidge, Eugene Levy (Jim’s dad!) and Natasha Lyonne.

 

The movie revolves around everyone gathering together at the
high school reunion. Of course, life has changed. Jim (Biggs) is married to
Michelle (Hannigan), as we saw in the third “American Pie.” But now,
they have no sex life and a toddler. Kevin is married, but not to Vicky (Reid),
and Finch still longs for Stifler’s mom. Speaking of Stifler (Scott), he is the
one who has not changed; he’s still the horndog juvenile.

 

There are plenty of laughs, usually surrounding some sort of
immature sexual subject. But really, are you surprised? Lots of flashbacks
paying homage to previous films in the franchise will delight fans, but you
don’t have to have even seen the first three to enjoy this one. Despite some of
the jokes being overdone and some of the plot running thin, “American
Reunion” holds its own. I credit this, again, to the likeable characters.
Despite how embarrassingly lame they may be at times, we root for them. This
movie doesn’t have that same youthful flair that attracted us to “American
Pie,” but hey, we all get older and saggier and lose some of our spunk as
the years pass. Doesn’t mean we can’t still rock it every so often, right?
Well, at least we can try.

 

Extra highlight:
Alternate takes

 

What to serve for dinner: How about a chicken and apple pot pie? (Too much?
Well, what did you expect?) Courtesy of www.rachaelrayshow.com.

 

2 tablespoons EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, white or dark meat,
diced into bite-sized pieces

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons butter

3 Empire, Gala or Honey Crisp apples, peeled and chopped

3-4 small ribs celery, chopped

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup apple cider

1 cup chicken stock

1 sheet store-bought puff pastry dough, defrosted if frozen

1 egg, beaten with water

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat EVOO in a large skillet
over medium-high heat. Add chicken and brown 7-8 minutes then remove to plate.

 

Add butter and melt. Add apples, celery, onion, bay, thyme,
salt and pepper, and cook to soften, 8-10 minutes. Sprinkle with flour, stir 1
minute then whisk in cider and stock. Slide chicken back into pan and simmer a
few minutes to thicken sauce.

 

Place in casserole dish or individual casserole dishes
arranged on baking sheet to catch drips. Cover with pastry, brush with egg wash
and bake until golden. Serves four.

 

What to talk about over dinner: Do you still hang out with your high school
friends? Did you go to your reunion? How was it? Any surprises? Who is your
favorite character in this film franchise and why? Anyone else loving “How
I Met Your Mother?” What made 
“American Pie” such a hit? Which sequel did you like the best?
Was it hard to watch supposedly “grown up” people act like stupid
high schoolers? What was your favorite blast from the past in this movie?

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?