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


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,”

Saving Private Ryan

Film (with rating): Saving Private Ryan (R)


Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment


Summary: Following
the Allied invasion of Normandy in June of 1944, a few United States soldiers
go behind enemy lines to retrieve a private whose three brothers have been
killed in action.


Review: In
honor of Memorial Day, let’s haul out a classic war film. Steven Spielberg’s
“Saving Private Ryan” is perhaps the most powerful war film of modern
time. Maybe ever. The opening half-hour scene depicting the landing in
Normandy from a soldier’s point of view is unquestionably the most raw, harsh,
violent, visceral depiction of war ever filmed. Spielberg created an utterly
unforgettable cinematic masterpiece that’s both beautiful and absolutely


For a long time, I avoided watching this film, since my
grandfather was one of those men storming the beaches. He escaped, barely. Extensively wounded, sent home with the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, he again never talked
about his time on that foreign shore. But according to many World War II vets
who were also there, Spielberg’s depiction of the event was spot-on. It’s
almost too much to watch. Knowing that more than 400,000 Americans were killed
in WWII made “Saving Private Ryan” almost too painful
to see, especially knowing that my grandfather was nearly one of those 400,000.


The casting for “Saving Private Ryan” couldn’t
have been better. While not Tom Hanks’ biggest role, it is one of his finest.
He played Capt. John Miller, the man chosen to lead a team of eight soldiers
ordered to locate and rescue Pvt. James Ryan (Matt Damon). His three brothers
died in the war and his mother is scheduled to receive the telegrams all on the
same day. The powers-that-be, in a goodwill stunt tinged with a P.R. campaign, order
that the surviving Ryan son be sent home safely. Capt. Miller is called to
duty to fulfill the mission. 


The acting of the entire cast–including Tom Sizemore, Ted
Danson, Paul Giamatti, Vin Diesel, Edward Burns, Giovanni Ribisi–is beyond
compare, which is saying something, since the film leans heavily on action
sequences. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who also shot “Schindler’s
List,” brings his talent to the table, as well.


But here’s where “Saving Private Ryan” really
shines: Spielberg and his screenwriter, Robert Rodat, created a riveting action
film, an unforgettable human-interest tale, and a philosophical stance on war itself. But since it’s Sir Steven here,
he does all of this in such a way that the messages and images morph together
into a piece of art. He says what he does about war without preaching, without
pulling the viewer from the story. Somehow, in the midst of this action-packed
movie, Spielberg found a way for his characters, and his script, to speak


Extra highlight:
Check out the director’s message.
Or just find a soldier and tell him or her thanks. 


What to serve for dinner: It’s Meatless Monday again!  Now I know many of us will be
barbequing this holiday, but just because we’re forgoing the meat doesn’t mean
we need to shut down the grill, too. Let’s try vegetable skewers and black bean
veggie burgers (allrecipes.com).



2 medium zucchini, cut into 1 inch slices

2 yellow summer squash, cut into 1 inch slices

1/2 pound whole fresh mushrooms

1/3 cup olive or vegetable oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil

1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

3/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper


On metal or soaked bamboo skewers, alternately thread
zucchini, yellow squash and mushrooms. In a bowl, combine the remaining
ingredients. Brush some of the mixture over vegetables. Grill, uncovered, over
medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are tender, turning and
basting occasionally with herb mixture.



1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces

1/2 onion, cut into wedges

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 egg

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce or hot sauce

1/2 cup bread crumbs


If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly
oil a sheet of aluminum foil. If baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees and
lightly oil a baking sheet. In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork
until thick and pasty. In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion, and
garlic. Then stir into mashed beans. In a small bowl, stir together egg, chili
powder, cumin, and chili sauce. Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans. Mix
in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture
into four patties. If grilling, place patties on foil, and grill about 8
minutes on each side. If baking, place patties on baking sheet, and bake about
10 minutes on each side.


What to talk about over dinner: What did you think of the opening scene? Did this
film deserve all five Oscars (including Best Director and Best Cinematography)?
Who was your favorite character? What would it be like if we lost 400,000
Americans in the most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? What was it like to
live through WWII? How did that experience change our country? What is the most
powerful war story you’ve ever heard? What’s next for Matt Damon? What is your
favorite Tom Hanks film? Why is he the most likeable guy in Hollywood? What’s
your favorite Steven Spielberg movie? If you could spend one day with him, what
would you ask him? What do you think “Saving Private Ryan” says about
war? Do you agree? 

So for all those serving our country now or in the past, we salute you. Happy Memorial Day.

Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol

Film (with rating): Mission: Impossible–Ghost
Protocol (PG-13)


Studio: Paramount


Summary: The IMF is shut down when it’s implicated as
international terrorist organization in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing
Ethan Hunt and his team to go rogue to clear their organization’s name and stop
a nuclear war.


Review: I don’t know how director Brad Bird did it,
but this “Mission: Impossible” was just as good as–if not better
than–the first three. I know people are a bit sick of the never-aging Tom
Cruise (including yours truly), but this movie would not have been half as
enjoyable without him in the lead.

What makes “Protocol” better than
expected is that the energizing plot is driven by all of the actors, and not
just Cruise. Simon Pegg, for example, is amazing as one of Hunt’s team. I
became a card-carrying member of his fan club when he was in “Shaun of the
Dead,” and his British humor was a welcome addition to
“Protocol.” Fans of “Lost” will get to be reunited with a
series fave: Sawyer (aka Josh Holloway) finds his way to the big screen.


The action sequences are as hoped–fantastic and not
overdone. The scene with Hunt crawling along the outside of Dubai’s insanely
tall Burj Khalifa  will honestly
make your heart race.


The setting is also a highlight of “Protocol.”
From Russia to Dubai, the team travels the globe, giving viewers locations that
are as interesting as some of the action scenes.  The sandstorm sequence is a perfect combination of the two:
setting and action. It’s not to be missed.


So on this holiday weekend, sit back, enjoy some insane
action and, for extra fun, watch the first three “Mission
Impossibles” to kick off the summer.


Extra highlight: “Impossible Missions”


What to serve for dinner: Start off with a Dubai
staple–falafel–followed by Svitanak, an authentic Russian recipe.


Falafel (www.mideastfood.about.com)

1 cup dried chickpeas or 16 oz. can of chickpeas or garbanzo

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

3 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon cumin

2 tablespoons flour



Oil for frying


Place dried chickpeas in a bowl, covering with cold water.
Allow to soak overnight. Omit this step if using canned beans. Drain chickpeas,
and place in pan with fresh water, and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 5
minutes, then let simmer on low for about an hour. Drain and allow to cool for
15 minutes.


Combine chickpeas, garlic, onion, coriander, cumin, salt and
pepper (to taste) in medium bowl. Add flour. Mash chickpeas, ensuring to mix
ingredients together. You can also combine ingredients in a food processor. You
want the result to be a thick paste.


Form the mixture into small balls, about the size of a ping
pong ball. Slightly flatten. Fry in 2 inches of oil at 350 degrees until golden
brown (5-7 minutes). Serve hot, with a side of hummus.


Svtinak (www.ruscuisine.com/)

1 lb chicken fillet

3 oz cheese

2 tbsp mayonnaise

4 ea garlic cloves

1 ea egg

3 oz dried and finely ground bread-crumbs

4 tbsp butter



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shred the cheese, add finely
chopped garlic and stir in mayonnaise. Divide fillet into small and large
pieces and salt them. Spread the filling on a large piece, put a small fillet
piece in the centre and fold into half-moons with a little piece inside. Soak
in the beaten egg and roll in dried and finely ground breadcrumbs. Fry until
light brown in a pan with enough oil to cover the bottom and come partially up
the sides just a bit. Then cook until soft and tender in the oven, about 20-30
minutes. Check at 15 minutes for readiness.


What to talk about over dinner: What was your
favorite location? What was your favorite action scene? Was this your favorite
“Mission: Impossible?” Why or why not? Why doesn’t Tom Cruise age?
Why was “Shaun of the Dead” so funny? What’s your favorite Cruise
flick? I’m going with “Risky Business” and “A Few Good
Men.” Oh, and “War of the Worlds.” Least favorite? Mine is
“Knight and Day.” Didn’t his character in “Tropic Thunder”
steal the show? Who is going to see Cruise’s new film, Rock of Ages? Breaking
news: There’s a “Top Gun 2″ in the works! Can the Mav do it again? Do
you believe that Cruise did most of the stunts himself in “Protocol?”
Did you hear about the drinking game from this movie? Every time there’s a
close-up of Cruise where he gives that cocky grin, you drink. Just make sure
you’re not driving anywhere if you play this, because by the 45-minute mark,
you’re sure to be tanked.


Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

http://captainsdead.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/ferris.jpgFilm (with rating): Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (PG-13)



Summary: A
high school slickster is determined to take a day off of school and have some


Review:  Maybe it’s spring fever, or perhaps a
yearning to be back in high school (I tell you, that “Glee” kick has
really messed with my head!). Or maybe it’s just a deep desire to take a day
off. Whatever the reason, I went vintage this weekend and pulled a classic out
of the vault. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is one of my favorite John Hughes
films. It’s got romance, adventure, the Chicago skyline, comedy and Charlie
Sheen, all wrapped up in a fuzzy blanket of teen angst and emotion. Matthew
Broderick stars as the title character in this 26-year-old (good Lord! It’s
that old?!) film, and despite all he’s done in his very accomplished career, he
can’t outrun “Bueller….Bueller.”


For those of you not familiar with this movie, it’s about
Ferris, a savvy teen who decides the day is too beautiful to be spent in
school. So he gets his girlfriend and best friend to take a day off with him
and enjoy the sights, sounds and escapades this day holds for them. We’ve got
baseball, a parade, museums, fancy cars, swanky restaurants. Ferris does more
in one day than I’ve done in the past year, I think.


One thing that makes “Ferris” such an all-star
movie is the all-star cast. Jennifer Grey plays Ferris’ angry sister (who tries
to pick up Charlie Sheen in the police station. Classic scene!) and Jeffrey
Jones is the unforgettable Ed Rooney, who makes it his mission to destroy
Ferris and keep him in high school another year. The comedy is beyond classic.
One-liners and laugh-out-loud scenes are the norm here. Hughes, the master of
the teen comedy and teen angst, knew just what he was doing with “Ferris.”
He not only captured the essence of the teenager, but he encapsulated the
spirit of Chicago. Classic. I saw the movie for the first time all those years
ago, and to this day I still recite the lines. And I still want a Ferris
Bueller-style day off.


Perhaps the Ferris-ism I took most to heart was the main one
from the movie: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around
once in a while, you could miss it.” So true, Ferris. So true. After
enjoying a trip back in time to the 1980s this weekend, take a note from
Ferris. Stop and look around a bit. Life does move pretty fast, you know. Don’t
miss it.


Extra highlight:
Skip it. Call in sick to work and go visit the museum or catch a baseball game.


What to serve for dinner: In honor of one of my most-favorite cities, serve
up some deep-dish Chicago-style pizza (foodnetwork.com). To pay homage to
“Abe Froman, Sausage King of Chicago,” add some sausage to this pizza
pie. Follow it up with a handful of gummi bears for dessert. Preferably warm
and soft.


Pizza Dough:

16 ounces water

1/8-ounce yeast

1/2-ounce salt

2 pounds bread flour

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup cornmeal



2 cups tomato sauce, jar or homemade

2 cups shredded mozzarella

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms

1/2 cup spinach, shredded

1/2 cup grated Romano

1/2 cup sliced pepperoni

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Sausage, cooked and sliced


In a mixer combine the water and the yeast and allow the
yeast to dissolve. Add the remaining ingredients except for the cornmeal and
begin to mix the dough using a dough hook on low speed. Once a ball is formed
mix on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes until the dough becomes elastic and
smooth. Remove from the mixer and place in a bowl coated with olive oil. Allow
the dough to rest for approximately 4 hours. Once the dough is rested, place on
flat surface and dust with some flour.


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a deep baking dish or
deep-dish pizza pan, spread the dough using your fingers at the bottom of the
pan and make sure to have enough dough to come up the sides of the pan
approximately 1/2-inch high.


Begin by placing a layer of the mozzarella cheese on the
bottom of the crust. Add the tomato sauce and all of the toppings. Place in the
oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden and crispy.


What to talk about over dinner: What was your favorite scene? Favorite adventure?
Did you have a friend like Ferris in high school? Were you Ferris? Are
you still that guy? What would you do if you could take a Ferris-style day off
tomorrow? What was your favorite line from the film? Why was John Hughes such a
genius when it came to the teen-angst drama/comedy? What was your favorite one?
Don’t even get me started on “Sixteen Candles.” I could talk about
that all night. What were the best parts of the 1980s? Where was the best place
you went to when you ditched high school? I think mine was the Oscars. Or
should I say, the parking lot near the Shrine Auditorium as we stood so far
back from the red carpet we could only manage a tiny glimpse of some actors’
heads as they rushed inside. But hey, I’d say that counts as a quasi-Ferris
moment. It would only be a true Ferris-style adventure, though, if I had
managed to walk down the red carpet myself, get inside the ceremony and finish
the evening dancing with Tom Cruise at the Governors Ball. 

Joyful Noise

Film (with rating): Joyful Noise (PG-13)


Warner Bros.


Summary: A
small-town choir and its feuding choir leaders (Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton)
set out to win a national competition despite overwhelming odds and obstacles.


Perhaps it’s because I’m addicted to “Glee” episodes streaming
online. Or maybe because I have watched “9 to 5″ three dozen times.
Or that I was one of the 19 people who loved “Beauty Shop.” Whatever
the reason, I found “Joyful Noise” surprisingly enjoyable. At first
blush, the film looked to be at risk for major clichs, canned lines and syrupy
song numbers. But in reality, the Todd Graff-directed piece turned out to be
rather charming. The insane musical talents–not just of Parton and Latifah, but
of the entire cast– greased the wheels of “Noise” so that it sailed
right past most of the sticky parts. It’s like “Glee” and
“Footloose” and “Sister Act” with a sprinkle of “Steel
Magnolias” for good measure. Parton showcased her trademark feistiness,
portraying G.G. with enough Southern spunk and fire to please her fans. And
really, who doesn’t like Dolly Parton? The woman is an icon.


As is Latifah. With her character bent on keeping the church
choir as traditional as possible, she clashes with G.G., who feels a more modern
twist is needed. The two dish out some campy lines, but also some hysterical
ones. A great scene is where G.G. pokes fun of her “facial
enhancements” during a food fight with Vi Rose (Latifah), who tells G.G.
she may have lost herself in the world of cosmetic alterations.


“God didn’t make plastic surgeons so they could
starve,” snapped G.G.


The movie features things fans of “Glee” or big
booming voices will love: strong characters, predictable plot twists, romance
and lots and lots of singing. The singing, in fact, stole the show.
“Noise” is not going to win any Oscars for Best Screenplay, but it
will entertain you and make you tap your toe to the beat. Or belt out a diva
song in the shower.


Extra highlight:
“Make Some Noise” or, for the Blu-Ray, “Spotlight on a Song:
Dolly Parton’s ‘From Here to the Moon'”


What to serve for dinner: In the snappy food-fight scene, G.G. tosses a
handful of spaghetti at Vi Rose. So serve up a plate full of Fettuccini with
Salsa Cruda and Feta (allrecipes.com). Happy Meatless Monday, everyone!


1 pound fresh fettuccine pasta

5 ripe tomatoes, chopped

1/2 small red onion, chopped

1 cup chopped fresh basil

1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped

1-2 teaspoons of minced garlic to taste

freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup crumbled feta cheese


Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add
fettuccini and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain. In a medium
bowl combine tomatoes, onion, basil, olives, garlic and black pepper. Toss the
fettuccini with olive oil. Serve pasta topped with tomato mixture and feta


What to talk about over dinner: What was your favorite song? Who else could have
played G.G. and Vi Rose? What is your favorite Dolly Parton song? How has she
lasted this long in the spotlight? Was the movie too predictable, or
comfortably so? If you could sing like that, what would you do with that
talent? Why do so many great singers get self-destructive? What song do you
sing in the shower? What song do you think you know the words to, but really
just make up the lyrics as you go along? What was your favorite scene from
“9 to 5?” How much work has Dolly done on her face? Is she different
than the average Hollywood star because she’s so open about the plastic
surgery? Who has the worst plastic surgery in Hollywood?