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Monday, November 30, 2015

Movie Review: Dr. Strangelove

Dr. Strangelove (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb), (1964) is a black comedy satire about the irrational fears during the time of the cold war between the US and Russia.  Peter Sellers (Pink Panther fame) stars as Dr. Strangelove and George C. Scott plays a general.

I'm really not going to describe it much further than that because to me it was utterly bizarre and weird and a waste of the time I was awake to see some of it.  I got bored and fell asleep.  Hubby made it through (with perhaps a nap or two here and there) and said it was a super weird movie.  I don't think I'm much into satire or black comedy, and certainly not the 1964 variety.  Watch the trailer below or via this link.  We rented the DVD from Netflix, but I wouldn't waste a pick on it...if you really want to see it, you can watch it all on YouTube.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Movie Review: Cinderella (2015 version)

Will they ever tire of making Cinderella remakes?  Will audiences ever tire of watching them?  Here is yet another...the 2015 edition starring Lily James (Downton Abbey) in the lead role.  Helena Bonham Carter plays the fairy godmother and Cate Blanchet is the wicked stepmother.

The story is not much altered.  A few small changes, but overall, if you've seen and loved one, you'll probably enjoy this one too.

The costuming is superb.

I'm still clinging to my favorite version being the play made for TV in 1965 starring Leslie Ann Warren in the lead role.  Maybe it's my favorite, because, much like the annual airing of The Wizard of Oz, it was replayed annually and something we all looked forward to.  There wasn't much TV made for kids in the 60's.

Watch the trailer to the 2015 version below or via this link.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Movie Review: The 100 Foot Journey

The 100 Foot Journey (2014), stars Helen Miren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, and Charlotte Le Bon.  It is a romantic comedy drama produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg and is based on the 2010 novel of the same title by Richard Morais.

A family from India fleeing persecution and violence as well as seeking an opportunity to start again with their successful restaurant, serendipitously (is that a word?) arrive in a small town in France.  They purchase a dilapidated restaurant across the street...or 100 feet from a famed French restaurant owned by Helen Mirren's character.  She is incensed that they would sully her neighborhood and sets out to sabotage their every effort while making it clear she wants them gone.  While simply a nuisance at first, she begins to fear they may actually be a viable rival and the heat is turned up both figuratively and actually.  In the end, as all good movies go, a respect and friendship and admiration ensue with all learning how to coexist.  There are some subtle, or not-so-subtle undertones of racism and the soul dilemmas it can pose.  The idea that in the end, there are limits to decency, ultimately prevails.

I found the film entertaining, and delightful and sweet.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  As far as I can tell, it is safe for most audiences, although very young children may not enjoy it as much as it is more story and relationship based that visually stimulating.  Watch the trailer below or via this link.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Movie Review: The Hunger Games Part II

It's finally over...I read the three books, and I've now seen the four movies.  I must say, I'm not a fan of the new trend in milking out a series by dividing the final movie into two parts.  I forget what the heck I saw in part 1.  Which sort of happened here.  Because I'm not going to re-read the books or re-watch the movies before each part.

Mockingjay, Part II (2015) is in theaters and it is well-done.  President Snow has it out for Katniss and the feeling is mutual.  Rather than it being about the Hunger Games the stakes are about the freedom or oppression/destruction of all of Panem.  In part II, Pita is recovering from his Tracker-Jacker-induced psychosis/brainwashing but still has much healing to do in order to become a reliable ally.  The team sets out with multiple hidden agendas and differing goals to seek out and kill President Snow and reclaim independence.  The war-torn city of Panem has been heavily laced with booby-traps that serve to make this mission, in many ways, just like a Hunger Game.

The film is rated PG-13 for violence.  There are also some exceedingly creepy zombie-like creatures called "mutts" that were bothersome enough for me that I closed my eyes while they were onscreen.  I'm a weenie...but keep that in mind if you are taking young kids.  As I kid, they would have given me nightmares...big-time.

The actors all do good jobs and the film is engaging and entertaining.  I'm not swooning over it, but it was worth seeing.  I'm not super sad to see it all come to an end...the hype and the time between films and the splitting of the final installment make me sort of glad it's all over.  Good, but ready to be done with it.  Watch the trailer below or via this link.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Book Review: Agatha Christie, The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah

Agatha Christie The Monogram Murders (2014) by Sophie Hannah is an old style "who done it?" in the genre of Sherlock Holmes murder mysteries.  Interestingly, the publishers and family of Agatha Christie approached Sophie Hannah to write another in the Hercule Poirot series after Agatha Christie's death because they liked Hannah's writing style and felt she could continue the legacy.

A series of three and a feared fourth murders have occurred in succession.  Bodies are showing up in a hotel with initialed cuff-links stuck in their mouths.  Hercule Poirot is assisting Scotland Yard police in the investigation.  Just like Sherlock Holmes, Poirot has excellent observational and deductive reasoning skills that the police to not possess.  Neither, apparently does the murderer or murderers.  Poirot always gets the guilty.

This book is very reminiscent of what I have watched of BBC's televised Poirot and Sherlock Holmes series.  I've not actually read any of the books.  I am a bit sad to say I found it tedious in places and a bit bogged down with the details.  It seemed to move a little to slowly for my liking.  I guess I am not the type that could do the work of Poirot or Holmes as tiny details escape me and also don't tend to interest me.  Due to my lack of deductive reasoning, I often felt as confused as Scotland Yard.  If you liked the other books (either the stories of Holmes or Poirot), give this a try and let me know what you think.  It just wasn't for me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Product Review: Zeroll Original Tubmate Spade

First, since this is a blog, and I like to tell stories, let me tell you the sad tale of my mother's ice cream spade.  She has probably had it since sometime in the 50's.  It had a wooden handle.  It had a thin spade that cut through ice cream better than anything known to modern man.  But alas...she likes to put everything in the dishwasher, and eventually that wooden handle went belly-up and one of the rivets holding it together fell out and, well, it was sad.  This happened unbeknownst to me.
One day, in partial jest, I said "When you die, I want the ice cream spoon."  She looked a bit stricken, as she is known to look when I ask to be bequeathed with an item she has already disposed of.  She told me the story...and said she had given it to her handy man to try to fix and it never came back.  I told her to get it back!  I also said, "I do NOT want to have to marry him to get that spoon!"  Alas, when she contacted him, he said he was unable to fix it and had thrown it away.  UNLESS...he really wants to marry me...but we will never know.

We don't muck about when we eat ice cream.  None of those tiny, RIDICULOUS sized 1/2 cup servings or miniature balls that you scrape and scrape with a scoop.  We've been just using a large serving spoon that came with my silverware set, but I thought I would look around and see if I could find one sort of like the one I grew up with.  My grandmother had a lightweight all aluminum one and it worked really well too.

Enter the Zeroll Original Tubmate Spade (model 1065FS) to the rescue.  I found it on Amazon for about $13.  It says to use it to "level tubs, hand mix and hand pack" and that it has a heat conductive fluid handle (which makes placing it in the dishwasher null and void and a no-no).  It says "Heat conductive fluid in handle makes scooping easier.  Thicker blade wears longer and resists chipping.  Use to scrape the side of the carton or level the top.  Extended handle helps prevent contamination.  Do not place in dishwasher, or expose to temperatures over 140 degrees F or 60 degrees C."

Pretty much, it sounds like this thing can all but walk on water.  Well, I've got good news and I've got bad news.  The good news is, it works better than the spoon we were using and it certainly is sturdy.  I don't own a dishwasher, so that will never be a problem.  It allows you to scoop bigger portions.  The bad news is, it isn't exactly the choice for the zombie apocalypse or anything.  It's just a scoop/spade.  It is a tad thicker than it needs to be.  A bit thinner and it might slice through easier.  The heat conductive core works too slowly to be of any use.  If you are a professional ice cream scooper and have that baby in your hand all day long, then maybe.  But it will not conduct any heat from your hand in the time it takes you to scoop a personal serving or two.  That's a bit of a gimmick or at least not practical for the home user as far as I can tell.

We will keep it, we will use it, and it will probably last until the end of time and beyond.  It is sturdy.  I'm not at all sorry I bought it because this is the basic design I was after....but darn it when companies fudge a bit on their claims.

Oh, and if it is attractive to you, it is made in the U.S.A.  Zeroll makes several other types of spades, scoops, etc if you like the concept and would like a different shape or size.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Product Review: Pasta Express Pasta Cooker

I picked up one of these Pasta Express pasta cookers on impulse at a thrift store for $3.  I think they used to sell for around $20.  I don't think they are sold anymore except used.

The premise of the cooker is to place up to a pound of pasta in this thermal plastic chamber, fill it with boiling water from a tea kettle, wrap the little thermal sleeve around it, wait about 15 minutes and have perfectly cooked pasta in a fraction of the time.  I thought it might save water, and the time it takes for a large pot of water to boil.  Actual cooking time looks to be about the same as the time you would boil your pasta.  Seemed like a good idea.

On Amazon, the crowd is divided.  About 54% give it 5 stars, and about $46% give it one star and hate it.  One reviewer said that the reason people don't like it is that they don't follow the directions...and then he goes on to say that you need to use fresh pasta, or the type you can buy in the store that is limp and moist already, otherwise it will take too long to cook.  Which is not what the directions say.

My first, and only attempt was with Fettuccine.   First of all, it took all the water my tea kettle could boil to fill it...and then as it absorbed water, part of the pasta was exposed and not in the water, so I added more.  After 25 minutes (vs the said 15), it still wasn't cooked and the water was cooling.  The pasta had fused together in places into hard, inseparable clumps, and we ultimately, had to put it in a pot and boil it or dinner would never arrive.

It was an interesting idea, and worth the $3 experiment.  You never know what might work.  It went back to another thrift store.  I could see how it MIGHT work for angel hair pasta, or cheap mac, or even tortellini...something small and thin.  Maybe.

Watch the infomercial below, but don't be fooled!