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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Movie Review: In Bruges

In Bruges (2008) is categorized as a crime-comedy.  I would say DARK comedy and more of an action film.  The film stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as hit men, and Ralph Fiennes as the "boss" who sends them out on their hits.

Ray (Farrell) makes a mistake on his most recent hit and it tortures his version of morality.  He and his partner Ken are sent to await further instructions from Harry (Fiennes) in Bruges Belgium.   While waiting to hear from Harry, they try to explore Bruges a bit and process the mistake.  Along the way there is very dark comedy, plenty of violence and contradictions in their tough-guy personae.

The film is, at times, uncomfortably dark humor due to the violent nature of the film.  Sometimes I struggle with this marriage of genres.  It is interesting, engaging, and off-beat for sure.  The violence is just on the edge of being too graphic for me, and there certainly is a lot of f-bombs dropped.  Enough to earn it's R rating.  Quirky and unusual.  Not sorry I watched it but I can't say I really liked it or recommend it.  Depends on if you like that sort of thing.  I always enjoy Colin Farrell.  I wish he were in more mainstream and less action films.  He's more versitile than most of his films would suggest (although I enjoyed him in Winter's Tale and Saving Mr. Banks).

Watch the trailer below or via this link.  We streamed the film from Netflix.  You can also find it to view on YouTube (although the sound and video quality is poor...like somebody pointed their home camera at their television set).


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Movie Review: Taken 3

Taken 3 (2014) is categorized as a French Action Thriller.  Starring Liam Neeson, it continues the saga of Bryan Mills, a retired U.S. spy.  In Taken 1, his daughter is kidnapped.  In Taken 2, HE is kidnapped, and in Taken 3...well nobody is kidnapped, but Bryan's ex-wife is "taken".

In true action-hero style, Bryan Mills is a bad-ass that never seems to get seriously injured and he is just a cool, calm dude who won't follow the bumbling rules of...well...anybody but himself.

Totally implausible, but fun like all action films are fun when you just know that good guy will always win (if you can really call Bryan a "good guy").  Liam Neeson always delivers.  In a recent interview he said he would love to do a Taken 4.  Hey...I would go as long as it stays rated PG-13 because I'm not into graphic violence.  In the wheelhouse of Mission Impossible, the Bourne series, or Jack Reacher, the action scenes and body counts are ongoing and prolific and the hero always seems to get up and walk away (with a slight limp) from multiple things that would kill mere mortals.

Watch the trailer below or via this link.  Taken 3 is not available for pre-order on DVD at the writing of this post, but I've included the Amazon links for Taken and Taken 2 below. Taken 3 DVD can be pre-ordered via Amazon UK, but not yet in the U.S.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Product Review: Harvest Stone Crispy Mix Bold Flavor Natural Snack Mix

On impulse, I grabbed a little bag of Harvest Stone Crispy Mix in "Bold" flavor at my local health food store.  It's $3.49 for a tiny, 4 oz bag.  Sheesh!

I gotta say...I like them.

This mix has 5 different flavored gluten free morsels:  Gluten Free Pretzels, Honey BBQ Popped Chips, Savory Multi-Seed Chips, Spicy Mustard Corn Chips with Flax, and Chipotle BBQ Corn Jacks (in the same package).  So if you're into gluten free, this is an option.  It's sort of an expensive designer Chex Mix.

The ingredient lists are really long.  It lists the ingredients for each type of chip in the bag separately.  I didn't notice anything too wrong with it.  The pretzle has yeast extract in it, and I'm told that if you have an extreme sensitivity or allergy to MSG, you should avoid foods containing yeast extract too (which is in darn near everything...including organics and all naturals).

Personally, I find the serving size a joke.  It's a 4 oz bag, which will easily fit in a cereal bowl.  It says it contains 4 servings.  So a single serving will equal a scant handful.  So that scan handful, contains 6 grams of fat...which I think is kinda high for a crunchy snack you could stuff into your mouth in a single bite if you chose to do so.  For me...even the entire bag didn't make a decent "serving"...which adds up, if you can multiply...to 24 grams of fat.

If the price was right, I would buy the product in bulk, and never look at the fat content.  That's just me.  As it is, I probably will only buy these on the rare occasion I'm shopping at the health food store when I'm hungry.

They are super crunchy, the flavor variety is fun, and they just taste good.  One little handful will give you 11% of your daily sodium allotment, if that matters to you.  They are said to have 40% less fat than normal potato chips.  I guess that's saying something.

I wasn't able to find a website for this product...only websites that sell it.  It is made by TH Foods, Inc out of Illinois and is made in the U.S.A.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Review: Deadline by Sandra Brown

Deadline (2013) by Sandra Brown is a mix of crime mystery and romance.  Luckily the romance is reasonably secondary (and in my opinion would have worked well without it).

A respected journalist returns from stories in Afghanistan and is suffering from PTSD AND a new managing editor who hates him and is giving him fluff pieces.  His godfather (who is nearly retired from the FBI) gives him a lead on a very old case of his and asks him to cover a story that could turn out to be a career maker and a life breaker.

Along the way of chasing a ghost fugitive from the past, of course there's a woman...a damsel in distress.  They resist, they're attracted, they collide, they separate, they reunite...all that predictable stuff.

If it were only a romance novel I would give it a fairly poor rating.  But since it is more heavily focused on the crime investigation/solving, I enjoyed it.  It was engaging, interesting, and there were some surprises all the way up to the end.  Of course you figured that the main characters all live happily after, but it had some suspense and intrigue.  Sandra Brown is an excellent and prolific writer and I've read her work before, and likely will again.

My vote would be...leave the romance out and just write a good novel.  In this book, it would have worked just as well to have most everything go the same but the romantic partners just end up friends.  I like unpredictability and romances are rarely unpredictable.

This book could potentially make a good movie (but lose the romance, please!).


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Company and Product Review: Bare Escentuals and Bare Minerals

In an earlier post, I reviewed some mineral make-up and, in particular, Bare Escentuals, which makes Bare Minerals.  Note, not every product made by Bare Escentuals is all natural, so if that's what you're after, choose Bare Minerals within their line, and always read the ingredient lists.

I've been using Bare Minerals for several years now.  I don't wear make-up every day because mostly I'm just home doing housework or gardening.  But when I do, I've been pleased with the Bare Mineral line.  Although they are freak-nasty expensive, they last a long time (especially if you don't wear it daily) and the brushes last pretty much forever, I'm guessing.

Bare Minerals is the number one selling mineral makeup...in fact, Bare Escentuals is the number one selling makeup line.  With growth sometimes comes some problems.

Recently, though, I had a bit of an issue that I wanted to share with consumers.

I've been buying the concealer, "bisque", which is their lightest shade of all mineral concealer.  It's one of their top sellers.  It costs $19 (when I purchased it, it cost $18).  It lasted me a very long time.  When it was nearly empty, I ordered a back-up container of it.  When I finally opened the back-up container, I noticed immediately, just on a visual impression alone, that the color formula has been changed.  This container was MUCH darker than the previous container...darker even, than my foundation.  A concealer needs to be lighter than your foundation shade.

I contacted the company.  They stated that their formula has not changed (read some of the reviews for the product on their page...others have noticed it too).  So that was strike one.  Then they informed me that my product was past the return date, AND probably the color had changed because it was "too old".  I countered that while I agreed I had passed their stated return date, I was not buying the excuse that the color change was due to the product being too old.  It is not a chemical formula, but ground rock.  Rock takes a LONG time to change.

After several back and forths with customer service, I told them that I had spent a great deal of money on my products with them, and that one of the measures of a company, to me, was what they chose to do when they didn't HAVE to, vs trying to get them to do what is in their stated policy.  A new $19 container to me, is significant.  As is throwing away a brand new container of product.  A $19 replacement for them, given their mark-up, is nothing.

Eventually, they agreed to send me a replacement (I offered to return the faulty container).

When it arrived and I opened it...it too is a much darker color than my original.  So now I have two containers I can't use, and there is no lighter color available.  Bummer.

Skip ahead.

I wrote a review for their website, which is much what I've just said here.  I received a notification that my review had been rejected due to a violation of their review policy...which I read...and as far as I could tell, I hadn't violated anything.  I didn't swear or use derogatory language.  I didn't list any website links.  I didn't advertise any other company products.  I DID say that given how many other companies were now selling all mineral make-up...that between the customer service issues, price and color changes...it might be time to move on.  But I don't see why a review would be rejected on that basis.  Other people said they felt the product had changed or was too dark.  Some loved it, some didn't.  So I'm left wondering what I said that got my review booted.  My request for clarification of that decision went unanswered.

In doing some more digging, I saw a notation that if you review "customer service", your review could be rejected.  WHAT??  OK, that's silly.  It tells me their customer service might suck if they won't allow anyone to include it in their reviews.  In this case, it seemed to matter WHO you got in customer service...not everyone seemed to be up to the same level of "service", and you never got the same person twice for the same ongoing issue.

So I'm on the market I guess.  Much of what I have left will literally last me nearly forever.  But I need a good, 100% mineral concealer with a multitude of shades to choose from.  If it is to be an internet purchase, I would really like a free sample to test the color before buying.

Oh...here's a photo I included in my rejected review.  On the left is a sprinkle of my mineral foundation color.  The next two are my "too old" concealer and the "brand new" concealer.  I wish, wish, wish I had had some of the correct/original concealer left to show the vast difference.  You may be able to tell that the shade is off from my foundation, and it the two concealers are rather dark...for concealer.  They actually GIVE me dark circles under my eyes!


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Music Album Review: Goeksegh by Jon Henrik Fjallgren

Goeksegh (2014) by Jon Henrik Fjallgren is a collection of traditional Sami songs interpreted by Jon.  Jon competed in and won Sweden's Got Talent in 2014 and this is a collection of songs he sang on the show.

There is something about the way this young man expresses himself through song that, for me, transcends language.  I can feel his heart in his songs and the music movies me.  The album was not available in the U.S. as a CD, just as a download but I purchased and downloaded it from Amazon for just under $10.

You might take some time to read a little about Jon, and the Sami people.  The Sami people have a cultural story that may be on par with the Native Americans of the United States (and elsewhere).

Watch the audition clip below or via this link.  Somehow it doesn't matter that I can't understand anything that's being said.  See how much you can figure out just from the expressions, images and reactions.  Something about his countenance that is so peaceful and sage.  On the Amazon link below, you can listen to samples from the album.  The song shown here is a song he wrote while grieving the death of his friend Daniel.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Soundtrack Review: Million Dollar Arm

In a previous post, I reviewed the movie Million Dollar Arm.  This post is about the soundtrack.  The music caught my attention in the movie and I decided to get the soundtrack.  Many of the songs are a fusion of Bollywood and Rap and it somehow appealed to me.

I am enjoying nearly all of the album.  There are, perhaps 3 or 4 songs that move at a slow pace that is typical for instrumental background in movies that I really don't care for, and mostly just skip on the player.  Overall, I'm glad I got it.

You can listen to one of the songs below or via this link.  Also, through the Amazon link below, you can listen to samples of each song before buying.