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Showing posts from December, 2013

Movie Review: The Croods (2013)

The Croods is the most beautiful animated film of 2013. As a bonus, strong writing backs its eye-popping color palettes, hysterical creature designs, and fun human shapes. The soundtrack doesn’t stand out much, though.

Plot: a family of cave-dwellers must learn to survive with the help of a stranger as the world literally falls apart around them.

Character development follows formula. The narrator, Eep (voiced by the smoky Emma Stone), is a young woman who rebels against her stern father Grug’s (a creepy/manic-as-usual Nicolas Cage) rule: “Never not be afraid.” Mom Ugga (Catherine Keener) is peacekeeper, brother Thunk (Clark Duke) is a lunkhead, and Gran (Cloris Leach) disapproves of everything her son-in-law does. Oh, and there’s a feral baby.

As you can imagine, Eep makes a discovery that propels the plot, Grug learns to change eventually, and the others also learn lessons, blah blah blah. Adults know how this goes.

The newcomer into their life of tightly huddled formations is Guy (…


This Christmas, Fragrant Husband and I went down to the Fragrant In-Laws' abode in Florida, or, as a Zora Neale Hurston character would call it, Floridy. Here is a map for the geographically-curious:

Original image source:
Prior to my visit, all I knew about Florida was (1) it's shaped like a [CENSORED], (2) it was home to Rudy Eugene, aka the Miami zombie, and (3) it has a reputation for other awful things, like Treyvon Martin's killing and sinkholes that eat houses, boats, and swimming pools.

I'm happy to report that our vacation was relaxing, nay, rejuvenating, with nary to report except fine weather, wondrous sinkhole-free swimming, and food. Too much food, as per tradition. Not quite at Noche Buena levels, but it was pretty close.

We also mini-golfed (the menfolk got real golf out of the way early in the trip) and drove to "the Riviera of Florida," an island on Palm Beach where the affluent wander Worth Avenue, their …

Book Review: The Color Purple (1982)

The Color Purple is a beautiful book anchored by a powerful voice. The main character, Celie, narrates her life as a black woman in the south. She grows up a broken girl -- enduring rape, sexism, ignorance, and violence -- and only becomes truly alive much later in life. Along the way, she meets other people carrying their own burdens, who choose to live in different ways. Celie's and the supporting characters' (Sofia, Shug, Harpo, et al) journey is one of oppression and overcoming, whose telling won author Alice Walker the Pulitzer Prize in 1983.

My darling Philippines has a different take on race relations, in that we actively stereotype the most common non-Pinoys (e.g., the Chinese are stingy but work hard, the Indians are also stingy and charge high interest rates, and Americans are friendly and rich) -- but in a non-violent, non-oppressive way, or so I would like to believe. Please feel free to update me about any horrific, systematic injustices you have detected or perso…

Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is an improvement over the first film. It adds a new character and story elements that occurred outside of The Hobbit novel and embellishes some sequences a fair bit, but overall it’s a solid movie. I recommend seeing it in 3D.

In this installment, our intrepid band of wizard, hobbit, and dwarves must complete the final leg of their journey to the Lonely Mountain. Alas, Gandalf makes like a tree and leaves, so the little people face giant spiders, hostile but beautiful elves, despairing humans, and of, course, Smaug – on their own.

This movie has three things going for it. First, the graphics are impeccable. Everything looks gorgeous, creepy, and/or appropriately fantastic. The fight sequences seamlessly blend human actors/stuntmen and women with CGI.

Which leads to the second positive: the fight sequences. Thankfully, no mind-blowingly huge armies are shown marching or fighting. It’s just a bunch of dudes (plus Evangeline Lilly!) duking it out in v…

Stop Taking Multivitamins!

I stopped taking multivitamins around the time I transitioned to Whole Paycheck Foods for my grocery shopping. Previously, I was a religious pill-popper, taking my handy compacted supplements every day at breakfast time. Then, one day, as I was fussily oscillating between a $25 bottle versus a $14 one of Whole Food Women's One Daily Multivitamin, something inside me threw up its hands and said: MEH.

From that day forth, I got my vitamins and minerals from actual foods. I transferred my adoration to Michelle Obama and went to to see what I should put in my face. After a thorough, two-second review of the entire site, I created my very own daily plate usually consisting of the following :

...You get the idea. And yes, I drink beer daily, doncherknow it's a requirement for Boston residents?

Anyhooters, science has finally vindicated my bold lifestyle move of completely replacing daily supplements with a tasty combination of water, yeast, malt, and hops! This article

Movie Review: 13 Assassins (2011)

Director Takashi Miike, who delivered the disturbing Audition, comes back with a refreshingly straightforward story about a bunch of guys getting together to kill one dude…who’s surrounded by a bigger bunch of guys. Enter: the 13 Assassins/Juusan no shikaku.

This movie has it all: non-graphic yet still icky harakiri in the first two minutes! Plots! Intrigue! Nobility! Samurai! Swords! Spears! Sake! Gambling! Awesome hats! The obligatory crazy forest person! A limbless tongueless starvation victim! Angry men! Angry men flying through the air! Women with the sads! Bows and arrows! Sexism! Feminism! Explosions! Traps! Bridges! Palanquins! Bamboo! And more! Alas, no ninjas.

In a nutshell: Naritsugu Matsudaira of the Akashi clan is such a sadistic monster that the shogun’s chief adviser secretly brings in the samurai Shinzaemon Shimada to assassinate him on his way back home from the capital, Edo.

What this movie does well:

1. Establishes main characters’ personalities and backstories

Book Review: Zodiac: An Eco-Thriller (1988)

Before he hit the big three-oh, little Neal Stephenson got a quirky novel published. It bore many of the signatures that would define his later masterworks: a flawed, cuttingly intelligent protagonist; strong feminist overtones; a conflict of epic proportions; oodles of location research; and buckets of science and technology. The recipe for a delicious nerd brownie!
Zodiac: An Eco-Thriller follows Sangamon Taylor, or ST, a Boston-based eco-activist with the Group of Environmental Extremists (GEE). ST is a scruffy chemist whose modus operandi consists of methodically gathering evidence against corporate toxic polluters, plugging up the offending pipes, and then dramatically announcing his findings on the news. His work takes him through raw sewage, an island made of garbage, and the mean streets of Boston’s less savory neighborhoods. A chance encounter with hooligans on a routine investigation winds up pitting ST and his friends against smart and ruthless business types, and the big-s…