Movies, Uncategorized

This Is Noah

I’m indifferent to Darren Aronofsky as a director.  Maybe indifferent is the wrong word, but he doesn’t light me on fire in any way.  I enjoyed Black Swan.  Thought The Fountain was okay.  Requiem for a Dream is one of those movies I thought was fantastic, but I have no intention of ever watching again unless I desperately need to feel better about myself.  Noah seemed like one of those movies that might be interesting, but not movie theater interesting, and in the end left me feeling flood water tepid.

For a subject matter with the potential to be – and I hesitate to use the word – epic, Noah is surprisingly flat and without character.  Most of the film is plodding and on-rails, moving from one point to the next with minimal flair never much rising above its lumbering narrative.  There are moments of interest when the film skews more towards the fantastic, these Aronofsky handling with his typical artistic flare, which lent Noah some much needed excitement.  I suspect most everyone who wanted to see the film are familiar enough with the story of the ark without needing too much history (much in the same way I tire of origin after origin story for every superhero reboot), and the pieces which may be unknown to some are not compelling enough to win wavering attentions.  There is a sub-plot pitting the Men of Cain (bad guys) again the Men of Seth (Noah, “good guys”) explained through some spliced cuts and quick story moments, though the conflict is largely bland black-and-white.  I suppose when the source material is largely black-and-white there is some excuse, though that feels flimsy instead of doing some work and making the motivation of Cain’s people less Bond villain blatant.

Time is an issue with Noah.  There is an obvious moment when a jump occurs as the children become adults and near-adults, but beyond that break the rest is ambiguous.  They’re working on the ark.  Animals start coming.  They keep working on the ark.  But then it starts raining, so I guess they’re done with the ark but there’s still scaffolding.  Then Hermione gets pregnant and the next scene she’s having babies.  A stowaway on the ark comes aboard secretly (kinda) right when the flood hits, and there’s a bit of a Hollywood fight scene between Noah and Bad Guy as Hermione is having the kids, meaning Bad Guy was on the ship for at least nine months without anyone noticing.  In a movie with angel rock giants, talking snakes, nine-hundred plus year old men, and all those animals, it may be strange that’s my moment of disbelief, but there we are.  It’s indicative of the film as a whole: somehow rushed and somehow plodding.

Everyone in the film was fine.  Seemed like they had all the time in the world and were mostly unexcited about anything.  But fine.

I’m trying to think of more to say about Noah, and I honestly can’t be bothered.  I mean, it’s not bad, there’s just no reason to care about it.  That last sentence should be the review.



This Is Newman’s Own Southwest Dressing

Sorry for the lack of posting on Friday.  I genuinely forgot what day we were on and it wasn’t until I was halfway through Friday I realized I hadn’t written anything and, rather than then posting on Saturday and risking further mix up, I skipped.

So salad dressing.  I haven’t actually had the store bought version of this stuff.  Haven’t had the McDonald’s salad it’s supposedly attached to either, but I have a feeling the gist is easy to grasp.  What I have had is the Newman’s Own Southwest dressing which comes in those little pouches from McDonald’s in spite of not eating one of their salads.  My wife was making a salad for a party and forgot to buy dressing, so she went through the drive through (thru?) and they just gave her some packets.

It’s okay.  Kinda creamy like a Ranch but not as spicy.  Well, spicy but in a hot way not a peppery way.  And not really even a great spicy.  Just hot in the mouth.  Like those old Warhead candies hot.  Maybe.  It’s been a while.  The dressing gets the job done just fine, and in a salad with corn and tortilla slivers and other “southwest” things, it’s not a bad substitute.  However, in the way I don’t feel remotely healthy when I order a taco salad, say, I felt I could have eaten a burger and saved myself some calories.



This Is Gourmet Rhapsody

Muriel Barbery knows her way around words.  With her debut The Elegance of the Hedgehog, I quickly fell in love with her sentences, taking time to draw the vocabulary along as she bent to describe the mundane musings of her characters.  Gourmet is not a sequel in any way to Elegance, the only overlap the two sharing the upper-class residence of Rue de Grenelle, and therefore not a necessary requirement prior to diving into Gourment, though I recommend reading it just the same however the order you choose.

For lack of a stronger opening and in the desire to use the pun as it’s been knocking around for a time: Gourmet Rhapsody is a feast.  Like Elegance before it, Barbery uses language in perfected amounts, a chef knowing by feel when to teaspoon, when to pinch, when to add this quarter cup or that.  The story follows the memories of a dying food critic by the name of Pierre Arthens as he fights to recollect a particular food/moment pairing he’s forgotten in all his years reviewing.  Chapters oscillate from Pierre to other members of Rue de Grenelle, family members, mistresses, a cat, all weighing in on the critic’s life choices (or lack thereof).  In Pierre’s trips through time we are given one view, that of a man in love with food, with himself, with the richness of both found moments and being in the moment, of a man zealous for the weight of experience.  And in others, the small recollections from those around him painting the picture of a distant man often feared by his loved ones, cold to a fault and without care of his callousness, of a man so in love with his own inflated narcissistic royalty he uses and casts so many aside as though they were little more than pieces of litter just on the fringe of his vision.  The best mirroring of these seemingly polar biographies is found first in the discussions of his granddaughter Lotte who sees him as a frightening and unhappy figure, one who “doesn’t like stories,” as she puts it laid then against a trip of Pierre’s in which he became lost while searching for a inn where he happened upon a group of five sharing lunch on their farm outside, a moment Pierre was invited to share in.  Here there is laughter, camaraderie, the binding experience of a meal in which strangers become somehow intimate friends.  The darkness in Barbery’s tale is how much of a double-life Pierre lived, how the zealous moments are so contra to the unhappiness left in his home wake.

For those of you who have seen Ratatouille, you are no doubt familiar with how Remy describes food as having shape.  In the same way does Pierre work his mouth around a palette of flavors unleashing a string of vivid syllables to contextualize his favorite dish and strongest memory.  As a tool to further Pierre’s ego, Barberry writes deftly, though there are times the ruminations can feel too much, like the meals saturated in the butters and the creams and the spices Barbery heaps language onto Pierre’s pen past a plate’s breaking point.  Though appropriate to his voice, I could find myself detaching from the experience the further into the critic’s world I waded, needing to come up for air after the barrage of mouthfuls.

Gourmet Rhapsody is a loaded pastry: bite-sized and heavy.


This Is Cucumber Flavored Water

I’ve tried.  Like Louis Black’s comment about Candy Corn, I am continuously tricked into taking another swig of water with cucumber in it, having forgotten the previous experience which has yet to be satisfying.  In the way you reach for and drink from your Sprite only to find the waiter accidentally brought water, the cucumber in water mash-up is equally unsatisfying – jarring, even – taking a moment which should be quenching, and making it… not.  I know that’s a fairly prosaic description, but it’s what I’ve got on the short term, and even stretches so far as to more politely encompass my thoughts on the above drink.

Berries in water?  Yes.  Lemon?  Absolutely.  Bananas?  Probably better than cucumber.

Board Game

This Is Machi Koro

In keeping with the recent trend I find myself getting into skewing toward “lighter” games, Machi Koro popped up on my radar a little by accident.  I was in Barnes and Noble killing time before heading back to the office when I came across Machi, and was immediately taken by the artwork.  There’s a Katamari Damacy feel to the style which is immediately going to push all of the right buttons for me, and the price-point for Machi hovers just around board game impulse at $30.

Gameplay is relatively simple.  Players take on the role of a Mayor in a small town looking to make their home the best.  You win by building all four of your Monuments which are the same for each player – Station, Shopping Mall, Radio Tower, and Amusement Park – before anyone else, with your turn being a mix of die/dice rolling and card purchasing, in that order.  There are a pool of seventeen (I believe, going from memory) cards available representing the different locations you can purchase and build in your town, each with their own set of perks.  For instance, players start the game with a Wheat Field and a Bakery, the Wheat Field allowing players to get a coin from the bank whenever a 1 is rolled on anyone’s turn, and if you own multiple Wheat Fields, that’s 1 coin per Field.  In this, there are a number of small strategies to Machi.  Do you go for multiples of buildings which can trigger on anyone’s turn, or do you go for the higher end buildings which might be harder to “land”, but allow you to take coins from the pockets of others?  My only real experience was what I imagine initial forays to include, my approach being one of button mashing where I purchased what I could and when, opting for a little-bit-of-everything plan in which more is (hopefully) better.

It wasn’t.

Once everyone has the rules down, and depending on the number of players – it supports up to four, though there are expansions which may change that, I’m not familiar with them – you can get a game in in less than 30 minutes.  In some cases, you might even get two in in that time.  With turns being roll the dice,  collect coins, buy a card, players would need to actively work to get bogged down.  Machi is also a perfect introductory game for those who wouldn’t consider themselves gamers, and especially for those often intimidated by the learning curve they associate with them.

Easy to pick up, and easy to play, Machi Koro’s charm is a perfect fit for just about anyone’s shelf.  It’s the type of “filler” game certain groups could easily end up making a main course at their events.


This Is Wolfcop

The credits and opening shot-plus-filter make you think you’re getting Grindhouse, but once the title appears, that train leaves the station becoming something else entirely.  In fact, up until Lou Garou (clever, right?) becomes the Wolfcop, the movie is mostly uninteresting.  Lou is an alcoholic in a small town.  Small town people do small town things.  Some punks dressed as pigs rob a place.  You know.  But once Lou gets that pentagram carved on his chest in the middle of the night, things start looking up.

Special effects are a mix of An American Werewolf in London and Little Monsters.  When Lou’s transforming, it’s the former, when he’s Wolfcop, it’s the latter.  When someone gets their face ripped off, which happens with some frequency, it’s also the former.  Wolfcop as a person is a little the Punisher if the Punisher was a werewolf.  Bullets don’t hurt him, except a blunderbuss the Shapeshifters use.  Yup.  Shapeshifters.

Let’s see.  There’s a fairly involved sex scene with Wolfcop which is a little unnerving.  Wolfcop is extra strong because he drinks while he’s a wolf.  Oh yeah, and the best part of the movie is:

BAD GUY:  “Where are you?”

WOLFCOP: “The fuzz.”

And then Wolfcop shoots him in the face.

Recommended solely for that exchange and watching Wolfcop drive around in his Wolfcopmobile fighting crime.


This Is Otto

My wife and I do not plan especially well.  We’d spoken at dreamed length about how great it would be to have a camper or van or something we could hoof around the country’s back roads in while possibly hitting trade shows to sell art and, presumably, live in the van (down by the river).  Though it’s only been less than a couple of years now, I forget exactly how she came across Otto – Craigslist, likely – but come across it she did, and we immediately went out to take a look at him.  Otto, who was not named Otto when we initially met him, is a 1972 Volkswagen Westfalia camper, and it was love at first site.  Never mind neither of us knew how to drive stick.

So we bought him.  Of course.  Had the seller drive him to our place as neither of us could drive him yet.  In the proceeding days, I began the Youtube rabbit hole of learning to drive stick, first figuring out just how to put the thing through its paces without it exploding, circling around our acreage moving from first to second, and then braving a trip just a mile down the road to the school on the hill I could use to circle back from.  In this way Otto and I became acquainted, a relationship built from traveled spirals.  Oh he was finicky – is still, actually – a disposition born of user error in all likelihood where he would stall and begin the inevitable roll backwards, and I the inevitable panic as I tried to keep him from angering everything in his reversed path.

I am not a car person in the way most guys are (expected to be) car people, but I bonded with Otto in a way previously unfelt with any other inanimate object.  We’d purchased him as ours, though shortly after seeing me doing my best to keep his wholly un-aerodynamic shell from sending me into a ditch, my wife proclaimed him mine.  We fit together, I suppose.  Not entirely, let the record show, as I wanted his license plate to read OTTOBOT which was shot down, but battles must be carefully chosen.

The difficulty with Otto is time.  I love the guy.  Truly.  With my life and my wife’s life what they were and are, the travel dream fell into the space beyond even dreams, and never fully came to fruition.  Even getting us together in the same place for an extended period these days is a bit of a task, let alone planning a lengthy get-away.  Or, I should say, a get-away involving Otto.  The poor guy can’t go more than 55 miles per hour, which doesn’t boost the distance versus time index all that well.

So we sell him.  I suppose “we’re in the process of selling him” is more grammatically correct.  Result is the same.  In the way I want every dog I see to have their forever home, I want Otto to go to a family who has the time to love in the way he should be loved.  That boy needs to see a river and some trees.  He needs to have his tent popped, no pun intended.  He needs stars.

Everyone should have an Otto.