Thursday, October 30, 2014

La Femme's Top Five…Under the Radar Horror

Last year for Halloween I wrote about five movies that scare me a lot.  This year, I want to write about five more, but I am shying away from Freddy and Jason and Michael and Leatherface.  Instead I am focusing on movies that aren't as well known and maybe even not horror at all but all had images that make me scared in the middle of the night.  Not all of them are super scary, as a horror movie wimp, I shy away from anything too extreme, but I think any of these would make an excellent Halloween night choice! Four out of five of them are available on Netflix Instant!


1.  Kill List (Ben Wheatley, 2011):  I have written about this movie before on this very blog and nearly two years after seeing it, the imagery of this movie still terrifies me.  The film follows incompetent hit man and father who is just trying to take care of his family.  And it ends…well that’s the thing, Kill List has the most shocking, bizarre and unsettling ending of any movie I've seen.  The story starts out quite mundane almost in a typical way, in the realist style, kitchen sink look, with Jay (Neil Maskell) and his mate Gal (Michael Smiley) taking on the fateful, final job before getting out of this killing business for good.  Jay may or may not have committed some kind of atrocity while serving in the army and that may or may not be why he is picked for this job, to kill three people.  Wheatley builds the tension exquisitely as the hits start to go wrong, and get weird and the viewer never really knows exactly what happening.  There are demonic symbols and foreboding figures and a atmospheric and eerie play fight with his son, which feels like foreshadowing but you can’t pinpoint how. Once the first man on the kill list thanks Jay before he shoots him, you know things are going to get worse.  As Jay and Gal try to explicate themselves from this job, the sense that something terrible is going to happen only builds.  And boy does something terrible happen.  Once the hit men encounter the druid / occult / satanic group that hired them, well I will leave it at that.  A slow burn that explodes.


2.  Entrance (Patrick Horvath and Dallas Hallam, 2011):  I think the theme of this top five actually could have been slow burning horror because Entrance is another perfect example of a sense of dread building and building and finally exploding in one virtuoso ending.  Whereas Wheately is more Kubrick, Horvath and Hallam are more Dardenne brothers, following our protagonist, Suziey (I almost want to refuse to spell it that obnoxious way), over her shoulder observing her everyday, very boring life.  Suziey has moved to L.A. and made a few friends but mostly she is lonely and isolated.  She spends her days walking (which in L.A. is strange in itself) and is threatened by men following her around, or are they?  Her paranoia seems misplaced but as a woman I can definitely relate to that fear.  We see a car slow down next to her on an empty road, she hears footsteps behind her, is it harmless or a threat?  After her beloved dog goes missing and she begins to feel more and more anxiety in the city, she decides to move home to the Midwest.  Throughout the film, there is a sustained eeriness and tension, a threat that Suziey and the viewer can’t quite put her finger on.  At her going away party, the power goes out briefly and s*&t gets real we see what has been going on the whole time.  Again, I will refrain from spoiling but the last twenty or so minutes of the film are a single, fluid take and manages to be terrifying and emotional and the last shot is strangely beautiful.


3. Witchfinder General (Michael Reeves, 1968):  I am going to say that Witchfinder General is kind of silly, it’s a Hammer horror film for god sakes.  A small budget, medieval setting, lusty wenches and Vincent Price?  A combination for a good time maybe but a truly scary film, probably not.  But again, the ending has really stuck with me for the last few years and the general tone of the movie.   Vincent Price is the "witchfinder", Michael Hopkins, who goes from village to village torturing and killing women who have confessed to be witches and exploiting the fears of the townspeople.  Price, casts an intimidating but slightly silly form, but still, a megalomaniac.  But as the film goes on, the viewer can see how serious he takes the slightly silly material and the movie takes a dark turn.  Hopkins and his henchman capture and torture a local priest.  His young and beautiful niece offers herself to Hopkins in order to save her uncle.  Instead she is brutally raped by the Igor like henchmen and Hopkins rejects her and executes her uncle.  After the execution of the priest, the young girls soldier fiancĂ© vows revenge and goes after Hopkins.  The inevitable showdown at the end of the movie is almost as f*#&ed up as the aforementioned Kill List, a haunting vision of murder and madness.



4. The House of the Devil:  (Ti West, 2009): Ti West uses the hallmarks of 1980’s horror films to, you guessed it, build exquisite and nail biting tension in this satanic take on the babysitter alone in the house film.  Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) is completely broke and in order to pay for her schooling she takes a job “babysitting” a bed ridden woman in a extremely isolated and extremely creepy house.  Greta Gerwig, my current favorite indie darling, appears as the nosey and skeptical best friend and Tom Noonan is effectively unsettling as the man who hires Samantha. Donahue is pretty forgettable as Samantha, I mean if you have Gerwig, use her, but the atmosphere distracts enough from her uninspired performance.  The standout sequence is when Samantha dances around the house listening to her walk-man, not quite realizing what is behind every door she nearly opens (you will never think of the song that plays, "One Thing Leads to Another" the same way!).  West effectively conjures up the fear of isolation and strangers perfectly and leaves you creeped out at the very last scene (obviously I have a thing for last scenes, in horror movies, I think a shock ending is the way to leave a lasting impression, especially for me, since I have my hands over my eyes half the time anyway!).  A perfect amalgam of haunted house and slasher movies with a bit of Rosemary’s Baby thrown in for good measure, House of the Devil is definitely not a movie I will be revisiting any time soon and on this list, that’s the highest compliment I can pay a film.


5. You’re Next (Adam Wingard, 2013):  You’re Next is a clever and nasty little movie, house invasion story that doesn’t shy away from gore and bloody and creative ways to kill people.  The story begins on an ominous and tongue in cheek note with a man and his much younger, much nuder girlfriend post coitus.  As she mopes around (shirtless, of course, this is a nod to slasher films) he showers.  We can guess what happens next.  As he emerges from the shower he finds You’re Next written in blood.  This isn’t a particularly scary movie but the you’re next motif was certainly the most effective scare of the movie.  And it comes back, just let me tell you.  We then move onto the neighbors, a beautiful country mansion.  The family is arriving to celebrate the parent's anniversary, four children and their significant others.  Tensions are palpable between the siblings, their spouses and the parents, everyone is whinging and .  At first I thought the movie was too mean spirited with the viewer hoping to see the unsympathetic characters killed.  But quickly Erin (Sharni Vinson), girlfriend of Crispian, slightly chubby college professor,  emerges as the prototypical final girl and we have someone to root for and hopefully save the incompetent family. I also got a kick out of seeing Joe Swanberg, indie director in the flesh; he is appropriately smarmy as the eldest brother. There is a twist that I saw coming from a mile away and I didn’t like the egregious and mean spirited last shot but overall You’re Next is a fun dissection of the horror genre that follows the formula but also keeps it fresh.

House of the Devil, You're Next, Kill List,  and Witchfinder General are all available on Netflix Instant if you are looking for a last minute scary choice.  Happy Halloween! 

Julie


Thursday, August 14, 2014

La Femme Recommeds…Snowpiercer



The world is frozen in Bong Joon Ho's Snowpiercer, but luckily for the remaining citizens on the title train, an eccentric billionaire, Wilford, (is there any other kind?) built a continuous engine train that goes all around the world in one year and even though the outside world is dead, all of the one percenters who bought a ticket get to live out the apocalypse in nearly unbelievable and ignorant luxury.  The benevolent Wilford even allowed the dirty masses who didn't have tickets to stuff themselves like sardines into the steerage at the back of the train.  Nearly eighteen years later the train is still traveling around the world and the perfect balance of the haves at the front and the have-nots at the back has reached a breaking point. Quite a concept, no?

Like my last movie I recommended, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Snowpiercer is very plot heavy  and as an amateur critic I find it hard to not share every detail, but I will try my best to be concise:  Chris Evans is our hero, Curtis, and boy do the tailies (Lost forever, right?) need one.  Sure, they didn't freeze to death but they live in squalor, survive on repulsive gelatinous protein bars and every once in a while some of the guards come and take a couple kids away.  The tailies wise old guru,  Gilliam (John Hurt), a kind man missing his arms and legs, are itching for a revolt and know the only way anything will change for them is to take over the engine.  The tailies see their opportunity, in fact, its almost too easy at first, and begin the revolt up to the front.  As with any adventure movie, along the way they free Namgoong Minsu and his daughter.  Minsu is an engineer who designed the locks between the cars who is seemingly addicted to Kronole, a charcoal looking drug popular among the elite, but sure seems more interested in collecting it than smoking it.  Together, this motley crew makes their way to the front facing numerous challenges, to say the least.

Describing this movie makes it seem supremely silly.   And it kind of is, when it isn't being overwhelmingly bleak.  Fortunately, Snowpiercer hits some of my cinematic sweet spots: highly ambitious to the point of foolishness,  over the top but pitch perfect performances and lots of pretty stuff to look at.  Although the film exists in shades of grey, Bong uses the confines of the train to great effect.  Bong manages to build a pretty convincing world in this train, he builds great suspense with the "what's behind that door concept", each time, we see the tailies open a door, a weird, funny or even downright terrifying new world awaits them.  They slowly go from the appropriately dingy steerage section to the front of the train, the lavish world the elites live in.  The film is an interesting series of vignettes in which new scene and new car holds a new discovery, from an aquarium to a nightclub to everything in between.  Bong manages to hold the tone somewhere between an action movie (the fight scene between the rebels and an almost medieval army is stunning and scary and ends with a beautiful visual punch when they end up in a tunnel and are thrown into complete darkness, that ends up being lit by night vision and fire) to a dark comedy (the classroom where the children rejoice in a ditty about not freezing and dying).  Its an awful lot of fun for a movie about the end of the world.

Chris Evans doesn't have much charisma as Curtis and it does make the viewer wonder why he is even chosen for such a role.  Although, I do admire Bong for leaving a lot of the character development to essentially the last fifteen minutes of the movie, without an actor with charm and the chops to imply a back story without exposition, it makes him too much of a blank slate.  Luckily the supporting cast makes up for it, Octavvia Spencer, Ewen Bremmer, Jon Hurt and Jamie Bell liven up the dullness of our hero.  And Song Kang-ho and Go Ah-sung are spectacular as father and daughter and give the movie the real emotional stakes it needs.   Kang-ho is unpredictable as Namgoong Minsu, a man with a pretty interesting ulterior motive and Ah-sung is charming as his sweet natured daughter.  But for me, Tilda Swinton steals the show as a ridiculous Margaret Thatcheresque agent of Wilford's, Mason.  She has ridiculous teeth and wigs and makeup and accent and costume, and pretty much everything and she so easily could be caricature and only used for comedy.  When she delivers a speech to the tailies about how they are shoes and she is a hat is is funny and chilling all at once, she may look silly, but she is deathly serious in her devotion to Wilford and her true, slimy nature is revealed piece by piece. She is so fascinating and strange and charismatic that you can't take your eyes off of her.  Swinton is over the top in the best way possible, its the kind of performance that can't help but be memorable.

 Unfortunately in the end, Snowpiercer, like so many ambitious film can't quite make it work.  Its difficult to discuss in this review without spoiling to much so I will be delicate and apologize for being cryptic. Eventually Curtis makes it to the front of the train and confronts Wilford in a perfectly calm antechamber.  All the while, the remaining rebels are in a fight for their lives.  The juxtaposition of complete calm and complete chaos diminishes both.  What bothered me the most though was the conversation between Curtis Wilford and the ultimate reveal about the nature of the train and the rebellion.  What Bong does with this revelation essentially makes nearly the entire film meaningless.  The journey, the deaths of his companions, the people he trusted, all becomes senseless. I understand the need for an "Explanation" of Wilford and his train but the way it was staged, edited and acted sucked all the life out of the movie.  Bong tries to end the film with a bang, but it ends up more like a whimper.  Snowpiercer is a pretty fun journey, but unfortunately the ultimate destination leaves much to be desired.

Julie

Monday, July 14, 2014

It's Twelve O'Clock Somewhere….Polynesian Mule


One of the things I love most about cocktails is the glassware.  In fact, K has forbidden me from buying any more until we get a china cabinet.  That means every time I go to any store it is a struggle for me to not buy some adorable glasses I just have to have for some drink or another.  I mean, if you are going to make a hurricane I think you should have a hurricane glass!  So when I got into Moscow Mules awhile ago I knew I had to score some glasses.  K was kind enough to buy me the beautiful copper mugs you see in the photos below so that I could properly enjoy this spicy, gingery concoction.

After having some Moscow Mules in a couple different restaurants, I realized I didn't actually like Moscow Mules all that much, I really just liked the cups!  Ginger ale and ginger beer have never been my favorites and adding vodka, a flavorless spirit, to the mix didn't really excite me.  Instead, after I got the cups at home I found myself never using them.  I made K add more and more lime to try and brighten it up but I wanted something more.  One day I suggested adding pineapple juice and the Polynesian Mule was born!

As readers know I love rum and therefore all things Tiki so pineapple juice was a natural addition for me.  Lots of acid from the lime and the sweet yet tart bite of the pineapple perfectly complement the sharp taste of the ginger beer.  Using a smooth vodka is definitely recommended as well, my usual low priced brand is Svedka, but I prefer Absolut (Swedish vodka for life!).

Serving in a copper glass is recommended but not required.  Serving it over crushed ice is.



Polynesian Mule

2 oz vodka
3 oz ginger beer
1 oz pineapple juice
Juice of 1 lime
Garnish with lime and pineapple wedges

Fill glass with crushed ice.  Pour ingredients over ice and mix.  Garnish with lime and pineapple wedges.








Imagine you are on a beach in Tahiti!

Julie



Tuesday, June 10, 2014

La Femme Recommends…The Grand Budapest Hotel

La Femme Julie Presents:  The Grand Budapest Hotel, a review in Four Parts.  (Indulge me, this is my homage to Wes Anderson, cute, quirky, twee and hopefully only slightly cloying.)



Part 1: In which the machinations of the plot are discussed.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a Matryoshka doll of a film, a story, within a story, within a story.  The film begins with an aged Author (Tom Wilkinson) introducing the story and his younger self (Jude Law).  The Young Writer (that is the character name, is it too twee or just right? )  is a guest at a formerly renowned hotel, now an ugly communist run palace, in the fictional land of Zubrowka, a tiny, much invaded country.  There the Young Writer meets the mysterious owner of the hotel, Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who invites him to dinner to tell him the story of how he came to own The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Much of Mr. Moustafa's story focuses on his mentor, the former manager of the hotel, Monsieur Gustave, played with gusto by a lovely Ralph Fiennes.  M. Gustave has the habit of doting on and sleeping with the elderly women who stay at the hotel, he takes this duty as a  very important and sacred part of his job as a concierge.   M. Gustave's most recent conquest, a wonderfully made-up Tilda Swinton, is found dead, and foul play is suspected.  When her will is read and and she leaves her lover a priceless painting, "Boy with Apple, and M. Gustave finds himself accused of murder. Knowing that he will never get the painting, Mr. Moustafa encourages him to steal it and replaces it with a lewd pornographic painting in the estate (one of the best gags of the film is how long it takes the "grieving" family to notice their prized possession is gone).  What happens next include: pastry, ski lifts, a secret society, but also, a dead cat, severed fingers and an the ominous cloud of world war.


 Part 2: In which the cast of characters are lauded.


Fiennes is dignified, deathly serious and terribly funny, he brings an old fashioned feel to the character of M. Gustave.  Gustave is snobbish but also able to fit in to almost any situation, but instead of making him too much of an enigma, Fiennes fills him with a humanism that is sometimes missing from Anderon's characters.  He has the poignancy that this soon to be relic of an earlier time, needs as well as the light handed touch that a character this silly needs.  The enormous cast can't go unmentioned: a cavalcade of actors that are beloved by me, at least.  Jeff Goldblum as the very moral lawyer, Mathieu Almaric (mon boo!) as Serge X, a servant caught in the middle of the investigation, Wilem Defoe at his most menacing as a unrelenting heavy and Sariose Ronan as Mr. Moustafa's love interest, a pastry chef with a birthmark the shape of Mexico. I also loved Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Adrien Brody, etc. The list could go on.  Newcomer Tony Revolori is delightful as the young Zero Moustafa and while he does have some of the quirks of some of the traditional Anderson characters, particularly the young ones, he is winning and funny as the lobby boy hero.  I did find some of the cameos later in the film to be a little distracting but also a lot of fun. I won't spoil them here.

Part 3: In which the mise en scene of the auteur is analyzed.




The sets are gorgeous: whimsical, over the top and amazingly detailed but not to the point of distraction as it can be in some of his other films.  Instead they fit the opulent and bygone world depicted in the film.  Anderson has always had a razor like focus into his own worlds, nothing seems to exist outside of the characters and the same is true here, but the scope is so much bigger that I think it works a bit better.    I loved a lot of the sight gags (the painting above) and the light handed Lubitsch touch that he brought to the film.  So  many times I think Anderson can wear his influences on his sleeve and veer too much into homage but in The Grand Budapest Hotel the movie felt like it could be a Lubitsch comedy, mixing romance and drama and world war all at once. The presence of a dark cloud over this candy covered world made the film seem more mature and overall it had more pathos than any of Anderon's previous films.

Part 4: In which the themes of the film are investigated.




What shocked me most about The Grand Budapest Hotel were the themes that I saw Anderson working with: nostalgia, always, but in this film it was nostalgia for something that wasn't just fading away like the Tannenbaum's home or the summer in Moonrise Kingdom.  Instead it was something, a whole way of life that was about to be wiped out.  This film featured shocking (well for Anderson)  moments of violence, not realistic or over the top, but nevertheless, jarring and fresh. The palpable sense sense of foreboding and dread, throughout all eras of the film worked so well for me.  For example: twice, once at the beginning and once at the end Mr. Moustafa and M. Gustave are stopped at a border crossing and both times there is a palpable sense of fear.  The first time the Lubitsch touch works and M. Gustave's world keeps going.  The second time the outcome is much much different.  War is coming to this tiny country and although we don't see it, we feel it.  The world is changing and it can't go back to the world of M. Gustave.  Along we Anderson we mourn powder pink hotels, lobby boys and dapper mustachioed concierges who know how to make every guest feel like royalty.

Julie

Friday, April 25, 2014

Five Things 4.25.14

The library is open, ladies and gentlemen!
1.  Tarte Maracuja Oil: I bought a tiny sample of this product at Sephora for ten dollars last week (damn those tiny and cheap things they put next to the line, something gets me every time) and have been obsessed with it ever since.  I put it on at night after washing my face and have already seen a big difference in my skin.  I have always been lucky to have minimal skin problems but now that I am (eek!) firmly in my thirties I have slowly been trying to up my skincare regime.  I was worried using oil would make my skin oily, but so far it has only made it more silky and supple looking.  I am definitely going to be investing in a big bottle once this sample is done with.  The nighttime eye cream is also pretty awesome!

Perfection!
2. Bianca Del Rio:  Watching RuPaul's Drag Race is probably the most fun I have every week, period.  I have been a fan of the show since the first season and while I think this season got off to a bit of a slow start, it has made up with it in the amazing gift that is Bianca Del Rio.  To me she is everything some of the past "comedy" queens have tried to be: quick witted, excellent at reading the other queens,  and so funny I usually end up doing that thing where you can't stop laughing and think you might die.  But unlike some of the "mean girl" queens of the past, Bianca has a heart of gold.  She helps the other girls and wants to win on her own merits not by making others look bad or sabotaging them.  I will admit that her look is a bit exaggerated and not what I usually go for and she doesn't have great versatility (boat neck!) on the runway but she looks polished and beautiful every week.  If she doesn't win, you are going to hear the scream I let out from around the world, but honestly I can't see it going any other way.  Please, please, please let me become best friends with her a.s.a.p.

Doesn't this face make you want to buy cologne? 

3.  Valentino L'Umomo: Well, more specifically the ad campaign starring my favorite dirty hot frenchman Louis Garrel. I may or may not have jumped up and down in Nordstrom and asked K to take a picture of me next to the ad for Valentino featuring Monsieur Garrel (he walked away and pretended he didn't know me).  I have had a slight obsession with him since The Dreamers and was happy to see his unconventional but smoldering looks peering out at me in the U.S. (and Louis I love you but your project choices are questionable at best, so I was happy to see you and not have to slog through at least two hours of existential dialogue and sighing And I like existential dialogue!).  K is definitely getting a bottle of this cologne, and soon.  (Basically this item was an excuse for me to post this pic of him, no shame, also I have watched the commercial at least 20 times).

This definitely made me happy on Day 23.
A gorgeous rum
cocktail at Aragona.
4.  100 Happy Days: Instagram is definitely my preferred social media outlet and I recently started seeing the 100 Happy Days hashtag pop up, and decided to investigate.  100 Happy Days is a project where for 100 days you post something each day that makes you happy on whatever social media you like.  I looked at it as a way to appreciate the little things that make me happy in life and as a way to renew my love for Instagram.  I started on April 1 and am happy to report I have posted something everyday since.  So many times I worry that I won't get any likes or that my pictures aren't good enough or that people will unfollow me, but this project has made me focus more on taking pictures of stuff that I genuinely love regardless of their perfection or how others perceive it.  Instagram is supposed to be a fun way to record your life, not a competition and this little project has helped me get back to why I loved Instagram to begin with.  That doesn't mean I don't want you to follow me at unefemmejulie though!

5. Cafe Presse: And finally, I have the pleasure of writing this post while waiting for my dear husband K to present an assignment in his legal writing class, and lucky for me, one of my favorite places in the city is just a few short blocks from his school.  Cafe Presse is open from early morning to late night and they serve the same casual french cafe menu all day.  I love that depending on the time  of day, the restaurant is everything from a coffee shop, to a cheap dinner spot to a bar late at night.  The food is consistent and tasty (I love the Croque Madame and the Steak Frites) and you can get a Royale (sparkling wine with your choice of liquor in it, I like Ste. Germain, for under six bucks!

Julie

Thursday, April 24, 2014

La Femme's Movie Marathon….Hong Kong Part 2


Johnny Hallyday.

Election (Johnny To, 2005):  Every marathon inevitably has a clunker and Election was ours.  Election is a fairly typical and rote crime film chronicling the election (!) of a new triad president in Hong Kong.  The election is between professional, cool headed Lok, and the more thuggish, angry Big D. When Lok is fairly elected, Big D tries to stop him from obtaining the "dragon baton" which symbolizes his power.  Various acts of violence ensue:  bludgeoning, shootings, stabbings, and, most disturbingly, rolling people in cardboard boxes down huge hills.  Both actors Simon Yam and Tony Leung Ka-fai (sadly a different Tony Leung than the much admired star of the first half of our marathon) are fairly charismatic, and the supporting cast is fairly colorful, but none of the characters leave much of an impression.  Election isn't exciting enough to be an action film and not intriguing enough to be a crime film.  The ending is a shocker though! If only more of the movie had been like that unforgettable and frankly stomach turning scene.

Vengeance (Johnny To, 2009):  Unlike Johnny To's earlier film, Vengeance was one of the highlights of the marathon for me.  Again, the story starts out fairly typically: a family is brutally murdered in their home, including two young children.  The wife and mother, a French citizen, survives and is visited by her father, a chef, in the hospital.  She asks him to get revenge for her, and we get the feeling that Francis Costello (a nod to Alain Delon's character in Le Samourai, as is the trench coat they both sport) is more than just a chef.  Johnny Hallyady (an aging and terrifying looking French pop icon) is spectacular as Costello; angry, yet completely in control, he methodically hires a trio of hit men to help him track down the killers. The revelation that Costello has had a bullet in his brain for the last twenty years that affect his memory is a little clunky.  He goes from being a little forgetful to essentially a child in a matter of minutes. This may be To's only misstep in the film.  The cinematography by Cheng Siu-Keung is crispy and beautiful, and the set pieces including a crazy fight in a garbage dump are nail biters.  Whereas in Election, the henchman were indistinguishable, in Vengeance the three hitmen who become Costello's partner each give nuanced, individual performances.  We grow to love each of them and their ultimate fates mean something; in so many violent films, people die in terrible ways but it means nothing.  In this film every taking of a life is meaningful, as To shows us that all of these hitmen have people waiting at home for them, even the ones that killed Costello's family.   The message of most revenge thrillers is that revenge is ultimately pointless and doesn't change anything, but it is elegantly expressed (if a bit heavy handed; if you can't remember you got revenge, does it even matter?) with a deft hand by To.  I expected a silly action movie and found something much deeper.  The surprise of the marathon for me.

This is the face he makes the whole movie.
Ip Man (Wilson Yip, 2008):  Ip Man is a gear shift movie, one that starts out a certain way that makes the viewer think they know exactly where it is going and ends up in a completely different place.  A biopic of kung fu master, Ip Man (Donnie Yen, very zen and completely serviceable, if not a bit boring and one note throughout), this film starts out positively silly.  The island of Foshan is an idealized place where everyone seems wealthy, the sun is always shining, and all they have to do is practice kung fu and challenge each other to good natured sparring.  The biggest conflict (if that is really the word) is when a group of rogue kung fu mercenaries come and try to beat up all the masters of Fosham's numerous schools.  The conflict is resolved when Ip beats the head mercenary in a fight in Ip's elaborate mansion wherein Ip's wife scolds him not to fight at home and his adorable son rides around on a tricycle telling him that "Mommy is going to be mad!".  If it sounds silly, it is, supremely.  I was laughing hysterically and my marathon mates were looking at me like I was crazy. The dialogue was clunky and silly and the characters were one dimensional at best.  The movie takes a quick turn about halfway in when the island becomes occupied by the invading Japanese army and Ip loses everything.  The film becomes a fight for survival as Ip almost inadvertently and then deliberately  joins a fighting ring organized by the Japanese General (although life and death is now at stake the second half does seem intent on proving all the ways kung fu is better than karate).  The film still has clunky dialogue and adds a sniveling, evil henchmen, but the actors are sincere and director Wilson Yip handles the change fairly well.  The story ends exactly as you think it will with Ip the hero, but it was also a lot more nuanced than I expected from the first half hour. Gordon Lam, who was also in Vengeance, is solid as a former Foshan police man, Lee Chiu, who becomes a translator for the Japanese.  Perhaps the only fleshed out character, Lam portrays Lee Chiu as an unpopular stick in the mud who transforms from collaborator to patriot seamlessly.  Unlike many of the films we watched, this was clearly a big budget crowd pleaser and, like so many Hollywood films, used the clichĂ©s and tropes we come to expect from them in an ultimately affective way. 

Julie

Saturday, April 5, 2014

It's Twelve O'Clock Somewhere…Blood Orange Margarita

Every year right about April, I start to long for the weather to turn around.  In Seattle, winter isn't oppressive and snowy like so many parts of the country, instead it is endlessly grey and dreary.  I want the sky to be bright and the days to be long, so I always find myself shifting from winter and fall foods into spring and summer ones even before the weather has changed.  It is no different with my cocktails.  Winter and even early spring yield amazing citrus and Blood Orange Margaritas are the perfect drink for the transitional season.  They are a gorgeous deep red color, not too sweet with the acidic oranges and have a great kick.

I use fresh squeezed blood orange juice, but if you can't find blood oranges, you could use blood orange soda instead.  If you use the soda, I would omit the simple syrup though.  And don't forget to salt the rim; I never understand why restaurants offer sugar on the rims of margaritas instead of salt!  The contrast is important, that bite of salt pushes through the sweetness of a margarita and brings out the tartness of the citrus and pairs wonderfully with the bite of the tequila.



Blood Orange Margarita:

2 oz Tequila
1 oz Triple Sec
1 oz lime juice
2 oz Blood Orange Juice
1 oz simple syrup

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice.  Serve in a salt rimmed glass and garnish with a blood orange slice.

Cheers!

Julie