Category Archives: Notices

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, etc., etc., etc.

If you hadn’t noticed, we’ve been on a bit of a holiday due to the nasty combination of it not only being the holiday season, but also being month-end, quarter-end, year-end, you name it. So between our day jobs as cublicle dwellers and the both good and stressful demands of the season, we’ve gotten behind. So… Happy Holidays, whatever you might celebrate, even if you just celebrate having a long weekend. We’ll be back after the new year with our increasing back log of reviews, including Orange Tree Deli, Belican Grill, and the new Sherlock Holmes movie.

See you next year!

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House of Blues San Diego – Review

House of Blues San Diego the restaurant is an attempt to attach a restaurant to an intimate concert venue. Though you might expect them to just phone in as far as food preparation due to the captive audience, they have obviously made a big effort to have some really good food, enlisting Food Network celebrity chef Aaron Sanchez.

The first thing I noticed as the portions.  I often complain about restaurant portions ; Burgandy and I were literally just discussing if the leftovers from a big Cheesecake Factory lunch would be enough  to feed our little three person family a dinner. It seems to me that most restaurants give you a double portion and charge you one and a half times what you should really pay, which bothers me. Turns out it is better than what HoB does, which is charge you one and a half times and then serve a normal portion.

I had the buttermilk-fried chicken. I noticed first that the meat was a mixture of white and dark, which disappointed me a bit – at close to $20 for the portion I had expected  chicken breast, as I would have gotten at Cheesecake Factory, Lucille’s, or CPK. The coating was quite good, though, nice and spicy. Almost too spicy, but I got through it and actually enjoyed it after all. The sides were less spectacular – the mashed potatoes were fine, but you only received about a coffee mug-full and they weren’t outstandingly tasteful (though they were a nice contrast to the super spicy chicken). The cole slaw seemed out of place and I didn’t eat it.

Burgandy had the jambalaya, which was similar to mine – maybe too spicy, somewhat small portions, could have used some bread or another side. We had meatball sliders as an appetizer – for almost $10 we received only two small sliders (literally small enough to fit a decent-sized meatball).  They were tasty and had good cheese, for all that they were tiny. I do not want to repeat the size complaint over and over again but I will have to give special mention to the molten chocolate cake. It was more warm than hot, though it did taste good, and the ice cream it came with literally was less than a teaspoon, such a small amount it almost seemed like a joke.

The sum total was $75, with no drinks and a shared dessert. Nothing shocking. The ambience was nice – I would sum it up as trying very hard to look different  but not necessarily failing  – it was a decent impersonation of some roadside restaurant somewhere, old and folksy. The food was a bit more than I would have liked to have paid but the main benefit of eating there is that you get to skip the line for your concert (HoB the venue does not have assigned seating). We showed up and hour and a half before the doors opened, with a line down the block, but with the line skipping we ended up front and center – the very front of the pit, close enough to almost touch the band.

Bottom line – if you’re on your way to a HoB concert, you can have a mildly overpriced meal with the ability to skip the line in a venue with no assigned seating. You are very likely to end up in a VERY good position to see the show. Given that $75 for two isn’t a horrific amount of money to pay in the first place and the food is tasty, I would strongly recommend this option.

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RIP Steve Jobs

Regardless of my frustrations with Apple over the years, without Steve Jobs our world would, quite literally, not look remotely the same. Computers might never have been cool, music wouldn’t be available in a nifty MP3 format and readily available on said computer, Pixar would never have taken over Disney’s reign as the summer animation king (Ok, they were bought by Disney, but only because Disney realized they were beaten at their own game), people wouldn’t be reading this on their “phones” (which are more little hand held computers these days), we wouldn’t have tablets! Our whole LIVES would be completely different. Jobs may not have invented the computer, but he certainly found a way to make them accessible to the average person, and as a result, push us into this crazy future we’re in.

So, thank you, Steve Jobs. Enjoy your rest. You’ve earned it.

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Captain America: The First Avenger movie review

I hadn’t expected much from this movie – I like old-school Nazi-punching and early Avenger Captain America but these days he has a bit of a Superman issue – grim n’ gritty is the place to be, with Cap coming off as a bit corny in the best case and some sort of symbol of nationalist excesses in the worst. I did get sucked in by the First Avenger byline, though, since I liked Thor a lot and plan to see the Avengers. Just for reference, this covers the 2D version only – I have been finding 3D hit or miss lately and so we decided to try this one in the normal dimensions.

I am glad I did – this movie was great fun. The cast was, by far, the best part. Chris Evans’ double role as wimpy Steve Rogers and buff Captain America was good enough that I barely noticed the massive CGI work needed to allow it. Hayley Atwell pulled off the somewhat tricky combination of a pinup girl and a hard as nails soldier well. Tommy Lee Jones basically played himself, though that’s not a bad thing. Hugo Weaving was by far my favorite – his megalomaniac anti-Captain was truly great, I though.

This one also had plenty of nerd nods – Cap cycles through his classic costume (with pirate boots and little head wings) before settling down on something more practical, you have Tony Stark’s dad, who probably-not-coincidentally looks a lot like a classic Tony Stark (The coolest dude with the heart of steel, with the little swinger `stache). He serves, well, basically as a stand-on for Tony, at least in the inventing and piloting sense. Cap’s commando team is also full of real characters from the comics, though I only really recognized Dum-Dum / The Irish One. (It also featured something from Odin’s toybox in Thor, and set up the post-credit scene in that movie, if you care).

The summary is simple – great cast + taking the source material seriously + clever writing = good movie. Shocking! It was not entirely a nerd fest, either – my 9 year old daughter is unfamiliar with most of the sources and Burgandy is much more of a DC fan, but they followed it pretty well and enjoyed it. As portrayed, Cap is a very human hero, for all of his slightly-superhuman prowess, and his lack of chauvanism and willingness to sacrifice himself are at least as important as his red-gloved uppercut (though you get to see a lot of this, too). Combine all of that with some city-sized Nazi super-bombers and a rocket car or too and I am in my movie happy place.

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Xmen: First Class Review

The good: It was a surprisingly fun setting. The evil mutants doubled as Bond villains, and it was fun to see a movie with US vs USSR again, it’s been a while. There was some good usage of the characters – Professor X in his early days, before he had all of his gravitas and lost his legs and Magneto as the ultimate Nazi-hunter were both really interesting. As a side note of Things I Enjoy – this was superheroes as urban fantasy, with hidden powers and secret societies waging a shadow war that is paralelled by the Cold War; this movie’s failures tended to be due to an excess of ambition rather than a lack of imagination, which I appreciate. Magneto and Professor X recruiting mutants from a strip club is one of the funniest things I have seen on the big screen in  a while, and there are some hilarious cameos. The special effects really show the improvement you would expect due to the time since the other X-men movies… Magneto is particularly awesome.

The bad – Well, there was just too much stuff there, I think. You have the bit where we learn that super powers are real and are introduced to Charles and Erik (Professor X and Magneto), even see their childhoods and early adulthoods. Then, you have the bit where Charles and Erik team up to recruit mutants and start their own super team to combat the evil version. And then they teach their team to be awesome, learning lessons of their own along the way and forging a brother-like bond. Then, you have an epic showdown between the two teams, and a bunch of things that set up the series this is a prequel to. Thing is, I think this is all way too much to put in a normal-length movie. Parts felt rushed or packed in, and this isn’t just a viewer thing – the time that passes in the movie is a bit short for all the stuff that happens (it’s only a few weeks).  Also, it seemed off – Xmen 1-3 are clearly set in modern-ish times… why did the basic framework for those movies have to be laid down in the 1960s? Makes it seem like not much happens in those 30 years.

The ugly: January Jones is far from ugly. But I really think she is too much on the skinny / bobble head side to play the White Queen. I know she’s real and the comic book pictures aren’t, but I don’t feel like she quite pulled it off – her look is extremely modern if nothing else, which seemed out of place (though, to be fair, you could say this about other characters, too). They made Mystique’s makeup much weirder looking with something like acne-scarring or scales more prominent on her face so she was much less of a thrill than Rebecca Romijin-Stamos, but I guess that was so they could make the point of her being unattractive (though a shape shifter is an odd choice for such a lesson, especially one who looks like she does in the first three). The Beast is a very pretty boy with very ugly feet who eventually turns into someone who is wearing a cheesy costume that he seems to have trouble talking in.

The weird – I liked Kevin Bacon in this, but for the record Burgandy thought he was too self-spoofing and distracting. I thought it was very confusing to have another winged mutant named Angel, when you already have Archangel (who appeared in the third X-men movie and was known as Angel in his early days), but apparently there really is another Angel in the comics who looks like the Angel in this movie, so fair enough, I guess. The whole premise is pretty weird – James Bond Xmen, more or less. I actually really liked it and heartily endorse seeing it on the big screen, but when I finish it seems like I have more negatives than positives. Still, it was good fun!

 

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Synergy

Synergy is what happens when it turns out the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides premier is going to be happening at Disneyland the same weekend as Bats Day! Once upon a time Bats Daywas just a day where the spooky kids haunted d-land in thier gothtastic finest, but has now grown into a full on weekend of events. Since a certain Johnny Depp, star of nearly every Tim Burton movie ever made, is rumored to be showing up,I have a feeling an additional pirate themed activity will be added to Saturday for most Bats Day attendees.

See? Synergy can be awesome.

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Junior Mints Pastels

We enjoyed the Valentine’s Day Junior Mints, so when we saw these little Spring themed treats we had to give them a try.

Alas, they are not nearly as yummy. We were hoping for colored chocolate, instead the familiar creamy mint center is coated in what appears to be just a soft candy coating. This does not contrast with the mint nearly as well as the normal dark chocolate. Cloying is an appropriate description.

So, colored filling =win, colored coating = fail.

At least for us. I think we’ll stick to mini York patties until after Easter.

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Suckerpunch Review

This is a hard review to write, both because I really wanted to see this movie and because it is hard to explain. The long and the short of it is that Burgandy and I went to a midnight showing of Suckerpunch with some of our geekier friends, all of us super-excited to see the anime girl-izing/post modern sci-fi version of 300. Thing is that the movie both delivered and didn’t, which sounds weird but is basically true.

The thing to understand is that the special effects are good, but still have that bit of CGI sheen to them. Plus you realize pretty early on that the fight scenes are all in imagination continuity where people are super powered and nothing goes wrong. So you have both the removal of ‘this isn’t happening in the movie’ and ‘this all looks sort of fake’. Plus some of the later sequences are incoherent – the girls drop down into a castle being attacked and start shooting people. Then they get a magic crystal. Then for some reason Babydoll knocks the crystals together to make a fire. This seems to do nothing but wake up a dragon. So they try to escape, on the way killing all the people attacking the castle, then killing the dragon. So you watch something that isn’t real to start with but you hope to get immersed in. Then, the main character starts having a fantasy about being in a brothel. OK. Double movie. Then, the brothel version of the main chracter starts pretending to be a commando. OK, triple remove. Then, you get into the cgi, the unrealistic physical feats, and the overly-careful editing that bans all bad language and blood, even in WWI. Then the dream sequences stop making sense plot-wise. It was just too far gone for me – who cares about an obviously fake and sanitized fantasy of an imaginary character? I started to feel like the movie was wasting my time.

OK, there was definetely a cool factor. You get some panty shots / fan service, there’s some cool backflipping, a dragon fights with a B-29. Nice. But you know it isn’t happening even in the movie and it’s the third over the top scene and it gets sort of long. I mean, probably 95% isn’t real. And the story you sort-of-get on the periphery is A) ungodly depressing and B) Actually fairly over the top, assuming the brothel-world events at least sort of resemble the real world.

PG13-izing really kills this movie, I think – I hate to be gauche about it, but honestly if the movie was actually showing the implied stripper scenes and sex scenes and girl-girl makeouts from the brothel world and then actually showing the blood and guts and boen breaking implied by the ‘nymphet commandoes invade WWI’ scenes, then the spectacle might be enough to distract me from the stuff that was actually happening (as seemed to be the intention).

There are twists towards the end, but I just have to think that anyone surprised by it isn’t a very sharp-minded movie goer. I think half an hour into the movie I had it all mapped out – ‘dammit, they sold me on girl power awesome commandaoes but this is actually some unbelievably bleak story that they’re trying to distract me from, isn’t it?’ What’s weird is that they tried to take it back to an extent, by giving the main character some kind of vaguely allegorical ending and tossing in a ‘guardian angels are real’ bit with a bus driving off into amber fields of grain all Americana style. Plus the most annoying voiceover in recent memory – ‘just in case you missed it, this was all about self empowerment!’

I mean, long and the short was that this was exactly like playing a videogame, except between the cut scenes you watched a mini-movie about a brothel. if you told me yesterday  I would watch a movie with a diverse group of hot girls destroying steampunk WWI Germans in hand to hand fighting that included a scene with Vanessa Hudgens killing a bunch of cyborgs with a hatchet but would be really bored, I would have thought you were crazy. But, in this case, it’s true. Odd, but true.

Postscript:

I think to an extent my extreme disappointment with this movie colors my perceptions of it. If I hadn’t been looking forward to it so much and if there hadn’t been moments of real brilliance I would have liked it  a lot more. It’s just knowing just how good of a movei Zack Snyder can make makes my expectations really high. I guess I just wish he had made the movie within a movie (within a movie) about bad ass girl commandoes and made it gritty / extreme enough for an R instead of the weird mish-mash he actually made, which I think compromises too much and tried to do too much.

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Charlie Sheen

OK, I can’t turn on the radio without hearing about Charlie Sheen. And here is a great video.First disclaimer – it is always dangerous posting something like this a few days later, since most people will be sick of it. But, on the other hand, you never know who has missed it, so…. there here you go. Now, second disclaimer, we should not discuss Charlie Sheen without any mention of his real deal domestic violence in the past.

All of that said, the video convinces me of something that I have been thinking for quite a while – namely, that Charlie isn’t any crazier than any other golden spoon celebrity. I mean, obviously he is creating some large part of his persona on purpose, or he couldn’t spoof himself like he does. He lives a cartoonish lifestyle, sure, but then again it isn’t particularly weird – I mean, it is weird but blond porn stars and alcohol are surely not the weirdest appetites for a mega-rich dude to indulge in.

Insane people don’t come up with catch phrases like #winning and make huge twitter debuts and funny or die videos. Or, if they do, the internet stardom-attracting stuff isn’t how you can tell. I mean, if he tried to hang himself or jump out a window or showed up with no pants on in front of random houses… sure, okay. He has lost it. But I don’t buy that ‘tigers blood’ or being a ‘warlock’ is at all an indication of anything but good self-marketing.

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Zombie-pocalypse! Mama Milla!

Due to a severe illness in our immediate family, we had to take an unexpected hiatus, but things are better now. In between hospital visits, we managed to watch ALL FOUR Resident Evil films. We’re actually currently on a quest to fill up the holes in our pop culture/geek knowledge. We watched Repo! The Genetic Opera and Superbad. Now we’ve covered all the Resident Evil films to date. Fight Club, Firefly (or anything by Joss Whedon, really), and The Big Lebowsky are all in the ever growing queue, just to give you an idea of how much catching up needs to be done here. But in the meantime, there’s Milla.

Milla Jovovich is amazing to me, personally – not that her acting is going to win her any Oscars, but she does get to act, in some pretty fun movies to boot, and she also sings, designs clothes, gets paid to wear clothes, and is a mom. That’s just cool. There’s some girl power for you here on International Women’s Day (OR MARDI GRAS TO THE REST OF US WHO STILL KNOW HOW TO HAVE FUN – sorry, the lack of Mardi Gras love here in SoCal was a pet peeve of mine today.)

Anyhow, there were lots and lots of zombies involved. As well as lots and lots of Milla’s in the fourth movie, which has what is now one of my favorite movie openings ever. The first movie was fun, even if it didn’t feature any major characters from the game. The general ideas were there, the mansion was cool, Michelle Rodriguez kicked ass (still love her from “Lost”), and it was a decent completely silly video game movie. If you never played the games, you probably won’t like it, so I’m going to forgive Ebert his awful review of this one.

I’ll also forgive his review of the second one, even if it was my favorite of the first three. The fact was, most of the awesome of RE: Apocalypse was in going “Oh, I totally remember that from the game! Squee! She’s wearing the right Jill outfit!”, which would totally be lost on someone who’s never played the game. As an added bonus, we recently played Dead Rising 2, and I’ll be damned if that game did not just totally steal half that movie, right down to the Asian newscaster. We came up with our own drinking game while watching the movie, which probably deserves a post on its own. A Southern accented good ole boy shooting zombies from behind a couple signs on top of a building? Take a shot. A kid infected with the zombie virus that has to get her antidote meds every few hours? Take a shot again. And so on, and so forth. (I’m really serious. If you’ve played Dead Rising 2, go watch RE: Apocalypse and you will totally see what we mean.)

On to number 3! RE: Extinction was my least favorite of all 4 movies. It was okay, and some of the action scenes were really cool – like when the crows attack or some of the massive zombie fights at the end, but the Mad Max feel just didn’t work for me. Also, I’m getting tired of movies (and games for that matter – I’m looking at you Fallout New Vegas), that have other cities like LA and Washington DC mostly intact post-apocalypse, but then Vegas is reduced to one tiny portion of the strip. Have these people been to Vegas? It’s HUGE. And surprisingly developed and urban (and suburban, for that matter.) It has MILES of streets and buildings, some of which rival the size of the strip. It’s a pet peeve, I know, but still, it takes me out of the movie. Especially since in RE: Afterlife, LA is practically untouched, other than the lack of people.

Now, RE: Afterlife, was awesome. The beginning was super cool, and while the story lagged at times, and made almost no sense in others (for some reason certain characters are still wearing the exact outfits they were wearing the day of the first zombie attack years later, and in perfect condition. Where is that Hollywood producer dry cleaning his suit in a prison? Seriously?) Anyhow, ignore some of the complete nonsense, the action sequences are wicked cool – especially the fight scene between Claire and the Executioner in the prison shower. And there was a huge amount of nods to Resident Evil 5, and we finally get Chris Redfield! Woo! If you have played RE5 (which was a fun game, even if the last hour or so basically sucked), you will totally understand what is up with the freaky Chthulu zombies and you might even be inspired to yell at Claire to shoot at the red barrel that is in the prison shower for no good reason to kill off the Executioner zombie, and you will be delighted with the fight scene with Wesker. If you have not played Resident Evil 5, well, this might just be the most confusing zombie movie of all time. The movies just don’t have the 30 or so hours to explain everything the games have. They do their best. I liked them. I understand why alot of critics wouldn’t though, and there’s not much else to say.

Now go eat some King Cake!

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