The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

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A generic description and little commercial advertising made The Cabin in the Woods as enjoyable as it was.  Half the fun was trying to figure out what exactly was going on throughout the whole thing, although I had a pretty good guess since fairly early on.  But it was still exciting to watch and wait for the writers to reveal to you what is really happening.  Joss Whedon does it again for me, and leads his movie viewers around a maze of horrors and mysteries by the nose.

The Cabin in the Woods can be easily spoiled if someone tells you about it, much like movies such as The Sixth Sense or Saw.  Therefore, all I can say is at times the movie does indeed look like exactly what you expect, but at other times The Cabin in the Woods really surprises you, either with campy jokes that you can’t help but laugh at or unrealistic amounts of blood and gore.

The Cabin in the Woods is really really enjoyable to watch the first time around, but I doubt it really has much replay value once you’ve seen it.  Also, one should just try to enjoy the movie, and the humor, and not dwell too much on the “hows”, “whys”, and potential plot holes.

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Attack The Block (2011)


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Attack the Block is the story of 15-year old Moses, from street thug to savior of the planet, or at least savior of South London.  After mugging a neighborhood nurse, Moses and his crew are attacked by an alien that crash lands next to them.  After slaughtering the first alien, more start landing in search of the first one.  At first, it looked like Attack the Block would just end up another cult classic and fall into the realm of watchable B-movies, but the story never sank to the typical low levels.

The characters were meaningful and weren’t just a bunch of foul-mouthed teenagers with witty one-liners.  They were troubled but each boy had his own “thing” that he brought to the crew.  I also really appreciated the use of the katana in Attack the Block.  Kids might not have guns, but they can have swords, which ultimately proves to be much more effective in an alien invasion.  Even the really young kids, Props and Mayhem, come up with a creative way to slay bear-wolf aliens.

The story itself was simple enough, yet it was still fun to watch.  Some scenes would probably be too gory for faint of heart, but there weren’t many of those.  It was mostly just watching kids on bicycles trying to fight aliens with katanas, baseball bats, and a lot of fireworks; and also watching the one trying to hit on the nurse they robbed in the beginning, but later discovered was their neighbor.  The South London accent was a challenge to understand at certain points, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from setting aside 90 minutes to watch this exciting alien war.  I feel like Attack the Block is what would’ve happened if E.T. was evil instead of good.

The Cove (2008)

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True Grit (2010)

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Despite gaining so much acclaim, I did not get a chance this movie until very recently.  I wondered how it would compare to the original True Grit movie starring John Wayne.  The original seemed like a timeless classic, and I wondered if Jeff Bridges would top John Wayne’s performance as Rooster Cogburn.

I can’t say I really liked it better or worse than the original.  Perhaps I had such high expectations for this version that were not quite met, but it was still fun to watch again.  It was still surprisingly similar to the old movie even though I had read many reviews saying this one was more faithful to the book.  But, now I’m interested in reading what exactly happens in the book.

I must say, John Wayne seemed like a much happier Rooster than Jeff Bridges did.  Jeff Bridges’s version was a better angry, pathetic drunk, which is the way the character is meant to appear.  All in all, I enjoyed the movie, but it was mostly carried by Jeff Bridges’s acting, and I felt the other actors contributed little to the movie.

Haywire (2012)

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I would consider Gina Carano’s first starring role as very successful.  The plot was nothing but predictable with a tagline like “They left her no choice,” but it was still exciting to watch a female lead break some necks and jump kick some fellow secret agents.

The plot is like all those movies where an organization tries to kill off their best agent.  It’s always baffling that the organization’s don’t realize that these people are “the best” in the company for a reason.  Obviously, it is because these killers are masters of their craft.

But aside from the plot, I felt the story was both told and shown in a unique way.  The movie felt like an independent film.  I shouldn’t be that surprised since it is Soderbergh directed, and I quite liked the way he filmed Traffic.  The soundtrack felt uniquely old school too, like I was straight out of some mid-century film.  The music also always stopped for the exciting hand-to-hand combat scenes of the film.  Clearly, they didn’t want anything to distract your full attention from Carano’s mixed martial arts skills on display.

It’s just a pity that they ended it in such a kitschy way, while setting up for a possible sequel. Truth be told, even though I liked the movie, I would NOT like to see a sequel.  I would like to see her added to the cast of Expendables 2 though, even if she is only an action star just coming into her prime.

Freedom Writers (2007)

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I have been on this recent trend of craving education related movies since watching for Waiting for ‘Superman’ and have even recently forced my close friends to watch Dead Poet’s Society, which is one of my absolute favorites.  I wanted to see if this is one of those inspirational movies as well, and it indeed is.  But I must say that turning around “unteachable” kids would never be my ideal role as a teacher.  I still prefer the role of John Keating, who has a much less hostile setting and must only show his boys that they can think for their own and can reach great heights.

More than anything else, this movie reminded me of Dangerous Minds, except based on a true story.  Movies based on true stories are always that much more inspirational because there is a sense of realism that just can’t fully be reproduced by fictional tales.  It was especially touching to see them come together with each other, then work together to bring over Miep Gies who housed Anne Frank during the Holocaust.  Her talk was inspiring for me as it was for the students in the movie.  Miep Gies was so firm in her belief that she was not a hero, but merely a person doing the right thing.  I think this resonated so deeply with me because it coincides with my extended infatuation with the idea of justice.

It was also interesting to see Imelda Staunton again; her role seemed almost exactly like the one she later portrayed in the Harry Potter movies.  I was afraid that she would turn this movie into another case where the system kept a good teacher from doing her job, but I was pleased to discover that one impediment along the chain of command does not mean that everyone else along the chain is also so obtuse.   But, it is sad and unfortunate that the teacher had to sacrifice so much of her own personal life to achieve success in the classroom.  Hopefully, it was worth it for her when all was said and done.

In the end, I do wonder if what she created can be reproduced again, in some form, in other classrooms.  And as much as I understand the bond between classmates, it may still be important for them to gain perspectives from other peers and other teachers.  From that point of view, I don’t know if I condone actions such as following the same class from their freshman year until high school graduation.  Of course, if the alternative is for them to return to the streets, then staying in the same class for four years isn’t so bad.  There are so many challenges to being a teacher, I can’t imagine how the good ones do so much.  I suppose some people just have a gift.

Manzo

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For dinner today, we ventured to the grocery restaurant amalgamation of Eataly.  Upon random selection between all the restaurants in Eataly, we ended up going to the formal dining establishment here, Manzo.  It was indeed classy looking from the atmosphere.  In a bright and lively area, they had hollowed out a small corner and dimmed the lights to produce the standard fancy restaurant feel.  The menu also reflected its class as I opened to a first page which presented me with an intriguing seven course summer tasting menu option for $90 per person.  I guess it’s fortunate that I didn’t get it though, since seven courses does seem like a significant amount of food, probably more than I should eat at this point.  It’s probably even more fortunate that I didn’t get the tasting menu with the wine pairing too which would’ve cost $60 more on top of the original cost.

Instead we opted  to start off with some authentic Mozzarella.  Simple and delicious, dipped in oil, with nuts and crispy bacon on top, as well as two small pieces of garlic bread on the side.  It was delicious, but why were there three pieces of mozzarella but only two pieces of bread?!?  Why??  No matter, I love cheese and will eat pounds of it at a time without any kind of bread, cracker, or wine.

For the main course, I selected Raven & Boar Whey Fed Pig which was made into some sausage form this evening.  I guess I’m not enough of a pork connoisseur because I can’t really describe the depth and details of what I enjoyed.  The fat was juicy, and the sausage was salty with a bit of spice flavor.  My stomach is smarter than I am though, because it gets upset by low grade meats and on this night, it had no reason to revolt.  The pork was served in a shallow plate of oil and vinaigrette which worked out very well.   The potato and arugula were adequately flavored by it the sauce.  With the meat, the sauce mix was just subtle enough that I could taste a hint of it without it overpowering the flavor of the meat.

I was then given the opportunity to finish a plate of the Fettuccine.  Egg, black pepper, and asparagus were all that were in this!?  The few morsels of it that I sampled were amazing, though quite oily.  Regardless… next time, I will probably go with pasta in Eataly.  I had heard much more rave reviews about the pasta and fish than the red meats.  This small sample of the pasta proved that, at least in terms of my taste buds, I would prefer the pasta here.  But Manzo was supposed to be more known for its red meats, so I couldn’t deny trying it.  No dessert on this night, just a simple stroll past the chocolate and pastry sections was enough for us.