Chef (****)

I have always been somewhat of a Jon Favreau fan, so when I heard that he was going to be starting on a movie he wrote I was pretty intrigued. The movie seemed to have been promoted pretty well the last couple of weeks because it stayed in my radar. I heard an interview and a review on the radio. I knew from listening that it was a movie that I could not go hungry to because it was going to be a foodie porn movie for sure.

Chef’s cast was cast was excellent. Jon Favreau as “El Jefe” or the boss of the kitchen was very believable Chef Carl Casper. He created art when he was doing the cooking and highlighted the love that goes into crafting a good meal with some soul. John Leguizamo was the comedy relief as Martin, he had a couple of lines that will make you truly laugh without making the movie into a silly road trip movie. The kid in the movie was amazing, for such a young actor Emjay Anthony as Percy truly captured what it is to be part of a broken family and also let us see how kids not understand the digital world a little more than their parents. The female characters could have been a little stronger, but both Scarlett Johansson as Molly and Sofía Vergara as Inez did a great job playing roles a little bit different than what they do in most movie; still not different enough to be remarkable but it worked.

The movie also had two villains, Dustin Hoffman as Riva the clueless restaurateur and Oliver Platt as Ramsey Michel food critic and wordsmith that takes people apart with his reviews. Even Robert Downey Jr. as a small cameo brought laughter to the movie.

The movie is about great food and it also has some great music. I think it is a foodies’ must see this summer. One thing I found interesting is its take head on the topic of internet reviews. It is not very often that you get to face your critic and let him know how you feel. That part was interesting to watch. While it was a movie about food, it was also about social media in many ways. It is worth the time to watch it on the big screen. Do not go hungry into that movie if you are hungry or you will spend the rest of the day trying to find your nearest Cuban restaurant.

Anime Introduction Guide

During my last visit to KC one of the many conversations that sprouted amongst people there was about anime. I love the fact that I have friends from so many backgrounds and with awesome hobbies. I was an anime freak at some point, and even thought I still follow one religiously (I watch it about an hour after it is released in Japan sometimes) I don’t participate in the community as much as I used to. I was at one time the Anime Society of Kansas City webmaster… but I was a horrible webmaster after I moved to Chicago so my friend Tim took the job over.

During the conversation my BFF asked what he should watch… and well, that is like asking a librarian what is her favorite book. But I promised to take on the task of putting together a little introduction to anime for those that don’t even know where to start. So this will be half introduction to anime, half pissing off anime fans because not only are they out there, they will think I am so wrong for recommending X or Y… you will see.

Before we get into recommendations lets talk a little about anime. Animation in Japan is a little different than in the rest of the world. Anime and Manga(comics) are consumed beyond the youth and into adulthood. While most kids stop reading comics at one point or another in their lives, Japanese animation continue well beyond that. That brings us to something you need to stay away from which is Hentai. A first time anime watcher can be discouraged from watching further anime because they encounter a movie that is geared towards adults with their own fetish. So basically people might expect skinemax level of entertainment and they end up with a very specific animated snuff film. It is like asking a person getting back into reading for pleasure to read Dante’s Inferno. When you are starting out on anime, don’t try to explore the adult world of animation first. I think you should learn a little more about the medium before you are grossed out by some monster with many many tentacles.

Now that we got out of the way, since most anime is geared towards an adult audience, it does not mean that all anime is XXX either. There are animated things for children, a lot of them will have adult themes. Furthermore there are animation geared towards boys or girls. That is probably one of the biggest differences we see, because even though a lot of comic fans continue into adolescence, there is really not much of a market for girls here in the U.S.

I could post a lot more about this subject, but I just wanted to give a little background as to what I was going to present. I am also going to cheat quite a bit and leave out anything that you would have to consume subbed. Not too long ago it was very challenging to get some series dubbed, and to purist it is almost sacrilege to present anime to someone in a dubbed form. Eventually if you fall in love with some anime I do recommend it watching it with the original voice acting, but to start out I think only looking at dubbed is fine. *Disclaimer* most of the ones I will recommend are my personal favorites. If you have better options, just leave a comment, don’t discredit my choices, just give yours :P

I am also picking films or series that are easy to find on streaming services or rental.

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Ghost in the Shell – Action – Sci-Fi

This film can be consumed in one afternoon. While I already loved anime before watching this, this one really cemented anime in my brain as entertainment beyond kid stuff. It showed me that animated films could have not just depth, but also deal with adult themes. A fun fact is that The Matrix owes a lot of its style and visual feel to the film.

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Rurouni Kenshin – Samurai

This is a series that will captivate you from beginning to end. The cool part about this anime is that even though it is turn of the century and very serious at times, it also gets goofy from time to time. There is a movie series associated with it called Samurai X which is a little drier than the anime, but still excellent. Its turn of the century Japan and the adventures of a Samurai that does not want to kill anymore. Along with it is a love story and tons of interesting characters. I find it to be a great introduction to anime because while not completely formulaic you can start to see the themes that are often used for a series.

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Full Metal Alchemist – Fantasy

I know that “brotherhood is out” however I love the original. The story of two brothers is told through their adventures as they deal with an ever changing world. Lots of mystery and fantasy mixed with loyalty and love for family. A great series that is not as long as Kenshin, but just as enjoyable.

Last but not least is, addict the special woman in your life to anime.

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Fruits Basket – Romance

While the series is a very girly series, it still has its moments of action. The story is good around a girl in distress and the Chinese zodiac curse. Lovable characters, easy to watch. I don’t like to talk about it much because it is so much more fun to discover things as you watch it.

What to stream today?

We did away with cable when we moved to Chicago, and we really have not missed it all that much. Except for a sport event that might be missed here and there (we always have the option to go to see Football games at my Mom’s place) we get pretty much everything via streaming. I figured it would be a good new feature to balance things out to also post about what we are watching or find interesting.

This weekend we streamed 2 movies, and I guess now I know why I did not pay full ticket price to see them at the theaters.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (**)

While this movie was entertaining, it really seemed to be missing something. It was like eating a pie that had flavor, but with mushy crust.

The acting was great. There was really nobody that was too annoying and what was supposed to be dramatic was, what was supposed to be funny also was. The CGI monkeys were mostly believable and did not interrupt the flow of the move for me. Neither did the action. Every character was compelling in some way.

It is a lot to ask for a CGI monkey to be the centerpiece of the movie, but Cesar delivered. He did not seem to want to be a bad monkey, but he was… oh wait, he is not a monkey, he is a chimp! I can already hear the cries all over the ape loving blog-sphere.

It is a little on the violent side to watch with small children, so I would not call it a family movie. It does have potential though, it does make you wonder if there are more ape movies that can be made. I would probably watch another one, but not holding my breath.

I would rent it, but I don’t think I would ever watch it again.


Moneyball (***)

Ah, Brad Pitt. While the dude is still married to a girl I had a crush on when I watched hackers, everything past Billy Bob is damaged goods, I cannot hold that against him. He is a good actor and I seriously did not see him, I saw a very crazy GM trying to run a baseball team with no money to spend. I could relate with a dude trying to accomplish the impossible with no resources… I do work in IT.

The acting was not bad, the baseball seemed like the average movie representation. The movie was more about the man than the game.

While it is kind of a “feel good” movie, it does not make you feel very good. It has flashes of awesome when it tries to make you look at the love for the game, but it reminded me that football seems to be more America’s sport now than baseball.

This one is a kid friendly movie, but maybe nostalgia makes me want to share the older movies from the 80s rather than this one.

I rank it a little better than apes because I think I like baseball better than CGI apes. Overall they are both cheap rentals that should waste a couple of hours of your day.

So what have you been streaming lately?

Boycott Colombiana!

So I guess as a Colombian I am supposed to be pissed about a movie that looks so kick ass I cannot wait to see it.

The name of the film is Colombiana… and here is a snip of the movie plot…

Zoe Saldana plays a young woman who witnessed her parents’ murder as a child in Bogotá and grows up to be a stone-cold assassin. She works for her uncle as a hitman by day, but her personal time is spent engaging in vigilante murders that she hopes will lead her to her ultimate target: the monster responsible for her parents’ death

My Mom, Bea and I discussed the film over dinner on Saturday. We laughed and concluded that it will be cool to see a “Colombiana” portrayed as an all kind of baddass assassin.

I have always tried to be careful when Colombia is portrayed in a public light. I even saw the Colombian coffee growers being sue happy over a cartoon as somewhat of a publicity stunt. Boycotting a movie over the use of the name of the country and location seems ridiculous. As ridiculous as a Mexican saying that they would not see “El Marichi” with Antonion Banderas.

Zoe Saldana is all kinds of cool. You might not recognize her, but she was the main chick in avatar and also played the crap out of Uhura. However, I though she was cool since she played Eva in Center Stage… don’t hate, watch the movie is actually a good movie. I want to see her more as an action Hero than Angelina Jolie… and she was one of my favorite actresses in the past, but I think Zoe will be awesome as an assassin. That she is Colombian is no big deal to me at all.

I have come to expect Hollywood to portray Colombia as a place that you have to ride with chickens and pigs both in the plane and public transportation to get around. Heck, even “Colombian-Americans” think that way the first time they go visit the country if they are going for the first time.

If anyone watches this movie and it cements for them their view of Colombia, well, we are dealing with the same level of intelligence of someone that thinks every Russian is in the KGB and thinks that Meesha was in Argentina simply looking for other secret operatives.

Its a movie people, go see it if you like action. Try to be entertained by it. I am going to see it, I don’t expect anyone with half a brain to ever think of Colombia as a one dimensional place that is all about violence. Isn’t that place Mexico now? I keed I keed!

Green Lantern (****)

buy at Amazon.com

I guess I will start with the disclaimer that GL happens to be one of my favorite superheroes and I went into the movie like a total fanboy. I did not wear my GL T-shirt but I did have in the back of my head all of the comics I have read and how they could just screw the movie up. I did not go in wanting to hate it, just have a good time but without a lot of expectations.

I stayed away from reviews. I know how harsh some critics can be of a superhero movie that is going to be CGI heavy. Maybe it is the fan in me, but the CGI was never forced and even when I wanted to kind of be a little dissapointed about how Parallax looked, I continued to be engaged. There is a lot of CGI but it helps the story along. Sure I can go back and take it apart now, but the reality is that while watching the movie I was just simply entertained.

The movie went by way too quickly and well, there is a lot of information to digest. It is a new universe to many and I think this is a great way to introduce people and leave the door open for a franchise. I think the casting was great for this one and hope that there is some continuity when they do the sequels. The movie did deviate a little from the story that I thought they were going to use, but it made the story flow and a non comic geek would probably never really care.

We opted for the non 3D version since the last couple of movies we watched with that technology seemed to take more way from the movie than enhance it. I will be curious to hear what the people that saw it on 3D think of the CGI work.

Even though I think going to the movies it is starting to be impractical when it comes to money (10 bucks is just ridiculous for 1 ticket.) I was glad I saw this movie on a big screen. My only regret is that I did not get to enjoy it with XO; but I think it was a blessing since I could not handle someone else besides my wife drooling over Ryan Reynolds.

Sinestro will be an excellent foe in the next movie, I cannot wait to go see it.

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