24 July 2008

The Magnificent Seven

One fine day, Yul Brynner is in a movie theater watching The Seven Samurai, Akira Kurosawa's epic classic. He is so blown away that he immediately decides that it must be adapted for Hollywood and western audiences. This is how the Magnificent Seven was born. Once word got out that the movie was being made, Hollywood's biggest clamored for the roles. Actors cast include Charles Bronson (He cleans house!), James Coburn, Robert Vaun and Eli Wallach (also in the Good the Bad and the Ugly). Steve McQueen was originally unable to be in the film because he was working on something else. So he crashed a car and while "recuperating" he shot the Seven.

Anyway on to the film. This movie is about a Mexican village where the farmers are terrorized by local bandit Calvera (Wallach). He rides in with his gang and takes whatever he wants leaving the villagers just enough to live. Now if you saw this movie (Jake Willis is a stubborn jerk face), you will note that Calvera looks EXACTLY like El Guapo from the Three Amigos. Just a note.

So the villagers decide they are fed up with the situation and go to buy guns. They meet Chris Adams (Brynner) who convinces them it would be cheaper and more effective to buy gunmen. So he recruits 6 other guys and they go to protect the village. The first time Calvera comes he is driven off. But the victory is short lived. Some of the villagers have a weak stomach and their fear persuades them to turn on their seven protectors. Calvera drives them away, but like the good men the west was just full of, they return and drive off the bandits, killing Calvera in the process, though all but 3 of them die in the process. 

So I enjoy this film very much. Great actors, great story, lots of action. And it is a more accessible version of the Seven Samurai, which, while brilliant, is a long and deliberate film. Favorite line: 

Calvera: What I don't understand is why a man like you took the job in the first place, hmm?
Vin: It's like a fellow I once knew in El Paso. One day, he just took all his clothes off and jumped in a mess of cactus. I asked him the same question, "Why?"
Calvera: And?
Vin: He said, "It seemed to be a good idea at the time."

Some fun things about this movie. Although it is a western, three of the gunmen aren't "Western." Brynner was born in Russia, Bronson is Lithuanian and Horst is German. I think Bronson pulls it off best. Brynner's accent is just too strong and Horst is so freaking German that he can't move without it being really obvious. 

Steve McQueen was constantly trying to upstage Brynner during the film. Any scene that includes the two of them will usually find McQueen playing with his hat, or make some kind of distracting action or gesture. Apparently it drove Brynner crazy.

Bronson's character Bernado, in my opinion, is the inspiration for Dusty Bottoms. He has kids following him around and asking about what they can do for him when he dies. I was hoping he would ask if there was anything else to eat besides Mexican food.

Anyway, good movie. So tell me what you think. Also, the August Movie of the Month Category (via Steve Snow Jr.) is Audrey Hepburn Movies. I am way excited. I have to admit I'm semi-obsessed with Audrey Hepburn. I consider her to be the Queen of Hollywood. If I have another daughter, probably gonna slip the name Audrey in there somewhere. Seriously if you have never watched one of her films then I am really excited for you. So I'm suggesting the film Wait Until Dark. Actually pretty scary with an evil Alan Arkin and Colonel Trautman. Let me know what Audrey Hepburn film you want to see and I'll have the poll up on August 1st.

18 July 2008

Heath Ledger's The Dark Knight

Oh my freaking gadget that was so good! Go! Right now! Steal a car and go right now!

So last night I went to the midnight screening of The Dark Knight. I rarely do this. But the reviews were so good and I've been waiting so long that I couldn't bear the thought of this movie showing and me not seeing it yet. However, I couldn't get anyone to go with me (people tell me that they work Friday morning) so I went alone. I hope Jon appreciates that.

So everyone knows the plot. I won't rehash. And no spoilers here. So let me just say that Heath Ledger steals the show. This is HIS movie. He is amazing. Absolutely amazing! There's lots of little details like constantly sucking on the inside of his cheeks, or reinventing the story of how he got his scars to his absolute giddy delight he experiences at anyones pain including his own. Brilliant. He should at least get an oscar nomination. Fine jobs by Eckart, Bale and the supporting cast as well. I just re-read that. It really does feel as though everything else in the film plays a supporting role to Ledger's Joker. Again, amazing.

Plot is well written. All about crossing lines and trying to fight crime in a corrupt world. The way the Joker sets up Harvey Dent in the last portion of the film was a wonderful surprise. 

Quick notes:

There is a major character that dies and I'm pleased that I guessed it right.

There is a major character that does NOT die. That surprised me.

I am still bothered by the Batman voice that Bale does. What can you do?

The movie did not end at all how I expected it to as far as setting up a third film. But I am pleased because I didn't like the prospect of what I thought the third film would be. Wish I could be specific. See the movie and we'll talk! 

The movie is very dark but there is plenty of humor in it to keep things from turning into a bleak abyss of a film. Still no kiddies. Not as intense as I thought, most of the really gruesome stuff occurs off camera and the first really gory act of violence by the Joker happens so fast that you don't really see it. But it got a huge reaction from my audience. I think maybe my oldest could handle it. I'll have to take Val first see what she says. By the way, Dad if you read this, you should know that you are going to hate this film. 

My one tiny complaint. It is a long film and at one point I sort of felt how long it was. Could be just because it was very late and I was very tired. But it IS 2 1/2 hours.

Will I see it again tonight at a more sane hour? Probably. By which I mean yes.

15 July 2008

Simply MAVROlous! Our 10th Anniversary Dinner

So for our 10th Anniversary Val and I decided to really eat well. We checked out all the places here in Hawaii and Found Chef Mavro's. This restaurant was named to Fodor's top 10 restaurants in the world in 2006 and to Gayot's top 40. So we made our reservations (way in advance) got all gussied up and went. The restaurant was great although in a seedy location. What can you do. The interior is fine and you can almost not hear the police cars outside. Our  head waiter (we had a team of waiters actually) reminded me of John Locke on LOST. But that's all sillyness. One caveat before we continue. I was gonna take a bunch of pictures but it became evident as soon as we sat down that this was not the place to act that way. So I chickened out. All these pics are stock photos or images from the web. Sorry for being a wuss. Anyway, let's get to the food.

First thing we got was our Amuse Buche. The idea is to give your taste buds a jump start before the real food comes out. I expected it to be sweet but it wasn't. I think our waiter said it had coconut, curry and some sort of grass in it with tapioca for texture. Really tasty but odd. 

1st course: Valerie got the Foie Gras (above) with yellow and red baby beets and other fancy stuff. I was really excited about this but very nervous. Not real big on liver, but foie gras is famous right? Well it was pretty yummy. Extremely tender with a good flavor. The beets were a great addition. My dish was better. Escabeche of Diver Scallops (below). I only understand the last part of that name but it was my second favorite course. That green stuff that the scallops is sitting in is amazing and the scallops just melted in my mouth. I would have like 4 more courses of scallops!

2nd course (Fish Time): I don't really like fish. But this is really expensive fish so it had to be good! Valerie got the Confit Hamachi in Olive Oil Leek Emulsion. Sorry I can't find a picture. Her fish was pretty good but the leek puree that it was in was fantastic. I had the Day Boat Catch Marseillaise in rock fish soup with safron and aioli sauce. My fish was better and the safron sauce was tasty but not as good as the leek puree. So our dishes tied.

3rd course (I wish Pinchy were here to share this!) We both got Keahole Lobster A La Coque (above). I think that means Lobster on Sweet Corn even though there doesn't seem to be any corn in this photo. Well it was there on ours. This was Val's favorite dish. My third favorite. It was really really good! For reals! Next time you cook lobster put it on top of sweet corn.

4th course (manly meat): Val ordered the Roasted Mountain Meadow Lamb Loin (above). She ordered it medium but it came out so rare I thought she wouldn't dare. But she ate it and enjoyed it. I also liked it. There was a yummy curry lemon sauce. Not in my top half but pretty good. I ordered the Filet Mignon and Corned Short Rib (below). This was my favorite course. Both selections of beef were fantastic but the filet was the most amazing piece of food I have ever consumed. I have no idea what that dark sauce was but I wanted to marry it. And the beef was so tender that when it looked at my approaching knife it just split on it's own. Good gadget it was good! My course definitely won. After this course they brought us some sorbet to cleanse our pallet. 

5th course (first dessert): On the waiter's recommendation we both got the Mousse of Brie De Meaux (Below). It was pretty tasty. The Brie was almost too bitter but the mango short bread it was on balanced it out nicely.

6th course (second dessert): Val ordered the Bitter Chocolate Bar in Avocado Sauce with Vanilla Sorbet. OK I hate avocados but this was a fantastic balancing taste to the dark chocolate. Pretty good. I ordered the Lilikoi Malasadas (below). Malasadas are a Hawaiian dessert like donught holes but better. Very tasty and very moist. Also came with pineapple coconut ice cream! Both melted in my mouth. Our dishes tied on this one.

After our desserts they gave us this plate of chocolates(below) and truffles (not pictured) I love truffles so no complaints from me.

They asked if we were celebrating anything and I told them it was our 10th Anniversary. They made this dessert (below) for us as a final treat. I thought it was really cool. Tasted pretty good too.

One of the cool things is that we saw Chef Mavrothalassitis come in and out of the kitchen several times. It felt like being at a movie and seeing the star walk up and down the aisles. I know that sounds silly but it was true. This guy had been so decorated and celebrated that it gave me goosebumps to see him. Not to mention the relief that he was actually in the kitchen that night.

So we had a great time though it cost us a bit. I won't say how much but it was more than $20 and less than $239 before tip. I know all the portions look small (they are) but six courses later and we were stuffed. We planned this as a once in a lifetime meal but now we think that we will make it a tradition to use a chunk of our Tax Return to eat well on our Anniversary. We think next year we will go to Alan Wong's (the other highly celebrated chef here in Oahu) but since Chef Mavro changes his menu on a regular basis we might just go back. Anyway, best meal of my life. If any of you ever come out here and want one really good meal we highly recommend Chef Mavro's. 

05 July 2008


So I am on vacation in Southern California with my in-laws (having a great time!) and I saw WALL-E the other night. I didn't take any kids cause I heard it might be too boring for the little tykes. While I do think it is geared more towards adults I think kids will probably still enjoy it. More on that later.

I know that WALL-E has gotten a lot of hype so I feel stupid saying it but this is honestly easily the best movie I have seen so far this year and perhaps the best Disney Pixar collaboration to date. That's hard for me to agree with because I really like The Incredibles and Monsters Inc. But WALL-E is just...more.
Quick plot summary. Humans left Earth 700 years ago because mankind made it uninhabitable. But we left behind a handful of robots like WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) to clean up the mess. WALL-E has been taking all the garbage and crushing it into cubes. But WALL-E at some point found a copy of Hello Dolly. All of his knowledge of interaction between individuals, and more specifically love, comes from Hello Dolly. Consequently he has become very lonely. I never really liked Hello Dolly but it is perfect in this film. In fact we see and hear it so much that Michael Crawford probably ought to get his name in the credits. So one day a new robot EVE is sent to earth searching for life. WALL-E immediately falls in love and follows her back into outer space where they find themselves on a mission to bring humans back to earth.

So visually the film is stunning. It ought to be. Pixar has had plenty of practice. But the story is sublime. It really is just a love story between two robots. If you don't like romantic films you probably won't dig WALL-E. I've heard some people say they slept for part of the film. I can see that. Part of that might be due to the very little spoken dialogue. There are human actors but they don't have many lines, especially for the first half. So I'm just saying if romance isn't your cup then, well I'm just saying. Kids aren't really gonna get the relationship stuff, but there is plenty of humor and and action so that most kids should still dig this film.

So what makes this film so extraordinary is that they have created a story and characters that work so well that you care deeply for them. You hope that WALL-E and EVE find a way to be together. There is especially a scene at the end that I won't give away but if it doesn't get you just a little bit then...well I don't know but it just should.
Anyway, highly recommended. Barring 7 or 8 really amazing films this year I honestly expect WALL-E to get a Best Picture nomination. We'll have to see. But in the meantime, if you haven't seen it yet I strongly recommend that you do. Enjoy!