Showing posts with label Trove Restaurant. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trove Restaurant. Show all posts

Friday, November 7, 2014

"Nightcrawler" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Nightcrawler," DVDs "Last Passenger," and "Fort Bliss," the book "Kitchn" and the new Seattle restaurant Trove.  I also bring you up to speed on my "1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" and share my "A-Ha Moment of the Week"]

"Night Crawler" is Creepy Crawly
Lou Bloom is looking for a career and decides to become a "nightcrawler," an independent crime videographer, one of those guys who listen to police scanners and troll for blood and gore.  The only problem is, Lou is a sociopath and is not above creating his own stories.
Jake Gyllenhaal puts in a bravura performance as Lou, who starts out as a petty thief, who is not above a little violence if it will get him what he wants.  He is also a loner, probably a sociopath, but at the very least nutty as hell.  He is self taught via the computer and spouts all kinds of pop psychology, business jargon and platitudes that he has learned there. He has developed an obsequious demeanor that belies the sociopath within. Think a cross between Gary Busey (after his brain injury) and Mr. Ripley.
Lou needs a job and when he comes upon an accident and watches the crime stringers videotaping the scene and finds out how much they make for their videos, he decides that's the career path he wants to take.  He gets a police scanner and a video camera and drives his beaten up Ford Fiesta to the scenes of accidents, fires and crimes.  At one scene, he gets right in the face of a bleeding, dying man and takes his footage to a news station where he meets Nina Romina (Renee Russo), the hard-boiled head of the news department, and she buys his footage, thus unknowingly entering into a deal with the devil.  Soon Lou is driving a new Mustang and has hired a homeless guy, Rick (Riz Ahmed) to be his navigator. It becomes apparent that Lou will do anything to get his footage, including violence and murder.  He has found his calling.

This is a jaundiced view of TV news reporting with everyone fighting for the most graphic shots.  When Lou first encounters Nina to pick her brain about what kinds of footage they are looking for, she says, "A woman running down the street screaming with her throat cut."  You get the idea. This is "Network" on steroids. And it's a testament to those of us out there in TV land who require more and more violent images to get us to watch the news. 
Jake has perfected the "strange guy" role - all  the way back to "Donnie Darko" through "Enemy" and this role is no different.  He is shivery creepy and soulless - a fantastic performance.  I also don't remember his eyes being so buggy.  Not sure if they were enhanced or if that's called "acting."
It's good to see Renee Russo again.  This is only her 4th film since 2005, thus showing how difficult it is for a woman her age in Hollywood to get film roles.  She is really good here as the news director who is a woman of a certain age, who needs to keep up with the competition and begins to think her career hinges on Lou's pictures.  She is willing to do anything to get them, including a reluctant relationship with Lou.

But Riz Ahmed is the breakout and a gem in this film.  His twitchy, sweaty Rick is vulnerable and sensitive as he gets caught up in this nightmare that is Lou's world.

Despite a hole in the script that bothered me, first time director, Dan Gilroy (he also wrote the script), gets it all right as he takes us into Lou's amoral, dark world and the cinematography and score underline it all beautifully.
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like dark, original and thrilling, you will love this film. Gyllenhaal puts in an Oscar worthy performance, and I wouldn't be surprised if Ahmed and Russo get nods for Best Supporting Actor.

You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)

Last Passenger (2013)

Six passengers on a London commuter train find themselves hijacked by an unseen driver with an evil plan.

Dr. Lewis Shaler (Dougray Scott) and his son, Max, are headed home from London late at night.  Dr. Shaler falls asleep and when he awakes, he sees a man crawling across the tracks.  He tries to alert the conductor and when he gets no response, it becomes apparent that the train has been hijacked by a driver with ill-intent.  The train is passing all of the stops and speeding toward crashing at the end of the line.  Shaler alerts his fellow passengers - now just four others - and where earlier they had been devisive, now they must work together to save themselves.

It's a well worn cinematic device.  We've seen it before with "Speed," "The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3" and "Runaway Train."  A disparate group of people are caught up in a disaster situation and must band together to save themselves.  And in so doing, their true life stories are revealed.

Here we have the doctor who is needed in the emergency room traveling with his young (and obnoxious son), the beautiful party girl (Kara Tointon), the officious, uptight businessman (David Schofield), the Polish thug (Iddo Goldberg) and the older woman with a heart condition (Lindsay Duncan). All seems fine at the outset, except for some ominous music and suddenly the train is racing through stops with no warning to oncoming traffic.  The train has become a death missile.  We know trouble is brewing.  I am always amazed in these life and death situations, that people have time to spill their life stories and even have sex.  But, hey, I've never been on a death train before, so what do I know?

It's the directorial debut for Omid Nooshin and he has done a great job creating a single claustrophobic setting.  Dougray Scott makes a handsome yet sensitive action hero and I wonder why we don't see him star in more films, and Kara Tointon (who "Eastenders" fans will recognize) is a gorgeous actress who deserves more roles. 

There is taut suspense as the passengers are killed off one by one a la Agatha Christieand we wonder who is driving the train and why.  Not much is revealed about the driver or his motives but it's not necessary to enjoy this ride.
Rosy the Reviewer says...If you like Hitchcock and Agatha Christie, you will enjoy this.

Fort Bliss (2014)

A decorated military medic and single mother returns home from Afghanistan to realize that she must repair her relationship with her young son.

Michelle Monaghan plays Maggie Swan, a single mother returning home after 15 months in Afghanistan to her ex-husband (Ron Livingston) and his soon-to-be new wife who have been caring for her son, only to discover that her young son barely remembers her and in fact has bonded with his stepmother. Likewise, she is experiencing the discrimination and sexual harassment that many women face in the military.  She finds it difficult to bridge the gap between being a hard ass sargeant and a tender mother and lover.

The film begins with Maggie in Afghanistan saving another soldier's life.  She is courageous and heroic.  She understands how things work in the military. She can't show weakness or vulnerability.  But when she returns home, things are complicated and she finds it difficult to build a new life for herself and her son and shed that hard ass role. 

This is Monaghan's film as she moves between her military responsibilities as an officer and her responsibility as a mother, trying to balance those two worlds. She is not perfect and she knows it.  She yells at her son (calls him "a little shit") and doesn't cope well with his sleepwalking and rejection of her.

Director and writer Claudia Myers is respectful of military personnel who must straddle these two worlds:  work and family, but she pulls no punches. This is no Lifetime Movie. I expected a potboiler, but it turned out to be an unflinching look at the difficult choices our military personnel have to make when they serve, especially women.  If you are a woman and you care about your career, whether it's in the military or not, the choices are hard.  It's sad that a mother has to give up her career to feel that she is a good mother. 

Swan also faces prejudice from the men who don't respect women officers.  Think a female version of "An Officer and a Gentleman."
Rosy the Reviewer unsentimental film about the difficult choices our military personnel must make to serve that deserves to be seen.

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***
302 to go!
The Killer (Die Xue Shuang Xiong(1989)
A weary assassin who accidentally blinds a beautiful singer during a killing, takes one last hit to raise the money to pay to restore her sight.
John Woo ("Mission Impossible: II") directs and Chow Yun Fat ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") stars in this strange buddy movie where the hit man and the cop give each other grudging respect and band together to get the really bad guys. 
Ah Jong (Chow Yun Fat) is a cold-blooded killer for hire but even cold-blooded killers get tired of killing.  During one hit, he accidently blinds a beautiful singer.  He feels remorse and seeks her out. They fall in love with her not knowing he is the one who blinded her.  He decides on one last hit to raise the money he needs to get her an operation to save her sight.  In the meantime, Inspector Li Ying (Danny Lee) is hot on his trail.
Why it's a Must See: [This film] established Hong Kong action cinema as a distinct brand.  ...filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino began lifting elements of their distinctive style --the popular flat-on-his-back, gun-in-each-hand slide is a favorite Chow Yun-Fat move...-to enliven their own action pictures."
--"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die."

The influence on Tarantino is evident, because there is plenty of blood and gore but in a cartoonish way.  However, in spite of its standing as the best example of a Hong Kong action film, I found it cheesy and melodramatic.  But, hey, I like cheese and I like melodrama.  It's beautifully photographed in a bloody sort of way.
Rosy the Reviewer says...The contract killer with a heart of gold.  It's soap opera with lots of blood and gore, but it's high opera and I can't get over Chow Yun Fat's baby face. (subtitles)
Halloween (1978)

Little Michael Myers kills his sister when he is six.  Fifteen years later he escapes from the mental hospital and goes on a killing spree.

Dr. Sam Loomis is on his way to the mental hospital where Michael Myers has been incarcerated since killing his sister.  He is determined that Michael Myers should not be let out.  Unfortunately, just as he arrives, Myers escapes and heads back to his home town. Dr. Loomis is in hot pursuit.  Jamie Lee Curtis stars as Laurie, a bookish goody goody who is babysitting on Halloween night, unaware there is a psychotic killer on the loose.

John Carpenter wrote and directed this very much "B" picture, probably unaware that it would turn into such a cult classic. It's a very low budget film that Carpenter probably didn't expect to have the impact it had, but Carpenter was expert at using the camera to show people creeping up on each other and creating a creepy atmosphere in general. He also takes advantage of the contrast between small Midwestern towns and the evil lurking underneath, much as Hitchcock did in "Shadow of a Doubt," which I reviewed last week. 

Speaking of Hitchcock, Carpenter is full of Hitchcock homages (see "Why It's a Must See" below). This film was also the beginning of the teen slasher films and I can't believe I hadn't seen it.  I was always afraid to, but seeing it now, it is very tame by current horror film standards.  It also seems to be the beginning of product placement, too.  Jolly Time Popcorn, Tide and Quaker Oats had prominent roles.  Probably had to do that for the budget because, as I said, this film screams of low budget, pardon the pun.

There are some blatant "huh?" moments such as Myers driving around the car he stole from the doctor emblazoned with the mental hospital logo.  Why don't the cops just pick him up?  There are continuity issues, too, as when Laurie walks home the streets and sidewalks are dry.  As she reaches home, it looks like it just rained.  Likewise, when Laurie and her friend are driving to their babysitting jobs, it's light and then, next frame, suddenly it's dark.  And this is supposed to be in Illinois,  but I don't remember seeing mountains in the distance growing up in the Midwest.  It's so clearly California.  Pasadena, to be exact.

I think Carpenter stole the ringing of the phone, a horror film staple now, from Hitchcock, too.  "Housewives" fans will recognize Kyle Richards name in the credits (she plays the little girl).

Why it's a Must See: "No director since Alfred Hitchcock has captured the delicious voyeurism of horror as well as John Carpenter in Halloween, a film so entrenched with our primordial anxieties that it continues to define the genre several decades later...the comparison between Hitchcock and Carpenter is no stretch; Halloween is saturated with Carpenter's tribute to Hitchcock, from character names --Sam Loomis and Tom Doyle, from Psycho (1950) and Rear Window (1954), respectively -- to the casting of Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Janet Leigh, the ill-fated shower victim in Psycho."
--"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die."

To enjoy the older films, we need to look past things like mom jeans and bell bottoms and other anachronisms to appreciate the film in the context of the times. You must ask yourself, has this been done before? Was it new then? Is it experimental and avante garde for its time?

And for it's time, this was the scariest.
Rosy the Reviewer says...Even if you don't like horror films, if you consider yourself a movie lover, you have to be able to say you've seen it.
***Book of the Week***

The Kitchn Cookbook: Recipes, Kitchens and Tips to Inspire Your Cooking by Sara Kate Gillingham and Kate Durand (2014)
From the blog Kitchn which began in 2005 comes this wonderful kitchen resource that foodies and novices alike will enjoy.

Food writers Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand share their expertise about cooking with advice on setting up the kitchen, tools to have on hand, stocking the pantry, planning meals, cooking technique and recipes.  My favorite, though, believe it or not, is the section on "Caring for Your Kitchen."  In addition to recipes for making homemade cleaning products, there is a handy 30-day calendar for maintaining a "constantly clean kitchen."  They list one duty per day.  We can manage that, right?

The "Cooking School" includes 50 essential techniques from how to read a recipe to measuring dry ingredients vs. liquids to deglazing sauces to roasting vegetables.

The book concludes with some yummy recipes with this introduction:  "With thousands of recipes in our archive, we decided to give you some perennial favorites of our readers...If you've never cooked before, here are more than 100 recipes that you can follow step-by-step and find success."

But seasoned cooks will also find much to learn here.

"The Perfect Kale Chip," "Roasted Chicken Thighs and Squash over Polenta" and "Vietnamese Beef Pho" are some examples.

Rosy the Reviewer says...A beautiful cooking resource book that you will want to have on hand.
***Seattle Restaurant of the Week***
From the folks who brought us Joule and Revel (Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi), some personal favorites of mine, I might add, we now have Trove, their new four-plex, featuring noodles, Korean BBQ and parfaits.  As you enter the space at 500 E. Pike, you see a food truck as part of the entrance that sells frozen custard parfaits with a variety of toppings.  The first space you enter inside is the noodle bar, where a few different delicious noodle combinations are available along with a few drinks. This is the casual first space.  Next is the Trove Bar, where many more beers and other drinks are available along with those noodles. The fourth and last space is the fine dining element where you can grill your own BBQ at your table and enjoy a fine wine list.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if Korean-inspired street food is your thing, this is for you.  Try the wide rice noodles with beef ragout.  Yum.  Next time, I am going to hit the food truck and order the Old School Banana Split parfait featuring caramelized pineapple and cherry whipped cream and sit on the curb, street food style (if it's not raining).

***My A-HA Moment of the Week***

When you watch TV during the day, the advertisers assume you are either old, retired and in poor health (so they hawk all sorts of pharmaceuticals) or that you are unemployed and a criminal, hence the adverts for jobs you can do at home, Phoenix University and bail bonds. 
Here's the A-Ha Moment: I shouldn't be watching TV during the day.

Thanks for Reading!

That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for
"Letting Myself Go:
Questionable Fashion Choices for a Woman of a Certain Age and Size"
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