Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sundance documentaries with a Vision and a Voice

I wanted to go see a movie - but discovered two amazing films on the Sundance Channel that night instead. These films are not new, but they are unknown to many - and I would love to help shine light on them, because they both affected me deeply.

For the Bible Tells Me So
Directed by: Daniel Karslake
Bishop Gene Robinson
Imogene & Victor Robinson
Brenda, David and Tonia Poteat
Jake and Britta Reitan
Chrissy, Jane and Dick Gephardt
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Reverend Peter Gomes
Rabbi Steven Greenberg
Reverend Jimmy Creech

This film opens by introducing us to 5 Christian families. They document each families experience with their son or daughter coming out as Homosexual in a Christian home.

We hear the family history, of church practices, of hard core Christian values being instilled, and on the "Horror" the parents went through when their son/daughter came out of the closet for the first time. Feelings are raw and real, and at times very hurtful and disturbing. The parents are candid and so honest with their initial feelings. At times it was hard for me to think of any parent treating their own child so horribly.

As you watch - each family of course handles it differently. Beautifully woven in the mix are clips and interviews with Protestant and Jewish theologians - and film clips of fundamentalist preachers and pundits and news clips of people in the street. There is tons of discussion of the literal translation of the bible and how easily it is misunderstood (which is true in SO many situations).

At one point of the movie, there is a hilarious cartoon (very similar to the sarcastic political type cartoons in Michael Moore's movies). Here is the cartoon:

The two families that touched me the most in this film - was a single mother, Mary Lou Wallner, one of the staunchest advocates of gay rights in the movie, became a political activist after her daughter, Anna, committed suicide — the result, Ms. Wallner believes, of the letter she wrote to Anna rejecting her after she came out. Mary Lou was raised and lived her life according to the books and teachings of James Dobson (Focus on the Family - Gay conversions).

The other is the Gephardt family. The openly gay daughter of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, talks about how her parents dealt with her news with unconditional love and support and how her father invited her to join him on the campaign trail when he ran for president in 2004.

This movie does a beautiful job of stressing the inclusion of all, and the message that God loves everyone. The hateful condemnation and abuse of the right wing fundamentals on this subject is both embarrassing and horrifying and makes you want to go out and do something about it. This movie was eye opening and a must see for anyone who considers themselves a champion of Justice for All.

Rating: **** amazing

The Grace Lee Project
Director: Grace Lee
Starring: Various Grace Lee's

I have to say the first 30 minutes of this movie are the best part. The movie is about Korean/American director Grace Lee - who grew up in Missouri in a small town. She was the only "Grace Lee" she knew of. Upon leaving her town and becoming an adult, she found that almost everyone she met knew "another Grace Lee". She began to inquire what all of these different people, with her same name, were like.

Most people had the exact same responses "demure, quiet, sweet, intelligent, reserved, played some instrument well etc". Grace was disturbed at first that she seemed so different than these other Grace Lee's.

The films director begins a search - desperate to find OTHER Grace Lee's like herself, that don't fit the "Asian Grace Mold" that seems to be the majority of the Grace's she had heard about.

She puts a call out to all Grace Lee's in the US - and filters through them to find a great cross section of women - who are leading amazing and different lives. Grace Lee, the 80 year old social activists for African Americans, to a young girl in California who is an artist who enjoys drawing "dark art".

The director self narrates and should be a comedian, her wit and dry humor on the subject of her name and her heritage is a frank and honest taste of America's Asian generalization problem and how even in her own culture, she is lost in the mix.

I found it enlightening, creative and humorous. The only thing I would have liked is to get to know THE Grace Lee a bit more, the director. She spent so much time on other Grace Lee's - when in reality, in hearing her humor and antidotes - she seemed almost more interesting at times.

Rating: **** wonderful movie

Friday, January 23, 2009

Urban Coffee Lounge - Surprisingly Unassuming and Charming

Urban Coffee Lounge
9744 NE 119th Way
Kirkland, WA 98034
(425) 820-7788

I am always down to find good places to get espresso - and I especially love places with homey atmospheres, a sweet staff and beautiful artwork (see my review for Joe Bar).

A friend heard of my blog and invited me to this new shop in Kirkland. The title threw me off - immediately thinking of all the "east side" coffee shops that forever are TRYING to be URBAN.

I am delighted to say this isn't one of them. First impression was chic, clean, and modern, but didn't lack the warmth needed to get you to sit down and stay a while. There were soft couches, tables and chairs, stools and a small line waiting to order. I was greeted by two friendly baristas (one who was the owner, Alicia Miner, I realized later). After scanning through the menu, my eye caught "TOP SHELF MOCHA". I asked what it was - and as soon as I heard "Special dark chocolate" I was sold. To finish my chocolate fix - I ordered an organic chocolate cake doughnut and a piece of homemade banana chocolate chip bread, for breakfast.

The coffee was done fast and was delicious. A large is served in a cup large enough to be a SOUP BOWL which was perfect for the level of caffeine I needed this particular morning. Combined with the two chocolate breakfast items (which were yummy , gooey and happily freshly baked)I began to think in fast forward and contemplate to-do lists for the entire month...quite the sugar/caffeine high.

This company prides themselves in using freshly roasted beans, grinding them fresh for each order, throwing out all but perfect shots of espresso, making whip cream fresh to order, blended drinks use no powders and smoothies contain no corn syrup but rather 100% fruit. They are proud of their product and it shows.

With a friendly staff, beautiful decor,top notch food and drink and FREE Wifi, this cafe is one to be sure to visit when you are on the eastside.

Rating: **** (Crepes or hot breakfast choices would have made this a perfect score)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Milk proves to be priceless...

Director: Gus Van Sant
Starring: Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin
Tagline: Without hope, life's not worth living
Rating: R

Taken from the true events documenting the Gay Rights and political movement of the 1970s, MILK is the story of Harvey Milk, San Francisco's first openly Gay city Supervisor.

Being someone who had no previous knowledge of the history of this story, and had done no research before seeing the movie, it was surprisingly easy to understand.

The movie begins with a somber Penn, recording his voice in a memoir of sorts, to be listened to only upon his assassination. Something he obviously thought was going to happen at some point of his life. The movie then takes you back to how it all began. How he met the love of his life, "Scottie" played amazingly by James Franco, during the "free love" that was part of the 70s, no matter what persuasion you were.

Penn's portrayal of this joyful, silly, funny and flamboyant man is nothing short of brilliant. He has an amazing way of being incredible sharp and intelligent and ridiculously silly and boyish in the same 10 minutes. The love scenes between Franco and Penn were done as to portray the unconditional love and fondness the two had for each other. It does this so well that I found myself thinking that even the slightly homophobic or people who maybe haven't seen a love scene between two people of the same sex before - this would not be difficult for them to watch. If anything the beauty of the scenes help you realize how blind love is to gender, race, etc.

Franco does an amazing job of playing the "rock" for Milk. His character, Scottie - starts as a free loving stoner and then as the movie progresses and Milk gets farther and farther into his battle with the local political agendas - Scottie grows as well. At one point the stress of the constant election losses gets to him and they separate. However he continues to be a face in the crowd and there to wipe the tears offer a hug of congratulations when Milk finally wins the election for Supervisor of his region.

The movie battles with the passing of Proposition 6 - which in the 70s was a proposition to ban all gay men and women from teaching in any California public school. Former senator John Briggs headed the initiative to pass this bill. Harvey and his supporters (both in and out of city hall) worked tirelessly to assure this measure was never passed. Some of the amazing cameos during these scenes were Emile Hirsche, Allison Pill, Gabriel Luna - all playing amazing activists and lovers who helped Harvey along the way.

Josh Brolin gave a disturbingly good portrayal of the fundamental Christian supervisor Dan White, who constantly struggled with his feelings as the movie progressed. You could tell he was unable to resist the kindness and charm of Harvey, however vehemently disagreed with his way of life, to the point that he could not control his anger -- and in the end (as in history) shot and killed both Milk and the then Mayor, Mayor George Moscone (Played by Victor Garber). The assassination scene was so well done. Harvey had a love for the opera and had gone to see Tosca a few nights before his death. He then called his love, Scottie, just before dawn on the day of his death, telling him about the opera and that he loved how it freed him and made him feel. When Dan White shoots him, he twirls and falls to his knees, and gazes out the window, seeing the Opera house across the street and the vision of the singers on the banners outside...that being the last thing he saw before he died. (I don't give it the credit it deserves how I explained it, you just have to see it.)

The movie ended with a touching video of the 300,000 people that walked the streets of San Fran, the night of Milk's assassination - with candles, and in silence. And as it showed the footage, you hear the voice of Harvey's recorded Will -- talking about not making his death a tragedy, if indeed society can overcome and hate and bigotry. That his life was worth the sacrifice to if it meant his story would reach the masses and the people would help work for what he stood for.

This movie gave me one major epiphany that I wish people who persistently think they need to hate on others ways of life could understand...

Even if you don't accept the homosexual lifestyle as your own, or you don't agree with it because of your religion etc. Its really not about that. Its about our rights as American's and as HUMANS. Its about everyone having the same laws and rights, no matter what race, gender, sexual preference, economic status etc.

This movie was not just about Gay Rights - it was about the rights of every minority in the United States of America.

I found it liberating, touching, inspirational and poignant. It is my hopes that every adult American has the maturity to see this movie and take from it as much as they can.

(The fact that Penn or Franco didn't get a Golden Globe for these rolls is sad but I am assuming because of the subject matter, it was too controversial to some....)

Rating ***** excellent, a must see

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

7 pounds too many?

Seven Pounds
Director: Gabriele Muccino
Starring: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson and Barry Pepper
Rating: PG-13

The mystery surrounding the plot of this movie was very well played in the media and press for this movie. I took careful care as to not listen to any spoilers or to do any searching for plot details. I did however hear peoples opinions after they saw it - and I have to say they were half/half. And both sides were equally as enthusiastic with their feelings. I heard the words Horrible, Sick, Twisted, Amazing, Beautiful and Touching. Because of the difference in these words, I decided I needed to make my own opinion.

I appreciate the allusiveness for the first 20 minutes, then it starts to get annoying. Confusion in my opinion is not comfortable nor is it something I enjoy enduring for long periods of time. I have no patience for that. Ben Thomas's character is both sweet and tormented, but not 100% believable to me. I see pieces of "will smith" come through too often. Almost as though he can't stay in character.

I thought Rosario Dawson did a fantastic job playing the heroin in distress, she was wonderfully fragile yet lovingly strong when needed. The rolls of everyone else were supposed to be played as vague and allude to "more than meets the eye" ,which bothered me. I wanted to know more about them. Barry Peppers character, Ben's best friend Michael was SO emotional and sad about the choice his friend had made and so tormented about having to help him with it. I would have loved seeing more of that exchange and going deeper into that friendship. The love Ben had with his wife, how real was it? We barely saw it. The random "close" friends and family - we barely knew they were there. I needed to get a feel for what he was loosing to be able to really feel it when he lost it.

The plot. I have thought on this 24 hours since seeing the movie and I have come to the decision that I didnt like the plot. As a person who has been very personally affected by suicide, I can't accept the plot. Suicide has SUCH a horrible affect on the family left behind that no matter HOW MANY feel good, organ giving acts he does in return for his life - it just dosent equal out for me. It voids it out for me. His "good deed" of giving back, what was an accident in the first place - by way of taking his own life is just not acceptable.

What kind of feelings does it leave those who he helped? Guilt? Anger? What if they were angered by the fact that a man was ALLOWED to take his own life in order to give them one of his organs. I may have reacted the same. Not that its not grateful, but its quite a burden on everyone else - everyone except the person who ended their own life.

The ONLY great part of the movie to me - and when I cried? Was when Woody Harrelson's character, Ezra - had his new eyes (they looked almost black) and Emily went to see him, and he recognized her. That was touching and sweet.

I am a smart person. I understand where they were GOING with this story and what they were trying to accomplish. I think it needed to be more thought out and reworked conceptually to really be a success.

Rating: ** - it was just ok

Monday, January 12, 2009

Songs for Eating and Drinking

This past weekend we were invited to a exclusive soiree at Chase Jarvis studios ( Its a project that is a collaboration between renowned director/photographer Chase Jarvis and chef/table guru Michale Hebb
( have started entitled "Songs for Eating and Drinking" (

Here is the explanation taking straight from their website:

"Get a bunch of insanely talented musicians together, and let them share songs, food, and drink. Many a musical career starts with small audiences, impromptu performances, late night mutterings; and then the lucky end up on large stages and tucked deep inside recording studios - often vastly disconnected from those that love their music. Our friends in the music industry have bellyached that industry folk hardly ever share food in a meaningful way – or rarely just get together and f’in chill. So we decided to create these evenings for our musician friends built around long tables, remarkable locations, sturdy drinking food, and bottles of wine and whiskey – with the hope that throughout each night songs would rise up from the table. Many a musical career starts with small audiences, impromptu performances, and late night mutterings."

I am going to share about my experience because I want to help spread the word virally about this event and also because it left such a strong impression on me.

First the food. Michale Hebb - who is featured in this months GQ - is known for his "ONE POT" cooking. Preparing to write this today, I decided to Google Mr. Hebb - to get some history on him. I am impressed by his outrageous and rebellious past in the food press and hope to jump aboard his new underground Seattle train of fans.(curious? Google him...)

SO enough of his story and more about his FOOD - which is what its all about for me. The night was fashioned VERY laid back and a bit jumbled, as dozens of the cities most influential hiphop artists gathered in this modern studio. Peppered in were various radio DJs, newspaper writers and industry heads. It was truly a very exclusive group of people that I felt jazzed to be a part of.

People arrived over an hour - immediately greeted by the chef and the photographer, the lovely assistant Kate and various staff bustling around with drinks, ice and some with hand held video cameras, interviewing us as we arrived. A punch was on the table, and because of the minor attending with us we were quickly told it had alcohol in it. I was told by several people how amazing it was, a soft pink color, topped with lemons and oranges. However being that my husband and I don't drink - we went for one of the large buckets filled to the brim with sodas and low sugar fruit drinks.

Michael Hebb is also well known for his "tabling" therefore I need to comment on that. It was beautiful. As the lights were lowered, I noticed the huge long tables, shaped in a 3/4 box - with a microphone and floor candles at the opening - large candelabras and tea light candles along with place settings on the Foil (yes I said FOIL) lined tables. In the dark candle light, the foil sparkled so perfectly that I giggled at the simple beauty of it and that I had never thought of it!

After a few artists shared songs, the salad was served. Huge platters were passed around, carrying a beautiful pile of multi-colored soft greens. Because of the lack of light, it was hard for me to get a proper photo and also to tell immediately what was ON the salad.

When I tasted it - i was so pleasantly surprised. It was a beautiful mixture of butter lettuces, and different red and purple varieties, mixed with tangerine and grapefruit pieces, goat cheese and crisp hazelnuts. The salad had a sweet balsamic type dressing with just enough salt and pepper to make it mouth watering. (*Note: I am not CERTAIN on the exact ingredients, just guessing as far as my taste buds could tell)

There were quite a few more performances before dinner was served. An announcement was made right before they served the "one pot" meal. Michael said he would first come around with the "pasta" which was small round balls - similar to Acini di pepe pasta but not quite the same shape. He strictly instructed us to not touch the pasta, until he came back around with the main stew/sauce to put on top. The pasta (just from the smell since I couldn't touch) had garlic, tomato and various herbs in it. It was pretty tempting not being able to touch it.

Then the stew came. It was a Moroccan meat sauce/stew that went on top of the pasta. It was rich with lamb, beef, large mushrooms (shiitake?) and soft yummy vegis in a thick rich beef sauce. I tasted a hint of wine, some sweet spices (Cinnamon, Allspice and Cloves) and some lovely other spices (cayenne, ginger, cumin, coriander). Truly a yummy rich "one pot" meal.

I was so honored to be part of such an underground and exclusive event and to be fed by such a well known chef. I truly hope to work with him in the future on another One Pot event.

Rating: **** 1/2 * amazing food - only thing missing for me was dessert

Here is a slide show of the photos I took that evening. My photos are in no way as good as Chase's - but I had fun playing with the camera in such a beautiful room.

Please check their official website for the photos and video they took all evening - which should be up within the week.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Marrakesh Moroccan Restaurant - a treat for both your eyes and your palate

Marrakesh Moroccan Restaurant
2334 2nd Avenue
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 956-0500

There are very few restaurants in Seattle that I would classify as "special event" restaurants, because either their staff is too stuck up and yuppie or their atmosphere is too stuffy for my taste - however this is one of the few I can say meets my standards for a place to take someone for a special evening.

Our special evening? My in-laws birthdays. I was aware of the popularity of Marrakesh, so we had reservations ahead of time, thankfully. There is a 3 foot by 4 foot waiting area - which means most people wait outside. That would be my only complaint, because in the dead of winter - its not a fun wait.

The restaurant is decorated fabulously - with rugs, scarves, fabric, covering every wall, floor and ceiling - and then small tables, pillows and stools for eating. The lights are low and the ambiance finished off perfectly with Moroccan music and dancing.

We decided to get the Royale Feast Dinner - which is for 4 people or more. It is a 5 course meal that includes one of each special on the menu.

Our waitress first came with a bowl to wash all of our hands. It was warm water and such a nice thing to do before we all eat.

The first course the traditional lentil soup. SO savory, just the right temperature to sip from the bowls. Then the waitress brought a huge woven basket of sliced bread and told us to take some. Great homemade bread, complimented the soup perfectly. Before we had a chance to finish our soup, the second course - Moroccan salad came. It consisted of a hummus-like paste as well as a vegi medly that was almost like a greek salad, but better (no olives). We ended up eating them all together, and felt as though that could have been our dinner.

The third course was easily the most INTERESTING dish I have ever eaten. I have lived in Africa, Greece, and have eaten tons of different foods, but this by far can be labeled the most yummy and interesting. It was called B'stilla Royale and basically its a light crispy filo dough, filled with a ground meat and onion mixture and topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Something about the mixture makes it delectable.

At this point we found ourselves comfortable but salivating at the mere thought of the next course and what they had next to surprise us with.

The 4th course was the MAIN course. And because we chose the Royale Feast. That is what we got. Each dish was savory in its own way. We got 3 chicken, one Couscous dish, and a lamb and a beef dish. We passed the dishes around the table, each taking bites from each dish. Its exactly what you WISH you could do at restaurants, try a bit of everything.

During the dinner course, the music got louder and the belly/sword dancer came out. She was a beautiful dancer who played with the patrons and invited a few people to dance with her. I often find side shows like this embarrassing and awkward, however she was so at ease and friendly, it was really entertaining.

With dinner done, low lights, comfortable pillows, we really could have taken a nap at this point, but the waitress came again - to wash our hands. After washing them - she sprinkled all of our hands with Rose Water - to prepare us for dessert.

Our 5th course was served in tiny bowls. It was a small chopped apple, pear and banana salad that was mixed with their juices and a bit of brown sugar. It was VERY refreshing and wonderful after such a big filling meal. Our waitress then came with 5 glasses and asked us to sit back a bit, in case of splash over. Confused we sat back - and she then started to poor the hot, fragrant, sweetened mint tea - from ABOVE our heads! She kept moving up until she was pouring from as high as her arms could reach standing (and we were on the floor). The tea was more than tasty and a PERFECT way to end an amazing dinner.

Unlike the "group meal" like we recently got at the Italian Maggianno's that I reviewed saying we paid WAY too much for what we got - this on the other hand was $20 per person (FLAT, no additions) and we got MORE than expected and were pleasantly surprised.

Rating: ***** Excellent food, service and ambiance. It is a great place to take out of town guests, to celebrate an anniversary or for a special occasion.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Burn After Reading....a random joyful must see

Burn After Reading
Directors: The Coen Brothers
Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, John Malcovich, Frances McDormand, Tilde Swinton
Rated: R
Tagline: Intelligence is Relative

I enjoy movie taglines, because they usually are a great way to see what you are getting before watching. In this case, it just made me laugh, because truly it is a very witty film, about seemingly stupid people, or rather smart people acting stupid.

The movie has several small story lines, that all intertwine in some way. Without fail, the Gym trainer story line is the most entertaining and held my interest the most. Played by Brad Pitt and Frances McDormad -these two seemingly smart gym trainers stumble upon the memoirs of a retired/fired CIA agent (played brilliantly by John Malcovich). McDormand, who is under the impression she needs several major plastic surgeries in order to be a good trainer - sees this as a profitable situation. Along with her flamboyant and hilarious partner in crime, "Chad" (Brad) they begin to ignorantly try to blackmail Malcovich.

Meanwhile - alcoholic CIA agent "Osbourne Cox" (Malcovich) is struggling with loosing his job and his wife (played convincingly coldly by Tilde Swinton) who is having an affair with the awkward, impulsively allergic and pornographic inventor, "Harry" (played by George Clooney). Cox then is contacted by the obviously idiotic duo who plan to blackmail him for his memoirs, that they found on a CD in the gym locker room. In between these various battles in his life, we see Cox passed out in a whiskey induced coma in various hilarious positions.

"Harry" seems to be somewhat of a sex addict, who has his wife on the side, (a traveling author), this cold English bitch as an affair - AND frequents online personal sites to find more dates. Which is where he meets McDormands character "Linda".

So as you can see, these hilarious characters all get tangled up together in a mess of drama, full of blackmail, sex, lies and memoirs.

Malcovich's consistently outraged character is wonderful, you want to feel bad for him, but he is SUCH an asshole, you just can't bring yourself to. McDormand is SO convincingly clueless but so convinced she is brilliant, and you realize most of the characters are like this.

Clooney has hilarious food allergies that cause him to gag, clear his throat with his tongue and fake anaphylactic shock throughout the movie. But by far, the show is stolen by Pitt - who's flamboyant, gal pal, gym trainer role is perfect if you have EVER met an over the top trainer at your local Gold's Gym. Down to how he takes drinks from his water bottle, to his training tactics in the background of shots....he kept me laughing.

Sadly - Pitt exits the movie too early, but alas that is one of the many "random" moments that make you continue watching the movie.

On a side note - JK Simmons plays a hilarious CIA superior. His oblivious attitude to corpses, unexplained deaths and murders is not only hilarious but I have a feeling eerily realistic.

Rating - **** (a great movie - SEE IT!!)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Brad Pitt + Italian food = Heaven? Maybe not....


Maggiano's Little Italy
10455 NE 8th St.
Bellevue, WA, 98004-4346

Let me preface this review by saying - I usually shy away from Italian restaurants all together, because I am 100% Italian and my family's in the business - so its pretty hard to please me. I will usually only go if I have heard good things about it.

We went for a good friends birthday. Immediately we were drawn to the "Family Deal" which is basically $27.50* per person - which is every ones choice of 2 appetizers, two pastas, two main courses and two desserts. They bring enough for everyone (plus some). The only thing YOU have to do, is decide as a group what to order.

As we lamented (really it was a hard choice and if I EVER go back, I will not go this route) Our waiter (who never told us his name) - brought us bread and olive oil. Now we were a bit confused - its not customary to bring JUST plain OIL with bread. It usually has balsamic vinegar and spices in it. So we asked for that and it was brought. The bread would have been SO much better if the baker hadn't accidentally dropped a cup of flour on the crust. Seriously it made our fingers white, got on our clothes - very messy for plain bread.

Our appetizers came (I apologize for the lack of photos - I will have more as my blog matures). We ordered Caprese and Spinach and Artichoke dip. The Caprese was good - however there was BARELY any basil, and what was there was SHREDDED basil? There also was no salt or pepper. The cheese and huge tomatoes more than helped keep my mind off the basil however - they were both amazing. The Spinach dip was gone first - being devoured by everyone in our group. The only complaint was that it could have been served with more bread crisps, there were like 5 crisps and 8 of us.

Onto the Pasta. We ordered the Gnocchi with the spicy Tomato vodka cream sauce and the Garlic shrimp with Linguine*(which added $2 onto each of our head prices). The Gnocchi was fairly disappointing. I would have liked to have seen homemade gnocchi, instead it was machine made. Also the sauce was too bland but at the same time too spicy, if that's possible. The Linguine was fantastic, but not enough shrimp. If I am going to pay $2 extra for a dish with shrimp, bring ON that shrimp!

Main Dish. We ordered Salmon with Lemon and Herb and the Chicken Parmesan. The Salmon was cooked perfectly however the spinach was a bit too much for me. The herbs were very light but bold flavors. It was a great piece of fish. The Chicken Parm was just ok. The wasn't enough cheese on top with the sauce. Also the edges of the breaded chicken were HARD. Overall, I wasn't impressed with what was supposed to be the "Main Dish".

By the time dessert decisions were made, we were TOTALLY full. Something about pay now *$30 a plate - made you want to eat everything in site, to get your moneys worth.

For dessert, the waiter said their 4 layer chocolate cake was a safe bet for chocolate lovers and if you couldn't decide. Then we also got the Apple Crostada with Caramel Sauce. I have to say the Crostada was the best part of the night. I wish I hadn't filled myself with all that average stuff and just had room for the dessert.

Now the chocolate cake needs its own paragraph. Having two HUGE Chocolate cake fans at this table, I knew we would get a good review. I had one bite and refused to finish. What the waiter didn't tell us was that it had SAMBUCA in it. A very strong bitter liqueur. It tasted horrible to me. Half the table enjoyed it and the other half was also turned off by the alcohol in it. Either way I was disappointed - that with a 12 year old eating it - we weren't told there was alcohol in the cake.

In the end I felt like I spent WAY too much money for just an average quality of food. The con's out weighed the pro's. It was $30 per person, plus each soda was $2.50, tip and tax - it was steep.

Review - *** -- good but not great.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett
Rating: PG-13

I saw this movie on Christmas Day (the release date) and the theater was packed. The leading quote of the movie is "Life isn't measured in minutes, but in moments". That theme is echoed during this entire movie.

As it starts, you are immediately shocked by the quality of special effects used to make Young Benjamin, look so very old. The character of Benjamin is charming, simple and adorable. You find yourself forgetting he is a child, because of his looks, but then realizing that most people that were as old as he looks, act about the same. And so the dichotomy begins.

He is raised in a home for elderly people. His "mother" lovingly called "Queenie" in the movie was the angel that took him in and loved him unconditionally. As the world around him isn't sure what to do with him as a person, Queenie knows that God has blessed her with something special, even though its package may not be pretty. You begin to adore this woman for what she has sacrificed for this poor soul.

The love interest in the movie is slow coming but sweet. Its a childhood friendship that comes and goes over the ages. Until at one point they "meet in the middle". The idea of it is sweet and romantic. Cate Blanchett did an astounding job playing a prima ballerina named "Daisy". The dancing in the movie was spectacular and impressive seeing she had no dance background. There were some painful scenes between Daisy and Benjamin, while she was dancing in NYC - where she wasn't very thrilled to see him. It was very real and against the grain of how you WANTED them to be.

As their love grew - the age differences going the other way (Her older/him younger) started to be evident. The makeup and special affects deserve major awards for this film. There was a point that Brad Pitt could have passed for 17 - in my opinion. I don't know if it was on location botox or what, but it was amazing. Cate was aged beautifully but also became painfully old towards the end.

The ONLY complaint I had was as they aged Benjamin back to a child at the end. As in the beginning, special affects were used to have a small body, but it was BRAD PITTS face on the small body. When they had to take him the other way, they didn't do that - and instead got different actors (that resembled him quite a bit) to play the parts. It was harder to get into it that way, in my opinion.

The ending scenes, watching this child, dying - were SO heart wrenching. Dementia setting in and his body giving out - it was so sad. The entire time, Daisy, as an old woman, devotes her time to being with him and taking care of him. At the very end, Bejamin's voice narrates a very sweet moment - with a medley of video in slow motion, of each main character. While you watch these characters that you have grown close to, and started to love, you hear Benjamin explain that we all have a place in this life. Whether its as a mother (cut to a shot of Queenie with her arms open wide and a huge loving grin), or a dancer (cut to a shot of Daisy dancing on stage) etc, you see where I am going with this. Its incredibly emotional and is a perfect way to end the movie.

There were a few slow parts of the movie however I took that time to really enjoy the make-up and effects - so it wasn't that bad.

Rating: **** 1/2 (it was pretty close to amazing)

In closing. Skip the restaurant, but see the movie

An Explanation

Just a quick explanation as to what this blog is about.

I will be using this blog to share my seasoned thoughts and opinions of various movies and restaurants.

As far as movies go - it could be in Theaters, it may be on DVD, shit it may even be a movie on TV if I like it enough. I think my opinions and thoughts on movies are easily understood and helpful to people when trying to decide to see a movie or not.

On the restaurant tip - I am a huge food critic. My family is in the restaurant business and I have worked in them off and on for years - I have been a cook, a server, a hostess, a dishwasher, a bookkeeper, a manager - so I know I can properly review a restaurant. I have to say my standards are high when it comes to eating out, so my ratings may be harsh, but it is what it is.

Here is my rating system:

* = bad
** = not great
*** = okay
**** = good
***** = excellent

If you have a restaurant or movie you think I will like - please feel free to email your suggestions to me at

Lastly - if you would like to contribute to this blog - please email me and include a few reviews you have written and we can chat about it.

Thanks for reading! Help spread the word!