Personal Reviews

Movie Review: Our Idiot Brother

Posted on December 22, 2011. Filed under: Movies, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Ever since Clueless I have been a big fan of Paul Rudd. He is just my kind of fellow, don’t know how else to describe it! I usually do my best to catch all of his movies as they hit DVD, I’m not much of a theatre-goer otherwise I would definitely check them out there. Netflix finally delivered Our Idiot Brother to my home – and what a joy! The movie was a comedy but also a bit of a life lesson. We all have these people in our lives that we look for and we look to but can sometimes we such an incredible inconvenience but in the end we appreciate them and grow to love them as they are, that is My Idiot Brother.

Paul Rudd, playing Ned, starts the movie getting arrested for distributing drugs to a police officer. He lived on an organic farm with his dog and his hippie girlfriend. It is clear from the arrest forward that he doesn’t have quite as much going for him as one would expect. His family immediately comes to his rescue offering shelter, food, love and support. It is clear that the family is a bit off though and has a plethora of issues themselves. His three sisters are all striving for something completely different in life. One, Zoeey Deschanel, is a lesbian, but maybe more of a sexually charged bisexual, or maybe straight, but she really wants to be a lesbian. Another sister, Elizabeth Banks, is a journalist and is the highest reacher of all the siblings. She wants to make it big and really lives an upscale, city, business lifestyle. The oldest sister, Emily Mortimer, is a mom, she is the only married sibling and her husband has a few quirks that immediately make him unlikable to the audience.

Ned is a very happy guy. He has an extremely positive outlook on life and doesn’t get in too deep in anything. He takes everything on the surface and does his best to really roll with the punches. His brother-in-law gives him a job working as an assistant as he films a documentary. Ned does his best to go along with but never seems to do things good enough for his brother-in-law. He exposes their children to television and games they would prefer their kids don’t see and quickly lands himself getting shoved out of their house and onto the next sister’s home.

He spends time in each of his sister’s homes and one by one manages to mess up the one thing that they each seemed to have wanted the most: a valuable relationship, a career advancement and a happy family. Ned doesn’t see these as his fault but really focuses in on dishonesty, lack of morals and ethics and a lack of trust. Ned makes a really great point for each of these things. With time his sisters do internally reflect a bit on his actions and the reactions and make peace with what has changed in their lives. It really seems like they for once open their eyes to their behavior and internalize what could make their lives better, stronger and more fulfilling and how to see life a little more through the rose-colored lenses that Ned has on. In Ned’s time of need his sisters pull through – you cannot beat a strong family bond, especially when you see that your ‘idiot’ brother was really trying to do his best.

It was a really funny movie with some great lines. Through the humor and strange situations there are some great messages and if you view it at the right time there are definitely things I could reflect on that each of the sisters did that I may also be guilty of, giving me just a small dose of a life lesson. It was a fun, entertaining movie that certainly did not drag on at all. I really enjoyed it and if you see it – I hope you do too! Keep on rocking Paul Rudd!

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The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker

Posted on October 20, 2011. Filed under: Books, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Every once in a while I find myself in a non-fiction kick. During those times I tend to go a bit overboard on biographies, memoirs and inspirational/self-help titles. An advice columnist that I really enjoy following, Carolyn Hax, recommends this book to many people for a variety of reasons. After hearing it time and time again I finally trekked to the library and put in the request to borrow it, and I am so glad that I did. I have recommended this to quite a few people since reading it, the impression it left on me is definitely a lasting one.

I personally feel that every young woman, going to college, in college, living on her own, moving to a new city or living in the same city she has lived in her entire life should read this book. This book teaches life lessons and life skills that many of us girls are lacking. This is not about self-defense and not meant to scare women about the dangers of the world but it is educational and excellent. There is no substitute for learning the information provided in this book – I wish I had read it years earlier.

Gavin De Becker is a pioneering advisor on navigating dangerous and risky situations involving assignation, stalking and basic survival fear. De Becker owns an agency that protects public figures including politicians and celebrities. Through reading his book you can tell that he is the leader in this type of knowledge. He is smart, he is confident and it shows throughout the book. Additionally, De Becker is confident that with this knowledge we can also be safer, which makes your confidence rise as well.

De Becker gives us some of his back-story on how he ended up in this field and goes through some difficult stories about his childhood. Hearing about his childhood helps us really understand how he was able to hone in and fully develop the heightened awareness he has for survival skills. We also get an excellent glimpse into the mind of someone whose sole profession is protecting others. Getting in on that thought-process is enlightening and helps us better understand how we can start to think that way and protect ourselves better.

The main topics in this book are female safety focused. While De Becker doesn’t want to stereotype, it is fact that many of the situations he describes in the book are female based problems. While men can be victims in the same scenarios, the truth is that women find themselves as the victims more often, focusing on what really is occurring is helpful to us to better prepare ourselves. Topics explored are stalking, trusting our instincts and learning to how to listen to the guidance our instincts are providing, public figure attacks, intimate violence, occupational violence, threats, and violence from children. There are many situations described in the book that we may never ever encounter, but having the knowledge in us ready in case we are in that situation is invaluable. We will never regret teaching ourselves what to do in the rare case we find ourselves there.

The best take-home message for me was learning how to trust our instincts. This book is not meant to make us more afraid or allow fear to take over our lives, it is rather about learning how not to be fearful because we have the ability and knowledge (after reading this) to safely navigate dangers that are presented to us. De Becker really focuses on what biology has given us and how we are ignoring it. Part of us ignoring these survival signals are culture – we are being taught to act in ways that go against this biology and are putting ourselves at risk. De Becker is helping women to break through that culture to put our personal safety first.

As I said before I think this is a book that every young woman should read, most likely more than once. It helped give me courage and strength and after reflecting on what I had read it also did make me feel less freightened and more in charge. I wouldn’t put myself in danger on purpose just to prove that I am in touch with my intuition but I did learn how to trust my intuition more and have thought of some ‘plans’ that I would carry out in a variety of situations, mentally preparing myself ahead of time should I find myself there. I also reflected back on previous encounters where I put many of these biological tools aside in an effort to just ‘be nice’ and I can recognize how I purposefully ignore bells and whistles and warnings and I’m ready to make different choices in those some situations in the future. Excellent read – don’t be scared, fear truly is a gift!

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Movie Review: 127 Hours

Posted on October 6, 2011. Filed under: Movies, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

If you know this true story keep reading on, if you don’t know the story and were hoping to see the movie then you may not want to read on as I will mention the outcomes, being that it’s based on a true-story this is only a semi-spoiler alert. Word to the wise on this one – if you dislike blood or are a bit squeamish this may not be the movie for you. That being said this film is not outright gory or disgusting but the central plot is about a man who is trapped a few hundred feet below ground as his arm is crushed by a boulder, there is blood and there is amputation, it’s a central plot that may disturb some.

I’m personally, not quite that squeamish and I really enjoyed the movie. I knew of the director Danny Boyle but hadn’t really thought much about his work one way or another until this film. All I have to say is ‘Wow’. This was an excellent movie, well done all around! If his other flicks are as visually intriguing and gripping then I am a huge fan!

For those that may not know, this is based on the true story of Aron Ralston, an avid canyoneer that was trapped for 127 hours in a Utah canyon. Aron was a bit of a cocky young fellow and didn’t tell anyone where he was headed, how long to expect him to be gone, went alone on this expedition, was in one of the most remote canyons in the US (miles from the nearest unpaved road) and in a dangerous area that is susceptible to quick flash floods from rain and warns that it can take hours for anything other than a ‘self rescue’ to happen should you stumble into danger. Don’t get me wrong, it seems like Aron was great at this hobby, but a little hubris would have done him well in this situation. Aron has a book detailing this expedition available called Between a Rock and a Hard Place ( http://www.amazon.com/Between-Rock-Hard-Place-Ralston/dp/0743492811 ).

With that back story being covered, the movie adaptation of this real-life survival story features James Franco as Aron. James Franco plays off the cool cockiness that Aron admits to having in his younger years, and overall Franco does an excellent job going through the emotions of a man left with two defeating choices: death or amputation.

The movie quickly moves into the central plot, within the first half-hour (give or take my timing) Franco is trapped in the canyon and his arm is wedged between the canyon and the boulder. He quickly puts the survival skills he has been taught into use. He knows with the amount of water he has left how much he needs to drink to survive and how long this will actually keep him alive. He also understands that he has a few options for trying to move the boulder – none of which are working but he seems careful to conserve his energy as much as possible. He isn’t armed with a great knife so his first amputation effort is short lived. He does have a camcorder and a camera so he records things the is thinking in case the end really is near – he wanted to preserve that he was thinking and the importance of those in his life.

During his time in the canyon we get some insightful glances into his thoughts. We are taking to memories past, premonitions of the future (children with a one-armed man), and recent memories of small things he could have changed if given the opportunity. There were many ‘if only I had done this …’ times and you really sympathize with him in those situations. Aron is finally at the breaking point and realizes after he ‘sees’ a child with a one-armed man that he wants children and he wants a life. He knows that is what he wants and he fully understands that in order to save himself he must do something nearly impossible to survive: amputate his own arm.

After the amputation he is free, but he still needs to get out of the canyon and hike to his car which is many miles away and then hopefully find help in a reasonable enough time. The desperation in his walking during this part is so apparent and you are really pulling for him to survive – the hardest part is over! Aron reflects back on this event in his life and realizes that life was worth living and fighting for and also realized that a little slice of humble pie will go a long way.

It is a tough way to learn that lesson but an important lesson to learn. Overall, the message within the movie really has you question your own will power and the choices you make on a daily basis. How many times do we inadvertently put ourselves in danger for no apparent reason?

The movie was very artistically shot and while the subject matter was extremely grim and dramatic the movie was compelling and visually stimulating. The director did a wonderful job splicing in multiple scenes into one screenshot to really get you inside his head. The music was also wonderful. It was a little unconventional but really worked. I would definitely watch this movie again, maybe not one I would own but I would watch it again. It was an excellent film and an excellent story, very motivating!

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Semi-Locally Famous Eateries in DC – A Quick Review

Posted on September 15, 2011. Filed under: Destination: Travel!, Everyday Me, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

 

 

I’m kind of into food a lot lately, not in a binge eating type of way but just as more of a hobby. I’ve gotten very into top-chef and anything else on food network (or Bravo!) that involves cooking and I even started my own blog about crop-shares! (link below or http://creativecrops.wordpress.com – well if that’s not a shameless plug I don’t know what is..).  With this mild obsession with food as of late I decided that of all the more ‘famous’ eateries in my backyard I would give a quick once over on my opinions. Bon Appetite!

Ben’s Chili Bowl
Fame Level: Travel Channel, President Obama has eaten here…

I really love chili, let me get that out there first. There is just something wonderful about a good chili. In the Fall and Winter it is warming and in the summer on a hot-dog it can spice things up just right. Turkey chili, soy chili, heck even Hormel, just heat it up and I’m usually in there! Ben’s Chili Bowl is a DC establishment. It has been standing from before the race riots that tore through DC, Bill Cosby is a hug advocate of the place, and President Obama famously dined in this very, very small place in the early days of his presidency.  www.benschilibowl.com Now that we know who has been let’s go over the nitty gritty details of this place:  

Experience:
It is directly across the street from the 13th ave  exit at the U Street metro stop, so it is definitely convenient. The hours are 10 am – 2am, clearly there is no excuse not to go! They do only allow a limited number of people into the building, so you may have to wait on a line outside, then move to a line inside and then get a seat. I was very nervous about not getting a seat after I ordered. The place was really jam-packed but everyone typically orders then scouts out seating so it worked out just fine that way, sticking with that system in there is the way to go! They also had some great music playing, seemed like a nice mix between 60s and 80s soul and pop tunes, the noise level was pretty moderate but it was all part of the experience. The staff was absolutely amazing! They were personable, friendly, helpful and quick, since you order and then they deliver there isn’t too much interaction but they made the most of the little interaction we had!

Food:
Again, I am a chili person so I may be biased here but it was delicious! I had a chili-dog with cheese and onions and boy was it good! I got fries on the side for a bit extra and that was a smart idea. The chili is extremely spicy (even for my husband who typically eats habanero and jalapeno peppers in his food). Both my husband and father in law were quick to jump on my fries when I offered them up to beat some of the spice. Overall, it was relatively inexpensive, locally owned, delicious and offered free fountain soda refills, it’s worth a quick bite if you find yourself on that side of town for sure!

 

Georgetown Cupcake
Fame Level: TLC TV Show – DC Cupcakes

I really love these cupcakes! I have been a fan of Georgetown Cupcake since before they were famous nation-wide and were just a fun little store in Georgetown. Even then the lines were up the block! Overall, after trying more than a fair share of DC area cupcakeries I still prefer this one, I’m hooked! If you are in town for just a little while, don’t feel bad missing this spot, but if you have time to kill and want to check out Georgetown, hop in line and spend a while, the cupcakes in the end are pricey, but worth it! www.georgetowncupcake.com

Experience:
With the TV show in full swing the lines at this place have progressively gotten worse. I thought it would ease up a bit when they made the move from their extremely tiny shop on a side street a few streets over to their larger, corner location. It really didn’t help. The store is much more visible and prominent now and the lines are just as long and move just as slow. They do have a lot more workers in there so it is much more efficient when you get in to get your cupcakes and drinks and mosey along. The show has really amped up their business though. Word to the wise, if you are going to go – get there early! Also, become their Facebook friend/fan so that you can find out what cupcake flavor they are giving away for free that day.

Food:
When its early in the day and the lines are short I jump on to get my free cupcake – always a delicious treat! They offer standard cupcakes everyday of the week – these are pretty basic: Chocolate and vanilla varieties, red velvet (definitely one of my favorites) and chocolate ganache – for any chocolate lovers out there this cupcake would be for you! They have daily varieties that are also quite delicious. My favorite of the daily changing ones is Lava Fudge. You bite into the middle of this cupcake and get some ‘lava’, it is such a great treat, especially warm! I also enjoy their Strawberry – nice and refreshing! Some of my favorite seasonal flavors that are offered include German Chocolate Fudge (similar to the lava fudge) and Caramel Apple (hands down my absolute all-time favorite)!

 

Filomena Ristorante of Georgetown
Fame Level: Politicians, Diplomats and Men in Tuxedos…

Like any ‘good’ Italian – I love Italian food more than any other variety. Good pasta can never let you down, it  is comfort and it’s my go-to food of choice. At Filomena you can watch the ladies making the fresh pasta in the front of the store. It is tucked in a side-street but is very delicious. www.filomena.com

Experience:
Get ready to part with your wallet – this place is extremely pricey! I will be honest, I will not go to this restaurant unless it is restaurant week where I can score a price-fixed meal at something more reasonable. It is expensive, the food is good, but I just don’t have that kind of cash to spend on a dinner. It is decorated in an over the top Italian way. Fake flowers and plants, big statues, it looks like what would happen is someone let my Grandma design a restaurant. That’s part of what makes it cozy, special and real though. It backs up to the canal so if you sit near the windows you have a lovely view of the canal… 

Food:
If this place were in my budget I would definitely visit more often. The food was excellent! The pasta was fresh and tasted great! The meat was cooked perfectly. Everything was just right, and they even throw in the free after-dinner drink like any good Italian place would as you are paying. It was worth the extra money for something special. Looking to impress someone and have a fancy night on the town – come here. The food is wonderful and you will enjoy it and be treated well! 

 Any I’ve left off that you think I should include? If so – let me know!

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Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Posted on September 8, 2011. Filed under: Books, Movies, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

It has been a long while since I last read a Nicholas Sparks book. After Nights in Rodanthe was a box-office flop I took a break from his stories, but this one was amazing. For anyone who has read his books before, have no fear, it takes place in North Carolina and is a bit of a love story…

The story starts out with the mysterious ‘Miss Katie’. She is a waitress in a small town in North Carolina. She keeps to herself and really tries to be invisible as much as possible. As for her past and history, well that’s a closed book and she isn’t giving away any secrets. Sparks opens this book shrouded in mystery surrounding Katie. We know she has run but we aren’t completely sure what it is she’s running from. As the reader we are looking over our shoulders with Katie while doing our best to chip away at small details she gives away to figure out what her story is.

Much of the beginning of the book if focused around this North Carolina town she has found herself in. It’s a small town so gossip is rampant, which is part of the reason for Katie to stay as tight-lipped as she is. But the town’s smallness also lends itself to be quaint, and homey and just what she needs to calm her nerves from whatever it is she is running from. We quickly meet the local widower, Alex, who is struggling to keep up with his two young children and the general store he manages. There is no secret that right from the beginning of this story we are expecting something, anything, to happen between Katie and Alex. This is a Nicholas Sparks book after all, so it is no shock when she walks into his general store that he is intrigued, and is determined to break through her shell and learn about who she is.

The first few chapters are really focused on where Katie is, the struggles Alex has gone through loosing his wife, his interactions with his children, and the way the entire town interacts. As a reader I wanted to find out what Katie was running from, I had some hunches and ideas but nothing concrete and it was a bit frustrating not to have that laid out for me after a few chapters. Then, just as my frustration was about to peak, Katie has a new neighbor, a female named Jo that Katie opens up to. At this point we have it – we know why Katie is running, we understand what she is up against and we truly want her to succeed.

Sparks takes a moment to introduce a new character at this point. Up until now we have only heard from Katie and Alex, but it is time to get into the head of Kevin, Katie’s husband. Not hearing from Kevin until quite a ways into the book was definitely an interesting point to the book. Since we had hints about her past and then learned it in full it really gives the reader time to develop a concrete feeling on this new character, and when he is finally introduced we have a firm opinion on him, and the thoughts he puts into the book confirm our thoughts and really solidify them. Once Kevin is introduced the book takes a bit of a turn.

Katie and Alex are becoming close, she has a dear friend in her neighbor Jo, she is starting to grow roots in this new location and we are now hearing from her husband and have a direct insight into the mind that Katie is trying to read from miles away. We want Katie and Alex to love deeply and for Katie to trust Alex with all her heart and love him as much as he immediately loves her but we understand the difficulty. We learn her secrets and watch as she grows stronger by the chapter. And at the same time we watch Kevin’s actions and then the story gets really good and you are definitely involved.

Without giving away the ending, or much of the middle, I will say that this book was more riveting and page-turning than any other Nicholas Sparks book I have ever read. I literally could not put it down for quite a few pages because I was glued. The narrative switched between Katie and Alex in North Carolina and Kevin. We could see both sides of the story and we could only read one word at a time as the worlds collided. Nicholas Sparks did an excellent job developing all of these characters in a way that we had opinions of them that matched their actions and our opinions were so incredibly strong that we felt involved in the outcome. The book was heart-wrenching while at the same touching and at the end you feel proud at what was accomplished by the characters. I really did not know how it was going to end and that helped keep me glued to the pages.

I cannot say enough that while this is somewhat of a love story, it is less about love as it about learning to love again and learning how to trust. There are times when the story is a bit graphic, not from a sexual point of view but from a violent point of view but it is done in a very tactful way that makes you really understand the characters and their inner-feelings.  It is a good story with a lot of meat to it – perfect for those that like drama, good for Sparks’ fans and really good for just about anyone who has agreed with my book selections in the past. The action, drama and love packed into this book truly would make a Hollywood movie proud, according to the author’s website movie rights have been sold, hopefully the movie lives up to the book! Enjoy!

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