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The Mortal Instruments – City of Bones Review

1 Sep

I dragged my poor mother to see this movie tonight.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013) Poster

I can’t believe how bad this was.  I read this whole series of books and LOVED them.  They were good stories that were relatively well written.  I liked the characters, they were well developed and somewhat understandable.  At least in the original trilogy.  I was really excited to see this movie because I had a hope (albeit a small one) that it would be okay.

The movie version deviated from the book a good bit, didn’t explain enough of what was going on and relied on mediocre acting to get the point across.  The only bright spot was the acting of Robert Sheehan who played the part of Simon.  He was really the only one with decent acting chops among the young cast.  I will say that Lena Headey and Jonathan Rhys Meyers were also in it and did an okay job with the small bits they played in.

On a side note there, when did I get old enough to have people about my age playing the parents of teenagers.  I do not feel that I’m old enough for that to be happening.  I don’t expect my contemporaries to be playing college students or anything, but parents of teenagers???

I just wish movie studios would learn from their mistakes.  Taking well loved books and then making horrible versions of them for the big screen isn’t going to work.  Golden Compass and Beautiful Creatures being other examples of this type of massacre.  You can’t just take a huge book series and turn it into a huge movie.  It takes a little effort, put someone who knows what they are doing behind the script, someone who will keep the original intent of the story in tact and won’t just go for the quick, cheesy scenes.  This movie could have been done well if it had a decent script and someone who didn’t just try to put the movie out there for a quick buck.  The studio could have actually made a lot of money if they had put in some effort.

So my note to movie studios, take a little pride in your output.  I get it, you are out to make money, but what good is it to make a crappy movie from a well liked book series.  You won’t get your money back on it and you won’t make any money off of the rest of the series because you so royally screwed up the first one.  So instead of investing in this first movie for the sake of the trilogy, you made a crappy movie that tanked.  I mean, one girl in the theater actually stood up at the end and said, “well that sucked”.  I agree.


Casablanca and Moroccan Beef with Cous Cous

28 Jul

I’ve said before that Casablanca is my absolute favorite movie.  Well, my friend Jen had never seen it (I know, gasp, the horror).  So a few weeks ago I decided I was going to force her to watch it and also make a Moroccan meal to go with the movie.  So instead of looking one up online, I turned to the family.  My cousin Mike (uncle to miss adorable below) is a trained chef, even if that isn’t what he’s doing for a living right now.  So I asked him to send me something to go with my movie watching and he sent me this Moroccan Beef with Cous Cous recipe.

First though, I went to see this little girl earlier in the day, had to get in some snuggles.  My mom is holding her here, I love this pose though, we call it Thinking Girl.  Look at those LONG legs!


Here is the recipe from Mike with some pictures from me.

Moroccan Beef Cous Cous (yields 4)

  • 1 lb. beef tenderloin (or chuck) – 1 inch cubes
  • 1 spanish onion – chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • pinch of saffron (optional)
  • 3-4 white or gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1-2 large carrots – peeled and cubed
  • handful of fresh chopped parsley and cilantro
  • handful of red or green olives (optional)
  • handful of garbonzo beans (optional)
  • 1/2 or 1 whole preserved lemon (or grated lemon peel)
  • 3 cups of beef stock
  • Morrocan cous cous (or Israeli if you can’t find it)
  • Chicken stock


Pat beef dry and season on all sides with salt and pepper, ginger, turmeric, cumin, and saffron (reserve some of spices for vegetables).  Add olive oil to large pot and brown the meat on all sides (in batches if needed) on medium-high heat. Remove from pot.


Reduce heat and add a little more olive oil and sweat onions, garlic, and carrots until soft. Add remainder of spices and stir.


Add beef back into pot and add 3 cups of beef stock and cover. Simmer the meat and veggies for about 1 1/2 hours or until beef is fork tender.

IMG_0752 IMG_0754

Add the potatoes, beans, olives and preserved lemon (or peel), adding broth/water if necessary. Partially cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender and the sauce is reduced until thick (add corn starch slurry to thicken if liquid is being reduced too much).


Add some chopped parsley and cilantro. Season the stew with more spices and salt and pepper if necessary.

During the last part of cooking, follow instructions on cous cous package. Once it is light and fluffy, add cous cous to bowls. Spoon stew over cous cous and garnish with more parsley and cilantro and serve.


A note from Mike:  This is a staple of Moroccan cuisine and is usually cooked in a tagine. Since most people do not own a tagine (myself included), a stock pot will suffice just fine. This is tasty on cool night and while watching Casablanca!

So I cooked this up and we watched Casablanca.  I’ve seen it like 3 dozen times so my opinion doesn’t count.  Jen’s thoughts on it though had to do with the fashion (she loved it), and the drama (a little over the top for her at moments).  I hadn’t seen it in a while, but it was as good as I remembered of course.  Rick’s speech at the end alone is enough to watch this movie, it has more great statements than almost any other movie.  If you’ve still not see it, please go rent it.  It’s only about 1.5 hours long, so it won’t exactly take up a bunch of your time.  And make this dish, it’s actually really easy and it tastes really good.

The Lone Ranger Review

6 Jul

On Friday, I went to see The Lone Ranger.

The_Lone_Ranger movie poster

It was cheesy and campy and obvious.  It was also entertaining.  It had unbelievable action scenes, over the top explosions, lots of stuff happening on top of trains, in trains, on train tracks… you get the picture.

I felt that Armie Hammer’s Lone Ranger was channeling his inner Doctor Who when he kept saying that he wouldn’t kill and didn’t believe in guns.  I got it at first, he was a lawyer, he wanted to follow due process.  It just went on a bit too long.  When he finally gave in and realized that the only way to truly stop the bad guys, he held nothing back.  Armie Hammer is just so Mr. All American to me.  I have trouble buying him as that rough and tumble Lone Ranger.  He did the best he could with it though.

Johnny Depp’s Tonto was a little odd, but let’s face it, most of his characters are odd.  I absolutely got his character’s motivation.  He lost his whole tribe to “the bad guys” mentioned above as a child, due to his actions.  But they were the actions of a child, I just felt bad that he carried that guilt his whole life.  I’ll give it to Johnny though, he knows how to play crazy and funny and bent on a mission all at the same time rather well.  He’s done it for the Pirates movies and now this one.

Anyway, this would be a wait for DVD movie recommendation in my opinion unless you are a little bored one weekend.  I really want to go see Monsters University next.  I was a little surprised that these two big Disney movies released the same weekend.  I guess it’s slightly different audiences, but there is enough overlap.

So, that was my opinion on the Lone Ranger, if you saw it, what did you think?

Patriotic Movies

4 Jul

So hopefully you are spending some time with family and/or friends on this little holiday break. For those of you taking a few extra days off and possibly running into some indoor time with the possibility of rain (at least here in Pittsburgh), I figured I’d give you some good ole’ Patriotic movies to watch.

To celebrate July 4, here are some great movies about the awesomeness of America. No movie poster pics today, I’m operating on my phone.

To Kill A Mockingbird

I love Gregory Peck in this movie. And I love the theme of a white lawyer fighting for the rights and life of a black man in the Depression era south. This movie came out in 1962, which would have been a dangerous time in the Civil Rights Movement. While African Americans and some sympathetic white Americans were in the middle of the fight for equal rights there were a number of politicians and organizations fighting to keep them down.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

First off, for those who don’t know, Jimmy Stewart is from the SW PA area, a town outside of Pittsburgh, so I automatically love his movies. Mr. Smith is appointed to a spot in the Senate, filling a vacancy. He soon runs into political machinations and corruption and fights for what he believes in. This is to remind all of us that when we say things like “the good old days”, political corruption is nothing new.

Top Gun

Ok, a non-serious movie finally. The music, the flying, the motorcycle, and oh, the Volleyball scene with a young, hot Val Kilmer! I love this movie, and it has so many great one-liners.

Dazed and Confused

I include this for this two simple reasons. Number one, this is a great coming of age movie. Second is for this quote from their teacher: “OK, guys, one more thing. Hey, this summer when you’re being inendated with all this bi-centennial, fourth of July, bru-ha-ha just remember what you’re celebrating. That’s the fact that a bunch of slave-owning aristocratic white males didn’t want to pay their taxes.”

Born on the Fourth of July

I was probably too young the first time I watched this Oliver Stone movie to really get it. I watched it again when I was much older and was better able to understand how scary coming home from war is. After witnessing the atrocities of war, experiencing life altering injuries and suffering from PTSD before that was something that was really diagnosed, it’s easy to see how Tom Cruise’s real-life character Ron Kovic became an anti-war, human rights activist.

Independence Day

Yes, the Aliens attacked the whole world, but of course it was us American’s who finally destroyed them with our awesome technology. Because I’m a bit of an IT geek, even though the thought of this is preposterous, it was an interesting idea at the time.

Saving Private Ryan

Even though I can’t imagine sending a whole platoon out to save one person, this is a great WWII movie.

The Patriot

A Mel Gibson movie before he went totally crazy. I have to be honest, the main reason I watched this was for Heath Ledger. How funny, two Aussies playing Americans fighting in the American Revolution

Man of Steel Review

30 Jun

I went to see the Superman re-boot on Saturday night.  My overall impression is somewhat mixed.  I was really excited to get to finally see the movie, it’s been out for three weekends now.  The first weekend I had an excuse to miss it, I had a very important wedding to attend.  I have no excuse for missing last weekend other than I was really busy last Saturday.

So, Man of Steel…

Henry Cavill stars as Kal-El, aka Clark Kent.  We first meet him bearded working on a fishing boat.  Within the first 2 minutes of the movie, we get to witness Superman save a bunch of men on an oil rig.  Oh yea, and we get a close-up shot of his abs.  I expected nothing less from you Zach Snyder, oh ye who gave me the movie 300.

Amy Adams played Lois Lane really well.  A bit of what was written for her was over the top for me… did she really need to be on the plane at the end, really??!  But, she played it well.  It is Amy Adams though, I’m pretty sure she could act with a brick wall.  Diane Lane played Clark’s mom, also a good portrayal for a relatively small, but important part.  I liked her reaction to her house being destroyed.  Kevin Costner plays pa Kent.  I’m not a huge Costner fan, but he turned in the serious performance that I’m guessing he was asked to provide.

This movie had much of what I expect from a summer movie, including lots of fighting, the destruction of New York, sorry, Metropolis and tons of things exploding.  I mean tons.  Gas stations, skyscrapers, cars, tankers, spaceships, planes.  You name it, it blew up in this movie.

However, this movie also was much darker than what I was anticipating.  Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, Christopher Nolan (Dark Knight Batman writer and Director) was a co-writer of this and he tends to lean toward more serious themes.  I suppose I just tend to like hero movies more along the lines of Avengers and Star Trek.  While these movies wrestle with serious themes at times, they leave room for humor and some fun.  Often this is accomplished with a little bit of snarky dialogue or funny interaction between characters.  There wasn’t much if any humor to be found in Man of Steel, unless you laughed at the ab shot within the first two minutes like I did.  Not saying I didn’t enjoy it, I certainly did, but it was just SO obvious.

It had many redeeming qualities too though.  I enjoyed the back-story that was created for this movie.  Having never read the comics, I don’t believe this is the original genesis story of Superman, but I liked how they portrayed Kal-El’s birth parents and home planet’s demise.  The back story of how General Zod (played by Michael Shannon) came to be so bent on his mission also made sense.  Yet another antagonist who might have noble motives, but attempts to meet his ends via destruction and evil.

Overall it was a decent movie.  Not my favorite super hero movie ever, it just could have been a little more fun and a little less serious in my opinion.  To me, Batman exists in the darkness and Superman in the sun, so making this a bit darker just threw me off.   But I’m glad I saw it in a theater.  You just don’t get the scope of the special effects when you are watching a movie like this at home.  And that’s half the reason to see this movie!  I’ll give Henry Cavill some credit here as well, his performance was very good and he looked really good while doing it.  Never would guess that he’s a Brit!

If you are a fan of this type of action movie and are debating going or waiting to watch it, I’d still suggest seeing it in the theater.  It is a movie best appreciated on the big screen.

If you did see it, what did you think?  Feel free to disagree with me!

Wedding Movies

12 Jun

I’m about to be out of pocket for a few days as I celebrate one of my best friend’s wedding.  This is Marissa and she’s getting married this weekend!IMG_0001

In celebration of Marissa getting married, here are some of my favorite movies about getting married!

Father of the Bride (1991 and 1950)

Father of the bride poster.jpg

I personally like the 1991 version, mostly because of Steve Martin’s performance.  He is hysterical in this and you can really see the frustration that can come with planning a wedding and how family dynamics play into it.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

This was hysterical when it came out and it still makes me laugh.  It’s obviously a extreme example of how overwhelming planning a wedding when you have a VERY opinionated family can be.  But as I’ve watched many friends plan weddings, I understand where the idea for this came from.

My Best Friend’s Wedding

Watching Julia Roberts make a fool of herself and Cameron Diaz sing at Karaoke is just hysterical.

Runaway Bride

More Julia Roberts making a fool of herself.  But the thing I remember most from this was the lesson about the eggs.  If you take your eggs the same way as every guy you’ve ever dated while your dating them (egg white omelette for one guy, over easy for another and scrambled for yet aother), there is a problem.  The meaning being that you need to know who you are and what you like before you can be with someone else.

The Wedding Singer

I love watching Adam Sandler do all those great 80’s covers for this movie.  And all of the 80’s clothes!  I also really enjoyed watching Adam win over the girl (Drew B) in this one, especially over the Miami Vice, white jacket wearing douche she was dating.

Sweet Home Alabama

Sweet Home Alabama film.jpg

Who doesn’t want to watch two people who obviously belong together be put through the ringer and almost marry the wrong person before FINALLY realizing that they belong together?!

Wedding Crashers

Wedding crashers poster.jpg

Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson ham it up in this comedy.  I can only imagine how many people went and tried to actually crash weddings after seeing this movie.

27 Dresses

Twenty seven dresses.jpg

For those of us who have been in a lot of weddings, we sit around wondering when it will finally be our freaking turn!  Don’t worry girls, I haven’t saved my dresses, there will not be parade of bridesmaid dresses should I ever walk down the aisle.  I only ever had one bad dress anyway!

Honorable Mention to Mama Mia, even though I didn’t like the movie, I love the Broadway Musical.  So I’ll throw it on here for all that great Abba music and a very cute story.

So as I wish Marissa and Dean a happy marriage, I’ll be hoping that all of the wedding festivities go off without any of the hitches we saw in these movies.

What do you think of my list, what are your favorite wedding movies?

Top 10 Movie Soundtracks – According to me

7 Jun

There are so many good movie soundtracks.  After I saw The Great Gatsby, it got me thinking of my favorites.

When I started this list, I thought, I’ll only be able to think of 5 to 10 that’s it.  Then I started to look through my dvd collection and old cd’s and it became 15.  Then I made the mistake of looking at other people’s lists and realized that I’d forgotten one that was better than 10 of the ones on my list and it became 18.  Honestly, I could probably make a list of 50, but I won’t bore you all with that.

If you are a music fan, you should check out my buddy’s blog over at RARA’s Farm.

So here are my top 10 favorite movie soundtracks

10.  Saturday Night Fever

The title song from this movie was the number one song the year I was born, 1978, so I feel that this needs to be on my list.  The thing about older soundtracks like this is that, a lot of times, they prominantly featured  one artist or group.  In this case, it’s the Bee Gee’s in all their chest hair glory.  If you don’t strut like John Travolta did in the beginning of that movie when Stayin’ Alive plays, there is something wrong with you!

9. Garden State

I actually don’t own this soundtrack or movie, but right after it came out I bought The Shins album, Oh, Inverted World, since they are prominently featured on this soundtrack.  Zach Braff, who also wrote, directed and starred in this movie, put together the soundtrack and won a Grammy for the compilation.

8.  Dazed and Confused

What a great 90’s movie.  What, it was set in the 70’s you say?!  But it was such a great reflection of my high school years!  And the soundtrack!  I rediscovered 70’s rock with this movie.  I’d always been a classic rock fan, but this made me remember.  Cherry Bomb, School’s Out  and Slow Rider are some of the great ones on this one and I love every song on this album!

7.  Flashdance

I love this soundtrack, a lot of these songs have gotten me through many workouts.  The two popular songs from this are also my favorites in this case, Maniac and What a Feeling.  I would include this album for these two songs alone!  But each song that was picked moves the movie along.  And maybe I have a soft spot for this since this movie is set in Pittsburgh.

6. Grease

This is the one and only musical to make my list.  Another John Travolta movie!  When I was little, and my childhood friends can attest to this, I would watch this movie on repeat, at least once a month probably from about 8 to 12 years of age.  I knew every song, every dance move and every line of dialogue.  Heck, I bet if I put it on right now I could act out the whole thing with them.  That’s probably because I still LOVE to watch this movie for it’s music.  I can’t pick a favorite song because I love them all.  I suppose if I had to though, it would be a tie between You’re The One That I Want and Summer Nights.  Don’t make me pick between the two.

8. Romeo and Juliet

So many good songs by bands that ruled my radio in the mid-nineties, Garbage, The Cardigans, Everclear, Radiohead…  I love this soundtrack, the theme song from the movie, Kissing You, is a slow, heart wrenching song that features just a voice and a piano.  It just tears at the heartstrings.  Then you jump into Lovefool, a song that was WAY over-played after this movie came out but that I loved anyway and Young Hearts, Run Free.  I can almost remember each scene that these songs accompanied.

4. Pulp Fiction

I think I spent the entire summer of 1995 with this cd in constant rotation in my car.  Son of a Preacher Man was my favorite at the time and still is my favorite on here, mostly because of the memories it brings.  Ahh, to be 16 again.  Urge Overkill’s version of Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon is amazing and you can never go wrong with Jungle Boogie by Kool and the Gang.  And I just realized that this is the third John Travolta movie to make this list.

3. Dirty Dancing

Yet another movie that is from my childhood.  If I wasn’t watching Grease you can bet I was watching this (or Adventures in Babysitting).  I could also quote this whole movie and honestly thought that I would have a summer like this in the NY Catskills someday.  I can honestly say that I love every song on this, it’s a bunch of oldies (my oldies, things from the 60’s) mixed in with some newer original songs.  Time of My Life, Hungry Eyes, Love is Strange and You Don’t Own me are probably my favorites, but I sincerely love all the songs on this one.  I even like the Patrick Swayze song She’s Like the Wind.  What a great movie and soundtrack.

2. Footloose


And here we have another one that I love every song from.  I definitely have my favorites, three of the songs from this album are currently on my workout list because I was in a Footloose mood last week.  Let’s Hear It for the Boy, Holding Out For a Hero and Dancing in the Sheets are on current rotation, but the title song from this is also fantastic.  I dare you to hear the song Footloose and not want to dance or at least tap your foot.  It’s impossible.  And Kevin Bacon had the moves back in the day.

1. Singles

Here it is, my number one choice.  This is personal for me, I can credit this movie and soundtrack for introducing me to the Seattle grunge scene.  If I had been 18 in 1992 when this movie came out, I would have been inspired to move to Seattle just to be a part of this crowd.  This features Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Screaming Trees just to name a few.  If Nirvana had made it’s way onto this album, it would have literally been every band that shaped my music listening preferences.  Given that Cameron Crowe was in front of this movie, writing and directing, I’m not shocked that this amazing soundtrack was put together.  The man is a music lover who got is start writing at Rolling Stone.  As soon as I decided to put this list together, I knew this would be my number one and I’ve been listening to it for the last week now, I forgot how much I loved my 90’s rock.

I thought of a lot more soundtracks that I really like, but they just couldn’t make the top 10.  Trainspotting was on the top 10 list then moved off, then back and then off again.  I really like the soundtrack, but I will stick with the ones on my list (for now).  Some other great ones are A Hard Day’s Night, Purple Rain, Pretty in Pink, Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, The Graduate and The Big Chill.

This was harder to complete than I originally thought it would be, but absolutely worth the work.  It made me go back to some favorite songs and movies that I hadn’t thought of for a while.

So, what is your favorite movie soundtrack?

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