Saturday, March 30, 2013
Below is an article that features the history and a recipe for a dish called "Steak Diane":
Tracing the history of the culinary dish, Steak Diane, proved to be a complicated affair. From some of the articles I have read, the dish's history could be traced back to the late 19th century and early 20th century, when European chefs rediscovered the recipe for an ancient dish that required sauce served over venison. Its sharp sauce was intended to complement the sweet flavor of deer meet. It was named after the Roman goddess of the hunt and the moon, Diana.
But the actual Steak Diane evolved from Steak au Poivre, which was coated with cracked peppercorn before cooked and smothered with sauce. But Steak au Poivre did not include flambéing with brandy in its recipe. Steak Diane did. Sometime during the 1950s, Steak Diane made its first appearance either at the The Drake Hotel, the Sherry-Netherland Hotel or the Colony Restaurant in New York City. Beniamino "Nino" Schiavon, an Italian-born chef who worked at the Drake Hotel. I do know that Steak Diane became a very popular dish for those who hobnobbed within New York's high society during the 1950s and 1960s.
The following is a recipe for the dish from celebrity chef, Emeril Lagassee:
4 (3-ounce) filet mignon medallions
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 teaspoons minced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup sliced white mushroom caps
1/4 cup Cognac or brandy
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup reduced veal stock, recipe follows
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 drops hot red pepper sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped green onions
1 teaspoon minced parsley leaves
Season the beef medallions on both sides with the salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook for 45 seconds on the first side. Turn and cook for 30 seconds on the second side. Add the shallots and garlic to the side of the pan and cook, stirring, for 20 seconds. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until soft, 2 minutes. Place the meat on a plate and cover to keep warm.
Tilt the pan towards you and add the brandy. Tip the pan away from yourself and ignite the brandy with a match. (Alternatively, remove the pan from the heat to ignite, and then return to the heat.) When the flame has burned out, add the mustard and cream, mix thoroughly and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the veal stock and simmer for 1 minute. Add the Worcestershire and hot sauce and stir to combine. Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pan and turn the meat to coat with the sauce.
Remove from the heat and stir in the green onions and parsley. Divide the medallions and sauce between 2 large plates and serve immediately.
Here is the recipe for the Reduced Veal Stock:
4 pounds veal bones with some meat attached, sawed into 2-inch pieces (have the butcher do this)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups coarsely chopped yellow onions
1 cup coarsely chopped carrots
1 cup coarsely chopped celery
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/4 cup tomato paste
6 quarts water
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups dry red wine
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Place the bones in a large roasting pan and toss with the oil. Roast, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and spread the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic over the bones. Smear the tomato paste over the vegetables and return the pan to the oven. Roast for another 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and pour off the fat from the pan.
Transfer the bones and vegetables to a large stockpot. Do not discard the juices in the roasting pan. Add the water, bay leaves, thyme, salt, and peppercorns to the stockpot and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, place the roasting pan over two burners on medium-high heat. Add the wine and stir with a heavy wooden spoon to deglaze and dislodge any browned bits clinging to the bottom of the pan. Add the contents to the stockpot. When the liquid returns to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 8 hours, skimming occasionally to remove any foam that rises to the surface.
Ladle through a fine-mesh strainer into a large clean pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle boil, and cook, uncovered, until reduced to 6 cups in volume, about 1 hour. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove any congealed fat from the surface of the stock. The stock can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or frozen in airtight containers for up to 2 months.
Friday, March 29, 2013
Below are images from "THE SPY WHO LOVED ME", the 1977 James Bond movie. Using the title of Ian Fleming's 1962 novel and directed by Lewis Gilbert, the movie starred Roger Moore as James Bond:
"THE SPY WHO LOVED ME" (1977) Photo Gallery
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
"KING KONG" (2005) Review
Several years ago, producer-director Peter Jackson had stated in an interview that one of movies that had inspired him to become a filmmaker was Merian C. Cooper's 1933 hit adventure film, "KING KONG". Sixteen to eighteen years after his first directorial effort, Jackson was finally able to pay tribute to his inspiration with a remake of the 1933 film.
Anyone familiar with Cooper's film should know the story of King Kong. Set during the early years of the Great Depression, an overly ambitious movie producer coerces his cast and the crew of a freighter ship to travel to mysterious Skull Island, where they encounter Kong, a giant ape who becomes immediately smitten with the producer's financially struggling leading lady. After using his leading lady to lure Kong into a trap, the producer ships Kong back to Manhattan to be displayed to the public as the Eighth Wonder of the World. Unfortunately, Kong escapes and inflicts chaos on the city streets in search for the leading lady.
Jackson and his co-screenwriters, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens pretty much followed the 1933 movie. However, they made some changes. In the 1933 film, Carl Denham was a respected and successful filmmaker. He was a struggling filmmaker who resorted to stealing footage of his film from his financial backers in Jackson's version. There is more backstory on the Ann Darrow character in the newer film and she is a vaudeville dancer/comedian, not simply a unemployed and starving woman. Ann remains frightened of Kong throughout the entire 1933 film (an emotion that actress Fay Wray did not share); whereas Naomi Watts' Ann forms an emotional bond with him. The inhabitants of Skull Island are a lot more hostile in the 2005 film, and less human. Kong is portrayed as simply an animal and less of a monster. Jack Driscoll is a playwright hired as a screenwriter in this film, whereas in the '33 film, he is the S.S. Venture's first mate. And in Jackson's film, the first mate is an African-American. The 2005 Captain Englehorn is at least fifteen to twenty years than his 1933 counterpart. Kong's rampage across Manhattan was a lot more horrific than his rampage in the 2005 film. The character of actor Bruce Baxter was created as a homage to actor Bruce Cabot, one of the stars of the 1933 film. And it is he, along with Denham and some actress hired to impersonate Ann that ends up on the stage with Kong in Jackson's film. In Cooper's film, both Ann and Driscoll end up on stage with Denham and Kong.
So, what did I think of Jackson's "KING KONG"? Technically and visually, it is a beautiful film. One of the first things that impressed me was Grant Major's production designs for the movie. His work, along with the art direction team led by Dan Hannah, Hannah and Simon Bright's set decorations and Andrew Lesnine's photography did an excellent job in re-creating Manhattan of the early 1930s. And what I found even more amazing about their work is that all of the Manhattan sequences were filmed in New Zealand . . . even the opening montage that introduced the movie's time period and its leading female character. Terry Ryan's costume designs for the movie were attractive to look at. But if I must be honest, they did not particularly blow my mind. I really cannot explain why. It seemed as if her costumes - especially for the female characters - failed to achieve that early 1930s look, one hundred percent. I was also impressed by work of both the art department and the visual effects team. Their work on the Skull Island sequences struck me as impressive. But honestly, I was more impressed by their work on the Manhattan scenes . . . especially the sequence featuring King Kong's confrontation with the U.S. Army planes. And here are two samples of their work:
My only quibble about the visual work in the Manhattan sequences featured the S.S. Venture's depature from Manhattan. Frankly, it looked like the work of an amateur, circa 1929. Why on earth did Jackson allowed the ship to leave New York Harbor at double speed? It looked so tacky.
Jackson, Walsh and Boyens did a pretty good job in re-creating Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace's story. In fact, I believe they had improved on some aspects of the 1933 film. One, the Ann Darrow character was given more of a background and more screen time before the S.S. Venture's journey to Skull Island. I could say the same for the Carl Denham character, who proved to be a more ambiguous character than his 1933 counterpart. Due to the depth given to both Ann and Denham's characters, the setup for the S.S. Venture's departure from Manhattan seemed more detailed and far from rushed. The movie spent a good deal of time aboard the S.S. Venture, building up suspense to the ship's arrival at Skull Island and allowing relationships and the characters to develop - especially Ann's romance with playwright/screenwriter Jack Driscoll. I wonder if many moviegoers had complained about the length it took the Venture to reach Skull Island. I certainly did not. The longer the movie focused on the Venture sequences, the longer it took the movie to reach Skull Island.
Because . . . honestly? I disliked the Skull Island sequences. I was able to bear it in the 1933 film. But I cannot say the same for Jackson's film. There were some scenes in the Skull Island sequence that I liked. I enjoyed the chase sequence featured members of the Venture crew, Denham's film production and a Venatosaurus saevidicus pack's hunt of Brontosaurus baxteri. I even tolerated Kong's rescue of Ann from three Vastatosaurus rex. And I was impressed by the scene that featured Ann and Kong's initial bonding. I found it both touching and slightly humorous. And I could see that the screenwriters, along with Naomi Watts and Fay Wray (who portrayed the original Ann) understood Kong's feelings for the leading lady a lot better than Cooper and Wallace did. But I still disliked the Skull Island sequence - especially the scenes featuring Denham's film crew's encounter with the island's natives and the visitors' enounter with giant insects inside a large pit. The natives seemed more like Orc rejects from Middlearth with very little humanity. Despite the coconut bras and bone jewelry, the natives featured in the 1933 film struck me as a lot more human and less like savage stereotypes. As for the giant insect pit sequence . . . I usually press the fast-forward button for that scene. I not only dislike it, I find it repulsive.
Fortunately, the movie returned to Manhattan. And I noticed that for the first minutes or so, Jackson re-created Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack's introduction of Kong to the people of Manhattan. I was impressed. In fact, I found this second Manhattan sequence very impressive . . . but not as much as I did the earlier one. Granted, Bruce Baxter's quick departure from the theater following Kong's escape provided some laughs. And Jackson handled Kong's rampage of Manhattan rather well. I was a little disappointed that Jackson did not re-create the elevated train sequence from the first film. I was stunned by the sight of Ann searching the streets of Manhattan for Kong wearing nothing but her costume from a stage musical in the middle of winter. Hell, I was amazed that she managed to not to get pnemonia from wandering around the city with no overcoat and no sleeves for her gown. And frankly, I found Ann and Kong's reunion in Central Park something of a bore. I truly wish that Jackson had cut that scene. As for the Empire State Building sequence, once again, Naomi Watt's Ann did not seemed to be affected by the cold weather, while wearing nothing but a costume gown. And I noticed that Jackson plagerized Gandalf's death in "LORD OF THE RINGS: FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING" for Kong's final death scene. I felt nothing but a little relief because the U.S. Army Air Corp's attempt to kill Kong seemed to last forever.
The cast of "KING KONG" seemed to fare very well, despite some of the mediocre lines written by Jackson, Walsh and Boyens. Thomas Kretschmann's portrayal of the pragmatic and cynical Captain Englehorn struck me as very skillful and effective. Both Evan Parke and Jamie Bell provided some well-acted pathos as First Mate Ben Hayes and a young crewman named Jimmy, for whom Hayes seemed to act as mentor. Adrien Brody provided a nice balance of romance, heroics and cynicism in his portrayal of writer Jack Driscoll. Actually, I thought he made a more interesting leading man than Bruce Cabot. And Colin Hanks' solid portrayal of Preston, Denham's neurotic but honest personal assistant, proved to be the movie's emotional backbone. But there were the performances that really stood out for me.
Andy Serkis, who had impressed the world with his portrayal of Gollum in the "LORD OF THE RINGS" movies, proved to be equally impressive in his motion capture performance as Kong. Not only was he solid as the S.S. Venture cook, Lumpy; he did an excellent job in providing Kong with a great deal of emotional nuances. Kyle Chandler nearly stole the film with his hilarious portryal of movie actor Bruce Baxter. Not only was Chandler's Baxter egotistical and self-involved, he also proved to be a surprisingly pragmatic character with a talent for self-preservation. He also provided, in my opinion, one of the film's best quotes:
"Hey, pal. Hey, wake up. Heroes don't look like me - not in the real world. In th real world they got bad teeth, a bald spot, and a beer gut. I'm just an actor with a gun who's lost his motivation. Be seeing you."
Jack Black gave a superb job as movie producer Carl Denham. In fact, I believe that Black's Denham proved to be the film's most ambiguous character. Even though his Denham seemed manipulative, greedy and exploitive; he also managed to bring out the character's compassionate side and enthusiam for his profession. It seemed a pity that Black never received any acclaim for his performance. Many moviegoers and critics seemed disappointed that Naomi Watts did not receive a Golden Globes or Academy Awards nomination for her excellent portryal of out-of-luck vaudevillian Ann Darrow. Frankly, I think she deserved such nominations for her work. More than any other member of the cast, she had to develop an emotional bond and work with an animated figure and at the same time, develop her own character. And she did one hell of a job. Think Bob Hoskins in 1988's "WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?".
"KING KONG" has become a highly regarded film over the years. It made "Empire" magazine's 2008 list of the 500 Greatest Movies of All Time. Do I agree with this assessment? Hmmm . . . no. Not really. It is a very entertaining film filled with plenty of action and adventure. It also featured some pretty damn good acting from a cast led by Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Andy Serkis. But the movie also possesses some pretty obvious flaws and I find it difficult to enjoy the Skull Island sequence. Like I said, Jackson created a pretty good movie. But I could never regard it as one of the greatest movies of all time.
The person who maintains the following blog - Irish Eyes - is a THIEF. He or she assumed that any material posted on the Internet was part of public domain, allowing the handler of the blog to lift material from my blogs and post it on his/her without crediting me for the material. This person is a THIEF and is only capable of lifting material created by other people, instead of creating his/her own. I suggest you keep an eye on this person. If you find any of your material on this blog, I suggest you contact the following e-mail address - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
This article was written in early January 2013, just before the "ONCE UPON A TIME" Season Two episode, (2.10) "The Cricket Game" aired on television:
"HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE THE CHARMINGS?"
I will be the first to admit that I have become a diehard fan of ABC's "ONCE UPON A TIME". It was not easy for me. The concept of fairy tale characters existing in the modern world because of a magical curse really appealed to me. However, I had some difficulty in maintaining interest in the series, due to what I felt was the slow introductions of the major characters and slow pacing in the first half of Season One.
In the end, it took episodes like (1.11) "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree", (1.12) "Skin Deep", (1.15) "Red-Handed" and (1.18) "The Stable Boy" to maintain a strong interest in "ONCE UPON A TIME". By the time protagonist Emma Swan broke the curse (somewhat) in the first season finale, (1.22) "A Land Without Magic", I was a diehard fan. Then Season Two arrived and the series' hold on my interest continued. Some critics and fans have complained about the storylines and characterizations featured in the first half of Season Two. Many complained about Emma and Snow White's adventures in Post-Curse Fairy Tale Land, frustrated by Snow and Charming's new period of separation. Some have complained about the minimal attention toward the Rumpelstiltskin/Belle romance. Some have complained about Regina Mills/Evil Queen's redemption arc, demanding that she remain a non-redeeming villainess. And some have complained about the revelation of Dr. Whale as Dr. Victor Frankenstein, a character from literary horror.
If I must be honest, I had an easier time enjoying Season Two's first half than I did the first half of Season One. The pacing seemed faster. Unlike many others, I had no problems with the idea of Emma and Snow White being stuck in Post-Curse Fairy Tale Land. The sequence re-introduced memorable guest character Cora Mills/the Queen of Hearts as a more memorable recurring character and a new spin on Captain Hook. I certainly had no problems with Regina Mills' redemption arc, and my instincts tell me that the character is in for a long and difficult road ahead. And Dr. Whale's revelation did not bother me one bit. Yes, I had a problem with the writers' handling of the Mulan and Princess Aurora characters, even if I did like them. Rumpelstiltskin and Belle did not strike me as interesting as they were in Season One. And I was not impressed with (2.07) "Child of the Moon" and its handling of Red Riding Hood's wolf nature or the King George/George Spencer character. But the one aspect of Season Two that I found truly annoying were the characterizations for the members of the Charming family - Snow White and Prince Charming, their daughter Emma Swan, and her biological son Henry Mills (Regina's adoptive son). I found them more than annoying. There were many times when I felt bile rising up my throat.
Snow White and Charming were not much of a problem for me during Season One, especially their cursed Storybrooke alter egos - Mary Margaret Blanchard and David Nolan. Superficially, Mary Margaret and David seemed like slightly boring personas. But at least their affair, which really hurt David's alter ego wife Kathryn Nolan (aka Princess Abigail), made them interesting and somewhat corrupted. Last year, I had viewed the affair as inoffensive, especially since they were really husband and wife in real life. But as far as the pair knew in their cursed state, David was married to Kathryn . . . and that did not stop them from hurting her with an affair. It took a second viewing of Season One to make me realize this. I found the affair distasteful, but I also believed it made Mary Margaret and David more interesting than their Fairy Tale Land counterparts.
After the couple regained their memories of their true selves, Snow White and Charming became very annoying. Season One introduced the idea of Snow White being an action woman. But the writing in Season Two took this concept to ridiculous heights in two particular episodes in Season Two. In (2.03) "Lady of the Lake", Snow White made a big deal about the dangerous aspects of ogres. Yet, when an ogre threatened Emma, Snow killed him so easily that I found her warnings rather ludicrous. Writers Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg did not even bother to make it difficult for Snow to kill him. I found the ogre's death anti-climatic and disappointing. The writers' handling of Snow White in (2.08) "Into the Deep" really pissed me off. One, her fight with Mulan left me shaking my hand in disbelief. I realize that the years of evading Regina had transformed her into some kind of action woman. But honestly . . . I really found it difficult to swallow the easy manner in which she got the best of Mulan in a fight over the compass that could lead them to a portal. Mulan was a trained warrior, who had more experience in combat. Yet, the audience was supposed to believe that Snow could easily best her in a fight? This was a fairy tale of the worst kind. Snow's intitial compassion toward Aurora disappeared real fast after Mulan took the compass to trade it for the younger princess's life. Even worse, she tried to kill Mulan for the compass. While most fans bashed Mulan for being concerned enough about Aurora to take the compass, I was too busy being disgusted by Snow's murder attempt. And guess what folks? Her act of attempted homicide has been swept under the rug and quickly forgotten.
Charming has been a real pain in the ass in Season Two. Remember the finale of the Season Two premiere, (2.01) "Broken"? I do. The Charmings had learned that Rumpelstiltskin had sent a wraith after Regina to kill her in retaliation for Belle's incarceration during the curse. They prevented the wraith from killing Regina, but it dragged both Snow White and Emma into Jefferson's magical hat and Fairy Tale Land. What happened next? An enraged Charming shoved Regina and threatened to kill her if she did not bring back Snow and Emma. Regina retaliated and nearly killed him using magic. Guess which act Henry conveniently appeared to witness? Not Charming's attack, but Regina. And Henry threatened to never talk to her again if she did not bring back his mother and grandmother. How convenient for Charming. And the self-righteous bastard never admitted that his attack on Regina led to her to attack him, thanks to Horowitz, Kitsis and their writers. Charming proved to be an ineffective guardian for Henry. Even though he knew how to be the kid's best friend and promised to train him in the arts of being a knight, he never really bothered to discipline Henry. When Regina informed him about a resurrected Daniel in (2.05) "The Doctor", Charming's only method in getting information from her was to threaten her with jail time. Honestly, I found the scene laughable. However, I was not laughing in the scene in which he punched Dr. Whale for the latter's one night stand back in Season One. I was simply disgusted. Whale pointed out that his brief affair occurred during the Curse, when everyone believed that Charming was married to Abigail (Kathryn Nolan). But Snow's husband had to prove his manhood with a move that left me viewing him as a dick. A good number of the fans shared my views. But there were many others - especially male fans and critics - that crowed with delight over Charming's punch. The incident merely lowered my opinion of him a step further. His decision to use the sleeping curse in order to communicate with Snow White via dreams struck many as infantile, especially since he discovered that he could not be awakened by her in the dream state.
As I had stated earlier, Emma Swan and Henry Mills have been a problem since the series' premiere. I personally believe it was a big mistake for Horowitz and Kitsis to make Henry the biological son of Emma. I suppose the pair needed him as a means for Emma to "somewhat" break the Curse with a mother's kiss. But honestly? Their storyline has been a problem since Day One. One, how on earth did the 10 year-old Henry get from Storybrooke, Maine to Boston, Massachusetts on his own? To this day, I am still flabbergasted by the idea of Emma, who had given up her son while in prison, remaining in Storybrooke to keep an eye on both Regina and Henry. All because Regina had insisted that she stay away from the boy. This was Emma's excuse? It is only natural that the parent of an adopted child would want the biological parent to stay away . . . especially if the child was a minor. I do not believe that Regina's antipathy toward her was a good excuse for Emma to remain in Storybrooke. Regina could have easily filed a restraining order against Emma for harassing her and Henry. She even threatened Emma with a restraining order once, but she never made good on her threat, thanks to the writers. And are we really supposed to believe that Regina was an abusive parent? Henry has never exhibited signs of being an abused child. The worst Regina ever did to him was hint that he may be emotionally or mentally unstable in order to maintain the secret of the Curse in the first season, and use magic to keep Henry with her in (2.02) "We Are Both". Regina may have been a bit of a disciplinarian, but I found that a lot more admirable than the Charmings' penchant for indulging Henry's habit of skipping school or putting himself in dangerous situations. I still recall one Season One episode in which Emma allowed Henry to skip school without Regina's permission in one of the early episodes . . . a habit that Charming occasionally continued in Season Two.
Ever since the character was first introduced, Emma has boasted of her ability to sense when someone was lying to her. I found this boast a joke, especially since newspaper editor Sidney Glass/the Magic Mirror in Season One and Regina's mother, Cora Mills in Season Two; have both been able to successfully lie to her. Many fans have also complained of Emma's talents as a law enforcer. If I must be frank, I have not been that impressed myself. Think about it. She has no real experience or training to be a police officer, let alone a town sheriff. She spent her adolescence either as a thief or a prison inmate. And she spent the rest of her years before her arrival in Storybrooke as a bails bondsman. Emma was qualified to find a missing person, not police a small town, let alone a city neighborhood. And how did the writers ensure that Emma would maintain her job as sheriff? By having her run in an election against Sidney Glass, the town's newspaper editor? Who were they fucking kidding? It got worse in Season Two. After her first encounter with Cora in "Lady of the Lake", Emma regained her ability to sniff out a liar when she met Captain Hook for the first time in "The Doctor". She first proved that she was her mother's daughter by killing Maleficent in dragon form in "A Land Without Magic". I found the scenario of a bail bondsman successfully killing a dragon just as implausible as her father Charming killing his first dragon with ease in (1.06) "The Shepherd". Although Emma displayed a lack of familiarity in Fairy Tale Land during the season's early episodes, she became another ideal action woman - like her mother Snow White - in episodes like (2.06) "Tallahassee" and "(2.09) "Queen of Hearts". The latter episode featured a sword fight between Emma and Hook before she and Snow White jumped into a portal in order to return to Storybrooke. I realize that Emma had difficulty in defeating Hook. I simply had difficulty in believing that she was able to defeat him at all. He is an experienced swordsman. The series has never hinted that Emma knew anything about sword fighting. Hook should have sliced her up in bits within a minute. I do not know how to explain this phenonemon. Perhaps his feelings for her led him to merely toy with her. Between Snow White and Emma, the producers and writers seemed to believe that portraying the Charming women as badasses, while maintaining near ideal personalities is a sign of good characterization. Audiences also discovered in this episode that being the offspring of "Twu Luv", Emma's heart is impregnable from being ripped out by magic. Oh God! I guess no one can spare me from this ridiculous crap. Some fans and critics found this revelation brilliant, romantic or both. When I saw Cora fail to rip out Emma's heart because she is the emodiment of "Twu Luv", I merely rolled my eyes in disgust.
I have saved the worst for last - namely Henry Mills, Emma's biological son, Snow and Charming's biological grandson and Regina's adoptive son. God, I cannot stand him. I really cannot stand him. Henry has to be one of the most unreal child characters I have ever come across in recent years. I have discovered that in one-and-a-half seasons, he has not developed as a character one whit. He has remained the same, self-righteous child with a desire to be a fairy tale hero. How did he discover that Emma was his natural mother, let alone discover that she lived in Boston? The series has never revealed this and honestly, his possession of the Fairy Tale storybook is not much of an excuse. And not only do I find his ability to track down Emma in Boston and travel to said city without his stepmother's knowledge implausible, I also find his ability to identify nearly every citizen of Storybrooke with their Fairy Tale Land identity hard to accept. Did the fairy tales book in his possession provide him with this information? I became increasingly weary of his penchant for skipping school. His self-righteous claims of "magic has a price" got on my nerves. To be honest, I got tired of many characters - especially Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold - making the same claim. I also became weary of Henry's constant and self-righteous "good always defeat evil" declarations. Are we, the viewers, supposed to regard this ten year-old as the voice of morality? Dear God! I hope not. But what really irks me about Henry is that he seems to be the driving force of many of the actions of the major characters. Regina decided to redeem herself in order to win Henry's love. It was Henry who lured Emma to Storybrooke so that she would act out her role as savior. It was Henry who reunited Jefferson/the Mad Hatter with his daughter. It was Henry who drove Emma to finally break the curse. It was Henry's dreams that provided Rumplestiltskin with the opportunity to communicate with Emma and Snow so they could return to Storybrooke. Henry, Henry, Henry! I am so sick of him. Then I remembered. Both Horowitz and Kitsis used to be among the staff writers for "LOST". And that series did a piss poor job in its portrayals of children characters. With Henry's characterization, the tradition continues.
Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis need to do something about the Charmings. By mid-Season Two, they have become ridiculously ideal and at times, self-righteous. I get tired of certain fans wallowing in the crimes or mere mistakes of other characters, while making excuses for the mistakes of this increasingly annoying family. Please do something. Provide the family with some real character development or moral complexity, instead of portraying them as badasses and ideal leaders. And please have another character call them up on their bullshit. Just for once. As for Henry Mills, the only change in his character that will truly please me is his death. Yes, I realize that I sound cruel. But that damn brat simply brings out the worst in me.
POST SCRIPT: Judging from the last scene of the Season Two episode, (2.15) "The Queen Is Dead", Snow White has plans to kill Cora Mills, Queen of Hearts; in revenge for the death of her mother, Queen Eva. However, I have grave doubts that Horowitz and Kitsis will go through with this dark turn in her character. I hope I am wrong.
Monday, March 25, 2013
Below are images from "THE BOURNE IDENTITY", the 2002 adaptation of Robert Ludlum's 1980 novel. Directed by Doug Liman, the movie stars Matt Damon as Jason Bourne:
"THE BOURNE IDENTITY" (2002) Photo Gallery
Thursday, March 21, 2013
"GANGSTER SQUAD" (2013) Review
Every now and then, Hollywood would release a movie with a story based upon a particular event or individual from Los Angeles' history. Movies such as "CHINATOWN", "L.A. CONFIDENTIAL", and "CHANGELING" are examples. Recently, Hollywood released a new movie about a moment in Los Angeles' history called "GANGSTER SQUAD".
I must admit that I found myself surprised that the origin of the plot for "GANGSTER SQUAD" came from L.A. history. According to the book, "Tales from the Gangster Squad" by Paul Lieberman, Chief William Parker and the Los Angeles Police Department formed a group of officers and detective called the "Gangster Squad unit" in an effort to keep Los Angeles safe from gangster Mickey Cohen and his gang in the late 1940s and the 1950s. Screenwriter Will Beall took elements of Lieberman's book and wrote a movie about the L.A.P.D.'s efforts to fight organized crime in the Southland. The movie starts in 1949 Los Angeles, where Cohen has become the most powerful figure in the California criminal underworld. Cohen has plans to expand his enterprises across the Western United States via the gambling rackets. Because the gangster has eliminated witnesses and bribed both the courts and the police, Chief Parker and the L.A.P.D. have not been able to stop Cohen's rise. In a desperate move, Parker recruits the incorruptible and ruthless Sergeant John O'Mara to form a unit to wage guerilla warfare on Cohen's operations and drive the gangster out of Southern California.
O'Hara, with the help of his very pregnant wife Connie, recruit the following men for his new unit:
*Coleman Harris, a tough beat cop from the South Central Los Angeles neighborhood
*Conway Keeler, a brainy wire-tapper
*Max Kennard, a legendary veteran gangster killer and sharp-shooter
Kennard's young partner, Navidad Ramirez tracks down the squad and O'Hara reluctantly allows him to join. The sergeant tries to recruit his close friend, Sergeant Jerry Wooters, but the latter declines his offer out of disillusionment with the recent war and the police force. But when Cohen's attempted hit on rival gang leader Jack Dragna results in the death of a young shoeshine boy, Wooters decides to accept O'Hara's offer to join the squad. Also, Wooters has become romantically involved with Cohen's etiquette coach and girlfriend, Grace Faraday. The squad's campaign of terror against Cohen encounter a good deal of road blocks, including an unsuccessful raid against Cohen's Burbank casino, the gangster's penchant for paranoia, Wooters' secret romance with Grace, Connie O'Hara's desire for her husband to leave the police force and a deadly trap set up by Cohen in Chinatown. Despite the setbacks, violence and death, the squad eventually persevere over Cohen.
When I first saw the trailer for "GANGSTER SQUAD", I immediately viewed it as one of those splashy, yet cheesy crime dramas trying to cash in on the success of movies like "L.A. CONFIDENTIAL" and "THE UNTOUCHABLES" by setting it before the present time. After seeing the movie, I suspect that my assumption was correct. There were elements in the movie's story that I found unoriginal. Honestly. One could easily imagine "GANGSTER SQUAD" to be a post-World War II Los Angeles version of the 1987 movie, "THE UNTOUCHABLES". Well . . . almost. And there were moments when I found "GANGSTER SQUAD" rather cheesy. This was obvious in some of the dialogue that came out of the mouth of actor Sean Penn, who portrayed Mickey Cohen; and in the movie's narration spoken by Josh Brolin, who portrayed John O'Hara. And I might as well be honest. Penn's dialogue was not helped by the occasional hammy acting that also marred his performance. For a movie that is supposed to be based on a historical book, I could not regard it as historically correct . . . especially in regard to the fates of both Cohen and rival Jack Dragna. I am a fan of Nick Nolte's work, but I believe that he was a least two to three decades too old to be portraying Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker, who would have been in his mid-40s in 1949. Also, Parker did not become the city's police chief until 1950.
"GANGSTER SQUAD" was not a perfect film, but I liked it very much. I enjoyed it. I found it very entertaining. And I found it gorgeous and colorful to look at. Thanks to production designer Maher Ahmad's work, the film beautifully re-created post-World War II Los Angeles at the end of the 1940s. I was especially impressed by Ahmad's elegant, yet colorful designs for the Slapsy Maxie's nightclub, Cohen's Spanish Colonial house and the Chinatown sequence. Ahmad's work was enhanced by Gene Serdena's set decorations, the movie's art direction team and especially Dion Beebe's photography. And Mary Zophres' costume designs were absolutely gorgeous. Just to give you a hint, take a look at one of her designs for actress Emma Stone:
Even though "GANGSTER SQUAD" seemed to be marred by cheesy dialogue, lack of originality and historical accuracy, I cannot deny that Will Beall wrote a very entertaining and exciting crime story. He did a pretty solid job of setting up the main narrative with Sergeant O'Hara's disruption of one of Mickey Cohen's illegitimate businesses - a whorehouse staffed by naive girls fresh off the bus or train and eager to make it big in the movies. This disruption catches Police Chief Bill Parker's attention, prompting him to recruit O'Hara to organize and lead the "Gangster Squad" unit against Cohen's operations. Beall also filled the story with exciting action sequences that included a nail-biting shootout in Chinatown, a forbidden romance between Jerry Wooters and Cohen's girlfriend Grace Faraday, strong characterizations and more importantly, a good solid narrative. Rueben Fleischer did a first-rate job in transferring Beall's script to the movie screen. And Fleischer did this with a great deal of flair and strong pacing.
The cast for "GANGSTER SQUAD" proved to be first-rate. Josh Brolin led the cast as the strong-willed, yet emotional police detective Sergeant John O'Hara. Utilizing his talent for projecting a no-nonsense demeanor with flashes of humor, Brolin was very effective as leader of "Gangster Squad" unit. Brolin also managed to generate on-screen chemistry with other members of the cast - including Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi and especially actress Mireille Enos, who beautifully portrayed O'Hara's equally strong-willed wife Connie. "GANGSTER SQUAD" marked the second time Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone worked together since they were co-stars in the 2011 comedy "CRAZY STUPID LOVE". And once again, they proved to be quite the effective screen team, as they burned up the screen as the cynical lovers Sergeant Jerry Wooster and mob moll Grace Faraday. I also enjoyed Anthony Mackie's colorful portrayal of tough beat cop Coleman Harris, who developed an aversion to Burbank, following the squad's unpleasant encounter with that city's law enforcement. Giovanni Ribisi gave a poignant performance as the squad's brainy wiretapper, Conwell Keeler. Both Robert Patrick and Michael Peña created a solid screen team as police sharpshooter Max Kennard and his clever protégé Navidad Ramirez. Although I found him slightly too old for the role, I must admit that I found Nick Nolte's portrayal of Police Chief William Parker rather entertaining in a garroulous way. And despite some of the cheesy dialogue he was forced to spew, I must say that Sean Penn struck me as an effective villain in his performance as the violent Mickey Cohen. Especially when the cheese and ham were missing from his lines.
If you expect "GANGSTER SQUAD" to be a crime drama masterpiece, you will be disappointed. It is no masterpiece, I assure you. But . . . I thought it proved to be an entertaining, yet splashy crime thriller that recaptured the era of post-World War II Los Angeles. I guess one could thank Will Beall for his solid script, colorful direction by Rueben Fleischer, and an entertaining cast led by Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Sean Penn.