Saturday, July 28, 2007

Recent Movies

So I hate to be Comic Book Guy and start blogging about the Simpsons Movie right after seeing it, but at least I'm not doing it from a laptop in the movie theater (I swear!).
I'm not going to get into many details, just a few thoughts on why this movie is a bright spot in the Simpsons franchise -
  • It has what the show has lacked for a very long time - a solid emotional core. Think "Bart vs. Lisa" or almost any 1st season episode. Shows that had a heart without being sappy. (The movie at times pushes the limits, but manages not to go overboard).
  • The movie doesn't try and do too much. This really is an extended Simpsons episode (a good one). Yes, they throw jokes in there that say we know this a movie, but plot-wise it stays very true to the Simpsons format.
  • It has continuous broad and subtle satire that mostly hits its mark. There were a number of things that I was surprised weren't get laughs in the theater and I came to the conclusion that it was a young audience - Saturday afternoon and a ton of families. Homer's antics were getting tons of laughs, but some of the more current affairs related jokes were going over people's heads.
  • They didn't take license to be vulgar. Unlike the consistently obscene direct-to-DVD Family Guy movie, The Simpsons movie makes only gentle, infrequent use of it's PG-13 rating. With one or two exceptions, it may even be more suitable for kids than your average Simpsons episode these days.
  • While there were a number of plot points that were reminiscent of past Simpsons plots, there was only one instance where I really thought they were lingering too long on a plot element that had been done before (see "The Mysterious Voyage of Homer")
What's missing:
  • Sideshow Bob. Maybe they're holding out for a Sideshow Bob centered sequel?
  • Guest stars. There are 2 1/2 guest stars. I expected a lot more.
The other movie I've seen this summer is Ratatouille, which turned out to be a nice choice for my daughter's first movie theater movie (she did pretty good - apologies to the couple sitting front of us. We now know to sit in the rocking chair seats, behind the fixed seats). As far as Pixar films go, not the best one for kids. The cute animal screen time is minimal, while the adult humans doing unspectacular adult human things time is lengthy. It's a beautifully drawn and written movie though. Anyone who loves food should love this movie.

What kills me, is that Pixar has this almost unblemished (overlooking "Cars") track record of superb CGI cartoon movies (I can't even bring myself to refer to them as "kids'" movies). The stories are incredibly unique and well written, and appeal to both adults and kids, and almost completely avoid pop culture references and bodily function humor. Why are the other studios not taking note of this? Why do they keep putting out Shrek and other regurgitated crap? It seems to me a simple formula - imaginative, well written stories and good looking animation. You don't even need celebrity voices (Pixar does make extensive use of celebrity voices, but they're beside the point - they invite actors to come in an act out a character that was created for the story - not an animated version of themselves). I couldn't identify a single voice in Ratatouille, which is the way it should be.

In 30 years, Pixar movies will still be around (okay, even if they weren't from Disney, which guarantees that they will be re-released every 5 - 10 years to infinity and beyond). If Disney would let them, you'd be seeing Criterion editions of these films. With any luck, Shrek will just be a disgusting green pop-culture side note on VH1's "I Love the 00's"

Friday, July 27, 2007

Cereal Challenge #1

In which I compare cereals bought at Whole Foods with "mainstream" cereals.

Contender #1 - "Peace Cereal" brand Mango Passion Low Fat Crisp.
Calories - 250 calories per 1-1/4 cup w/ 1/2 cup of skim milk (I use 1%)
Fat - 1.5 grams, no saturated or trans fat
Sugar - 11g
Vitamins - Small amounts of A, C, Calcium and Iron
Selling points - It's Vegan, 96% organic, and 10% of the profits are "donated to peace". According to the box, the company sponsors "International Peace Prayer Day" in New Mexico. A bearded and turbaned man named Yogi Bhajan is pictured on the box, inviting consumers to "join us as we make peace: peace with each other, peace with the land, and peace with ourselves".

Opponent - Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries
Calories - 140 per 3/4 cup with 1/2 cup skim milk. So, Approx. 207 calories per 1-1/4 cup
Fat - 1.5 grams (1g saturated)
Sugar - 12g
Vitamins - 25% Daily allowance of Iron, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, & Zinc. 100% Folic Acid.
Selling points - "Find Jean LaFoote in disguise online! You could win a cash prize!"

Suprisingly, the Cap'n Crunch is the clear winner for nutritional value, if you don't mind some dyes and artificial flavors.
Taste wise, the Mango Passion is very good. Flakes and oat clusters are flavorful but not overbearing, and the freeze dried mango pieces soften up nicely and retain quite a bit of mangoey flavor.

The overall winner - This is a tough call. If 10% of peace cereal's profits went to, say, education, that might easily push it over the edge for me, but I don't hold out a whole lot of hope for the effectiveness of "International Peace Prayer Day" (sorry Yogi Bhajan). Cap'n Crunch is the supposedly sugary cereal my parents never let me eat, but I've learned to guiltily love as an adult (but won't let my child eat) - seeing how it stacks up nutritionally to an "adult" cereal that I wouldn't think twice about eating, I will enjoy it a little less guiltily from now on. Overall though, I have to go with Mango Passion Low Fat Crisp. Good, unique, flavor (I can't think of any other mango cereal options out there), and hey it's vegan. mostly organic, and doesn't have a cartoon sea captain on the box.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

My Attempts To Learn Cheese - #1 Druken Goat & Lincolnshire Poacher

The Cheese: Drunken Goat Wine Cured Spanish Goat Cheese
Purchased at: Whole Foods
Price per/lb: $13.99
Why chosen: I don't really know why I chose either of the cheeses I did. I am a complete noob at cheese, so my first challenge is discerning between cheeses that are to be snacked on versus cheeses for cooking. Something on the description card at the made this sound good and interesting.
Eaten with: "Whole Pantry Original Crostini", some sliced mango, and some 365 brand Cherry Vanilla soda.
Thoughts: The smell was pleasantly familiar to me, though I couldn't place it. The texture was soft, but not spreadable soft. Mildly flavorful. Very good. I would definitely buy it again.

The Cheese: Neals Yard Dairy English Cheese - Lincolnshire Poacher
Purchased at: Whole Foods
Price per/lb: $24.99
Why chosen: See above
Eaten with: See above
Thoughts: The smell was rather pungent and didn't make me particularly excited about eating it. The taste was also very strong and not particularly pleasant to my unrefined palate. I gave it a few tries, but did not eat much and will take it to the office tomorrow for whoever wants it. The dairy's website describes the cheese as "Smoother-textured than a cheddar with a fruity, nutty flavour that sometimes tastes pineappley". I didn't get that at all, but maybe I will give it one more try with that description in mind.