Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the DeadShaun of the Dead (2004)

Watch up close the foibles of an average Londoner who seriously engages with his girlfriend only after she threatens to break up. This personal drama plays out against the general threat of a growing zombie infestation.

I got a kick out of this light entertainment movie. The characters were all interesting in their quirkiness. And some were even interesting after they turned into zombies. There were some fun plot twists. But mostly, they did a good job keeping it interesting even after the scope of the story was exposed.

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Midnight in Paris

Midnight in ParisMidnight in Paris (2011)

An aspiring American author on vacation in Paris with his fiancé discovers a wormhole in time that allows him to hang out with classic writers from former ages. He and his work benefit from the adventure.

This story is focused on the character played by Woodie Haroldson. He and his company are fairly obnoxious. But he grows more refined through the friends he meets after midnight. His conversations with the former great lights of Paris are a gas. The caricature of Hemmingway is particularly memorable. There are a few surprises but most of the entertainment comes by way of character development.

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Nostrana, 1401 SE Morrison St, Portland, OR 97214, (503) 234-2427

Interesting Food, Great Wines, Good Service, Great Space, A Little Loud

A week ahead we couldn’t get a reservation for a table of five earlier than 8p. The place was still fairly busy when we left at 11:30. I have always liked the space, with bar seating facing the open kitchen and prominent wood fire oven; 40′ ceiling; intimate two tops near the windows. But it can be a little noisy when the restaurant is full.

We started with a rich and fruity bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo by Castellum Vetus – recommended by our server because it had spent some time on oak. We followed up with her second recommendation – a lighter, fragrant, more oaky Sicilian wine made from a blend of Nerello grapes called Etna Rosso I by Custodi Aetneus.

Someone ordered olives. The small, medium brown pitted ones that came on that plate were memorable – as were the chili flakes when they got down the wrong pipe (that happened to two of us!?) The charcuterie plate was a flavor adventure! The crispy pork trotters was the runaway favorite but the whole thing was a wonderful variety of flavors that kept us all chipping away for an hour. The Insalata Nostrana was a beautiful pile of radicchio; the bitter perfectly balanced with cheesy richness of parmigiano. There were raves all the way round the table on our various pasta dishes. The pasta itself was so delicate and fresh. The sauce on my paglia e fieno was an elegant balance of flavors with just a touch of orange in the cream. There was a complaint that the pizza vongole was too oily. The bread was delicately crispy on the outside, delicately chewy on the inside; fragrant. The Cappuccino, amaretto cheese cake and panna cotta were all spot on.

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Colony Collapse Disorder Strikes Again

My bees died (again) this winter. They have died every winter now since the year after colony collapse disorder (CCD) first hit the news (2006). I remember that because I was real smug that first spring when everyone else was discovering missing bees and my colonies were just fine. I thought perhaps the plague would pass over my house. No, I got mine the next year.  Continue reading

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Nel Centro

Nel Centro, 1408 SW 6th Ave, Portland, OR 97201, (503) 484-1099

Great Ambiance, Attentive Service, Good Prices, Okay Happy Hour Food

I stopped here a couple nights ago because it has good reviews and is close to the opera. Surprise! Everyone else going to the opera had the same idea. The restaurant wasn’t open until 5:30 and it was booked straight through to 7. The bar was busy but we slipped into the one open table and tucked into happy hour. We ordered a table full of food and drinks and it only came to $50. Yea!

The wait staff was top notch. Our waitress kept a good eye on our wine glasses and swooped away plates as soon as we set our forks down.

The food was only so-so. The fries came out limp and not very hot. The lentils that accompanied my lamb shank were too sweet to my taste. The goat cheese plate looked/tasted like baby food. But his lamb burger was great – on the rare side, with the toasted top bun delivered open. The calamari was delicate, hot and fresh tasting. Good size serving of salad greens. The wine was pleasing.

The ambiance is attractive with the outdoor gas fires, windows for walls and wood seats. A little loud when fully loaded, but inviting and modern.

I would go back again to try the dinner menu.

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Seven Psychopaths

Seven Psychopaths (2012) Seven Psychopaths
Might you know someone as your friend by day who is also a murdering psychopath by night? Don’t be too quick to answer that question. The main character of this movie finds himself surrounded. And they help him write his book!

I thought the story progressed too slowly. But I liked all the actors and enjoyed the parts they played. Christopher Walken’s brilliant soliloquy at the end makes the movie. Lots of blood – but what else did you expect from such a title?

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Eastern Promises

Eastern PromisesEastern Promises (2007)
An unwitting nurse and her family become targets of the Russian Mafia in London when she cares for the infant of a prostitute who dies in delivery.

A very satisfying, somewhat edgy story of intrigue about the Russian mafia in London. It was a good story with some great actors. Viggo Mortensen’s subtleties really carry the movie.

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The Town

The TownThe Town (2010)

Set in Boston, the feds slowly and inextricably draw a net around a group of bank robbers.

Tension is pretty high throughout the movie. It is interesting how antagonistic the relationships are between so many of the criminals. An impossible love interest complicates matters. A lot of blood and bullets.

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Les Triplettes de Belleville (The Triplets of Belleville)

The Triplets of Belleville (2003)Les Triplettes de Belleville
A Tour de France contestant is enslaved by the mafia, and then rescued by his grandmother – with the help of three weird sisters.

This French anime is woven with French culture throughout. There is great heart in the characters and grand whimsy in the sets. A well-crafted little story. I will never forget the sound of Madame Souza adjusting her glasses, nor the Triplets’ penchant for frog’s legs!

I really enjoyed the interview with the director and cartoonists included with the version of the movie I viewed. It was surprised to learn how much painstaking work is required from every member of the crew and how long it took to finish this project.

Beware! Viewing this anime from start to finish puts you at risk of indelibly imprinting your brain with the catchy tune “Belleville Rendez-vous”.

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