Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pho Century

Restaurant:  Pho Century
Location: 1244 W. Foothill, Upland
Like/Don't Like:  Yeah, I liked it.

Restaurant Club went Vietnamese tonight and it was pretty tasty.  It was just me and Katie so we didn't get to sample as much stuff as I would have liked - and there was a lot to sample from the looks of the menu - but what we had was tasty and the service was great.

K had a steak stir fry that was pretty ordinary except for the garlic butter sauce they fried it in, which was heavenly.  And I had the coconut curry soup with chicken and rice noodles.  The broth was killer and the noodles were great.  I always forget that I don't really like meat in my soup because it is almost always over cooked.  This was the case tonight but everything else was so good that I just ate around it. We also tried the cream cheese wontons and an avocado shake, both were great.

The gal who served us was super helpful and explained everything on the menu.  And the place was hopping, which is a good sign.


Book:  Wonderstruck
Author:  Brian Selznik
Like/Don't Like:  Loved. 

This is by the same author as The Invention of Hugo Cabert and it is done in the same style of prose and pictures.  If you haven't read that one yet you must.  Trust your friend.  I think it's such a beautiful way to tell a story. 

This story was simpler than Hugo's but it still captured my attention from the very beginning.  It follows two children, Ben who is living in Minnesota in the 70s and Rose who lives in New York in the 20s and both end up spending a lot of time at the NY Natural History Museum.  You know that their stories will connect somehow but it's still very nice getting to that point.

I love how simple the stories are. The pictures aren't anything magnificent but he has a gift of putting little details in each one that are delightful.  And I think it's great that he uses real places and events to build a story around. 

I made the mistake of starting this at around 11 at night, thinking that I would read a few pages and finish it the next day.  By 1 (yes, it does move that quickly) I was done and enchanted.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Hunger Games

Movie:  The Hunger Games
Like/Don't Like:  Liked, once my heart started again.

Here's a fact:  I do not see movies that are intense or violent or give me a heart attack.  I don't like to be in suspense, I don't like to be scared.  I don't like watching people running from danger or people killing or being killed. 

If I did not love the Hunger Games trilogy so much I would never have gone to see this movie.  It would not have even been on my radar because I cover my eyes or change the channel when even commercials for these types of movies come on.  And truthfully, it came to a point where I didn't even need to see this movie.  The book was more than enough.  I would get excited when I would watch the trailer, but that was mostly because it would remind me how much I loved the book.  It is well documented here how much I loved it.  I mean, you should have all been in my room in the hours that followed my finishing Mockingjay to witness the absolute mess I had become.  Strike that, you would have needed a dinghy to float out, I was crying so much.  I had a very real and emotional experience with those books.

So really, it was my curiosity that got me to watch the movie.  I was hopeful that because Suzanne Collins was so closely involved in its making that it would have the same heart that the books did.  And I am relieved to say that it came close-ish.

First off, as a stand alone movie it was pretty great.  It is very faithful to the book but it managed to have it's own identity.  I think anyone who hasn't read the book wouldn't feel like they've missed out on anything (although, let's be honest and a little judgy here, they're missing out on a lot.)  I note this first because most problems I had with the movie had to do with what was missing, but I'll get to that later.  On to the things that worked for me.

I LOVED the reaping scenes.  Holy cats!  Did you just feel like you had a ton of bricks on your chest through the whole thing.  All those kids dressed in their shabby best, silently standing there, waiting.  It was so quiet...all except for my weeping.

Speaking of sound, I thought that the music was perfection.  Especially the lack of music.  There were so many moments when any other musical director would have jammed them full of strings and horns.  But the music was pretty sparse and when it was played it was dead on.  And then I saw that T Bone Burnett was behind it and it all made sense. 

One of my biggest apprehensions about seeing the movie was the violence.  I have a pretty vivid imagination but when I read a book I can control the images that descriptions will conjure.  I can also shut a book or skip a paragraph.  But I can only close my eyes in a movie and sometimes that is not enough.  I am, above all, a delicate flower.  So yes, this was more violence than I care for but I was grateful that their desire to make money (thus getting it a PG-13 rating) overcame their desire to be sensational. 

Now, for things I thought could be better.  My biggest problem was that I really missed Katniss.  The whole book is from her perspective.  And there are pages and pages of just her thoughts about her family and Peeta and Gale and the games and being a pawn for the Capitol to play with.  So much of the conflict is in her head and most of that is gone in the movie.  I get that it's hard to translate that, but I still missed it.

I also would have loved to have seen the reaction of the citizen's of the Capitol throughout the game.  I thought it was great that they showed the behind-the scenes stuff of the gamekeepers but it would have been effective to show just what the games mean to the people they make it for.

And on a personal note:  when that mutt jumped out of the bushes at Peeta I actually screamed, which was a first for me.  I have never screamed in a movie before.  Mostly because I don't ever go to movies that would scare me.  But I thought I was going to have a heart attack.

Sweet Land of Liberty, this is the longest review.  So I'll just end with this.  I liked it.  I thought it was thrilling and I was so happy that it met whatever low expectations I had and then some.  And finally, Stanley Tucci could spend the rest of his career doing nothing but staring into a camera and reciting the periodic table of elements and I would still pay full price to see him.