Archive for the ‘Reviews’ category

Ford Expedition

May 23, 2017

Last week during our trip to Boston, Paula and I rented a car. Generally, when I rent a car I like to get a model that I might be interested in buying.  This gives me a better feel for the vehicle than a 10 minute test drive. This trip I had reserved a Ford Escape through Avis Rent-a-Car. I tend to like the small SUV’s. Currently, I own a 2007 Jeep Liberty with 115K miles on the odometer, so it’s getting to be the time that I need to be looking at new cars.

Ford ExplorerSo we get to the rental counter last Tuesday night and hand over my driver’s license and credit card. The woman at the counter types in the info on her computer and proceeds to tell me that they don’t have any Ford Escapes available. She then tells me that she can rent me a Ford Expedition for the same price. Thank you very little, I say.

A Ford Expedition is not what one would call a small SUV. I argued for a few minutes to no avail. Either I took the Ford Expedition or we were walking to Boxboro.

The Expedition is HUGE. It’s about the same size as a GMC Suburban. It seats 7 without getting crowded. One needs to step up on the running board to get on board. It is very roomy and comfortable. Backseats are probably comfortable too, but I didn’t try them. Gas consumption is huge. When I filled it up on Monday before I turned it, the fuel gauge was pointing to 1/2 and it took 20 gallons to fill. Luckily gas prices in MA are a good deal less than LA. There is no way in this world that I would ever consider buying one of these. I don’t know how many miles per gallon it does (or maybe gallons per mile?).

One of the other issues that I had the other night. You are in a dark garage and you get into new (new to you) car. You want to get going so that you can get to the hotel and hit the sack.  It takes a long time to get oneself familiarized with all of the controls and systems. New cars these days have much more complicated controls that take a bit of getting used to,

Explorer interior

As you can see, there are a lot of buttons and switches to push and turn. This isn’t just a problem with the Expedition. All of the new cars have this sort of problem.

How do you turn on the lights, windshield wipers, adjust seat, etc. The model I was driving had the Apple Car Play system. This allows one to connect your phone to the car’s entertainment system. You can use it to play music that is on your phone or to make phone calls, etc. It’s kind of neat, but I didn’t have near enough time to get it all figured out. I plug my phone into the USB port and instantly the phone’s apps appear on the screen.

All in all, I would have been a lot happier if Avis had given to me what I had asked for and not a huge tank to drive for a week. Next time, I will try a different car rental company.

 

Staying Alive…

May 11, 2017

Last night was date night. So we saw an ad for “Saturday Night Fever” appearing on one night at several local theaters in LA. A show at 2pm and 7pm. So Paula calls up one of our baby sitters for Mom and we head out to  see the film that we last saw forty years ago. There weren’t many people in our theater. Probably not more than 10 people. No senior discount for this film. We had to pay full price. Here’s the link to the trailer.

This director’s cut of the movie was staged by a company called Fathom Events. The presentation at the beginning of the film alluded to other films that would be presented in the coming months. Typically the presentations would be on a Wednesday at 2pm and 7pm. Not sure how this is going to succeed with so few folks in the seats.

Here is a list of other classic movies coming to the big screen in the coming weeks. 

  • Smokey and the Bandit
  • Godfather
  • Some Like it Hot
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High
  • Bonnie and Clyde
  • The Fifth Element

What a joy to watch. We had forgotten so much about this film. The film starts with John Travolta’s character Tony walking down the street in Brooklyn wearing a pair of red shoes and carrying a can of paint. Strutting  to the Bee Gee’s great sound track. So good to see it on the big screen with the sound of a full movie house audio system.

There were parts of the movie that we had completely forgotten, like the 1963 Chevy Impala. The boys took turns using the back seat to have sex with whomever they managed to hook up with. They were each allotted 20 minutes after which the boys would come banging on the windows. Hurry up, they say. IMDB says that this was the first time that the phrase “Blow Job” was used in a motion picture.

We begin to see Tony’s bleak life with his hope of escaping by way of the disco dancing contests. Nice Italian family with a picture of the elder son (Father Frank) on the mantle. Then Father Frank comes home to tell everyone that he is leaving the priesthood. Oh no, not that. So then Frank goes out with boys sans roman collar. One of Tony’s pals asks Father Frank if he can ask the Pope for a dispensation so that his girlfriend could get an abortion. Father Frank says not gonna happen.

Oh and the fashions. Loved the white disco suit and the red shoes.

This was John Travolta’s third film, but it was certainly his breakout role.

Beauty and the Beast

April 7, 2017

BeautyLast night was date night again here. We got a baby sitter for Mary and off we went for three hours of down time from care giving. So we went to see “Beauty and the Beast” playing at the AMC Rolling Hills theater in Torrance.

First, I want to talk about the theater. We’ve gone to this theater before. They charge almost double what we pay at the Terraces in Rancho Palos Verdes. And, they have changed snack prices. They no longer sell a “small” popcorn, now the medium is the new small. It’s sort of the incredible shrink ray comes to the theater. They’ve done the same thing with spring water. So instead of paying $5 for a small popcorn and 1/2 liter of spring water, now we pay $12 for medium popcorn and a liter bottle of vitamin water. And don’t get me going on the “vitamin water” scam.

So next time the bottle of water and snacks go into Paula’s purse. They also had the audio set a tad bit too loud. The effect was to make some of musical numbers sound a bit muddied.

And now let’s talk about the film. Film time was about 2 hrs and 9 minutes. It seemed to me to be a bit on the long side. At about 1.5 hour into the film, I started thinking to myself, “C’mon Belle, kiss the Beast and get it done.” But no, there was a lot more singing and dancing to be done. I mean we all know the fairy tale, the princess kisses the frog and he turns into a prince. And then they live happily ever after.

Emma Watson was okay in the role of Belle, but she just doesn’t quite have the pipes to belt out the songs like say Celine Dion or other pop diva. It kind of reminded me of the movie “My Fair Lady” where the character Eliza played by Audrey Hepburn had the musical numbers dubbed by Marni Nixon.

Dan Stevens played the Beast. I was impressed how he managed  to sing and dance while up on 12″ stilts. And impressive makeup, indeed. Good job. Paula was complaining that they didn’t have enough close up time so she could see Stevens’ baby blue eyes. Dan Stevens is also famous for his role of Matthew in Downton Abbey from 2010-2012

I loved the names of the supporting cast. Lumiere for the candlestick, Maestro Cadenza for the harpsichord, and so on. Good solid supporting cast.

For my money, the best song and dance number was “Be Our Guest”. You can’t help but be humming it as you leave the theater. I will probably play it at our next OES meeting.

Also, make sure you stay for all the credits. Overall, I liked it. It’s rated PG. That being said, I wouldn’t take real little kids to see it. There some real scary stuff in those dark woods.

We didn’t get to eat out after the show. We were on the clock. When we got home I threw a frozen pizza in the oven and poured myself a  glass of wine.

Moonlight

March 10, 2017

MoonlightSo last night was date night again. Be still my beating heart. Our good friend Tamer agreed to watch Mary while Paula and I went to a movie.

So we went to the Regal Promenade Cinema at the Peninsula Center in RPV. Normally, I wouldn’t mention the theater, but this one is special. It has large, extra comfy king sized recliners for theater seating. Also, it had extra leg room. It’s sorta, kinda like the difference between coach and first-class. Once you’ve been in first-class, you don’t want to sit in coach. Plus, we had just about the entire theater to ourselves. Only one other couple in the theater.

Cost of food was outrageous. Paid $5.00 for a bottle of water. They always try to upsell to the larger size for $0.30 more. Next time the bottle of water goes in Paula’s purse.

So the movie that we decided to go to see was “Moonlight” starring Mahershala Ali, Shariff Earp and Naomie Harris. Directed by Barry Jenkins. The film won three Oscars including Best Picture. The film was just getting to its end of run in theaters. It’s available on DVD or streaming video. Definitely worth watching.

The picture tells the story of a young black boy named Chiron in a ghetto neighborhood in Miami. Chiron is struggling with surviving in the ghetto. He has no father and his mother is a crack addict. He gets bullied at school. Juan comes along and takes Chiron under his wing and together with his girl friend/partner take him under their wing and become surrogate parents.

Chiron is played by three different actors for three different stage in his life. All well done.

It was a little bit difficult at times to follow the ghetto dialect. I suppose subtitles would have been helpful. If I was watching on streaming video I would have turned on the subtitles.

Excellent movie, but I think that La La Land should have received the Best Picture nod. But the Academy didn’t ask me for my vote. Though Naomi Harris and Mahersala Ali sure deserved Best Supporting Actor. Excellent performances all around.

The film is based on the unproduced play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” by MacArthur Fellow Tarell Alvin McCraney.

So to finish off the evening we stopped at KFC to get a bucket of chicken

La La Land

February 26, 2017

Date night last night. We arranged for a sitter for Mary. A night out can get expensive. We spent $60 for the sitter, $30 for movie tickets and $35 for take out Chinese food.

So we went to see La La Land. This film has been nominated for 14 Oscars. We wanted to see this film before the Oscars were telecast this evening. The film stars Ryan Gossling as a jazz pianist and Emma Stone as an aspiring young actress. The movie tells the story of Mia’s accidental Meeting of Sebastian. They fall in love then sing and dance around LA. They seem to have found some of the most photogenic spots in Hollywood and Los Angeles.

So you think that is a boy meets girl, then they get married and live happily ever after. Think again. They discover that they have competing visions of what their future life is going to be like. Sebastian gets an offer to tour with a jazz band. Mia doesn’t/can’t want to go on tour with him and disrupt her vision of acting.  I won’t say more, because that would give away the plot.

So the music and dancing are superb. Ryan Gosling did an outstanding job on jazz piano. According to IMDB, no CGi or hand doubles were used in the performance. The outdoor dance scenes are done at some of the most outstanding LA locales. I think that I will add a couple of them to visit. One scene was at the Griffith Observatory, beautiful view. Read the Wiki list for the many films that used this beautiful locale. I told Paula that I was adding this to my bucket list. Need to drive up there one of these days. Of course, I think I’ll skip visiting the location for the opening scene on the LA freeways. Been there, done that.


I told Paula that some day I would get a nice convertable like the one the Sebastian drove in the film. She says, you going to tell your dermatologist? Maybe some day. Maybe I’ll have the top down at night.

After the movie was over, we stopped to pickup Chinese takeout at Peter’s Place Chinese Restaurant in Torrance. We would have loved to sit and linger over dinner, but the clock was ticking on our “baby sitter”. Peter’s Place is a small family run Chinese restaurant. It came recommended by my daughter-in-law Theresa. The restaurant was at capacity. Good sign on a Saturday night. So we ordered Kung Pao Chicken, Shrimp with Cashews, and a Noodle dish. All very tasty. The Kung Pao Chicken  had lots of those little hot peppers. My goodness, they will set you free. 

So after 20 minutes we left with our bag of food and headed home. We paid our sitter and sat down for a fine Chinese dinner.

Hidden Figures

January 31, 2017

hidden-figuresAnother night out without Mary. We went to see the movie “Hidden  Figures” starring Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Octavia Spencer, and Janell Monae. We were going to see La La Land but the showtimes didn’t work for us.

This is the true story of three black women who worked for NASA in the early sixties as “computers”. This was what NASA called the women whose job it was to do the complex calculations that the engineers needed to vet their work.

One particularly amusing scene when the NASA manager asked Katherine Johnson what was taking her so long on her breaks. It turns out the only “colored” ladies room was on the other side of the campus. She had to run across the campus to do her business. They show Al Harrison (played by Costner) taking the sign down with a sledge hammer. No more colored bathrooms. Problem solved.

The movie is based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly. Great film. Nominated for several awards including Oscars for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Katherine Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 by President Barack Obama.

Rogue One

January 24, 2017

So last night, Paula and I finally got out to see a movie. We left Mary home alone sleeping soundly. We went to an early showing of “Rogue One” at the Terraces Cinema. Can’t beat the price. $6 a person with senior discount.  We figured that we would see the show, then pick up a bucket of chicken takeout for dinner.  Got the chicken at “El Pollo Loco“. Chicken was kind of mediocre, but Mary really likes the chicken Tortilla soup. Next time we’ll probably go to KFC.

So the Oscar nominations came out this morning. Rogue One was nominated for sound mixing and special effects. No big surprise there. It’s a good movie but not best actor or best director material. 

There’s lots of action. Lot’s of shooting and fighter shots. So, why no love interest for Jyn? No time for the rebels to have sex? 

So the lead characters are Jyn Eros played by Felicity Jones and Cassian Andor played by Diego Luna. Other sorta well known actors among the cast, Jimmy Smits and Forest Whitaker. Of course, Carrie Fisher was in this one too, although only for a brief appearance at the end of the film.

Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) also made a brief appearance.  Also, cameo for R2D2 and C3PO. Can’t have a Star Wars film without them.

So I was struggling to figure out where this film fits in the whole Star Wars saga. Best I can tell that it is a time just leading up to the original Star Wars, heretofore known as Episode IV. Rogue One ends with the Death Star plans getting uploaded to the Rebel Alliance.

It’s a good film, but as always I have some issues (warning spoilers):

  • Why don’t the empire troopers have better personal armor? Those lasers seem to cut through the armor like it was butter. And while I’m on the subject, why are all the troopers dressed in white? Seems to make them a real good target. Only thing better would be a Red Bull’s eye on their backs.
  • When Jin finally gets the storage device, she climbs up to the top of the tower. She then plugs it in to a storage console that tells her to adjust the antenna. So she heads on out to the end of a walkway and adjusts the antenna. Then the walkway get hit by a laser shot. It seems that the antenna is destroyed. But then she goes back and successfully uploads the Death Star plans to the Rebel ship. How’d she do that without an antenna?
  • Okay, I’m an engineer by training so I know a lot about physics. So I see this portal gateway above the planet Scarif. There is supposedly a force field protecting the surface of the planet. How’s that work exactly? How do the get power to run the force field? It violates all known rules of planetary physics. I know joe, get over it. It’s fiction.

Next week, I think we will try to get to see “La La Land“. Stay tuned.