The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 2013

A fun remake of the Danny Kaye classic (and originally based on an awesome short story), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty unfortunately suffers slightly from a little too much silliness in places. Otherwise, the acting is well done, the adventures are exciting, and we root for Walter the entire time.

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a man prone to daydreaming. He works for Life Magazine, processing photographs, primarily from superstar Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), and has to get out of his head and into real life adventures when a very important negative goes missing.

It was fun to see a couple of Parks and Rec favorites – Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) as the evil corporate man made my heart hurt, and Jen Barkley (Kathryn Hahn) as the goofy sister was a surprise.

Marks off for dragging just a little, but overall a fun watch.

K’s rating of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: 6/10 mangoes

C’s rating of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: 6.5/10 mangoes

 

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How To Train Your Dragon 2, 2014

C and I enjoyed a double feature for his birthday weekend extravaganza. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, followed by How to Train Your Dragon 2.httyd2I’ll admit, my expectations were low for How to Train Your Dragon. We both LOVED the first one, and it’s so easy to be disappointed by sequels. (Cars 2, anyone?) Also, Dreamworks. I’m not as much of an animation snob as C, but still. It’s not like they wow us every time. 

But we absolutely loved this one! In order to avoid giving away any spoilers, I’ll only say this: if you loved the first one, you will love this one, too!

Also, this (starting around 0:40):

K and C’s rating of How to Train Your Dragon 2: 9/10 mangoes

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Japanese Palace, Fort Worth TX

frontThere is a Japanese-style building on Camp Bowie near the house that we pass by almost every day. It’s not open during the day, is dimly lit, and has no windows. I, obviously, thought it was the site of a classy geisha-esque escort service (keep in mind, I don’t think I actually know what a geisha is, but I’ve heard about them on The Office, so…) under the guise of an innocent family restaurant. In my defense, there are a number of strip clubs nearby.

Le Menu

Le Menu

C assured me it was likely a Japanese restaurant, as did all the Fort Worth natives I asked.

I was not convinced.

We determined we had to investigate it ourselves and stopped by for C’s birthday weekend extravaganza. Alas, C was correct. Japanese Palace is nothing more than a hibachi grill style restaurant a la Jinbeh, Benihana, and many others.

Open only for dinner, Japanese Palace was surprisingly empty on a Saturday night and we had an entire hibachi table to ourselves, which was actually a little odd. The chef was new and was doing his best, but our food was absolutely saturated in butter and salt (not in a good way) and my medium filet was all the way past well done.

Soup (chicken broth) and salad (decent dressing)

Soup (chicken broth) and salad (decent dressing)

Let's just admit right now that heaps of meat photographed in a dimly lit restaurant don't look appetizing. You can look at this instead.

Let’s just admit right now that heaps of meat photographed in a dimly lit restaurant don’t look appetizing. You can look at this instead.

I suppose you pay (and you really do pay! Dinners averaged probably near $25.) for the entertainment, but this is one of those places that you go to once for “the experience” and never go back to again.

The best things? We both ate eggplant that was really good (neither of us are lovers of eggplant), the decor in the bar area is cozy, fun and inviting, and I love love love all the bean sprouts. (Something I almost never buy because they seem to go bad so very quickly.)

K’s rating of Japanese Palace: 4/10 mangoes

C’s rating of Japanese Palace: 6/10 mangoes

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, 2014

YYYEEEESSSSSS!!!

Honestly, that’s all I really need to write to review the second installment in the Planet of the Apes prequels.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was the perfect summer blockbuster and C and I loved it! It was beautifully shot, acted, and animated. I was stunned that in an action packed movie, I walked away being absolutely in love with the characters. There is a scene where Malcom’s son, Alexander, is reading to Maurice (the orangutan, and my favorite). Touching and beautiful.

How is it that a movie about the dawn of dystopia, and really, apes taking over the planet, be something that moves me so deeply?

Although a little violent (not graphically, just incessantly during a couple of scenes), this was an outstanding summer movie. Highly recommended.

K and C’s rating of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: 9/10 mangoes

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In the Woods, by Tana French

inthewoodsIn the Woods, by Tana French

2007

In the Woods is a mystery/crime novel set in Ireland. It follows Rob and Cassie, detectives trying to solve the case of a murdered 12 year old girl that may have links to a mysterious disappearance of two children decades earlier. Rob has a personal link to the older case, and he and Cassie become entangled in false leads, lies about the past, and dirty politicians.

I’m a little bit torn in reviewing this book. Typically, I like a protagonist you can root for. Or who is at least sympathetic. Adam “Rob” Ryan starts out that way. But as the novel unfolds, Rob is shown to be neither likable nor sympathetic. Where you might have had sympathy for his background and resulting troubles, the justifications he gives for his actions only serve to convict him. In one scene, where he becomes physically violent towards a suspect, he is aghast at what he almost did. But those feelings are belied by the pretty constant reactions he has throughout the novel of, “I wanted to smash the stunned, uncomprehending look off her face” and “I wanted to smack him in the mouth, anything to make him stop.”

Ryan’s saving grace is that he is interesting. He seems to have no self-awareness of his own psychological problems, or else is being very, very honest when he tells the reader that he is a liar. By the end of the book, you still aren’t sure which one you are seeing. His descent in the story is richly, beautifully told, and French doesn’t waste any time insulting our intelligence by over-explaining what’s happening. It was so interesting to read his moments where he expresses total clarity but we know, as readers, that he is really just neck-deep in denial and about to head into a really horrible place. French got severe, hidden PTSD, depression, and self-destruction spot on here.

But, there were some minor disappointments. The older mystery is not solved in this book and that was highly unsatisfying (although it may serve as a story arc for the series of novels, which I would be okay with). And I pegged the culprit pretty early on in the novel. There were enough red herrings to keep me interested and I didn’t know the “how” until it was revealed, but I felt like the who was fairly obvious. And honestly it was a little disconcerting that it was not that obvious to the detectives. And, there is one other disappointment below the rating (due to it being a massive Spoiler).

Otherwise, this is a very beautifully told story with too much depth to be “just a crime novel.”. Excited to read the next in the series! 7 mangoes

**UPDATE** I have read the next two books in the series, The Likeness and Faithful Place, and I did not like either of them as much as In the Woods. And sadly, it looks like Rob’s story is not going to be revisited. Each novel takes off from a character in the previous one and moves from there. Oh well.

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******SPOILER******

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My other pet peeve – I really appreciated reading a depiction of a true mixed gender friendship and was disappointed, but not particularly surprised, when Cassie and Rob slept together. But Rob’s crash and burn afterwards was such a stereotypical “male response” to having sex with a friend, I found it a little bit jarring. It didn’t seem to fit his character up to that point in the novel, so much so that I was beginning to think he was the psychopath and was behind both the disappearance of his friends and the murder of Katy, and was simply manipulating the situation to further his goals.

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Documentaries!

One of our favorite things about Netflix streaming service is the access to hundreds of documentaries that would not have been on our radar without the “suggestions for you” section.

Two that we’ve recently watched:

sons of perditionSons of Perdition, 2010

A difficult film following a handful of young men that have left the FLDS family and lifestyle. Although not sympathetic to FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, this documentary is less concerned about making statements about polygamy and religious cults, and much more interested on the dual impact of extreme insulation and isolation on the young people that are raised in such environments, and what happens when they try to leave. Although never explicitly discussed, the most interesting part of this documentary is the juxtaposition of the young men the documentary follows with their difficulties in adjusting to “life outside” and the interviews with adults 15, 30, and 50 years after leaving and finding peace and success. 6 mangoes.

Tiny, 2012

Tiny explores the tiny house movement, homes that are less than 300 or 400 square feet. It follows Christopher and Merete as they build their tiny home, and interview others that are living in tiny houses. The documentary itself is not particularly compelling, especially if this is not a topic that interests you (it’s a little slow and one sided). But as big fans of tiny houses, sustainability, and unconsumption, this was a very interesting watch for us. C and I toy with the idea of living in a tiny house (honestly, sometimes even just for the cool design aspects!) and love the idea of the freedom that is afforded to such a low cost lifestyle. 7 mangoes.

tinyhouse

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Feel good movies

After our spat of murderous movies, and my recent Stephen King read, it is time for some happy thoughts!

movies-regarding-henryRegarding Henry, 1991

I’d never seen this one, but C loves it and added it to our Netflix queue for me to watch. It was the perfect anecdote to all the scares. A high powered attorney that has lost sight of his family has to recover from a violent attack that leaves him nearly helpless. As he relearns to speak, to read, to walk, he reconnects with his wife and daughter and the life he missed out on. Although I enjoy Harrison Ford, I’m not sure I ever would’ve called him a Great Actor. But during the scenes in which he can’t speak, his eyes and face are emotive in a way that stunned me. Beautiful, beautiful movie. 9 mangoes.

philomena-banner_largePhilomena, 2013

First of all, can you go wrong with a movie that stars Judi Dench? The answer to that is no. Philomena is a lovely story about a woman that was forced to give up her child as a teenager and now wants to reconnect with him. Steve Coogan plays the jaded journalist that finances her search in return for being able to write a human interest piece on their journey. Touching and heart breaking, my only complaint was the feeling of playing “elderly” was for laughs rather than for empathy in a couple of spots. Also, we were reminded of an episode of Call the Midwife. You are watching Call the Midwife, yes??? 8 mangoes.

dance-with-me-34094Dance With Me, 1998

I recently re-watched this movie with C (bless his heart) for nostalgia – a movie my freshman roommates and I watched again and again. A love story about a ballroom dancer and the Cuban handyman that comes into her studio, her dancing, and her life, Dance With Me a fun story, with maybe a little bit of cliche and cheese. But the dancing and the music is what really stands out here. Even after 15 years, I was completely entertained (and so was C!). 8 mangoes.

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