Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Impossible

A disaster movie that focuses on ordinary, complex characters without computerized effects

     The recreation of the tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia in 2004 is the most frightening sequence in a movie this year.  Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, who made the eerie and poignant The Orphanage in 2007, it’s the true story of one tourist family in the midst of that disaster.  A tank and

Monday, January 28, 2013

Austin: Food Truck Parks and South Congress

South Congress Food Truck Lot
     We became aware of the food truck movement a few years ago while watching a challenge on Top Chef.  We’ve seen (and reviewed) some Cincinnati food trucks.  However, food trucks are an entire subculture in Austin with parking lots of

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Java Dive Bistro

Speaking the language of coffee 
in Austin's northwest suburb

Java Dive's Subdued Interior
      Java Dive became our choice for starting our days while visiting Austin.  We joined our friends the first morning and from that point we were hooked.  The environment was pared down with metal tables and chairs, simple display cases and painted concrete floors, all in an unassuming small strip center.  Despite all that, the place is warm and welcoming (anything but a dive), which is the explanation for its

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Tour of the Texas Hill Country

From ranch to city life, the landscape offers a bit of California and Provence

LBJ Ranch in Johnson City, TX
      I was at the LBJ Boyhood home in Johnson City on the anniversary of the 70th birthday of President Johnson, which was August 27, 1978.  It was a 100º+ day in the Hill Country and the staff was celebrating by serving cake to all of the visitors that day.  We then took a rather private mobile tour of

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

The relentless hunt for bin Laden thrillingly defines 
a decade of American foreign policy

Dex Hangs Out with Jessica Chastain
     Kathryn Bigelow directs action sequences that are up there with the best of Ford, Kurosawa, Clouzot, Aldrich, Siegel, and Eastwood.  I laughed with astonishment during Point Break when she staged two chases:  one where the villains were masked and ran through back alleys and around various obstacles, and a second when the protagonist, without a parachute, flew falling after the antagonist, who had one.  However, she also made Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves seem credible as actors; few other directors have done so and that’s telling.  Good and great actors are easier to manage than those that

Monday, January 21, 2013

Get Ready for the Ninth Annual Chicken Soup Cookoff

Sunday, January 27th, 12:15 to 2pm
Wise Temple in Amberley Village

Izzy's Serving Their Chicken Soup at Last Year's Event
      We were asked to be judges at this year's Chicken Soup Cookoff, so I mentioned the opportunity to Eric and Neil.  They were excited about it and thought I should join them, but—well, I'm a little shy in crowds.  So they'll be there doing what they do best…eating!  I hope you'll take this occasion to join them.  There will be lots of soups to sample, door prizes, a silent auction, and lots of fun for all ages.  Mark your calendars now and we'll hope to see you there!

Sunday, January 20, 2013


An easy formula for lunch proves satisfying in all ways

That sure is a sad dog!

The Brightened Interior of Kirby's in Loveland
      The old Sleepy Hollow Tavern in Loveland has awakened!  What was dark with year 'round Christmas lights and decorations has now been revamped into a neighborhood pub.  Molly and I were there for lunch and were impressed with the transformation, simple as it is.  We also

Friday, January 18, 2013

Hyde Park on Hudson

In the face of impending war, 
leaders require a great deal of positive rallying

The Royal Meeting at Hyde Park
     Set during the weekend of the King and Queen of England’s visit to FDR to secure support for the gathering European war, Hyde Park on Hudson is two movies.  One is

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mitchell's Fish Market

Cameron Mitchell's growing chain 
serves an authentic Northeastern experience

Nautical Interior at Mitchell's Fish Market West Chester
      The decor is nautical.  From the time you enter the door, you'll find it a place that could be near any seashore in America.  Yes, it's geographically transforming with its dark woods, navy fabric with white piping, and ship accessories and designations adding to the details.  But the real star is the

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ruth Rendell Upstages Two Recently Acclaimed Debut Writers

Belinda Bauer and Liza Klaussmann 
range in quality and style, but Ruth Rendell 
delivers brilliantly and seemingly effortlessly

Rendell, Bauer, and Klaussmann
     Blacklands by Belinda Bauer was the winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger in 2010 (this is the British counterpart to the American Edgar Awards).  It’s a page-turner in the best sense and I finished it in two sittings on Labor Day.  It’s a very tightly drawn work that cuts back and forth between a boy trying to deal with his family’s despair and the imprisoned serial child killer who murdered his uncle.  I knew from the beginning where it was going, but the suspense is taut.  Bauer examines the serial killer’s mental state well, but I’ve seen that before.  Where she excels is in showing an ordinary boy having the courage to become

Sunday, January 13, 2013

There She Is...Miss America

And this time she just may be the girl next door

Mallory Hagan, Miss America 2013
      None of us are beauty queen experts, but we happened on to the Miss America Pageant and agreed there was enough to hold some interest for our household.  Miss Wyoming was a finalist, something Eric couldn't recall ever happening from the state that his Mom calls home.  We thought she might have the total package that the judges were looking for.  There was a ginger for Dexter to ogle.  And then, there was Miss New York who was the class clown and had the attitude while competing that she was just there to have a good time (I'm sure it was a lot more than that) and that everyone else should have the same.  She tapped her way through James Brown, was in the top 5 for swimsuit and evening gown, and then nailed an answer on gun control.  She's not your conventional Miss America, but then this is 2013. Go Mallory Hagan! You represented your state and Brooklyn well...and now, America.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Golden Globes – TV Nominations

Look for newcomers and surprises 
because the Globes are usually daring    

     The Golden Globe TV nominations are usually pretty cool because they’re a little ahead of the curve.  The Emmys are always behind it and they generally reward the same shows and performers year after year as if nothing new was ever put

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Life of Pi

A gorgeous allegory for imagining 
and surviving the impossible

The Astounding Visuals from Life of Pi
     Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is the most visually astounding movie of the year and that’s a year that includes Beasts of the Southern Wild, Moonrise Kingdom, The Avengers, Argo, The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, and the preview of Zero Dark Thirty.  We’re in an era when acting and cinematography are incredible; it’s the scripts that aren’t always on the same level.  Life of Pi, from Yann Martel’s critically lauded bestseller, has a strong

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Golden Globes: Like the Playoffs or the Preakness if it happened before the Kentucky Derby

What was a joke has become a guilty pleasure 
and the blueprint for the Oscar nominations – 
plus, who knows what they’ll say?

     The Golden Globes show is your favorite relative that you don’t see very often and who has no filter and may either say, drink, or smoke too much and that’s why people watch it.  In terms of importance, it’s like The National Enquirer (tons of fun and it may all come true in 3 – 6 months) to the Oscars’ New York Times (the historical record, but an overlong, self-important, liberal drag).  The Globes are nominated and given

Monday, January 7, 2013

Susan Messing: A Chicago Improv Legend

She’s been hilarious professionally 
for over 20 years and must be seen to be believed

Melissa McCarthy on SNL
     Last year, Melissa McCarthy guest starred in arguably the best episode of Saturday Night Live that season for which she was Emmy-nominated.  There was one priceless sketch in which she performed various activities with a Mylar balloon.  This past weekend, Kate McKinnon, who’s turning into a breakout performer on SNL played a two-hander with Louis C.K. in

Sunday, January 6, 2013

"Behind the Seams" at the Cincinnati Art Museum

A focused, informative examination 
of preserving textiles as art

Dexter Examines the Textile Collection Storage
     Neil has privately wondered why the Cincinnati Art Museum doesn’t have more exhibitions dedicated to its enormous fashion collection.  Years ago, there were a number
Dior Wedding Ensemble
as Exhibited in Wedded Perfection:
Two centuries of Wedding Gowns
in 2010

Friday, January 4, 2013

This Is 40: Rudd and Mann Assoluta

Funny and relentlessly profane, it captures the rut of Judd Apatow’s middle age too well

Dexter Joins Some Fun with the Cast of This Is 40
     Judd Apatow’s This Is 40 makes the audience feel like it’s watching a home movie.  That’s because it features so many of his acting collaborators (Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Iris and Maude Apatow, Jason Segel, Melissa McCarthy, Tim Bagley, Chris O’Dowd, Charlyne Yi, Lena Dunham) as well as new ones that fit right in (Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Megan Fox) and I think it uses the same house the main characters lived in

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Les Miserables

The movie that audiences couldn't wait for and then couldn't leave

       The story of Les Miz began for me back in December of 1985 when Monica and I were on a train from London to York.  There was a poster of a new musical in the West End that had not yet caught much press in the U.S. and so, for us, sounded rather odd and boring.  Twenty-seven years later and the phenomenon of Les Miserables lives on culminating in the film version.

An Epic French Revolution Scene
      Film can sometimes convey so much more than a stage production and that's certainly true for some scenes in Les Miz.  It is epic.  On the other hand, a musical that has more

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Holiday Road Trip

Dexter travels over the holiday break

     I did not know what was happening when the guys were loading up the car with my private box and my food and water dishes.  Next, Neil took me out and Eric opened the door and we were in the car.  It wasn’t my first time, but there were all kinds of things in it so I knew we were going a long way.  I wanted to see all the trees and birds outside.  Neil let me look around the front and out of the big window and then I jumped down to where it was cooler because I was thirsty.  I had to stay there for a little while until we stopped.

     I stayed in my own apartment at Cousin Dale’s where there were pictures of other animals.  There was a bigger cat there than me, but he was really quiet.  There were many places I had to check out, but I didn’t find any mice.  I tried hard, though.  Neil’s family came down and visited, which was a lot of fun.

     Two days later we were leaving early in the morning.  There was white fluffy snow everywhere and the guys thought there would be a lot more.  I kept trying to tell them that they had forgotten my scratching pad, but they wouldn’t listen. 

The car made some weird noises when we hit wet stuff and I could see other cars off the road.  I was worried, but we made it home fine.  Travel is very broadening and I look forward to my next trip!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Sugar ‘n’ Spice & Annabel’s: Two Breakfast/Lunch Gems

There is usually a wait at these two restaurants, 
but they’re worth it

Retro Murals at Sugar n' Spice
     Sugar ‘n’ Spice is a beloved institution on Reading Road with a well-sized parking area, which it needs because it’s popular.  Be advised that there’s always a wait on weekends, though turnover is quick.  It’s been recognized over the years