Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

Little Red Wasp restaurant review

I visited the Little Red Wasp yesterday as part of an excursion to Ft. Worth. Since I took the TRE from Dallas and got off at Ft. Worth’s Intermodal Transportation Centerstation, The Little Red Wasp was one of the closest establishments to the station that I wanted to try.

I had the Crispy Chicken sandwich, which is just like the menu states, a sandwich that requires a knife and fork to eat. The sandwich was a spicy breaded fried chicken breast on a sub roll stacked with a spicy coleslaw that had jalapenos. It came with a side of chips. The sandwich was taller than it was wide, and it had a 6 inch stick going through each half just to keep the sandwich from falling apart. The coleslaw was the spiciest slaw that I’ve ever eaten. Removing a few of the jalapenos helped calm down the heat, but just the creamy addressing alone had a reddish color to it that probably contained in part the source of the heat. After having ordered the appetizer of chips and ranch dip, which was very good, I could not finish the second half of my sandwich. I enjoyed the leftover half the next day for dinner. The chips were potatoes chips that are made there, hot and greasy, and the dip was ranch dip that tasted extremely fresh. The beer selection on tap was limited to about six beers, but the selection was excellent. The waiter gave me a nice little cardboard box that folded close to put my leftovers in, but that solution did not work out carrying it in my backpack. So, I received one of those quasi-disposable plastic tupperware boxes that they use for carry-out orders, and that worked out great, especially considering it squashed some of my sandwich down, which the staff verified is normal procedure for this sandwich, and that kept my sandwich together during transport. I was happy.

I’d definitely come back again, but first I’ll explore the rest of Ft. Worth some more.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 movie review

A couple weeks ago, I saw The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 at the movie theater on opening night. I went because it was a date, and I may brag that I was a thoughtful date because I bought the tickets several days in advance, which at this theater made a difference because seats are assigned. I locked in a great pair of almost center seat. Being a sound geek, I always want to sit in the center to get the best sound stage perspective, aka sweet spot. The production on this film was great, as I would always expect of a film of this caliber.

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3rd teaser poster for the film The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. Licensed under Fair use Wikipedia

The Hunger Games series attracts a crowd younger than me, but overall it is a pretty good franchise because kind of like the 1990s TV show La Femme Nikita, it depicts the struggle between being oneself and trying to sustain that while an oppressor tries to take that from you. That concept probably is universal because in almost every culture people imagine a life they dream of and actually live a different life. That struggle to close that gap between the two is relatable to everyone with a pulse, and that struggle is probably one of the closest examples to essence of what it means to be human.

So, considering the target audience of this franchise, I was quite surprised how dark and traumatic this film was, spanning the realities of war to severe mental illness. Basically, the entire film takes place in an underground city built inside of a bunker designed to withstand heavy bombing. In one scene where the bombing actually begins to take place, I was pleasantly surprised and equally yet appropriately disturbed that when all of the citizens were rushed down into the bomb shelters, we could hear the screaming of all of the citizens during each explosion. It really made me think that this is reality for many people in the world today, regardless of who is foe or friend. People experience this fear all the same when a bomb rumbles the very ground and roof of your personal space, and yet we do that to each other. Fortunately, I’ve never had to experience that.

I really like how openly the characters discuss the creation and staging of propaganda. It almost feels satirical or educational in comparison to what happens on our news outlets today.

All of the characters show development in this series from the previous installments. It almost feels like that while Katnis, the main protagonist played by Jenifer Lawrence, hangs on to her identity the best she can, the other characters around her also begin to get more in touch with their own true identities.

I’m not a great critic of acting, but I’ve been told that one of the most difficult things to act is to act like if you’re acting. In the first act of the film, Katnis is asked to act in a propaganda clip where she delivers lines in various rigid ways, like one would expect from an under privileged girl of a coal miner who has no acting training or experience. It was fun and painful to watch Jennifer Lawrence deliver this, and that’s what made it seem so good.

Perhaps this installment is like a well written children’s show, lots of fun on the outside with fairly important messages underneath that a wise parent could bring up at the dinner table to make a lesson or two on life.

In conclusion, this film and series isn’t for everyone to indulge in, but most folks can find something to take away from this.

The Maze Runner movie review

Last week I went to see the film adaptation of the book by James Dashner The Maze Runner. Having gone with someone who has already read the book, I received great insight. Overall I enjoyed the movie very much and would see it again. This film is a young-adult post-apocalyptic science-fiction story where boys are deposited into a community surrounded by a colossal maze after having their memories erased. The only way out of this community is through the maze.

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The Maze Runner (2014) Poster

As I suspected in comparison to the book with this movie just shy of 2 hours in length, the film wastes a lot of time in the opening act due to a poor attempt to build curiosity in the viewer about the story by basically prolonging a question and answer sequence that explains the setting. A major drawback in this film adaptation is that none of the relationships were developed. It literally left the audience feeling that there is no investment between the individual characters.

As the story progressed, it truly explored very interesting symbols that represent life on many different levels. The sheer concept of running through maze, for example, is not dissimilar to the analogy of life for the common person is a “rat race.” How the boys built a society shows insight to the individual psychology of each boy because three years before the story begins there was only one boy who got dropped into the green glade that becomes the home base from which the boys try to run the maze. The boys established a democracy but where a hierarchy was respected. The hierarchy was segregated into functional areas, and a person from one functional area did not have direct influence over another functional area, including superiors, which was set by seniority. However, it was evident that the longer a boy was in the community, the less malleable his mind was.

As soon as the main character Thomas arrived to the scene, he immediately started thinking about how to get out of the community, and this drove the whole story. The creator of the maze and all evil things within it is the omniscient antagonist that has put all the boys into the glade, as well as, delivered any supplies over the course of the years. There is a stark contrast between Thomas and the leader of the boys who has simply accepted that life will always be as it is.

One of the most comical symbols in the story was when the antagonist dropped in a girl, which was the final delivery from the creators of the maze, meaning no further supplies would be delivered. It made me want to ask after the movie, “How can there be only one Smurfette for all of those Smurfs?”

Overall, it is not a movie that keeps giving over and over each time it is watched, but at least a few viewings could deliver some entertainment and discussions.

Lone Survivor movie review

Lone Survivor is one of those movies that exhibit just how tough our men in service are, and just how tough the human spirit can be. It always underlines my great respect for our service men and women. I love that. This film is based on a true story. It starts out somewhat slow, but hey, that’s life. A recon mission can be slow as hiking through nature can be. The fight scenes seemed incredibly realistic with flesh spraying from bullet hits. The sound was also very engulfing. The sound of the bullets hitting and where they where placed in the surround panorama really added a depth of engagement. It amazes me just how many bullets a human can take and keep going. Those guys must have been hit well into the two digits.

For the most part of the movie, I thought the leader of the team made a bad call letting those locals go without creating some sort of delay, but I turned out to be wrong. The film also showed how when senior leaders over-estimate the toughness of their troops that there can be serious consequences. That stuck with me, but I wish it stuck with me even more for my own career.

Another thing that got to me was that I didn’t realize under how much stress the peaceful Afghans live. Some villages just want to live their peaceful life with their goats and simple homes with no running water, and then these stupid Taliban hooligans from the next village over come and raid these villages. That’s terrible! These remote places with no police have to stand their ground with whatever weapons they have, and many die trying. I can’t believe a person with a goat and without running water has to deal with this Taliban crap on top of their already underprivileged life!

Not only do I recommend watching this film to anyone, but I would own this film.

Divergent movie review

I spent one of my days’ off from work going to the movie theater, and I saw Divergent. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was looking forward to it because the theme had to do with not fitting in and finding oneself.

The story telling was rather simple and linear. All of the facts were laid out one after the other. There was no active involvement required to get the story; in other words, I didn’t have to recall something from the beginning to get more out of the end. Nevertheless, it was nicely executed acting and cinematography. However, the one bad thing was the music. During certain scenes, I felt like I was watching a sappy Grey’s Anatomy episode because of how cheesy the pop music was. Then, sometimes the orchestra score contrasted this style so drastically that there was obviously a lack of continuous thought regarding the music.

I haven’t read the book and probably won’t has I have a backlog of more serious books to read, so I have no comparison for the characters. Probably the only real character development happened with the lead role of Tris, portrayed by Shailene Woodley who did quite a nice job displaying vulnerability and growth to the point it makes me wonder what her real personality is like.

Regardless of the simplicity of the plot, the symbolism made up for it. It’s quite clear that the story had a couple of main ideas to express. 1) the evaluation of classes, be it nations or classes within a nation, through the portrayal of factions as a necessary element of a dystopian society. 2) the various elements every ego encounters when defining its identity, elements such as judgment by others, fitting in while figuring out how to be unique, developing one’s fullest potential. 3) the evaluation of self-government and its relationship to the fundamental reason why to self-govern.

Overall, there are plenty of good big concepts to spark a good conversation after the movie, though this film did not evaluate each of these concepts in anything close to an entirety. They feel like that they simply have been considered by the author to be placed into the plot in fitting places. Overall, I’d recommend watching this film.

Transcendence movie review

Transcendence is excellent composition and an important an important film for humanity to discuss both the next age of civilization and what is humanity. Compositionally, every opening scene details and symbols get tied to something in the later in the story, so every string is tied off and the whole thing is rather balanced. Transcendence is probably the first commercial film that drives its story atop of a relatively accurate prediction of the capabilities of super powerful artificial general intelligence (AGI) and the promises and proverbial magic of nanotechnology. The actors’ performances were excellent, and Johnny Depp delivered quite believably on point, going from human to death to resurrection in a machine and beyond—certainly a long character arch.

As with many great films and in line with recent story telling styles, the antagonists are relatable, and one of which, Max, a colleague of the protagonists, changes sides, so one finds oneself halfway through the movie before deciding whether to like or hate Max.

I always love the theme of a machine becoming more human, and this film explored this overarching theme from the angle of making a human become a machine. I am not a true philosopher, and although this film restated at least twice the impossible test of what it means to be conscious, another, while more subliminal, question was an undertone of whether a machine can love. A human can quite easily love a machine, but how true a machine’s reciprocation of such love is beyond imagination perhaps unless it is personally experienced. Perhaps as Ray Kurzweil states it, and I’m paraphrasing, “It’s so compelling that it doesn’t matter if it’s real.” One stance of that debate within the film was that love along with other emotions could be so illogical that only a human can handle the internal dissonance while a machine will never reconcile that because it is merely a simulation, and therefore any notion of love would fall apart within a machine. But frankly, how is that so different from the human experience because after all, once there is too much dissonance, it too can fall apart?

Finally, the significance of the closing scene, in the protagonists’, Casters, sanctuary garden, leaves much to wonder what is happening inside the puddle of water that is riddled with nanotechnology. My take on it is that puddle now contains a consciousness—or two. This film shows technology on the horizon of humanity, a horizon that is also the end of humanity, as we know it. The only controllable change is redefining humanity. Everyone should see this film and then decide on which side of technology to take a position. At least this way, everyone will be better prepared for both change and the dialog.

Philomena movie review

Philomena is a very powerful movie because unlike in fiction, it depicts a story arch that does not get to complete. Philomena was forced to live in a covenant to give birth to a baby out of wedlock and who was later taken away from her for adoption. She searched for her son ever since. It is based on a true story, and after watching the special features containing interviews with the creators, I believe the story is close enough to the truth to certainly do it justice and send a message to world. I always try to take a lesson away from a film, and this film by all means explains that life is not fair, there are cruel people in the world who really deserve pity more than anything else, and life is too short but not too short to spend it on driving towards an important life mission. One never knows what one will accomplish on a long journey, but if it is an important journey, then one must accept it and make the path towards that target.