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Beer #19 – Smuttynose Robust Porter

So it was super warm, now it’s cold again and good weather for a porter.  These days are numbered however, which is why I recently bought a bunch of spring-ish beers, including some nice IPAs that I can’t wait to try.  But that’s getting ahead of myself.  I still have a brew from Smuttynose that I need to review, their Robust Porter from the great state of New Hampshire.

Robust Porter, Smuttynose Brewing CompanyNew Hampshire, United States of A
American Porter, 5.7 % ABV

Aroma: Nice and deep dark malt notes, with rich coffee, hint of chocolate.

Appearance: Poured thick brown, nice head of dark tan foam.

Flavor: Nice coffee bitterness, deep roasted malt, great chocolate on the finish with nice balancing hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full bodied, nice carbonation, nice coating on the mouth.

Overall: Excellent porter.  Nice roasty notes, with good dark flavors, nice finish on this one.  Good mouthfeel and a present hop bitterness that balances the flavors that come before it.

Wednesday’s What You Should Watch – Attack the Block

The previews and poor box office showing of “John Carter” are pretty good indications that Hollywood does not understand how to make decent films involving aliens, action, and characters.  So when you do find a successful combination of those three (even if it’s from England), it needs to be celebrated.  “Attack the Block” is a fun, funny, and well executed film about a group of juvenile gangsters (or wannabe gangsters rather) who join forces with a nurse they’ve recently robbed, to fend off a bunch of aliens attacking their high-rise apartments.  And I mean high-rise in not the luxury term, but in the public housing term.

This film has a lot going for it.  It’s got a great group of juvenile gangsters, and a charismatic leader in Moses, who provides the perfect tone for the film.  The supporting cast is likeable as well, and they’re just fun and vulnerable enough that we really feel for them when they’re being chased and yes, when some of them die, because well, this is an R-rated movie and sometimes kids get killed.  Another plus is that the film was produced by the same guys who made “Shaun of the Dead“, which is very similar in nature, only that it deals with zombies instead of predatory aliens.

Some people might blast the special effects, but for CGI creatures, in a movie about kids who would rather lock themselves inside their apartments and play FIFA, they are par for the course.  They sort of remind me of the beast from “Brotherhood of the Wolf“, in that they look fake enough, that they almost look good, if that makes any sense.  Basically, I didn’t know what I was really expecting and I got what seemed to fit the movie.  There is also a big of London slang, which may take some getting used to, but it’s perfectly fitting for the characters and I think it gives the movie a lot of charm.

“Attack the Block” isn’t going to win any Oscars.  It’s not the best action movie in years, but it might be the best one involving aliens in a while and the best one made for a budget of $13 million.  If the name “Nick Frost” and the combination of that, aliens and child gangsters appeals to you, this is pretty much the best you could ask for.  See it before some asshole from Universal decides to remake it.

Wednesday’s What You Should Watch – The Man From Nowhere

Asian films, particularly Asian horror and action/thrillers have been gaining a reputation for being disgusting (see Three Extremes: Dumplings) and brutal in their violence (see I Saw the Devil).  But what’s often lost in the hype/translation, is that many of these films are actually telling a decent story to go along with their spectacle.  For action/thriller fans, “The Man From Nowhere” has it all.  It’s a smart, sometimes VERY bloody film about a loner who, in his quest to protect an orphaned girl, gets in way over his head with an organized crime syndicate.  Except, he has some special skills from his past that come quite in handy.

I’m not just spewing accolades here.  It was the highest grossing film of 2010 in South Korea and the United States has already picked up the rights to an English language remake.  I’m trying to imagine who I see in the lead role and I’m coming up blank.  Jeremy Renner might be a good choice, but I’m sort of biased there.  Maybe an unknown would fit the title role best, I’m not sure.  But obviously, this film has been loved by executives and audiences and is currently available on Netflix Instant.  You should check it out now.

The beauty of the film really comes from a few things.  First, is the relationship between the man and the orphan he befriends.  Like all movies with this plot, it takes a little while to develop, but it feels quite real.  Of course she disappears and the man decides to track her down.  There is a fantastic montage of him tracking children through the streets, watching as they are used by a drug cartel to deliver goods and pass messages.  Second, there is some interesting double-crossing involving the cartel and the man, that really sets up the action of the third act.  And yeah, wow, the third act.  I don’t know if I have watched a sequence of film more than the ending battle between the man and the thugs from the cartel.  It takes place in a beautiful lobby with stone walls, floors and statues.  The bullets ricochet off of everything, the blood is bright against the white floor and the choreography of the gun battle and ensuing knife fights is flat out amazing.  Some of the best action I’ve ever seen in a film.

If you don’t like subtitles, then I suggest you suck it up for this one.  Much of the story can be deciphered simply through watching how characters behave, so the dialogue is sort of just a bonus.  I’m serious, watch it without subtitles and you will be fine.  The action will remain intact, the story still coherent.  Just do it before they remake the damn thing.

Beer #18 – Gritty’s Best Brown Ale

I’m a sucker for brown ales.  Every brewery and brewpub should have a great example of this style.  It should be a staple in any beer drinkers arsenal.  It’s getting a little warmer out so I’m moving away from the super-heavy winter beers and to me, brown ales are pretty drinkable year round.  I saw one in the store the other day and was intrigued by the name, so here we go.  Here’s Gritty’s Best Brown Ale (which interestingly, is not profiled anywhere on their website). 

 

Gritty’s Best Brown Ale, Gritty McDuff’s Brewing CompanyMaine, United States of A
Northern English Brown Ale, 4.8 % ABV

Aroma: Caramel malt notes with a hint of hops, nice toffee scents.

Appearance: Pours amber, clear, with a medium head of light tan foam.

Flavor: Opens with malt sweetness, then some faint hop bitterness, finishing with very caramel sweetness.

Mouthfeel: Fairly light bodied, nice carbonation, easily drinkable.

Overall: This has gotten some bad reviews on other sites, but to me this is a great session beer.  It’s got a great complex aroma, great malt flavor with a nice finish.  I think some people might be put off by the sweetness, but it really has a nice caramel profile if you’re into that sort of beer.

Wednesday’s What You Should Watch – Splinter

Splinter is a fun and nasty little movie about a small group of people fighting off a parasitic organism.  It’s an incredibly simple premise, a classic horror movie plot with the usual characters, but the special effects really make this film shine.  If you don’t like blood and gore, and Cronenberg style “body horror” you probably won’t like this movie.  But seeing as I really dig that stuff, I’m recommending this film for all horror fans.  In fact, I’m even a bit sad that it’s not available on Netflix instant anymore because I am really craving this movie.

Small, contained horror movies like this usually involve a small cast of characters who don’t get along from the get-go and are suddenly thrown into a situation where they are trapped and fighting for their lives.  Genre rules say that they must (sort of) work together in order to survive, and someone isn’t going to make it out.  Well this film involves a couple who are carjacked by an escaped con and his girlfriend.  As luck would have it, they end up at a gas station where something VERY BAD happened to the attendant. 

So we start our contained horror story, as the group becomes trapped by a parasitic organism that grows splintery spikes (basically like a porcupine, only a LOT GROSSER) and begins to attack people and take over their dead bodies.  The special effects of the creature are awesome, a lot of make-up and live puppetry going on here in really gross ways.  It reminded me a lot of the effects in John Carpenter‘s “The Thing,” which in my opinion, featured some of the best/grossest creature effects ever recorded on film.  If you haven’t seen it, go rent it or watch it in 10 or so parts on Youtube.  But this creature, well, it’s sort of unclear what it is, but there’s no mistaking what it DOES, which is basically take over your body and contort your bones into ways they shouldn’t, while growing/attaching to other bodies and doing the same thing.  Succumbing to it would be a really BAD way to go, let’s just say that. 

Clocking in at 82 minutes, Splinter is a really enjoyable exercise in horror and tension.  It’s got solid performances from its actors, a really great villian (played by Shea Whigham, who has now gone on to star/support in a bunch of roles), and a really gross, a great homage to the “Evil Dead,” and a gross and scary monster.  There’s implications for a sequel, which I’d take anyday over the next Star Wars…

A Quick F*** You to George Lucas

Dear George Lucas,

I remember when I first came across “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.”  My friend Alex had a bunch of VHS tapes in his den where his father had recorded movies from the rental store onto VHS tape.  We constantly looked through these tapes for something to watch and one day we saw a tape that had the words “Star Wars” scrawled in blue pen across the label.  As I was a young boy, the word “war” was interesting, as was the possibility that it could happen in space.  So we popped it in.

I was hooked.  There was nothing like it.  The ships, the stormtroopers, the laser blasters, the battle high above the Death Star.  But perhaps most of all, I was amazed by the creatures.  The aliens in the cantina on Tatooine, the characters in Jabba’s palace.  They were amazing.  And most importantly, they were REAL.  Yoda was touchable.  The pit of the sarlacc had real teeth, they were gross and intimidating.  As someone who later became obsessed with all sorts of creature effects like Stan Winston’s creations in “Aliens” and “Jurassic Park” this was a great moment of movie magic in my life.  Your original trilogy, before the computer generated special editions, was MAGIC.

Then you had to ruin it.  You went back and added new effects.  Some of them were good, such as the snow monster in “Empire”, I liked seeing more of him.  But I didn’t enjoy seeing Jabba in the hanger of Episode IV and I didn’t enjoy the addition of the Venus Flytrap beak to the Sarlacc in “Jedi”.  You ruined something that was good, you ruined something that was tangible.

Then you went ahead and made Episode I, and you included the misguided character of Jar Jar Binks.  I think I know what you were trying to do, put in some comic relief, test your your computer generated technology, maybe appeal to a wider fan base.  But Jar Jar was horrible and this was the first indication that you’ve lost your magic.  The magic that got me hooked on “Star Wars” when I first watched it as a kid.

But what REALLY made me see how much you’ve screwed up, how horribly WRONG you went, was not another science fiction film, but a movie about a creator like yourself, someone who made magic out of creatures.  This film was “Being Elmo” which chronicles the journey of Elmo’s puppeteer, Kevin Clash.

Seeing Elmo, seeing the love put into this character, seeing Elmo in action, the way people can touch him, the way he can dance and adjust his eyes because someone is controlling him, it’s magic.  It’s the magic you once had, when you used real puppets, tangible creatures, when you didn’t even know about computer generated creatures.  I cried when I saw Elmo hugging a girl whose DYING WISH was to meet Elmo.  Tell me the last time someone requested to meet Jar Jar Binks?

So let me close by saying it’s really sad to see what has happened to you.  You started off with so much promise.  You made magic and then you took it away.  Your first films had the imagination of someone who truly cared, now it just seems like you’re going through the motions, making creatures just for the hell of it.  My kids will love Elmo, they won’t love Jar Jar Binks.

Sincerely,

A disappointed former fan.

Beer #17 – Samuel Adams Wee Heavy

I am really enjoying the Imperial Series from Samuel Adams.  While some of their mainstay beers don’t quite do it for me, their forays into big time flavors and styles have been quite good.  I sometimes get put off by huge alcohol contents because of their flavor, so I was a little wary of their Wee Heavy, but decided to pick it up and see if it could warm me up during the winter.  It’s been sitting in my fridge for a while since I didn’t really know when I had the time to enjoy a 10% ABV beer, but the time came, so here it is.

Samuel Adams Wee Heavy, Boston Beer Company Massachusetts, United States of A
Strong Scottish Ale, 10.0 % ABV

Aroma: Intense sweet malt aromas, hints of honey and roasted malt with whiskey scents.

Appearance: Dark brown, nice tan head of foam, pours thick, decent lacing.

Flavor: You can definitely taste the alcohol in this, but there is a nice caramel malt profile, very slight hop bitterness on the finish, some aspects of roasted grains.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied, nice carbonation, alcohol astringency.

Overall: This is a very nice example of a strong scotch ale.  Very nice malt complexity in both flavor and aromas.  Not a session beer by any means but a good beer of intense flavor and high alcohol content.