Author Archives: ashley

About ashley

Hi I'm Ashley, Promotions Manager for Fox 28, Fox 11, and Fox 41! Creativity is the air I breathe!!! I love learning new crafts and sharing them with others. In my spare time I am an avid gardener in a tiny apartment. It requires more ingenuity and imagination than you think. ;)

Dracula Untold (PG-13)

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I admit that I was dreading this one. Hollywood and company have pretty much milked the essence of the vampire film to death at this point. Drained it of all the vital fluids it once possessed. Left it as a barren husk, a shadow of its former self… you get the idea. After the advent of the sparkly vampire, well, I was quite ready to be done with this particular form of monster.

Color me surprised to have to admit that this film was pretty decent. Nothing groundbreaking or original, but good popcorn fare (preferably with white cheddar flavoring). It paid tribute to the original Dracula and gave him a solid character arc. It clashed with what I understand of the actual historical figure, Vlad of Tepes, but liberties must be taken when depicting a man famous for making human shish kabobs. The movie also suffers from a serious lack of memorable characters (besides Dracula), but it doesn’t let the focus shift away from him so that weakness is somewhat forgivable. If you want to see a film where a vampire runs around killing Ottoman soldiers you could do worse than Dracula Untold, though in my opinion this film would have benefited from an R Rating so they could show proper violence.

That concludes the portion of the review that can be considered spoiler free. From here on out, I won’t be rushing to guard my thoughts on specific scenes. That being said, there’s really not a lot to spoil.

The trailer pretty much established everything that goes down: the Ottoman Empire was a bunch of jerks, they demand child soldiers, including Vlad’s son, Vlad kills some guys,  then has to go become a vampire to have a chance at surviving a ludicrous amount of enemy soldiers. The only real twist is the fact that he’s given a three day window in which, should he resist the urge to drink blood the curse will be lifted and he won’t become the monster everyone knows and loves. Not that we believe for an instant that things will play out that way, it’s just a nice little piece that establishes some stakes throughout the adventure.

Frankly this movie had a shot at being a lot better than it was. For every favorable thing I have to say about it there’s something to hold it back. Most of the battles are fun but the first one abuses shaky cam to the point where I had to look away several times. Dracula himself is a broody anti-hero who I tend to like, but every other character is boring and forgettable, even the woman he’s madly in love with. The Master Vampire is an impressively intimidating monster, a perfect example of ancient power to be feared, but he talks far too much, spoiling a fair amount of his fear factor.

Nowhere does the film show its weakness more than with the antagonists in the film. They embody the mustache twirling villain of old, with no character or desires beyond evil for evil’s sake. Most troublesome is Sultan Mehmed (whose name I had to look up because I didn’t care enough while he was on screen to remember his name). Judging from the dialogue we get between him and Vlad early in the film, they grew up together, fought numerous battles together, and outright considered each other brothers (not that they share even the barest examples of history beyond saying that they have it). No real reason for his desire for 1,000 children to turn into soldiers is given beyond him wanting more troops. Even then it doesn’t truly feel like he wants them to aid in further conquest, he just… wants them. In an action movie a hero is defined by the villain he faces and Dracula’s villain is, at his most aggressive, still just a chump.

All my griping aside, I still say it’s a serviceable film, provided you’re looking to flip your brain off for a couple of hours. If however you want more dramatic fare there’s better stuff out there right now. For pure junk food film, this one hits the mark quite nicely. The PG-13 rating does detract from the mystique of the vampire mythology a bit, but it also makes things somewhat more tolerable if you want to bring your (teenage) kids along.

Well, we’ve got a new crop of movies out this week as well as plenty of old ones to pick from too. So cast your vote below! Comment on the FOX 28 Facebook (facebook.com/fox28spokane) if you have other movie suggestions.

The Maze Runner (PG 13)

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PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Greetings people of the Internet, I’m back! Apologies for the absence, but I’ve spent the last two months holding two jobs, followed by acclimating to the new one, and having precious little free time to go watch movies or have fun in general. The paychecks have been nice though.

Anyway, I’m getting back into the swing of things with a movie that’s been out for a little while but I’d only just gotten to see: Maze Runner. Based on a book by a guy I’ve never heard of, it’s a series that I know nothing about. With that in mind, I can only judge it by its own merit and how much I wanted to flip a table by the end (spoilers: less than TMNT, more than Guardians). While I try my best to keep my life spoiler free, I had heard some mediocre things about this one so I had already come in with lowered expectations. As a result, I had a mostly pleasant experience with the film…until the last ten minutes.

The basic plot, as set up by the trailer that you’ve probably seen if you’re thinking about watching it, is that there are a bunch of kids trapped at the center of a maze for unspecified reasons. There’s running, there’s a maze, and there are terrifying creatures to ramp up tension at every turn. And honestly, it is for the most part a decent romp…until the last ten minutes.

The main character, Thomas, wakes up on an elevator with no clue what’s going on. Right out the gate the movie does a good job of setting up terror and confusion and intrigue. He’s greeted by a group that I was mentally calling “The Lost Boys” for the whole run of the movie. Antics ensue and you get the typical run of impressive set pieces, decent CGI, and occasional child murder. It’s a mostly entertaining romp with many questions raised and precious few answered. The actors do their jobs well enough, you mostly buy into the setting, and you get a good show for the price of admission until… you get the idea. There are still better films out there, but if you’ve got nothing better to do with your afternoon it’s not a terrible way to kill a few hours.

So that’s the spoiler free version. From this point on, I’m going to assume that you either don’t care about spoilers or have already seen the movie and are curious whether a stranger on the Internet agrees with you or not.

Read on at your own peril and amusement.

I’d have to say the movie would have ranked as a solid “Good” in my notebook if not for that ending, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The primary issue that this film has is that while it’s great at setting up mysteries, it’s less great at delivering the payoff. A sticking point for me is that it maintains some of those mysteries by having characters behave like morons. From the very beginning it’s made clear that the Maze is dangerous, a place not to go and such. Instead of having someone simply explain that the gates shut themselves every night and anyone trapped outside will be ripped to shreds by giant techno-spider death machines, we get to see the main character tackled by the guy who’s totally not going to be an enemy by the end of the film. Even after the tackle (kudos to the effects team btw, I half felt like I was the one hit by it) they don’t actually say that’s what happens, they just wait ‘til the gates close and then act like Thomas was an idiot for not expecting that to happen.

That was a lot of words to complain about a single scene, but the basic issue throughout is that no one questions obvious things they should be questioning. I haven’t read the books and it’s entirely possible that that’s the exact point the author was trying to make. But all I’ve got to go on is a movie full of characters not asking very obvious, very relevant questions, and by the end It’s outright angering to me that some things are allowed to slide. To me this movie has the exact opposite problem that a lot of films have: it’s actually lacking in exposition. Showing, rather than telling, is how the medium is supposed to work and it’s hard to fault a movie for emphasizing that approach to storytelling. However, when we have no clue what’s really going on by the end of the movie unless we’ve already read the books, something’s failed in the telling.

The Maze itself is awesome to look at, though I can’t really accept the excuse for them not climbing to the top being that the vines didn’t grow tall enough. There were plenty of trees inside the vale; they could have built a proper scaffold to get to the top. The Maze shifts daily, making every run a little different. Mostly it’s an excuse to have several cringe-inducing moments of Thomas nearly getting pancaked. The Maze monsters, called Grievers, are pretty horrifying to look at, but slightly head scratching in light of the revelations at the end.

And that ending, hoo boy. So, the bulk of the movie is high paced, heart pounding, and even occasionally properly scary. Then we get to the big reveal of what’s really going on. The whole point of this massive maze is science. Not just any science, of course, science to save the human race from extinction. A phrase repeated often enough you’ll be rolling your eyes every time you hear it gets even more ridiculous when you hear what it actually stands for “Wicked is good.” Wicked stands for World In Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department.

Congratulations, you’ve just made the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division sound a whole lot less silly.

Apparently this group is tasked with testing exceptional children with an immunity to some sort of super virus (though the infection can be forced it seems), and to do that testing, they must construct a colossal environment for the express purpose of putting them at extreme stress to alter their brain chemistry or some such nonsense. It’s asinine, it’s out of far left field, and nothing about it real. THEN it’s revealed that something else entirely may be going on because the woman who finished explaining all this and then shot herself is revealed two scenes later to be alive and well and then the credits roll. It’s all well and good if the characters are clueless as to what’s going on, but I don’t like it when I feel obligated to look up the source material just to understand what I just watched.

So yeah, those are my closing thoughts on The Maze Runner. Coming up next a movie that should be a bit more fun: The Boxtrolls.

Guardians of the Galaxy (PG-13)

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WARNING: Plot Spoilers Ahead!!!

Greetings Fans of Fox, I’m Dan, the new movie review blogger on this little chunk of the Interwebs. Full disclosure: this is actually the second movie I’ve gone to see for the sake of reviewing, the first was Lucy and that didn’t go so well. Suffice it to say that I didn’t enjoy it and I strongly suggest watching something like Hercules instead.

Today we have better fare: Guardians of the Galaxy, a movie that made it completely clear in the trailers that it doesn’t take itself seriously. That’s an important trait in an action movie where two of the leads are a talking raccoon demolitionist and a sentient tree that only speaks three words. After a brief intro scene of dramatic back-story that makes you wonder if you’re watching the wrong film we’re launched forward 26 years to the present day to see what’s become of Peter Quill, our protagonist. What follows is something I’ve never actually seen on the big screen that completely destroys any lingering melancholy from the intro.

Guardians is not a complicated movie. Scrappy outlaws band together to fight a big bad. The motivations and personalities of every character is clearly established early on: Quill is essentially Han Solo and every scoundrel hero you’ve ever seen, Gamorra is the femme fatalle badass with a tortured past she’s bottled up, Rocket is the victim of inhumane experiments that left him with a huge chip on his shoulder and a bit of an inferiority complex, Drax is a musclebound wrecking ball who takes every sentence literally, and Groot is Groot. Much like The Avengers, Guardians spends much of the early acts having the characters spend more time fighting each other instead of working against the actual genocidal fanatic reaping a swathe of destruction in his hunt for them and the mystic mcguffin they’re carrying (spoiler to pretty much no one: it’s an Infinity Stone).

Also standing out is Michael Rooker as Yondu, Quill’s abductor/surrogate father/secondary antagonist for much of the movie. He’s a sort of pirate king running a band called Ravagers that’s apparently large enough to be known to the galaxy as a whole yet small enough that the entire fleet can spend its time running after a single renegade member. The relationship between Yondu and Quill is hilariously twisted, with Yondu repeatedly bragging about how he didn’t let his men eat the younger Quill when they first picked him up (though it’s revealed that they were actually there because they’d been hired to abduct him as cargo for his father).

I’ve spent four paragraphs avoiding talking about much of the plot because, honestly, there isn’t a whole lot of it. Good guys acquire the mcguffin, they figure out what it is, bad guy gets the mcguffin and gains phenomenal cosmic powers, good guys band together to get the mcguffin back, save the day and kill the bad guy. Along the way we get some fantastic set pieces, ridiculous outfits, and hilarious one-liners, as well as a jaw-dropping after credits cameo that’ll probably leave half the viewers scratching their heads in confusion as to who the character is, and the other half simply confused that they chose to have him show up.

All told, this movie is 121 minutes of ridiculous fun with one of the better soundtracks I’ve ever heard. It gets my full approval and you should go watch it. Also, it has Karen Gillan, which is more than motivation enough to see it in my book.

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Pinterest Impossible: The Pasta Strikes Back!

Source: http://www.yellowblissroad.com/one-pot-cheesy-smoked-sausage-pasta-skillet/

 

THE PASTA STRIKES BACK

I am a huge fan of all things easy, tasty, and cheesy. When I found Pinterest, recipe books that I had so carefully collected over the years have sat forlornly on the shelf collecting dust and watched jealously as I poured over pins looking for my next meal inspiration. I stumbled across this particular recipe when struggling to find something easy for dinner one night that fit all my necessary criteria. Most importantly I already had ingredients on hand to make it.

However, my victory was short lived. Making the creation as it was written in the recipe was edible to be sure, but terribly bland severely not attractive. When reading the description, the writer claimed savory sausage and fragrant garlic, onion, and tomatoes would draw the family in… It certainly did smell good while cooking, but when eating I mostly just tasted cheese and watery tomatoes in the finished product. I decided to undergo the process a second time with some slight alteration to see if the result would be better.

My apologies that I neglected to document the result the first time, but honestly you didn’t miss THAT much. Just look at my pictures and imagine them looking washed out and less appetizing. It will be hard work I know, but I believe in you!

The name of the recipe, One-Pot Cheesy Pasta, screams simplicity and few dirty dishes. Everything you could want when cooking! And true to its name, I only had to utilize one pot for the process. All told, cooking took me about 20 minutes but I did linger on cooking a few ingredients a little longer than recommended.

My first alteration for the second round was to change the kind of sausage I used. The recipe calls for Smoked Turkey Sausage, which was ok but the smoked flavor was lost and it just became an incomprehensible mess of cheese and chunks of meat product. I substituted for some Andouille Sausage I had left over from making Jambalaya last week, and boy did that make a difference! Andouille Sausage is pretty comparable price-wise to regular smoked sausage, but it has just the right amount of spice in it to shine above the cheese and tomatoes without adding overwhelming heat. It is by far a more flavorful option, but if you have issues with using any spice when cooking then stick with the Turkey.

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Cooking the onion and sausage together works fine, and saves time, but I also added the garlic sooner than what the recipe suggested. By adding a little more garlic and cooking it longer the finished product had a more pronounced roasted garlicky taste than when I had just cooked it for the 30 seconds recommended.

An issue I had with the first round was how watery it turned out (which prompted this to be a Pintrest Impossible entry). It was a combination of two things: using fat free milk instead of half-n-half or cream, and not draining the can of tomatoes before adding it in. I would like to make clear that the recipe does not call for you to drain the can of tomatoes before you add it! I can hear all of you reaching for your keyboards… You can totally make the argument that I should have known to do that in the first place. But, considering how much pasta goes into this concoction the amount of liquid when I added the pasta seemed completely reasonable to me… Until the finished product reared its malformed and juicy head that is. So please, do yourself a favor, use cream (which thickens better than milk) and drain the tomatoes. The noodles won’t come out too soft and the “sauce” as it were will be nice and thick and flavorful!

The scallions were the one ingredient I did NOT have the first time around, and really do help with taste and curb appeal. I made sure to have scallions on hand the second round… it was SUCH an improvement. Please don’t neglect the scallions; it adds to the texture and the green really pops making the dish look so much better in my honest opinion. In this image I added the scallions directly to the pot to show how cool I am in making something that resembles a pretty picture from Pinterest… but next time I make this (and there WILL be a next time), I’ll just add them to the bowl right before serving. A minor nit-pick, but I think leftovers will taste better with fresh instead of mushy scallions when it gets re-heated.

All in all my verdict for second time around was a resounding SUCCESS!

Live long and cheese in peace viewers.

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