Beer Review: Young’s Chocolate Stout

Beer: Young’s Chocolate Stout
Brewer: Wells and Young Ltd.
Source: Draft
Rating: (8.0 of 10) ****
Comments: Two of my favorite things – chocolate and stout – and they work so well together.  It’s a dark beer with a thick head and the scent of chocolate is immediately apparent.  The taste gets both the chocolate and the stout right with a silky cream mouthfeel.  I could probably drink these all day although they are a bit filling.

Beer Review: Little Kings Cream Ale

Beer: Little Kings Cream Ale
Brewer: Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Co.
Source: 7 oz. bottle
Rating:  ** (6.0 of 10)
Comments: This beer comes in a unique and cute little bottle.  It’s basically a cheap regional brew, but surprisingly tasty.  It’s sweet and malty with a creamy mouthfeel and a nice refreshing finish.  It kind of feels old-fashioned, like something factory-workers would kick back at the corner tavern after work.

Movie Review: Don’t You Forget About Me

Title: Don’t You Forget About Me
Release Date:  13 July 2010
Director:  Matt Austin
Production Co:
Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Documentary
Rating: **

Summary/Review: This documentary is a tribute to the filmmaker John Hughes who wrote and directed many popular and influential teen films of the 1980’s including Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  Filmed before Hughes’ passed away in 2009, it features four young filmmakers journeying from Canada to Illinois to find the reclusive filmmaker who has retired from making Hollywood pictures.  The premise is a bit presumptuous, a lot boring, and I don’t think it’s too huge a spoiler to say that they never actually meet John Hughes.  Luckily, the film also includes clips from Hughes’ films, interviews with people who worked with him, and interviews with people influenced by him.  The point they keep returning to is that Hughes’ movies were more true to teenage life than other Hollywood films and even a generation later are very popular among teenage viewers.  This may be true but I do feel that they belabor the point of how bad today’s films are especially since they interview Kevin Smith and the makers of “Napoleon Dynamite” whose movies have a level of cult popularity among teens in their own right.  This documentary has some nice memories about a great moviemaker but it’s mediocre overall.  Just watch John Hughes’ movies instead.

Movie Review: The Secret of Kells

Title: The Secret of Kells
Release Date:  7 March 2010
Director: Tomm Moore & Nora Twomey
Production Co: Les Armateurs
Country:  France | Belgium | Ireland
Language: English
Genre: Animation / Fantasy / Adventure
Rating: *****

Summary/Review: The illuminated manuscripts of the Irish middle ages come to live in this brilliant animated adventure set in the monastic village of Kells.   The story focuses on a young monk named Brendan who is the nephew of the abbot.  While his uncle is consumed with obsession of constructing a defensive wall to protect the community, Brendan wishes to carry on the sacred tradition of creating lasting illuminated manuscripts.  He is aided in this effort by the arrival Brother Aidan and his cat Pangur Ban.  Aidan takes Brendan under his wing and assigns him his first task to go outside the wall to seek ingredients for ink.  There Brendan meets and befriends the forest spirit Aisling.  There is of course conflict and confrontation with his uncle, but Brendan learns to set out on his own course.

This magical film combines history and myth, art and spirituality with some of the most brilliant animation I’ve seen and a gorgeous soundtrack.  In many ways it is a good film to pair with Princess Mononoke as it shares similar thematic and visual qualities.

Movie Review: Babies

Title: Babies
Release Date: 7 May 2010
Director: Thomas Balmès
Production Co: Canal+
Country:  France
Language: English | Japanese | Mongolian
Genre: Documentary
Rating: ***1/2


It does what it says on the tin, 75 minutes or so of babies from birth through their first birthday without narration and very little context.  And who doesn’t love babies?  Four babies are featured, two from rural communities in Namibia and Mongolia, and two urban infants from Tokyo and San Francisco.  There’s not much structure as it really is footage of babies doing the things babies do.  I really like the scenes like the one of Mari from Japan having a really frustrating time with her toys and kicking the floor in a tantrum.  Of course there is a hidden structure as the filmmakers have selected what scenes to include and arranged them so that they often show contrasts between the modernized and developing parts of the world.  They also often exclude other people – even the parents although you can hear there voices offscreen – and focus on isolated babies in an almost unnatural state.  Animals are popular theme too.  Three of the babies have pet cats in the family, while Ponijao of Namibia lives on a farm and interacts with a lot of domesticated animals.  Overall it’s a very mellow movie and while I kind of feel there should be something more to it, I did appreciate a lot of what it is.