Monday, June 30, 2008

The week in review

Wednesday night: Live Free or Die Hard (watched with Hanks)

Hanks and I never watched the 4th Die Hard movie in a cinema for the simple reason that we never watched its 3 predecessors. In the past few months we managed to watch Die Hard, Die Hard 2, and Die Hard with a Vengeance on DVD, and we finally got the chance to see Live Free or Die Hard this past week. Like the 3 that came before it, the movie has a lot of action and violence, requires a lot of willing suspension of disbelief (using a car to take down a helicopter, whoa!), and oh yeah, John McClane kicks a lot of bad-guy ass. This time he's up against a bunch of cyber-terrorists wreaking havoc with the country's transportation and communication systems, utilities and other computer-controlled facilities. Timothy Olyphant, who plays the mastermind Thomas Gabriel, is no Alan Rickman or Jeremy Irons, but because the whole cyber-terrorist scheme seems so brilliant (and frighteningly feasible), this new breed of villain is pretty fun to watch at work. Justin Long fills in the role of young sidekick as a hacker McClane is supposed to protect from the baddies, and he reminds me of a more refined, less entertaining Shia LeBeouf. And the man himself, Bruce Willis, is the definitive action star of his generation, IMHO; he may not have the heft and He-Man proportions of Stallone or Schwarzenegger, but what he lacks in bulk he more than makes up for in attitude. His wry humor, nonchalance in the face of danger, and complete disregard for authority make John McClane one of the most memorable and beloved action heroes from contemporary cinema,
and make Live Free or Die Hard a fun, not-so-old-fashioned action flick.

Yipeekayay, mother*bleep*.

Friday night: Get Smart (watched with Hanks and Fara)

I love watching no-brainer comedies with Fara. Hearing her peals of infectious laughter seems to make the movie funnier than it actually is. Not that Get Smart isn't funny. The plot is predictable, the gags lean towards slapstick, and the punch lines lack oomph, but Steve Carrell's signature deadpan delivery sells the whole movie. As bumbling secret agent Max Smart, Carrell is goofy and good-natured, earnest and endearing, and heckuva hilarious. As the newest agent of CONTROL, he teams up with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway, decked out in gorgeous white trench coats and fabulous Chanel shades) to thwart the diabolical plans of enemy agency KAOS. Supporting players deliver great performances too: Alan Arkin as the gruff Chief, The Rock as macho Agent 23, Masi Oka as geeky analyst Bruce, and Terence Stamp as cultured but criminal KAOS head Siegfried. Anne Hathaway was all right as Agent 99, but I've never been able to fully accept the idea of her as the sexy bombshell-- must be vestiges of The Princess Diaries.

Get Smart is actually kind of stupid, but good for laughs, and a refreshing change of pace from all the super-cool superhero blockbusters of the American summer. One can only take so much spandex... which is not to say I'm not raring to see The Dark Knight.

Saturday dinner: Abbondanza (with my Rated R group, Raqs, Angge and Dex)

Raqs suggested we have our Rated R dinner at her law school classmate's restaurant, Abbondanza. She also told me that anyone who blogs about Abbondanza gets a freebie on the next visit, but since I presume that offer only applies to glowing reviews, I don't know if I'll qualify. Italian food is my favorite, and I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to pasta. But my standards for pizza are a bit more exacting, and Abbondanza's didn't quite meet them. We ordered the Margherita, and there was a slightly off-putting aftertaste to it. The consistency of the crust wasn't that good either. The Pasta Montanara was better: the fusilli noodles were al dente, the mushrooms were big, and there were generous amounts of sausage and salami. The Risotto al Funghi Porcini was also good, reminiscent of the mushroom risotto I love at In-yo. Based on the pasta and risotto, I would go to Abbondanza again, and sample some of the other pasta dishes on the menu. But I'll have to pass on the pizza.

Sunday lunch: Felix, and Pia y Damaso for dessert (with Pa, Hanks and Auntie Nene)

Ma was out of the country, so we took the opportunity to try out a new restaurant we didn't think she'd like. Felix in Greenbelt 5 is the joint venture of chef Florabel Co (also behind Florabel in the Podium), retail magnate Ben Chan (of Bench), and celebrity couple Richard Gomez and Lucy Torres. The menu features fusion cuisine, melding Filipino and Chinese dishes with Western fare. I had the chicken adobo and kesong puti cannelloni, Hanks had the
baked dory stuffed with shrimp and taro, Auntie Nene had the chicken fillet coated with roasted nuts, and Pa had the US Angus beef burger stuffed with foie gras. Everyone was quite happy with their entrees. Prior to that we had the "Yokohama" appetizer, which turned out to be prawns tempura served with crab fat sauce, and it didn't wow us. But my mushroom soup wasn't bad.

After lunch we headed for Cafe Pia y Damaso for dessert. I have had dinner there before with my Rated R group, so I knew the desserts would be good. Since I had already tried Ibarra's Kiss, Maria Clara's Cheesecake and Wicked Simoun, we went with the Ben Zayb, a Filipinized banoffee pie, and the Guni-guni, a sugar-free version of Sisa's Dementia ("
truffle cake with white chocolate almond pastille, dark chocolate mousse and ganache", as described in the menu)
. My dad, who's borderline diabetic, loved the Guni-guni, and declared it better than his favorite sugar-free treat, Strabucks' Sinless Bliss. Being the chocoholic that I am, I liked both. We also all enjoyed the coffees we ordered with our dessert; the lattes had just the right amount of milk, without overpowering the aroma of the coffee. I'm sure my dad won't object the next time we invite him to have dessert at Pia y Damaso.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday night: last few episodes of Ugly Betty, Season 2 (all by myself)

I just finished watching the post-writers' strike episodes of Ugly Betty, and I am now officially a convert. I used to just lovelovelove Henry the dorky accountant, but then came Gio, the sandwich guy. At first I was a little annoyed at him for stealing Henry's thunder, but then he started to grow on me, the way he flirts with Betty, makes fun of her, yet easily picks up on her moods and feelings, and listens to her whenever she needs to vent. And yes, Jo, he's hot. The episode where he tries to salvage Betty's 24th birthday is what sealed the deal for me (fireworks!), and I'm now solidly with Team Gio, although I liked his hair better in Season 1.

Henry vs Gio aside, I like how the writers keep putting telenovela touches to the storylines of this show, as an homage to the original Betty La Fea. Wilhemina's schemes to bring down the Meades and take over their publishing empire are bordering on outrageous, but just this side of ridiculous. The roller-coaster family dynamics among Daniel, Alexis and their mother can get melodramatic, but still tug at the heartstrings. The comic relief provided by the fabulous tandem of Marc and Amanda is exaggerated but extremely entertaining. And Betty's perpetual optimism and admirable selflessness may not adequately explain why she has 2 cute guys fighting over her (come on, she may have pluck but she doesn't pluck her eyebrows!), but she is no whiny attention whore a la Meredith Grey, who seriously shouldn't have so many McHotties falling all over her. Seriously.

The season finale didn't leave me in tears like the previous season's, but it was a very effective cliffhanger. I can't wait for the third season to see which guy Betty chooses, or if she chooses neither (which is my guess). I also want to see how Daniel and Alexis' strained relationship develops; I feel the writers should play up this angle a bit more (how many brother and sister-who-used-to-be-a-brother relationships are there on television?). And I look forward to the fashion too (my favorite outfit of the season: Wilhemina's delicious red and gray ensemble upon her triumphant return to the Meade offices). A love triangle, a dysfunctional family, power struggles, and bitchin' wardrobes-- what more could a show need? As Project Runway winner Christian Siriano (who cameos in one episode) would say, "Fierce!"


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