Hallmark Movie Review: Stop the Wedding

stop the wedding

Aired: 6/10/16 on Hallmark Channel

When Anna’s aunt Belle gets engaged to a famous celebrity, Sean Castleberry, Anna fears that he will just break her aunt’s heart before moving on to his next conquest.  When Clay Castleberry’s father gets engaged, he assumes the bride-to-be is just a gold digger.  So, Anna and Clay team up to Stop the Wedding.  But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum.  Anna and Clay realize that they have made a mistake – Belle and Sean do love each other.  Then an even funnier thing happened on the way to the altar.  Anna and Clay fall in love.  Bet you didn’t see that coming from a Hallmark movie.

Rachel Boston, who plays Anna, is much better here than her previous roles on Hallmark movies – she actually displayed the proper range of emotions instead of smiling and laughing at everything.  The one thing not made clear, however, is how Anna and Clay are going to make their relationship work.  Anna owns her own law firm in San Francisco, while Clay owns his own medical practice in Boston.  Neither of these things are mobile.  Where are they going to live?  Is this going to be a long distance relationship?  Anna at least has the sense to point this out, but her aunts just dismiss it saying love is all that matters. Insert eye rolly emoticon* here.

Stop the Wedding was a mostly logical and sensible plot for Hallmark (other than the whole living-3000-miles-apart thing).  The director was clearly better than normal as well – getting Boston to be a normal person.  That earns Stop the Wedding above average rating but not much more since it still had some question marks.

WWYT Rating: 6.32

Ranking: 25

23t. My Boyfriend’s Dogs

23t. Away & Back

  1. Love by Chance

*No I am not calling it an emoji.  When did it change?  And why did it change?  Emoticon is more correct.

Restaurant Review: Carolina Kitchen & BBQ Co.

Carolina Kitchen

Date: 6/7/16

I love a good BBQ, and when you can find a hole-in-the-wall place that serves authentic BBQ, it’s that much better.  Carolina Kitchen & BBQ Co. is a hole-in-the-wall place located somewhere you would never think to look – in a rather commercial almost industrial area.

I ordered a two-meat combo (ribs and brisket) with sides of cornbread, coleslaw, and curly fries.  I judge ribs on three criteria: meat quality, meat flavoring, and sauce.  The quality wasn’t top notch but it was definitely above the dregs (you know, the $4.99 prime-rib special that you see – yes what animal is that from?  Good prime-rib actually costs money -telling me you have cheap prime rib doesn’t make me want to eat it.).  The meat was definitely smoked low and slow – it had a deep pink ring, with a deep smoky flavor that permeated the whole rib, giving the meat an excellent flavor.  You had a choice of sauce – Mild, Honey, Hot, and Nitro.  All of the sauces (except the Nitro) were a bit too sweet for me and a bit too runny (or thin).  The Nitro was hot, but didn’t have a lot of flavor.  The best blend for me was the Hot sauce (but as I said a bit too thin).  On the whole the ribs were above average – a little bit better quality meat.  A thicker, less sweet sauce would have put it at the top of the charts.

The brisket was shredded; I like my brisket more slab-y than shred-y.  And as previously mentioned, the sauce was so thin, it just ran over the brisket to the bottom of the basket rather than sticking to the meat and enhancing the flavor.

The sides were top-notch.  The cornbread was moist and flavorful.  The coleslaw actually had flavor (too many places have bland coleslaw), and the curly fries were as good as you are going to get anywhere.  They also had a good looking mac and cheese.

Carolina Kitchen & BBQ Co. is a true BBQ place, too many BBQ places have the name but not the style.  The ribs were well smoked, and the side dishes were all worth eating rather than just filling out the plate.  With a thicker sauce and a bit less sweetness and I would put this as a top BBQ place.  As it is, I will still give it a solid, high rating.

WWYT Rating: 7.9

2016 US Swimming Olympic Trials

 

Olympic Trials

10 Months ago, after the FINA World Championships, I made predictions about who would make the Olympic Team.  With the Olympic Trials starting tomorrow, I wouldn’t change too much.

For the women, Katie McLaughlin is coming off an injury (so my high hopes for her might have to wait four more years).  Claire Adams just injured her hand last week.  Lilly King is a breaststroker that came out of nowhere and should be in the mix for an Olympic spot.  Madison Kennedy is the top seed in the 50, so add her to the mix.

On the Men’s side, Connor Dwyer has been swimming exceptionally well this year — look for him to be in the mix for everything.  Phelps might not swim the finals of the 200 Free.

The best races this week:

  • Men’s 100 Back — there are only two spots available and there are three men who could win a medal in Rio.  Someone is getting left at home.  Tuesday night
  • Men’s 200 Free — an absolutely loaded event and only six swimmers will qualify.  To give you an idea of how deep this field is — Phelps is seeded 15th.  Not sure he will swim all the way to finals, but that gives you an idea of what kind of race this will be.  Any of the top 16 seeds have a chance to make it.  [Any one has a chance after all Leicester just won the EPL, but the top 16 have a real legit chance].  This race is also Tuesday night — if you watch one night this is a good one to pick.
  • Women’s 200 Breast — No one has separated themselves from the pack in this race.  Someone will need to have a breakthrough swim if they want to be competitive in Rio.  [Friday night]
  • Really you should be watching all of them.  But these three should be the most exciting down to the wire finishes.

The predictions from that post.

Who will make Rio for the US team

50 Free

Men – Nathan Adrian is still top dog here.  I predict Caeleb Dressel is the second guy, double gold in the sprint events at the US Nationals, I only expect him to get better.  Dark Horse – Anthony Ervin, this guy has been around a long time and knows how to get his hand on the wall.

Women – Simone Manuel is still the best American sprinter.  Lia Neal is an excellent sprinter and still young.  Dark Horse – Natalie Coughlin, like Ervin, has been around a long time.  Never EVER discount her chances

100 Free

Men – Adrian and Dressel again.  Relay – Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Jack Conger, Maxime Rooney.  Dark Horse – Anthony Ervin (see above).  Michael Andrew – depends on his development.

Women – Manuel and Neal.  Sprinters are sprinters.  Relay – Missy Franklin, Margo Geer, Alison Schmitt, Natalie Hinds.  Dark Horse – Coughlin.

200 Free

Men – Phelps, Lochte.  Relay – Rooney, Connor Jaeger, Connor Dwyer, Dressel.  Dark Horse – Zane Grothe, distance guy out of the Badger club dropping down to the 200

Women – Katie Ledecky, Franklin.  Relay – Katie McLaughlin (the 18 year old had a solid world championships and should get better), Schmitt, Neal, Leah Smith Dark Horse – Hannah Cox, only 17, finished fifth at Nationals this year.

400 Free

Men – Jaeger, Michael McBroom.  Dark Horse – Clark Smith, 2015 NCAA champion in the 500 freestyle

Women – Ledecky.  Huge gap.  Cierra Runge.  Dark Horse – Lindsay Vrooman Hali Flickinger.  They were 1-2 at Nationals within a few hundredths of Runge’s time at Worlds.

800 Free

Men – NA

Women – Ledecky.  Runge.  Dark Horse – Becca Mann – she just missed qualifying for the open water event, so she will likely focus her attention on the 800.

1500 Free

Men – Jaeger, McBroom.  Dark Horse – Jordan Wilimovsky, already a 2016 Olympian by winning the open water 10K in Kazan, could challenge for the one of the 2 slots in what would be a sprint for him.  PJ Ransford – Michigan has a history of cranking out distance freestylers, Ransford is only a Sophomore next year, he’s only going to get better.

Women – The IOC are sexist pigs.  Women are “too delicate” to compete in this distance, never mind that Katie Ledecky would have finished 28th in the world.  On the Men’s side.

100 Backstroke

Men – Ryan Murphy – turned in the fastest split of the Worlds meet (never duplicated it), Matt Grevers (defending champion won’t go away easily).  Dark Horse – Conger

Women – Franklin, Claire Adams winner at Nationals, and is only 17 years old.  Dark Horse – Coughlin, if she decides to swim it.

200 Backstroke

Men – Grevers, Lochte.  Dark Horse – Murphy

Women – Franklin, Adams. Dark Horse – Elizabeth Beisel, if she can recover from her injury

100 Breaststroke

Men – Kevin Cordes (keeps getting better at long course), Michael Andrew (very bold, but a semi weak event for the US, he could definitely get much better in one year).  Dark Horse –Reese Whitley

Women – Katie Meili, Jessica Hardy  Dark Horse – Rebecca Soni (if she comes out of her hiatus), Laura Sogar

200 Breaststroke

Men – Cordes, Andrew Wilson (won the 100m Breast at Nationals, and is the top seed in the 200m) Dark Horse – Will Licon

Women – Micah Lawrence, Sogar Dark Horse – Breeja Larson

100 Butterfly

Men – Phelps, Conger Dark Horse – Tom Shields, mercurial talent, could win Nationals or could fail to make the finals in possibly the deepest event for the Americans

Women – Kelsi Worrell, Dana Vollmer.  Dark Horse – Kendyl Stewart

200 Butterfly

Men – Phelps, Conger Dark Horse – Lochte

Women – McClaughlin, Cammile Adams.  Dark Horse –Worrell (she scratched as top seed at Nationals)

200 Individual Medley

Men – Phelps, Lochte.  Dark Horse – Michael Andrew

Women – Maya DiRado (one of the few bright spots at worlds), Caitlin Leverenz.  Dark Horse – Ella Eastin

400 Individual Medley

Men – Chase Kalisz, “Gunner” Bentz – winner of Nationals at only 19 years old.  Dark Horse – Tyler Clary, one of the most versatile swimmers, but always overshadowed by some of the greatest swimmers of all time.

Women – DiRado, Leverenz.  Dark Horse – Eastin

There’s your team.  It should improve drastically on the medal haul from the World Championships, despite the fewer events.  Though, I hope they add the Mixed Relays in soon, those were super fun to watch (and looked like, to swim).

Restaurant Review: Los Compadres

Los-Compadres

Date: 6/3/16

I said in my El Paisano review that Mexican food is my favorite cuisine.  Los Compadres is a more traditional Mexican restaurant, where you sit down rather than order at the counter and then sit down (like at El Paisano).  Since it was noon on a workday, I did NOT have a margarita (something I usually have at any Mexican restaurant).

The chips were better [to me] than El Paisano, and served with a hot salsa and mild salsa, a nice option but lacking the salsa bar that gives El Paisano the edge.  I ordered the beef chimichanga.  On the plus side, the chimichanga was well and truly smothered in melted cheese – a super bonus.  I might even eat asparagus if you smothered it with cheese.  The beef was shredded; I tend to prefer my beef ground, however that is a personal preference and won’t necessarily deduct points for that.  The shredded beef was a bit dry however, and for that I will deduct points. Finally, even though I ordered the chimichanga, I couldn’t tell you what made it different than a regular burrito – there is usually a distinct taste/fried flavor to a chimichanga that I was unable to detect.

There was nothing special or unique about Los Compadres, it is standard Mexican fare.  This is not a bad thing, the chips and chimichanga were good, just nothing extraordinary.  I wish I could have had a margarita to get a full picture, but the food alone will have to do.

 

WWYT Rating: 7.0

Hallmark Movie Review: Date with Love

Date with Love

Aired:5/21/2016 on Hallmark Channel

Hallmark does the 80s.  Date with Love channels John Hughes with its teen angst.  The most comparable movie I thought of was Some Kind of Wonderful, which is probably my favorite Hughes movie.

David wants a date to the prom, so he asks a girl only to be rejected.  Apparently, he asked 15(!) different girls and was rejected by all of them.  No word on whether he was just going in alphabetical order or not.  Wouldn’t the, say, tenth girl be offended?  I mean I’m not  female (and never have been, NTTATWWT), but it is my understanding that girls talk to each other. Anyway, after number 15, he goes in a different direction – he asks a famous movie star.  Since she is in need of some good publicity she agrees to go to the prom with him.   We, of course, are supposed to ignore that a 26-year-old movie star going out with the (hopefully) 18-year-old high school senior isn’t icky.  Meanwhile, David is too blind to see that his best friend likes him (it’s unfortunate that her last name started with a zee (probably)).

In the end, Date with Love gets some bonus points for breaking from the normal Hallmark script and moving toward an 80s style movie, but not enough and it still suffers from eye rolling dialogue and plot, just like any other Hallmark movie.

 

WWYT Rating: 6.42

Ranking: 19

  1. Smooch

20t. Bridal Wave

20t. Honeymoon for One

20t. I Married Who?

Movie Review: Battleship

Battleship-Movie-Poster

Released: 5/18/2012

Battleship was released the same year as John Carter, making it the summer of Taylor Kitsch, aka Riggins from Friday Night Lights.  This time Landry also has a starring role, making it a partial reunion, too bad Battleship wasn’t as good as Friday Night Lights.

Alex Hopper is a massive screw up.  No money, no job, constantly getting into trouble with the police.  His brother enlists him in the Navy to instill some discipline.  It doesn’t work, because years later he is still a massive screw up.  Yet despite this he has somehow managed to get promoted to Lieutenant and not kicked out of the Navy.  When aliens attack, his superior officers are killed leaving Hopper in charge.  It is very reminiscent of Independence Day, except without the speech.  You know the speech – the one you always mock publically, but secretly brings a tear to your eye every time you hear it.  Yeah, Battleship doesn’t have that.

Like all alien battle movies, it is completely absurd.  Humans launch their pitiful technology at the aliens, the aliens laugh and say “that tickles.”  But then an hour or so later when the hero human launches that same pitiful technology at the aliens it somehow works.

Is Battleship a good movie?  No, the dialogue is awful and the plot is laughable.  Is Battleship an enjoyable movie? Yes, Hopper is a lovable loser, the effects were fun, and the tie-in to the Hasbro game was clever.  If you have some time, there are worse things to watch.

 

WWYT Rating: 6.5

IMDB Rating: 5.9

Book Review: Assassin’s Quest (Book #3 Farseer Trilogy)

Assassins quest

Published: 3/3/1997

Author: Robin Hobb

In my review of Royal Assassin I mention that Fitz (the main character) is an idiot and even book three, Assassin’s Quest, points it out.  After a couple hundred pages of Assassin’s Quest even Fitz recognizes that he is an idiot.  This recognition in no way changes his behavior, but at least he is aware of it.  For example, he has the ability to communicate with animals.  He meets someone with this same ability, someone who offers to teach Fitz how to use his ability.  Fitz declines because he is an arrogant buffoon thinking he doesn’t need any training.

Fitz is on a mission to kill the acting king, Regal.  He does so without a plan, the result is predictably an epic failure.  He only survives because his uncle and the true king, Verity, saves him through magic from many miles away.  During the process, it is imprinted on Fitz to go beyond the mountains to seek out Verity.  So he travels, is met with hardship, travels some more, met with more hardship, finally he travels and is met with yet more hardship.  Then the book is wrapped up in 20 pages.

I had seen many good reviews for this trilogy and I had high expectations.  Perhaps my expectations were too high, because the series certainly did not live up to them.  I do like my characters a little flawed, but Fitz was so flawed as to be unlikable.  Assassin’s Quest was better than Royal Assassin, but I still think there was too much time spent travelling and not enough on the climax and denouement.   I find I am disappointed because Hobb’s writing is very good – it sucks you in to the book regardless of how you feel about the characters.

WWYT Rating: 6.9 (Assassin’s Quest; 6.4 for the Farseer Trilogy)

Goodreads Rating: 4.17/5