Adventureland

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adventureland

We get it. Teens are awkward, make hasty relationship decisions, and enjoy their alcohol and marijuana. Greg Mottola, writer/director, embraces these formulaic concepts that have historically proven to be quite successful, and throws in a twist: The teens aren’t really teens. They’re recent college grads, and the lead character, James Brennan, played by Jesse Eisenberg strikes an oddly personal chord in his inability to find any sort of job. He eventually accepts a carnie position at a local theme park, and, surprise surprise, makes friends and falls in love with a co-worker.

Throughout the movie, you can’t shake the feeling that Mottola was writing James’ character with Michael Cera in mind to play the part. The result is an Eisenberg that is frustratingly awkward, and does a poor job at convincing me, the audience, to sympathize with the guy. None of the characters feel like  22 or 23 year old college-aged kids, despite several bar scenes. They all feel 17 or 18, even though Eisenberg himself happens to be 25.

For a movie that seemed to be marketed as a comedy, it does a horrible job producing any laughs. To be fair, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig do an admirable job in their overly-obvious roles as comedic relief, but I’m a huge Bill Hader fan. The repetitive, dry, humor that perpetuated throughout the movie gave me the feeling that Mottola was going for a darker, indie, comedy (Side note: maybe it’s just me, but it seems that calling a movie a dark comedy is an excuse for forced or esoteric humor). I ultimately didn’t find the movie, in general, all that humorous, though I could see some people finding enjoyment in the effort.

The movie’s saving grace was, surprisingly, the soundtrack. Husker Du, Falco, and The Cure all were expertly woven into the story and actually really added to the scenes in which they appeared. Looking at the tracklisting, it really does look more like an 80’s mixtape than soundtrack, which, in the end, probably makes it work.

Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t pay to watch Adventureland again. However, I don’t regret watching it, and I’d probably recommend it to a friend if they were in a romantic-drama mood and wanted to watch a movie without having to invest their undivided attention in the film.

Read some professional reviews about the film that I feel give the movie far too much credit, and tell me what you think (imdb, rottentomatoes).

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KFC Fill Up Box

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Let me just preface this by mentioning that KFC isn’t in my usual rotation of fast food restaurants. It’s not that I don’t enjoy crispy and fattening poultry, I’ve just never had good experiences with KFC chicken. I test the fate of the gods and decide to give them another shot about once every 5 years, hoping every time to end up satisfied and happy with my decision. Last night, I realized I hadn’t made a visit since 2004, so I decided to ride along when my buddies mentioned they were interested in trying out the “famous” grilled chicken.

Despite all their advertising for their newer, “healthier,” grilled chicken, I hate change and decided to go with a couple of pieces of their classic original recipe. However, I wasn’t completely ignorant of the benefits of a well balanced meal, so I opted to go for their $5 Fill-Up box (apparently they’re trying to compete with Subway and their $5 footlongs). Besides the chicken, it came with mashed potatoes, gravy, a biscuit, potato wedges, and a drink. Not a bad deal for $5, not bad at all.

To be honest, it tasted fantastic. The chicken was almost a little too greasy for me and I couldn’t bring myself to shove all of the crispy goodness down my throat, but the biscuit was absolutely top notch. I consider myself a bit of an instant potatoes connoisseur, so I may be being a little hard on KFC’s mashed potatoes, but they simply struck me as average. The real story here was the potato wedges. They were incredible! I had all of them, probably 20 or so, eaten by the time I’d made it back to the apartment. If I could order just a giant side of potato wedges and not mess with any of the chicken business, I’d be one of those 300 pound regulars you always see at KFC that make you wonder, ‘how the hell did they squeeze themselves into that tiny booth?’

Not all was bueno at the end of the day, though. Just like playing a drinking game with liquor while everyone else is downing beer, it was good while it lasted, but seemed like a bad idea shortly after. Maybe it was the 1200 calories that did me in, but I felt absolutely horrible for hours after the meal! I had to call it a night early, and I still felt horrible for the entire morning after! I never actually threw up, but I sure as hell wanted to.

Once again, the KFC gods let me down in the end. I wouldn’t recommend anyone put themselves through a Fill-Up box. Instead, take your $5 to Popeyes or Chuch’s. Remember, hunger is only temporary; regret lasts a lifetime.

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Bite Size Frosted Mini-Wheats

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Right off the bat I can tell you this isn’t the stuff your grandmother used to eat. Kellogg’s must have realized somewhere along the way that Americans would prefer to start their mornings with manageably sized, sugary abominations rather than giant bricks of shredded wheat. I understand, I get that. What I don’t understand is why they have to put a cartoony mini-wheat in the upper right hand corner of the box! (*side note: I don’t know what the little dude is holding, but it kind of looks like a joint. Maybe the real reason he’s grinning?) I don’t want to look at cartoons and feel like 6 year old when I’m eating this stuff! If anything, it just shames me into realizing that, much like a 6 year old, I will pretty much eat anything that has ‘Frosted’ in the title. Embarrassment was short lived, after I realized that this box of cereal was my key to receiving my very own STAR TREK STARFLEET TEE!

Before I get into the cereal itself, one quick mention of the coolest thing about this product. If you look on the Nutrition Facts on the side of the box, it actually lists the serving size as About 24 Biscuits! Biscuits! I didn’t notice this until after I’d finished the bowl, and it got me thinking. You never go to IHOP and order biscuits and milk! I totally ate these the wrong way! In the future, I’m going to do right by the Bite Size Frosted Mini-Biscuits and enjoy them like mashed potatoes. With gravy, that is.

Despite all these preconceived notions I had about the cereal from the box, I enthusiastically took my first bite. I was immediately underwhelmed by the amount of frosting on my first bite. The sugar:wheat ratio was disappointingly low. The pictures on the front totally misrepresented the cereal inside. I was expecting each biscuit to be garnished with a sweater of frosting. This simply wasn’t the case. The texture was solidly crispy, almost like biting through an unsaltly stack of potato chips. That was a good thing though, since I enjoy feeling my daily dose dietary fiber as I chew it. Overall, I was pretty lukewarm on the experience. It isn’t a cereal I’d necessarily pass up on if I found it in my cabinet, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy it at the grocery store.

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Audiovox – Self-Titled EP

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It’s a well documented phenomenon at this point. I can think of numerous examples of post-hardcore rockers I enjoyed listening to as a young teenager (Daryl Palumbo Glassjaw/Head Automatica, Dallas Green Alexisonfire/City and Colour, Jim Ward Sparta/Sleepercar, etc.) maturing and ditching their aggressive breakdowns and guttural screams to pursue the creation of more accessible pop, folk, and electronic music. Audiovox is from the same vein. Martin Bush and Brad Chancellor formerly of hard-rocking bands Salt the Earth and Orion, respectively, have put together a 6 song EP featuring some of the catchiest loops and choruses I’ve heard in quite a while.

From the opening track, Breaking Up is Breaking Out, to the final song, Mortimer, the 21:08 EP is a veritable sing-along of well crafted tunes. As vocalist, Bush’s crystal clear voice rarely approaches falsetto and sticks within a fairly limited vocal range. This allows those of us with even novice singing abilities to sound like Frank Sinatra as we capably chime in on harmony. Lyrically mature, the record feels like the musings of man reflecting on his late-teenage and early-twenty years. Love, breakups, complacence, and an eye toward the future seem to be reoccurring themes. A cool addition to the simple sleeve-packaging, the back of the CD case includes lyrics to all 6 songs.

I mentioned briefly in the opening paragraph that the songs were composed of the some of the catchiest loops I’d ever heard. In fact, if I were to describe the record as a whole with only one word, I would call it aqueous. The casiotones Bush produced on every song, pan from stereo left to stereo right like a gently rolling wave. Clicks and reverb complement the melodies throughout, never managing to conflict with or detract from the vocals or the structure of the songs. Chancellor’s drums add perfect contrast to everything else going on with driving rhythms and punctuating off-beats. My one complaint on the effort is near the 1:00 mark on the fourth song, Runtime Error. The “piano” sounds a little too much like a poor midi tone, but certainly a very nit-picky complaint.

Although I’m curious as to why they chose to go by the same moniker as recognizable electronics manufacturer, Audiovox, I’m quite curious to see how long it takes for these guys to take off.

Listen to the entire EP, streaming at myspace.

Recommended if you like: The Postal Service, Dntel, Electro-Pop in general

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Sriracha Hot Sauce

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Stop having a boring tuna, stop having a boring life. Don’t waste your money on a Slap Chop though, invest it in a bottle of Sriracha! Imagine ambrosia, the stuff Greek gods use to eat. Then imagine that those Greek gods were secretly Chinese gods. This is the stuff they would be eating!

I don’t know how Huy Fong Foods did it (especially considering they obviously haven’t hired a marketing manager by the looks of 12 year old website), but they managed to capture the essence of Americanized-Chinese food. Anything you put this stuff on suddenly makes it seem like it came straight off a Chinese buffet. I never thought it would happen, but this afternoon I enjoyed a Chinese grilled cheese sandwich! Last night I had Chinese popcorn. I can’t quit eating this stuff, it’s incredible!

Never before has a condiment captured my heart and imagination like Sriracha. I’m contemplating trying it on waffles in the morning, it’s seriously that good. I have absolutely no misgivings about rating this stuff as highly as possible. At only a couple of bucks at your local retailer or grocery store, there’s absolutely no reason not to have this stuff in your kitchen.

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