Saturday, January 9, 2010

Clooney goes up, up and away!

After our visit to Islands, we went to see UP IN THE AIR. We had planned on seeing AVATAR in IMAX 3-D, but it was sold out (of course). So, we went with our second choice. We still haven't seen AVATAR, but UP IN THE AIR should have been our first choice all along. The story, directing, and acting definitely make UP IN THE AIR, one of this year's best films.

George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham - a guy that spends a lot of time up in the air. Last year, he spent 322 days on the road, which meant 43 "miserable days at home". He flies from city to city firing people. His own family cannot count on him to come through when they need him the most. He is completely unfocused. Enter Alex (Vera Farmiga). She is Ryan's female doppelganger. They both have the same penchant for collecting cards of the most exclusive frequent flyer, rental car and hotel loyalty programs. This leads to a steamy love affair and ultimately the humanizing of Ryan.

Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) is the new kid on the block. Ryan is tasked with showing her the ropes. She wants to ground Ryan and all of his counterparts by bringing his company into the 21st century. She pitches an idea to fire people over the internet. This would mean an end to Ryan's lifestyle and his quest to be the seventh passenger to reach an unimaginable number of frequent flyer miles. Although she is initially his nemesis, she ends up being part of his redemption.

The basic theme of this little story is the redemption of a man's soul that doesn't even know he's lost it. Jason Reitman does a great job interpreting Walter Kirn's novel of the same name. It is a nice follow up to JUNO. The dialog is well scripted, and it as funny and moving as you can get nowadays. Jean and I both agree that he could have taken this film in an entirely different (aka Hollywood) direction, but he kept it honest. That's what makes this film great instead of just good.

Some of the more poignant scenes include cameos from Zach Galifianakis and J.K. Simmons. They are the real side of what is happening to America, and as a fellow member of the unemployed, I felt their pleas. Ryan is very smooth with his ability to nudge them in the direction they need to go - towards acceptance. The wedding of his sister Julie (Melanie Lynskey) to Jim (Danny McBride) illustrates both his failure to live a "normal" life, and his talent to guide people in the right direction. Hopefully, this review will guide you to see UP IN THE AIR before it wins all of the awards this year.

UP IN THE AIR earns 4 popes out of 5.

Islands - We're back baby!

Sorry it's been so long since our last entry. We've been a bit busy. Some good news and some bad news, but we'll just focus on the best news before the review. Jean and I got married last month (12/12/09) in Las Vegas! And since it is a new decade, we should probably get back to blogging about the things we like and don't.

Before we saw UP IN THE AIR the other day, we went to Islands. The one we visited is located on 101 East Orange Grove Avenue in Burbank. It is very typical of the chain. The restaurant has (get this) an island theme. No, really - it's true! Birds of Paradise decorate the outside of the establishment. Inside, the workers wear Hawaiian shirts and surfing memorabilia adorn the walls. The menu contains Kahuna, Wave and Pipeline references. Surf's up dude!

Jean and I have decided to start the year off eating a little (a lot) better than usual. We are currently observing South Beach Phase 1, and we are doing quite well. So, we had to find something that fit into this very restrictive diet. Sandwiches (bread) was definitely out as were the Soft Tacos (tortillas). To be honest, most of the Salads have bad carbs too, but we were going to do our best to stick to the diet as best we could. All of the salads are served with bread, but we asked that the server keep the bread for somebody that might actually need it.

I had the KAANAPALI KOBB. This consists of Grilled & chilled chicken breast, crumbled bacon, fresh avocado, tomatoes, chopped hard cooked egg, scallions, bleu cheese crumbles & lettuce tossed w/kobb dressing. There was nothing bad about the salad, but there was nothing to write home about either. It was a typical chain restaurant salad.

Jean had the CHINA COAST. This usually contains Grilled & chilled chicken breast, lettuce, carrots, snow peas, water chestnuts, fried noodles, sesame seeds, mandarin oranges & scallions w/sesame dressing. To keep on the South Beach diet, she had them 86 the carrots, fried noodles and mandarin oranges. This left an even more drab salad than usual, but dieters can't be choosers, can they? Actually, restaurants should provide more options, and I would love to see a local eatery serve a South Beach or Zone diet menu. If one exists, please let me know.

Due to the fact that we really cannot recommend people to go to or stay away from Islands, they earn 3 Popes.